Prof. Dr. Andreas Hahn

University of Hannover, Germany

Prof. Dr. Andreas Hahn, geboren 1962 in Grünberg/Hessen, ist Geschäftsführender Leiter des Instituts für Lebensmittelwissenschaft und Humanernährung der Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover sowie Leiter der dortigen Abteilung Ernährungsphysiologie und Humanernährung.

Paleo diet - the species-appropriate (vegan) alternative?

The "paleo-diet" (stone-age diet or Paleolithic diet) currently attracts much interest. The protagonists of this diet based on scientific considerations postulate that the metabolism of modern humans is genetically still adapted to the diet of the Paleolithic. Therefore, it is assumed to be the only "optimal" diet for humans. The basic principle of a Paleo diet is to nourish the human organism in accordance with its evolutionary genetic in order to increase mental and physical performance, improve well-being and prevent chronic diseases. A (food) environment, which differs from the Paleolithic pattern, however, is said to affect the health and lead to illnesses, since humans are not adapted to this modern diet. Therefore, all foods are avoided, which are consumed since humans began with agriculture and cattle-breeding about 12,000 years ago. Cereals, dairy products and legumes as well as edible oils and salt, isolated sugars and products made from them are therefore missing, as are alcoholic beverages (beer, wine). The Paleo diet thus consists of game meat, insects, eggs, fish and seafood, fruit, tuberous plants and leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds together, supplemented by small amounts of honey.
On closer examination, the concept the paleo diet shows serious weaknesses and can already be refuted by biotheoretical arguments. In addition, it is difficult, especially in quantitative terms, to define the prehistoric diet. Thus, the epoch of the Paleolithic lasting about 2.3 million years was not characterized by an uniform diet and it also was very variable in several places. Therefore, it remains unclear how the diet should be in detail. Was human food more plant-based and had a higher carbohydrate content? Or vice versa more meat and fish rich and carbohydrate-reduced? Ultimately, both positions can be justified.
So far there are no long-term intervention and observational studies on the Paleo diet. For this reason, modern hunters and gatherers are often used as comparisons. These, with the exception of Inuit, which mainly consume meat and fish, are in good health and have a lower risk of chronic degenerative diseases, despite very different levels of plant and animal food. However, there are many indications that these findings are not only due to the specific hunter-gatherer diet, but also to other lifestyle factors (movement, lack of disstress, sleeping behavior).

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