Gweek 062: The Paleo Solution with Robb Wolf

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NewImage Click here to play the podcast. In this episode of the Gweek podcast I interviewed Robb Wolf. He’s a research biochemist, a powerlifting champion, the co-owner of a strength and conditioning gym, and the author of the New York Times best-selling book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. He’s also the host of a podcast I enjoy that also called "The Paleo Solution."



  1. People who advocate a “paleo” diet should be paleo in all aspects of their lives: paleo education, paleo housing, paleo medical and dental care, etc.

    1. As I understand it Evidence shows that on the subject of dental care during the paleolithic  period our ancestors had strong straight teeth and no problems with their wisdom teeth as they came in fine because of their diet.

      MARK: your wive should try a didgeridoo for her insomnia.

      1. Really? I’ve never heard anyone claim that the problems we have with our wisdom teeth are because of diet. We have trouble with wisdom teeth because evolution has left many of us with jaws too small to fit them. 

        1. Diet has a role due to deficiencies in vitamin K2 leading to narrow dental arches and crowding.  See:

  2. The trouble with paleo diets is that we don’t really know what we ate back then and our evolution to deal with cooked foods and various revolutions in agriculture (dairy for example) has changed our gut from what it was back then.

      1. Care to offer any argument in favour of that position? Or do you think it is self-evidently impossible that the human digestive system might have made some adaptations over the past 15,000 years to the post-paleo diet?

        1. Does it really matter if there were small adaptations over the last 15,000 years?  Look around you – clearly people haven’t evolved well enough to eat the garbage that is being consumed in the US (or the post-paleo diet as you call it).  Evolution takes time, a lot of it.  Something tells me we aren’t going to evolve overnight to be able to efficiently digest donuts and ding-dongs, Gregory

      2. Excellent reasons.  There a couple theories of what our diets consisted of.  One which believes paleo humans lived on fruit and nuts with the occasional big kill,  one which believes we lived on meats with some fruit and one that believes we scavenged from larger predators.  Those are the three main theories I know of.   

        And when you talk about a paleo diet you have to say which group of paleo people you are talking about.  Neanderthals?  Homo Erectus?  Some other group?  The geographic area is also important as there are different flora and fauna in different regions.  

        Or perhaps you take umbrage with the statement of our evolution?  The most likely explination for our shortened intestines compared to other animals is our use of cooking.  Studies have shown that we are pretty bad at processing uncooked foods.  You want evidence of farm based changes to us then you have to look no further than the ability for groups which historically ate dairy to be able to process lactose and groups which did not consume dairy to not have that ability.

        1. The paleo diet is an approximation of the diet of early man across regions. It’s very simple: eat a variety of vegetables (with some starchy tubers), a low amount of nuts and fruits, and pasture raised/wild animals and wild caught fish. Exclude grains, legumes and sugars. Boom. Paleo diet. 

          If you want to dissect the name as a means to discredit that, I can do the same with Vegetarian diet:

          What vegetables are you eating? Just greens? Just squash? Are you eating other things besides vegetables? If so, what’s that called then?

          The list goes on.

        2.  There is evidence that people ate whole grains prior to the ag revolution, since granaries and underground caches have been found that are older than 10,000 years.  Most likely, people always did eat some of *whatever* they could find, including grains, which is why we can digest them at all.  The problem with the modern age is that we refine everything into poison.  A non-reactionary diet would include whole grains along with all the other naturally available foods in the Paleo diet, but not take that grain intake to an excess.  Grains would be eaten in amounts just like any other single vegetable.

  3. I consume only beans, wild grasses, birds and chicha de jora (corn & spit liquor). I’m as healthy as a swamp hog, too.

    Yeah but no but yeah I’ll listen to the podcast. The paleo diet seems mostly speculative, but it’s still an appealing concept.

  4.  I’ve always thought the problem with the paleo diet (which I admittedly know little about) is a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of evolution (which I know slightly more about).

