3

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How do we really know that "Paleo Man" had better health than our current humanity?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 24, 2011 at 7:08 AM

I will try to correctly articulate exactly what I'm pokin at here.

Couple this with my last question about eating crap every now and then and I am kinda worried that you guys might begin to scheme privately to kick me off PaleoHacks. Hear me out first. I was reading through Dr. K's thread about Paleo and the Scientific Method and it really got me thinking about the entire basis of the Paleo concept. I am asking this question not as a noob that doesn't know that reenactment is not the goal and that the Paleo community is pretty well aware that we don't really know exactly what Paleo man ate.

The entire basis behind eating Paleo is banked on the fact that humans survived generation after generation eating foods quite literally in wildlife (well actually the food was wildlife) absent our current (current meaning the last 100 years or so) ridiculous sophisticated modernism of food manufacturing that has poisoned humanity. And that this Paleo diet sustained man well enough to continue to reproduce and grow as a species, thus 'proving' that we should sort of emulate that ideal if we all want to continue to reproduce and thrive as a species.

So here's what popped into my head. What about the fact that most people who even eat the SAD still live plenty long enough to have multiple children? And that it is highly likely that those children will also live long enough to have their own children, since diseases and health disorders most often do not detrimentally affect one's life (like... via death) until sometime in their 50s or even 60s, and even then we all consider that they 'died very young'. But by that time, they are 'done' anyway, at least done with their physical contribution to the human population.

So what I am wondering is not if eating wheat bread, mud pie with hot fudge, and drinking a 44oz soda is smarter that eating "Paleo". What I am asking is... if in 5,000 years we looked back at this era of time, could we draw the same conclusions that we are drawing from the "Paleolithic era"? We have everything medically recorded now, so that's not very fair, but imagine if we didn't. Imagine if the medical records for the 20th century were burned in a fire and all records were deleted from the pages of history forever. No pictures of overweight people were saved. Nobody knew that diabetes was rampant. Nobody knew that there was an obesity epidemic. All we knew is that humans survived, multiplied, and continued to move forward and conquer as a species, living to an average age into their seventies.

So now take this thinking and apply it to our romanticized image of Paleo man's health and wellness. We have no medical records, pictures, or living witnesses. How do we really know? And is it even important that we do?

3c997ffae3db9464325b96979346d9e9

(1290)

on April 25, 2011
at 01:18 PM

thank you for your response Jack

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18452)

on April 25, 2011
at 01:01 AM

Patrik - for suggesting that maybe we eat bad foods and then questioning the whole Paleo gig the next day. I was being facetious, thinking that you guys would be like... who is this guy? get him outta here. haha.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 10:47 PM

i agree......that is why I think now with all the computer power we have and networks and storage we need to collect N-1 data. I think we could test many hypothesis very quickly these days. Remember I am a doctor and I am interested in helping everyone not just n-1. Its my duty and my job. The question needs to be addressed whether you like it or not.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 10:42 PM

And Paleo is not just about grains my friend.......not even close.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 10:41 PM

Paleo cant be a starting point because neither point is fixed as it was in paleo times. Our biology has changed via epigenetics and the the food source is very different. If you think paleo is a starting point then this is how errors creep in. Unintended side effects always plague science. That is why we need the scientific method to vet the diet. Read my thread on the scientific method. I have thought a lot about this issue. And I think if you read the posts about it it may get you thinking about it too.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 10:39 PM

as we do for a mediterrean diet.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 10:38 PM

Why? you can really ask that huh? Go read my comments in the Rosedale thread in my response to him. He said on this site that eating a high protein diet is going to cause cancer and I told him why I thought that was horse shit. But truth be told.......he has a point. Paleolithic eating needs to be studied because the food we eat today is not the food that Cordain and Wolf write about. And that one issue could open an unintended door that we may not anticipate. BAsed upon the known science I think plaeo is best and safe. But I would feel much better if we had as many studies on paleo

