["The Paleo Diet, popularized by Loren Cordain in a 2002 book of the same title, purports to help people lose weight by encouraging them to imitate the diet of Paleolithic humans. How well does this diet actually resemble what our prehistoric ancestors ate? An international team of researchers, led by the University of Adelaide's Center for Ancient DNA, has recently uncovered new insights into that question through a surprising source: Neanderthal dental plaque. The team examined the plaque of five Neanderthals skulls, ranging in age from 42,000 to 50,000 years old, found at two different cave sites: Spy in Belgium and El Sidron in Spain. Microbiologist Laura Weyrich, the study's lead author, explained, 'Dental plaque traps microorganisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth - preserving the DNA for thousands of years.' By sequencing and examining this DNA, the research team inferred that Neanderthal diets likely varied widely by region. While Spy Cave Neanderthals ate meat (likely from wild rhinos and sheep), those in El Sidron had a vegetarian diet consisting of pine nuts, mushrooms, and tree bark. In short, as Dr. Weyrich puts it, 'The true paleo diet is eating whatever's out there in the environment.'" -- MMB, The Scout Report, Volume 23, Number 10, 10 March 2017.]
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