The biggest problem I have with Zuk is that the entire premise of this book is based on a straw man argument. The "Paleo" in paleo diet comes from the fact that there was a clear dip in human health once we entered the neolithic era (i.e. started farming). We are not emulating a caveman's diet per se, we are simply trying to find and remove what caused that original dip in health.
To anyone uninformed about the paleo diet:
The Paleo diet is not a crusade against anything that isn't a meat or vegetable and its certainly not trying to perfectly emulate some fictitious caveman's food diary. The paleo diet is a recommendation to avoid things that have anti-nutritional properties, things that may tax our liver or our insulin response or halt our ability to digest vitamins and minerals as effectively.
The critical takeaway from the paleo diet is that there are many foods that the average person may have a "tolerance" for, but why eat foods we simply tolerate when we can eat foods that we thrive on?
The Paleo Diet is based upon eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Paleolithic era, the time period from about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 10,000 years ago. These foods include fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and game meat, if you can get it), fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed). Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu. The site makes constant references to "the mainstays of Stone Age diets" and advocates a high potassium/sodium ratio because "Stone Age bodies were adapted to this".
Another site early in the results: "Cut out all cereal grains and legumes, cut out sugar, eliminate dairy products" which I think covers everything outside of meat, fruit and vegetables.
PaleoDiet.com: "Paleo is a simple dietary lifestyle that is based on foods being either in or out. In are the Paleolithic Era foods that we ate prior to agriculture and animal husbandry (meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms, etc.). Out are Neolithic Era foods that result from agriculture or animal husbandry (grains, dairy, beans/legumes, potatoes, sugar and fake foods) "
If you object to people rebutting this 'straw man', then perhaps you should try and stop people from proposing it. You can't call something a straw man simply because it's not what you personally mean by the word.
The idea that grains and legumes cause obesity is absurd. Asians have been living largely on both for thousands of years [1,2] and have enjoyed incredibly low obesity rates  until recently. Consuming more calories than you expend is the culprit here, not grains and legumes. If we want to single out some of the leading causes for overconsumption, I'd point to refined sugar, oils (pure fat), junk food, and high fructose corn syrup.
Consuming more calories than you expend is the culprit, but that is a fairly uninteresting fact, as it ignores what makes humans more likely to consume more calories than we expend. Especially in situations where we can easily afford to.
To me that means past data on obesity quite pointless - that large parts of our populations is able to afford enough food to easily get fat is a relatively recent thing.
We should also remember that Asians are Asian. A few of the high-profile genes that we know influence diet occur at far different levels in Asian and other populations, such as lactose and alcohol tolerance. To believe that there is one best diet for all mankind we would have to deny human genetic diversity.
In a modern american diet is it possible to eat grains without your laundry list of "sugar, oils, junk food, HFCS"? It doesn't matter if you "can" eat grains although they're almost never available in a format that meets the other requirements.
Don't try to tell me every american, especially fat ones, cracks open a can of creamed corn kernels every meal for a vegetable. In a modern fat american diet, grains = wonder bread (or equiv) made out of sugar, oil, and HFCS, doritos made out of oil aka junk food. Pizza with the wheat and soy flour crust baked on oil with a super sugary sauce covered in oily meat and dairy cheese. What, if anything, do americans eat made out of grain that isn't a junk food? Bread is junk food. Donuts are junk food. Pretty much everything from the bakery is junk food. Breakfast cereal is junk food. Granola bars are junk food. Oatmeal (my son needs special GF uncontaminated oatmeal..) is just a delivery vehicle for 25% by weight brown sugar, butter, and maple syrup, so thats junk food too. Anything fried, baked, and heavily seasoned and sealed into a shelf stable bag contains wheat and/or soy and is junk food. Is there any junk food out there made without dairy, soy protein extract, or wheat? I have extensively researched this and the answer is basically "no". My son can eat a couple kinds of corn chip and some unflavored potato chips, thats about it for his "typical american diet" junk food. Almost anything "heat and eat" from the freezer section of the store is off limits.
My son has a medically diagnosed allergy to a protein in wheat. So for about a decade, no wheat (ditto soy and dairy ... so we eat what boils down to medically required paleo diet at home since about 2004, although we don't (probably to our detriment) exclude potatoes, rice, and beans). Coincidentally, exclusion of wheat pretty much excludes all junk food. There's not much he can eat in the category of "junk food" other than some plain potato chips, and specialty expensive therefore rare exotic gluten free junk food. I only get to eat "junk food" while at work, its not like I'm gonna dig into a cake in front of a kid who can't eat it without exploding out both ends...
I see it as a happy coincidence. If the FDA mandated all junk food contain blue food coloring, and a diet was proposed that we shouldn't eat stuff made with blue food coloring, it doesn't "really" matter that its not the blue dye making us fat...
"Is there any junk food out there made without dairy, soy protein extract, or wheat?"
Jell-O gelatin snacks? Its ingredients list is "WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, GELATIN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 0.5% OF ADIPIC ACID AND CITRIC ACID (FOR TARTNESS), SODIUM CITRATE (CONTROLS ACIDITY), RED 40, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR."
Fruit roll-ups also look like they foot the bill, but I can't copy&paste the ingredient list.
As you say, there are corn chips, like Fritos: "Corn, Corn Oil, and Salt".
Ok on fruit rollups (which I haven't personally eaten since the early 80s, but if there's still out there, cool), and fritos. Also genuine corn chips without additives and a salsa dip is very American.
"RUFFLES® TAPATIO® Limon Flavored Potato Chips"
At that point I think we need to define the "mainstream american diet" aka most of the stuff at the supermarket. I don't think this or banana chips quite make that cut. Don't get me wrong, they might be tasty, and the banana chips might even be good for you although not as good as fresh banana, but they aren't American as defined by what you'll see on TV or at a typical store. Even fruit rollups are kind of questionable past grade school or so. Likewise I have been informed that roasted crickets are a really yummy nutty tasting junk food, but there's no way you're convincing me thats "american junk food". American junk food is at least 99% HFCS / wheat flour / soy flour / dairy /corn and having to bring up Plantain Chips as a counter example kind of makes my point.
And if you're going to abandon the mainstream diet, or adventure beyond it, or however you phrase it, why not kick just a little further out and try something obviously healthier like paleo diet? Rather than jello and fruit rollups, which are kinda gross if you think about it, try a piece of actual fresh fruit? So very intensely profoundly unamerican, yet so very tasty, yet also more or less good for you...
I don't understand your point. I was answering the question "Is there any junk food out there made without dairy, soy protein extract, or wheat?" with the thought that answering that question would be useful for your son. Not to disprove or even contest the fact that there is little in the way of junk food that your son could eat. To be honest, my first thought was wasabi peas, but those contain soy.
I grew up in Miami. Bananas - the closest tree was in our neighbors yard - were perhaps a bigger part of my life than elsewhere in the US. But it's still part of the US! :) In our yard we had one each of lime, mango, avocado and guava trees. While I didn't have salsa until I went to college, nor a Frito pie for another 10 years after that.
I figured since Walgreens had banana chips then they count as mainstream enough that you can get. It's not "specialty expensive therefore rare exotic gluten free junk food." Also, they are not healthy. It's basically fried starch.
I didn't notice that "since 2004" means your son is at least 9, and almost certainly older. Yes, rollups aren't as popular for teenagers. What about Jolly Ranchers? "CORN SYRUP; SUGAR; CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: MALIC ACID; NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR ; ARTIFICIAL COLOR ( RED 40; BLUE 1; YELLOW 5; YELLOW 6) "
Here's information about Mike&Ike's and related junk food from Just Born candies. http://www.allergicliving.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1655 . Based on that list, MIKE AND IKE®, HOT TAMALES®, ZOURS®, TEENEE BEANEE® Jelly Beans and JUST BORN® Jelly Beans are gluten, soy, and milk free. I know that Mike&Ike had a big PR campaign a year or two back, aimed at teens. Don't know how it turned out though.
You eat junk food while at work, so it's not like you're against junk food per se. Perhaps there's something that you and your son can enjoy together? In moderation, of course.
The grand battle plan went something like Miles claims some things excluded by paleo diet did not cause fatness when other ethnic groups ate them (also missing the point that starvation traditionally killed a fraction of the population on a pretty regular basis. Given an infinite qty of rice for a lifetime, they very well might get fat on rice. Only in America do we have infinite qty of food). My explanation was the standard American diet almost exclusively combines those "banned" ingredients with (things my son happens to be allergic to, so at home I have to eat mostly paleo for medical reasons) and also a huge amount of sugar and HFCS. Your response is technically correct that there exists a very small subset of junk food that does not contain legumes, etc, and also fits his allergies. That all is true. However, I don't think rice eating Asians are skinny because american convenience stores sell Jolly Ranchers.
I think paleo diet food is mostly very enjoyable. Don't need HFCS to smile. Or wheat or soy or dairy. I fully acknowledge a bad cook could make paleo-type food nearly inedible, but a bad cook could ruin a traditional american pizza just as well... I think its almost physically impossible not to smile when eating blueberries...
Strange gluten free fact: Some licorice candy contains wheat, some does not. Very weird but true.
If you take a very black and white approach to it I'd concede that you are correct and that there is a genuine argument being presented that you should eat like a caveman and that Zuk has a point.
However, what you are copying/pasting here is marketing copy.
Diets tend to fail because people fail to adhere to them. People fail to adhere to them because they are complicated. These sites are trying to convert visitors by providing a simple, palatable message.
When you get past the sales pitch there is real science behind the paleo diet. The paleo diet started out as a hypothesis based on a paleolithic diet but the paleo diet is well supported by modern nutritional concepts and is advocated for those reasons, not simply because a caveman ate it.
edit: if the paleo diet were simply based on the premise "a caveman ate it" it would be nothing more than a fad diet that died out in the 70s.
You said the entire premise of this book is based on a straw man argument.
This means 'this book is trying to discredit claims about paleo diets that nobody actually makes'.
My point is that you are wrong that nobody makes those claims, here are some examples of people using exactly that description. Feel free to argue that it misrepresents the makeup of and the reasoning behind paleo diet, but don't argue they didn't say it. And if you've literally never heard someone arguing that they eat just meat and vegetables because our bodies evolved for it in the Stone Age and haven't had time to learn anything else, I envy you.
