4

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Paleo Diet Followers and Pseudoscience?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 04, 2013 at 5:07 AM

What has irked me since researching and trying a paleo-type diet is the overwhelming acceptance of pseudoscience by the "paleo" community. I cannot count the number of times I have seen "pH imbalance" listed as a reason for one's health ailments, combined with other non-diseases such as "chronic lyme disease", "adrenal fatigue", and "candida overgrowth," all of which were invited by naturopaths and have no clinical evidence and definition. If the paleo community wants to gain acceptance into the mainstream (scientific) community for its efficacy and sound principles, I believe we really need to get rid of all the nonsense that takes place.

The big-name paleo speakers such as Robb Wolf, in particular, do a decent job of preventing pseudoscience from invading the discussion; however, you get individuals like Chris Kresser and the Balanced Bites team, both of whom have non-medical education and are licensed to practice pseudoscience in the first place.

The main principles behind a paleo diet/lifestyle surround an idealized picture of how prehistoric man thought, ate, and lived. There is substantial evidence that "modern lifestyle diseases" existed even in ancient Egyptians (through analysis of mummies), for instance. My point is that we should focus on what truly work and has evidence behind it (eating a nutrient dense, whole-food based diet limiting refined grains and seed oils) while disregarding so many pseudo scientific ideas that seem to popular these days. Thoughts?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on August 12, 2013
at 08:27 PM

Take your average CVD/diabetes patient. "science/evidience-based" medicine will put them in a drug for each symptom they exhibit. The holistic approach will say you have X, Y and Z symptoms, this is your problem, this is how to fix the problem. Not sure what herbs and homeopathy has to do with the discussion though.

229faa9f9cb551cbf9d1d766b84cf8f5

(112)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:42 PM

That's the thing - you are implying that science based medicine is "reductionist" and pseudoscience (CAM) medicine is "holistic." Holism is a system that considers not only a person's disease, but their lifestyle, beliefs, and family history when treating them. Prescribing untested herbs and "water-memory" homeopathy does not magically make one holistic.

229faa9f9cb551cbf9d1d766b84cf8f5

(112)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:37 PM

Anyone can go on pubmed and search for an article that fits their agenda. HPA axis dysregulation/adrenal fatigue are not diseases as defined by science based medicine (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/adrenal-fatigue/AN01583). MDs spend 4+ years studying evidence based medicine based on peer-reviewed, well defined and controlled studies. Chris Kresser is a licensed acupuncturist who has internet access.

9f52f85c3964445d7b16c94a890f6136

on August 05, 2013
at 02:37 PM

what you just said was pseudo science talk.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:52 PM

Robb Wolf was great in *The Paleo Solution*, but a little disappointing in *Paleo Happy Hour*. Of course he's no Denzel

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:51 PM

Robb Wolf was great in **The Paleo Solution**, but a little disappointing in **Paleo Happy Hour**

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:36 PM

Funny. From what I remember about science, you have a hypothesis, you formulate a test for that hypothesis, you test your hypothesis, analyze the results, and you repeat. how is that pseudoscience?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:45 AM

Psuedo-fucking-science that works.

A08b210e4da7e69cd792bddc1f4aae4b

(1031)

on August 05, 2013
at 02:35 AM

The ancient Egyptians were a settled agrarian society which puts them in the Neolithic period, so no surprises then that they suffered from "modern lifestyle diseases". That's more a case *for* Paleo than evidence against it.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 01:09 AM

Hey straw, joe's your man

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 04, 2013
at 02:23 PM

I can't agree completely but none of us is here as a result of science. We're here by an act of love and survive by empiricism.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 04, 2013
at 02:17 PM

You have to find a balance that meets your goals. Our ancestors were a combination of dumb as sheep and smart as wolves.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 04, 2013
at 02:13 PM

Rolled up into balls for us to eat.

D396b126240f584bc358e6e4fd84e9e3

(455)

on August 04, 2013
at 06:12 AM

Except the so called non-diseases you mention are very much real, albeit poorly named at times (such as adrenal fatigue vs HPA axis dysregulation). I think it's foolish to judge the validity of a condition solely based on whether or not it has an ICD-9 code. Also, western medicine would be a lot more effective for chronic conditions if every MD had even 5% of the knowledge and understanding Chris Kresser has of scientific studies.

229faa9f9cb551cbf9d1d766b84cf8f5

(112)

on August 04, 2013
at 05:33 AM

I see your point - my biggest concern though is everyone's willingness to dive toward untested and unproven treatments when the SBM system isn't giving them the results they want. I understand your use of the fraudulent cholesterol theory to indicate that SBM is not without flaws, but that's the thing - SMB takes evidence and adjusts treatments and guidelines based on that evidence. We have been seeing less hate on fats in general recently and many rising doctors are now receiving nutrition training based on new research.

