Do The Math, Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Jeezus, already.

It was over a week ago that I reported to you that Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of best-selling The China Study was participating in a low-carb discussion forum. While he has been away for a while, he suddenly popped back in this weekend.

Mind numbing, to say the least. I just can’t see how a person can reach such stature and still be so ignorant about so many things. While he expresses interest in the many good results that have been reported by those who’ve implemented low-carb and paleo eating practices, he just can’t seem to bring himself to the obvious conclusion that when one eats mostly real food — including animal meat and fat, or not — that good things are likely to happen in comparison to a modern diet of industrially processed crap.

So, while many including myself are more than willing to acknowledge that his “plant-based diet of all natural foods” is better than a standard crap diet and will provide comparative benefit for many, he is simply stuck in the belief that his results are primarily from eliminating animals and their fat, not in spite of it, and that those who obtain similar or better results on paleo are simply obtaining temporary benefits. “They’ll pay later” is implied in virtually all of his acknowledgements.

So, here’s some examples of what I’m dealing with.

Richard Nikoley,

Who says we evolved on a high fat, high meat diet, as you imply?

My response.


Well Dr. Campbell, when you become willing to set aside the religion of plant-based dieting and accept the reality of our evolution, there’s no other possibility. In addition to reams of archeological evidence supporting the fact that we were early stone tool makers and scavengers of carcasses, particularly high-fat bone marrow and brain, there’s also the numbers.

Do the math. With our hugely energy-demanding brains, combined with our small guts, there is no possibility other than that we were not only meat & fat eaters, we were ENORMOUS meat & fat eaters.

I suggest you do some reading up on the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis, particularly in how it relates to Kleiber’s Law. Here’s a primer by Dr. Michael Eades, MD:

According to Kleiber’s law, an australopithecine weighing 80 pounds would have the same metabolic rate as a human weighing 80 pounds despite the disparity in brain size between the two. The much larger brain of the human would have 4-5 times the metabolic rate of the brain of the australopithecine, yet would have the same overall metabolic rate. What gives? […]

Aiello and Wheeler examined the data on the metabolic rates and sizes of the various expensive tissues and learned that for a 65 kg primate, the heart, the kidneys, and the liver were approximately the same size as those of a 65 kg (143 lb) human. The greater metabolic rate of the large human brain was compensated for by a GI tract significantly decreased in size. It turns out that the GI tract of a 65 kg human is just a little over half the size of the GI tract of a similar sized primate. […]

A considerable problem for the early hominids would have been to provide themselves, as large-bodied species, with sufficient quantities of high-quality food to permit the necessary reduction of the gut. The obvious solution would have been to include increasingly large amounts of animal-derived food in the diet.

Increasing the amount of easily-digested food of animal origin allowed us to shrink our guts while expanding our brains [Keep in mind: this was over millions of years. -ED] . Had we remained on a diet high in vegetation, we would no doubt not have been able to expand our brains irrespective of how much more thinking those brains would have needed to do. It just wouldn’t have been possible to do so without violating Kleiber’s law.

Take the gorilla, for example, almost pure vegetarians that spend their entire ‘working’ day foraging and eating, which they have to do to get enough calories to maintain their enormous bulk. They have large guts and pay for it by having small brains. Even smaller than that of our most primitive ancestors, the australophthecines.

Gorilla has one of the lowest levels of encephalization of any haplorhine primate, and the much higher level of encephalization of all the australopithecines suggests a diet of significantly higher quality than that of this genus.

Which makes sense when you consider that carbon 13 isotope analysis has shown that Australopithecus africanus (the species that came right after Lucy) consumed meat. As you go up the lineage from Australopithecus and through Homo, you find that more and more meat was consumed the higher up the tree you go.

You need to start facing reality, Dr. Campbell.


I might have added that Dr. Campbell doesn’t seem to realize that he enjoys the luxury of a modern economy that can make sure he has spinach, even if it has to be shipped to him frozen, from…China! Put that in your “study,” Doktor. The fact is that if he and his adherents had to subsist as hunter gatherers, they would quickly learn to hunt, or starve.

Another “jewel” is his response to someone else who asked why he “thought” fat brought bad consequences.

I don’t “think” that there are adverse consequences from high-fat. The scientific literature overflows with such evidence.


Ah, I see; so when it’s a typical western diet of lots of processed foods, sugar, “franken-oils,” grains and such, then it’s always most certainly the animal fat, not the neolithic garbage people consume.

You’re inconsistent, Dr., bordering on dishonest. You are very careful to stipulate that your plant-based diet is one derived from natural and not processed foods. I actually agree that’s probably a more important factor (variable) than whether or not such natural diet includes meat and animal fat.

You, to your discredit, I believe, fail continually to acknowledge the same distinction with the paleo dietary approach.


More silliness?

