Paleo Truther Scandal: Carbs Were in the Caves

Photo: Kathryn Russell Studios/Getty Images

The Paleo diet philosophy is that we should eat like our ancestors did, focusing on meat, vegetables, and fruit while limiting grains, legumes, and dairy. The theory (one that Paleo followers are more than ready to tell you about) is that these foods are what helped humans evolve — even though our Paleolithic ancestors were hunting and gathering for real, not at Whole Foods. Bad news for the high-protein/low-carb set: It looks like there has been starchy goodness in the mix all along.

According to a new study published in the journal Quarterly Review of Biology, not only were carbs readily available, they’re a better explanation than the Paleo diet theory for the dramatic increase in brain size that happened over the last 800,000 years. Dr. Karen Hardy’s research team says that the acceleration may actually be due to carbs, not to their absence, stating in a press release: “Up until now, there has been a heavy focus on the role of animal protein and cooking in the development of the human brain over the last 2 million years, and the importance of carbohydrates, particular in form of starch-rich plant foods, has been largely overlooked.”

Hardy’s team posits that not only did our ancestors have access to plant-based carbs (in the form of tubers, roots, seeds, and some fruits) but the high-glucose demands of our growing brains wouldn’t have been met from meat and veggies alone. Around that same time, cooking became more widespread (cooked starches are much better tolerated than raw ones) and we also got more copies of a handy salivary gene to help us digest the stuff, so there is all the more reason to believe that this food group is connected to that long-ago growth spurt. Have some science with your baked potato.

Paleo Truther Scandal: Carbs Were in the Caves