6

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Modern Paleo obsession with Fat

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 21, 2010 at 10:15 PM

Hello, I'm new to Paleo (coming from a veganesque diet), and fat currently makes up about 40-50% of my daily calories (pemmican, coconut, nuts, etc) which might be on the low side for some. Seems like everyone in the Paleo community loves their fat and I still haven't figured out why. I would think Paleolithic peoples did not have butter, many did not have access to coconuts, nuts where sporadic, and rendering animal fat probably didn't happen much if at all. Is it just that modern paleo eaters eat fewer organ meats that we need to get fat from other sources?

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on May 31, 2010
at 12:18 AM

@Jason - that is a great blog, and that is a great book.

5db563a5c94e73644be798fd16101cb8

on May 30, 2010
at 02:35 PM

There are many other evolutionary biologists and anthropologists that disagree with Cordain's interpretation of the evidence. Cordain seems to be backpedaling on his stance on saturated fat anyways, since it's not justifiable in the literature. There is no evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease or high cholesterol. And we know now that "high cholesterol" (total or LDL) isn't a strong risk factor for heart disease anyways.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 29, 2010
at 09:11 PM

Patrik, thanks. I have started reading PaleoNu and just starting reading Good Calories, Bad Calories. I am starting to get it...

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

(373)

on May 26, 2010
at 05:50 PM

I don't want to eat the potatoes. If I don't get in some carbs post-workout, I know I'll be paying for it the next week. I just started weight-lifting though, maybe I need to adapt to it?

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on May 25, 2010
at 01:16 PM

Potatoes ug, after weight training I usually have a couple of raw eggs and heavy cream shake.

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

(373)

on May 23, 2010
at 07:21 PM

Those found in animal fat, meat (particularly offal), and eggs (off the top of my head: k2, b-12, iron, A, E, optimal amino acids -- can't name 'em all) Animal products generally have more of the nutrients we need (obviously, we are animals too) and are more nutrient dense (and are defenseless when dead -- fewer toxins). Yeah, if you're an athlete the game changes a bit. You'll have to tinker with carbs and find out what works for you. After I lift weights I always have potatoes waiting for me in the oven.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 23, 2010
at 05:02 PM

Thanks. When you say "maximizing nutrients" what nutrients are you referring to? I am starting to understand some of the weaknesses in a cordain focus, however, I am a fairly active person (run/swim/interval) and I would think the ability to refuel glycogen stores is something that is a lot harder with animal products only. And yes, I've read that cardio kills! Thanks

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 23, 2010
at 04:50 PM

thanks for that link. I watched that youtube video on your site, impressive stuff!

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19230)

on May 23, 2010
at 02:39 PM

Cordain has never said that our ancestors favored lean meat. It is simply that animal fat was not available in high quantities all year round.

C5eb4cd106dd93e7bd054c9470593210

(20)

on May 23, 2010
at 12:01 PM

Heavy Cream rules!!

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on May 23, 2010
at 11:32 AM

While Cordain has modified his stance on fat a lot recently he still isn't completely on board with high amounts.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19230)

on May 23, 2010
at 11:22 AM

You can't replicate the evolutionary metabolic milieu if you don't know what that milieu actually was. Cordain is one of the people actually trying to find out.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 22, 2010
at 05:42 AM

Awesome, thanks for the link. My first intro was the two Cordain books which are not as fat friendly...

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 21, 2010
at 11:18 PM

Yeah, to be totally correct with paleo you'd get far from mostly marrow and brains. Butter is a more appetizing and mad-cow free replacement.

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5 Answers

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6
93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on May 21, 2010
at 10:54 PM

@Jason T

This may sound annoyingly paradoxical -- but I would caution you not to think of the Paleo diet in terms of what food you can eat or not eat. Or what macro-nutrient you should focus on.

Get a little more meta. Think about it in terms of replicating the evolutionary metabolic milieu. See here at Kurt's site:

http://www.paleonu.com/what-is-panu/

This should lead you to understand why many Paleos (myself included) prefer fat.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 22, 2010
at 05:42 AM

Awesome, thanks for the link. My first intro was the two Cordain books which are not as fat friendly...

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on May 31, 2010
at 12:18 AM

@Jason - that is a great blog, and that is a great book.

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on May 23, 2010
at 11:32 AM

While Cordain has modified his stance on fat a lot recently he still isn't completely on board with high amounts.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19230)

on May 23, 2010
at 11:22 AM

You can't replicate the evolutionary metabolic milieu if you don't know what that milieu actually was. Cordain is one of the people actually trying to find out.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 29, 2010
at 09:11 PM

Patrik, thanks. I have started reading PaleoNu and just starting reading Good Calories, Bad Calories. I am starting to get it...

6
14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

on May 23, 2010
at 04:03 AM

The high-fat paradigm comes from PaNu, who was heavily influenced by Taubes, who argued for the carbohydrate hypothesis (that carb, particularly refined carb, cause us to gain weight and are at the root of today's health problems). Thus, paleo has inherited the low-carb style diet from Taubes. There isn't much difference between a LC paleo's diet, and a hardcore Atkins low carber. Though each may be operating within different philosophical frameworks and doing it for different reasons, the diets are similar.

I like to think of it as optimizing within the paleo framework. Cordain gives you free reign to nuts, vegetables, fruit, seeds, and lean meat -- as if they are all equal. Carbohydrate sources' nutrients (potatoes, fruit) pale in comparison to LC products like cheese, meat, and eggs. Thus, by eating LC, you are maximizing nutrients and minimizing toxins. Fats themselves play a number of important roles in the body, while carbs are primarily just fuel (PaNu explains this somewhere).

