A 2021 report details the findings of a seven-year international study on the oral microbiomes of primates, per The Harvard Gazette. The term “oral microbiome” refers to the collection of natural bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit your mouth. At the center of the study was an effort to sequence the oral microbiome of a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal, the oldest specimen ever examined. The results uncovered a surprising fact about starch.
The 100,000-year-old oral cavity showed the presence of bacteria that are specifically adept at breaking down starch, suggesting that our ancient ancestors had more carbohydrates in their diet than previously thought. An earlier study, co-authored by researchers at the University of Sydney, showed that humans have more starch-digesting enzymes in their saliva than other primates, further suggesting that our ancestors specifically evolved to have starchier diets (via The University of Sydney). The research team determined that a diet relatively high in starch was necessary for the advancement of human civilization.