Paleo Diet in US News & World Report

Well, I could poke it all full of holes, but Keith already did that.

In the meantime, here’s the comment I posted to the article, which at this time is awaiting moderation approval.


Paleo Doesn’t Mean Just One Thing

I think Dr. Cordain is a real hero for being instrumental in helping to light the way to a more sane lifestyle.

That said, there are many variations, some going by small-p ‘paleo,’ LC paleo, high fat paleo, primal, ancestral, evolutionary fitness, and so on.

Why? Well, because our ancestors emerged out of Africa 50,000ish years ago and spread across the globe, and they adapted to different things, a prime example being the ability in some to digest lactose beyond weaning, which is actually a genetic mutation some 7,000ish years ago that turned off the gene that halts lactase production. So, it’s reasonable to assume there are other adaptations and mutations, some subtile and some profound.

In the end, studies of primitive peoples not in contact with industrial civilization demonstrate one thing very clearly: people can live healthfully on natural diets from equator to arctic circle, and those diets can include vast differences in macronutrient content. Protein can’t be more than about 30% of intake, so that leaves carbohydrate & fat. That swings wildly, being very high in many tropical places to almost nil in regions far away. For example, the Kitavans get about 70% of energy from natural carbs (starchy roots & tubers, mostly). They exhibit no “diseases of civilization.” On the other extreme were the now “civilized” Inuit, getting maybe 2-3% of intake from carbs, and at times as much as 90% from fat. Again, when studied, none of our typical laundry list of diseases.

I think it’s far more important to begin with a principle, which is to eat only real, whole, non-industrial foods: meat, natural fats (animal, olive, coconut), vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Then, attempt to ascertain where your ancestors most likely came from; tropical, far north, or in-between. Were they isolated from civilization for most of the time since agriculture so few adaptations to it? These can all be clues as to what might work best for you. In my case, I’m northern Euro, and what works for me is lots of meat and animal fats, plenty of vegetables, fruits episodically, and nuts. I’ve lost over 50 pounds, so far, corrected my own blood pressure from 160/100 to normal ranges, corrected and reversed gum disease for which I had two surgeries in 2001, and relieved myself of a couple of prescription medications, for GERD and allergies, the latter that I had been on for decades.

As documented on my blog, I now sport HDL (good) cholesterol at an astounding 135 (above 60 recommended) and triglycerides (fat in the blod) in the 40s (below 150 recommended).

Whichever style or version of paleo works best for you (and there’s probably great variation) I can say this this is my style for life. At 48, I feel better, more energetic, more full of life than at any time I can remember.

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  1. Thank you, Jimbo. And welcome.

  2. Hi Richard,

    I've read a fair bit about evolution and I'm not sure "it's reasonable to assume" profound variations in such a short (50K years) time. The lactase example is not very striking, and very subtle; we all have the machinery to produce it, so failing to switch it off is not so astounding. It's about as impressive as variation in skin colour. Amazing would be to find enzymes completely distinct from one branch of humanity to another.

    No, it took six million years to tune our guts, I'm still not convinced that post-expansion humans are much different at all. Maybe something will show up.

    I remember reading Richard Dawkins' point that there is as much genetic diversity in a local population as there is between any two people on the planet, so I would not tailor my diet based on "recent" ancestry, but more to your general philosophy of starting with a paleo base, and then tuning to the individual.


  3. Gary:

    Granted, in one respect. Yeas, in a biological context, it's not so striking. How about geopolitically? What if armies were able to take cows along for _sustainable_ nutrition (as counter to the nutrition from a slaughtered cow), and conquer the Western world?

    "The !0,000 Year Explosion: How Human Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution," by Gregory Cochrane.

    As to the last two paras, don't take too much stock in that. Yea, start with the principle, maybe reverse the last two steps to adjust, but always rely on you gut as the authority. It doesn't lie, and Taco Bell :) can't cure it.

    (that smiley is a reference to a previous (yesterday) post and comment thread)

  4. I thought I just posted a comment, but I guess it didn't take. Anyway, this blog rocks, and I'll be going thru all the info on both sides as soon as I am able.

  5. jim young says:

    I love this site. Perfect for the 40 plus guys and gals. It's got every bit of info to help all of us hold on to a few more years and or decades.



  6. A nice, informative and concise post, Richard. You're a hell of a spokesman for the cause.

  7. John Campbell says:

    Gary – I agree – we humans are way more similar than different, when looking at groups. My understanding is that racial groups appear to be much more different than the fundamental genetics underlying. We are all members of one tribe with individual variations. Start with the paleo prinicipals and listen to your own body as Richard says.

    There is still much to learn which is why we are here on this blog.

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