18

votes

Hack Darrin's "Five Failings of Paleo"

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Over on his blog, Darrin describes what he sees as the five failings of paleo, which include:

  1. We Don???t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate
  2. There Is No ONE Paleo Diet
  3. Yes, We HAVE Evolved Since the Paleolithic
  4. What Is Natural Is Not Necessarily Optimal
  5. Nutritionism Is a Horrible Basis For a Healthy Diet

See his blog post for more (HT Steve Parker for the link), but I think he makes a plausible argument. What say you paleohackers? Are these the five failings? Are there more? Less? Are these to be expected about the movement given its youth?

Note: keep reading past the objections that he considers straw men like "Cavemen died at 30 years old. Our modern diet allows us to live much longer." These aren't his main arguments.

091423a30c0188fbff51e39397e7e056

(384)

on July 27, 2012
at 06:11 PM

@Matt There is a big difference between strict paleo and dogmatic paleo. Strict paleo says I don't eat x because I am going to try and eat as clean as possible, dogmatic paleo says I don't eat x because a caveman didn't eat it. One is fine, the other is an oversimplification for stupid people.

Fc6a9e07f6056d465573c8969d3a2ddd

(370)

on April 26, 2012
at 06:56 PM

"Nutritionism," as defined by Michael Pollan, is the belief that we can optimize our health by hitting certain targets for all the important nutrients (macro, micro, antioxidants, omega-whatever). It breaks down because human nutrition is synergistic, and it's unclear whether eating antioxidants without the rest of the fruit or fish oil without the rest of the fish actually do us any good. I think of nutritionism when I see people on PH who can't figure out why they don't feel great even though their macronutrient ratios are "perfect" and they're choking down handfuls of supplements.

Medium avatar

(8239)

on December 21, 2011
at 04:47 PM

Also, there wasn't even a "paleosphere" until recently. Perspective has its uses.

Medium avatar

(8239)

on October 27, 2011
at 06:50 PM

Great question. Thanks for chance to clarify. I meant to say: practitioners of nutritionism. I would like to know who these practitioners are and what makes them problematic. Taubes, due to his singular focus on carbs?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 27, 2011
at 06:11 PM

Do you mean "nutritionist" in the sense of the profession? Or in the sense of someone who is a believer in nutritionism? I'd put Gary Taubes in that category. Your downvotes please.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 27, 2011
at 05:22 PM

I can't stand MS's forums. Too crazy.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on October 27, 2011
at 04:20 PM

I meant to say, I see more dogmatism in PH responses (not the site, sorry Patrik.)

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on October 27, 2011
at 04:19 PM

I see a lot more dogmatism on PH than at Grok's place. I do agree with your sentiment but it requires application of common sense and I fear that has nearly disappeared from the gene pool.

F040035b2008ec80b205481afbd39ad4

(1837)

on October 24, 2011
at 09:25 PM

Evelyn - guilty as charged! ;)

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 24, 2011
at 01:25 PM

*"or even (gasp) improve their health"* ... truer words! I have to disagree on the marketing. I think if it keeps going like this, Paleo is headed for the trash heap of "fad diets" which would be most unfortunate IMO.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 24, 2011
at 01:21 PM

Re: #2 -- Until recently one would not have thought that around the paleosphere. Perhaps it is because the popular paleo blogs were all VLC?

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 24, 2011
at 10:51 AM

See also: comments on this article over at Free the Animal: http://freetheanimal.com/2011/10/guest-post-the-five-failings-of-paleo.html

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 23, 2011
at 10:49 PM

Good answer. Your post certainly got people talking.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 23, 2011
at 10:18 PM

I tilt a little WAPF, so I'm with you on your implicit question ;).

Da3d4a6835c0f5256b2ef829b3ba3393

on October 23, 2011
at 09:46 PM

Welcome, Darrin!

F040035b2008ec80b205481afbd39ad4

(1837)

on October 20, 2011
at 11:11 AM

TBH, on reflection and having read through Darrin's criticisms, they seem to be common 'new to paleo' misconceptions. I would imagine that most of us who have hung around the paleosphere for the last two or three years would not be misinterpreting paleo in this way.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on October 19, 2011
at 07:07 PM

I read it all...

