The most telling quote from the article is “I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said. This just reeks of pathetic insecurity, I'm not surprised the conclusions he came to were ridiculous.
Apparently, there's not even much of a consensus about what people used to eat back then. According to Wikipedia: However, there is little direct evidence of the relative proportions of plant and animal foods. According to some anthropologists and advocates of the modern Paleolithic diet, Paleolithic hunter-gatherers consumed a significant amount of meat and possibly obtained most of their food from hunting. Competing hypotheses suggest that Paleolithic humans may have consumed a plant-based diet in general, or that hunting and gathering possibly contributed equally to their diet. One hypothesis is that carbohydrate tubers (plant underground storage organs) may have been eaten in high amounts by our pre-agricultural humans. However, the relative proportions of plant and animal foods in the diets of Paleolithic peoples probably varied between regions. For instance, hunter gatherers in tropical regions such as Africa probably consumed a plant-based diet, while populations in colder regions such as Northern Europe most likely obtained most of their food from meat.
This whole thing smacks of a silly trend among a small group of NY hipsters to sound cool and eat a shit load of meat.
That said, whether or not there truly is any nutritional benefit over eating, say 80% vegetables, and going to the gym is probably hard to prove. I'm willing to bet that most of the benefit these people see is from the commitment to a regimented diet and exercise program, and not the specific diet they are eating. But that's just my uninformed, naive guess.
The answer to the question of whether the movement is attracting idiots is, as evidenced by this article, a clear yes. This is shown in silly comments like: “Another caveman trick involves donating blood frequently. The idea is that various hardships might have occasionally left ancient humans a pint short.”.
The answer to whether the diet is legitimate is I don't quite know. My suspicion is there are things to learn from it, but let's not forget, we aren't cavemen anymore.
The big question for me is does the caveman diet (and there are more than one at this point) work without the caveman lifestyle, and that really would require long term studies, not anecdotes, which is all we see so far.
That being said, it's almost certainly better than the highly processed food most Americans eat right now, but that hardly makes it a first choice for a diet.
> we aren't cavemen anymore
In behavior and lifestyle, no. But in terms of the evolutionary stage of our digestive systems? Lactose tolerance [Lactose], for example is quite new (and beneficial enough that it spread rapidly).
The mechanisms described in the "Expensive tissue hypothesis" still apply. [Eades] has a nice description.
I'm up above nine gallons donated, lifetime, and I'm ready to give more as the occasion allows. I'm much above the age of thirty, considerably above the model age of most readers of HN.
Colder regions might have had more meat consumption (look at modern Inuit), but those were the last holdouts of the Neanderthals (by some accounts). Humans won the cold regions by becoming smart technical hunters, not Spaaaartans.
There are no living or even especially recent hunter gatherer models to look at. People sometimes point to african bushmen, but they're stunted refugees scraping by on marginal wasteland. They don't match up with the consistently strong and healthy native american hunter gatherer skeletons.
That we can use alternate food sources in times of hardship is a survival mechanism. IOW, omnivory is not a preferred mode of eating (genetically/evolutionarily speaking).
Individually of course, we may prefer omnivory, frugivory, x-vory.
Anthropological research in conjunction with modern medical research convincingly indicate several foods cause disease. The fact that we can digest all kinds of things is irrelevant.
It pretty much all boils down to avoiding sugars, grain products, and certain oils. It's a very easy case to buy if you read into it.
The less verity in a persons diet the closer to perfection what they do eat needs to be. When you consider the quantity of fructose in the average American diet of course there is a problem, but mainly because of what it replaces and not what it is. If you burned 4k calories a day and drink 1k worth of sucrose water you can still have a healthy if unusual diet. However, when you are only consuming 2k worth of calories a day 50% of which provides zero nutrition your body is probably missing out on important things.
Yes, and there is a panoply of diseases only people eating grain get. They're referred to as the "diseases of civilization."
Do your own reading. I did mine and concluded bread intake should be minimized, whole grain or not.
If we do synthesize our food, and process it more than any other animal, we should consider whether what we're doing is good for us.
Cheese is OK as long as you have no casein allergies, which you probably don't.
Wine is low on the list of things to eliminate. This article painted a picture of some wacky lifestyle built around a paleo canon. I suppose with this sort of thing a lunatic fringe is inevitable. That stuff in the article about giving blood was just nonsense.
It's really just a short list of diet recommendations. Eliminate sugars & sweeteners and cut grain & potato products as low as feasible and you're doing 90% of it and getting 90% of the benefit.
Starches mixed with proteins (animal proteins in particular) stimulate the stomach to over-produce digestive acids which strain it, and as a result bile needs to be produced to neutralize the acids which strains the small intestine - it often results in very little nutrition actually being absorbed from the food because the acids produced for the two different types combine into an acid that doesn't digest either starches or protein very well.
Meat and Potato diets are highly stressful on the body, also keep in mind that the fasting aspect of this "paleo" diet is very important, without the fasting, your colon won't have enough time to eliminate all of it and it can end up compacted in the colon.
Consistent and high animal protein diets are unhealthy, but animal protein diets spaced with fasting and vegetables (fibers and nutrients) are great for the body.
Now I'm not a vegeterian, nor am I a PETA campaigner, but I do believe in animal rights. And the idea of promoting a diet that makes people eat copious amounts of meat sounds .... unkind (for the lack of a better word). It creates a grown in the demand to rear and kill animals.
I'm not trying to draw on a vegeterian vs meat-eaters debate here, but does anyone else feel this way when they read about this diet?
The author is a paleozoologist who specializes in upper Paleolithic megafauna (which occasionally are found as frozen specimens with soft tissue preserved in the part of Alaska where he conducts his research) and is also an experience bow-hunter and expert visual artist. The book has an astounding bibliography listed literature in English and other languages about all aspects of human life in the Pleistocene epoch.
