This article is free to access.
Neanderthals have been commonly depicted as top predators who met their nutritional needs by focusing entirely on meat. This information mostly derives from faunal assemblage analyses and stable isotope studies: methods that tend to underestimate plant consumption and overestimate the intake of animal proteins. Several studies in fact demonstrate that there is a physiological limit to the amount of animal proteins that can be consumed: exceeding these values causes protein toxicity that can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women and newborns. Consequently, to avoid food poisoning from meat-based diets, Neanderthals must have incorporated alternative food sources in their daily diets, including plant materials as well.
Fiorenza, L., Benazzi, S., Henry, A. G., Salazar-García, D. C., Blasco, R., Picin, A., … Kullmer, O. (2015, February 1). To meat or not to meat? New perspectives on neanderthal ecology. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Wiley-Liss Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22659