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10 Answers

5
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 04, 2013
at 07:51 AM

I absolutely love and for the most part agree with the premise of your question, and yet, I can't get enough of reading about, and experimenting with all that other stuff. I have seen enough compelling stuff to think that chronic infections (some even being fungal) can make people feel really unwell. Most of the Candida Diets out there make me want to slam my head against a table, but that doesn't mean there aren't troublesome infections or nasty gut bug tug of wars that could use some sort of intervention.

Here's how I see it. Pseudoscience is a big umbrella, and much of it is just silly, but rolled up into that pile of crap, there are also gems, or at least the seeds for new research. We can't test, and move something into the category of hard science if we have not imagined it in the first place. I consider myself an enthusiast of theoretical nutrition rather than a victim of pseudoscientific brainwashing. I remain a skeptic about many things, even after I've read and researched more than is probably reasonable to make an informed decision.

I think you would rather enjoy a book I just finished reading "Fear of Food: Why We Worry About What We Eat" it goes into the history of how we ended up with bullshit like PH imbalances on the radar of, and the treatment protocols of naturopaths and nutritionists.

For all the peeps out there who worry about their PH balance, I can tell you that it takes care of itself pretty well, and when it doesn't, like after aggressively monkeying with it too much, you can actually die. My greatgrandmother overdosed on baking soda trying to treat heartburn which was sometimes called acidosis in her day (if you thought doctors were confused about the differences between ketosis and ketoacidosis now, you should see what they thought about it back then). Don't do crazy stuff like eat half a box of baking soda, and you'll be fine.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 04, 2013
at 02:13 PM

Rolled up into balls for us to eat.

3
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:49 PM

When you create a strawman argument, "main principles behind a paleo diet/lifestyle surround an idealized picture of how prehistoric man thought, ate, and lived", and then attack said strawman, you inject the nonsense.

Your entire post is based around four ridiculous notions:

  1. That the "Paleo community" has an overwhelming acceptance of some condition which I would suggest is not true -- although Addison's disease is a real condition.

  2. That Naturopathy is in the sole domain of Paleo followers

  3. That two bit players (one of whom I have not heard of) are representative of the entire community.

  4. That one must be classically trained in a specific discipline to study that discipline. As an OR in data analytics, I can say first hand that is BS.

Disparaging a community, or generally being an ass-hat, is not an effective way to discuss such a topic. You forced people to get defensive. Why wouldn't you ask about evidentiary and anecdotal experiences with said conditions? Then allow people to make their own decisions.

3
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:47 AM

I think that paleo gets associated with psuedoscience more because it's a holistic approach rather than a reductionist approach. A lot of other holistic approaches are woo-heavy, so people assume paleo is as well.

229faa9f9cb551cbf9d1d766b84cf8f5

(112)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:42 PM

That's the thing - you are implying that science based medicine is "reductionist" and pseudoscience (CAM) medicine is "holistic." Holism is a system that considers not only a person's disease, but their lifestyle, beliefs, and family history when treating them. Prescribing untested herbs and "water-memory" homeopathy does not magically make one holistic.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on August 12, 2013
at 08:27 PM

Take your average CVD/diabetes patient. "science/evidience-based" medicine will put them in a drug for each symptom they exhibit. The holistic approach will say you have X, Y and Z symptoms, this is your problem, this is how to fix the problem. Not sure what herbs and homeopathy has to do with the discussion though.

3
F9cb5745815f70ca8214bb73b0a06bae

(154)

on August 04, 2013
at 05:52 PM

In science we are still taught out-dated theories that we now know are not correct as part of the curriculum to help us understand the more complex theories that we are to later learn. I believe the same thing can be applied to nutrition. Even if "pH balance" itself is not a true cause of health issues, the underlying theory (ie. eat more fruits and vegetables that are alkaline to help your body) can still teach us how to eat healthfully.

I understand your feelings of wanting paleo to be separated from pseudoscience, however, its not black and white. Paleo falls somewhere in a grey area right along with many other pseudosciences that could one day become real sciences. Coming from a fairly close-minded scientific community myself, I initially had similar feelings about paleo, but I have taught myself to be more open minded. As a sufferer of bacterial overgrowth myself, its pretty hard to ignore your own personal experiences. Although I wouldn't call adrenal fatigue or candida overgrown diseases, they are real things that can affect your health. It is possible to have a medically diagnosed yeast infections in other parts of your body, so the idea that yeast can infect your digestive system isn't really too far of a stretch. Just because you have not experienced bacterial over growth or adrenal fatigue, doesn't mean they don't exist.

3
9f52f85c3964445d7b16c94a890f6136

on August 04, 2013
at 01:43 PM

Paleo is pure pseudoscience.

It is what it is.

There wasn't much more to leave in the original post that wasn't going to cause a fight.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 04, 2013
at 02:23 PM

I can't agree completely but none of us is here as a result of science. We're here by an act of love and survive by empiricism.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:36 PM

Funny. From what I remember about science, you have a hypothesis, you formulate a test for that hypothesis, you test your hypothesis, analyze the results, and you repeat. how is that pseudoscience?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:45 AM

Psuedo-fucking-science that works.

