British Journal of Nutrition

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British Journal of Nutrition (2010), 103:1558-1561 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © The Authors 2010

Review Article

High dietary intake of prebiotic inulin-type fructans in the prehistoric Chihuahuan Desert

Jeff D. Leacha1 c1 and Kristin D. Sobolika2

a1 Paleobiotics Laboratory, 2401 Burgundy Suite 7, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
a2 Department of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute, 5773 S. Stevens Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
Article author query
leach jd [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
sobolik kd [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


Archaeological evidence from dry cave deposits in the northern Chihuahuan Desert reveal intensive utilisation of desert plants that store prebiotic inulin-type fructans as the primary carbohydrate. In this semi-arid region limited rainfall and poor soil conditions prevented the adoption of agriculture and thus provides a unique glimpse into a pure hunter–forager economy spanning over 10 000 years. Ancient cooking features, stable carbon isotope analysis of human skeletons, and well-preserved coprolites and macrobotanical remains reveal a plant-based diet that included a dietary intake of about 135 g prebiotic inulin-type fructans per d by the average adult male hunter–forager. These data reveal that man is well adapted to daily intakes of prebiotics well above those currently consumed in the modern diet.

(Received January 08 2009)

(Revised February 15 2010)

(Accepted February 24 2010)

(Online publication April 26 2010)

Key Words:Inulin; Agave (Agave lechuguilla); Prebiotics; Prehistory


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Jeff D. Leach, fax +1 504 373 5213, email