Washington: Consuming a diet like our ancestors - highly diverse and rich in nutrients - may boost human health, a study claims.

Researchers from Washington University in the US also found that consuming a monotonous diet of staple cereals and ultra-processed foods may be leading to malnutrition.

Malnutrition problems can be traced to poor-quality diets lacking in diversity, a recent phenomenon in evolutionary history, researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, posits that there is a misalignment of modern diets and the genome formed through time. Evident in the divergence are shared risk factors for both under- and over-nutrition.

"Earlier diets were highly diverse and nutrient dense, in contrast to modern food systems in which monotonous diets of staple cereals and ultra-processed foods play a more prominent role," said Lora Iannotti, associate professor at Washington University.

The study focused on higher dietary quality, which points to the need for altered macronutrient ratios – lower percentages of carbohydrates, in particular - and higher concentrations of a variety of micronutrients.

"This review shows that ultra-processed foods, in particular products made from substances extracted from whole foods, particularly oils, flours and sugar, were not part of evolutionary diets and may be a main driver of malnutrition across most current food environments," Iannotti said.