Energy source, protein metabolism, and hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies

John D. Speth, Katherine A. Spielmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

377 Scopus citations

Abstract

During late winter and spring, hunter-gatherers in temperate, subarctic, and arctic environments often relied on diets that provided marginal or inadequate caloric intakes. During such periods, particularly when stored food supplies dwindled or were used up entirely, lean meat became the principal source of energy. Nutritional problems associated with high-protein, low-energy diets are discussed. These problems include elevated metabolic rates, with correspondingly higher caloric requirements, and deficiencies in essential fatty acids. The relative benefits of adding fat or carbohydrate to a diet of lean meat are evaluated in light of the protein-sparing capacities of these two nutrients. Experimental data indicate that although both enhance high-protein, low-energy diets, carbohydrate is a more effective supplement than fat. Given the nutritional inadequacies of a lean-meat diet, the paper concludes with a discussion of alternative subsistence strategies that increase the availability of carbohydrate or fat at the critical time of year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

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