It's a good question: Here's my answer: Hunter-Gatherer's died of three things: a)infection, b) infant mortality, and c) their environment. a) Hunter-Gatherers didn't have ready access to antibiotics. Remember that penicillin was discovered less than 100 years ago. Infections, especially respiratory infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections such as amoebic and parasitic infections as well as dysentery, were usually lethal to the H/G. b) Estimates of the Infant Mortality Rate of the Hunter-Gathers vary, but it is safe to say that the infant mortality rate (the percent of children who survive to their first birthday) was well over 100 times higher for H/G infants than it is for an infant born today. For the Hunter-Gatherers, surviving to one year of age was a big deal, (and was often marked by a party featuring roast mastodon.) c) Hunter-Gathers had no: central heating, A/C, insulation, grocery stores (what? No Whole Foods?) or modern weapons. They froze to death, starved, were eaten by Saber-Tooth Tigers, were trampled by Mastodons, fell off cliffs trying to collect blueberries, etc.
When you factor out infection, infant mortality and the lethal environment, the H/G enjoyed the same life expectancy we do in our modern times. Why is this? Simple. Hunter-Gatherers didn't have diabetes (there is, in fact, good evidence that Type 2 diabetes didn't develop until the potato was cultivated.) Hunter-Gathers had extremely low rates of heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (strokes) and cancer. High blood pressure and high cholesterol were unheard of (with the exception of Barney Rubble, who was on Crestor.)
In other words, the prevalence of the our modern top killers was, in the Hunter-Gatherer era, slim to none. The 64K dollar question is: Why? Why did the H/G have so little heart disease? Why so few strokes? Why was cancer so uncommon? The answer, of course, is that they ate the Hunter-Gatherer Diet. And so can you.
There are many variations of the Hunter-Gatherer Diet, but this is the one I give to my patients: Your nutrition should consist of meats, including beef, pork, mutton, venison, moose, elk, etc; poultry including chicken, turkey, duck, emu, grouse, pheasant, etc; fish; nuts; eggs; berries, fruit, and vegetables. You should NOT have any sugars, sweets, starches (like potatoes, squashes, rice, cereals, pastas, and breads) and you should be careful about eating too much fruit--because there is a ton of sugar in it--and, honestly, do you think the caveman had easy access to Mangoes? (I'd like the roast duck please, with the mango salsa.)
Is this diet easy to stay on? Consider this: The Hunter-Gatherer had to slay his meat, catch his fish, find his eggs, harvest his nuts, gather his veggies, and pick his berries. All we have to do is head down to our local Whole Foods (ok, so I am a little obsessed with Whole Foods. Can you blame me?) and pick up whatever we need (their emu steak is to live for). If you really want to get into the Paleo thing, try gathering these things for yourself, something I love doing, especially when my neighbor leaves the house (you can't believe the Swiss chard that grows in his garden.) At least consider walking to the store, because there is no doubt that the exercise required to hunt and gather his food played a big role in the Hunter-Gatherer's outstanding cardiovascular health.
A few asides before I go:
The meat that the H/G ate was hormone and antibiotic free, and his eggs were laid by birds not cooped up, meaning that I advocate organic meats (and organic everything for that matter) and free range chicken and eggs. I realize these things are expensive, but do you know how much bypass surgery costs? (Answer: About 120,000$ on average, which pays for a lot of native salmon.) Better even than Whole Foods (am I really saying this?) is the large range of organic and locally-produced products you can buy at your local farm stand or farmer's market.This link will locate the farmer's market nearest you: Local Farmer's Market.
Don't think the Hunter-Gatherer diet works? Think again. Consider this:
The above is a summary of the metabolic parameters of a real patent. Note that in August 2013, she was on the cusp of having diabetes (her A1c was 6.4, meaning her average blood sugar reading is about 130), and her bad cholesterol (LDL) and Triglycerides were significantly elevated. After a year of the Hunter-Gatherer Diet, blood sugar dropped 30 point from 115 to 82, A1c dropped from 6.4 to 5.4 (one point of the A1c equals 30 mg/dl of sugar), the LDL dropped over 70 points, and the TG fell 250 points. Even better, her good cholesterol (or HDL) went up ten points at the same time. Holy freakin' Cow! In layman's terms, she went from being a cardiac time bomb to healthy. It isn't listed
here, but her blood pressure normalized and her weight slid over 40 pounds.
Her only complaint: She got tired of people telling her how good she looked. Now that is a problem I have never had.
Cheers, paleo peter
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at email@example.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at firstname.lastname@example.org.