You should know that high fat, like addictive drugs, also is addictive — it gives a dopamine kick. Like nicotine, caffeine, and other addictive chemicals, it can be very hard for some to kick the habit.

Hysterical. Food, real food, the stuff we evolved to eat over millennia is now an “addictive drug.”

The ‘addiction to a dopamine high’ caused by high fat consumption is supported the fact that when people switch to a low fat diet (no ADDED fat, not no fat), they gradually lose their strong preference for high fat and find it to be greasy and very unpleasant. This may take months in some cases.

The Occam’s Razor evolutionary, correct, makes-perfect-sense, assume-the-least explanation is that dopamine exists for an evolutionary reason. If natural, saturated animal fat is so compelling, then it must be critically important for optimal health. We’re talking about foods we evolved eating, not drugs.

You need to begin looking at this stuff in the light of evolution.


My, oh my.

Later: “it gives a dopamine kick.” Not a shove, nudge push,or slight influence? No? It’s a”kick.” Oh wow!

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  1. Cynthia on November 16, 2009 at 17:24

    You should point out this article by Barry Groves ( see all three parts) based on this paper:

    These authors are pushing a high fiber low fat diet such as eaten by gorillas, and point out that “The macronutrient profile of this diet would be as follows: 2.5% energy as fat, 24.3% protein, 15.8% available carbohydrate, with potentially 57.3% of metabolizable energy from short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) derived from colonic fermentation of fiber. Gorillas would therefore obtain considerable energy through fiber fermentation. ”

    In other words, even a low fat high fiber diet is a high fat diet! Of course the gorillas have the apparatus for efficiently fermenting the fiber, which we don’t really have (some is produced, but it’s not clear how much is absorbed into the blood).

    For humans to eat a high roughage diet of greens is, IMO, essentially the same as fasting, which can be good as we know – to a point. The only way people can remain healthy on such a diet is by supplementing (either intentially or by “cheating”) to obtain additional nutrients such as B12, essential fatty acids, etc, or by relying on their substantial reserves, which might be sufficient for long periods of time. Initial results can look favorable, but that doesn’t mean the diet provides the nutrients needed for life.

  2. mj on November 16, 2009 at 15:28

    pretty sure humans have LONG guts in relation to many other species that live on a high fat, high flesh diet.

    we may have evolved by consuming those foods (in addition to a myriad of other factors simultaneously contributing) but that’s not any rationale to continue to hyper-consume animal products.

    it’s true, we CAN, but to reduce our ecological impact, maybe we ought not to!

    • Skyler Tanner on November 16, 2009 at 16:57

      Categorically incorrect on all fronts, but that’s what one would expect from a lower case troll.

    • Dane Miller on November 17, 2009 at 06:16

      Ecologically sound to be vegetarian? Doubtful. I have been to numerous farms where digestible human plant products cease to grow on specific types of soil. Instead, it is merely weeds and brush that grow. On these farms, the ecologically sound farmer can raise heritage breed animals that work wonders on that specific type of soil. Not only do they harvest the grasses, they fertilize the grounds, till it up and actually make it more usable for future times through that specific paddock. Raising animals in a sustainable light, on pasture with the fuel of the sun is undoubtedly the ecologically best way to farm/consume food.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2009 at 10:08

        20- year vegan (former) Lierre Keith goes into great detail about all of this in The Vegetarian Myth.

    • informed citizen on May 10, 2010 at 23:16

      Spot on MJ…. habits don’t dictate requirements…

      Living in unadapted to climates, i.e., harsh cold climates do to voluntary migration patterns away from the original tropical habitat, says or does nothing to disprove the validity of a biologically based, mostly plant based (fruit/vegetable/greens/nuts) diet, which in the original and evolutionarily dictated human/primate climate, gives plent of food..

      • Richard Nikoley on May 12, 2010 at 17:30

        Disproof of the validity is that we dindn’t, counld not have evolved that way (see expensive tissue hypothesis, also Kleiber’s law — in combo devastating for the pea-brained diet types) and thus it cannot be optimal. Sure, many can survive, but many, many have reported here and elsewhere that they do not ultimately thrive.

        But one example of people who do their damnedest and can’t ultimately be healthy.

        Shit, I just read about a moron today feeding her dog vegan. And she claims to care about animal welfare.

        We are creatures, all of us, of a certain nature. More and more, veganism strikes me as a bald face attempt to deny nature, reality on the basis of feelings.

        The mond is a reality perceiving and integrating organ, not a reality creating organ.

  3. Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2009 at 15:41

    “ecological impact”

    You go right ahead and be my guest. Sacrifice your happiness, health and well being to the collective and Mother Earth and see if I care one little bit.

    I, on the other hand, will eat as I was designed to eat.