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on October 18, 2011
at 11:43 PM

None of them are failings. See my comment here: http://leanmeanvirilemachine.com/2011/10/14/the-five-failings-of-paleo/#comment-1922

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 10:42 PM

the term showed up here on paleohacks a few days ago, not in the article linked here.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 18, 2011
at 10:16 PM

Your very first point is most of my concern...Quite frankly I dont think I have every had a poor experience adding back in grains or legumes. If I want I can eat anything without "noticeable" effect. That is why I question plenty of the "well if you can tolerate do it" wisdom.

Af005ec9a8e028f2b04bf5367b64e0d6

(2797)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:59 PM

yep. this is why i would not call what i eat "paleo". I have enough doubts about what [insert guru] thinks humans ate 100,000 years ago. But I do appreciate the evolutionary biology perspective and the idea that most "novel" foods are not good. I just think that for most of us it's productive to have a deeper understanding of why certain foods are healthy/unhealthy.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:44 PM

Nice responses, T. I don't disagree with the OP's five basic points but I like your responses here. Especially about learning from others' mistakes. The pendulum has already swung too far in the goofily names N=1 camp. Learn from others and stats and try things on yourself sure. But you don't need to try eating raw beans yourself and make a blog N1 about it to see that it'll hurt your insides. Before about a year ago 99% of these people didn't know what N meant. (getting snarky, sorry)

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:38 PM

How can you argue with those five points. They're accurate.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab

(3536)

on October 18, 2011
at 06:17 PM

I also agree with all his five points.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 18, 2011
at 05:17 PM

The earliest usage of "Paleotard" that I can remember is from Lyle McDonald. Who I think is awesome, and definitely not paleo.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 18, 2011
at 05:04 PM

"Strict"/dogmatic paleo has its place. It's good to start strict if you're doing the cold-turkey approach. Strict is good if you've got allergies/auto-immunity. Otherwise, you end up with something food pyramid-esque that attempts to be one-size-fits-all, which generally means a bad fit for most.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on October 18, 2011
at 04:31 PM

He says that he doesn't think that's a good argument against paleo if you keep reading.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 18, 2011
at 04:12 PM

well said, Melissa. The only thing I would add is that Paleo lifestyle is a part of how I express my views of the human creature, alongside what my faith teaches.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 18, 2011
at 04:08 PM

seconded. as fairly new to Paleo (and still working to stay on the bandwagon) it's helpful to see dogmatic points as a start, not an end.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on October 18, 2011
at 03:59 PM

"Paleotards" isn't even mentioned in the article as far as I can see. And there are plenty of paleo folks who don't consider paleo a religion, because they already follow real religions. Maybe these people have a healthier viewpoint because they aren't looking towards a dietary philosophy for redeeming qualities like love and faith.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 03:57 PM

IMO, most high carb "foods" (and I use that term loosely) are vehicles for slipping more fat past folks than they would eat alone. But that doesn't make all sources of carb problematic.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 03:52 PM

Ah, no downvoting needed ... it really is a common argument ;)

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:47 PM

Oh Jay, I hear you! Imagine a gas station store filled with tons of different flavors of jerky and plain nuts, and not a hundred different ways to fry corn and wheat in industrial vegetable oil.

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:47 PM

I was going to make the same point about the name 'paleo,' which at best can only be a metaphor. I must prefer the term Ancestral.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:46 PM

Re #5 - There is not really much true ???paleo??? or observational basis for demonizing carbs though. There is insufficient evidence and basis to claim that all Paleo diets should be low-carb. This is not to say that Paleo can???t be low carb, but there really isn???t much rationale for saying that it must be low carb.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:45 PM

well-said!.....

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:45 PM

great question....

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:23 PM

I'm going to go over and read it right now, but so far, I pretty much agree with what you have put down here.

13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca

(7223)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:06 PM

Great points! I agree with you on #4. That's probably the one I agreed with the least because I do think eating foods as close to their natural forms is best. However, I took it as more of a "just because something is natural doesn't mean it's good for you; arsenic is natural but it isn't good for you" kind of thing. Although I would have listed that up with the nonsense arguments since it's pretty silly.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:53 PM

I agree with all five of his points. Nice find Beth. Plus one.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 02:48 PM

I too like "ancestral" ... Chris Masterjohn said it really nicely in his AHS11 review: http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2011/08/reflections-on-ancestral-health.html

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:40 PM

I fear paleo convenience foods....