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 24, 2011
at 06:55 PM

For me paleo made me much more optimistic and "balanced" mentally. What I mean by "living well" is eating a good diet lacking the current industrial toxins that are being used to poison the USA. Many of these toxins are directly related to problems of the brain or central nervous system(depression, OCD, anxiety, anger, arthritis, inflammation, migraine headaches ect. These toxins(many of them) drastically affects peoples experience of life negatively. These are things happening now in our soil!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 24, 2011
at 06:53 PM

For me paleo made me much more optimistic and "balanced" mentally. What I mean by "living well" is eating a good diet lacking the current industrial toxins that are being used to poison the USA. Many of these toxins are directly related to problems of the brain or central nervous system(depression, OCD, anxiety, anger, arthritis, inflammation, migraine headaches ect. These toxins(many of them) drastically effects peoples experience of life negatively. These are things happening now in our soil!

1e58ba5c171a122541d8b4873f604327

(229)

on April 24, 2011
at 06:43 PM

Dr. K, why do we need to "prove paleo".... the burden of proof should be on the SAD. For me Paleo is a starting point.... it's was here first, and whether it be in the last 10k or 100k, adding grains has never been "proven" better.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on April 24, 2011
at 05:55 PM

Jack, why would we "scheme to kick you of PaleoHacks"?

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18452)

on April 24, 2011
at 04:29 PM

Richard. I am not making that assumption. I have pondered the idea that you present here in your answer and so it is built into the thinking behind my question. Perhaps this health robbing approach will be our demise. Maybe if we continue, 200 years from now, masses of people will be born into health issues, lowering average living age, creating a cascade danger for the future of the human species. I would like to leave room for this to be corrected. I am *aware* of this possibility, but choose to believe that a viable solution can be realized.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 04:06 PM

we know it sustained the species.....but we dont know is it optimal. There in lies the rub.

9dbfedbe21eae2a65093f8774ba8ad4d

(559)

on April 24, 2011
at 03:14 PM

good lord. paleo has been good to me but i can't say it's helped my bubbly sense of optimism. though in the long run it's probably good to have a healthy dose of fatalism. why pretend we're going to "live our best life" a la Oprah? especially with the nuclear crisis underway. happy easter everyone!

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 03:09 PM

I don't subscribe to #1. It doesn't seem practical to me in any region, and fruits, nuts, leaves and berries are abundant. A child explores by putting things in their mouths, and I think our ancestors would have done the same. Anything that tasted good would have been eaten, I think.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 03:01 PM

Good points, and I'll add that we're bombarded with chemicals from our environment regardless of diet, and we have no idea what most of those do. I think that makes finding an optimal diet more important than eating to just get by. I look at most of the people I've known who died "young" by today's standards, and I can't say any of them had healthy diets or lead healthy lifestyles.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 02:57 PM

The ones that survived their harsh existence, that is.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 02:36 PM

you and I believe this but we dont have scientific proof that this is true. Hence the reason for the questions.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 12:26 PM

tell alot but they cant definitively what substate they ate or how their hormonal balance effected their substrate and biochemistry. We also dont know their guts hormonal response and what it did to longevity of health biomakrkers because they can never be measured. We only will know what their skeletons tell us.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 11:30 AM

Great question Jack......and the short answer is we dont; That is why this and other site exist. We need to prove that it does. And the n-1 experiments we are all doing need to be collected and studied. I wrote a question about that very topic. We now have the computer and network and storage power to do this. Because of that we can prove alot about Paleo.......but right now Paleo is very much like the Theory of relativity was in 1905. A theory. One that Einstein knew was true......but no one else did until the they realized his idea had merit. And then they tested it.

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8 Answers

3
4bf5827bfb7df85c5b4b485db0945e64

(1386)

on April 24, 2011
at 07:25 AM

That's why saying a cavemen did it so we should do it is nonscientific and just dumb. We know that science illustrates the exact problems with Neolithic foods but we also know that some Neolithic foods are okay (olive oil, for instance). This is the beauty of science. The Paleo gig just gives a quick framework to make good choices but everything should be backed by science. We need mechanisms and then follow up randomized controlled studies.