    As I understand it Paleo enthusiasts propose that because our distant ancestors ate X, Y, and Z they had “evolved” to eat those things and anything else is “bad” or “unhealthy” for modern peoples. To me this is an extended form of nostalgia, the most insidious and noxious of human emotions as it it clouds ones ability to rationally evaluate the past and present. It’s also rather intellectually lazy because all you have to say to defend it (in your own mind at least) is “Things didn’t used to be this way.

    My very simple understanding of evolution as it pertains to food is that anything I can put it in my mouth that my body can process, derive calories and vitamins from, and excrete the remainder as waste from, is something that my species “Evolved” to be able to eat. Those things that my body couldn’t preform these functions on would kill or starve me, or would have killed or starved anyone who ate them in the past creating an evolutionary dead end.

    Of course one can debate the relative merits of processed food versus meat and basic grains (or whatever paleo enthusiasts eat). But one should do so using the science of nutrition, judging by calories, vitamins, minerals, fat content, good and bad cholesterol (which is one is the good one this week?), etc., etc. A rational and logical argument for diet should not be based on “things were so much better way back when.”

    Aside from a strictly scientific analysis of the paleo diet, I believe one must evaluate it on a social and economic level as well. Given the size and distribution of human race at this point, is it better to stress a paleo diet that “might” be more beneficial to the individual, but preclude many from participating due to availability of quality meat, vegetables and grains or to adopt an overall diet that includes some processed, but reasonably nutritional foods, that would be more available to everyone. Essentially, is it better for a select few to be really healthy for about 60-70 years then die like we all will anyway, or for the entire population to enjoy relatively good nutrition for 60 -70 years then die like we all will anyway?

    To draw a perhaps not entirely applicable analogy, I would like to start a movement based on the “Colonial Diet”. Due to a lack of potable water, for most of modern history  man has drunk ale, cider, and beer to stay hydrated. It’s worked for the founders of our great nation, the leaders of the British empire, and countless men, women and children prior to that. And so I say join me fellow “Colonialeaters”! Lets live long healthy lives, and get sloshed by noon everyday!

    It doesn’t bother me that Paleo enthusiast eat what they do and have found a pretty badass name for themselves. It is their insistence that this is the only “right way to eat”, and their misuse of the theory of evolution (as I am given to understand it) that bugs me.

    If I am incorrect in any of my assumptions please feel free to correct me.

    1. Google Mat LaLonde and Paleo. Almost nobody is solely relying on nostalgia to justify it.

      Also, did you listen to the podcast? Robb is pretty good at explaining the concept from all angles (science, evolution, sustainability,etc)

      1. Reading through the wikipedia article on the paleo diet, I find it hard to believe that anyone could call it sustainable, if upwards of 70% of calories come from animal sources. So to naharnahekim’s point, it doesn’t appear it could practically be taken up by everyone. Having listened to the podcast, I am also unconvinced by the “it made me so much healthier” argument – I haven’t eaten any meat in 25 years, and my health is good, but I wouldn’t suggest to everyone else that they live this way because it guarantees good health – holy overgeneralization, batman. I do think it’s good that the paleo diet folks are experimenting with their diets, since that is much more likely to help you understand what makes you personally feel better. I would also say that my sense is our ancestors ate what they ate because they didn’t have access to anything else; we do, and personally I am willing to trade some health for not eating animals on grounds of morality and sustainability (which aren’t really separate).

        1. Wow way to do your homework .. wikipedia .. very reliable source… try digging a bit further before making huge generalizations yourself

          1. It’s as good as you make it – if you think it’s inaccurate, by all means improve it. It cites sources, for example.

          2. Given that it’s likely citing more sources than your average thesis I’d say it’s as reliable as it needs to be.

            As blacksmith says, if you see any innacuracies then please correct them.

            I listened to the whole podcast and my nullshit detector was going crazy throughout. I LOVE carbs and eat a ton of grains. I feel great and don’t have problems controlling my weight. I don’t think think that there’s 1 diet for everyone.

