Back to the Cave

This hunter eats honey (and brood).

 Not long ago, a friend of mine was on The Caveman Diet. He devoured raw seeds and nuts, burnt meat, and handfuls of fruits and berries. It was probably a healthy diet. But he couldn’t give up either coffee or cigarettes. (I’m not making this up – he told me that cavemen must have had vices, too.) He moved away. I don’t know if he is still a caveman, but I am pretty sure he is still sipping coffee and smoking expensive cigars. I had forgotten about his culinary habits until this afternoon when my National Geographic magazine arrived. The magazine devoted 20 pages (mostly pictures) to an essay about the dinner habits of our paleolithic ancestors. It’s a good article. Partly because one of the best pictures in the story features a Hadzu gentleman (the story suggests he has a “caveman” diet) gnawing on a chunk of heavily brooded honeycomb.

Some modern dieticians are advocating a return to the primitive diet. The theory is that our forefathers evolved bodies adapted to stone-aged catching and cooking habits and we would be healthier to eat as our bodies expect us to eat. Evolutionary nutritionalist Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet suggests that we could lose weight and get healthy by “eating the foods we were designed to eat.” Cordain studied modern hunter-gatherers and found that a huge amount of the calories in their diet is meat. As much as 70% or so. I guess that’s why we have canine teeth. The Colorado State University scientist recommends we eat lots of lean meat and fish and eggs and avoid foods that were tamed since the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago – that means skipping cereal, bread, beans, peanut butter, milk and cheese. Among a whole lot of other things. But you don’t have to pass up the honey.

Caveman ate honey. Likely brood and bees, too. The modern African Hadzu diet includes baobab fruit, berries, and plenty of game. But they – and their ancestors – must have loved honey. Who wouldn’t? If the caveman diet works, people could be eating a lot more honey. If it really works well, people will be living longer, and will remain honey customers for a long, long time. Especially if they give up their coffee and smokes.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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