One of the leading researchers in the field of Paleolithic eating and fitness is Loren Cordain, a professor in the health and exercise department of Colorado State University. He makes no bones about it: "The human genetic makeup is identical to that of Stone Agers. Those people were optimally adapted to the types of foods they could gather or hunt, and there's no evidence to suggest that modern humans are any different," he says.
According to Cordain, our modern diet, with its emphasis on refined cereals, sugars, vegetable oils and dairy products, was introduced in the "wink of an eye", with serious ramifications for our health. "The changes that have occurred in the Western diet are far too rapid. Our genes have been stable, but our diet has not."
In his book The Paleo Diet (Wiley), Cordain argues that the rot set in with the Neolithic (agricultural) revolution some 10,000 years ago. As farming took over the world, bringing with it new foods such as bread and dairy products, so our health and fitness declined. We got fatter, and shorter. Come the Industrial Revolution, things got even worse. "Neolithic, industrial-era and modern-era foods... underlie virtually all the chronic diseases of civilisation: coronary heart disease, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, gout, obesity, acne and breast, colon and prostate cancer," Cordain says.