8

votes

Do anthropologists eat paleo?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 09, 2010 at 7:33 PM

Just the question as it stands, really. Is anyone out there familiar enough with this academic community to know if the diet has taken on? And when I say anthropologists I mean the scientific kind (physical anthropology, etc.), not the ones who use Foucault to analyze video game culture in Japan or whatever (cultural anthropology, etc.).

If they don't we can ask why not. Which takes us into territory we have explored before, even if not conclusively: skepticism about the rate of genetic change with respect to diet (as in this paleohacks thread, or this post, or at the end of the blog entry from this guy, who dares to be witty about our very own Melissa and John); or perhaps lack of consensus about the facts of paleolithic food consumption within the anthropological community (see this paleohacks thread for example); or perhaps anthropologists of the scientific variety are just lazy, like doctors who smoke cigarettes.

But the main question is just an empirical one. Anyone know if anthropologists have been eating paleo? Shouldn't we expect these people above all to be following the diet, and if they're not isn't that disconcerting?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 05:55 PM

It's sort of sad that someone would downvote a newcomer anthropologist that reports eating meat. Exactly what the OP was looking for. The Paleohacks Thought Police are still on patrol for heretics.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on August 13, 2012
at 01:20 PM

Isnt this a bit like asking do doctors exercise or eat well? Cognitive dissonances allows us all to be hypocrits. Thats especially true of academics.

6473dcb4b0e9b839615d650c168d2747

(638)

on August 13, 2012
at 01:10 PM

I agree that we'll still all die regardless of what we eat. I'd just prefer to NOT die demented, fat, footless and disease ridden.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:54 PM

I lived on Chinese takeout. The grad student's friend. Sadly it left me with a fiendish hunger for piles of white rice. The obese diabetic's friend.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:50 PM

This thread is kind of a zombie. It reflects a lot on what Paleohacks used to be when such "science" as leptin reset reigned supreme. I've held throughout that the major factors to emulate are behavioral. Diet -especially meat eating - is a small subset of the behavior.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:44 PM

The most appropriate diet for an anthropologist is what's available in the field, from couscous with Harissa to pizza with Miller Lite. It would be the odd duck who insisted on a pile of bacon at mealtime. In order to practice a profession courtesy helps.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:41 PM

That's ridiculous. Darwin certainly ate grain. Ploghman's lunch and stout. If you're looking for cultural confirmation invoke Atkins not Darwin.

A7925ab8ea44e6d4d5d7c6f202632c6c

(404)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:38 PM

yeah... we all gonna die: some being vibrant centenarians, others obese rotting 50-year old slobs - "Eat whatever you like" - indeed...

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8

(803)

on October 11, 2010
at 06:06 PM

anthropologists driven to the diet by personal need are more likely to follow it, just as in the general population. wheat is addictive so no matter your knowledge of paleolithic eating, if you don't feel you're suffering from wheat - or sugar, or vegetable oil - you'll assume you're more or less adapted to it and go right ahead eating it.

Ef228708abd5f082f633b1cd1d64eee1

(892)

on October 10, 2010
at 10:33 PM

I remember being pissed at a "Bones" episode where she mentions her diet... I really can't remember now but I bet she's vegetarian. And in her explanation she starts off with her usual "Anthropologically speaking..." and then said a bunch of crap. >:| I normally love her character, even if she is a bit over-the-top.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 02:47 PM

@Tserb: with "high like crack/fills me up" I was trying to make a distinction between the "craving" for fat and the craving for sugar. They have a different feel to them: sugar makes you high and then you crash; if you're hooked you'll basically keep eating it; and if you can teach yourself to eat differently you can get over the craving. Fat differs on all these points: it makes you full and keeps you full; you stop eating it when you're full; and -- most important --- when you desire fat it's a deep, deep desire. You can't retrain yourself not to need it. You'll always need it.

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on October 10, 2010
at 10:31 AM

@WCC Paul: no, you didn't offend me. In fact, I got a good laugh out of it. I was being quite serious about postmodernism being the driver behind me leaving anthropology for greener pastures :).