I have certainly been under the impression that Dr Loren Cordain was one of the biggest scientific names in Paleo, and I believe his books are some of the most popular ones on Paleo, which means that they are the entry to Paleo for many people. If you believe his thoughts are not representative of Paleo, you may want to go find a new name for your diet (and do be careful not to quote his research when explaining it).
I can't speak for everyone, but the citations your parent post provided are certainly characteristic of the typical claim I've heard paleo proponents make. There may be a difference between what the average user of the diet believes compared to those who spawned it though.
Indeed, it's a review by someone with an axe to grind about a book by someone with an axe to grind.
I'm not a "Paleo" person, but the hinting in this article that folks trying to infer better living patterns from the past are loons is faintly preposterous. We have just mounds of evidence (which doubters are free to research themselves) that many pre-Agricultural societies had (and have, actually) far lower rates of the so-called "diseases of civilizations". More abstractly, evolution isn't magic. There is some rate of lifestyle change due to technology that will outstrip evolution's ability to accommodate it.
Hunters and gatherers weren't obese. We are. By irrefutable inference, some lifestyle difference explains this. One valid way to approach the problem of our accelerating obesity is to study what has changed. The theory that I consider most likely at this point is the one argued by Stephan Guyenet, a PH.D. neurobiology researcher who studies the link between obesity and the brain. He posits that modern industrial food is hyperpalatable, so we eat too much of it.
> Hunters and gatherers weren't obese. We are. By irrefutable inference, some lifestyle difference explains this
Yeah and that difference is the sheer abundance of cheap calories. People can and did get fat when eating too many calories of Paleo (easily possible if you overemphasize the fatty meats and sweeter fruits), people can and did lean out on breads and junk-food by simply consuming fewer calories than they expended over a prolonged period.
I have no axe to grind here, I'd say I myself eat 99% Paleo 99% of the time, save for the occasional brownie. Otherwise it's meats, vegs, fruits for me. But that's just my personal taste, and for body-fat storage or lack of it, consuming in excess of your energy expenditure surely must account for most of the most of it.
It's not even the Paleolithic that had a 'better' diet; sugar production in industrial quantities didn't happen until the 19th century and High Fructose Corn Syrup  didn't become a staple of the human diet until the second half of the 20th century.
I'm not denying that there certainly are such factors at play at some level, but not sure how decisive they are: I'd wager they won't make a dent if you consume 4500 calories of Paleo a day, and likewise won't if you consume 1200 calories of junk-food a day -- say for the average non-athlete rather-sedentary adult.
There's a reason Atkin's diet is so popular. It's because it's extremely effective at shedding weight. Sure there might be a point at which you're gaining weight due to the fact that it's an astronomical amount of calories and there are going to be differences in biology but over-all people find eliminating carbs will cut the weight even if they don't cut calories.
"Successful weight loss can be achieved with either a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet when coupled with behavioral treatment. A low-carbohydrate diet is associated with favorable changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors at 2 years."
"Data from several randomized trials over the past 6 years have demonstrated that low-carbohydrate diets produced greater short-term (6 months) weight loss than low-fat, calorie-restricted diets (1-5). The longer-term (1 to 2 years) results are mixed."
"Implication: Overweight persons can achieve substantial weight loss at 2 years if they participate in a behavioral intervention combined with a low-fat or a low-carbohydrate diet."
Also, attrition rates were about the same between the two.
One of the primary arguments of a keto/paleo diet is that the different diets affect how many calories your body thinks it needs, how it uses them, and how it influences behavior as a result. (Disclaimer: using imaginary numbers below to illustrate the theory.)
Let's say your body typically wants 1000 calories at breakfast, and you eat 1000 calories with a heavy load of carbs. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index cause your insulin to spike. That signals fat cells that they should start storing energy, and they do so, tucking away 300 of the 1000 calories you ate.
This means your body only gets to spend 700 of the 1000 calories you ate, and as such, it says "hey, I'm still hungry". You eat 300 calories worth of food. But your fat cells are still sucking up (X%) of what you eat into storage, due to the insulin reaction. So, your body gets 200 of those 300 it wants, and it stays a little bit hungry. (Or, more likely, your body wants 300, but you eat 500 to make it shut up.)
Carbs have the unfortunate habit of converting useful calories into fat storage prior to processing them for the purposes of nutrition. This means carb-heavy diets tend to cause unconscious overeating, and also constant feelings of hunger/cravings/etc.
One of the advantages of a paleo/keto diet is that they often avoid the type of carbohydrates that cause this problem, namely ones with a high glycemic index. This means when you eat 1000 calories, your fat cells don't skim any off the top before your metabolism gets to them, and you get the full 1000; this means you don't end up hungry after a meal, and don't suffer from the urge to snack/eat more. Because your body got all the energy it wanted, it doesn't start saying it's hungry again until it actually does need the nutrition, and you're more likely to eat closer to the correct amount for your body's needs.
The difference between the examples you give, 4500 of Paleo and 1200 of junk food, is primarily how they'd make your body react. 1200 of junk food would certainly be a caloric deficit, but you'd be ravenously hungry at that level. (I've done 1000 calories a day for 6 months straight - it's pretty awful for the first few months.) But with keto, you could eat 4500 calories in a day, but you won't want to. When I'm done eating a keto-style meal, I am completely uninterested in food until the next. Those meals, for me, are typically 1-2 small/medium brats with no bun. But if I go out and cheat, and grab a burger and fries, I've got to fight the urge to follow it up with some ice cream, even though the fries and burger combined are drastically more calories than the brats I was satisfied with the meal before.
It's really interesting stuff. The "calories-in, calories-out" model is completely right from a completely energy-based perspective, but it doesn't account for the side effects produced by the energy source, and how people react to them.
A quick search of PubMed finds some recent (within the last year) papers like:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23357955 - "Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness" It starts "Background: There is emerging literature demonstrating a relationship between the timing of feeding and weight regulation in animals. However, whether the timing of food intake influences the success of a weight-loss diet in humans is unknown."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23167985 - "Effects of exercise before or after meal ingestion on fat balance and postprandial metabolism in overweight men."; "It is unclear how timing of exercise relative to meal ingestion influences substrate balance and metabolic responses."
These make me think that there isn't "droves of scientific literature" which show the importance of meal timing in humans, much less characterize the magnitude of the importance. (Eg, if there's a measurable 1% difference in overall effect on weight then it's statistically significant finding, but almost certainly not enough for most people to care about.)
It doesn't work that way. Show me a study that concludes that blood glucose levels have not been meaningfully increased after a meal due to it all going straight to adipose tissue -- in humans -- and I'll show you the next Nobel Prize winner.
Insulin spikes are irrelevant in so far as you will lose weight at a calorie deficit, insulin spikes or not. Also, fat can be synthesized in the absence of insulin spikes. http://www.jlr.org/content/30/11/1727
Physiologically, what matters is a caloric deficit. Execution wise, some foods make this easier than others, but that is highly individual.
You're absolutely right that losing weight has a lot to do with psychology, and that the execution of it depends on finding a method, a diet tailored to the individual's needs, to succeed.
But that diet will only result in weight loss if there is a caloric deficit, completely independent of insulin spikes. Now, the trick to achieving and maintaining that caloric deficit over a period of time is an effort that is psychologically demanding, absolutely. But the weight loss itself is pure thermodynamics.
If your interest lies in designing diets or meal plans that help people achieve their weight loss goals, your focus should rightly be the psychological aspect of it. That's the battle. But at the end of the day, a caloric deficit is necessary, whether you choose to ignore that or not.
IMHO, diet and nutrition is confusing as hell to the average person, and hiding the necessity of a caloric deficit and instead talking about "good" and "bad" foods or macronutrients, is a poor approach in the long run. But that's just my opinion. The necessity of a caloric deficit is not opinion though, it's cold hard scientifically proven fact.
> The necessity of a caloric deficit is not opinion though, it's cold hard scientifically proven fact.
It is not that simple. If you have a calorie deficit but aren't getting enough nutrients you will get cravings but won't be able to sustain your diet. If you're addicted to sugar you will get cravings/constant hunger and won't be able to sustain your diet.
Focusing on calories ignores all of the other things (nutrients, insulin, blood sugar, motivation) that need to happen for a diet to be successful.
There's a pretty good chance this is an over-analysis.
A daily 50 Calorie excess stacked up over 5 years amounts to a gain of about 25 pounds.
So it is certainly possible that a diet could be subtly tipping metabolism in the wrong direction, but between a complex explanation of more calories being stored as fat and a simple explanation of slightly too much consumption, I like the second one.
I guess that it is easy to consume large amounts of carbs makes them a frequent component of weight gain.
Can't say something like "(which doubters are free to research themselves)" and follow it up with a claim like "many pre-Agricultural societies had (and have, actually) far lower rates of the so-called "diseases of civilizations."
Actually you shouldn't even want to as there's a certain problem with gathering data on populations that lived 10,000 years ago with a geographically dispersed sample size of ... oh, I don't know, single digits?
This information does not just come from fossil records but also from studying living specimen, who still exist in the world today. The article mention that those people also had time to evolve, but I don't think that is much of a killer argument. Then the question would still remain (speaking of diet, which is only one aspect) why they were able to adapt to their diet and we weren't able to adapt to our diet.
Obesity is the result of a caloric surplus. Cavemen didn't have that luxury.
Obesity epidemic is a very recent phenomenon. Are you arguing that there were no societies that had caloric surplus up until late in the XX century?
Or would you say that American Samoa with obesity levels of 70%  somehow have the luxury of having calorie surplus, while people of Switzerland (8.2% obesity) are struggling to get enough food?
Speaking about Paleo diet in particular, why don't those guys gorge themselves into obesity ?
The Kitavan people have been under greater study for their remarkable health characteristics. The people show no indication of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, congestive heart failure, acne, low or high blood pressure, or obesity. There is also almost no indication of cancer.
The Kitavans have abundant food supply and are not threatened by malnutrition or famine.
Your assumption about the laws of thermodynamics predicates that the "Energy out" part of the equation is not somehow effected by the type of "Energy in" (Adding wet sticks to a fire will not produce as much released energy as adding dry sticks or gasoline soaked sticks)
The general argument about carbs or any food with high glycemic response is that these foods are like adding "wet sticks" to the fire. There's considerable science and anicdote to support this.
