Paleo author reviews anti-paleo book

The new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, is billed as an "exposé of pseudoscientific myths about our evolutionary past and how we should live today." It was written by Marlene Zuk, a professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota.

Many people who follow the paleo regimen have reviewed the book on their blogs, but my favorite review so far is by Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint (my favorite paleo book). He says the problem with the book is that no one who follows paleo believes any of the straw man premises she sets up. In other words, Zuk's idea of Paleo is the real paleofantasy and her arguments against her own straw man version of paleo were explored and accepted years ago by the Paleo community.

After reading the book, John Durant tweeted “Paleofantasy shouldn’t have been a book in 2013, it should have been a blog post in 2010,” and that’s as good a description as I can think of.

It’s all very uncontroversial:

There is no one paleo diet.

Who’s saying that? Humans have spanned the globe for millennia, surviving and even thriving in environments ranging from tropical to temperate, from arctic to near-aquatic, all the while subsisting on the wild foods available to those regions. Same basic diet of animals and plants, different configurations.

Evolution doesn’t just stop and humans didn’t just reach a state of perfect adaptation back before agriculture from which we’ve never progressed.

Sure. I talked about how we’re still “evolving” last year, even mentioning Zuk’s favorite topics – lactase persistence (35% worldwide, which is far from 100%) and amylase production. She discusses a few more recent changes, like malaria resistance, adaptation to high altitude, and earwax differentiation, but that’s it. If she wanted to, I’m sure she “could keep adding to the list” and mount an overwhelming case for widespread genetic adaptations to grain consumption, chronic stress tolerance, and sedentary living, but she’s saving up material for the next book. Or something. Either way, I’m not very convinced by her “list” of rapid evolutionary changes, especially considering most of them have little to do with the mismatches we discuss in this community and none of them are even present in a majority of humans.

Zuk is also quick to misrepresent “our” arguments so she can swoop in and take the sensible position – positions the ancestral health community has long occupied!

Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”


  1. This is the problem with scientists against culture generally (c.f. climate change).  They debate with themselves rationally, and then expect to be able to do so with the public at large, when the public at large doesn’t address issues logically, but psychologically.

    The point of the Paleo-diet is not about establishing a scientific position, the point of the Paleo-diet (and the “South Beach” diet, etc. etc.) is to take advantage of the Atkins diet while feeling superior to all the losers and “fad-dieters” on the Atkins diet.

      1. To be fair though, there is a fair amount of overlap between the various Paleo and Atkins diets. 

    1. “…when the public at large doesn’t address issues logically, but psychologically.”

      Did it.
      No hunger.
      -118 lbs in 12 months. 
      Maybe my bathroom scale is neurotic?

      1. There is ONE way to lose weight: consume less calories than you expend. As long as you keep a balanced diet while eating less and do more exercise, you will lose weight and remain healthy.

        1. This is vacuous. You might as well have said there is ONE way to lose weight: by losing weight. As long as you remain healthy while losing weight, you will lose weight and remain healthy.

          1.  But what if you lose weight while remaining healthy?  I’m just not sure of the impacts of that.

        2. “As long as you keep a balanced diet while eating less and do more exercise, you will lose weight and remain healthy.”

          Can we get you on Jeopardy, special category The Bleeding Obvious? (h/t B. Fawlty)

          Advice like that is as helpful and effective as Abstinence Education. They know what to avoid, but they don’t know how. Hunger, like sex, is not an easy urge to deny.

          1.  I don’t see how invoking caveman lifestyles does anything to solve that problem.  Perhaps this is the piece I’m missing?  Can you explain how it came to be that you always knew what foods you should be eating but couldn’t help yourself until you heard about the paleo diet?

          2.  Yes, I can explain.  When I eat processed foods, my blood sugar spikes then crashes.  That makes me hungry and I’m back in the kitchen grazing long before I should be. The only way I could lose weight was to starve, and that isn’t sustainable because hunger never sleeps.  It’s like trying to breath a little less.  You can do it for a short time, but you can’t sustain it against the urge. 

             When I switched to a paleo diet, the hunger dropped to about half what it had been.  It was like someone turned a dial.  I could eat all I wanted, but I just wanted less.  I lost weight at a steady slope until about a year later when the curve tapered to a flat line.  Then I thought I could cheat and get away with it.  When I added some of the processed stuff back, the excess hunger returned immediately.  Ended that experiment quickly.
            Many of us knew how much food we should be eating, but we couldn’t maintain that lower caloric intake.  It’s not willpower.  It’s neuroscience.  You may think you’re in control, but the hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain and major organs are really calling the shots.  Don’t believe me?  Try the Seinfeld contest and let us know how you do.  Instinctive urges will not be denied.  Just sayin’.

        3. There’s one way to become President of the USA: get more votes than any other candidate. Simple, right?

          1. Actually, you can get more votes than the other candidates and still lose. Thank the electoral college for that one.

          2.  No, I think Phasma has a point.  Everybody knows that to lose weight you have to run a caloric deficit.  But the problem is: how do you run a caloric deficit?   Everybody knows the way to become president is to win the election, but how do you win a presidential election? 
            Maybe I’m wrong, but I thing that’s what Phas is driving at.

        4. Ah, but how to do that without feeling constantly hungry? That is where low carb, and especially paleo low carb (plenty of good paleo non low carb options) seems to be a win. In randomised controlled trials, “eat less and exercise” works for less than 1%. Atkins managed 50%. The paleo trials (not necessarily as valid as the studies I mentioned above), seem to be better than that.

  2.  The silliest argument I’ve seen for a ‘paleo’ diet was along the lines of ‘There were no fat cavemen!’

    Um, and exactly what proof do we have for that?

    1. The Venus of Willendorf would seem to be a good counterpoint. Mind you, I think paleo is an excellent framework for evaluating ideas about diet.

        1. A sex icon from back in the day when “I’d hit it” implied the use of a blunt instrument.

          1. ♫ I don’t mean a kind that belongs to a club, ♪
            ♪ But the kind that has a club that belongs to him. ♫

          2. The fact that male sex appeal, apparently, is held by the wimpiest as well as the most robust is a clue that there is more than one way to . . . 

        2. I wonder if 20.000 years from now people are going to look at a Giacometti sculpture as evidence of how everyone in the 20th century had a BMI of 10.

    2. I’m sure there are much sillier arguments for the paleo diet than that! There’s probably a paleo blog that says the lizard people who rule agribusiness are forcing us to eat canola oil for brainwashing purposes.

      1. That’s absurd. It’s clearly soy bean oil. Given the fairly well documented effects of having our omega 3 vs 6 so badly out of wack, you can make a case for the outcome (messing with peoples heads), if not the who and why.

      2. You mean RAPEseed Oil? Did Monsanto pay you off to repeat their “canola” propaganda???

        (J/K. Whatever the health implications of canola oil, the fact that they didn’t keep the “rapeseed” term is just smart marketing.)