  4. Aaron Blaisdell on November 16, 2009 at 16:06

    I have NEVER come across a scientifically sound empirical paper showing that dietary lipids are addictive. Can the “good” doctor at least provide a few references from the “overflowing” masses? My pubmed must have a blind spot.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2009 at 16:11

      I think you can chalk that one up in the same category as you might place “rotting meat in the colin.”

      Oops, I meant colon. :)

  5. musajen on November 17, 2009 at 07:15

    I find it mindboggling that people will promote the addictive properties of saturated fat but turn a blind eye to the other food that accompanied the saturated fat into the body. Reminds me of the post from Dr. Eades about the story ABC did on a high fat meal (not to mention high-carb meal):

  6. Don Matesz on November 16, 2009 at 17:12

    Fat gives a dopamine kick? Where did he get that?

    Meanwhile grains–particularly wheat– have opioid exorphins of strength comparable to morphine. This is not a speculation but well documented. Wheat also contains an MIF-1 analogue that has dopaminergic properties.

    See: The origins of agriculture: a biological perspective and a new hypothesis by Greg Wadley and Angus Martin published in Australian Biologist volume 6: pp 96-105, June 1993

    To quote Wadley and Martin:

    “Mycroft et al. estimated that 150 mg of the MIF-1 analogue could be produced by normal daily intake of cereals and milk, noting that such quantities are orally active, and half this amount ‘has induced mood alterations in clinically depressed subjects’ (Mycroft et al. 1982:895). (For detailed reviews see Gardner 1985 and Paroli 1988.) ”

    Fukudome, S., & Yoshikawa, M., 1992, Opioid peptides derived from wheat gluten: their isolation and characterization, FEBS Letters 296:107-11.

    Gardner, M. L. G., 1985, Production of pharmacologically active peptides from foods in the gut. in Hunter, J. & Alun-Jones, V., eds, Food and the gut, Bailliere Tindall, London.

    Mycroft, F. J., Wei, E. T., Bernardin, J. E. & Kasarda, D. D., 1982, MlF-like sequences in milk and wheat proteins, New England Journal of Medicine 301:895.

    Paroli, E., 1988, Opioid peptides from food (the exorphins), World review of nutrition and dietetics 55:58-97.

    Like Aaron, so far as I know, no one has demonstrated that any fatty acid has dopaminergic or opioid properties. People have a preference for fat but I have never seen any report of withdrawal symptoms occurring on low-fat diets. Contrast this with what happens when you remove opioid-containing foods from people’s diets.

  7. Jimmy Moore on November 16, 2009 at 17:51

    THANKS for joining the conversation, Richard! It’s interesting to hear his arguments AGAINST low-carb. They all seem centered around sensationalizing the “unknown long-term effects” it will have on health. I’ve been eating this way for nearly six years, so WHEN am I supposed to have the bad health he thinks I should have?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 16, 2009 at 17:57

      “so WHEN am I supposed to have the bad health he thinks I should have?”

      I’m sure he’s hoping it comes any day, now, Jimmy.

  8. Tim Rangitsch on November 16, 2009 at 18:47

    “For humans to eat a high roughage diet of greens is, IMO, essentially the same as fasting…” that is a comment that resonates with me. I’d imagine this to apply only to low carb leafy green vegetable sources. Eat and eat and eat from these leafy greens and get scarcely a useable nutrient or calorie! Fasting indeed. Perhaps vegan/vegetarians can end up calorically restricted to a large degree if they steer clear of grains, added sugars, processed foods (sound like Campbell’s approach)

    Wading now through the “Amazon Weight Loss Community” Criticisms of the Low Carb Lifestyle. Great stuff.

  9. Bryce on November 16, 2009 at 19:08


    If I’m correct in assuming you possess a few anti-big government, libertarian ideals, than I hope you’ll appreciate this beautiful quote from The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich Heyek, the father of Libertarianism.

    I’ve taken the liberty of substituting a few words like “freedom” for words like “health” to show how much his theories apply to our current national health debacle (done in italics).

    When the course of national health takes an unexpected turn – when, instead of the continuous progress we have come to expect, we find ourselves threatened by ailments associated by us with past ages of barbarism – we naturally blame anything but ourselves. Have we not all striven according to our best lights, and have not many of our finest minds incessantly worked to make this a healthier world? Have not all our efforts and hopes been directed toward greater health, fitness, and longevity? If the outcome is so different from our aims – if, instead of health and longevity, disease and decrepitude stare us in the face – is it not clear that sinister forces must have foiled our intentions, that we are the victims of some evil power which must be conquered before we can resume the road to better things?

    . . . we all are, or at least were until recently, certain of one thing: that the leading ideas which during the last generation have become common to most health conscious people and have determined the major changes in our health cannot have been wrong. We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our national health except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part, and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected.

    I have just started reading Hayek’s work, and it’s both awe-inspiring and terrifying to see how insightful he was, having written it in 1944.