If you're interested (And not simply not throwing around pithy sound bytes about physics) check out:
Why we get fat (And what to do about it) By Gary Taubes (http://garytaubes.com/)
Your metaphor of adding wet sticks to a fire is flawed, from a thermodynamics argument. Assuming that the fire is large enough, it will dry out the wet sticks through evaporation/boiling, and the wood's total contribution to the heat ("energy out") will be unchanged.
Now, of course for the people sitting around the fire, some of the heat that would be warming them up or used for cooking is instead used to force a phase change in the water, so it won't be as much "useful" heat, but that meaning of utility - which I believe is the one you want - is outside of thermodynamics.
For what it's worth, "for some very compelling anecdotal evidence" of the thermodynamic approach, see The Hacker's Diet at http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/ , which uses the "Rubber Bag" model. Unlike the garytaubes.com web site, the entire book and supporting materials are available for free download. The basic premise is the thermodynamic "if you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight; if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight." (See also 'Food and fact' where "The rubber bag view of the body and considering only the calorie content of food is obviously oversimplified." and some of the complications are mentioned.)
I believe you are making a different argument, which is that you can't always measure the caloric impact of foods. Under the Hacker Diet, that makes little difference. It uses a feedback system based on weight trends rather than specific calorie counting. There's no need to know that oak combustion produces about 15MJ/kg and boiling water from room temperature takes about 3MJ/kg, because it only looks at 'is there enough heat'?
Thanks for the links on the Hacker diet, the rubber bag concept sounds interesting, I'll check it out.
As for my metaphor - actually I think it holds very true to what you're saying. You pre-qualified that the fire be hot enough to overcome the dampness of the sticks. That's my exact point. Think of the water as insulin and the stick itself as the fat you want to burn. If you're consistently slamming yourself into insulin shock then you'll never burn fat, and you'll end up looking like most of America(Myself included).
It takes very little insulin response to put our fire out.
No one is refuting thermodynamics here - simply stating that making the assumption that the body is a perfect machine (Or set at some guaranteed rate of efficiency) is a flawed outlook.
Taubes makes a great case for this in his examination of Native American Women and their children.
Now you're using the body's metabolism to explain the metaphor to explain the body's metabolism. I don't think it's supposed to work that way. :) To highlight some of the difficulties:
So, insulin shock is the specific heat of water and/or the heat of evaporation? Does fire "slam into" the water?
As a technical point, there's a distinction between heat and temperature. The fire does not need to be "hot", it just needs to have enough heat to evaporate some of the water on the new wood, and of course hot enough to catch the wood on fire. At that point the reaction becomes self-sustaining.
I don't know how to apply that heat/temperature distinction to the metaphor.
If the "fire is out" then what are we using to survive?
(These are rhetorical. I think I know the point you're trying to get across.)
Also, what does a "perfect machine" have to do with anything? Surely not from a thermodynamics viewpoints. I can't think of anyone who thinks of the human body as a perfect machine, and I have a hard time thinking of what that would even mean.
While I'm amused (Really I am, no sarcasm!) with the extension of the fire concept - I think you're just pulling at semantics of my metaphor =)
You make a valid point - lets pull heat and temperature out of it. I'll take the whole metaphor out. If I were to waterdown the through process of ketogenic diets (which are what I'm talking about and share some things with Paleo) I would explain them as such:
Insulin prevents your body from breaking down it's natural stores of energy. When you eat anything with a high glycemic index (Which is most food in the American diet) you have an insulin reaction. While having an insulin reaction, you don't burn fat stores. If you can't burn your fat stores, you don't lose weight. If you can't burn your fat stores and you run out of immediately available energy your bodies 'fire' dims (You crash after that sugar rush)
Ketogenic diets are the only diets that make sense to me, because they so easily explain the different states of weight gain/loss and energy level. I'm interested in hearing other methods of weight management.. but I really feel the ketogenic concept explains the body best.
> Sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children. Double-blind trials have shown no difference in behavior between children given sugar-full or sugar-free diets, even in studies specifically looking at children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or those considered sensitive to sugar.
> At least 12 double blind randomised controlled trials have examined how children react to diets containing different levels of sugar.2 None of these studies, not even studies looking specifically at children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, could detect any differences in behaviour between the children who had sugar and those who did not.3 This includes sugar from sweets, chocolate, and natural sources. Even in studies of those who were considered “sensitive” to sugar, children did not behave differently after eating sugar full or sugar-free diets.3
> Scientists have even studied how parents react to the sugar myth. When parents think their children have been given a drink containing sugar (even if it is really sugar-free), they rate their children’s behaviour as more hyperactive...
If a hypothesis depends on a mechanism we haven't observed, then I don't think it's likely to be real.
If the body digested everything with 100% efficiency and didn't produce waste, and also treated all 'calories' equally, then I'd agree that thermodynamics tells us everything we need to know.
But even people coming from the complete opposite end of the argument to the paleo crowd ("Eat more whole grains!") agree that the amount of heat produced by a substance when it's burnt in a calorimeter doesn't tell the full story about its potential for causing obesity.
I have no idea how cavemen lived, and it doesn't interest me all that much either, but my guess is that they weren't as sedentary and they weren't as proficient in the art of preserving food. Overall, it should have been quite difficult for most of them to create a caloric surplus, day after day.
What I do know is that bodymass is lost and gained with deficits and surpluses of calories.
Transient spikes in insulin and stuff like that are irrelevant. This is well established in nutritional science.
> The nickname, urging a comparison to the classical image of "Venus," is now controversial. According to Christopher Witcombe, "the ironic identification of these figurines as 'Venus' pleasantly satisfied certain assumptions at the time about the primitive, about women, and about taste." Catherine McCoid and LeRoy McDermott hypothesize that the figurines may have been created as self-portraits.
But let's face it, the evidence must be scant either way.
Still, if people from traditional societies enter the western world they tend to be afflicted even worse from civilization diseases (obesity, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks...). I think part of the problem is that our foods are engineered to trick the regulation of our food intake. Jared Diamond describes how New Guineans empty whole bottles of salt on their food, because they are much more "optimized" for craving salt.
So the energy in/energy out thing might hold, but it is just part of the problem. The real problem is how to regulate food intake appropriately.
Actually Dimaond also describes traditional people overeating to the extreme when they have meat on rare occasions (some kind of meat festival). So of course abundance of food is part of the problem - if those people had meat all the time, perhaps they would overeat immediately. But so we could still learn about sane frequencies of food intake from traditional societies.
If you spend your day harvesting a field or running after animals to pray them, you're not going to be obese, you're more likely to gather fat if your day is taping on a computer, but this has nothing to do with diet.
Also, I won't the lifestyle of a period of our history, as a species, where the expected longevity was something like 30 years against 80+ of today.
The Wikipedia article on the Neolithic Revolution says:
"nutritional standards of Neolithic populations were generally inferior to that of hunter-gatherers, and life expectancy may in fact have been shorter, in part due to diseases. Average height, for example, went down from 5' 10" (178 cm) for men and 5' 6" (168 cm) for women to 5' 3" (165 cm) and 5' 1" (155 cm), respectively, and it took until the twentieth century for average human height to come back to the pre-Neolithic Revolution levels."
I do not know the literature well enough to cite anthropological studies. But as far as I understand it, this is a relatively uncontroversial claim within the field. Jared Diamond's article is a good introduction:
> This statement seems hard to prove seeing as we didn't keep any health-records between 10,000 BC and 2,000 BC (I can see, however, that we currently live quite unhealthy).
Much can be done with forensic anthropology. There is one North American area in present day Mississippi that was inhabited across the adoption of agriculture, and the decline in health is documented in the teeth and bones.
Paleo to me is certainly not a historical reenactment. I also am not one trying to recreate the standard diet in almond flour and all that. Paleo people drive me crazy being so anti-dairy; cream is a wondrous fuel.
Doing some basic research regarding dairy and paleo - the message I got was "if you can eat it, then eat it". Lots of people do not tolerate dairy very well, which is the main reason it has a generic black mark against it. But if you can tolerate it, then go for it.
I began eating a quasi-paleo diet at the beginning of February including the removal of all dairy. I reintroduced dairy to see if it had any noticeable impact and it didn't, so I kept it in.
Disclaimer: I started reading on the paleo diet about a month ago, after friends recommended it as a support for my strength & conditioning routines. I've been loosely following the guidelines for the past 2 weeks. I do see an improvement in my sleep quality and in the past week have noticed a spike in my swimming endurance.
This article highlights one aspect of the scientific community that I abhor, the petty disputes. So on one side we have Cordain, who promotes a new diet that seems to carry some widely documented positive results, but who may be inaccurate in his notion that we haven't had time to adapt to changes in our nutrition in the past 10,000 years and may or may not be extrapolating a bit on other points. On another we have Zuk, hellbent at debunking the former's work, based solely on those arguments. Finally, we have Laura Miller, author of the article, who feels that Zuk's arguments are justification enough to dismiss proponents of the paleo diet almost as a fad.
Yes, crickets managed to adapt to their predator in 5 years, but what of the multiple examples of species that just disappeared, when another was introduced in their ecosystem? Cordain is probably wrong in some of his presumptions regarding evolution, but then Zuk just ends up pointing that out without proving anything of interest herself.
Does Miller really believe that people who eat paleo do so because the diet is from the paleolithic? Who cares when it's from? A month ago I had only a vague idea of when the paleolithic ended. If you asked me I would've said "hmm, 50k years ago?"
What convinced me was its simplicity and results. I read reports and testimonies of people getting better on it and athletes performing on it. Rather than telling me "actually, this isn't quite paleolithic" or "actually, we did have time to adapt", I would be much more interested in a study that debunks those reports, or at least attributes them to something else than the diet.
Also, I've not yet read enough on the diet in details, but from what I've garnered of its main lines, there are some specific reasons as to why certain foods should be avoided. How about looking at those arguments and then debunk them? I for one would love proof that the diet is wrong about cereals and legumes.
>> "I for one would love proof that the diet is wrong about cereals and legumes."
>> "I read reports and testimonies of people getting better on it and athletes performing on it."
I think this is the wrong way round. When people make claims that stuff we've been eating for thousands of years (bread, cereals, grains etc.) are actually really bad for us, the burden of proof is on them.