    3. The silliest thing is calling it “paleo”. It’s marketing that appeals particularly to males who apparently find the caveman vibe appealing. Just-so stories appeal where solid science has little to say.

  3. I haven’t read any books for or against paleo diets. So I’m pretty ignorant. However, what I’ve heard it described as is “eating like our ancestors” but this review doesn’t really even talk about that. Instead it talks more about lifestyle.

    Sisson wrote, “Are sitting in front of an LCD screen until 2 AM, spending zero time in nature,
    living off of Cheetos and Coke, walking under a thousand steps a day,
    and working 20 hour days at a miserable job evolutionary mismatches with
    drastic health consequences as shown by current science (and hinted at
    by anthropology)? Yes.”

    So basically Paleo comes down to “eat healthier and exercise more?” What is so “paleolithic” about it? If this is, indeed, at the heart of it and it isn’t, as I’ve heard people on paleo diets talk about basically just low carb all over again, then maybe what paleo has is a bad name. Is it less about diet than overall lifestyle?

    1. Well, paleo is a framework for looking at diet and lifestyle from an evolutionary perspective. We spent a long time as hunter gatherers (split off from surviving great apes 5 million years ago), eating a meat heavy diet for the the majority of that time (compared to the other great apes, anyways), and recently adopted agriculture, and more recently, heavily processed foods. The last seems to be really bad for us. If we ate food the way our ancestors did, agriculture would not be so bad (check out the Weston A. Price foundation for more).

      Exercise wise, we seem to be adapted to large amounts of low level aerobic exercise, with the occasional max effort work. Check out the blogger at the link, or Robb Wolf for a more health focus (and Robb has a great podcast).

      1. Hunter gatherers don’t actually eat all that much meat, though–they mostly gather and hunt every now and then. What we’ve evolved is actually a very generalized digestive system, as omnivores, and the basic problem with “paleo” is that the real lesson is don’t eat cheetos every day. Honestly. The more I hear about it, from my mom and her friends, from sources on the internet, the more it sounds like any other fad diet with completely arbitrary rules, and I only lose further faith when they morph to dodge criticisms. 

        1.  Agreed. Personally, I regard paleo dieters with a skepticism only slightly less than that reserved for raw foodists. The diet itself may not be too bad for you (depending on your individual nutrition needs), but it seems to be based on an awful lot of pseudoscience and faulty logic.

        2. “Hunter gatherers don’t actually eat all that much meat…”
          Think about that for a minute.  Think about northern climates.  Think about winter.

          1. Never said it was. Just pointed out that general statements about what Paleolithic humans ate are over-broad. Diets varied by climate, terrain, and available flora and fauna.

    2. One point that someone in Paleo world made is that scientific research on nutrition is close to non-existent and that an evolutionary approach is key to gain better understanding. 

      Here is the post:

      Here is a quote from Cordain in that post:

      Nutritionists face the same problem as anyone who is not using an evolutionary model to evaluate biology: fragmented information and no coherent way to interpret the data. 
      All human nutritional requirements like those of all living organisms are ultimately genetically determined. “

      1. Do you seriously believe that “scientific research on nutrition is close to non-existent?”  (Or is that just a “prior” which predisposes you to anti-scientific diets?)

        For what it’s worth, I think that a healthy slice of paleo IS supported by scientific research.  Cooked food and omnivorous diets were necessary for big-brain development, etc.

        I’m just really uncomfortable with that sort of scientific paleo being bound with anti-scientific ideas like “wheat belly.”

    3. Here’s how to make it real simple. Look at the ingredients list on the food you buy. If it reads like a chemistry experiment you may want to think twice before putting it in your body.

  4. The review makes it sound like the book is about paleo diets. It’s not. It’s about misconceptions about the implications of human evolution for life today. For instance, one chapter discusses evidence that human populations are continuing to evolve, which a lot of people don’t realize. One chapter discusses some of the misleading premises of paleo diets. It’s actually a pretty interesting read.

  5. It was the Gweek podcast about Butter Coffee that got me into paleo/primal/low carb/evolutionary diet/etc and I’m never going back. (Thanks Mark!) I’d already was avoiding wheat and sugar since the 90s, but going pale really brought me to the next level of just feeling better physically and mentally.

    I’ve spent hours and hours listening to the podcasts (Robb Wolf, Latest In Paleo, Upgraded self) and all of the issues that are brought up in the Paleofantasy book have already been addressed or are being addressed by the ancestral health community. 

    It’s really simple. Go to Mark Sissons website. Sign-up for the free email. Follow the diet (and yes it is ok to eat some carbs, particularly if you’re an athlete) for 30 days and see what happens. It’s a large supportive community and you don’t have to pay anyone anything to get positive results. 

    Lately, I’ve been randomly meeting “paleo diet” people and it’s like meeting another atheist amongst a sea of crazy religious zealots. enough with no critical evaluation. 

    1. It’s always amusing when you get a tract-esque recruitment speech from someone who’s identity depends on positioning himself as an “atheist” in relevance to all the crazy religious people. Zealot is as zealot does.

        1.  I can’t help but notice that this is a thread about an expert on human evolution writing a book about paleo diets and the only person who has cited any paleontological evidence for his or her position was myself — criticizing the paleo position.

          It’s great that you found a diet that works for you.  But if you’re going to make arguments like “wheat is bad for you because EVOLUTION! nah!” then it is incumbent on you to actually address the criticisms of the “paleo movement” or whatever based on sound paleontological evidence.

          As far as I can tell, it’s you paleo people with no argument.  There is a complete lack of evidence for any claims made more extraordinary than “eating healthier and exercising helped me lose weight!”

          1. I would just like to say that, since I have evolved to need Vicodin, if I didn’t eat any grains, I would never shit. Literally.

          2. Expert on human evolution. So you haven’t read the Sisson piece in response to the book? Remember that C=MD.

            So you haven’t heard of Good Calories Bad Calories? The work of Dr. Lustig? 

            I don’t see anything that you wrote makes any sense. Your statements are missing the point of Mark’s post and the article he linked to. There is your evidence.

        2. Your statement about trying the diet for yourself is an implied assertion that it works the same for everybody. (I’m sure I don’t have to explain the flaw in that.) If that isn’t what you meant, you probably should reconsider the wording.

          1. What I am implying is that until someone actually does some research about it (or horrors, read the article that Mark linked to) or actually follows this type of diet/lifestyle/template then they should probably lay of the derision and snark about something they are ill versed in. 
            There have been several posts in this thread about more exercise to loose weight. That is not an aspect about this diet. 

    1. unfortunately no, but there is gluten-free beer. you can also go the “nor-cal margarita” route, a al robb wolf – tequila, lime, club soda. drink in moderation.

      1. Whether the grain used is contains gluten is pretty much irrelevant to whether it would have been within paleolithic technological capabilities.

        I can’t really see grain-based booze without grain-centric agriculture – which if I understand paleo diet principles correctly, is of the devil.

