What about going further back? You might think that an Egyptian diet would be agreeable but evidence of tooth decay and arthritis in their skeletal remains suggest otherwise. The Roman diet favoured by gladiators led to obesity and should similarly be avoided (obesity being a visible marker of a whole host of nasties). A growing body of evidence suggests that an optimal diet requires that you go back at least 10,000 to leverage the pre-agricultural advantage...
My attention was drawn to this article on the BBC website; Medieval diet aids healthy eating message. So what can the Medieval period tell us? Dr Iona McCleery, a lecturer in medieval history at Leeds University, observes,
- ...whereas in the past it was the rich who risked weight gain, today poorer people are more more likely to become obese.
"Interestingly it was the peasant class, whose diet would class today as healthy," she said.
"The poorer you were, the higher chances you ate more vegetables and had more mixed grains in your diet.
"The poor were semi-vegetarians who simply could not afford meat and social status. Wealth is very much associated with diet."
Food historian Caroline Yeldham agreed, saying that highlighting modern eating patterns and contrasting them to medieval diets would make people think about what they ate.
"The medieval diet was very fresh food. There were very few preserves so everything was made fresh and it was low in fat and low in salt and sugar."
And as for 'less salt' - anyone want to guess how meat was cured?
The nutrition message is definitely going in the right direction, but until they break through the pre-agricultural boundary (PEB), they'll get close, but no cigar.