  10. joe on November 16, 2009 at 21:36

    If you want to convince anyone, you shouldn’t be so insulting.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2009 at 09:36

      Yea? That’s what you think.

      Now piss off.

      • joe on November 17, 2009 at 09:53

        Those are obviously people who already agree with you. How many do you think you’ll convert from your posts on amazon?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2009 at 10:12

        How about I don’t give a damn?

        Listen, I don’t waste my time with people who need their asses kissed because they can’t handle reality straight up and in their faces. There are plenty of people out there stroking egos.

        I’m not one of them.

      • joe on November 17, 2009 at 11:28

        Ok, but why do you waste your time going out of your way to be a dick? No one’s talking about you stroking anything, you brought that up.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2009 at 11:29

        For fun & profit.

      • Jimmy Moore on November 17, 2009 at 11:36

        So, joe, how long have you been a dumbass?!

      • Ross on November 17, 2009 at 10:16

        Richard’s goal does not have to be to convince everyone to agree with him. If he can simply discredit the opposing arguments, the world is also a better place. So far, he’s doing just fine.

        The big issue here is that The China Study is still worshipped by veg*ns, even though it’s been repeatedly shown that content of the book diverges wildly from the data that Campbell gathered for the book! If there an example of cherry picking your data is ever needed, The China Study is the perfect one.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 17, 2009 at 10:27

        Plus, it’s a lot of fun picking on people like Campbell and other such “authorities.”

  11. Grok on November 16, 2009 at 22:03

    I have nothing to add except, this is hilarious shit!

    Oh and… the good Doctor probably doesn’t order anything. He eats at 5 star restaurants in the city with huge coal burning furnaces. That’s what you do when you’ve sold a million books to a community of emotionally thinking people.

  12. Johnny on November 17, 2009 at 06:13

    His diet probably isn’t that bad. Low omega 6 I assume (cause he eats like 10%, if I remember, of calories as fat) and appropriate omega 3. Perhaps relatively low fructose and gluten as well. All the carbs he eats will just get turned into saturated fats (palmitic acid and the sorts) and used for energy. He might be lacking in some of the fat soluble vitamin departments, vit A and K2, but maybe not much worse than the average American.

  13. CL on November 17, 2009 at 10:11

    I don’t know what he is talking about. Carbs are WAY more addictive than saturated fats. He’s just plain wrong.

  14. Ian on November 18, 2009 at 01:37

    Richard, your blog is great and the effort you put into photographing your paleo lifestyle including recipes and cooking techniques is invaluable, as are your regular updates containing links to articles with new relevant information for those pursuing or curious about pursuing this lifestyle.

    I’ve been reading it pretty frequently, sometimes multiple times per day just to flip through the old posts and drool over your delicious looking creations and soak up your thoughtful advice.

    However, when it comes to your advocacy for the paleo diet, you’re doing yourself and others who are interested in it, and are ignorant of it, a great disservice. Arguing from a position of unchallengeable authority, or even just arrogance peppered with accusations and attempts at mockery is not only unpersuasive but totally alienating to anyone who doesn’t already share your point of view.

    In other words, you sound like a shithead. Based on the rest of your blog, i think it’s pretty unlikely you actually are one, but at first glance at one of your forum posts, who would know?

    Getting as close as possible to the truth on any subject that falls under scientific scrutiny is difficult, it requires dispassionately analyzing the evidence available and trying to come to the best objective conclusion, then sharing your analysis of the evidence and having it sanity-checked by others.

    It’s not a rap battle or a comedy central roast. Calling a guy who has spent a decent portion of his life trying to educate people on nutrition and bring them away from processed foods and to whole natural foods a liar (“inconsistent, bordering on dishonest”) because he hasn’t been persuaded to your point of view on meats and fats yet is pretty uncalled for.

    People who believe differently from you are not your enemy to be destroyed, but your ally to be persuaded, this is the only way meaningful knowledge can advance. Making an argument to someone requires having a sensitivity to their point of view, ie understanding what it is and how they established it if possible, and then building on it with a combination of persuasive rhetoric and dispassionate presentations of the evidence you feel supports your position.

    Quips like “do the math” and “the religion of plant based dieting” do not serve this cause well. It also sets the tone for the participants and readers of your blog, the first comment was someone making a point about the perceived ecological impact of the meat industry to which someone responded just to call them a “lower case troll”. What the hell is a lower case troll? We’re really going to attack peoples conversational internet grammar because they have an environmental concern? That’s where unnecessary vitriol inevitably leads.