F2eb9c945a9afb8dfe06e6ea99fcb34b

(213)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:25 PM

Yeah, I guess I should have read the whole article first. LOL! I'm just tired of hearing this arguement from people as a reason not to eat this way. Feel free to downvote... =(

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 02:23 PM

Yeah, Darrin addresses exactly that point in his article. And of course there's the whole question of "life expectancy at birth" as a relevant measure.

13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca

(7223)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:22 PM

He was actually saying that was a ridiculous argument and not worth addressing with the five problems he actually see in the diet.

F2eb9c945a9afb8dfe06e6ea99fcb34b

(213)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:21 PM

Good article. I actually agree alot with what he says, esp that there is no ONE paleo diet. It all depends on your own body. It almost sounds like the stuff in the blood type diet: those with lighter skin (newer blood types) can drink dairy, etc... I also like at the end how he talks about the life cycle of a fad diet. Books will be written, microwave dinners will be produced, etc. HA! Thanks for posting!

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18 Answers

20
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:45 PM

Five failings of DOGMATIC paleo. Once you get beyond the whole WWGD (What would Grok do?) and what fill-in-the-blank-with-a-paleo-guru says is paleo or not, paleo just works. It doesn't matter what we used to eat, it doesn't matter that humans have continued adapting (not necessarily evolving) to various diets/environments, etc... It works, it does not fail.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on October 27, 2011
at 04:20 PM

I meant to say, I see more dogmatism in PH responses (not the site, sorry Patrik.)

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:45 PM

well-said!.....

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 18, 2011
at 04:08 PM

seconded. as fairly new to Paleo (and still working to stay on the bandwagon) it's helpful to see dogmatic points as a start, not an end.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 27, 2011
at 05:22 PM

I can't stand MS's forums. Too crazy.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on October 18, 2011
at 05:04 PM

"Strict"/dogmatic paleo has its place. It's good to start strict if you're doing the cold-turkey approach. Strict is good if you've got allergies/auto-immunity. Otherwise, you end up with something food pyramid-esque that attempts to be one-size-fits-all, which generally means a bad fit for most.

091423a30c0188fbff51e39397e7e056

(384)

on July 27, 2012
at 06:11 PM

@Matt There is a big difference between strict paleo and dogmatic paleo. Strict paleo says I don't eat x because I am going to try and eat as clean as possible, dogmatic paleo says I don't eat x because a caveman didn't eat it. One is fine, the other is an oversimplification for stupid people.

Af005ec9a8e028f2b04bf5367b64e0d6

(2797)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:59 PM

yep. this is why i would not call what i eat "paleo". I have enough doubts about what [insert guru] thinks humans ate 100,000 years ago. But I do appreciate the evolutionary biology perspective and the idea that most "novel" foods are not good. I just think that for most of us it's productive to have a deeper understanding of why certain foods are healthy/unhealthy.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on October 27, 2011
at 04:19 PM

I see a lot more dogmatism on PH than at Grok's place. I do agree with your sentiment but it requires application of common sense and I fear that has nearly disappeared from the gene pool.

10
41c8dec7e82dbd9ba1cbbabf60df3cf0

on October 23, 2011
at 09:41 PM

Wow, had I known this would have been so widely read I might have had my editor (me) check it over a bit more to clear up any vagueness, but there it is.

The implicit question I'm trying to answer with this article is "why I don't think that dairy, grains, and legumes should be lumped with soda, pastries, and potato chips as 'bad food'??? even for us Paleo folk." I think the answer to this question runs counter to what a lot of people assume about the logic and science behind trying to replicate the diet of our ancestors. I might have gotten so wrapped up in arguing my case that I neglected to bring this up in the first place.

As many of you have noted, YES, I was specifically referring to "Dogmatic Paleo" here, which is primarily what is catching on as it gets more and more media attention.

To be fair, I think that this "streamlined" Paleo message--which brings a lot of people onboard the bandwagon with well-fleshed-out marketing images of turning yourself into a red meat-eating modern caveman looking like some kinda badass warrior--is EXACTLY THE WAY TO MARKET THIS SUCCESSFULLY. I know it's what grabbed me at first.

But stick with anything long enough and you'll need to start personalizing, improvising, and riffing off the melody to see what works best for you. I think most of us are smart enough to do this, but I'm talking mostly to the people who dogmatically avoid, say, potatoes, rice, and corn, when they could possibly work just fine for them, or even (gasp) help improve their overall health.

Thanks for all your reactions and input. I know I've got more food for thought after reading some of your comments.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 23, 2011
at 10:49 PM

Good answer. Your post certainly got people talking.

