Welcome all seeking refuge from low carb dogma!

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Paleolithic Diet According to S.Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner - Version 2010

S. Boyd Eaton, who along with Melvin Konner is generally considered one of the "Founding Fathers of Paleo", published  Paleolithic Nutrition:  A Consideration of its Nature and Current Implications (request doc share if link is broken)  in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985.  In 1997, this duo (with SB Eaton III) published Paleolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications  (request doc share if link is broken) in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.   As time progressed, these authors would collaborate with various others, including two with which most in the paleo community are well familiar:  Loren Cordain and Staffan Lindeberg.  These four were among the authors of the 2002 article in Preventative Medicine entitled Evolutionary Health Promotion, and a followup in the same journal authored by Eaton, Cordain and Lindeberg entitled Evolutionary Health Promotion: A Consideration of Common Counterarguments, in which the paleolithic diet was referenced to the 1997 paper from which the table above right comes.

In the intervening years, 2000 to be exact, probably the most "divergent" variation of the paleolithic diets was published:  Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets (request doc share if link is broken)   with Cordain and Eaton amongst the authors.  It is in this paper that the notion that paleo diets might be "high fat" can be traced.  
... high reliance on animal-based foods coupled with the relatively low carbohydrate content of wild plant foods produces universally characteristic macronutrient consumption ratios in which protein is elevated (19–35% of energy) at the expense of carbohydrates (22–40% of energy)
For worldwide hunter-gatherers, the most plausible (values not exceeding the mean MRUS) percentages of total energy from the macronutrients would be 19–35% for protein, 22–40% for carbohydrate, and 28–58% for fat ...

The more prominent message from that paper, to this reader anyway, was that hunter-gatherer diets varied widely around the globe and especially between N&S 40 latitude, and if there's any question where the "birthplace of man" is considered to be by the "founding fathers" of the movement, below is a screenshot from Eaton's AHS12 Talk

I include that so there is no confusion as to the "evolution" of thinking in this realm.  In 2005 Eaton addressed the Nutrition Society (lecture published 2006) with:  The ancestral human diet: what was it and should it be a paradigm for contemporary nutrition?   (request doc share if link is broken) 
Awareness of the ancestral human diet might advance traditional nutrition science.  The human genome has hardly changed since the emergence of behaviourally-modern humans in East Africa 100–50 · 103 years ago; genetically, man remains adapted for the foods consumed then.  The best available estimates suggest that those ancestors obtained about 35% of their dietary energy from fats, 35% from carbohydrates and 30% from protein.  Saturated fats contributed approximately 7.5% total energy and harmful trans-fatty acids contributed negligible amounts.  Polyunsaturated fat intake was high, with n-6:n-3 approaching 2:1 (v. 10:1 today). Cholesterol consumption was substantial, perhaps 480 mg/d.  Carbohydrate came from uncultivated fruits and vegetables, approximately 50% energy intake as compared with the present level of 16% energy intake for Americans.  High fruit and vegetable intake and minimal grain and dairy consumption made ancestral diets base-yielding, unlike today’s acid-producing pattern.  Honey comprised 2–3% energy intake as compared with the 15% added sugars contribute currently.  Fibre consumption was high, perhaps 100 g/d, but phytate content was minimal.  Vitamin, mineral and (probably) phytochemical intake was typically 1.5 to eight times that of today except for that of Na, generally < 1000 mg/d, i.e. much less than that of K. The field of nutrition science suffers from the absence of a unifying hypothesis on which to build a dietary strategy for prevention; there is no Kuhnian paradigm, which some researchers believe to be a prerequisite for progress in any scientific discipline. An understanding of human evolutionary experience and its relevance to contemporary nutritional requirements may address this critical deficiency.
To bring the peer review literature to as up to date as possible and show that not much has really changed, Eaton and Konner paired up once more in 2010 with:  Paleolithic Nutrition : Twenty-Five Years Later  (request doc share if link is broken).    The changes, attributed largely to higher animal food (including previously underrepresented aquatic animals) vs. plant food intake, include mainly an upward adjustment of total fat intake from low 20's to a range of 20-to-35% of calories.  Here's the section on Fat and Saturated Fat:
It was widely accepted by the late 1980s that saturated fat (SF) intake in the typical modern diet is far too high and that the C-14 and C-16 fatty acids are a major contributor to endemic atherosclerosis underlying most coronary artery disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death. Through energy load, total fat (TF) intake is an important contributor to endemic obesity and the growing epidemic of T2DM. Standard recommendations suggested that TF be reduced to no more than 30% of calories and that the ratio of SF to unsaturated fat be reduced markedly.  At the time, we estimated that in the HG diet, TF contributed about 20% of calories, including about 6% SF, a level of restriction deemed by most  authorities to be too difficult to achieve.   On the basis of new analyses of HG diets, we have raised the estimated range of their likely TF intake to 20%-35%.  Both low-fat (20%) and high-fat (40%) diets have been shown to aid in weight loss given appropriate caloric restriction and adherence,37 but it has also been shown that very low TF may not only prevent or retard atherosclerosis but, combined with other lifestyle changes, partly reverse established atherosclerotic plaques.38,39
However, TF is only part of the story. Game animals have more mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFA and PUFA) than supermarket meat.10 It used to be recommended that SF intake be less than 10% of total energy, but according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), any increase raises cardiac risk.40 
Suffice it to say that Eaton and Konner had moderated their take on fats slightly (a range that tops out at 35% and calling 40% "high fat" (40% is more like the SAD as implemented), but the general take on fats  has not really changed in the intervening decades, specifically where fat type is concerned.    Below are two nice summary tables from the 2010 paper:

