1

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Is Berkeley Wellness' attack on Paleo justified?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 15, 2012 at 8:19 PM

Berkeley Wellness just released an alert titled "A Prehistoric Diet".

It reads in part:

"Few of our Paleolithic forebears had heart disease or cancer--but that was because they rarely lived long enough to develop such chronic disorders."

According to Wikipedia people in the Upper Paleolithic era had a life expectancy at age 15 of an additional 39 years meaning that lots of the 15-Year-Olds must have lived to an age at which many modern Americans get cancer and heart disease.

Assume we know that Paleolithics, including those who lived to an old age, almost never got cancer or heart disease. What might be happening for this to not indicate that the Paleolithics had some kind of protection from cancer and heart disease that we lack? Here's what I've thought of:

1) An equal percentage of modern people and Paleolithics have a natural immunity to cancer and heart disease. Paleolithics who didn't have this immunity were extremely likely (much, much more likely than those with the immunity) to die at a young age of something other than cancer or heart disease.

2) Before a Paleolithic got cancer or heart disease he almost always got precursor Condition X. Condition X almost never kills modern people (perhaps because modern people almost never get it) but almost always killed Paleolithics.

Anything else?

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 28, 2012
at 05:20 PM

@FED - Amen. My thoughts exactly.

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on June 17, 2012
at 01:13 PM

Precisely my point!

F31d10b54b31428e189d9b771bf7b1d1

(1439)

on June 17, 2012
at 05:34 AM

One of the main problems with that thinking is that we have many primitive people today who live into what we consider to be old age who eat lots of saturated fats and other paleo foods and they still don't have our modern diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. etc. etc.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 17, 2012
at 12:28 AM

We're talking about a health newsletter here, the kind of thing Iget from Blue Cross all the time and never read. This isn't a bold announcement to the world. It isn't entirely negative on paleo, just reserving judgement on parts of it. They don't dismiss it as an anorexic cult, just sniff at it a little. And it's Berkeley! Paleo is on their radar! Next stop Harvard for the Harvard of diets.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on June 16, 2012
at 11:09 PM

Attacking paleo is an attempt at preserving the "social norm" of cheap profitable food. Paleo is subversive to the notion that we need to eat lots of whole grain processed foods (i.e. profitable) and this provides more than enough incentive to keep it relegated to the fringe.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on June 16, 2012
at 11:06 PM

I think the housefly would like the piece of shit better than the slice of bread :)

C3f9730405f7885f9ccaad364404c433

(412)

on June 16, 2012
at 10:32 PM

If the article author is puzzled, perhaps they should have actually READ The Paleo Diet, instead of glancing at the synopsis and drawing on their preconceived ideas.

C3f9730405f7885f9ccaad364404c433

(412)

on June 16, 2012
at 10:29 PM

Errm... @thhq... there is no puzzlement. Grains and dairy contain things that most of us can't deal with, gluten, casein, lactose etc. The "Neolithic" cow is descended from the Paleo auroch and pre-humans have always eaten vegetation, although granted, optimal foraging might have minimized its use at times. Certainly our common ancestor with modern chimps would have eaten a huge amount of THV -- terrestrial herbaceous vegetation, just as chimps do today.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2012
at 01:30 AM

Very nice answer

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:59 AM

I try to reenact hunt-and-gather daily but I don't even come close.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:58 AM

Loan me a dime higgs.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:55 AM

Not completely. My father has a dread fear of undercooked pork because he knew people with trichinosis. Meat poses health threats if it's undercooked or decayed.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:52 AM

No, and you forgot ergot. But my father still lives in dread fear of trichinosis. Meat has health threats too.

892d177f50b16f118152219229870e4e

(776)

on June 15, 2012
at 11:26 PM

There is even less money to be made attacking Paleo. ^_^

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 15, 2012
at 11:06 PM

Again, I would like to add my favorite saying from my mushroom-gathering country. "All mushrooms are edible. But some of them you can eat only once." I am sure we are designed to eat EVERYTHING. but some of the foods will make us really sick. You cannot develop beri beri or celiac from eating too much meat and vegetables. Agree?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 15, 2012
at 10:59 PM

Totally agree with you there! People forget that Paleo is not really Paleo. And that's why I hate it when people call it a re-enactment.