Da3d4a6835c0f5256b2ef829b3ba3393

on October 23, 2011
at 09:46 PM

Welcome, Darrin!

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 24, 2011
at 01:25 PM

*"or even (gasp) improve their health"* ... truer words! I have to disagree on the marketing. I think if it keeps going like this, Paleo is headed for the trash heap of "fad diets" which would be most unfortunate IMO.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 23, 2011
at 10:18 PM

I tilt a little WAPF, so I'm with you on your implicit question ;).

9
F040035b2008ec80b205481afbd39ad4

on October 18, 2011
at 03:18 PM

1.We Don???t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate:

  • we have pollen records telling us what was around in the paleolithic,
  • we have cave paintings of what was hunted,
  • we have animal bones and tools from butchering sites,
  • we have studies of teeth to show the range of HG foods ('Our human ancestors did not eat much fruit, but instead consumed a lot of root vegetables, nuts, insects and some meat')
  • tooth shape also indicates the properties of foods eaten.
  • isotope analysis of bones and teeth also point to diet.
  • amylase content in human saliva is 6-8 times higher than that of chimps. Amylase is used to break down starch in to sugars.
  • Human and lion tape worms share a common ancestor, strongly suggesting we had a similar diet. Geneticists date this common tape worm ancestor at 800k-1.3mya. What do lions eat? Big game.

2.There Is No ONE Paleo Diet

  • Correct and well covered in the paleosphere. Think of seasonal factors for a start, and then reflect upon the geographical variety in human habitats. How could the Inuit of the northern lands eat the same diet as a polynesian? Or an island inhabitant eat the same as someone living in the interior of a Asia? Or someone living at altitude eat the same as someone inhabiting a Saharan area?

3.Yes, We HAVE Evolved Since the Paleolithic

  • Significantly?
  • At the same rate our diets have evolved?

4.What Is Natural Is Not Necessarily Optimal

  • Yep. Shark attack is natural as is poisoning from eating Death Cap.

5.Nutritionism Is a Horrible Basis For a Healthy Diet.

  • Yes it is, that is why I go with 'evolution and anthropology' as the basis of my diet.

F040035b2008ec80b205481afbd39ad4

(1837)

on October 24, 2011
at 09:25 PM

Evelyn - guilty as charged! ;)

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 24, 2011
at 01:21 PM

Re: #2 -- Until recently one would not have thought that around the paleosphere. Perhaps it is because the popular paleo blogs were all VLC?

Medium avatar

(8239)

on December 21, 2011
at 04:47 PM

Also, there wasn't even a "paleosphere" until recently. Perspective has its uses.

F040035b2008ec80b205481afbd39ad4

(1837)

on October 20, 2011
at 11:11 AM

TBH, on reflection and having read through Darrin's criticisms, they seem to be common 'new to paleo' misconceptions. I would imagine that most of us who have hung around the paleosphere for the last two or three years would not be misinterpreting paleo in this way.

7
7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:44 PM

For some of the reasons he listed, I have come to like the term ???ancestral??? more than ???paleo???. Paleo also leads to people to argue about how many wild eggs someone could gather in a day and that sort of thing.

In regard to #4 ??? natural vs optimal, I think the human body is so complex that it can be very difficult to determine what is optimal, so I think ???natural??? probably has more importance than some hypothetical optimal. I do not see leaning towards natural really being a ???failing??? of paleo, but it might be a problem with a too rigidly applied idea of paleo.

And I think that is ultimately where paleo fails; people develop too rigid (and often contradictory) views often based upon insufficient information. ???Avoid wheat, sugar, and vegetable oil??? can be quite different than ???eat like a caveman??? or ???eat like an Inuit???.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 02:48 PM

I too like "ancestral" ... Chris Masterjohn said it really nicely in his AHS11 review: http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2011/08/reflections-on-ancestral-health.html

13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca

(7223)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:06 PM

Great points! I agree with you on #4. That's probably the one I agreed with the least because I do think eating foods as close to their natural forms is best. However, I took it as more of a "just because something is natural doesn't mean it's good for you; arsenic is natural but it isn't good for you" kind of thing. Although I would have listed that up with the nonsense arguments since it's pretty silly.

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:47 PM

I was going to make the same point about the name 'paleo,' which at best can only be a metaphor. I must prefer the term Ancestral.