I would note that the major difference between "Current" 2010 dietary recommendations and "Estimated Ancestral" a la Eaton & Konner is mostly a difference between swapping carbs for protein (not fat!) in the macronutrient department.   The rest, is a matter of types of foods, with the underlying themes of no grains or dairy preserved.  Ironically, here's what Eaton & Konner wrote in 1985 (emphasis mine):
Except for Eskimos and other high-latitude peoples, hunter-gatherers typically use many species of wild plants for food.  Roots, beans, nuts, tubers, and fruits are the most common major dietary consituents, but others, ranging from flowers to edible gums, are occasionally consumed.  Small cereal grains, which have been staples for "civilized" peoples since the Agricultural Revolution, make a surprisingly minor contribution overall; however, the wide range of vegetable foods eaten by foragers contrasts with the relatively narrow variety of crops produced by horticulturists and traditional agriculturists.
And at right is Eaton's AHS12 slide on antioxidants where he mentions beans as a good source of both antioxidants and soluble fiber.  He smiles a little bit when discussing this, and I get the feeling his "personal situation" makes room for some beans.  The 2010 paper goes on to cite the clinical literature -- studies by Lindeberg's group and Frassetto, as I've discussed here, for example in:  Two Paleo Diets from Lindeberg's Group and Is This Your Paleo Diet? -- conducted largely in accordance with Eaton and Konner's description of the paleo diet, a quarter century strong (though also eliminating legumes).

Now here was the slide I think many in attendance at AHS12 were pretty shocked by.  The "weak form" being acceptable for folks like himself in moderately good health with good biomarkers and all of that included whole grains and skim milk products.    Say what?  Wheat is murder!  Gluten is Satan's excrement!  Oatmeal is a blood sugar spiking bowl of battery acid!  Low fat dairy?  Doesn't he realize that's what has been making us all fat?   The #AHS12 hashtag went a bit viral on Twitter at this point with protestations on there being "agreement" over lean meats, and for crying out loud, where was the bacon and butter??!!  

I don't want to bombard you with any more screenshots, rather encourage you to listen to the talk, it is under a half hour and worth the watch.  He shows foods he's particularly fond of including skinless chicken, shellfish, lean meat (pork) and eggs.  Any fresh fruit (frozen OK) and fresh vegetables (frozen OK) are described as a "big part of our diet at home"  and  "how anyone can argue against carbohydrate in this form is hard for me to understand" ... while tubers are not pictured, the fruits include apples, grapes, peaches, pears, cherries, oranges and what looks to be a papaya, while veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and snap peas.  The blasphemous graphic of a spoon of shredded wheat and a glass of skim milk comes at the 7:50-ish mark.  

He goes on to discuss a strong form -- more pure -- of the diet that those with health issues and perhaps competitive athletes might consider.  Ditch the grains and dairy entirely and look at the alcohol and consider cutting it.  He doesn't mention increasing carbohydrate intake based on activity for athletes, which I find surprising, but this does not seem to be an oversight so I thought I'd mention it.    He goes on to discuss his activity which includes "cardio" about 3X/week and various strengthening exercises, primarily for the lower body, "somewhat against his prescription" daily.  