        Wine or cider, on the other hand, should be paleo-A-OK.

      2. Not that I think that it is a mark in favor or against it, grain was eaten (and perhaps fermented) long before agriculture so, as far as we can know, maybe beer *is* paleo. The idea that people didn’t eat grain before they farmed it is pretty silly — why would they start farming something that they didn’t know they could eat?

          1. Beer has essentially no sugar in. Wine has very little. Cider will have more depending on how much it’s back-sweetened at bottling.

            You have to remember that fermentation converts sugars to alcohol.

          2. 10-20g for a pint of beer is hardly ‘none.’   it may not be a lot compared to a coke or fruit juice, but it’s still significant.  distilled liquors though, should have essentially 0 sugar.

          3. Some wines have quite a bit of sugar in them, although I would rate them as non-potable.

          4. @tfd2:disqus The 10-20g carbohydrate content in a bottle of beer isn’t sugar.

            There are some very small amounts of residual sugars left in some types of beers, but most beers have next to no sugar content.  

            Here’s a manufacturer’s nutritional info chart covering many different types/brands of beers – it’s hardly encyclopedic, but it seems like a good reference point:


            If I did the math right, the average sugar content of the 29 beers on the chart is 0.31%., which in a 355ml can works out to 1.1g of sugars if I calculate right – mostly maltose and maltotriose.  

            Put another way, a hypothetical average of the 29 beers on the chart would have about 138 kcal, of which just about 4kcal (~2.9%) would be from sugars.  (It would also probably taste awful.)

            If you start Googling around, however, you’ll find that lots of beers have their sugar listed at zero.  Guinness and Budweiser, for two.

          5. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus 

            I suppose I should qualify my statement to not include fortified or adulterated wines or wine-related products like Boone’s Farm.  : )

          6. For me, since I’m diabetic, the objection is to carbohydrates whether they’re sugar or not. All carbs are considered equal to my diet. 

            So for diabetics, beer and cider both bad, wine okay. (except sweet wines)

        1. Yes. It’s amazing that 9000 years of civilisation could be built on something that is suddenly revealed to be deleterious.

  6. In general, any diet that amounts to “eat less unhealthy crap and exercise more,” is going to be ok.  The “eat less crap” part is easier if there’s a set or rules and restrictions that are pretty easy to remember and follow.  For the most part, I’d argue it doesn’t particularly matter what the specifics of those rules and restrictions are as long as they achieve the goal of eating less crap.

    I don’t think it’s even necessary for there to be any scientific validity to a particular set of restrictions.  Any arbitrary set of restrictions that results in “less crap” will work to some extent or another.  The secret is just finding the one that works for you that you’ll actually follow.

    For me personally, my simple rule is something like, “I have to make it myself.”*  That forbids me from getting fast food or buying pre-made crap at the stores.  It means I have no candy, cookies, or chips to snack on at home (unless I made them, and usually I’m too lazy to do that).  It means I don’t drink soda.  It also means that when I feel the urge to eat, my options are either I cook something (which usually results in “meh, too much hassle.”) or eat something that requires no work, which is usually like fruits, nuts, whatever.

    Anyway, it works for me, mainly just because it’s a random rule that forbids a lot of crap food.  I don’t think it’s the “best” diet (heck, I make some pretty unhealthy but yummy dishes).  I don’t think there’s some scientific justification to label it as superior to something else.  It’s just an arbitrary restriction that succeeds at cutting out a lot of crappy food from my diet.

    I love carnitas, but I don’t go to my local taco stand when I have a craving.  I buy a pork shoulder and spend half a day cooking it. That’s a pretty good way to make sure I don’t eat it too often. It’s too big a pain to over-indulge on it.
    But it’s also not a restriction that could work for everyone (like those with more time constraints, or those who travel a lot).

    Point being, whether it’s my silly rule, or Atkins, paleo, south beach, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, mediterranean, or whatever, if the restriction keeps you from eating too much crap, you’ll likely be better off.  Sure, some may be better than others, but the lion’s share of the benefits come from the difference between whatever your restriction is compared to the status quo than from the differences between restrictions.  A “better” set of restrictions that you can’t follow is worse than a lesser set of restrictions that you can.

    1. Actually, when I started eating “paleo” I was the least active I’d been in a while, recovering from an ankle injury. I was actually doing less exercise and still lost 15 lbs. I never skipped a meal, ate huge meals and lost the weight.

      The exercise part of the primal lifestyle is about aging better and having mobility and strength, it is not about burning calories. Sisson’s exercise regime is 15 minutes a day with strength work and one day of sprinting for 20 minutes. 

  7. I’m selling a book called, “The Techno Diet.” (Now on Amazon My thesis is that modern technology is the pinnacle of human advancement and we should adapt our diets accordingly. Hundreds of PhDs at our nation’s trustworthy agro-giants have been slaving for decades to optimize quality and convenience, resulting in space-age super-foods such as twinkies, tater tots, and whisky. Only a diet composed strictly of these techo-nutritional modern wonders is guaranteed to lead to a long and satisfying life.

    1. When I think Techno Diet, I think of poor but minimal food choices, rave dance as exercise, and a constant dosing of ecstasy to stymie food cravings.

  8. This is one of the silliest hipster diet fads to come along in awhile. I think the natural theory would be that our ancestors ate whatever they could for survival; fruits, nuts, vegetables and animals. I like to personally think I’m smarter than a caveman. Eating animals is as unnecessary to life today as it would be to club a woman or fear an eclipse of the moon.

    1.  Give up your silly hipster paleo diet fad and join my silly hipster veggie fad! Convinced?

      1. I don’t see a “join up” bit anywhere in there.  And it’s accurate — eating meat is unnecessary for human (thanks Mark, great argument there) life today.

        I’m not veggie but I’m always surprised by the people lining up to bash vegetarianism. The mindset that seems to drive it strikes me as nothing so much as right-wing hippie bashing or AGW denialism.

        1. “I’m always surprised by the people lining up to bash vegetarianism. ”

          I didn’t.

          I substituted one dietary choice for another in the preceding comment to demonstrate the silliness of Commodore Crush’s unwarranted dismissal of one choice for another.

          1. Dismissing all of vegetarianism — a very diverse collection of attitudes and behaviors underwritten by a great many different philosophies whether moral or pragmatic — as a “silly fad” strikes me as “bashing vegetarianism”.  I’m sorry that you disagree but my opinion remains.

            If Commodore Crush had dismissed, say, “eating healthy foods and exercising” as a hipster fad I could see the point of your comparison.  As it is, “paleo diets” are indeed a silly fad.  It is pure marketing around an otherwise obvious idea — eating good foods and exercising will help you to be healthier.

            I point out above that to suppose that because we evolved under certain conditions implies that those conditions are “good” for us is to commit the naturalistic fallacy.  Humans evolved under a great many conditions that were, believe it or not, less than optimal for survival and reproduction.  In fact, if that was not the case it would be difficult to say humans had evolved at all. 