    But don’t take my word for it, here’s an excellent and highly amusing video of neil tyson making a similar argument to richard dawkins:

    • Jimmy Moore on November 18, 2009 at 07:38

      Well, CONGRATULATIONS Richard! You are now attracting criticism from all sides…the sign that you’re doing something RIGHT! I saw this happen at my blog about 3 years ago and it confirmed I was doing exactly what I was supposed to. KEEP GIVING THEM HELL! :D

    • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 07:51

      “…liar (”inconsistent, bordering on dishonest”)”

      See, I didn’t call him a liar. Thanks for actually quoting it, because I meant every word of it.

      Look, Ian, I’m not changing a damn thing. If you don’t like that, then I’m truly sorry, but nonetheless undaunted and immovable on this point.

      There is a place for ridicule (like, for instance, the ridiculous) and I’m going to fill that place as best as I can.

      Thanks for the Dawkins vid. Big fan (for a reason). I’m glad Dawkins ridicules the ridiculous.

    • John on November 18, 2009 at 10:50

      Ian, you are absolutely correct about Richard. Having read this blog since before Richard started bowing to Art DeVany, I have noted that Richard’s personality at its core is that of a know-all asshole whose primary mission is to win a fight/argument, not necessarily find or promote truth. In other words, whatever Richard believes today is the Truth. The point of the blog is to satisfy Richard’s congenital need to express his rectitude. He is always “immovable”.

      Like a blind pig, Richard’ has latched onto the Paleo thing. For the most part, I find his writing entertaining and often informative (I focus primarily on his cooking explorations), but always subject to scrutiny.

      His and Jimmy Moore’s ilk consistently react to criticism the same way their targets do: name-calling and instant dismissal, with a dash of unsubstantiated counter-claim. The echo chamber is an easy/comfortable box in which to live. But that is part of the entertainment of the blog. It can be helpful to read things that often annoy me and keep me questioning and investigating, such as Richard’s comically authoritative perspective. It requires more than what Richard’s intellect possesses to argue his perspective dispassionately.

      If you prefer more consistently moderate and accurate reading, read Art. Art’s writing reflects a deep and long-running interest in what makes for healthful living. Art also is an actual prototype for long-term health (as opposed to Richard’s born-again evangelism). Art’s ego is satisfied with considered thoughts and a focus on his own health and on sharing his experiences and observations without shrill ridicule.

      If you primarily want entertainment, read Richard. But don’t expect any less lyprocrisy or hyperbole from him than from the people he ridicules.

  15. JR on November 17, 2009 at 22:05

    “With our hugely energy-demanding brains, combined with our small guts, there is no possibility other than that we were not only meat & fat eaters, we were ENORMOUS meat & fat eaters.”

    This is factually incorrect. Starches provide plenty of energy to fuel our bodies and brains. It also appears that fruit does as well, though you do have to eat a bit more then most people do. These are also direct energy sources; our brains run on carbohydrate only. If fat is the only fuel source, your body will cannibalize muscle first, and then start using energy derived from an expensive fat conversion process.

    Humans, and the primates we were before we became human, are natural herbivores (google “human and herbivore”). For example, we have no taste buds for animal flesh but love starches and fruits. Have you ever tried eating fresh meat that you ripped off an animal? If that does not sound appealing to you, or if you have to “adapt” or “become accustomed” to it, then you are not a carnivore or omnivore. You don’t have to convince a baby lion to eat raw meat, but you do have to convince a baby human. How many of your children cried their hearts out when you told them the cheeseburger they just ate was made out of a dead cow that was killed for the cheeseburger (assuming your child is old enough to understand the concept of cow and death, and was not already habituated to it)? How many of you cried?

    I read some of the posts on this forum, and see a lot of violence in the responses. I am sure someone will attack me, claiming that my going on Dr. Campbell’s diet (technically: Dr. McDougall’s) has compromised my health and so on. I just want to point out up front that it is quite to the contrary. On Dr. McDougall’s diet, I have shed over half my body weight and am now in the best health of my life. I have so much energy I am figuratively running circles around other people. While other people are lying in a puddle on the floor gasping for breath, I am looking back (being kind of literal here), breathing normally, a bit surprised that so little effort (racing up four flights of stairs in the case I am thinking about) took so much out of them. On the other hand, when I was on the Atkins diet, I was in the worst shape of my life, unable to walk from my chair to my bed without gasping for breath.

    I have been where many of you are going, eventually gave up and said, “fine, dammit, I’ll eat the vegetables” (but it was the starches that made it successful).

    • Grok on November 17, 2009 at 22:36


      our brains run on carbohydrate only.

      In the words of Mr. T, “I pity the fool” who believes so much conventional wisdom. Dude, about 30 seconds on Google and you can find that the brain is quite efficient at burning ketones.

      If fat is the only fuel source, your body will cannibalize muscle first

      Burn muscle before fat? I have no idea where you could even find something as retarded as that, except in maybe a bodybuilding magazine next to an ad for a bucket of whey protein.