So ... 

What is the point of this post?  First, from this point forward, let it never be said that I didn't give enough "ink" to the original paleolithic diet as first put forth by the movement founders and leaders, S.Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner.  I have been discussing this version of the diet increasingly for months now, and pretty much any time I do a post on whatever-the-heck the paleo diet is SUPPOSED to be.  Essentially the paleo diet of the background literature (what it was) is the same as the paleo diet of the clinical literature (what's been tested) -- a diet comprised of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and eggs and devoid of grains, dairy and legumes.  I've been referring to this informally as Lindeberg-paleo, because it is Staffan Lindeberg's research group that first tested the diet.  Others have been similar in composition.  

Still, as you can see, Lindeberg is not inseparable from Eaton and Konner having co-authored papers together, and that other big name in paleo, who appeared on the Dr. Oz show recently, is right there in the mix as well:  Loren Cordain.    Here are the current "main points" Cordain makes on his website:

And a listing of his prescription on what to and not to eat

There are some minor differences here, but as regards the "official" paleolithic diet (that in the formal literature):
  • Dairy is out.  All dairy, including butter, clarified or otherwise, raw or pasteurized and/or homogenized or otherwise, coming from grassfed animals or otherwise ... is out.   
  • Fatty meats are never encouraged, thus no barbequed ribs or -- gasp! -- bacon, chocolate covered or otherwise.   Skin on your chicken?  Fuggettahboutit, let alone adding more fat to the mix!  
  • Saturated fat consumption is not encouraged, coconut or otherwise (you'll note the nod above by Cordain, but not see mention in any paleo literature).  PUFA consumption is encouraged with the ratios of PUFA:SF in the clinical trials being close to 1 or above.
  • Added fats are missing -- that's right, not just the seed oils (while Cordain did previously recommend canola on a fatty acid argument basis in conjunction with very lean meat), but there's no frying fatty ground beef in lard or spreading duck fat on turkey or tossing bacon drippings in your veggies.  
  • Fruit is abundant in all paleo diets and there is little if any mention of limiting them.  There is also little mention of sticking to the "low sugar" berries either, as implemented by Frassetto.  
  • Starch is less discussed, though it is included in modest amounts in the clinical trials while Cordain shuns potatoes on the website.  
  • Legumes (beans) were included in the original original paleo diet, and Eaton gave special mention to them in his AHS12 talk, but they are also shunned in both the clinical trials and on Cordain's prescriptive.  
While practically nobody read it, I've been asking the question of whether the paleo diet was a VLC diet (or  basically even a low carb diet)  from close to the inception of this blog.   The only major paleo book (other than presumably Cordain's which I have not read) or blog that comes close to advocating anything resembling this paleo diet is Robb Wolf's The Paleo Solution ... the book.  However, his other works from podcasts to blog posts to social media and general commentary about the net bear little resemblance to the 30 days of low fat, low carb, high protein, low sat fat, relatively high PUFA, dairy free fare put forth in that book.  Nowhere in any of the literature is the notion of "fat burning beasts", of carnivory, of chronic and preferential ketosis, or fatty feasting discussed.   The paleo of the literature is simply not your guru's paleo, and it's not the paleo "practiced" by the vast majority of advocates and practitioners of the diet.  This is why the response to Eaton's talk at AHS12 went something like this reaction from Bobby Gill/UltraGrassFed:
The third and final day of the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium started (for me) with a talk from the original caveman himself, Dr. Boyd Eaton.  His 1985 piece in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications” opened the gates for the movement we see here today.  Eaton himself has been eating and living a paleo lifestyle for 30 years now, so his talk focused on his own 30-year n=1 paleo “experiment”.  He appears to be in impressive health for a 75-y.o. man, and he presented some basic bloodwork and coronary CT scans that verified these assumptions.  Interestingly, Eaton’s take on “paleo” appears to have been formed in the 80′s and, unlike others in the community, he does not appear to have evolved his thinking since then.  For example, he views legumes and shredded wheat as reasonable foods for someone new to the diet because they lack sugar and salt.  This simplistic and seemingly uninformed viewpoint garnered much shock from an audience that focuses more on intestinal permeability, gut flora and hormonal regulation.  That said, even for a guy that eats lean meats and does isolation exercises, there is no doubt he is in phenomenal health, so even if Eaton’s paleo isn’t the same as Sisson’s, Wolf’s or anyone else’s, it is working from him so who are we to judge?   I give tremendous credit to Eaton for publishing his landmark paper in NEJM, and I commend him on his great health.  {note:  bolding is his, not mine}
Clearly, Eaton (and Konner) didn't stop looking at and thinking about the paleolithic diet for the past 30 years so it is somewhat of a slight, to use mild terminology, to imply his thinking is mired in the 80's  Gill offers up grudging compliments and acknowledgement of Eaton for his accomplishments and apparent fine health, *despite* his lack of  "evolution" to excuse the discordance between his version of "paleo" and what I call Paleo™ (to include the entirety of mass media diet book versions of paleo).  This comes off as excusing the outdated views of an old man whose ideas the movement has moved past with the inference that they are indeed outdated and have been improved upon.  The real question, however, should be explaining why it is that Sisson's or Wolf's or anyone else's version of paleo deviates from Eaton's.   When did bacon and chocolate and coffee and butter, sometimes all in one concoction, become synonymous with paleo while practitioners are warned off of fruit to some degree by almost all of the "paleo experts"?   There has been no peer review literature upon which this movement has sprung, rather the movement has been hijacked.  Hijacked away from its original formulation as well as the minor tweaks the underpinnings have undergone.   The questioning and judgment should be of Sisson, Wolf and anyone else whose version of "paleo" differs from Eaton's ... not the other way around.

