Nutrition Myths
Did our ancestors really eat mostly alkaline foods?


  • About half of the hunter-gatherer population were on an acid-ash diet and the other half were on an alkaline diet.
  • This contradicts recent theories that attributed the absence of modern society’s diseases in ancient societies to an almost exclusive alkaline diet.

Did our ancestors really eat mostly alkaline foods?

This myth question is related to the alkaline diet’s main argument, that alkaline foods promote health while acid-forming foods cause many modern day diseases. I will answer this myth from that perspective.

Accordingly to the supporters of the alkaline diet, our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed a diet  that consisted primarily of alkaline foods.

These claims are partially based on a 2002 study which estimated that 87% of humans before agriculture ate alkaline foods. (1)

One of the arguments that follows this result is that modern day diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, various cancers, bone diseases and autoimmune diseases, were virtually absent in hunter-gatherer societies thanks to the alkaline diet.

Is this estimate and the resulting conclusion correct?

In the light of the latest results of most recent studies, the answer is no.

A recent (2010) large study that investigated 229 worldwide historically hunter-gatherer societies, revealed that  between 40%-50%, and not 13%, of the diets consumed by the pre-agriculture populations were net acid-producing. (2)

The most recent studies show that the diet largely depended on where each particular population lived, which, in turn, was determined by the latitude and the ecologic environment. (3)

Scientists found that in higher latitudes, the net-acid producing diet was more common. Above 40o, for example, the diet was predominantly net-acid producing while below that level they were more base-producing.

In addition to the latitude, the ecological environment was another important factor.

Acid-producing diets were more common in the northern areas (tundra and coniferous forest), temperate grasslands or tropical rainforests while other regions were base-producing.

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