6
Medium avatar

on October 18, 2011
at 06:11 PM

I'd say I disagree with the way he's argued a few of the points.

We might have a pretty good idea of how our ancestors ate, but not a good enough idea to say that all people would be better off if they avoided grains, legumes, and dairy completely.

By ignoring ancestral diets, we would greatly increase the phytate:[mineral] molar ratio during digestion and be less well-nourished as a result. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0308814694901090 It would take a long time before we showed outward signs of this malnutrition. Similarly, we could slowly develop compromised-/autoimmune, or nutrient malabsorption issues as a result of, for example, gluten ingestion without ever having any perceptible GI issues. I can stop eating gluten altogether for months and then eat a loaf of bread without any gut issues but I have no idea what sort of damaging effects it's having. In some ways this is a lot worse than an obvious reaction.

One well-studied phenomenon is the pattern of lactose tolerance. Most mammals lose the enzyme necessary to break down the sugar in milk as they grow up, but there is a minority of humans that still produce this enzyme their entire life and are able to consume dairy with no major issues.

Lactase persistence is a fairly minor evolutionary adaptation. Lactase itself goes back not only though hominin evolution but deep into mammalian evolution. We're talking tens of millions of years. All that some of us have lost is the off-switch. It's a gold medal, Carl Lewis leap to then say that means we can eat most grains with no ill effects. Show me a population of humans with glutenase or phytase in their villi alongside lactase and then you'll have an argument. Hell, show me a single human with those adaptations and I'll stand bare-headed in awe of you with a single tear traversing my cheek.

Similarly, just because we didn???t eat frozen pizza, microwave mac and cheese, and White Castle burgers during our evolution doesn???t mean they are inherently unhealthy to us!

Yeah but their high toxin:nutrient ratio means that they are inherently unhealthy to us. Few "natural" foods have so high a toxin load coupled with so low of a nutrient load. The pervading argument throughout these seems to be that grains probably aren't that bad, but few grains have much in the way of bioavailable nutrients. They're usually toxic forms of starch for which we have better alternatives.

In the late 90???s and early 00???s, the Paleo diet was a low-carb, low-fat, and high-protein diet. This has been lovingly labeled the ???Faileo??? diet by many today due to the incredible difficulty of eating little more than salads and chicken breasts (not to mention the silliness of thinking that our ancestors actually ate like this.)

As it turns out, that's a highly effective fat loss diet, especially if lean steaks are used in lieu of chicken. Our ancestors didn't eat like this, but then again, they weren't trying to lose body fat. When the fat is lost, adjustments are made to halt the progress and maintain weight.

You should always try things out for yourself???for at least 28 days???to give yourself the best idea of what you should and shouldn???t do in regards to your health and fitness.

It's far more efficient to learn from the mistakes of others than to insist upon making them yourself.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:44 PM

Nice responses, T. I don't disagree with the OP's five basic points but I like your responses here. Especially about learning from others' mistakes. The pendulum has already swung too far in the goofily names N=1 camp. Learn from others and stats and try things on yourself sure. But you don't need to try eating raw beans yourself and make a blog N1 about it to see that it'll hurt your insides. Before about a year ago 99% of these people didn't know what N meant. (getting snarky, sorry)

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 18, 2011
at 10:16 PM

Your very first point is most of my concern...Quite frankly I dont think I have every had a poor experience adding back in grains or legumes. If I want I can eat anything without "noticeable" effect. That is why I question plenty of the "well if you can tolerate do it" wisdom.

4
13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca

(7223)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:36 PM

I agreed with pretty much everything he said--especially point #5. I think that is by far the biggest problem with paleo. Look at the whole nuts/legumes paradox. Too many people get too caught up in the labels and following rules instead of actually figuring out what is good for their body.

Quite frankly, for the average SAD eater just getting all of the processed foods, industrial seed oils, white flour, and sugar out of their diet while adding in pastured meats, fresh fruits and veggies, and more healthy fats would be a massive improvement. Many do better with no gluten grains, some do better with no grains at all (and no one needs the quantities the USDA recommends), some do better with no dairy at all, some do better with no legumes at all, some do better with no nuts at all. But some do just fine with all of those--gluten grains probably being the most questionable on that list. Each person needs to take the time to find what works best for them.

We're already seeing some paleo convenience foods appear online. I think the author is totally correct that it is only a matter of time before there are paleo frozen dinners at the local grocery store. And that is definitely not a good thing.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:40 PM

I fear paleo convenience foods....