    • Grok on November 17, 2009 at 23:06

      P.S. “How many of your children cried their hearts out when you told them the cheeseburger they just ate was made out of a dead cow that was killed for the cheeseburger”

      Maybe that is the stupid shit I’ve ever heard…. What planet are you from man?

      These little russian native GIRLS look like they’re balling their eyes out while they feast like humans on RAW deer.

      • Grok on November 17, 2009 at 23:08

        HTML doesn’t work on this blog I guess:

    • Alex on November 18, 2009 at 04:28

      The early hominids, from 5 million to 2.5 million years ago were frugivores/folivores. At that point in evolution, hominid diets became omnivorous, and hominid GI tracts shrank significantly because the capacity to digest huge quantities of plant material was no longer needed.

      As for me, I was predominantly vegetarian for about 20 years, with a diet loaded with whole grains and beans, and that was when I was in the worst shape of my life. The carb overload made me fat, tired, and lethargic.

      • JR on November 18, 2009 at 09:32

        “The early hominids, from 5 million to 2.5 million years ago were frugivores/folivores. At that point in evolution, hominid diets became omnivorous, and hominid GI tracts shrank significantly because the capacity to digest huge quantities of plant material was no longer needed.”

        But how do you get from A to B? A herbivore has exactly zero desire to eat animal flesh, as well as almost-zero ability. It can’t hunt, can’t enjoy meat, can’t properly digest meat (I understand there is lots of fermentation), and can’t survive very long on it. Of course it can adapt to this over tens of millions of years. But, how/why would an entire species of animal intentionally put themselves on an evolutionary course that is down-right revolting to them physically and psychologically? Furthermore, how could they have gotten an adequate supply of meat? They had no natural hunting ability, not even a brain that could devise traps. The only source they could have possibly had consistent access to were the remnants of a predator’s meal. That does not seem like it would be a reliable source of fuel since the remnants are hard to come by, and the herbivore would have to wait until all the other predators had finished and left (lest the herbivore become the next meal). IF there was anything left, then maybe they could have gotten something there. But then you still have the revulsion factor.

        Instead, I find the hypothesis that starch fueled our brain growth and evolution much more plausible. Starch is more dense in calories than other plant foods, which allows us to eat less (and intenstines to shorten a bit – though they are still pretty long), and is an immediate, primary-grade fuel source (carbohydrate) for our brains. It is also, especially in the geographic area we think they were evolving, an abundant and easily obtained food; no risk to life-and-limb involved.

        Lets explore this just a little further with a thought experiment. Lets say that you decided to evolve a new species from modern-day humans that ate … grass. You know, green grass that you mow and that cows (are supposed to) eat. Think about it. Maybe it just starts with you or maybe you convince a bunch of other people to follow suit, but you have decided that you want to evolve the modern human digestion system to eat grass. What do you have to do? Well, you have to eat grass on a regular basis, you have to survive it, you have to live long enough to bear and raise children, and you have to convince your children and their children going on for tens of thousands of generations to eat grass. Over time, the revulsion to eating grass will slowely, slowely diminish as evolution favors grass-eating adaptations, but the revulsion will remain pretty extreme for an uncomprehendibly long time. Furthermore, over eons, not only must the new species evolve to tolerate the consumption of grass, but it must come to enjoy it and obtain nourishment from the grass.

        Do you believe that process is feasible? Likely? And get this, evolving from a herbivore to a grass-eating herbivore is far easier than evolving from a herbivore to an hunting and meat-eating omnivore. Evolving a herbivore to an omnivore is a huge task, as the entire body must be redesigned from the ground up. Google “human and herbivore” for the links comparing the anatomy of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores for an idea of all the systems that must adapt, and the rather fundamental and radical changes that must occur.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 09:39

        Maybe more later, but for now:

        Now, the question is, are you ignorant of the reality, or just unwilling to acknowledge it?

      • mary on November 18, 2009 at 11:57

        Here is a quote from the first article you posted:

        “Chimpanzees are largely fruit eaters, and meat composes only about 3% of the time they spent eating overall, less than in nearly all human societies.”

        3% is incredibly small. I think this means that they are still classified as frugivores.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 12:22

        The point, Mary — whether it’s 3, 1, 10 or whatever % is that it falsifies JR’s claim that meat eating would have been abhorrent to our hominid ancestors.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 12:25

        …And, the fact that they are skillfully group hunting (if you watched the videos), cooperatively, employing quite a tactical array of skill is an important distinction to make from mere scavenging carcasses for the marrow, brain & meat scraps left by carnivores.

        And these are among our _earliest_ hominid ancestors. Gaining the ability walk bi-pedally (uses 1/4 the energy) must have ben hugely advantageous in incorporating more and more meat & fat into the diet, driving human evolution forward.