What is truly odd is that Eaton's (and colleagues') work is cited by low carb (high fat) advocates in support of their diets and premises.  Everywhere.   It's in Good Calories, Bad Calories and The New Atkins.  It's in Perfect Health Diet and Primal Blueprint and Primal Body-Primal Mind .  It is misrepresented to varying degrees in one and all.   That is just plain deceptive and wrong, any way you look at it. 

In closing for today, I have this to say to my critics.  I am not anti-paleo.  The diet (and overall lifestyle for that matter) outlined by Eaton at AHS12 leaves little to be "against", and as pointed out in the 2010 paper, is not all that out of line with current recommendations.  I'd dare say that a case could be made that it's closer to MyPlate than most of the plates featured on paleo sites.  I will say this, however.  The major health issues that are seemingly spiraling out of control are not the fault of neolithic foods per se.  We quite simply have too many examples of traditional cultures thriving on grains and legumes and dairy to draw that conclusion.   They are instead a product of post-industrial affluence (and affluence is relative because compared to the rest of the world, most of the poor in this and other first world countries qualify as affluent) and technology assisted access.  While the paleolithic diet that Eaton and Konner characterized in 1985 would be beneficial to most to reverse current trends, there is ample evidence that we need not go back nearly that far.  We can know with high degrees of certainty exactly what various cultures ate 50, 100 or  more years ago, and to much greater certainty than the paleolithic era, we can know what humans consumed 1000 or 10,000 years ago.  When it comes to babies and bathwater, neolithic foods truly are babies we should be saving if the bathwater even needs to be thrown out at all, as opposed to just skimmed and filtered a bit.    So Eaton &amp Konner paleo is good but unnecessary in my book so I see no reason to become an outright advocate of that approach.

Paleo™ is another story.  I am against misusing science, diets based on bad science, dogmatic beliefs, nutritionism and diet as religion.  Mostly I'm against baseless restrictions that contribute to needless neurotic beliefs and behaviors concerning foods, real and naturally occurring foods in particular.  I'm thinking S. Boyd Eaton wouldn't ever be caught sporting most of the t-shirts sold on various blogs or worn by people to various paleo events.  In this regard he and I share more in common than he probably does with many who shamelessly proffer his works to substantiate theirs.  And lastly I will not give Paleo™ or its purveyors the benefit of the doubt just because they have helped some people and because some mistakenly believe their proselytizing can do no harm.  Especially when some of the advocates themselves have experienced serious detrimental health consequences as a result such as developing sensitivities to foods they were formerly able to enjoy without issue, biomarkers heading in the wrong direction often quite significantly, phantom adrenal fatigue, gut dysbioses that evade standard detection, plummeting energy levels, insomnia, worsening glucose metabolism, and weight gain or worse, binge eating and/or anorexia.  It would be one thing if that list applied to unknown and occasional outliers, that could probably be ignored ... but it does not.  There are prominent members of the community I could point to and it is a black eye on the whole community that such blind eyes are turned to these problems.  Heck, these folks are often rewarded for divulging how their diets are hurting them with accolades for bravery in coming forth, and encouragement to keep searching and find the strength to restrict even more.   If this were any other community, say Dr. Oz types, people would be outraged at the profit-making off of situations that Paleo™ often seems to itself create.  These same people are quick to blame their diets and lifestyles of years and sometimes decades ago for current problems but seem deliberately oblivious to where their current diets and lifestyles might be at fault.  Fellow sufferers are encouraged to seek treatments further and further from mainstream acceptance, which wouldn't be all that bad were so many of them so darned expensive and potentially harmful.  I cannot be a part of a movement that includes accepting woo woo wonks as criteria for membership.    I don't consider Eaton and Konner to be part of that either.