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:47 PM

Oh Jay, I hear you! Imagine a gas station store filled with tons of different flavors of jerky and plain nuts, and not a hundred different ways to fry corn and wheat in industrial vegetable oil.

3
94e89cc96d5a58b71f36b369b8082999

on October 18, 2011
at 03:02 PM

We Don???t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate

Largely Correct. But while we cannot know with 100% certainty exactly what our ancestors ate, we can reach general conclusions with a fair degree of certainty. His argument seems to agree with this. While it is possible (even likely) that some paleolithic men ate some grains, legumes, or dairy in small quantities, that is hardly reason to eat bastardized versions of these foods in the quantities that most people do today.

There Is No ONE Paleo Diet

Again, this is true. However, we can draw general principles that are consistent among many different groups. I don't think the Paleo Diet depends on the premise that all paleolithic humans ate the exact same diet.

Yes, We HAVE Evolved Since the Paleolithic

Sure, in some regards we have evolved to our diet. But we are not 100% of the way there, and there is some pretty clear evidence that foods such as grains, sugars, and refined oils lead to obesity and disease.

What Is Natural Is Not Necessarily Optimal

Agree 100%. I don't eat honey; I don't care how natural it is, it's still mostly fructose. "Natural" should be a guide or a starting point, not the entire basis of your nutritional plan.

Nutritionism Is a Horrible Basis For a Healthy Diet

Observation may not be 100% accurate, but it's the best we have. And I absolutely think that it's reasonable to "demonize" some nutrients - most high carb foods spike insulin, cause fat gain, and have almost no nutritional value. It's logical and reasonable to avoid those foods and stick to those that have demonstrable health benefits.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:46 PM

Re #5 - There is not really much true ???paleo??? or observational basis for demonizing carbs though. There is insufficient evidence and basis to claim that all Paleo diets should be low-carb. This is not to say that Paleo can???t be low carb, but there really isn???t much rationale for saying that it must be low carb.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 03:57 PM

IMO, most high carb "foods" (and I use that term loosely) are vehicles for slipping more fat past folks than they would eat alone. But that doesn't make all sources of carb problematic.

2
Medium avatar

on October 27, 2011
at 03:21 PM

Adding "ism" as suffix ("nutritionism") demonizes before defining. It's a made-up word. Would someone kindly define "nutritionism" specifically, and add a "for instance" or two? Seriously: please name a few "nutritionists" so the villagers with pitchforks can storm their evil abodes?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 27, 2011
at 06:11 PM

Do you mean "nutritionist" in the sense of the profession? Or in the sense of someone who is a believer in nutritionism? I'd put Gary Taubes in that category. Your downvotes please.

Medium avatar

(8239)

on October 27, 2011
at 06:50 PM

Great question. Thanks for chance to clarify. I meant to say: practitioners of nutritionism. I would like to know who these practitioners are and what makes them problematic. Taubes, due to his singular focus on carbs?

Fc6a9e07f6056d465573c8969d3a2ddd

(370)

on April 26, 2012
at 06:56 PM

"Nutritionism," as defined by Michael Pollan, is the belief that we can optimize our health by hitting certain targets for all the important nutrients (macro, micro, antioxidants, omega-whatever). It breaks down because human nutrition is synergistic, and it's unclear whether eating antioxidants without the rest of the fruit or fish oil without the rest of the fish actually do us any good. I think of nutritionism when I see people on PH who can't figure out why they don't feel great even though their macronutrient ratios are "perfect" and they're choking down handfuls of supplements.

2
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 03:43 PM

I agree with all of the post except perhaps #3, since I really don't know how much we have evolved. I have other concerns as well, that he did not address. Lots of people on all sides of the recent argument have been nasty and dogmatic. For a group that generally rejects a religious point of view (deity-wise at least) in favor of a scientific viewpoint, it is becoming more and more like a religion, complete with a priestly hierarchy and rigid dogmatism. Calling each other Paleotards, really? You know, I am changing my mind, I think we haven't evolved all that much, and eating a perfect diet hasn't created a right mind. Until the Paleo/Ancestral/whatever "movement" works on that, it will never become massively popular. At least most religions have some redeeming qualities: love, prayer, faith, hope, everlasting life.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 18, 2011
at 05:17 PM

The earliest usage of "Paleotard" that I can remember is from Lyle McDonald. Who I think is awesome, and definitely not paleo.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on October 18, 2011
at 03:59 PM

"Paleotards" isn't even mentioned in the article as far as I can see. And there are plenty of paleo folks who don't consider paleo a religion, because they already follow real religions. Maybe these people have a healthier viewpoint because they aren't looking towards a dietary philosophy for redeeming qualities like love and faith.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on October 18, 2011
at 04:12 PM

well said, Melissa. The only thing I would add is that Paleo lifestyle is a part of how I express my views of the human creature, alongside what my faith teaches.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 18, 2011
at 10:42 PM

the term showed up here on paleohacks a few days ago, not in the article linked here.