            If you found a diet and exercise regimen that works for you that’s great!  I support you 100% in living a lifestyle that works for you.  If you try to tell me that it’s because you’re eating and exercising like cavemen did then I’ll point out that this is some silly hipster bullshit.  Eating well is it’s own reward, you don’t need to put clown shoes on it.

          2. “It is pure marketing around an otherwise obvious idea — eating good foods and exercising will help you to be healthier.”

            Marketing? I didn’t spend a dime on the info and went paleo. So if it’s marketing, it’s a failure. And “eating good foods” sounds logical except when you try to figure out what constitutes good foods. At best, grains are not a necessary component to a healthy diet, yet you get people arguing against a paleo diet because they think grains specifically ARE healthy. 

            Also, the point of the review of this book was to show that paleo dieters DON’T subscribe to “it’s because you’re eating and exercising like cavemen did”. It’s merely a jumping off point.

          3.  You “went paleo”.  You’re in a comment thread on a blog post about “paleo” defending “paleo” and recommending “paleo” to others.

            I’d say the marketing worked just fine.  The effectiveness of a marketing campaign isn’t necessarily measured by direct sales.  Word of mouth recommendations and endorsements and “buzz” in general are hugely important to marketing efforts.

            It’s merely a jumping off point.

            It is branding, nothing more.  As I’ve pointed out to even assume cavemen had healthier diets than us is committing the naturalistic fallacy and ignoring a lot of actual paleontological evidence that a lot of cavemen didn’t have very healthy diets.

          4. wysinwyg-
            Your criticism are identical to Zuk’s in that you’re arguing against a straw man. Just because the “jumping off point” is based on an idea about pre-agricultural man doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of scientific studies NOW that are verifying the info contained within how the paleo diet is practiced (which isn’t one homogeneous way but based on a very simple template).

            “to even assume cavemen had healthier diets than us is committing the naturalistic fallacy and ignoring a lot of actual paleontological evidence that a lot of cavemen didn’t have very healthy diets.”

            What is this statement based on? 

            “Grains can be healthy”

            Prove this statement. They offer zero nutritional value. The only way grain products in grocery stores contain any usable nutrients is because they are fortified during processing.

            “I would find it strange that we had evolved to eat, say, tomatoes or green peppers or bananas or apples but not grain.”

            I have trouble with nightshades. A lot of people do. No one is saying we aren’t continuing to evolve. There are a lot of people who tolerate certain foods over others. Does that make them healthy? Not exactly. It means your body can process them. If one is able to digest grains, that’s fine, but the more people who try a paleo diet are finding that grains were causing a lot of issues. That’s why it spreads word-of-mouth. Because when it works, people want to know and/or want to tell others to pay it forward. There is no “marketing” as you think of it. It’s not one diet. It’s a template that you fill in individually.

          5.  @google-39516531cf7c84744805277009d3395d:disqus let me clarify a few things:

            “Grains can be healthy”

            Prove this statement. They offer zero nutritional value.

            This is very untrue, you can look up all the nutrients that grains are chalk full of.  Bread wasn’t called the staff of life for nothing.  If grains were devoid of nutrition they wouldn’t have been favored around the globe as a primary food source in most cultures.

            we didn’t evolve to eat any of the foods promoted by the paleo diet.  all modern fruits, vegetables, and food animals are products of the agricultural revolution and a good percentage of them come from other continents.

            if you want to eat what paleolithic man ate then I suggest you eat insects, grubs, rodents, soft stem joints, shoots, roots, and buds.  that would have made up the majority of your diet.

          6. redesigned-
            “we didn’t evolve to eat any of the foods promoted by the paleo diet.  all modern fruits, vegetables, and food animals are products of the agricultural revolution and a good percentage of them come from other continents.
            if you want to eat what paleolithic man ate then I suggest you eat insects, grubs, rodents, soft stem joints, shoots, roots, and buds.  that would have made up the majority of your diet.”

            Please… If you’re going to make statements like this in the discussion portion of a review of a book, it would help to read the review in question. This statement of yours is addressed there.

      2. There’s a difference. A “fad” is something that will go away after the novelty wears off, e.g. Atkins, South Beach… Eating your vegetables is more of a trend whereas more people are realizing the health, environmental and ethical benefits of being vegetarian or at least cutting down on their animal intake. I’m sure Man’s intake of meat was miniscule compared to what’s considered “Paleo” nowadays. In other words, seeing a wax caveman in a museum hunting an animal sells more exhibit tickets than seeing them scavenge some berries.

        1. “I’m sure Man’s intake of meat was miniscule compared to what’s considered “Paleo” nowadays. In other words, seeing a wax caveman in a museum hunting an animal sells more exhibit tickets than seeing them scavenge some berries.”

          Why are you “sure”? That’s no more scientific that the people who say cavemen at nothing but dino-steaks.

          Personally, I don’t know exactly what their diet was, but I know what it wasn’t. I know it didn’t include lot’s of refined sugars and white flour. I also know that when I dropped that stuff from my shopping list, and began to buy only fresh foods, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry, I lost a lot of weight and felt a lot healthier.

          1. I don’t know exactly what their diet was…

            There’s plenty of hard science for what early humans and related species ate.

          2. Ancient waste piles, bones, teeth, fossils, etc. have all been studied for dietary evidence.

          3. Not really, not so you could say paleolithic humans lived on such-and-such a diet.  Just like today, different groups ate different foods.  Those in areas with less accessible game ate less meat, and so on.  Human diet in the Paleolithic varied widely depending on where they were, what the climate was, and what they could get their hands on. Think of the difference in available foods for an individual in the arctic vs. one in the tropical rainforest. 
            But we do know they didn’t have white flour or HFCS.

        2. “Man’s intake of meat was miniscule compared to what’s considered “Paleo” nowadays.” Says the guy who calls paleo a fad and dismisses it outright. 

          1.  Let’s see the paleo evidence that ancestral hunter gatherers ate as much meat as recommended by modern paleo diets, then. 

            Hint: there isn’t any because ancestral hunter gatherers had a diverse range of diets, some more healthy and some less healthy.  The main difference is that they were stuck eating local flora and fauna whereas we have much more choice.  Whether or not such a diet is healthy is entirely dependent on birth lottery, not on the wisdom of the noble savage.

          2. Besides, we’re talking about a diet meant to keep people going until something else killed them, and where “will I have enough energy the next days” was a way higher priority than “what will this do to my health past retirement age”.

          3. “Let’s see the paleo evidence that ancestral hunter gatherers ate as much meat as recommended by modern paleo diets, then. ”

            The problem is not that I’m telling you what ancestral hunter-gatherers ate. The problem is that you are telling ME what paleo people eat. What if I told you that maybe 30-40% of my diet is protein. That’s about as much meat as your average person eats. 

