Macronutrient Analysis in Western Diets Compared to Modern Hunter-Gatherer and Paleolithic Diet Concentrations
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Modern societies experience diminished amounts of physical activity in the daily lives of westernized populations and an emphasis on refined agricultural foods in the diet. This study investigates the interplay between diet and activity in terms of everyday food choice. I predicted that strenuous physical activity, with total energy expenditure (TEE) over resting metabolic rate (RMR) = 1.8, should impact the dietary needs of a body, and that as such, athletic individuals would maintain macronutrient profiles closely aligned with that of modern hunter-gatherers: 19-35% protein, 28-58% fat, and 22-40% carbohydrate. If the macronutrient percentage of modern athletic diets corresponds closely with that of modern hunter-gatherer diets, then perhaps an active lifestyle induces natural preferences for the same type and quantity of macronutrients that our Paleolithic ancestors ate.
I conducted an online survey of university students to obtain 24 hour dietary recall and daily physical activity logs for each individual. My data show that 64.9% of subjects exhibited an athletic profile (TEE/RMR = 1.8), while only 4.6% matched the hunter-gatherer macronutrient profile. Only 1.3% met hunter-gatherer values for both diet and physical activity. Ancestral human diets were restricted to nutritionally dense foods to accommodate a small gut, large brain, and active metabolism. However, 94% of athletic subjects matched a modern dietary profile associated with sedentary populations; one that emphasizes refined carbohydrates (> 40% total calories). I discuss important health implications related to this dietary shift over time and how current nutritional guidelines influence the dietary decisions of modern western athletic individuals.