      • Alex on November 18, 2009 at 12:13

        You can argue ’til you’re blue in the face that the paleoanthropological reality shouldn’t be what it actually is, but it’s not going to change the observed reality. And, your arguments strike me as primarily based on projecting cultural values as being biologically hard-wired and universally held, which is ridiculous. For example, I find the idea of eating witchetty grubs absolutely disgusting, but that doesn’t mean my revulsion is biological and universal. If I had been raised in a traditional Australian aboriginal family, I’d likely (but not necessarily) think witchetty grubs were damn good eating. I like most of the foods I was exposed to growing up, but not all of them (I hate fishy-tasting fish, even though I grew up on the Jersey Shore with its plentiful bluefish), and there are foods I love that I only discovered as an adult (like okra and natto).

      • Grok on November 18, 2009 at 14:50

        This is your argument?

        Bugs are a nice start. Very slow, packed with proteins, very abundant and large in the jungle. We are talking millions or years here, not a few generations.

      • JR on November 20, 2009 at 10:51

        I am going to wrap this up. I am willing to spend time pointing to good information for you to go and research, but I am not willing to debate it endlessly.

        “This is your argument?

        Bugs are a nice start. Very slow, packed with proteins, very abundant and large in the jungle. We are talking millions or years here, not a few generations.”

        Is that your argument? You are saying that an obligate herbivore species suddenly decided to eat lots and lots of big, fat, and juicy cockroaches? They went and picked up the cockroach, bit its head off with relish, crunched down on it, sucked that grayish pus-like juice out of it, and crunched down on the rest? In order to fuel a multi-million year evolution of the body and brain, they would have needed to eat a lot of these cockroaches on a daily basis. Furthermore, if this is what evolved us into humans, then we would, though evolution, naturally desire and relish cockroaches (and crickets, etc) today. This would be part of your biology, part of you taste buds, and part of your mental and emotional well-being. You would have evolved to be a cockroach-eater.

        This calls for an experiment. To whoever believes this, test it for yourself. Go out and capture yourself a meals worth of cockroaches, crickets, and other large, juicy bugs and eat them live, as you catch them. If you can do that naturally, without having to habituate yourself to it first, and you enjoy and relish the whole process from catching the cockroaches and especially to eating them, then you just might be a cockroach eater.

        Because of things like this, and others I have mentioned, and others I have not mentioned, I find the starch hypothesis far more likely. There are some questions I still have about that, such as what starches did they find 2 – 5 million years ago. I also find the fruit hypothesis compelling, perhaps even more so than the starch hypothesis, since many fruits have a similar caloric density to starches (think of bananas compared to potatoes), and are readily available in the tropics (where we think we evolved), and is relished by the brain and the tongue.

        I have kept an open mind on this ever since I started researching this topic several years ago, and I have read a lot of material on both sides of the debate, including the bibles (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, The China Study, Good Calories Bad Calories), and articles, other books, and lectures put out by the WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation), and individual doctors (Dr. Barnard, Dr. McDougall, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, etc). I am well aware of many of the arguments on both sides, and have concluded, through honesty and an open mind, and personal experimentation, that people like Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall, and Dr. Barnard are the closest to the truth that we have right now. And keep in mind, I was staunchly in the pro-meat camp, once telling people that vegans were crazy and that it was impossible that I ever would be one. But what can I say? The whole foods, low fat, vegan group made their case, and I was receptive to it.

        I think it is also worth pointing out, that aside from the accusation, these individuals (Dr. Campbell, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Barnard, etc), are not mainstream. Vegan or near-vegan is far less mainstream than Atkins. Dr. McDougall, for example, has probably been at this the longest – longer than Dr. Barnard, Atkins, etc – and yet he is relatively unknown. Everyone has heard of Atkins, but how many have heard of Dr. McDougall? Atkins was a flash-in-the-pan. He came on-scene, told people what they wanted to hear, made billions, got discredited when people started realizing they were still fat and sick, and in many cases getting worse, and then died. Dr. McDougall, meanwhile, has been telling people what they need to hear, starting long before the Atkins flash-in-the-pan, continuing throughout and to this day, and yet how many people know who he is? Atkins became worth billions within a few years; Dr. McDougall has been at this for an entire career and has not even made one million. School teachers can save up more than a million in their career. So I find it very ironic when some Atkins supporters claim that Dr. McDougall and Dr. Campbell are mainstream. None of these people are mainstream, not even billionaire Atkins (because he was only a flash-in-the-pan).

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2009 at 08:59


        First, projection is not argument. You have no idea what our earliest ancestors cherished. Part of evolution is about evolving food choices, choices which drive physical evolution, which in turn drives choices, drives evolution, and so forth ad infinitum.

        Second, explaining how much you have studied is also not argument. It’s equivalent to saying “I think this because I’ve thought a lot about it.” Well, I certainly hope so. And, there are plenty who have studied more than you and have opposite conclusions. So, pointing that out gets us nowhere.

