The paleo diet, inspired by the eating habits of our ancient ancestors, has gained popularity for its claimed health benefits. Among these benefits is the belief that the paleo diet can prevent tooth decay. However, recent findings shed new light on this assumption.
Understanding the Paleo Diet’s Foundation
The logic behind the paleo diet is simple. It mimics the nutritional choices of early humans, who relied on a diet primarily comprising wild animal meats, nuts, seeds, and fruits. The prevailing notion among researchers was that these ancient humans suffered fewer cavities compared to their modern counterparts due to their low consumption of tooth decay-causing sugars and carbohydrates. This trend changed with the advent of agriculture, as domesticated wheat and dairy introduced higher levels of tooth decay.
The Reality of Tooth Decay in Ancient Times
While it’s true that following a diet rich in healthy fats and proteins and low in sugars can be beneficial for overall health, it doesn’t grant immunity against tooth decay. Recent evidence from an archaeological site in Morocco dating back 15,000 years revealed that a hunter-gatherer population from that time experienced tooth decay just as frequently as modern humans. Surprisingly, the reason behind their dental issues was their access to high-carbohydrate food, particularly acorns. Carbohydrates break down into sugars in the mouth, providing sustenance to bacteria that produce cavity-causing acids, impacting their teeth negatively.
Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Tooth Decay
This discovery effectively debunks the belief that tooth decay predominantly emerged during the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago. It indicates that certain ancient human populations who lacked access to high-carb foods enjoyed better dental health. The key takeaway from this revelation is that adhering to a strict paleo diet without considering its historical variations might not necessarily shield you from tooth decay.