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Neanderthal diet featured meat and veg: Paleo diet optimized for weight loss

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Chomp, chomp. A new study has revealed that Neanderthals consumed meat and plants, supporting previous theories that their diets featured protein, reported Businessweek on Wednesday. And although there are similarities, the modern Paleo diet has been modified to boost weight loss and health, say experts.

After finding evidence of metabolized plant products in fossilized feces, researchers have more knowledge about precisely what Neanderthals ate, said Ainara Sistiaga, the study's lead author. And although meat appeared to provide them with most of their fuel, the plant poop proves that veggies "were ingested as part of the diet."

However, when it comes to percentages, the Neanderthals consumed more meat than greens. That conclusion stems from the discovery that the samples contained high concentrations of broken-down cholesterol similar to modern humans, said Sistiaga.

The poop study provides a new slant, indicating that Neanderthals were omnivorous rather than carnivorous, reported Slate magazine on Wednesday. It's also one of the most in-depth reports thus far, since other studies were based more on speculation.

Scientists also are intrigued by what happened after they discovered fire, estimated to be two million years ago. Researchers theorize that event resulted in a boost in meat intake. "They probably weren’t prepared for such a high meat intake," speculates Sistiaga.

So how does this study compare with what modern Paleo dieters eat? They both are low carb diets, and both eliminate dairy and grain. However, Paleo gurus emphasize that caveman dieters can customize the plan to enhance their health.

In an exclusive interview, Robb Wolf, author of "The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet," told me that many people don't understand the caveman concept approach, which emphasizes quality over quantity. The "calories in, calories out" concept has failed to reverse the rising rates of obesity and its accompanying diseases such as cholesterol.

Insisting that humans need grains and dairy implies that "all food is equal," says Robb. "The 'everything in moderation crowd' (which refers to mainstream medicine and dietetics) has had the last 50 years to preach this message and it has been a complete failure."

And the Paleo diet today is not limited to meat and veggies. Robb's research shows that the healthiest approach for dieters is to create a diet "built around fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts and seeds."

After numerous studies, Robb feels it is clear that a Paleo diet not only "provides all the nutrients for health, but that the Paleo diet is, calorie for calorie, the most nutritious way one can eat. This position that removing grains and dairy is inherently unhealthy is not based on science."

Expanding on the omnivorous low carb diet approach, Robb notes that the use of resistant starch in modern Paleo diets highlights "the bigger topic of the human gut biome." In contrast, consuming refined carbohydrates "appear to feed bacteria in the small intestine leading to a condition aptly named 'small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.' This bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is now being linked to a remarkable number of health issues, from cardiovascular disease to autoimmunity."

The recognition of the role of fiber has grown, and "it has only been recently that we have understood the mechanism to be that of feeding our beneficial gut flora. A Paleo diet built around fruits, veggies, roots, shoots, tubers nuts and seeds provides an enormous variety of fermentable carbohydrate to keep our gut bacteria healthy," Robb added.

Taking the omnivorous concept one step further, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet have created a modified Paleo diet that includes fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and what they call "safe starches." The latter includes rice and potatoes, which they emphasize as key to health and weight loss. It's all detailed in their book "Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat."

As Robb notes, a significant body of science supports the theory that by avoiding foods toxic to humans, dieters can both shed pounds and avoid disease. The "Perfect Health Diet" avoids grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed oils.

Another advocate of resistant starch is blogger Richard Nikoley. Author of "Free The Animal: Lose Weight & Fat With The Paleo Diet," he emphasizes that enhancing the traditional Paleo diet in this way can provide benefits ranging from improved sleep to a boost in weight loss.

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