2
F2eb9c945a9afb8dfe06e6ea99fcb34b

on October 18, 2011
at 02:09 PM

I haven't yet read the whole article but just wanted to address this one: "Cavemen died at 30 years old. Our modern diet allows us to live much longer."

I don't think it's our diet that allows us to live longer. If anything, our (modern) diet kills us faster. I think we live longer because we can control our environment better and we have modern medical technology. We also don't need to worry about being eaten by large animals on a daily basis. And in developed countries, we don't really have pestilence and famine to contend with.

This is speculation but if a "caveman" was alive today and eating the way he did, I'm sure he'd live well into old age.

OK, on to read the rest...

F2eb9c945a9afb8dfe06e6ea99fcb34b

(213)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:25 PM

Yeah, I guess I should have read the whole article first. LOL! I'm just tired of hearing this arguement from people as a reason not to eat this way. Feel free to downvote... =(

F2eb9c945a9afb8dfe06e6ea99fcb34b

(213)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:21 PM

Good article. I actually agree alot with what he says, esp that there is no ONE paleo diet. It all depends on your own body. It almost sounds like the stuff in the blood type diet: those with lighter skin (newer blood types) can drink dairy, etc... I also like at the end how he talks about the life cycle of a fad diet. Books will be written, microwave dinners will be produced, etc. HA! Thanks for posting!

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 03:52 PM

Ah, no downvoting needed ... it really is a common argument ;)

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on October 18, 2011
at 02:23 PM

Yeah, Darrin addresses exactly that point in his article. And of course there's the whole question of "life expectancy at birth" as a relevant measure.

13a44ea00b0c9af0b6d0f3d5f5c2cfca

(7223)

on October 18, 2011
at 02:22 PM

He was actually saying that was a ridiculous argument and not worth addressing with the five problems he actually see in the diet.

1
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on December 21, 2011
at 03:21 PM

"Cavemen died at 30 years old. Our modern diet allows us to live much longer. Food was scarce for our ancestors. They had to burn a lot of calories to get relatively low-calorie food."

Lets disect this load of used dog food.

Caveman died at 30 years old. Maybe. I visited Afghanistan on more than one occasion and had the pleasure of meeting people off the beaten paths that had never seen 'outsiders' before we showed up. Some of them claimed to be 70 and 80 years old. Must be the in door plumbing and all the medicine they received right? WRONG. Must be their high carb diet eh? WRONG. These people are as 'caveman' as one can find, living right now in 2011. Veggies and Meat are all they have ever known.

Our modern diet allows us to live much longer. Lets ask John Candy about that. Oh... wait. what? Ill bet you that Mark Sisson outlives any obese person of your choosing since higher fat stores have a direct correlation to a younger death.

1
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on December 21, 2011
at 03:07 PM

"Over on his blog, Darrin describes what he sees as the five failings of paleo, which include:

We Don???t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate There Is No ONE Paleo Diet Yes, We HAVE Evolved Since the Paleolithic What Is Natural Is Not Necessarily Optimal Nutritionism Is a Horrible Basis For a Healthy Diet "

Well, well, this is humorous since the 'Paleo diet' is one of if not the most successful lifestyle habits a person can acquire.

1: Yes, we actually DO KNOW what our ancestors ate.

2: And your point it?

3: This has been proven false.

5: Was that a crack rock you just smoked?

Lets list the FAILINGS of the SAD or high carb high fat diet.

1: Early Death

2: The creation of 300-400-500-600-700-800-900-1000lb human beings

3: Cardiovascular Disease, Type II diabetes, Insulin Resistance, Obesity, etc etc.

4: Inability to see the thing between your legs without a mirror.