2
9dbfedbe21eae2a65093f8774ba8ad4d

on April 24, 2011
at 02:27 PM

I see it more as: if you had a pet human, what should you feed it? We don't feed our pet cats oatmeal. It took millions of years for our bodies to evolve, and along the way we ate certain types of wild foods. Such foods work optimally with our bodies, the same way tropical fish require certain foods and aquarium settings vs cold-water fish. The fact that we are able to survive and procreate on neolithic foods misses the point. Millions of years of evolution would suggest fine biochemical processes within our bodies that today only hard science can shed light on. But we can't know what these processes are if we're studying a human body on a neolithic diet - that skews the results. A lot of nutritional theory is about correcting damage already done (like the whole antioxidant thing) instead of actually seeking to define what optimal is, something we can only know by studying the diets we had as we evolved.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 03:01 PM

Good points, and I'll add that we're bombarded with chemicals from our environment regardless of diet, and we have no idea what most of those do. I think that makes finding an optimal diet more important than eating to just get by. I look at most of the people I've known who died "young" by today's standards, and I can't say any of them had healthy diets or lead healthy lifestyles.

2
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on April 24, 2011
at 11:53 AM

There's also piles of archaeological evidence. Physical anthropologists can tell a lot from a skeleton. And they can tell practically at a glance whether a skeleton was a forager or a farmer; the foragers are taller, have stronger bones without signs of chronic malnutrition, no dental cavities, and the average ages are older.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 04:06 PM

we know it sustained the species.....but we dont know is it optimal. There in lies the rub.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 02:57 PM

The ones that survived their harsh existence, that is.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 12:26 PM

tell alot but they cant definitively what substate they ate or how their hormonal balance effected their substrate and biochemistry. We also dont know their guts hormonal response and what it did to longevity of health biomakrkers because they can never be measured. We only will know what their skeletons tell us.

0
E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 03:24 PM

I have celiac disease, so wheat isn't an option for me. With that bias out of the way, I feel better on lower carbs, and by getting a lot of fiber from vegetables. I love meat, fish and vegetables, all minimally processed. Moreover, I love the way I feel when I'm sticking to eating a good balance of meats and vegetables - I have more energy, my system is regular, and my fibromyalgia probably doesn't act up as much (I'm still experimenting on that front). To the basic question "How do we know..." as someone else said, we don't. We also like to think that paleo man never gorged on sweets (like a whole bush full of ripe berries or a tree full of fruit). I think at best, if we strive for what works for us personally, and it helps us live more happily, productively, etc., then it doesn't matter if I live longer or not.

I would venture to guess that diets changed radically once man was able to figure out storage containers that other animals couldn't easily get into. It seems that would have happened before agriculture, or the effort put into growing food would be a waste (and still can be with weather and animals - my neighbor lost most of his tomatoes plants last year to deer for example). Before storage containers, any forage items would only be available for the couple of weeks they were ripe (and still under competition from other animals), and any kill would only be available in the immediate moment. Anything else would have been scavenged by other animals without containment. So, I kind of see the stages a bit differently: hunter gatherer, to hunter gatherer with ability to store goods, to a mix of agriculture and forage, etc. Each would represent very differnt kinds of dietary availability, so obviously we can live on a lot of things. Again, to me, it's using my big brain to figure out what makes me feel best, and even conventional wisdom is coming around to the idea that minimally processed is always better.

0
1f24d4895246892ef4ee4d79b7f9eeeb

on April 24, 2011
at 02:59 PM

The main arguments that Paleo subscribers put forth are: 1) our Paleolithic ancestors ate animal protein almost exclusively, 2) grains were not eaten, and 3) our digestive systems have never evolved to handle grains, which leads to modern chronic diseases like heart problems, cancer, and diabetes II. Leigh Peele argues that Upper Paleolithic man did eat grains, and that our digestive systems have evolved. Although he thinks the Paleo diet is a good one, he questions the thinking and assumptions that are behind it. http://www.leighpeele.com/the-paleo-diet-fad-religion-or-solution Comments, please.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 24, 2011
at 03:09 PM

I don't subscribe to #1. It doesn't seem practical to me in any region, and fruits, nuts, leaves and berries are abundant. A child explores by putting things in their mouths, and I think our ancestors would have done the same. Anything that tasted good would have been eaten, I think.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 24, 2011
at 01:53 PM

So here's what popped into my head. What about the fact that most people who even eat the SAD still live plenty long enough to have multiple children?long enough to have multiple children?