If anyone could actually prove that wheat causes weight gain and health problems (independent of other variables), they'd be a good candidate for the next Nobel in Medicine.
Most studies I've read show that Paleo is no better or worse than a normal healthy diet. In some cases e.g. when you're an athlete, it'll be actively worse, since carbs are a basic source of fuel. 
On top of this, Paleo promotes some claims that are ridiculous, e.g. that burning fat for fuel == burning carbs for fuel. They have totally different consequences.
Yes, eating lots of carbs is bad for you. So is eating lots of fatty food. Loads of calories and not enough exercise means your body stores fat. That's sort of obvious, and nothing to do with any special properties that 'carbs' have.
Just eat plenty of vegetables (esp green / strongly coloured ones), and make sure you get adequate amounts of protein & carbs. To lose weight, make sure calories in < calories out. That's the general pictures studies give us.
Be extremely sceptical of anything claiming otherwise. I'm not sure why intelligent people can get so caught up in fads - such as Paleo - that are backed up by pseudo-science. My theory is that they appeal to the contrarian in us - after all, they're delightfully counter-intuitive in some ways (eating lots of steak can be good for me?!).
You've got to have contrarian ideas to be really intelligent, but not all contrarianism is good.
 I say this as a semi-pro runner who has tried running on a Paleo diet and found it disastrous. You cannot burn fat with the same efficiency as you can 'burn' carbs (i.e. use glycogen). It doesn't work that way. And if you still think it does, look up the diets of the top 10 athletes in basically any sport & explain to me why none of them are on Paleo.
>> You're getting all this the wrong way round. When people make claims that stuff we've been eating for thousands of years (bread, cereals, grains etc.) are actually really bad for us, the burden of proof is on them.
I'm not sure if this should also apply with stuff that we put inside our body. In any case, not all of us are willing to wait that long, while we obviously see problems with the status quo. I choose to rather just make a judgement call based on social cues.
>> On top of that Paleo promotes some claims that are clearly ridiculous, e.g. that burning fat for fuel == burning carbs for fuel. They have totally different consequences.
This is inconsistent with anything I've read on this diet, but would be closer to the Low Carb High Fat diet, which I agree would be detrimental to an intense training regiment. May I suggest that you and I were not introduced to the same paleo diet? I recommend that you look up Robb Wolf.
>> Yes, eating lots of carbs is bad for you. So is eating lots of fatty food. Or lots of anything. Just eat lots of green stuff, and make sure you get adequate amounts of protein & carbs. To lose weight, make sure calories in < calories out.
Oddly, this is very consistent with what is promoted in the diet.
>> It mystifies me how otherwise-intelligent people can get so caught up in fads such as Paleo, backed up by flimsy pseudo-science.
Attempting to belittle people who choose to try the diet doesn't make you smarter and certainly doesn't prove nor validate your arguments.
>> My theory is that they appeal to the contrarian in us - after all, they're delightfully counter-intuitive in some ways (eating lots of steak can be good for me?!).
That is indeed only a theory. On the other hand, maybe some of us actually do see some results.
>> And if you still think it does, look up the diets of the top 10 athletes in basically any sport & explain to me why none of them are on Paleo.
The diet is extremely prevalent in the crossfit circles (it's even increasingly overshadowing the official diet, which is The Zone diet) and mixed martial arts (many of my training mates switch to it prior to competition). During my own research I stumbled upon this interview http://youtu.be/r-WRn8UttXw?t=10m (interview starts 10 minutes in the video, somewhere within the first 2 minutes after it begins Joe Rogan mentions having talked to many fighters who are on it).
My take away: "otherwise-intelligent people" use the diet as a set of guidelines for improved health and quality of life. You can choose to take it as a religion, but then lots of things just get more difficult. If you practice a sport, you need to adapt the diet to the demands of your discipline. I recommend to look up experts who are more sport oriented (I mentioned Robb Wolf earlier).
But what he is trying to say is you don't need any fancy rules except for:
>> Yes, eating lots of carbs is bad for you. So is eating lots of fatty food. Or lots of anything. Just eat lots of green stuff, and make sure you get adequate amounts of protein & carbs. To lose weight, make sure calories in < calories out."
By agreeing with him, you have to come to the conclusion that following the above advice is what makes any diet good. There is nothing "unholy" about grains. I believe that was the point nqureshi was trying to make.
Paleo is not a "low carb" diet. The point of Paleo is not to reduce the number of carbohydrates you ingest; nor is it to enter ketosis; nor is the primary goal of Paleo to lose weight. You have been reading the wrong things, and I can't even imagine what lead you to believe that you could run at any serious level without ingesting carbs.
The pop-fad elements of the diet that have been parroted by journalists are generally the "elevator pitch" version of the diet, not the real 'meat' (pun so intended).
The main tenets of the diet are to avoid processed and/or high-sugar food, grains, (non-fermented) legumes, bad fats/oils (especially those from seeds), and dairy, and to seek out whole foods, fish and lean meats (especially from ruminants and organs) and good sources of fat (with good omega 3/6 ratio). Some folks can handle dairy just fine and do so. Some can eat white rice or white potatos and suffer no ill effects. Those are not outright banned by the diet. Carbohydrates can come in many forms that are accessible on the diet.
You were lied to, and I'm sorry that you tried to run without eating carbs, I image that would be unpleasant. But please discontinue spreading misinformation about Paleo, as it has vast benefits when applied correctly and in line with your body's needs.
> "The point of Paleo is not to reduce the number of carbohydrates you ingest; nor is it to enter ketosis"
Having been curious enough to browse paleo forums (including /r/paleo most recently), this is how most adherents seem to define it.
They may be wrong, but in that case it seems the majority of the paleo community is wrong.
> "But please discontinue spreading misinformation about Paleo"
It would be nice, then, if the paleo community can first come to an agreement about what it is, because even disregarding literature "from the outside", reduction in carbs and entering ketosis is a huge focus of conversations I've seen on these communities.
I agree with you that the community at large is full of individuals looking for quick-weight-loss diet magic and that ketosis can be a fringe benefit of Paleo if you intentionally limit your carbs. But the community is not the diet, and the _majority_ of the community are, as with most diets, people following a fad insomuch as it doesn't actually interfere with their current habits. /r/paleo was a good source for a hot month or two a few years ago, but nowadays it should be called /r/bacon and its content taken with a grain of salt.
Paleo is a low-carb diet. By consequence rather than design, and it's certainly not an Atkins/ketosis diet, but the emphasis is on fish, meat and eggs. If you need to consume a standard ratio of carbs:protein:fat on the paleo diet you're going to have an oddball variation of what most people do on paleo and be eating lots and lots of squash, yams, and sweet potatoes.
Some folks can handle dairy just fine and do so. Some can eat white rice or white potatos and suffer no ill effects. Those are not outright banned by the diet.
Of course they aren't "outright banned" but potatoes and rice are exceptions to the guidelines.
What are you eating and calling it "paleo"? Practically every meal I have ends with citrus / berries / apples / bananas / etc. Sometimes for breakfast we'll have some sliced up apples, that's 30 or so grams of carbs right there. Sometimes an afternoon snack is just a banana or a handful of grapes.
At a typical Atkins level of 20 grams carb per day, I'd be screwed by the time I'm done eating two apples for breakfast, and I've still got the rest of the day to go.
I don't think I'm unusual in that I paleo it around maybe 4 parts veg, 4 part fruit, 1 part meat, and maybe 1 part nuts and "other (possibly non-paleo) stuff" on a very long term average. I don't think its physically possible to low carb if you eat about four times as much fruit as meat. Its not so much that I eat huge amounts of fruit, its that I don't eat so much meat. I ate a 24 oz steak once and literally felt sick, don't know if it was the massive fat content or some kind of protein overdose or just too much in the belly. Lots more filet mignon than t-bone, that kind of thing. I tend toward larger fraction of fruit for breakfast (aka two pieces of fruit per breakfast), larger fraction of veg for lunch (aka salad bar almost every day) and larger fraction of meat for dinner and a chunk of fruit before bedtime. Individual days vary, this is just average.
Diets that include grains typically expect people will get over half of their calories from carbohydrates. Atkins is the extreme opposite and is virtually a "no carb" diet as the purpose is to deplete glycogen stores and induce ketosis.
"4 parts fruit vs 1 part meat and 1 part nuts" doesn't say much because fruits can have varying amounts of carbohydrates and meats and nuts can have varying amounts of calorie-dense fat. Also how big is a "part"? Grapes and bananas are relatively high in sugar but most fruits aren't carbohydrate-dense and even then, bananas are a genetically modified domestic cultivar and definitely a product of agriculture. Same with apples.
I'm not sure you realize how aggressive you would have to be to get 1000+ calories per day from fruit and vegetable carbohydrates alone. Almost certainly, the vast majority of people on the paleo diet do not eat 4 bananas and 4 apples, a pound of carrots and 2 pounds of spinach every single day. They eat eggs. They eat almonds. They eat fatty meat. They pour olive oil on their salad. They wind up with notably less than than the 200-250-ish grams of carbohydrates that is typical of other diets.
Good enough for dad good enough for me but is there any research to support it? There is no shortage of research supporting low carb whole grain and fresh fruit over highly processed foods. There are also numerous well documented incidents of people moving from native foods to processed grain and other food suffered negative health effects.
Personally I dont think whole grain foods are all that bad in reasonable amounts.
> Does Miller really believe that people who eat paleo do so because the diet is from the paleolithic?
People who are on the paleo diet tell me exactly that.
Anyway, they seem healthier than before they started, so taking an interest in healthier food consumption seems to work for them. As you say, the outcome is the important thing.
The Paleo diet may well have made the hunter-gatherers very healthy. However, as I have already passed their life-expectancy, there seems to be no data supporting whether it will work for my longevity ;)
The reason life expectancies were 35 back then was due to horrible infant and early childhood mortalities. People lived on the close order of 100 years (70-80 or so) back long before we had anything like medicine. For example:
> A saeculum is a length of time roughly equal to the potential lifetime of a person or the equivalent of the complete renewal of a human population. [snip] At the time of the reign of emperor Augustus, the Romans decided that a saeculum was 110 years.
In other words, if you wanted to make sure everyone who had been alive for some specific event was dead, you had to wait a hundred or so years. Does that sound like the reasoning of people who expected to die before they hit fifty?