3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 15, 2012
at 10:36 PM

There's very little money to be made in attacking McDonalds :P

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8 Answers

8
C3f9730405f7885f9ccaad364404c433

(412)

on June 15, 2012
at 08:52 PM

No, it is not justified. They talk like we don't know what Paleo People did, but we do... there are still hunter-gatherers alive and kicking today! I actually dislike the term Paleo for that reason.

The foods they criticize the paleo diet of leaving out for no good reason, have a wealth of evidence behind them to show they are at worst, deadly (the worst kind of death, a slow, painful one), at least, problematic/sub-optimal, depending on individual genetics.

These kind of thoughtless reviews get my goat, because they are backed by "authority" and therefore people will buy into it, but those in the know, can see it's a poor, poor review and misleading. It's also turning people away from paleo who may turn their fortunes around by changing to a "human foods only" diet. That's the saddest part.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 15, 2012
at 10:59 PM

Totally agree with you there! People forget that Paleo is not really Paleo. And that's why I hate it when people call it a re-enactment.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:59 AM

I try to reenact hunt-and-gather daily but I don't even come close.

5
A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on June 15, 2012
at 10:18 PM

Few of our Paleolithic forebears had heart disease or cancer--but that was because they rarely lived long enough to develop such chronic disorders.

That is an unsubstantiated assertion. The article doesn't even provide citations. That's not a piece of scholarship from a respected university, it's an opinion piece, otherwise known as commentary or editorial.

Many, undoubtedly, suffered from nutrient-deficiency diseases and starvation.

Undoubtedly? I guess it's possible; after all, many undoubtedly suffer from those things nowadays too (though perhaps not in Berkeley).

But it's not like the presence of both food and something to eat that food back in "paleo" times was just completely random and unpredictable, as if someone sprinkled around a bunch of food sources, then sprinkled in some people, and if you were one of the lucky ones, you landed where the right mix of food was. Doesn't it seem more likely that most niches of early humans evolved along with their available food sources, and therefore were adapted to their environment and had access to what they needed?

These people need to stop thinking of early humans as childlike idiots incapable of sustaining themselves, or unable to distinguish not only between food and not-food, but between good food and better food. Even a housefly can accomplish this basic task of survival. Which would a housefly rather: a piece of shit, or a piece of bread?

It's as if they think all early humans led miserable existences of starvation, malnutrition, and early death, and that only modernity and technology have resolved these problems.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on June 16, 2012
at 11:06 PM

I think the housefly would like the piece of shit better than the slice of bread :)

A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on June 17, 2012
at 01:13 PM

Precisely my point!

3
03a4ec34751186201a56da298ac843ce

on June 15, 2012
at 09:36 PM

Wouldn't anyone's energy be better spent attacking....say.....McDonalds or the like?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:58 AM

Loan me a dime higgs.

892d177f50b16f118152219229870e4e

(776)

on June 15, 2012
at 11:26 PM

There is even less money to be made attacking Paleo. ^_^

Medium avatar

(19469)

on June 16, 2012
at 11:09 PM

Attacking paleo is an attempt at preserving the "social norm" of cheap profitable food. Paleo is subversive to the notion that we need to eat lots of whole grain processed foods (i.e. profitable) and this provides more than enough incentive to keep it relegated to the fringe.

3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 15, 2012
at 10:36 PM

There's very little money to be made in attacking McDonalds :P

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 28, 2012
at 05:20 PM

@FED - Amen. My thoughts exactly.

2
C3f9730405f7885f9ccaad364404c433

(412)

on June 16, 2012
at 10:40 PM

Chrisnagy wrote this in the comments section of the actual article. Pretty great reply, here it is...

Please try to remain balanced in your opinion on the appropriate human diet. It is evident from the outset of this article that you're not an advocate of the Paleo diet and your preconceived notions shine brightly. The Paleo diet/template is more about eating whole foods and not just gnawing on meat as you imply. A thorough review of the anthropological record clearly demonstrates the differences between Hunter-Gatherers and Agriculturalists Until you account for the many anti-nutrients found in "healthy" whole grains (lectins, gluten, phytates etc.) then you really can't label them as "healthy" (despite what modern nutritional "wisdom" spouts). You appear to ignore the facts on the detrimental side effects of these substances on human biology/physiology. Read Wheat Belly, by cardiologist, William Davis, MD. Do you know of any other species that consumes the milk of another species it's entire life besides humans? Cows milk is for baby calves. Hippocrates stated "all health begins in the gut". He was correct in this statement. As our intestinal brush border continues to be assaulted by the lectins, gluten and other anti-nutrients in grains, we will continue to see the proliferation of autoimmune disease, obesity and cancer that is so rampant in our society. It has been noted that 60% of the population has some form of gluten sensitivity, most are just not aware of it. Nourish health and disease disappears as a side effect.