            You keep saying that hunter-gatherers had unhealthy diets. Without modern medicine, they wouldn’t have lived too long if their bodies couldn’t handle what was being put in. I’m sure this is where you inject some bullshit “lifespan of 30” argument forgetting that lifespan includes infant mortality. Life expectancy was well into the 60s. Sustain that on a diet that is “unhealthy” as you put it. It’s not going to happen.

      1.  I’m afraid to watch Nature on PBS tonight.  If they tell me plants can feel, how can I walk past a salad bar without fainting?

    2. Eating animals is as unnecessary to life today as it would be to club a woman or fear an eclipse of the moon.

      So is sex.

  9. I can’t wait to try a mammoth burger when they get the cloning thing figured out. It’s just good nutritional science.

        1.   In “Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes” one of the piraha villagers (hunter
          gatherers) patiently explains to the author, Daniel Everett, that he
          has so much trouble understanding their language because he eats leaves
          (he was eating a salad at the time) and piraha don’t eat leaves.

          So at least some gatherers are not enthusiastic about eating leaves.

          (I know, I know, it’s a joke, but given all this fluff about “paleo” diets maybe some actual information on hunter gatherer diets would be interesting, eh?)

    1. Yes, that’s it. You’ve hacked it.  They only eat fried pork rinds.  Nothing else. (Sheesh!)

  10. Paleo diets are obviously good for a lot of people, but they’re not “paleo.” Our ancestors did not have access to the variety of out of season foods we do, the processed, non-local fats we do (coconut butter, etc) or the high quality, clean and varied protein sources we do. It’s just not that same.
    The problem Zuk has is that people are mis-using evolution in this kind of context. Which is not to say that understanding our evolutionary history can’t inform our current choices. But humans aren’t static, we haven’t stopped evolving, and we’re not homogenous in our responses to environmental conditions, food included. Too much evolution has happened for one diet to fit everybody’s needs, and the diet that people are proposing is not even necessarily terribly realistic for people in the past.

    It’s not a “paleo” diet. It’s an omnivorous diet, and that’s about the extent of the  deep evolutionary history and our ancestor’s legacy. Human ancestors ate whatever they could whenever they could, and evolved the ability to do so as the circumstances shifted.

    We can make a similar complaint about people suggesting that 1950s American nuclear families and gender roles are “prehistoric,” and we should keep women at home gathering food (from the grocery store) and raising babies. Some of that is evolutionary history, but human society and culture has had an enormous influence on our trajectory. The point is to not to overextend what we actually know, or to use evolution in a loose and inaccurate way.

    Our modern diet is obviously failing people, and we should change it. People should feel free to eat whatever if it makes them healthier and happier. I’m steadily shifting to a paleo style diet, but I’m not gonna call it paleo. Human omnivores do great with a good amount of protein and lots of fruits and veggies, but you could say that about many other omnivores. Maybe I’ll call it the bear diet. Or the chimp diet. Anything but paleo.

  11. We’ve been eating grain far, far longer than most of the world (everyone outside Native Americans) have been eating tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, avocados, squashes, etc.

    Unless the paleo diets recommends against all of these, the evolution aspect of the argument doesn’t make any sense.

    1. tomatoes – part of the nightshade family, definitely off the list for people with things like Hashimoto’s disease.
      beans – sort of on the edge, high in carbs (but also protein), use in moderation.
      corn – it’s a grain, not a vegetable.  high in sugar, starch, and pretty much has no redeeming qualities.
      peppers, avocados, squash – all perfectly ok.

      1. If your summary is correct then it is not correct that it is “because that’s how we evolved,” which was really the argument SamSam seemed to be making.

    2. don’t forget no potatoes…they originated in peru.  no turkey.  no peanuts.  no peppers. no strawberries.  no blueberries.  no sweet potatoes.  no salmon.  the list is huge.  not to mention no kiwis, no grapefruit, and a ton of other foods that didn’t originate in the americas but still weren’t available.

      that and even the fruits and vegetables that *did* originate in the areas that would have likely been consumed look nothing like their wild counterparts.  the modern fruits, vegetables, and food animals were all created as products of the agricultural revolution, none of them existed as they are now int he wild.

  12. Are improved blood sugars, better blood lipids, a hundred pounds of weight loss, newly emergent abs, steady midday energy, improvement of autoimmune disease, and new leases on life paleofantasies? No.

    The author’s credibility went plummeting right about here, as far as I’m concerned.

    All the healthy cavemen were totally rockin’ washboard abs.  That’s just good evolutionary sense. Sure.

  13. I lost 50lbs lost via a paleo template, when years of calorie restriction and exercise did nothing. It seems I tried everything else before I found paleo (including vegetarian, which left me sick & unhealthy). Now, I continue to gain muscle and lose fat. I am no longer obese. I don’t get blood-sugar swings. My blood lipids, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. are all excellent (now). The inflammatory issues I was having are gone. Simply, it changed my life. I could have spent zero money do this (all the necessary resources are available online, or at the library), though I personally chose to buy a couple of books/cookbooks. I don’t understand the continued derision of the modern paleo lifestyle. If you think your life, health, and diet are perfect as-is, enjoy yourself. If not, but you haven’t tried paleo, you have no basis to comment. If it’s not for you, for whatever reason, just dismiss it and walk away. Buh-bye. Skepticism is healthy, but there’s no need for such cynicism, derision, and outright hate.

    1. The sticking point is not whether or not it’s a healthy diet! It makes a lot of people feel and live better, and that is awesome. 

      The point is that it’s not “paleo,” and that calling it “paleo” without good scientific reason is misleading. And sure, maybe not everyone thinks that the paleo diet is literally a caveman diet, but I think a lot of people do, and that is an issue.The kind of loose language and just so stories that go into some paleo discussions are the same issues that creationist point at to say that we obviously did not come from a fish or whatever. They’re right, we didn’t evolve from a fish. However we do SHARE a common ancestor with a fish a long long time ago. It certainly didn’t look like us, and maybe didn’t even look like a fish.Our human ancestors did not eat a modern day paleo diet, no way no how. Even if they were eating the “same” foods, we humans have done so much artificial selection on these foods that they barely resemble the original plants and animals they came from (especially plants… see the banana, or maize.) Aside from the fact that we have continued, and will continue, to evolve.Protein and fresh food diet=good, modern day=probably less good, but neither is equivalent to a stone-age diet. It may seem like semantics, but it makes a real difference in how people understand our past and evolution in general.Sorry for the rant, but as an evolutionary biologist, these kinds of arguments make me cringe.

      1. Regardless of what individual paleo-era groups of humans or human ancestors ate, we can be certain of what they didn’t eat: Cakes and muffins, processed oils, trans fats, vast quantities of sugar, artificial sweeteners, potato chips and ice cream… most of the junk in the grocery store, actually.  Paleo cuts that stuff out, stuff that it’s not only “less good” but rather is the root cause of huge spikes in obesity rates,and related diseases. If I was living in the stone age, would I have to eat other things, like grubs? I suspect so. Ain’t gonna happen, if I have a choice. You may have a legitimate quibble about the name of the diet (as a lawyer, I understand that semantics can be important), but also, nobody contends that it’s intended to be a historical reenactment.  