That's all for today.  Discuss ;-)


ProudDaddy said...

Baby Tad is doing fine, thank you, but his dad doesn't have much time for blog commenting. Nonetheless, I really appreciate this clarification of your opinion of paleo.

Would you share with me some examples of traditional societies thriving on grains and legumes and dairy. I know about societies like the Masai (Sp?) who use one of same, and I know about some who used grains OR legumes after extensive preprocessing, but none who have used all of them the way we do today.

carbsane said...

Hey PDaddy! Glad to hear the little one is doing well.

In terms of grains OR legumes one need look no further than the Arizona Pima circa the 1900's. Their diet was comprised of both grains and legumes. Yes, tepary beans and mesquite differ from the kidney beans we may prefer, their corn may have been different, etc. but really the same could be said for every modern food. Fruits, veggies, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, etc. Mixing of dairy and grains was done by Mongols.

Every time I get absorbed in reading about these things (and I just find this stuff interesting and read a lot both non-scientific and scientific literature on these topics) I find myself thinking about things like how combining (as you're implying) might be the problem, or refining, etc. And then I "step back" and think about the 60's and certainly long before that when we had most of these items. Mine and my husband's European traditions include it all, his extended family has retained the traditional foods quite a lot, and his uncle just passed at 92 (I won't say without illness, but Eaton talks about arthritis which was what first impacted this uncle, so ...).

Ballomar Cingetorigis said...

Thanks for that. I basically agree when you say that it is very difficult to work out what people were eating 10,000 years ago. We know very little about these people, what clothes they wore, what language they spoke and it is very hard to work out what they were eating.

50, 100 or even 500 hundred years ago is a lot easier. We have cook books after all. We even have cook books from classical times whereby we can have a reasonable idea what people ate day to day.

ProudDaddy said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response. I read Weston A Price's book and seem to remember that grains and legumes got a lot of preprocessing before use (fermenting, soaking, alkalinizing, etc.) in healthy societies.

My European genes produced a mother who lived independently until her death at 98. Baked goods were heavily used in our home. My dad's dementia started at my age and he was dead at 78. My younger brother has two stents and one 100% occluded coronary artery, and I am relatively healthy. So much for anecdotal evidence.

Methinks I'll continue to avoid processed foods, which ends up being very close to Cordain's paleo.

carbsane said...

I certainly see nothing wrong with that! I do find it strange how many paleos obsess over fruit (there's just sooooo much sugar in watermelon that can turn to fat!!) while chugging down a mug of coffee with butter in it that would look down their noses at me eating corn on the cob every few days when I can get it fresh in season here. I don't really consider soaking, sprouting or fermenting to be "processing" in the modern sense of the word.

LWC said...

I agree with this assessment. As I read the papers (and I've read most that you cite) I couldn't "square the circle" as it were to what I was reading on "Paleo" (don't know how to make the TM sign) blogs. The original papers are where I formed my impression of paleo being low fat (particularly saturated fat) and low carb (because of the grains and legume avoidance).

Vegetables don't have a lot of carbs (compared to grains) and if you fear fruit, then you're eating mountains of greenery if you're going to get to 38% or so carbs. Even if you include fruit, that's still a lot of vegetation. I think that's why people up the fat intake-- because there is such a thing as too much protein and they don't want to eat mountains of vegetation. Heck, I've seen people state that vegetables and greens are inedible and not intended to be eaten.

Myron Schwarzennecker said...

