By Matthew Yglesias
The latest weird trend to read about in the newspaper is the caveman diet, which apparently involves “eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times . . . [v]egetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture.”
This all seems dubious. For one thing, the idea that pre-agricultural humans mostly ate meat strikes me as unsupported by the research. But the general premise that because contemporary people descend from pre-agricultural people, we’re best suited for a pre-agricultural diet seems obviously wrong. We ultimately descend from lemurs or some such, but nobody thinks we should eat like lemurs. Agriculture has been with us for 10,000 years—surviving people are probably well-adapted to it. What’s more, the question of what a “caveman” would and would not have ate is really far from obvious. There were no cows, grass fed or otherwise, in pre-agricultural times and there are no aurochs around today. Contemporary hunter-gathers live in ecologically unusual isolated places and you’d have a hard time getting the stuff they eat.