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 10, 2010
at 08:02 AM

In my limited experience lab researchers live mostly on cake and donuts :) Was Robb Wolf not a student of Loren Cordain? Maybe the lab he worked in had more knowledge about diet.

4ff24fb9a7d48305681487dfb8040a5e

(383)

on October 10, 2010
at 06:44 AM

To be fair: I also crave sugar and why is that so appealing for human's taste bud? That it's not healthy, we all know...I'm grateful I know the truth about healthful (paleo) nutrition. If I would just follow what I crave, I'd be even bigger than what I am right now :-)

B22e5946e28a1845a6006737e59edfc6

(2437)

on October 10, 2010
at 05:07 AM

I asked some guys on an evolutionary pysch board if they eat the Paleo Diet, they responded "it makes sense from what I've seen but I'm too lazy to do it."

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:54 AM

"Also, I think it is just SOOOOO ingrained into societal thinking that for some strange reason, we all 'naturally' crave things that are bad for us (like 'unhealthy' saturated fats), and that it has always been that way." Right on. That's one of the things that was such a revolution for me with paleo. How could it be that what fills me up -- not what gets me high like crack, but what fills me up -- be bad for me? Just not buyin' it.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:45 AM

Oh geez I hope I didn't offend anyone (certainly not you) with my comment about cultural anthropologists. People of that persuasion have a lot of influence in my world so I feel like they can take a little teasing every now and again.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:44 AM

Oh and thanks for all your other points by the way. Very interesting.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:42 AM

... what I mean surely, even though it's a matter of degree. Why is it that these lab techs Robb Wolf speaks of are close enough to the source to be affected by it but physical anthropologists are not? After all Wolf himself gives that example in his book of the chat with the anthro department followed by the chat with the nutrition department. That's what got me thinking about this in fact -- seemed a little too optimistic. Anyhow I add all this as a way of refining your and Matthew's responses. If that makes sense.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:38 AM

Can't imagine a life without pizza and pasta, eh? It seems to me there are degrees of closeness to something -- for example, it would be weird if some of my paleo-ness didn't rub off on my s.o., since I spend a fair amount of time talking about paleo and we cook together, etc. Or if that's a bad example given the debates we've had here of late about s.o.'s, then how about: I'd be willing to bet that doctors who are lung cancer specialists have a lower smoking rate than other doctors, and certainly lower than those of similar age, income, etc., who are not doctors. So you see ... [CONT]

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 09, 2010
at 08:13 PM

Great question. Since so few people eat paleo or are willing to give up some of their favorite foods, I wonder if anthropologists simply have a slightly higher prevalence of paleo eaters. Like crossfitters have the highest paleo prevalence, then maybe celiacs, etc etc.

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11 Answers

15
93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on October 09, 2010
at 10:59 PM

This is gonna be a fun one. Gonna approach in a pretty similar manner to Matthew. Full disclosure: I hold a BA in Physical Anthropology from university that houses some of the "rock-stars" of evolutionary psychology (a branch of physical anthropology).

Just the question as it stands, really. Is anyone out there familiar enough with this academic community to know if the diet has taken on? And when I say anthropologists I mean the scientific kind (physical anthropology, etc.), not the ones who use Foucault to analyze video game culture in Japan or whatever (cultural anthropology, etc.).

My guess is that eating Paleo within the physical anthropology community is about the same as the general population.

And in fact, a popular anthro blogger, John Hawks, has taken issue with the Paleo diet.

From: http://johnhawks.net/weblog/topics/humor/caveman-diet-nytimes-2010.html

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/future/drug_pathogen_load_2005.html

???Somehow people never seem to mention that the great "caveman" diet that kept us so healthy in the Pleistocene HAD EVERYONE DYING BEFORE 50! Instead of French Women Don't Get Fat, we could just as easily be buying Erectus Women Didn't Get Fat, which would almost certainly omit the likelihood that THEY LIVED WITH CONSTANT HUNGER AND FREQUENT STARVATION.???