So... the new, modern Paleo is supposedly better than the old-fashioned Paleo, at least according to the people who are garnering fame and fortune from peddling the bacon-lovers Paleo.

Karin said...

I always thought JM and other low carbers were trying to co-opt paleo in order to gain more followers. I think they may have been successful, because paleo does seem to be synonymous now with high fat/high meat diets, and don't mention the fruit. :) (I'm thinking of the famous, "Don't mention the war," from Faulty Towers.) It's really too bad.

carbsane said...

Here's what got me in trouble with "former research biochemist and one of the world’s leading experts in Paleolithic nutrition" ... pointing out what his book says. Where did this come from? Certainly not from Cordain his mentor or any of the mentors before that.

Palmitic acid is 16 carbons long, fully saturated, and commonly found in palm oil and animal products, including beef, eggs, milk, poultry, and seafood. Palmitic acid has long been implicated in CVD, as it tends to raise LDL cholesterol. Among the saturated fats, it would appear palmitic acid does pose the greatest likelihood of increasing LDL cholesterol. However, palmitic acid has also recently been shown to be vital both to forming new memories and accessing long-held memories. As we shall see when we investigate how our diet has changed, a Paleo diet supplies an adequate amount of palmitic acid for optimum cognitive function while limiting the intake to levels that are not harmful to the cardiovascular system. It is also important to note that excessive carbohydrate intake leads to palmitic acid production. If you recall from the insulin chapter, when liver glycogen is full, additional carbohydrate is converted to palmitic acid. This process appears to blunt our sensitivity to leptin, which then inhibits our satiety to a normal meal. This is the beginning of insulin resistance and is at the heart of the mechanism of how we cease to respond to food by feeling "full."

From The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf 2010, p. 108.

carbsane said...

Welcome Ballomar! I just found a copy of a classic cookbook that I wanted another copy of (to preserve the integrity of what's left of the one my Mom gave me). It was published in 1950 and it is really informative what was included. Would you believe there is an insert with plans on how to build a root cellar! My how times have changed (no, Mom never built a root cellar but we had a big storage freezer for all the veggies we grew in our own garden, etc.).

carbsane said...

Hey Karin!

It's darned near impossible to tell who is co-opting whom here anymore ... I think it's a bit of a symbiotic relationship.

In terms of LLVLC, ultimately I don't know that it had much to do with his weight troubles, but that whole thing has been in decline since mid 2010, . He put up a lot of smoke and mirrors and any "win" (like being on top of podcast lists that are miniscule parts of the franchises they are beating out ... e.g. Jillian Michaels) . When I used to frequent his forum it was super busy. The "get daily" would produce a page or two of new posts that fully turned over if you checked in the morning and again at night. The sponsorships rotated quite a bit and there were several of them. This was before the expansion of the podcasts, but still, in 2010/2011 podcasts were taped 3 months in advance and people actually had heard of the guests (I knock my own self here!) outside of the LLVLC bubble.

Paleo? I think it has jumped the shark. Just my impression. Most of those folks have their "real lives" to go back to, however. They are trainers and gym owners and nutritionists and alternative/functional medicine peeps, etc. As Robb said in his email to me, he can just focus on and build his brand and I'm sure he'll do just fine.

Paleo has supposedly still been trending up, but this is a bit of a cheerleading link, and Paleo barely makes it off the x-axis compared to Atkins or South Beach.

It explains the defensiveness and need to squash anyone who dares speak out.

Myron Schwarzennecker said...

Has anyody ever called his gym to see what super high prices he got? You know, for "helping people". Everyday Crossfit takes in about $180/month. I bet a pseudocelebrity gym, ex-Crossfit or not, got lots higher than that.

But yes, there's always the interplay between who is the "leader" and how much the leader gets led by the fans, according to how much the fans want to hear "science" that vindicates their favorite fatty foods. My point is the usual one that it all becomes about money-making, while putting up the appearance of integriy and having a little self-deprecation thrown in.

Let me guess: he never had a reasonable reply about why he changed his mind on SFAs.

markgillespie said...

I want to vomit every time I hear mention of drinking coffee with butter in it. People actually do this?!

Myron Schwarzennecker said...

Cordain did say that palmitic acid was atherogenic. Cordain advised lean meat.

Myron Schwarzennecker said...

News: McDonalds CEO announces that he's lost 20 pounds while eating (not exclusively) at McDonalds. He apparently credits watching calories and exercising.

Steven said...