Besides, what is paleo? The paleolithic diet varies widely between location and time period. PaNu has selected what he believes to be the optimal paleolithic diet -- one high in animal products and relatively low in carbohydrate. It's more of a diet guided by evolutionary insights than the paleolithic lifestyle mimesis of Cordain.

I started out on a Cordain-style diet as well, but am now full-on PaNu. The benefits that people boast about on paleo (healing of injuries, lack of illness, disappearance of acne), have come largely only after taking up the PaNu diet.

Though I miss the nut and fruit gorging of my Cordain days, I'll take my heavy cream over those any day :)

5de2fffda92c0bf2be7ede10cad55546

(1781)

on May 25, 2010
at 01:16 PM

Potatoes ug, after weight training I usually have a couple of raw eggs and heavy cream shake.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 23, 2010
at 05:02 PM

Thanks. When you say "maximizing nutrients" what nutrients are you referring to? I am starting to understand some of the weaknesses in a cordain focus, however, I am a fairly active person (run/swim/interval) and I would think the ability to refuel glycogen stores is something that is a lot harder with animal products only. And yes, I've read that cardio kills! Thanks

C5eb4cd106dd93e7bd054c9470593210

(20)

on May 23, 2010
at 12:01 PM

Heavy Cream rules!!

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

(373)

on May 23, 2010
at 07:21 PM

Those found in animal fat, meat (particularly offal), and eggs (off the top of my head: k2, b-12, iron, A, E, optimal amino acids -- can't name 'em all) Animal products generally have more of the nutrients we need (obviously, we are animals too) and are more nutrient dense (and are defenseless when dead -- fewer toxins). Yeah, if you're an athlete the game changes a bit. You'll have to tinker with carbs and find out what works for you. After I lift weights I always have potatoes waiting for me in the oven.

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

(373)

on May 26, 2010
at 05:50 PM

I don't want to eat the potatoes. If I don't get in some carbs post-workout, I know I'll be paying for it the next week. I just started weight-lifting though, maybe I need to adapt to it?

4
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on May 21, 2010
at 11:06 PM

It's only a story from one culture, but consider that the Native Plains Indians would push a large number of buffalo off a cliff band in the heat of summer. They would consume the brain, marrow, liver, heart, tongue, back fat first. The lean would be left to waste or dried for a ration of jerky at a later time. It was certainly possible to eat very high fat in Paleolithic times!

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on May 21, 2010
at 11:18 PM

Yeah, to be totally correct with paleo you'd get far from mostly marrow and brains. Butter is a more appetizing and mad-cow free replacement.

2
5db563a5c94e73644be798fd16101cb8

on May 23, 2010
at 02:07 PM

Because saturated fat is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, and the fat-soluble vitamins play a role in just about every important process in the body.

A high-fat, moderate protein, moderate or low carbohydrate diet is the one we evolved on. I disagree with Cordain that our ancestors favored lean meats. There is plenty of evidence to suggest they prized the fatty tissues and organs, and the cultural reference to Native Americans that Tim provided is only one example.

It is possible (though I don't advise it) to live on a 100% fat and protein diet. The same cannot be said for carbohydrate. Although I have nothing against vegetables, and eat them regularly, studies consistently show that there is no benefit to eating the "5 servings a day" that conventional diet authorities and paleo gurus like Cordain advocate.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19230)

on May 23, 2010
at 02:39 PM

Cordain has never said that our ancestors favored lean meat. It is simply that animal fat was not available in high quantities all year round.

5db563a5c94e73644be798fd16101cb8

on May 30, 2010
at 02:35 PM

There are many other evolutionary biologists and anthropologists that disagree with Cordain's interpretation of the evidence. Cordain seems to be backpedaling on his stance on saturated fat anyways, since it's not justifiable in the literature. There is no evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease or high cholesterol. And we know now that "high cholesterol" (total or LDL) isn't a strong risk factor for heart disease anyways.

2
525feb550ef4729ec1c86d4f0dbb3a0d

on May 23, 2010
at 05:01 AM

I could be completely wrong about this, but for some reason it seems like Cordain tries too hard to avoid being categorized with other low-carb/high-fat diets...

On thepaleodiet.com's FAQ section Cordain even goes as far as to continue the demonization of saturated fat - citing it as dangerous. I have to wonder if this is truly his opinion, or if he thinks this is one of the only ways to avoid classification with Dr. Atkins?

Personally, I eat fewer than 80g of carbs a day, and most days I'm lower than 50g. I don't even think about it and find myself wanting grass-fed meat/healthy fats if I do even get a craving.

I agree with Patrik's recommendation to the PaNu prescription - less thought required and way easier to comply with in my opinion!

Check out John Welbourn's blog for a good post on Saturated fat - http://talktomejohnnie.com/diet/saturated-fats

From the paleodiet.com FAQ "The diet doctors with their low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets offer us an alternative, but this nutritional gambit is nothing more than a short term ploy to lose weight that in the long run is unhealthy because of its reliance upon fats (bacon, butter, fatty meats, cheeses, etc.) at the expense of healthful fruits and vegetables.... My research group and I believe that the high amounts of dietary saturated fats in the western diet promote atherosclerosis because they down-regulate the LDL receptor (a concept for which the Nobel prize in medicine was awarded in 1984). We do not believe that dietary saturated fats are the sole or even main cause of atherosclerosis, but rather are a part of many dietary elements that promote heart disease."

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on May 23, 2010
at 04:50 PM

thanks for that link. I watched that youtube video on your site, impressive stuff!

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