9f52f85c3964445d7b16c94a890f6136

on August 05, 2013
at 02:37 PM

what you just said was pseudo science talk.

3
Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 04, 2013
at 01:35 PM

I've lost track of the number of times tourists have asked me if the berries I was busily picking were edible. I suppose it's a fair question. I only know because I've eaten them for 50 years. I try to keep that in mind and explain politely.

Neither science or pseudoscience has anything to do with my behavior. Someone showed me. As neolithics we can fall into wonky traps that result from overthinking. Sometimes you have to smack your head with a brick to shut your brain off. If you see the ulcers on your feet, or the 42" waistline, and finally realize you have to deal with your problem, you'll find effective ways to fix the problem. You'll find out whether zinc supplements work, or blood type, or gym ratting. And if your brain works properly you'll continue what works and chuck the rest.

There have been times in my life when I thought carbs were the answer, or fat was the answer, or fiber was the answer. They weren't. The problems I'm prone to respond to other approaches, and the various mono-approaches I took have been discarded as unhelpful.

Tying all this together, paleo didn't teach me to pick berries. It only showed me that it was important to do so. Science/pseudoscience might add a little support, showing the advantages in antioxidants, fiber, resveratrol, vitamins, etc. from berry-eating. The underlying support comes from my ancestors, and the local natives, back before the beginning of recorded history.

2
718fd304d7abab150730638bf2be5153

(184)

on August 05, 2013
at 01:14 PM

"overwhelming acceptance of pseudoscience"

If most of us ended up on this website, it's because at some point we realized that official/governmental nutritial guidelines are complete nonsense. And once you realize you've been lied to, you start to wonder :

What else did "official science" lie to me about ?

This, of course, leaves people more susceptible to try or believe in the latest quackery/pseudoscience fad, because the question "Who do you trust ?" becomes much more tricky to answer.

2
76026e8ef496039d5075440ff731aa0d

on August 04, 2013
at 05:57 AM

Paleo is about choices and which fit your lifestyle???when I first took a hard look at Paleo, I over did it, trying to apply everything I had read all at once???it was too much info and had to go back and pick the things that spoke to me and ditch the rest, at least ditch it until I had the ???Paleo basics???..After that, it was like picking a movie???what genre, actor and message was I looking for?

I picked Robb Wolf as the actor, Science facts as my genre and the message, here???s Paleo in a modern world, and here are the boundaries you can work in if your goals are fill in the blank.

My Paleo taste is definitely more on the science side, whether I understand it or not is another matter, but all the things I spoke about earlier that I set aside, I have now started to research and find how those things might shape my experience in Paleo further down the road because I???m interested in how everything works, in all aspects of life, not just Wellness???but for some people, the basics of Paleo is as far as they will ever want to go, they don???t care about "pH imbalance, adrenal fatigue, and candida overgrowth??? those are things for the Paleo ???techy??? guys to fight and debate validity???the majority of Paleos will see results for the basic changes they make, which keeps them invested in their own health and pushes Paleo forward and we find new pseudo science questions that will plague the community, and people once again will decide, will affect the results I???ve seen.

Maybe my view is too narrow or simplistic, but it seems the longer I???m in the Paleo environment, the more the above seems to be True.

Truth.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:52 PM

Robb Wolf was great in *The Paleo Solution*, but a little disappointing in *Paleo Happy Hour*. Of course he's no Denzel

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 05, 2013
at 12:51 PM

Robb Wolf was great in **The Paleo Solution**, but a little disappointing in **Paleo Happy Hour**

2
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on August 04, 2013
at 05:28 AM

I think you're a dreamer. As long as conventional medicine fails people, you'll have the pseudo-scientific hacks that will prey on those people with the latest fad of the day. As long as there's more money in conventional medicine for treatment vs prevention, you'll have pseudo-scientific hacks living off the gaps. As long as conventional medicine lives off falsified fraudulent theories like with cholesterol, you're going to have pseudo-scientific hacks living off the conspiracy theories against conventional medicine.

These are actually all things that exist already outside of Paleo, and there's not much you can do in the short term against them other than educate. For example, look how long Kevin Trudeau's been floating around, although hopefully he'll be behind bars soon.

229faa9f9cb551cbf9d1d766b84cf8f5

(112)

on August 04, 2013
at 05:33 AM

I see your point - my biggest concern though is everyone's willingness to dive toward untested and unproven treatments when the SBM system isn't giving them the results they want. I understand your use of the fraudulent cholesterol theory to indicate that SBM is not without flaws, but that's the thing - SMB takes evidence and adjusts treatments and guidelines based on that evidence. We have been seeing less hate on fats in general recently and many rising doctors are now receiving nutrition training based on new research.

1
59b1fb3c808957039f9ddf6fb341c05c

on August 05, 2013
at 01:09 AM

I suffered from adrenal fatigue, and did for a while until I knew what was happening. Not a nice feeling to be so exhausted, yet not sleep well at night, a zombie at work and a tad over sensitive and short tempered. Cutting down on caffeine and taking adrenal support supplements actually changed my life.

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