      2. There was no single paleo diet during the Paleozoic, so how can you say this or that isn’t truly paleo?  People ate what they could gather or catch.  Paleo humans in Northern Europe didn’t eat the same foods as paleo humans in equatorial Africa.

        1. i agree that it is true that paleolithic human’s diet was very localized and varied, although in almost every area they ate a close variation to the same things:  insects, grubs, rodents, the soft joints of plant stems, roots, shoots, buds.

          we know for a fact that they didn’t eat, grains, any modern vegetable, fruit, or food animal, nor dairy, coffee, tea, sugar, foods from other climates or continents, etc.  so while they didn’t eat the things the “paleo” diet cuts out, they also didn’t eat any of the things the paleo diet promotes.

          Paleo promoters don’t realize that all their modern fruits, vegetables, and food animals are actually products of the agricultural revolution and are nothing like their wild counterparts.  man created them to improve our food sources.  nor do paleo promoters realize how much of their foods come from other continents.  They tend to be fairly uneducated about their foods while being preachy using reasoning that is untrue, at least that is my experience.

          it isn’t that the diet isn’t a healthy one, it largely is.  it is that calling it paleo and saying it is better for you *because* it is what we evolved to eat and what paleolithic man ate that is stupid.

          i eat mostly whole foods, good cuts of meat, fruits, and a ton of leafy greens and that works well for me, but i’d never label it paleo or preach to anyone else about how they should eat.  food seems to be one of those things where different things work better for different people.  who am i to tell someone else what makes them feel healthy, happy, and brings them joy to eat?

          1. “Paleo promoters don’t realize…”

            Paleo promoters are as diverse as the foods they eat, so you’re making quite a genearalization, and how in the world can you say what a diverse group of thousands does, or does not, realize?

          2. No not really.  The consensus among the diets advocates is not as diverse as you might imagine.

            The three main authors that originated the diet ALL mistakenly claim the paleo diet is better for you because it is what we evolved to eat, which isn’t true.  Those are the founders of the diet and primary advocates from which all others sprung.

            Same with most the major paleo blogs.  It is a widespread misconception and probably the most common single misconception among all paleo eaters and advocates.

            I’ve never once seen it refuted by a pro-paleo diet advocate, have you? Not even once, ever…  If you have please point me to this fount of diversity.

            Nor have I ever once seen a pro-paleo diet advocate ever point out that most the foods the diet advocates were not available to paleolithic man.  Again not even once, and i’m pretty well read on the subject and subscribe to most the blogs for the whole food recipes.

            I’m not against the diet itself, i’m against the BS.  Even calling the diet paleo is BS, it is a wholefoods, grain free diet, and has absolutely nothing to do with paleolithic man.

          3. “The three main authors” are not the consensus of the advocates of the paleo diet. The thousands of people who have experimented with it and found it useful are the advocates. The paleo diet is a concept that has developed over the last 40+ years. There is no one set of rules, no dogma, no hierarchy. It’s just a theory, and for many people it works like a charm.

            But if the name upsets you, if you feel that we’re redefining “paleo” in a way that offends you, and perhaps weakens the entire meaning of “paleo” in a way that will lead to it’s destruction, then you should probably stop reading stories about the paleo diet, because it’s just going to upset you.

          4. you seem to be missing the point, the label paleo is the implication that that this is what paleolithic man ate and what we evolved to eat and that is the consensus among the people that eat paleo.  any one else who eats this way and doesn’t think that simply calls it whole foods.  i honestly don’t think anyone is stupid enough to use that label without knowing what it means.  claiming anything different is silly, like saying vegans are a diverse crowd and it is a generalization to say vegans are against eating animal products.  no, it isn’t because that is what being vegan means, just like eating paleo means something specific.  anyone who misuses the label doesn’t understand what it means, the aren’t redefining the label so much as being daft.

            Even despite the obviousness of the label actually having a real meaning, I’ll still gladly admit that this is a generalization if you can point me to a single example of an advocate of the diet that addresses any of the following:
            1. the idea that the paleo diet is not what we evolved to eat
            2. that the paleo diet is not what paleolithic man ate
            3. that non of the foods advocated by the paleo were eaten paleolithic man and are all products of the agricultural revolution same as grains

            I’ll bet you can’t because in my extensive reading and in talking to all the people I’ve met who are paleo, and in reading the books by the diets founders, and in reading the popular blogs on the paleo diet i’ve never seen that idea refuted even once, but i’ve seen it espoused almost everywhere.  Why?  Because that is what paleo means.

            I am not offended, in fact I clearly state the exact opposite, that I have no problem with the diet and I eat mostly this way.  The only issue I have is the lie that claims that we evolved to eat these foods and that is the reason they are  better for us, especially when presented in a condescending way.  I have no other issue and I don’t find it offensive so much as ignorant.

          5. Note: I don’t think the statement of “This is what we evolved to eat” applies as much to the foods that ARE eaten on the Paleo Diet, but instead to the foods that are ELIMINATED from the Paleo Diet. The point of saying “we evolved eating this way” is to say that “we evolved eating fruits, vegetables and animal products (dairy notwithstanding). Not refined foods like grains, refined sugar, or refined vegetable oils.”

            And this isn’t to say that people HAVEN’T evolved to eat those things, just that not everyone has evolved to consume those things (unlike vegetables, fruit, and animal products, which were pretty universal). As such, if your health has been suffering, it might be due to consumption of a food that your body simply isn’t equipped to handle. The easiest way to figure this out is to eliminate the likely problem foods from the diet and see if your symptoms improve.

             I’ve always treated Paleo as a starting point: don’t eat grains, refined sugar, refined vegetable oils, or dairy because they’re the most common causes of food intolerance (lactose and gluten intolerance) as well as chronic health conditions (blood sugar swings and chronic inflammation). Once you’ve done that for 30 days or so, start reintroducing the foods you want and see which ones cause you problems. Once you figure out which foods you can’t tolerate, avoid them. Simple as that.

          6. i agree wholeheartedly.  the paleo diet is essentially a whole foods allergy elimination diet.  so it is really a great place for people with food sensitivities to start.  if it helps they can “test” the various other foods in the future to try an pinpoint which were causing their issues and add the non-issue causing ones back in in moderation.

            i’ve known several people that have had tremendous success doing this approach, including myself.

            anyone with auto-immune issues could certainly benefit from giving it a try.

            sidenote: we did eat grass seeds in small quantities, we just didn’t refine them, prior to the agricultural revolution.  it was our longtime consumption of them in smaller quantities as a whole food that led to our interest in making them one of the first main agricultural crops.

