Konner and Eaton’s seminal 1985 article about Paleolithic Nutrition in the New England Journal of Medicine inspired decades of research and plenty of criticism. Yesterday they published a comprehensive update that reviews current data that addresses each of eight criticisms, concluding “The original depiction of Paleolithic nutrition has been subjected to legitimate criticism. Nevertheless, with some adjustments, it holds up to scrutiny” Konner, M., & Eaton, S. B. (2023). Hunter‐gatherer diets and activity as a model for health promotion: Challenges, responses, and confirmations. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, evan.21987. https://doi.org/10.1002/evan.21987 (sadly not open access). Everyone interested in nutrition will want to read this article carefully.
Beginning in 1985, we and others presented estimates of hunter-gatherer (and ultimately ancestral) diet and physical activity, hoping to provide a model for health promotion. The Hunter-Gatherer Model was designed to offset the apparent mismatch between our genes and the current Western-type lifestyle, a mismatch that arguably affects prevalence of many chronic degenerative diseases. The effort has always been controversial and subject to both scientific and popular critiques. The present article (1) addresses eight such challenges, presenting for each how the model has been modified in response, or how the criticism can be rebutted; (2) reviews new epidemiological and experimental evidence (including especially randomized controlled clinical trials); and (3) shows how official recommendations put forth by governments and health authorities have converged toward the model. Such convergence suggests that evolutionary anthropology can make significant contributions to human health.