First, the age of the Roman republic was a long way from the stone age. Second, by then grain was a HUGE part of the diet, so drawing conclusions about life expectancy from Roman traditions is probably not a great example. Third, Romans didn't live that long - here are a list of emperors I could find who died of natural causes...
As far as I know, almost any diet that's not obviously insane or unhealthy gives satisfactory results if followed diligently.
It's not about the specific content, it's not about any pseudo-scientific justifications for the content, it's simply about how easy it is to stay on the diet without lapsing or indulging in any extraneous treats.
The diet represents a significant change in my eating habits. I would have to look really hard to find a different cause.
I significantly reduced bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, legumes in the last 2 weeks. That's extremely unusual for me. In the same time, I probably ate more veggies than I would in 6 months. Broccoli, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, cucumbers, asparagus, kale, swiss chards, butternut and spaghetti squash and a bunch of other stuff. Some tubes for variety (yams and sweet potatoes). My fruit basket is always full and varied (avocados, papaya, bananas, grapes, apples, pears, oranges, tangerines, etc). I eat eggs, meats (including bacon) and seafood exactly like before. I eat nuts like before. I still drink green tea daily. So far my only previous snacking habit that seems to be "legal" in the new context is plantain chips, I'm not sure if it's really allowed, but I don't care, I'm not changing it.
My philosophy regarding diet is to encourage good habits, not discourage bad ones. In other words, fill myself with as much good stuff as not having to crave the bad. My brother bought pizza on friday, I ate it and drank some coke. Yesterday he brought home a sandwich for me, I ate it the same. I won't feel guilty about that.
I did have various cravings in my first week, but I simply increased my meal portions the second week and I've been fine for the most part. I stay extended periods without even thinking of chewing on a candy bar.
Regarding physical activity, I noticed that I recover better from training and swimming sessions and I also have more endurance.
I haven't bought into the grass-fed and organic mindset so far. I'll see where the current regiment carries me in term of performance and well being, before attempting to go "all natural" and see if it really makes a difference.
I don't live a paleo diet, but I think the focus on fresh foods is good. Just like anything, there may be a kernel of extremely important wisdom that gets surrounded by a huge amount of marketing to make money off of it (think agile programming as another example).
I also have yet to meet a scientist whose word I would trust as the last word on the way I should eat. On the other hand, I've met a lot whose words have influenced how I eat. And based on the reading I've done, we are still so far from really understanding how the body processes food that the only sane approach is to read a lot, experiment on yourself, and monitor the results. Unfortunately, there are just far too many people trying to sell something when it comes to food.
1. I've settled pretty close to Atkins. In fact, one of the things I really like about Atkins is the "on-going weight loss" phase where you literally experiment, journal and measure to find out what is working for you.
2. "Meet" in the "I've read" sense. I'm always looking for more to read on this topic. Due to lack to good information being available, I passed 350 pounds. It took surgery to have a chance to start again; then a lot of studying to take advantage of that start.
3. The scale may be the worst way you can measure your progress. Blood tests are good. A journal of the way you feel is also good.
4. It is sad that, even the best intentioned scientists, still need to "sell" their work to their funding agencies. I don't have a concern than anybody is outright faking things; the concern I have is that anything that doesn't match the current dogma as decided by the FDA, USDA, etc, is getting silently thrown away. Not just "not published", but not even submitted for fear of what a result that challenges the orthodoxy can do to one's career.
> Cordain, who has a Ph.D in exercise physiology, assured Zuk that human beings had not had time to adapt to foods that only became staples with the advent of agriculture. “It’s only been ten thousand years,” he explained. Zuk’s response: “Plenty of time.”
We have documented measurable evolution in large mammals in timespans of only several hundred years.
Here's my new favourite example for this recent evolution, a paper showing that when we domesticated dogs, their genetic makeup changed to accommodate for a starch-rich diet as shared with humans.
>The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet 
>Nineteen of these regions contain genes important in brain function, eight of which belong to nervous system development pathways and potentially underlie behavioural changes central to dog domestication6. Ten genes with key roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism also show signals of selection.
Lactase persistence is simply a gene we're born with failing to turn off. Hardly a radical evolutionary change. Animals which eat plant or grain-based diets have completely different digestive systems than humans.
The "plenty of time" of time argument only shows that Cordain's reasoning is not bulletproof -- it doesn't refute it. Just because it's possible to adapt to a new condition doesn't mean we will, or that our adaptation will be complete. Lactase persistence may be evidence of evolution in a relatively short time, but by the same token lactose intolerance is evidence of its failure.
So while it's a fair point of criticism of the paleo argument, it's not enough to dismiss it. If you find a flaw in the proof of a theorem, you have not disproved the theorem.
These are orthogonal issues. Yes, Cordain should provide proof for the diet he champions. Separately from that, she has written a book called "Paleofantasy" which implies proof that the diet's precepts are invalid. Hence from her side showing that they might be invalid is not enough.
"We have documented measurable evolution in large mammals in timespans of only several hundred years."
So, the good news is that in perhaps merely several hundred years, a diet consisting of lifetime unlimited quantities of regular Mt Dew, tv dinners, bacon, and potato chips will none the less evolve humans who successfully reproduce. Oh wait, whoops, all these people are medically crashing with lifestyle diseases at age 40 after having 10 kids. And meanwhile for those couple hundred years, any small segment of the population who avoids evolving will personally benefit..
There is also a horrific ethical component to evolving mankind for profit. So Monsanto, Dow, etc make a lot of money, at the cost of hundreds of years of humanity dying young in agony. Hmm. It sort of like saying we "should" evolve ourselves to tolerate lead in the environment, or tolerate any other poison. I don't think that quantity of human suffering because of the evolutionary process balances out with some megacorps making a couple extra bucks. I mean, if killing ourselves via diet educated us, or permanently improved the ecology of the planet, or sent us to the stars, or improved our culture, well, not definitely yes, but "maybe". But all that suffering merely for a goal of "some rich dirtbag will get richer", well, uh, "no thanks".
Now I have lost 12 kg for 2 months (114 to 102 on 180cm height) - from just cutting soda and anything with sugar, and limiting starches to minimum and eating unlimited amounts of raw nuts, eggs, meat, cheese, olives. I was obese and now my BMI scaled me into overweight.
There is no relation with the two arguments btw - "People adapt fast" - yeah but the ability to spike your blood sugar and insulin all day long into the stratosphere is recent, and because of the modern health system there is no evolutionary pressure. A guy with type 2 diabetes will have long life. Just crappy.
I think that every person could build a good diet for themselves following these rules:
1. Cut soda unless in the middle of a marathon or a brutal workout
2. Treat anything with added sugar as dessert and eat it in amounts suitable for dessert two times a week top.
3. Don't eat anything that has had its fibers removed.
4. Always start the meal with a big leafy salad.
5. Avoid overly processed meat products, products with too much salt and fats that have gone trough other processing than mechanical/thermal.
I'm a little confused by the "10,000 years is plenty of time" argument, particularly when the crickets in Hawaii or lactase persistence examples are used as evidence. To me, these were relatively minor evolutionary steps. I'd even go as far as to question whether crickets changing their singing might not be explained by culture or learned behaviour — at least partly? As for lactase, is it such a vast leap from drinking mother's milk in infancy to drinking the milk of other mammals?
Comparing these examples to completely rewiring the human digestive system, insulin response mechanism, and immune system to deal with digesting and utilizing foods (refined sugars, grains) in vast quantities which we rarely if ever encountered before seems like something that might take a bit longer to evolve.
The argument almost seems to say "evolution has been observed on shorter timescales, therefore any evolutionary leap is possible on shorter timescales."
The Amazon review is not by someone who is a verified purchaser of the item under review, nor does the reviewer appear to be, from the reviewer's other reviews I've quickly glanced at, someone who is deeply familiar with the science on the subject. So, yes, the topic is inflammatory, but I wouldn't think less of the book based on a "review" like that. I agree with you that it would be good to read reviews of the new book by scientists who research those issues.
(Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, after noticing that some "reviewers" of his first book seemed not to have actually read the book, added section headings in the table of contents of his second book designed to trip up lazy reviewers. He detected several of those, even among people who review books for professionally edited publications for mass audiences.)
There seem to be no reviews of any science bloggers that I can find - but from reading through the article it seems that the author and me share many grievances about the myths perpetuated by some of the paleo-diet-folks (I'm a biologist, myself).
Regarding that Amazon-review: It was posted on the 5th of March, but the book is only going to be published on the 11th. Did he/she get a preview-edition? I somehow doubt it, the reviewer doesn't seem to be the kind of person who receives copies for review.
Can you eat corn (domesticated some 9,000 years ago), sugar cane (8,000), or bananas (8,000) Wild almonds are toxic, but safe domesticated varieties started appearing some 5,000 years ago. Also, macadamia nuts have a similar problem, and they were domesticated only some 200 years ago.
What about strawberries? Wild strawberries are edible, but tiny. It wasn't until about the 1400s that we started breeding them for size. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, savoy, and Chinese kale are cultivars of Brassica oleracea, but no one 10,000 years ago would have been able to get them.
Olives are treated to make them less bitter. Is curing or fermenting permissible, or does one eat only the olives which can be eaten without processing? When does the food become too processed?
By your logic, you've given up on coffee, chocolate, and alcohol, right? No paleolithic person ever tasted a drop of whiskey.
I'm not saying that moderation or abstinence in the foods you list is a bad thing, only commenting that the logic behind it would preclude eating or drinking certain vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries which were not available 10,000+ years ago.
The general approach to exceptions is that exceptions exist and yes, it is impossible to eat 100% foods that the paleolithic man ate.
Obviously even modern cows or pigs did not exist 20K years ago. And one can argue that wild fish / game is also not the same cause they evolved somewhat.
So, the approach is that while the ideal is 100%, the real goal is not to reach it, but to gradually come closer.
I.e. eliminating sugars, white bread, sodas, vegetable oils is probably already ~70% of the way or more.
Olives are treated to make them less bitter. Is curing or fermenting permissible, or does one eat only the olives which can be eaten without processing?
