Our genome adapts slowly to changing conditions of existence. Many diseases of civilisation result from mismatches between our Paleolithic genome and the rapidly changing environment, including our diet. The objective of the present study was to reconstruct multiple Paleolithic diets to estimate the ranges of nutrient intakes upon which humanity evolved. A database of, predominantly East African, plant and animal foods (meat/fish) was used to model multiple Paleolithic diets, using two pathophysiological constraints (i.e. protein < 35 energy % (en%) and linoleic acid (LA) >1·0 en%), at known hunter–gatherer plant/animal food intake ratios (range 70/30–30/70 en%/en%). We investigated selective and non-selective savannah, savannah/aquatic and aquatic hunter–gatherer/scavenger foraging strategies. We found (range of medians in en%) intakes of moderate-to-high protein (25–29), moderate-to-high fat (30–39) and moderate carbohydrates (39–40). The fatty acid composition was SFA (11·4–12·0), MUFA (5·6–18·5) and PUFA (8·6–15·2). The latter was high in α-linolenic acid (ALA) (3·7–4·7 en%), low in LA (2·3–3·6 en%), and high in long-chain PUFA (LCP; 4·75–25·8 g/d), LCP n-3 (2·26–17·0 g/d), LCP n-6 (2·54–8·84 g/d), ALA/LA ratio (1·12–1·64 g/g) and LCP n-3/LCP n-6 ratio (0·84–1·92 g/g). Consistent with the wide range of employed variables, nutrient intakes showed wide ranges. We conclude that compared with Western diets, Paleolithic diets contained consistently higher protein and LCP, and lower LA. These are likely to contribute to the known beneficial effects of Paleolithic-like diets, e.g. through increased satiety/satiation. Disparities between Paleolithic, contemporary and recommended intakes might be important factors underlying the aetiology of common Western diseases. Data on Paleolithic diets and lifestyle, rather than the investigation of single nutrients, might be useful for the rational design of clinical trials.
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