Really? This is his argument?

Let me explain why it doesn't bother me the least bit that anthro profs have not jumped on the Paleo Diet. Because, most, but obv not all, are classic "experts" that know little about little.

Allow me to illustrate: In one of my anthro classes when a prof explained how he modeled hunter-gatherer hunting ??? he assumed that their prey would be randomly/evenly distributed across some landscape ??? and HG behavior would be predicated upon that and he then drew a number of conclusions about that. Namely, this mean X, Y and Z.

I remember cringing in class as it was painfully obvious he had never been hunting or stalking in his life as any hunter knows that animals like certain habitats more than others and there is even at times a temporal component to where they can be found. Not to mention seasonality, time of day, wind and water conditions etc etc Bottom line: thinking that prey is equally/randomly distributed across some landscape is madness and makes for a hideously bad underlying assumption about the behavior of HGs.

To be clear, the stereotypical redneck who hunts possums and squirrels with a .22 would know that, but an anthro prof at a pretty decent university who studies hunter-gatherers didn???t.....

That is why I don't care much for the opinion of the typical anthropologist.

If they don't we can ask why not. Which takes us into territory we have explored before, even if not conclusively: skepticism about the rate of genetic change with respect to diet

There should be cogent skepticism about this. But don't fret - it isn't coming from the academic anthro community.

(as in this paleohacks thread, or

this post, or at the end of the blog entry from this guy, who dares to be witty about our very own Melissa and John); or perhaps lack of consensus about the facts of paleolithic food consumption within the anthropological community (see this paleohacks thread for example);

If there were "consensus" - we'd be in big trouble.

or perhaps anthropologists of the scientific variety are just lazy, like doctors who smoke cigarettes.

But the main question is just an empirical one. Anyone know if anthropologists have been eating paleo? Shouldn't we expect these people above all to be following the diet, and if they're not isn't that disconcerting?

Why would we? Anthropologists aren't hyper-rational robots - they are people just like you and me. I know plenty of intelligent people that see the benefits of eating Paleo but continue to eat wheat because they couldn't possibly imagine a life without pizza and pasta.

The reason anyone decides to eat Paleo is because a diversity of evidence exists to support the idea. Some is anecdote, some is theoretical, some is clinical, some is based on "studies". Much is completely unknown and unknowable.

One has to synthesize all this evidence (and lack of) and figure out for themselves if Paleo makes sense.

But I'll end on a high note. The folks behind the Ancestral Health Society are trying to change the way Paleo is being percieved in the academic world. More info here (and plenty of academics): http://ancestryfoundation.org/Presenters.html

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:44 AM

Oh and thanks for all your other points by the way. Very interesting.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:38 AM

Can't imagine a life without pizza and pasta, eh? It seems to me there are degrees of closeness to something -- for example, it would be weird if some of my paleo-ness didn't rub off on my s.o., since I spend a fair amount of time talking about paleo and we cook together, etc. Or if that's a bad example given the debates we've had here of late about s.o.'s, then how about: I'd be willing to bet that doctors who are lung cancer specialists have a lower smoking rate than other doctors, and certainly lower than those of similar age, income, etc., who are not doctors. So you see ... [CONT]

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:42 AM

... what I mean surely, even though it's a matter of degree. Why is it that these lab techs Robb Wolf speaks of are close enough to the source to be affected by it but physical anthropologists are not? After all Wolf himself gives that example in his book of the chat with the anthro department followed by the chat with the nutrition department. That's what got me thinking about this in fact -- seemed a little too optimistic. Anyhow I add all this as a way of refining your and Matthew's responses. If that makes sense.

B22e5946e28a1845a6006737e59edfc6

(2437)

on October 10, 2010
at 05:07 AM

I asked some guys on an evolutionary pysch board if they eat the Paleo Diet, they responded "it makes sense from what I've seen but I'm too lazy to do it."

