Episode 52

Ancestral Diets and Logical Fallacies

Published on: 19th June, 2024

Ancestral Diets and Logical Fallacies

There is an appeal to ancient history: the idea that ancient beings were either "designed"—as from a creator—or "evolved" to eat in a certain way. Both are logical fallacies, but both are meant to be the "ex-cathedra" in a debate.

You read these logical fallacies in communities that claim they understand this. Here are some comments you will get:

  • Our ancestors ate xyz (fill in the blank) and never had the modern chronic diseases
  • Our teeth have (canines/molars), so we were designed to eat only (meat/plants)
  • You won't see broccoli on the walls of caves
  • If we ate like our ancestors, we would be in great health.


Appealing arguments, but they are as flawed as they are simply incorrect.

What Do We Know About Early Humans?

Of the early human records, they are based on precious little data. Consider in the fossil record we have about our ancestors? And by the way, where do we start?

If we begin with homo sapiens, we have been around as a species somewhere between 70,000 to 250,000 years.

Often the "low-carb" community will conflate distant cousins of homo sapiens as direct ancestors. Most of them were not but were a branch on the tree of evolution that are only related to us.

Homo Erectus

Perhaps the best adapted was the homo erectus, which was around for two million years. It is doubtful that homo sapiens will make it that long, but we can hope.

Most fossil finds come from Australia and Asia - where they not only foraged but also established some organized hunting.

Fossil Records

There are about 6000 fossils of early man. That's it. Just 6,000. When we look for fossils of our particular, such as early homo sapiens, we have enough fossils that we might fill up a school bus.

How long did they live? It turns out we know.  Many died around the age of 35 years.   So why do we want to eat like they did?

At this point, someone in the audience will be bound to say - "They lived longer if you take into account infant mortality."

When we date a fossil and see when it died, we don't average the infant mortality of the time.

Recent Discoveries

Bones and teeth from seen people, and isolated teeth, were reported recently. These came from a cave in Morocco. As these teeth are from about 15,000 years ago. Hence, the diet was before the advent of agriculture.

Evidence points to plants being a major part of these hunter-gatherer's menu.  As plants can be stored by hunter-gatherers all year round to protect against seasonal prey shortages. Thus, there is a regular food supply.


The famous caveman diet- life wasn't so simple.

When people of the carnivore tribe try to convince you about their diet, they invoke the mighty hunter.

A better term was that our ancestors survived by being fishers, gatherers, and scavengers.

Next Episode All Episodes Previous Episode
Show artwork for Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson

About the Podcast

Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson
Learn more about what you put in your mouth.
Fork U(niversity)
Not everything you put in your mouth is good for you.

There’s a lot of medical information thrown around out there. How are you to know what information you can trust, and what’s just plain old quackery? You can’t rely on your own “google fu”. You can’t count on quality medical advice from Facebook. You need a doctor in your corner.

On each episode of Your Doctor’s Orders, Dr. Terry Simpson will cut through the clutter and noise that always seems to follow the latest medical news. He has the unique perspective of a surgeon who has spent years doing molecular virology research and as a skeptic with academic credentials. He’ll help you develop the critical thinking skills so you can recognize evidence-based medicine, busting myths along the way.

The most common medical myths are often disguised as seemingly harmless “food as medicine”. By offering their own brand of medicine via foods, These hucksters are trying to practice medicine without a license. And though they’ll claim “nutrition is not taught in medical schools”, it turns out that’s a myth too. In fact, there’s an entire medical subspecialty called Culinary Medicine, and Dr. Simpson is certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist.

Where today's nutritional advice is the realm of hucksters, Dr. Simpson is taking it back to the realm of science.

About your host

Profile picture for Terry Simpson

Terry Simpson

Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. Until he found he liked people more than petri dishes. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2018 and 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.”