Well, my personal approach is that fresh/cooked is OK, and then, the more processing is done, the farther we are away from ideal. So, along the lines of fruit > fresh fruit juice > reconstituted fruit juice > fruit drink > water with dissolved fructose. That's not "scientific" and I'm not aiming to prove it.
By your logic, you've given up on coffee, chocolate, and alcohol, right? No paleolithic person ever tasted a drop of whiskey.
That would be ideal, though I haven't reached that point yet. I'm not even sure I will seriously try to eliminate all those by 100% - but any reduction will be beneficial.
It seems then that your scale is not what people of the paleo era could get (in an abstract sense, because until 500 years ago, no one on the planet could have had a slice of tomato with a leaf of basil on top), but rather that you want to minimize the number of processing steps involved in the food you eat.
That latter goal is much easier for me to understand, and even support, though I wonder if corn, being the result of 5,000 years of directed evolution, is more processed than beer.
Take for example alcohol. There's good genetic evidence that humans have evolved to better handle alcohol. Eg, "The studies on human ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) gene have suggested Darwinian positive selection on the genetic variation of ADH1B His47 [52–54]. Alcohol consumption is a recent agriculture-related life style, and the adaptive selection has begun about 10 Kya" http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijeb/2011/484769/
During the Babylonian era, "a daily ration of beer was provided for all citizens, the amount depending on one's social status" and "it was sometimes used to pay workers as part of their daily wages." During the Middle Ages it was safer to drink than water.
And that's the point of the linked-to criticism - 20,000 years is long enough that our genetics are different than humans of the same era. We've evolved to better handle starch, to better handle drinking milk as an adult, and to drink alcohol.
To choose a paleo diet on the belief that it better fits our genetics sounds like it denies the evidence that our genetics have changed since then.
If I had to invent a new diet with a simple short list of dietary requirements, I would only have two: forbid binary thinking/lists and require mandatory prioritization.
Nothing wrong with a slice of birthday cake at grannie's 80th. Something hugely (lol) wrong with two packs of twinkies every lunch.
The "newer" it is, the worse it probably is to eat, and the older it is, the better it probably is to eat. Do your weekly/monthly meal planning based on that. I intentionally eat roughly 100 times as much apple by weight as chocolate. That doesn't mean I only eat apple or never eat chocolate. Most of my meals look something like a large salad, a large vegetable side dish, a relatively modest hunk of meat, and some citrus / fruit / berries for desert. I'm hardly starving or restraining myself. I'm actually something of a gourmet glutton. I just eat "old school" instead of modern stuff.
BTW in the olden days not every piece of fruit was supermarket scale picture perfect, as anyone who's hand picked their own strawberries probably knows? You're hungry, the somewhat fermented grapes still taste OK-ish... your liver evolved to clean up the poison... Ethanol is not supposed to be a primary source of calories, its a moderately toxic systemic poison which your body is fairly tolerant of, well at least compared to cyanides or organomercury compounds. Drinking it on a regular basis is about as stupid as eating arsenic or lead salts for kicks. Another good comparison is getting buzzed drunk is about as intelligent as sniffing carbon monoxide until dizzy. None the less as per the granny example above a glass of booze once in an occasional while is OK. Just as long as most of the time, lets say 10000 to 1 ratio, you drink water instead of chugging a beer. I actually like beer, I just don't drink 12 per night or even 1 per week. How often would you be comfortable drinking anti-freeze? I drink booze a little more often than that, but not much.
In a similar way there's nothing really wrong with an occasional pack of twinkies, as long as your lifetime average is running around 1000 carrots (or equiv) per twinkie.
I have noticed long term that tastes and physical reaction changes... I used to like jello, but now it kinda grosses me out. I mean I could eat some once in awhile, but I really don't want to anymore. Or ice cream, once you're not carb addicted anymore, lets be realistic, its sickly sweet combined with a mouth feel and texture like cold olive oil pouring down your throat, eww thats just gross, like sugar mixed with crisco shortening or "equal" artificial sweetener mixed with lard. Once in awhile I have some anyway and remind myself why I don't miss it anymore. This is before I start thinking about how it comes out of a cow and is designed to fatten up a calf, but I'm not a baby cow nor do I need any more fattening up.
You've offered a different set of guidelines than the previous poster, but some of the same questions remain. What's "old" and what's "new"? Is corn new or old? What about almonds, which are toxic in the wild species, or taro which is toxic until processed? What about wheat?
Wild apples are not that edible. They are too astringent; crabapples. It's only through grafting of the very occasional tree with edible fruit that we get new edible cultivars. The Gala apple has only been around since the 1970s. Does that make it new? (Interesting story: Johnny Appleseed brought apple trees to the western frontier for making hard cider and apple jack, and not for eating. They were grown from seed, and only grafting preserves the taste.)
Domesticated sugarcane is older than most other plants we currently use. Should we prioritize sugarcane, because it's older? Or is it only foods species unchanged since 10,000 years ago that we should prioritize?
If you, like I, haven't inherited genetics from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, then your personal genetics have had less than 500 years to evolve for pineapple, corn, tomatoes, and other New World plants. Should we avoid New World plants and only eat things found in East Africa?
500 years ago isn't that long. That's almost exactly the same time that the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law) has been in place. How long does it take for a new food to become old? Your genetics have certainly not adapted to eat macadamia nuts from Australia, because they've been a crop for less than 200 years, and only Australian aborigines would have had any adaptations for them. Does that make those new or old to our genome?
Commercial production of macadamia nuts is about as old as Jack Daniel's. Should they have equal prioritization?
Believe it or not, but beer making is at least 7,000 years old. You can't say "Drinking it on a regular basis is about as stupid as eating arsenic or lead salts for kicks" because for it has been a daily drink for several thousand years. During the Babylonian era, "a daily ration of beer was provided for all citizens, the amount depending on one's social status" and "it was sometimes used to pay workers as part of their daily wages." During the Middle Ages it was safer to drink than water.
In fact, we've evolved in order to process alcohol better: "The studies on human ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) gene have suggested Darwinian positive selection on the genetic variation of ADH1B His47 [52–54]. Alcohol consumption is a recent agriculture-related life style, and the adaptive selection has begun about 10 Kya" http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijeb/2011/484769/
Even if you think that the genetics of the paleo era outweigh the genetics of the last 10,000 years, our monkey/ape guts tell us that we did not evolve with the expectation of eating "a relatively modest hunk of meat" for most of our meals.
This tells me that you don't know the history of our food and your adjusting things up to fit your personal beliefs. Your last sentence is equally odd - my European genetic ancestry definitely co-evolved with animal husbandry to make it so I can drink cow's milk as an adult. You reject that genetic heritage because you're squeamish?
That's all fine as a personal or moral belief, but it doesn't make good sense as a general "mandatory" consideration.
Quite possibly the only thing all three of us agree with.
"What's "old" and what's "new"?"
I think you missed my very first line "forbid binary thinking"
Eat old instead of new, doesn't mean I need to spend all day ranking Jack Daniels vs Macadamia nuts therefore I MUST abandon eating salads and stick exclusively to pizza, hot pockets, and bags of pork rinds. If at the grocery store I momentarily agonize over the selection of Pears or Peaches I don't agonize for long I just grab whichever sounds better ... the solution to that never turns out to be microwaving pizza rolls.
"You reject that genetic heritage because you're squeamish?"
I reject it because I find it gross (squeamish, whatever) and my 10000 item supermarket provides me with 9999 alternatives. Well, fewer that are vaguely paleo compatible. But the point stands, I'm not 5 years old with mom saying "you have to eat your X". Variety and plenty means I don't eat it unless I want to. I don't particularly care for fried eggs either, that's OK, that leaves me with a mere 1e5 other things to cook and eat.
Its a bit different than a BDSM diet like low carb in that you don't "need" to eat three pounds of meat per day. Its more a general reordering of priorities.
Your argument is repeatedly analogous to the creationist claims WRT the missing link. OK you found a fossil filling one gap now, ha ha, now you have to find fossils filling two gaps. Um no. Well, OK you've stumped me on tomatoes vs pineapples, which is microscopically better for me, but rather than being paralyzed into a default of dorito consumption, I simply don't care because either are about a factor of 1000x healthier for me than a bag of doritos at snack time. Or maybe I'll eat some carrots for a snack instead.
Also WRT evolution not being a binary process, discussions of 500 years would only be relevant if you think the earth was created in 4000 BC. Its a little too short sighted. My oldest ancestors go back a couple billion years and my digestive system as it more or less is today is much older than 500 years. On the other hand widespread HFCS use is relatively new in the last few decades, kinda like widespread obesity. Correlation isn't causation, but given reasoned belief that chugging a 2L of regular mt dew per day might kill you in the long run, but eating a carrot a day absolutely will not kill you, its kind of a pascal's wager to eat the carrot at snack time. And there's nothing wrong with a little corn syrup once in a while ... but something hugely wrong with 40 pounds per capita per year (figure from corn.org for annual HFCS consumption, probably wildly low estimate)
Finally its a macronutrient diet, more or less, in that one individual species of apple vs another matters just about as much as the hair color of the cow you eat. They're not different enough to really matter. Its an intentional obfuscation of the issue to debate the color of cow hair to carefully avoid the bigger issue of debating celery stalk vs chocolate bar.
I will say that paleo as a diet and debating paleo is utterly incompatible with binary thinking. Its just oil and water. Religion and science.
I am very unimpressed with the alcohol citation about improved poison tolerance. As a thought experiment I would imagine we have some recent intense evolutionary pressure to detoxify lead. I propose an experiment where paleo diet fanatics exclude lead from their diet and the anti-paleo diet fanatics add as much lead dust to their diet as possible. After all, I'm sure its profitable to consume lead, and if the paleo side can't provide a detailed numerical analysis of which heavy metal is more or less toxic than any other heavy metal, we have a moral imperative to consume as much heavy metals as possible, or at least to never intentionally avoid them or encourage others to avoid eating heavy metals. My opinion disagrees. A little booze isn't the end of the world, but you're better off without ethanol in your blood.
"our monkey/ape guts tell us that we did not evolve with the expectation of eating "a relatively modest hunk of meat" for most of our meals."