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8

(803)

on October 11, 2010
at 06:06 PM

anthropologists driven to the diet by personal need are more likely to follow it, just as in the general population. wheat is addictive so no matter your knowledge of paleolithic eating, if you don't feel you're suffering from wheat - or sugar, or vegetable oil - you'll assume you're more or less adapted to it and go right ahead eating it.

6
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 09, 2010
at 08:09 PM

But the main question is just an empirical one. Anyone know if anthropologists have been eating paleo?

I have no data but I would say they don't, at least no more than any other group of people.

Shouldn't we expect these people above all to be following the diet, and if they're not isn't that disconcerting?

No it is not disconcerting at all for the following reason. Most people do not base their choices in life on how those choices will affect their short or long-term health. This applies to food as much as anything else. Most people eat because of habit, tradition and personal taste.

If everyone rationally decided, based on best evidence, what was best for their health and then acted on those decisions the world would be a very different place. Most food and drink manufactorers would be bankrupt and everyone would exercise daily and no one would smoke. This is generally not how humans work.

If you do base your decisions on health this is hard to understand in the same way that a religious person finds is hard to understand why others would choose not to be religious. It seems so obviously the correct thing to do :)

3
6de0fd2b127bfd5cfb09a7ccdf77c56c

on October 10, 2010
at 09:39 PM

Do cancer doctor's still smoke. Lots of them do.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:44 PM

The most appropriate diet for an anthropologist is what's available in the field, from couscous with Harissa to pizza with Miller Lite. It would be the odd duck who insisted on a pile of bacon at mealtime. In order to practice a profession courtesy helps.

2
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on March 20, 2011
at 01:37 PM

I remember reading in one of "BONES" books (by Kate Reich) that the main lead (dr. Brennan, forensic anthropologist) was eating more meat because of what she was reading on the diets of paleolithic people. Which means the author must have been interested in it as well.

2
A480640a53eb5dc8966f49141942f705

on October 11, 2010
at 05:35 PM

Muslims don't eat pork, Hindus don't eat beef, Darwinists shouldn't eat grains....

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:41 PM

That's ridiculous. Darwin certainly ate grain. Ploghman's lunch and stout. If you're looking for cultural confirmation invoke Atkins not Darwin.

2
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 10, 2010
at 02:15 AM

Sugarholics are a lot like alcoholics. A few bites won't hurt and hey, everyone is doing it! But the big difference is instead of having a bunch of tv commercials constantly reminding them that it is bad for them, they instead have a bunch of tv commercials constantly assuring them it is good for them! Really, it is quite amazing that anyone ever does paleo at all when you think about all that stands in the way.

Also, I think it is just SOOOOO ingrained into societal thinking that for some strange reason, we all 'naturally' crave things that are bad for us (like 'unhealthy' saturated fats), and that it has always been that way. If you ask them but why would we naturally crave something that is both natural and bad for us? As logical as that question is, the statement goes against everything they have ever been taught and requires an entire shift of world view, plus recognition that something they love and are addicted to, ie sugar, is bad for them. So they just don't want to believe and they are in the company of plenty of others who don't want to believe. They all agree not to believe something they don't want to believe. The end result is it is easy for them to go on believing their addiction is 'health' even despite occasional evidence to the contrary. And all that old paloelithic fossil evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways , so there is plenty of space for wiggle room.

Interesting though that the lab techs, after seeing it in the lab day in and day out, find it much harder to not notice the truth.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:54 AM

"Also, I think it is just SOOOOO ingrained into societal thinking that for some strange reason, we all 'naturally' crave things that are bad for us (like 'unhealthy' saturated fats), and that it has always been that way." Right on. That's one of the things that was such a revolution for me with paleo. How could it be that what fills me up -- not what gets me high like crack, but what fills me up -- be bad for me? Just not buyin' it.