    2. Agree, completely Mrs!

      The paleo diet helped me lose a considerable amount of weight, improved my skin, made me feel happier and more energetic and restored fertility. My doctor was pleasantly surprised when he saw my lab work at the end of a 3 month paleo-period. I am not a scientist and cannot comment on the evolutionary argument, but I know that the diet worked wonders for me after years of struggling with a gamut of chronic health issues. Maybe the evolutionary logic is dubious, but the diet itself should be a candidate for further medical research and exploration. 

      1. Keep in mind that the targeted chapter is in a book about ways pop culture mis-uses evolution as a supporting argument. It’s not an attack on the diet, it’s an attack on the “paleo”-arguments for it. :)

      2.  Hey, I too noticed a big improvement in my skin.  No more scaly hands and feet in the winter.  I wonder what changed there.

    3. The problem lies in some of the rules and taboos, like grain. If you enjoy bread and ever want to taste it again, you have to buy special bread with no grain-derived carbohydrates (made of oat fiber and egg white, or something). That’s NOT free, whereas my current diabetic diet is. And it works. 

      But here’s the thing: When I already eat a low-carb diet and somebody tries to convince me that carbohydrates from grain are “bad” and can’t be tolerated, they better have iron-clad clinical evidence or they deserve my cynicism, derision, and outright hate. If I’m *tricked* into believing I never get to have real bread or pasta again, somebody will pay, and they should be glad if it’s only in hurt feelings.

      1. I can’t tell how much you are kidding, or not.  So I’ll just say that I am sorry you are dealing with diabetes (or, so I presume). I hope your diet is indeed working for you. My father died from complications of the disease, and I had symptoms of pre-diabetes before I started paleo. All gone now. And now that I have my health, I know it’s worth avoiding some things almost all of the time, and buying quality foods, to keep that feeling of wellness. (And I don’t eat grain-free bread either, though I do bake a mean almond-flour cookie.)  There are endless ways to eat this way on a budget, and there’s no paleo police that will swoop down if you have an occasional bite of pasta (although I’ve quickly learned that the bad physical feeling I get when I eat outside my usual diet is deterrent enough).

        1. I am being facetious in the second part — at least as far as the “hurt somebody” aspect. But it’s true I think the ban on grains is taking it too far, insofar as many people control their intake of cabs anyway, and I’m not convinced that a grain carb is significantly different from any other carb under that kind of system. More importantly, I think the wiser bits of diet advice point out that you need your system to be sustainable, and it’s more likely to be sustainable if it doesn’t forbid the things you love, even if they’re carefully controlled. For some people having it simplified down to an all-or-nothing scheme may be the only way, but for me I think a teetotal scheme would make me lose it completely.

          Honestly, I have a great appreciation for almond-flour cookies. But at the same time, I experience no ill effects at all from an occasional bite of pasta, or two slices of dark rye (13g carbohydrate each) in a deli sammich. And I think it’s important that they make me less likely to disembowel somebody with a spork. (kidding again)

          1. I think the wiser bits of diet advice point out that you need your
            system to be sustainable, and it’s more likely to be sustainable if it
            doesn’t forbid the things you love, even if they’re carefully

            +1 *this*

            although you really had me at dark rye deli sammich! :-)

            the occasional turkey ruben on dark rye sourdough is my special treat to myself, extra kraut, spicy mustard.  There is a place here in town that has a farm in the country that raises their own turkeys and makes their own breads so i feel pretty okay about eating them now and then with a chai latte. :-)  that and the fermented kraut has more probiotics then any probiotic supplement.  but mainly the yum. they are so good i’d probably eat them no matter what they were made out of! lol.

            ps. how do you quote in those nifty white boxes?

  14. If you *really* want to lose weight try the raw food diet. Actually,  though, trying the raw food diet on a lark led to me feeling better than I had in years and getting diagnosed with gluten intolerance and Hashi’s. I went off it though, mainly because it’s too damned much trouble and expense for me. It probably wouldn’t work anymore though now that raw food means 800 calorie truffles made with pure coconut oil and whatnot are on the menu. Still I’m actually grateful to these diet fads for some of the options they’ve opened up. 

    That being said, my dry skin (and bumpy rash) on my face improved when I started eating small amounts of sheep yogurt (for some reason I can eat this without getting cramps) and meat. 

    Eh… the biggest improvement has been since I started Synthroid though. Just sayin’.

  15. OK, I’m guilty of this too and finally doing it now. But y’all should read the post that Mark linked to—

    A worrisome theme starts to emerge: that the past is murky and we need more data so let’s not make any sudden changes to the way we live, especially not if they’re couched in evolution. I disagree. Whatever most people are doing isn’t really working for most people, whereas whatever we’re doing (whether it’s a paleofantasy or not) seems to be working.

    1.  Bingo.  Call it whatever you want, but it has changed my life for the better, and I didn’t have to starve to do it.

  16. I wish non-scientists would just shut-the-fuck-up about evolution. There is no easier way to expose your -isms than to reveal what you think evolution is about if you aren’t fully informed. Please.


    -a non-scientist who is relatively informed, but also just avoids it as a metaphor, cause I’m not above unexamined -isms.

    1. “Fundamentalist Christian writes book about atheism, concludes it’s unscientific.”

      1. “Fundamentalist Christian writes a book about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, says that God never meant for humans to cultivate grains.”

  17. None of you really understands evolution. It is 100% about adapting to environment. Men and women used to be fit and strong because their everyday environment was rock and wood.

    Man invented couches and beds, and our bodies adapted to the soft plushiness. Kind of like geckos.

    You want to be cut and strong and have no fat? Sleep on the ground. Give up your office chair for a big rock. Your body will adapt and be chiseled in about 4 weeks.

    Now everyone please send me $49.95

      1. Now that you mention it, my body used to be more square shaped, kind of 4:3, then I got that big screen TV and watching it a lot and I swear I’m closer to 16:9 now.

    1.  Or you can continue to sleep in your bed, and work in your chair, but eat a diet that suits your goals and get plenty of exercise. 
      No charge

  18. I’ll stick to the vegetarian diet. It’s much easier to find vegetarians to eat than paleontologists.

    1. But paleontologists are supposedly better for you. They make you lose weight and you’re never hungry.

      I personally don’t see what the big deal is. I’ve been eating mostly vegetarians and the occasional carnivore, and I feel fine. I really doubt I need to eat paleontologists. I think the bigger deal is that I no longer eat stoners or couch potatoes.

  19. This subject is worse than flame wars about bikes. If you eat a bunch of meat and vegetables and exercise all the time you’ll lose weight. The laws of thermodynamics do apply, yes. If you drink a bunch of whiskey all the time and exercise a bunch you’ll lose so much weight you won’t even believe it. Intake is the same, output is greater, weight loss ensues.

    I do have to believe a bit about the tooth decay problem with grains. If you want a citation I’ll find it.

    Edit: How many dinosaurs went for Dr Grant? Paleobotanists are obviously worth pursuing even when they’re driving away in a Jeep.

