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Cave men diets offer insights to today's health problems, study shows

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Eat meat. That's the dietary advice given by a team of scientists who examined the dietary role of fat in a study that combined nutritional analysis with anthropologic research about the diets of ancient hunter-gatherer societies.

But there's a catch: To be as healthy as a cave man you have to eat certain kinds of fish, wild game such as venison, or grass-fed meat such as beef.

The research was conducted by Bruce Watkins, professor and university faculty scholar at Purdue University and director of the Center for Enhancing Foods to Protect Health, and anthropologist Loren Cordain, professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University and author of "The Paleo Diet" (John Wiley & Sons, 2002). Watkins and Cordain conducted detailed chemical analysis of the meats people ate 10,000 years ago and compared those results to the most common meat people eat today.

They found that wild game, such as venison or elk meat, as well as grass-fed beef, contain a mixture of fats that are actually healthy for you, and, the researchers say, lower cholesterol and reduce other chronic disease risk.

Recent studies have indicated that a healthy diet should contain a balance of essential fats. The two types of most concern are omega-6 and omega-3, and both are essential for proper nutrition. Omega-3 fat, which is often found in high levels in certain fish, has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but too much omega-3 can increase the risk of stroke. Omega-6 fat also is an essential fat, but too much omega-6 in the diet can contribute to inflammatory responses associated with of chronic disease.

According to Watkins, the analysis done at Purdue found that wild elk, deer and antelope from the Rocky Mountains region have greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and a lower and therefore healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in muscle meats, compared to grain-fed beef.

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Contact: Steve Tally
tally@aes.purdue.edu
765-494-9809
Purdue University
4-Feb-2002


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