2
F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on June 15, 2012
at 11:23 PM

I believe that Cordain addresses this on his website in his FAQ and elsewhere. This idea that ancient people and hunter gatherers lived short brutish lives is a common fallacy. Most of our own longer life expectancy is due to improved child mortality, immunization and infectious disease medicine, basic hygiene/sanitation and good trauma care. The paleo diet takes advantage of all these modern improvements.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 15, 2012
at 10:10 PM

I thought it was great! I like the term "evolutionary determinism", which is a real problem for dogmatic paleo. Do we exist to eat certain foods? It's really the other way around - we make food out of anything we can digest. Like garbage disposals on sinks.

I don't see it as an attack. More a puzzlement over why paleo dismisses certain Neolithic foods like grains and dairy, while accepting Neolithic foods like beef and vegetables. There's no questioning the aversion to modern junk food. There's a questioning of the rejection of one whole food and not another.

You can't diss my Alma mater over this one. Nuclear waste is another discussion.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:52 AM

No, and you forgot ergot. But my father still lives in dread fear of trichinosis. Meat has health threats too.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:55 AM

Not completely. My father has a dread fear of undercooked pork because he knew people with trichinosis. Meat poses health threats if it's undercooked or decayed.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2012
at 01:30 AM

Very nice answer

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 17, 2012
at 12:28 AM

We're talking about a health newsletter here, the kind of thing Iget from Blue Cross all the time and never read. This isn't a bold announcement to the world. It isn't entirely negative on paleo, just reserving judgement on parts of it. They don't dismiss it as an anorexic cult, just sniff at it a little. And it's Berkeley! Paleo is on their radar! Next stop Harvard for the Harvard of diets.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 15, 2012
at 11:06 PM

Again, I would like to add my favorite saying from my mushroom-gathering country. "All mushrooms are edible. But some of them you can eat only once." I am sure we are designed to eat EVERYTHING. but some of the foods will make us really sick. You cannot develop beri beri or celiac from eating too much meat and vegetables. Agree?

C3f9730405f7885f9ccaad364404c433

(412)

on June 16, 2012
at 10:32 PM

If the article author is puzzled, perhaps they should have actually READ The Paleo Diet, instead of glancing at the synopsis and drawing on their preconceived ideas.

C3f9730405f7885f9ccaad364404c433

(412)

on June 16, 2012
at 10:29 PM

Errm... @thhq... there is no puzzlement. Grains and dairy contain things that most of us can't deal with, gluten, casein, lactose etc. The "Neolithic" cow is descended from the Paleo auroch and pre-humans have always eaten vegetation, although granted, optimal foraging might have minimized its use at times. Certainly our common ancestor with modern chimps would have eaten a huge amount of THV -- terrestrial herbaceous vegetation, just as chimps do today.

0
65bf1ca7071028018c6d8305d0ddcd76

(3049)

on June 28, 2012
at 07:11 PM

This comment is in relation to this "Article" and many others:

I have to say that I enjoy the use of "Wikipedia" as the be-all-end-all credible source for a fact. It's like saying that your googled something and found results which proves your point... Sure, there is some good info out there, but there is a lot of incorrect info, conjecture, etc.

0
De267f213b375efca5da07890e5efc25

(3747)

on June 28, 2012
at 04:40 PM

I've made this comment before but diseases of old age are not so black and white. The peak incidence of these diseases may not hit until after 60yo but that doesn't mean that there's not a single individual under that age who isn't be afflicted by them. To the extent that sometimes somewhere it hit at younger ages then there's already selective pressure against it. Even for those that never appeared, selective pressure against similar diseases would have conferred some amount of protection. And don't forget that selective pressure can apply even after reproductive age - kids with wise grandparents around to help are much more likely to reproduce themselves!

That doesn't mean that all diseases of old age will disappear with a Paleo lifestyle but I speculate that a large majority of it probably would. From another perspective, just look at how the incidence and age of affliction of these diseases has changed over the last 100 years, much less the last 10k.

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