The research, conducted by Tel Aviv University in collaboration with the University of Minho in Portugal, calls into question the notion that prehistoric humans were omnivores with eating habits comparable to modern humans, according to the report.
According to Israeli researchers studying Stone Age human nutrition, our distant ancestors spent 2 million years as hypercarnivorous “apex predators” who mainly consumed the meat of large animals.
Unlike most previous research on ancient human diets, which have mostly been focused on hunter-gatherer cultures in recent centuries, the new paper, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, is largely based on “the memory preserved in our own bodies, our metabolism, genetics, and physical build.”
The research “may provide a broad basis for fundamental insights on the biological and cultural evolution of humans, according to the report, citing the statement of Tel Aviv University.
The scientist cited the trendy Paleolithic diet, which suggests that primitive humans consumed plants, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat, thereby making those certain foods the most natural to consume. However, according to the study, cave dwellers only ate the last thing on that list.
The researchers looked at our stomach acidity, which is high even for predators, implying a meat diet in which the acid will shield us from harmful bacteria.
Moreover, they studied the composition of fat in human cells, finding that, like predators, human fat is contained in a large number of small fat cells, while omnivore fat is stored in the opposite way.
The human genome was also cited among the evidence.
The scientists reportedly claimed that archaeological data confirms their theory, such as the discovery of stable isotopes in ancient human bones that point to the consumption of high-fat meat, most likely from large animals.
The researchers conclude that humans only started eating a more plant-based diet around 85,000 years ago, likely as a result of a decrease in larger animals as a food source, since most of them were extinct by that time, a process which according to some scientists, was helped along by humans.
“As Darwin discovered, the adaptation of species to obtaining and digesting their food is the main source of evolutionary changes, and thus the claim that humans were apex predators throughout most of their development may provide a broad basis for fundamental insights on the biological and cultural evolution of humans,” Barkai concluded.