September 21, 2015

337 Debunking the Paleo Diet [21 Sept 2015]

Back in May 2014 I first wrote about the Paleo Diet fad and what we can learn from it. A recent Ted Talks video expands on that theme. Archaeologist Christina Warinner titled her 22 minute talk “Debunking the paleo diet”. Warinner looked at the modern paleo fad diets from the perspective of her study of the health and diet of ancient peoples using bone biochemistry and DNA.

To review, the modern Paleo Diets attempt to emulate what people ate before the development of agriculture. The diet is high in meat and vegetables with some fruits, nuts and oils, but no grains, legumes or dairy. But is this really what our Paleolithic ancestors ate? Not quite, Warinner argues. She first busts three myths about the Paleo Diet, then lists three things that we can learn from our ancestors’ diets.

1. Meat was not as large a part of the Paleolithic diet as believed. We have few adaptations to eating meat and many to plants (molars for grinding, longer intestinal tract, lack of vitamin C synthesis). And the one adaptation to animal husbandry many people have, especially in Africa and northern Europe, is tolerance to dairy.

2. Grains and legumes were a bigger part of the Paleolithic diet than believed. Mortar and pestles for grinding seeds date back 30,000 years; fossilized plaque from ancient human teeth show evidence of grains, legumes and tubers.

3. Modern foods – meat and vegetables – are much different than what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Wild game was mostly small, lean and tough; and all the organs and marrow were consumed. Eggs were small, hard to find, and seasonal. Wild fruits and especially vegetables were unrecognizable from modern cultivars – tiny, tough, bitter tasting, many with toxic chemicals. And modern foods come from all over the world year-round; our ancestors were limited to locally and seasonally available food resources.

So, what can we learn from what we do know of our ancestors’ diets?

1. There is no one correct diet for humans; diversity is the key ingredient.
2. Ideally food should be eaten fresh, ripe, and in season.
3. Whole foods, with all the fiber and other nutrients intact, are best.

I may expand on these points in a future column.

In conclusion Warinner stated “We still have a lot to learn from our Paleolithic – and Neolithic – ancestors”.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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