And that it is highly likely that those children will also live long enough to have their own >children, since diseases and health disorders most often do not detrimentally affect one's >>consider that they 'died very young'.

Many people who live long eating the SAD are not living that well. I think quality is more important than quantity. And we don't know how people such as those in my generation(around 25) are going to live or how well we're going to do at old age because we've been made test tubes for the industrial toxins. No other generation before mine(for instance) was born consuming so many toxins at birth and while developing our brains and bodies. I am talking about industrial toxins such as MSG, fluoride in ALL water, vaccines w/ mercury. These have a significant impact on health and can do more damage quicker to the brain/central nervous system than any neolithic food.

Our parents had much fewer toxins and grandparents even less when they were young and developing. What I am saying is we can't assume that we're going to live as old as 80 or nearly as well. The people who are 80 or 100 right now didn't eat baby food with MSG, or grow up drinking fluoridated water while their brains and bodies were developing.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 24, 2011
at 06:53 PM

For me paleo made me much more optimistic and "balanced" mentally. What I mean by "living well" is eating a good diet lacking the current industrial toxins that are being used to poison the USA. Many of these toxins are directly related to problems of the brain or central nervous system(depression, OCD, anxiety, anger, arthritis, inflammation, migraine headaches ect. These toxins(many of them) drastically effects peoples experience of life negatively. These are things happening now in our soil!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 24, 2011
at 06:55 PM

For me paleo made me much more optimistic and "balanced" mentally. What I mean by "living well" is eating a good diet lacking the current industrial toxins that are being used to poison the USA. Many of these toxins are directly related to problems of the brain or central nervous system(depression, OCD, anxiety, anger, arthritis, inflammation, migraine headaches ect. These toxins(many of them) drastically affects peoples experience of life negatively. These are things happening now in our soil!

9dbfedbe21eae2a65093f8774ba8ad4d

(559)

on April 24, 2011
at 03:14 PM

good lord. paleo has been good to me but i can't say it's helped my bubbly sense of optimism. though in the long run it's probably good to have a healthy dose of fatalism. why pretend we're going to "live our best life" a la Oprah? especially with the nuclear crisis underway. happy easter everyone!

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 02:36 PM

you and I believe this but we dont have scientific proof that this is true. Hence the reason for the questions.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on April 24, 2011
at 10:47 PM

i agree......that is why I think now with all the computer power we have and networks and storage we need to collect N-1 data. I think we could test many hypothesis very quickly these days. Remember I am a doctor and I am interested in helping everyone not just n-1. Its my duty and my job. The question needs to be addressed whether you like it or not.

0
3c997ffae3db9464325b96979346d9e9

on April 24, 2011
at 01:42 PM

You're making an assumption that there will be some kind of long future for this species. This health robbing approach to food consumption is only increasing and destined to reach every corner of the globe...there's too much money in it for the powers that be to ever allow it to stop. So more diabetes, cancer, heart disease, degenerative disease to bankrupt the world. I wouldn't count on science to rectify this.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18452)

on April 24, 2011
at 04:29 PM

Richard. I am not making that assumption. I have pondered the idea that you present here in your answer and so it is built into the thinking behind my question. Perhaps this health robbing approach will be our demise. Maybe if we continue, 200 years from now, masses of people will be born into health issues, lowering average living age, creating a cascade danger for the future of the human species. I would like to leave room for this to be corrected. I am *aware* of this possibility, but choose to believe that a viable solution can be realized.

3c997ffae3db9464325b96979346d9e9

(1290)

on April 25, 2011
at 01:18 PM

thank you for your response Jack

0
535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 24, 2011
at 01:27 PM

The only question is how did we evolve to eat. With modern food and advances in science & technology what diet will give us optimal health. We need more research to prove this Paleo idea, but we can start with common sense.

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