  5. Some of the commenters seem unaware as to how information about hunter/gatherers is obtained.  One source is to observe contemporary hunter/gatherer groups such as the Australian Aborigines, African Maasai, or even our Alaskan Eskimo.  These groups must be free of western influences.  See also Weston Price’s “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.”
    For a real good but short primer on anthropology and it’s contribution to our understanding take a look at this post by Dr Eades.

  6. If Paleo advocates believe that humans didn’t eat grains/seeds before the invention of agriculture, then what’s their theory as to why humans suddenly started to cultivate and eat these things? It would seem like a pretty weird move to make if they weren’t already eating wild grains.

      1. My knowledge of the Paleo diet is mostly limited to brief blog comments, so I’m sure I’m missing a lot. But I thought that they believed that pre-agricultural humans didn’t eat grains at all, fresh or dried.

        1. Basically, if you can chew it and digest it uncooked, it’s paleo. Fresh corn (maize) is edible unprocessed. Dried requires all kinds of processing.

  7. What our ancestors used to eat varied greatly based on region, era and time of year.
    We also ate a lot of insects and offal, which I never heard any “Paleos” raving about.

    Another part of our diets at times included other humans and wild dogs – but those are also not listed in the books.

    Clearly some of our ancestors ate dairy since we’re the only animal who has the enzymes necessary to digest it as an adult. But to me, what we eat and what we consume in general as modern humans with choices comes down to morality and sustainability.

    We used to eat babies from rival tribes, we used to rape women (as a norm), but no longer these things are necessary. Similarly, the consumption of animal products is no longer necessary when we can take all the nutrients we need from non-sentient sources like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, leaves, mushrooms, beans, etc. Sources which cause no suffering or exploitation to any animal of any species and cause dozens of times less environmental impact than a diet which includes animal products.

    I highly recommend anyone interested to watch the documentaries Vegucated and Forks Over Knives. Both available on Amazon for streaming, or iTunes.

    1. Offal is very big in paleo. A lot of paleos eat very little muscle meats and lots of offal. Insects, too. Google it. A few eat babies but that’s fairly uncommon.

    2. What our ancestors used to eat varied greatly based on region, era and time of year.We also ate a lot of insects and offal, which I never heard any “Paleos” raving about. 
      Yes, this is a very important observation. In reality, “paleo” can only be defined by the things our ancestors NEVER could have eaten: refined seeds, oils and sugars. Anything else is fair, and any honest “paleo” will recognize insects and offal are included. But if you never heard anyone raving about it, you are probably focused too much in the English-speaking and European world — offal and insects are eaten by most of the world’s population.

      We used to eat babies from rival tribes, we used to rape women (as a norm), but no longer these things are necessary.
      This is pretty poor logic. These things were never necessary. Eating always was.

  8. We should all offer our heartfelt thanks to BoingBoing for bringing so much more exposure to Robb Wolf and the Paleo Solution. This is comedy gold, some of the funniest material I have heard since I saw Robin Williams live. You really couldn’t ask for better laughs. Thanks guys! The sincerity of the delivery is the icing on the cake! Ha ha!

  9. I don’t know much about the paleo diet, and after listening to the podcast I still don’t know much.  However, I know about science and there sure wasn’t much in that interview.  Just about the most obsequious and credulous interview I’ve ever heard.

    1. I did wonder, the whole thing felt a bit ‘off’ to me.

      By the sounds of the diet I’m sure it totally fine, it’s hardly like he was advocating anything that sounded ‘bad’ – but it did come across a bit… quacky.

  10. Friends of mine just started doing paleo diets along and have really enjoyed how much better they’re feeling.

    Paleo sounds like what I wanted to do anyway: eliminate extra un-natural crap from my diet. It’s a bit more than just that, but I might give it a try since it’s virtually the path I wanted to go anyway.

    I don’t know how we got to a place where products of rare and strange chemical processes are now somehow easier to acquire than actually healthy natural food.

    I’m all about simplifying things.

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