I agree completely. That's why on long term average my individual diet averages out to a modest chunk of meat at dinner. Sometimes more sometimes less. Fruits for breakfast, mostly, salad for lunch, mostly. Not unusual not to eat meat for dinner. But I like it, and when selected and prepared properly its more or less relatively good for me compared to numerous alternatives, so yeah a couple times per week sure. We may be arguing about the definition of "modest hunk", I'm not talking about eating an entire chicken by myself in one sitting or something. Chicken soup, yeah that's about right. Or a salad with sliced grilled chicken on it. Not a 32 oz steak.
"That's all fine as a personal or moral belief, but it doesn't make good sense as a general "mandatory" consideration."
That's very much like arguing that you cannot order a precise numerical ranking of the quality of different exercises across a world wide range of possible exercises, for example, which is the superior exercise by numerical analysis, slalom snow skiing or jumping jacks or tai chi, furthermore not everyone has identical personal preferences, therefore that lack of universal consensus of numerical rank-ability means no one should ever try to judge the relative value of any exercise under any circumstance and no one should Ever exercise on a regular basis. 100% disagree with both my analogy, your argument, how your conclusion was made, and the conclusion itself.
You also ignored your suggestion to "forbid binary thinking" when you broke things up into "old" and "new". The majority of my response was to show how the terms "old" and "new" were not useful qualifiers.
Michael Pollan's "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." is just as useful a guide, without making a needless distinction about old/new, genetics, processed/unprocessed, etc. I have no disagreements with his statement. I see nothing which you've written which gives better food advice than that statement. For example, when I wrote "but it doesn't make good sense", I meant "the use of the terms 'old' and 'new'" don't make good sense. That I disagree with your reasoning does not mean I disagree with your conclusion that plants should be preferred over pizza rolls.
You've changed the goalposts. You said "Drinking [alcohol] on a regular basis is about as stupid as eating arsenic or lead salts for kicks." I pointed out that humans have been drinking alcohol on a regular basis for 1,000s of years. Now you say "as much as heavy metals as possible." But I never said that people always drank as much alcohol as possible, only that it was part of their daily life. And still is in many cultures.
You suggest that my argument is that since paleo can't give a "detailed numerical analysis of which heavy metal is more or less toxic" then therefore we should consume heavy metals. This is of course a wrong interpretation of my view. I observe that we have cultures now and historically which drink alcohol on a daily basis. If there were a large toxic effect of "ethanol in your blood" - as there is, for example, with lead acetate - then it would be easily observed. Since it isn't observed, its dangerous effects must be far smaller than that of heavy metals.
You may have the opinion that they are of similar hazard, but that opinion is contrary to the pretty strong evidence that does exist. This makes your statement a moral statement, though I think you also want it classified as a scientific statement.
If the paleo logic concludes that daily alcohol consumption is about as toxic as lead salts, and observation shows that daily alcohol consumption is nowhere near as toxic as lead salts, then the logic behind paleo must be incorrect as a scientific theory, no? Of course, moral, cultural, and religious reasons also give valid reasons to avoid certain foods, but those don't purport to be justified by scientific reasoning.
You've also changed your previous statement from "Most of [your] meals" having a hunk of meat to just dinner, and not even every dinner. And not even a "hunk", but as part of soup, so with these changes your professed meat diet has been reduced nearly 10-fold. My statement was based solely on what you originally wrote, and not your updated description of what you actually eat.
"the fossil record of the Stone Age is so small and necessarily incomplete that its ability to tell us about paleolithic society is severely limited."
Actually there are still people who live as hunter-gatherers, or there were until a couple of years ago, and that is where a lot of the information comes from. It was also possible to watch what happened when such people entered civilization. There also apparently is a marked difference in the fossil record concerning health of hunter-gatherers vs agricultural societies.
I just read "The World Until Yesterday" by Jared Diamond, and he also touches on some of those health problems. Western people are actually less afflicted by them than those hunter-gatherers who entered 'civilization' in their lifetimes, so Diamond also says that Western people probably already evolved to some degree to deal better with the abundance of grains, salt and sugar.
That doesn't imply we are already perfectly adapted, though, especially if some diseases clearly don't seem to be prevalent in traditional societies.
Unfortunately he isn't very specific about the traditional diets, for example, and trying to look up paleo diets it seems to me a lot of time they are mostly an excuse to eat lots of meat and many books are not that well researched. In Diamond's books he mentions that many tribes actually ate mostly starches and meat only on special occasions - unfortunately he didn't mention the actual frequency, or I missed reading that (once a week? a month?). Also obviously humans adapted to lots of different environments, there are probably tribes who ate 100% meat, too (like in arctic regions where nothing grows?) - so maybe you can take your pick, or you just have to experiment...
That lactose tolerance seems to have increased fitness a lot certainly makes me wary of just accepting "pure paleo" as the best path.
If I get this right, the idea is that we can't be adapted for a diet that changed only recently, so therefore we should eat the diet we are likely to be more adapted to. So this kind of makes sense, in a "sounds reasonable" way.
It's certainly true that switching to a system of agriculture resulted in a drop in nutritional health, in the short term.
But, equally, what about the argument that goes: when we used to eat this diet, we died a lot younger than now. ok, they were lots of reasons for that, but we died a lot younger, so it's not unreasonable to imagine that diet was part of the cause.
Both arguments seem reasonable without being rigorous. I don't see why you'd choose one over the other.
Having had friends who studied nutrition at a top UK university, and read a bit about it myself, it seems to me that we know very little about nutrition in general. The best advice appears to be "eat a well-rounded diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and don't eat too much junk food."
The idea of switching to something as radically different as a paleo diet, compared to what we've been eating for thousands of years, without a full scientific understanding of what is best, seems a bit reckless to me. I think the burden of proof lies heavily on the paleo side. And that requires not just a handful of empirical studies; I read a bit about one of these studies , and was not well executed - it didn't even use a control group. People adopting the diet without substantial evidence in its favour might be gambling with their health.
Anyone recommend good books on the topic? I'd like to read more.
 Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wändell PE.
There are two things at work: Paleo diet works (not much disputed here) and Paleo diet works because it's like what we ate 10k years ago and we haven't adopted to our "new food" yet (a lot of people dispute that).
3. Abundance. People didn't have to "limit themselves" 2000 years ago because they either were usually, or at best occasionally, starving back down to size, along with massive vitamin and mineral deficiencies (so you can eat 3000 calories per day as a sailor, but if you're also simultaneously dying of scurvy, they you don't have to worry so much about getting fat). In the shorter term, religious fasting seems to have died out although oddly enough we keep religious feast traditions alive pretty well. Also gluttony seems to have disappeared from the list of sins. Someone who wanted to eat until 400 pounds 2500 years ago could want all they want for free, but they simply aren't getting the food to do it, so... hungry and skinny even if their internal weight thermostat says 400 pounds is a great goal. No caloric intake limit for an entire lifetime in 2010s America.
4. Non-ag lifestyle beginning a century or so ago has lead to weird ideas about our diet, so "rediscovering" what farmers have always known seems new. So 98% of the population doesn't farm. People discover corn products can be yummy and start exploding waistlines. The 2% of the population who farm are like "duh, everyone knows corn is the best way to fatten up hogs and other mammal livestock, duh!" but we don't respect farming as a profession so we need scientists to "discover" hmm corn consumption seems to positively correlate with waistline, how curious I wonder if cutting back on corn would help obesity... naah the corn industry lobbiests would kill me if I said that... Pretty much if farmers slop the hogs with it to fatten them up, you probably don't want to eat that unless you need fattening up.
Does it matter that much if it is correct or not? Some amount of people are eating healthier because of it. That's a good thing, right? Whether that is due to a link to history or coincidence it seems like a good thing.
To me "is it doing something we know is bad" seems like something that would be useful to know. I don't care so much about "is it historically correct". I'd gladly trade that for even 100 people eating better. Pragmatically, it seems like a decent diet, so let's figure out how to get more people to eat healthier instead?
The problem with the "paleo-diet" is that it's not really an area of knowledge (like for example, plant evolutionary biology). Judging from the published studies it looks like proponents of the diet make up the plans and then studies by actual scientists later confirm some of the positive (and negative) benefits.
There are some scientific studies on the "paleo-diet" as an actual dietary plan, searching pubmed for "paleo-diet", "paleo diet" or "paleolithic diet" reveals 77 results, a few of which are concerned with how modern man might benefit of an old diet. Some of the published stuff is positive about paleo:
> Furthermore, doubts have been raised about the necessity for very low levels of protein, fat, and cholesterol intake common in official recommendations. Most impressively, randomized controlled trials have begun to confirm the value of hunter-gatherer diets in some high-risk groups, even as compared with routinely recommended diets.
So it seems that the usual recommendations for nourishment and sports (that's always good) are pretty good, but the evolutionary science behind it is quite hokum.
A lot of this knowledge that has been published outside of academic circles in books is slightly contradictory and is, in the worst case, broscience . The wiki-page for this diet has some great points: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet
Zuk is attacking a straw man here. Thinking about our diets from an evolutionary perspective gives us a framework in which to form educated hypotheses. The way an intelligent person applies paleo-based thinking is by forming theories, not by creating an absolutist belief system. Zuk does nothing to invalidate the application data we have about the past in a logical fashion.
If Zuk's point is that some people are applying evolutionary concepts blindly without verifying results or considering evidence, then her book title should have been: "Some People Are Stupid" and left it at that. If she wants to launch a counter to the paleo movement then I think she's fallen flat on her face.
To repeat myself from earlier: If you object to people rebutting this 'straw man', then perhaps you should try and stop people from proposing it. You can't call something a straw man simply because it's not what you personally mean by the word.
Right, let me go do that. While I'm at it I'll make sure everyone who Googles "healthy diet" or for that matter "republican", all come away learning exactly the same meanings for those terms.
My point in the above post was: Zuk is positioning herself as if she were attacking Paleo as a concept, but all she's really attacking is the mis-application of information by some members in a larger group. I call that a straw man.
It's not a straw man if the views being ascribed to the movement at large are the views being conveyed by the movement at large. If you were to try to learn about the paleo diet from the perspective of someone who had never heard of it, you would find views that align quite closely with the views that Zuk is critiquing. Look at the Google results. The fact that your interpretation of the paleo "concept" does not square with those views does not make her critique a straw man.
I haven't read the book, but the review made it sound like Zuk was both attacking Paleo as a concept by pointing out that evolution can actually happen on pretty short timescales and so the idea that we need to eat what paleolithic people ate is logically flawed, and also attacking Paleo as practiced by pointing out its practitioners' misconceptions regarding the diet of paleolithic humans.