My interpretation is a lot of what you're arguing against is there not being much precedent for very high fat paleo diets (>60%) and misrepresentation of Paleo studies, which I totally agree with

I obviously don't know Eaton and Konner's motivation, but I suspect that some of their recommendations were motivated by political correctness (low fat, low SFA, high PUFA, low salt, high fibre)

Some of the values like protein intake are unrealistic. For a weight loss diet 30+% protein might be safe and effective. But in active, lean hunter-gatherers that's just a recipe for rabbit starvation. And really, >70g of fibre.

Things like sodium intake make a good case for looking at hunter-gatherers and traditional cultures as a starting place, rather than a model for reenactment. I haven't been very impressed with the low sodium RCTs: 300% in the RAAS, 30% increase in noradrenaline, increased oxidative stress and insulin resistance, some studies finding increased all-cause mortality. I'll pass. The high PUFA falls in this category too

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Craig_in_CT said...

You might want to look at the book titled "The Blue Zones". It profiles a half dozen or so modern cultures or groups that are exceptionally long lived and healthy. Most of the diets include lots of beans and some grains..

Craig_in_CT said...

Apparently, evolution really kicked into high gear in the mid 1980's, rendering Eaton's earliest paper obsolete.

carbsane said...

I can't see how paleo man was anything but opportunistic -- he ate whatever he could get his hands on but wouldn't waste time on stuff that didn't offer calories in return! So greenery? I'm thinking not so much.

Dairy seems to be one of those food classes that is particularly hard for many to eliminate from their diets. So? Mark Sisson made it primal. Voila!

carbsane said...

I've seen conversations at sites like PaleoHacks describing Cordain "modifying his position". I tend to think he caved to popular-peer pressure a bit with his greater foray into authoring diet books.

His position change on canola is telling. I'm not taking sides on canola itself, but Cordain's website USED to favor recreating the composition of the diet because the foods themselves weren't available. Therefore very lean meat + canola = game meat in terms of fatty acid composition.

carbsane said...

Eaton did mention in his AHS12 talk that Dennis Burkitt (fiber hypothesis) was a personal friend so there may have been influence there. Here is a more recent paper on the fats: (need to add to the Paleo Papers post). So I'm not sure how much political correctness was involved there, though perhaps bias is certainly possible.

Rabbit starvation? Not if you eat carbs! :-)

The type of high fat diets consumed by many popular paleos is nothing even like that of the Inuit they claim to emulate. Ribeye and ghee is nothing like seal meat and caribou.

carbsane said...

Hey, I heard they made a movie like that. I think it was called Fat Head. Well, that's what the first half of the movie was about anyway. I wonder if he left that in the new version. I don't have the stomach to find out.

seclement said...

Those last two paragraphs sum it up brilliantly for me. Even most of the gurus will (sometimes begrudgingly) agree with Michael Pollan's assessment that we would be healthier if we focused on the foods our grandparents ate. The romantic attachment to a particular time period is not only misplaced, but I actually think it's one of the biggest barriers that will prevent PaleoTM from going mainstream as they so desperately wish.

I find the constant shifting of goal posts by the gurus highly entertaining though. They really do want to distance themselves from people like Cordaine that promote lean meats, etc., yet they want to use their work as part of the body of evidence that forms the foundation of their claims. At the same time, they are trying to dismantle the merits of evidence-based medicine because it doesn't prove what they want it to prove. It's just all over the shop.

eulerandothers said...

I agree about not wasting time on stuff that didn't offer calories. But - how long does it take to chase and kill an animal? How much skill? Then consider how finding an animal and then killing it and then preparing it for eating - it still must be shared with at least some of the rest of the community. A lot of work when you can harvest vegetation and find the best, most caloric to have at hand for sustenance.

If you can tame animals and have the milk they produce: again, less work and a somewhat steady source for nutrition. There's your dairy.

Sanjeev Sharma said...

All true, and at the same time my understanding is that in many h-g societies there was massive reward for being that guy that could hunt well.

In fact some researchers specializing in reading theorize that the neural machinery for tracking is the machinery we now use for reading.

I really don't know how to parse & teas out all these competing ideas. I would never base my diet on these ideas though. As guidance on what a real, whole person today should eat IMHO these ideas are either lower in quality or equal to reductionism and rat experiments and observational studies.

