The Paleo Diet is one of the fastest growing diet trends. It is a diet modeled after the eating habits of our ancestors during the Paleolithic period. Proponents claim that the paleo diet is a cure all for the chronic diseases that are plaguing modern humans. They feel it is the way we are meant to eat because its how our ancestors ate and EVERYTHING else should be avoided. So what does the diet look like and is there any merit to the claims?
When was the Paleo Period?
- Early ancestors appeared around six million years ago with modern Homo sapiens appearing around 200,000 to 150,000 years ago.
- Stone tools were used an estimated 2.5 million years ago and this is generally accepted as the START of the paleo period.
- Approximately 10,000 years ago the agricultural revolution began. This is considered the END of the paleo period.
- According to paleo proponents, the agricultural revolution was when humans started to consume foods that our bodies are not capable of processing without adverse health effects (cancers, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, etc).
What foods are allowed?
- Poultry , fish , meat (organic and grass fed)
- Fruits (berries preferred)
- Vegetables (except nightshade vegetables like tomatoes potatoes and eggplants)
- Nuts (no peanuts) and seeds (sparingly)
- Grains and legumes
- Milk or milk products
- Refined sugar
- Added salt
- Nightshade vegetables
Problems with Paleo
There is no true paleo diet.
- Our ancestors consumed diets relative to what was available in their region. Early humans living in the tropics consumed largely plant based diets, while in the arctic humans consumed largely animal based diets.
Paleo Claim: Grains should not be consumed by humans because they were not consumed by humans until the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. They lead to inflammation and disease.
- Evidence of grains being consumed between 30,000 and 105,000 years ago has been found on unearthed stone tools and in dental records. It is believed humans during these periods relied on grasses and possibly ground flour.
- Grains provide numerous health benefits:
- Improved blood lipid profile
- Glucose control
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
Paleo Claim: Dairy should not be consumed by humans; we are the only animal that drinks another animal’s milk. Milk also has an acidic effect on the body and does not protect bone health.
- Can you say illogical? We are allowed to eat the muscles of a cow but we do not drink the milk that helps build those muscles?
- Not that it matters but we are not the only animals that consume the milk of other animals. Western gulls (birds) steal milk from lactating seals.
- Systemic pH, is NOT influenced by diet. End of story!
- The protective benefits of dairy on bone health are supported by nearly ALL observational and controlled research. If you want to believe that all research is unethical due to funding by dairy companies you have that right. However, don’t forget to look at what dairy conspiracy theorists and paleo promoters are trying to sell you.
Paleo Claim: Paleo diet protects against chronic health problems. Paleo supporters fail to recognize that other factors play a role in rising health problems, such as:
- WE LIVE LONGER!!!! The life expectancy during the Paleo period was in the low 30s, unless you made it past 15 — then it shot up into the 50-55 range. Of course we are going to see more disease; we live 20-25 more years.
- Physical inactivity is a primary risk factor for many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases.
- Because of the industrial revolution, machines started doing a lot of our labor, thus reducing physical activity.
- The digital revolution has caused an even greater reduction in activity levels.
The paleo diet is a trending diet fad and like most fads it will run its course. While the paleo diet has a lot of shortcomings it does promote eating nutrient dense, minimally processed, food. All diets should be centered on these foods. However, no major food groups should be demonized and completely excluded from ones diet UNLESS one is diagnosed with a food allergy.