        Please tell me what forms of starch would have been eaten prior to the advent of cooking, which at very best was the coming on the seen of erectus about 1.8 million years ago. That leaves a gap of over 4 million years.

        During that time, early hominids would have had ample opportunity to scavenge carcasses for meat, frat, and especially bone marrow and brain that stone tool making could have accessed 4 million years ago, and indeed, the fossil record amply demonstrates the boneyards and telltale cut marks on bones & skulls.

        I don’t doubt that starch played a role, but not until cooking. We had to evolve the large brains first, necessary to harness fire and then to invent cooking. Then, starchy tubers makes a lot of sense as a mainstay of our evolution from primitive erectus to modern human. There is some mention of this in the addendum to my latest post.

        As for fruit, it’s seasonal except in the tropics. I doubt it played a major role in actually increasing brain size and shrinking guts.

        BTW, I notice you completely ignored the videos of chimpanzees (our 6-million years ago ancestors) cooperatively and tactically hunting meat, ripping it limb from limb and eating it raw to great screeching tribal fanfare.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2009 at 09:12

        I should also mention that the starch & cooking hypothesis makes sense when considering the fact that neanderthalensis was almost a pure meat eater (carbon analysis of teeth) and didn’t make it, where as sapiens did. Perhaps that was the crucial turning point that drove our evolutionary line to split with heidelbergensis (earliest common ancestor for meanderthalensis and sapiens). Sapiens went on to incorporate more starch and other plant matter, ensuring our long-term success, while neanderthalensis kept to a diet of meat.

        Then again, Neanderthal lived for 400,000 years, twice what we’ve accomplished so far.

      • Grok on November 21, 2009 at 21:58

        Nice response. I wasn’t going to waste my time after reading 750 words about roaches and Atkins. Ha-ha

    • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 08:27

      “Starches provide plenty of energy to fuel our bodies and brains.”

      True, but not until the advent of cooking which most archeologists agree was only around 250,000 years ago, well past the time when our brains evolved to massive size and our guts shrank because of heavy consumption of meat & fat, which can be consumed and digested raw.

      • Alex on November 18, 2009 at 12:30

        Well, there is professor Richard Wrangham of Harvard University who thinks cooking is what brought about the shrinking of hominid GI tracts, but that requires a timeline for cooking that dates back much further than the current evidence suggests. But, 250,000 years ago does predate the arrival of our species by 60,000 years, which I do find interesting.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 18, 2009 at 12:35

        Yep, and I’m aware of that and have blogged it. I used 250k because that seems to be about as far back as we can be absolutely certain hominids were cooking food.

  16. Gary Katch on November 18, 2009 at 15:43

    Yah, you know, Richard can come off as arrogant. I do too, when it comes proselytizing the paleo way. I think some of that comes out of anger. After being teased as a child and into teenage years, after fighting hard my adult life to keep slim and in shape, I’m angry that I’ve been misled all these years.

    I’m angry that the diets recommended to me were perpetuating yo-yo dieting, and keeping me on antacid meds. I’m angry that I didn’t know enough to perhaps keep my dad alive a little longer than his diabetes had decided. So when I hear anyone spout the conventional wisdom, I have to bite my tongue hard to remain civil. This is Richard’s forum, and he’s not going to bite his own tongue, that’s pretty plain to see!

    • Grok on November 18, 2009 at 18:45

      Beautifully said Gary!

      We’ve all listened to the BS for so long. Now that we know the real story, it’s hard to stay cooped up. If we only had back all those years of stupidity and deception. This is the one for sure benefit of getting older ;)

    • Richard Nikoley on November 19, 2009 at 10:27

      Right on, Gary.

      How many people’s loved ones are sick or dead because these guys want to engage in their endless studies to scare the shit out of people and have them bouncing off walls with indecision over diet, when they could simply be eating real food.

      No quarter. I won’t be satisfied until they start charging admission to take a piss on Keys’ grave.

      • Grok on November 20, 2009 at 00:22

        “I won’t be satisfied until they start charging admission to take a piss on Keys’ grave.”

        Enough said.

  17. GoodStew on November 22, 2009 at 14:34

    Thx guys, the paleo lifestyle sure turned my life around…

  18. CFS on November 30, 2009 at 23:06

    Hysterical. Food, real food, the stuff we evolved to eat over millennia is now an “addictive drug.”

    But isn’t it a bit of a double standard when some people say carbs are addictive, because they cause the release of endorphins, like heroin, yet fat isn’t, even though it causes the release of dopamin, like cocaine? Besides, since I went paleo, my supposed ‘carb addiction’ evaporated overnight. Now I don’t miss grains or sugar, even though I used to eat half a pound of chocolate every day.

  19. […] Do The Math, Dr. T. Colin Campbell […]

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