5 - Inability to tie your own shoes or perform a proper squat because 100+lbs of fat is in the way

1
7255a87872b75e6f691d84dca769b87e

on October 18, 2011
at 09:30 PM

Would a smarter person than I am break down this page: http://johnhawks.net/weblog/topics/evolution/selection/acceleration/accel_story_2007.html the author links to as evidence that we are evolving extremely fast in the neolithic era?

I think he's got some good points in his post other than the assertion that we are evolving. He seems to be going after dogmatic paleo - "cavemen did/did not do this so we should too" - which can point us in the right direction but not entirely, scientifically determine our most optimal diet/lifestyle/etc. We have to experiment, whether on ourselves, human test groups, or rats. The rats can do the overfeeding Orowheat slathered in I Can't Believe It's Not Butter study, though.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2011
at 08:58 PM

I agree with the five points, but don't consider them failings. This is a lifestyle, not a diet, and I'd add that as a 6th point.

I disagree with the idea that we now have a small group of excellent books on paleo (though I agree that mostly walmartized versions will soon show up). The current books have resulted in the "failings", and some of the authors are pretty dogmatic in sticking to these failings.

What I liked best was the photo of the Lascaux painting. Prima facie evidence that veggies have one very noticeable failing in their schema.

1
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on October 18, 2011
at 04:25 PM

Well, I don't like Darrin's assertion that "Cavemen died at 30 years old". ,

The average life span may have been 30 - it may have been more. I'm sure, without our present medical abilities, that a lot of accidents could have lead to scepticemia, major injury would have lead to death from blood loss (no ability to stitch wounds up etc) and lots would have died of childhood diseases, childbirth etc.

But I bet a lot reached a ripe old age, fit healthy and happy.

This "nasty, brutish and short" thing is, I am sure, so much BS.

After all, - the diet was all organic, higher in minerals than ours is now, and a lot of our modern stress (mortgages, school grades, tax - the list could go on and on) hadn't been invented.

Not that I'd swap my present life for a primitive one - but nor am I convinced that our ancient ancestors would relish life in the 21st century.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on October 18, 2011
at 04:31 PM

He says that he doesn't think that's a good argument against paleo if you keep reading.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on October 19, 2011
at 07:07 PM

I read it all...

0
Ac29311ded0f01e36d9021085bd8326f

on October 19, 2011
at 06:02 PM

It's all true to a certain degree. The problem is there are some Paleo people out there who treat it like a religion instead of basing the "why" of the way they eat in science.

0
De267f213b375efca5da07890e5efc25

(3747)

on October 18, 2011
at 07:30 PM

  1. What they didn't eat is probably more interesting and I think we can be reasonably confident about what they didn't eat based on the tools that they left behind. At a minimum, none of us is likely well informed enough to make a strong argument here.
  2. True but that doesn't really prove anything. There are common elements.
  3. Possibly true but evidence of how much and where is lacking. At best, you have dairy and that's not very supporting since most adults are still lactose intolerant. 10k years is just not a lot on the evolutionary timescale.
  4. Sort of true. If you consider that humans are built from blocks of other evolved creatures, then you'd realize that we're really designed to live as long as possible but tweaked to live to ~30. It's a proof by induction.
  5. What?

0
C6fabcde199b796d6969aae6956e324b

on October 18, 2011
at 03:36 PM

Q: We Don???t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate A: No, not exactly. We can only guesstimate using information gathered via paleolithic anthropology and the few modern examples of modern hunter gatherers left in the world.

S: There Is No ONE Paleo Diet R: It is reasonable to assume there were regional variances in the diet of Paleolithic man. I think the variations in modern Paleo diets are more due to modern food variations and tastes and how to make the diet more accessible to people in general.

S: Yes, We HAVE Evolved Since the Paleolithic R: Evolution is -technically- always happening, but its is a slow process. We have little motivation to evolve, and even less reward than ever to do so. At best 'I' think we have developed mild tolerances and intolerances, more likely via bioflora symbiosis, rather than any actual evolution.

S: What Is Natural Is Not Necessarily Optimal R: The only response I can give is N=1, Optimal requires variation depending on the individual, their environment, intended activity, and the persons age and health. This is a 'big duh' statement, and doesnt help much.

S: Nutritionism Is a Horrible Basis For a Healthy Diet R: I agree. We need to Focus on whole Foods, and only allow processing we could reasonably do ourselves if necessary at all. I think our bodies will recover and tell us what we are missing if anything once they are given a chance to do so from a semi healthy starting point.

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