4ff24fb9a7d48305681487dfb8040a5e

(383)

on October 10, 2010
at 06:44 AM

To be fair: I also crave sugar and why is that so appealing for human's taste bud? That it's not healthy, we all know...I'm grateful I know the truth about healthful (paleo) nutrition. If I would just follow what I crave, I'd be even bigger than what I am right now :-)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 02:47 PM

@Tserb: with "high like crack/fills me up" I was trying to make a distinction between the "craving" for fat and the craving for sugar. They have a different feel to them: sugar makes you high and then you crash; if you're hooked you'll basically keep eating it; and if you can teach yourself to eat differently you can get over the craving. Fat differs on all these points: it makes you full and keeps you full; you stop eating it when you're full; and -- most important --- when you desire fat it's a deep, deep desire. You can't retrain yourself not to need it. You'll always need it.

1
1d5dd4c93883ba18a130855830f4dadc

(136)

on August 13, 2012
at 01:04 PM

"Eat whatever you like, You're still going to die." Demonstrates how little the science you have studied informs your decisions regarding your health. What is your opinion of Mat LaLonde? I believe he is an "actual scientist" as well, and I do believe his studies have had an impact on his food choices.

1
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on October 09, 2010
at 10:33 PM

Not anthropologists, but I seem to recall Robb Wolf recounting in his podcast that the lab-techs and bench researchers at the lab he worked for (doing various chemical analyses) all ended up on a "paleo" nutrition plan by seeing what foods did what to blood chemistry. They just all gravitated to meat and veggies and avoided sugars, grains and "fake" fats. What other professional research ends up leading those in the field to a paleo approach?

None of the cultural anthropology courses I took in college had professors that were even remotely paleo.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 10, 2010
at 08:02 AM

In my limited experience lab researchers live mostly on cake and donuts :) Was Robb Wolf not a student of Loren Cordain? Maybe the lab he worked in had more knowledge about diet.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:54 PM

I lived on Chinese takeout. The grad student's friend. Sadly it left me with a fiendish hunger for piles of white rice. The obese diabetic's friend.

0
9a6b1e35f94f1c66d9d2050a075e6cb3

on August 13, 2012
at 12:24 PM

The cultish responses here make a mockery of the "paleo diet"'s claims to be scientific.

Eat whatever you like. You're still going to die. Just please spare the rest of the world your self-absorbed silliness and all the pseudoscience about your diets.

Signed, an actual physical anthropologist who has stalked, killed and butchered his own meat on more than a few occasion.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:50 PM

This thread is kind of a zombie. It reflects a lot on what Paleohacks used to be when such "science" as leptin reset reigned supreme. I've held throughout that the major factors to emulate are behavioral. Diet -especially meat eating - is a small subset of the behavior.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 13, 2012
at 05:55 PM

It's sort of sad that someone would downvote a newcomer anthropologist that reports eating meat. Exactly what the OP was looking for. The Paleohacks Thought Police are still on patrol for heretics.

A7925ab8ea44e6d4d5d7c6f202632c6c

(404)

on August 13, 2012
at 12:38 PM

yeah... we all gonna die: some being vibrant centenarians, others obese rotting 50-year old slobs - "Eat whatever you like" - indeed...

6473dcb4b0e9b839615d650c168d2747

(638)

on August 13, 2012
at 01:10 PM

I agree that we'll still all die regardless of what we eat. I'd just prefer to NOT die demented, fat, footless and disease ridden.

0
7c068e0afd33ae34618499578444a5e1

on March 20, 2011
at 12:50 PM

Yes, I do.

Please enter at least 15 characters.

0
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on October 09, 2010
at 10:54 PM

I have a BA in anthropology, even though I ditched it in favour of another discipline because I couldn't stand the dweebs using Foucault to analyze video game culture in Japan. Do I count?

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on October 10, 2010
at 10:31 AM

@WCC Paul: no, you didn't offend me. In fact, I got a good laugh out of it. I was being quite serious about postmodernism being the driver behind me leaving anthropology for greener pastures :).

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 10, 2010
at 03:45 AM

Oh geez I hope I didn't offend anyone (certainly not you) with my comment about cultural anthropologists. People of that persuasion have a lot of influence in my world so I feel like they can take a little teasing every now and again.

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