YMMV of course; I'm getting to the point that even Cochrane Collaboration type material's looking suspect (since they look at bare evidence, not informed by plausibility, skepticism and with no bayesian-type reasoning).

Sanjeev Sharma said...

There's also always the possibility that things that appear next to impossible for us were easier for them than we can imagine

Wally can also move a one-ton block 300 feet an hour by levering it up onto a pebble as a fulcrum, and walking it around onto another pebble a foot or so away.

Watching Wally move his blocks around looks so simple, the techniques seem so obvious, and yet I didn't think of them. I slapped myself on the forehead when I first watched his video. And, logically, I have to force myself to accept that there are other techniques, just as easy and just as inventive, that I also haven't thought of.

Lighthouse Keeper said...

Seclement has it right the last two paragraphs are examples of hitting nails bang on their heads. When did the diseases of western civilization and affluence begin surely not 10,000 years ago. They are indeed all over the shop chronologically.

Sanjeev Sharma said...

o ye of little faith.

It's GRASS FED BUTTER damit. Completely different.

I still wonder how they get the coconuts to eat the grass.

Screennamerequired said...

Cordain hasn't exactly "changed his position" as much as people think. Basically he still says saturated fat will contribute to athroslcerosis and plaque build up, but if you don't eat an inflammatory diet you "probably' won't have the plaque rupture causing a heart attack. Which is kind of insane. Call me crazy but I would prefer a diet that doesn't cause plaque build up in the first place.

eulerandothers said...

'There's also always the possibility that things that appear next to impossible for us were easier for them than we can imagine'

That's a huge stretch.
It reminds me of something about running. I had a boss who ran to work every day, and ran home at night - I think it was something like 10 miles. In the city - to his suburb. He was slim and muscular and didn't worry about calories, needless to say!

He told me that when races were first recorded, with times, the results showed very slow runners, compared to today. I don't know how true this is when you look at all of history, but I do think drawings are not necessarily accurate representations of what people did or looked like. Any more than magazines today portray people that represent the majority of the population.

Some drawings just represent the ideal. Some slim people whose bodies remain for us to examine thousands of years later were either of an aristocratic class, and vain, or simple people who didn't have much to eat. In the 1950's, in America, people ate fewer calories, and that was the average and the norm. Fewer than today's average and norm. They also tended to weigh less.

I don't have facts and figures to back this up (I think Marian Nestle might...). That would take a bit of work, but I know I've run across convincing arguments to support this.

I don't think the ancients were super-athletes. Years ago, I read an account of a man who was raised by wild animals. That meant he had to run to keep up with them. In fact, to run as fast as the wolves who raised him (or whatever they were....), he would have wound up a super-athlete, astounding the world. When I mentioned this account in a class I took (one professor seemed to believe this story), one of the students said, 'Nah, they just slowed down to make him think he could keep up with them!' Makes more sense, but it was good for a laugh that day.

eulerandothers said...

'there was massive reward for being that guy that could hunt well.'
I think there's still a limit. Even with massive reward, in the context of everyday life, reward can only carry you so far.

When I think about the activity of competitive running, for example, at one time, the Olympics were the one place that runners could gain recognition for speed. Today, there are a great many well-known marathons, local, national, international. In this technological age, people have even more access to training tecniques. Manufacturers of running shoes are more competitive. There are really a lot, LOT, of studies concerning exercise (mind boggling, really) because the financial stakes are higher in competitive sports.

Yet, if you had to hunt, which means following fast-moving animals a lot of the time, and traveling distances just to bring home one or two carcasses for a group of hungry relatives and friends... hmmm. Makes you appreciate how modern-day hunters rely on gun and bow-and-arrow and STILL don't just live off their kill.

Sanjeev Sharma said...

more articles/analysis of real paleo ... a more in-depth, inclusive-of-all-the-science (eschewing cherry picking) looks like a movement that's gathering steam (found on Lyle's forums, thought I'd share here)

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kfg said...

50, 100 . . . is a lot easier.

'Cause we're not all dead yet. There's about 50 million of us in the United States alone who, ya know, remember what we ate 50 years ago. Most of us remember what our Grandparents ate as well. That takes us back to before the introduction of Crisco. There are still a few left who even remember that time.

It's not ancient history you have to piece together from scraps of literature. It's still living tradition, still PEOPLE; and still on dinner tables. How about joining it and keeping it alive? Go have dinner with your grandparents.

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