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High dietary intake of prebiotic inulin-type fructans in the prehistoric Chihuahuan Desert

  • Jeff D. Leach (a1) and Kristin D. Sobolik (a2)

Archaeological evidence from dry cave deposits in the northern Chihuahuan Desert reveal intensive utilisation of desert plants that store prebiotic inulin-type fructans as the primary carbohydrate. In this semi-arid region limited rainfall and poor soil conditions prevented the adoption of agriculture and thus provides a unique glimpse into a pure hunter–forager economy spanning over 10 000 years. Ancient cooking features, stable carbon isotope analysis of human skeletons, and well-preserved coprolites and macrobotanical remains reveal a plant-based diet that included a dietary intake of about 135 g prebiotic inulin-type fructans per d by the average adult male hunter–forager. These data reveal that man is well adapted to daily intakes of prebiotics well above those currently consumed in the modern diet.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Jeff D. Leach, fax +1 504 373 5213, email
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