I very much like Dr Harris (PaNu blog) position: is not about blindly replicating cavemen lifestile, but studing their metabolism (which is ours) in the light of modern science.
Could this be a fad diet? of course... to some people. Could this be a bunch of bullshit? sure. However, after 30 days of completely eliminating wheat, dairy, complex sugars, and starches, I was blown away by how good I felt. I'm still surprised at how I feel, and at my energy levels and general weight loss. So, as I said, I started a site (because that's what geeks do) and now this is how I eat. There's lots of people who follow Paleo eating for a variety of reasons. Some are purely performance driven, and have found Paleo to be a great diet plan to help their athletic performance. Some people are celiacs and have wheat allergies and/or lactose intollerant, so eating Paleo is a natural decision. I've also met people who are just interested in eating whole foods, versus processed foods, and have found this diet makes them feel better.
I have to leave it to people like Scott Hagnas, Robb Wolf, and Loren Cordain for the science of it, but for me, I feel great, look great, and am just in a better mood all the time after giving up a few things. Call it hocus pokus, call it a fad diet, I don't care, it works for me and I plan to stick with it. The actual article is what you'd expect; media grabbing on to the "story." It's not exactly a true representation of the people I know following this diet.
I was surprised to see Nassim Taleb show up in the article as well.
The book is a meta study of the research done on the so-called metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes, heart disease). The research doesn't talk about evolution and cavemen, but rather health markers, hormones, and metabolic processes.
I've been eating a less -ahem- tribal version of this for 4 months, and the results have been pretty remarkable (if entirely anecdotal).
I have lost a large amount of weight, my skin and hair are much improved, my digestive functions have normalized after a lifetime of trouble, and I'm no longer tired all the time.
I haven't been sick since I started, but 4 months isn't exactly long enough to suggest anything in that respect.
What I do differently from the tribal version in the article is
1) I don't exercise (yeah, I know, evil, but I just don't feel like it yet)
2) I eat tomatoes and cheese and cream
3) I don't fast; I eat whenever I'm hungry. Interestingly, I'm only hungry about twice a day now, rather than 5 or 6 times a day which was the norm for me before I started this experiment
4) I'm super relaxed (pragmatic?) about the whole thing. I haven't seen the light or anything like that, I've simply had some really good results with very little effort.
There is a blog at http://www.marksdailyapple.com which has plenty of interesting articles, as well, but the Gary Taubes book is the closest thing I've found to proven health benefits.
Anecdotes are not evidence, but for me, it's been 13 months. Triglyceride count is 40mg/dl, and I seem to have avoided four serious flu epidemics, the last around christmas (so my white blood cells are low). I do very little exercise, tomatoes once a week (bloat afterwards), eat cheese and cream, but no milk. I also noticed the reduction to being hungry only twice a day.. imho, that counts as basic intermittent fasting though (if you skip the morning meal).
Unlike the caricatures in the article (and Taleb, from another somewhat sardonic writeup) I don't take it very seriously.
As for the digestive part, this is quite remarkable, and I can only explain it by saying that everyone (or at least me) is borderline coeliac/lactose-intolerant.
I've gotten sick twice, but my immune system took care of that rather fast. I barely experienced any symptoms and made recoveries within a day or two, something that never happened before
Eating 2 meals a day was bad for me because I'd feel a lot groggier eating over a 1000 calories/meal to meet daily requirements
I speculate that maybe I eat less now than the daily requirements on occasion. I have a large amount of fuel stored, which seems to be easily accessible these days (to judge from the rate at which it is being consumed, anyhow).
Perhaps when my weight has normalized I'll get hungry more often.
Personally, I solve it by replacing carbs with fat - but without actually measuring. I just eat plenty of flavorful food (and drench my veggies in butter).
Mark Sisson has written about fats in the diet here:
The general idea floating around on his forum seems to be "when in doubt, eat more fat".
The link is down at the moment, but the above is a 4-paper written debate between T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and Loren Cordain(Paleo Diet). They each advocate widely different approaches to diet, but agree on a few things, most notably that dairy's nutritional benefits are suspect.
I also read somewhere (probably Eades) that the China Study (the book/Campbell one) was a survey, iow, not an intervention study.
Lastly, when I read the China Study book about 3-4 years ago, it started off with an impressive anecdote about feeding extra protein (peanut butter) to filipino children to improve their diet and wham! cancer.
Blame protein, or aflatoxin? Campbell chose the former. Now that I know a bit more about animal vs. nut (soy, peanut) protein, I'll take the former, thanks.
The Panu weblog puts it in the simplest terms: choose a food whose defense is to run away from you, not one that will cook up chemical defenses to being eaten.
And The Paleolithic Solution podcast by Robb Wolf and Andy Deis [iTunes Link]:
Robb Wolf runs Norcal Strength and Conditioning in Chico, California: http://www.crossfitnorcal.com/
"...I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do."
Well, he is almost doing Atkins/South Beach/Low Carb but just gave it another name.
The reason the caveman were skinny is that before they could eat meat they had to chase it for few days and kill it with a stick.
It's got quite a lot in common with approaches like "Clean Eating", but no bread or pasta.
You can get vitamin C on an all-meat diet, and various people have (of necessity, typically by living in or travelling through areas where agriculture is impossible and storing vegetables wasn't possible) done just fine that way.
I love the concept, and want it expanded to other things (how many people have tried vegetarianism only to end up eating nothing but pasta?) but I don't eat enough meat to really consider Paleo.
I felt healthier, slept better, and had more energy. I think the value in these diets is cutting out large amounts of sugar and processed foods.