> I know people who claim that eating a mainly paleo diet makes them feel better.
Well, there are people who claim fasting makes them feel better, too. Or living on allegedly nothing but sun light.
I am not sure this is very good proof since e.g. not eating for a couple of days makes you feel good because it's your body trying to make you more active to gather food... so, as logical as some correlations might sound it seems flimsy to me. The best way is probably to go by blood and medical exams, to see if you actually are healthier.
> Now that we are over 6 billion humans on earth, with migration way easier and common place than before, shouldn't on the contrary human evolution been speeded up ?
Evolution speeds up as a result of either an increased natural mutation rate or extreme environmental challenges (lots of death produced by unfitness) -- or both. But we're not seeing either in modern times.
> EDIT : I know evolution is not progressive but happen by sudden steps ...
No, this isn't true as a rule. In evolutionary theory, the overall rate of change,and the presence or absence of abrupt changes, is entirely dependent on what produces greater fitness. In other words, the rate at which evolution happens, and the shape of the change curve, are themselves driven by considerations of fitness and natural selection.
Migration would slow down many kinds of evolution. Lots of interesting evolution happens when you get divergence in island (literal or metaphorical) populations.
Migration does mean that any clearly beneficial changes will spread quickly, and a large population gives more chances for them to arise - lactase persistence is probably an example of this. So humanity probably does adapt quicker than it otherwise would to changes in the environment, if those changes affect most of humanity.
In the short term I'd expect to see humanity getting better at a lot of things as races intermingle and previously separate gene pools combine - a lot of things like height or fitness or intelligence seem to be combinations of many genes where "perfect" is in some sense the default; how good you are is a question of how many "bad" genes you've picked up (and most of the bad genes are recessive). I've seen anecdotal suggestion that mixed-race children are healthier (would be interested to hear if there's any proper studies of this). I suspect in the immediate term this will be a bigger effect than that of new mutant genes.
I agree that 10,000 years is sufficient time for evolution to affect the human genome. But the "diseases of civilization" that paleo worries about (cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc) tend to kick in at 50+, don't they? So it seems like evolution's ability to influence those would be limited, at best.
One of the things that make me wonder is the idea that there are " diseases if civilisation" (accepted, look at increases in asthma etc) and that they are caused by diet
Of all the things that exist in the modern world, lead in atmosphere, weird fungicides in our furniture fire retardants, etc, why is it the one thing that is under individual control that is the main contributor to our malease - it seems far too linked to the common "if you are ill / poor then you aren't trying hard enough" meme that Oprah et al tend to fall for.
Anyway, as a set of nutritional guidelines it seems reasonable, if only because the avergage food obsessed westerner has aceess to a range of fruit veg and meat that our ancestors never dreamed of.
Now stop trying to persuade me to agree with you so that I can be saved - it smacks of religion
I don't see the diet as being universally applicable but the theory behind the diet is compelling. There's an overlap in risk factors for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. There's also an overlap in medications(e.g statins/aspirin lowering cancer risk. metformin lowering cancer risk). It's possible that all these diseases share biomolecular cascades.
Firstly it has the tang of religion - we have found the answer, it requires certain rites and adherences and we must now persuade you to believe
Secondly it is highly highly unlikely an actual Stone Age person had access to the range of meat and vegetables currently in wegmans and so the question is which Stone Age diet? The one where they lived near a lake and had fish, the one where they had lots of vitamin C rich berries but few fish?
Thirdly evolution is slow but not glacial - 2.6m years is a long time, and frankly why go back that far and not further? At what point has evolution not caught up and how does that overlap with 'out of africa'?
Finally and th biggest question to me, is why assume that so many maleases are solely or primarily diet related. Obesity is pretty obvious but asthma? Cancer even?
>Finally and th biggest question to me, is why assume that so many maleases are solely or primarily diet related. Obesity is pretty obvious but asthma? Cancer even?
A transitive relationship is being inferred.
There's evidence that cholesterol plaque build-up is driven by inflammation. There's evidence that many cancers are driven by inflammation. There's evidence that insulin spikes are involved in bio-molecular cascades for driving inflammation which are also involved in diabetes. Therefore carbohydrates are involved in inflammation which predisposes a person to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Proving anything beyond doubt in biology is difficult but it's a compelling hypothesis that needs further investigation.
They studied what happened to people who switched to agriculture 11000 years ago, via the fossil record. Also you can watch what happens to people who lived in a traditional way and then entered society.
That way I think a lot of things you mention can be excluded - not that lead and fire retardants are not dangerous, but that is another area of problems.
Reading about any type of nutrition research has become beyond frustrating to me.
There are constantly new results doing away with old truisms only to have those results, in turn, questioned and overturned by other studies and then there are basically opposing theories being found as valid, too. To make matters worse, there is an overwhelming abundance of less-than-scientific literature following the latest "fad" scientific results, plugging some diet "silver bullets" and to top it off, most "professionals" in that area are nothing but gym rats that payed lots of money for some training on a specific diet fad and then that is the only thing they will in turn plug to their customers. And the actual professionals, as in doctors, well mostly they appear to not be up-to-date with the latest-and-greatest "proven" theories so I always feel like I am missing out some of the good stuff that the latest fads are promising me.
All I wanted was a REALLY, actually healthy diet. Do I eat mostly wholemeal bread and rice as is common where I am from? Paleo and Atkins tells me this is literally poisoning and destroying my body and THE worst thing I could do next to shooting myself in the stomach. So only lots of fat, meat and vegetables? But "everyone knows" lots of meat is bad and one should only eat meat maybe twice a week, says the official generals statement here. Of course there are the different shades of vegetarians and vegans who all have discovered the one truth and the ONLY ethically correct way of living and they have the studies to back them up on the "healthy" side but e.g. the legumes they are eating are supposed to be literally poison according to the paleo crowd... yet beans are healthy, says another group, also backed by studies. Oh and fish, we all should eat more fish right? Yet we keep hearing how polluted the oceans are and how fish are full of mercury and probably nuclear waste from dumping it into the north sea. And I could go on and on and on....
For practically each diet recommendation or "fad" backed by studies you can easily find at least one opposite or contradicting study and at least two other, even more "true" and new diet fads.
Ultimately, this means I have no idea what I should actually, really really be eating and it leads me to the conclusion that: diet and health are the educated masses' modern equivalent to religion. Everyone is following their one true savior and will launch into borderline religious flame wars against the "infidels" of the other fads and theories.
Yet actually definitive answers seem to be missing.
And I am sorry if this seems like an incoherent rant, somehow it is, but I assure you with all the best intentions. Maybe it is just the tech inside me that wants a clear and definitive answer.
I share your sentiment of frustration. I've read "The China Study" by Campbell and various other articles about paleo-diet and others and there is a lot of contradictory informations.
Although they go in opposite directions (Campbell advocates vegan, paleo meat), they seem to agree on at least one thing : unprocessed foods are better. Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and meat/fish, but avoid sauces/butter, sodas, white bread and various candies.
You're not alone. It's become extremely hard to figure out what is right to be eating and since everyone has different tolerances to different foods it's hard to come up with the one truth.
I figure the only real way to know what is right for you is to stick to a particular diet for awhile and see a doctor. A doctor should be able to tell you what you're deficient in and what any problems you might be suffering from. Then adjust.
"It is striking how fixated on the alleged behavior of our hunting-and-foraging forbearers some educated inhabitants of the developed world have become....happier and healthier if we lived like 'cavemen'"
The posters on this web site who are not part of the "1%" are often at the top of the middle class under the 1%...white, male, American, educated at college in CS, living in nice metropolitan areas in the US. What kind of work hours do we often see posted here? 50, 60, 70 hour weeks, or more. I know, I have done so myself - working for a Fortune 100 company. Imagine what hours a truck driver, or a Bangladeshi factory worker works, or some Chinese factory worker making iPads.
In Marshall Sahlins "The Original Affluent Society" he looked at how much the still existing hunter-gatherers in places like Africa worked, and did research trying to figure out what was the case 20 thousand, 30 thousand years ago. It seems hunter-gatherers often work less hours than many of the people on this site do, or truck drivers do, or Chinese factory workers do, or a lot of people do.
They also have no rent payments to make and the like. Hunter-gatherers, pastoral tribes and farmers tend to have to get forced more or less by gunpoint to the cities, including in our modern day. Why should the rural Mexican farm laborers forced off their farms by "NAFTA" come to modern America, because the unemployment rate is no longer above the 1984-2009 high like it was last month?
As the desire of the current hegemony is to pretty much ignore history completely, of course any people who look at history from ancient history to now, you want to paint them as loonies. This writer sounds like one of the apes in Planet of the Apes deriding people who want to go to the forbidden zone. And sure, it's easy to deride anyone curious about history, the economy, politics and so forth, and to say anyone interested in that old stuff is some Berkeley hippie eating the latest fad diet. She's the secular equivalent of the Christian fundamentalists who say the world was created in 4004 BC.
A new thing was introduced into the world 10000 years ago alongside farming - slavery. Read the Epic of Gilgamesh, or the bible, or modern anthropology. The "left"/"post-left" investigation of these things is mostly serious. But if Salon sees fit to point to a few wingbat hippies eating some faddish diet as a way to paint the whole study with a brush, well, I'm not surprised the website John Warnock and William Hambrecht bankroll is doing that.
I am really stunned, how rigorously people protect their right to disease, premature aging and unnatural death. Do not question so called fruits of progress but require immediate proofs of mechanisms that have successfully worked for millions of years.
There's a wide gap between a "paleo diet" and modern junk food.
One of my local science broadcasters often uses the phrase "don't eat too much of anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise as food" - and I suspect that's pretty much the same good advice as the paleo movement's, the marginal difference health-wise between eating common 1950/1960s food attempting to re-create some idea of paleo diet is almost certainly tiny.
High fat/sugar/salt junk food, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil - there's no doubt that they shouldn't form the basis of your diet. But the paleo movements arguments against agricultural societies grain-heavy diet, with it's several thousand year ongoing trial, doesn't seem to be quite so real.
 Karl Kruszelnicki - http://www.drkarl.com/home/ Another one of his food/diet related phrases is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."