  20. eating more whole foods and less highly processed foods is a good health move.  i’m 100% for whole foods making up a large part of a healthy diet.

    humans eat diverse foods from all over the world that we have highly altered naturally through agriculture that are very healthy whole foods.  thinking that *anything* you eat represents or is close to what paleolithic man ate is asinine at best.  almost all of our modern vegetables and animals are very modified from their wild counterparts by the processes of agriculture and selective breeding.

    paleo man had no grains, no carrots, no potatoes, no cabbages, no broccoli, none of the citrus or bananas or melons we currently enjoy, no dairy.  compare most wild cousins of modern plant foods to the versions we eat and you’ll quickly see that we’ve vastly improved our food sources, plus we tend not to eat so many grubs and insects and rodents these days.

    if you like lots of bugs, grubs, rodents, and meager local only wild fare then you *maybe* you are somewhat close to paleo.  if you are just eating whole foods and not as much grain then please for the love of all that is factual don’t call yourself paleo and act all snotty to anyone who eats differently then you.

    i’m all for any way of eating that makes anyone feel good, healthy, and happy.  i don’t think that is necessarily the same thing for eveyone so i don’t try and tell others what to eat.  i personally eat mostly whole foods, lots of leafy greens, healthy cuts of meat, fruits, and not much packaged food and that seems to work well for me.

    1. paleo man had no grains, no carrots, no potatoes, no cabbages, no broccoli, none of the citrus or bananas or melons we currently enjoy, no dairy.

      I *like* the globalization of food ressources.

      OT: did palaeohumans have uppercase cave drawings?

      1.  me too!  food is yummy.

        no alas they didn’t have uppercase, that wouldn’t be invented until people started commenting on the internet.  paleohumans mostly used emoji. :-)

  21. My knowledge of the paleo diet comes mainly from posters in the comments sections of blogs, and they very very frequently resemble Zuk’s alleged “straw men.” 

  22. Diet and nutrition really seems to be a field that science journalism has severely under reported. I read frequently about some individual or small Internet community having a great time on the Paleo diet just about as much as I hear it’s hogwash, that there’s good and bad cholesterol or maybe not, that animals fats are superior to vegetable oils or vice versa, that veganism, raw food diets, glueten free diets and mediterranean diets are the only path to great health. Or that since everyone’s living longer than we were centuries ago maybe diet doesn’t matter that much anyway.

    I wish someone (maybe Boing Boing’s own excellent science writer Maggie) could take a comprehensive look at where the scientific community really is on the topic of healthy diets by looking critically at the research and not just on individual conjecture.

  23. I love hearing people bash paleo. Especially as they chew on a fat bagel and cream cheese and lament their slow metabolisms; or while pushing boxes of Girl Scout cookies on their co workers because they have already snarfed down two cases and just can’t have them in the house. At this point I just describe my lifestyle as having stripped out all of the junk food, including grains. Oh the horrors! With plenty of vegetables, gourds, nuts and tubers, I meet all of my nutritional and fiber requirements and I don’t crave sweets. Along with that, I do not feast daily on all things animal. I eat until I’m full which is usually around 4-5 oz of animal based protein per meal.
    Interestingly, transitioning into this lifestyle started 18months ago when my gastroenterologist recommended that I abstain from all dairy products. (What about my bones??? More dark, leafy greens of course. Isn’t that what vegans recommend? And isn’t veganism highly restrictive?) I lost 17lbs within three months. Over the next 15months, I gradually became stricter with my diet, 90% of the time, and accommodated holidays and celebrations the other 10%. Every time I accommodated these holidays and celebrations, the gastronomic enjoyment was significantly less than my gastrointestinal distress. Anecdotally, this was conclusive for me. Scientifically, my triglycerides, LDL, TC and sugars were down significantly as was my weight- another 20lbs. And, my HDL went up from 39 to 48 and that was without any notable exercise. Not bad for a female with a family history of CV disease and low HDL.
    On a side note, the “eat less and move more” guideline sounds wonderful and logical but in reality it is a recipe for failure. Especially when following the carb heavy, standard American diet. The body regulates a vast array of peptides and hormones that stimulate hunger and slow the metabolism in response to negative changes in caloric intake, be they drastic or mild. Drop your kcals and you will have short term weight loss and then a significant plateau as your body interprets this caloric deficit as starvation. How low can you go? What’s more, early weight loss on the SAD (immaterial of whole grain-based or processed- grain based consumption) is composed of a greater amount of lean mass (metabolic driver) rather than fat mass (non metabolically active tissue). Who would advocate that path when science directs that the maintenance of metabolically active tissue is crucial to weight loss?
    Bottom line, stop eating shit. Start eating lean proteins and continue eating lots and lots of fruits and veggies. How can you argue with that?
    Oh yes, and READ the literature. Look into current clinical trials that knocked the crap out of the SAD and marked the improvement with lab values and reduced risk, relative and otherwise, of significant coronary events.

  24. I think it’d be easier for people to accept the Paleo/Primal diet and lifestyle as a whole foods diet.  Processed Franken-foods are good for no one and that includes the Atkins diet bars and other such non-sense.  Conventional farming and livestock practices are being shown to be extremely unhealthy for the animals and the people consuming them and the vegetables grown for consumption not to mention the price the land pays.  Organic farming has been shown to be the best way to produce sustainable results.

    There are scientific reasons to avoid grains (especially wheat) and sugars and legumes.  The Paleo diet is slowly gaining more recognition because it has become a science-based approach to healthier lifestyles.  The reason this way of eating works is because it is (not low-carb but) lower in carbohydrates (see: more balanced) than the current guidelines fed to people by the government.

    Read until you have a thorough understanding.  Learn to read research.  Look for reviews on said research to make sure it is reliable for its information.

  25. All kinds of people here debating their Paleo fantasies of what Paleo peeps actually eat and how it relates to what their ancestors eat, without actually reading a book about it.

    Obviously our ancestors didn’t eat crap-in-a-bag. They didn’t eat extracted seed oils, though they may have eaten the seeds. If they did eat a little grain – and grains were completely unknown in many areas such as the South Pacific till recently – they didn’t add pure gluten to their bread to make it rise better. The only refined sugar they ate was honey. They liked eating animals because animals, especially fatty animals, are nutrient dense. There is no hunter-gather society on earth that would prefer plant foods to animals given a choice, but there are only a few that have (for most of the year) had to do without plant foods, none that have had to do without animals.
    If you were to look at published research you would find that diets higher in fat and lower in carbohydrate have benefits in controlled trials, grains are causitive of many diseases, that there is evidence that seed oils and sugar promote obesity and heart disease.
    There is a whole medical side to Paleo prescriptions that Zuk seems to have ignored. The reality is that the Paleo diet works better than other diets, the “Paleofantasy” aspect of Paleo is really just the attempt to hypothesize WHY it works.

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