The Paleo Fad-Wagon Rolls On!

Chris Kresser got in with the right publisher!  How else do you get quite such a book tour and to present "paleo" when up relatively recently you didn't even call yourself that?   But there he was on Monday, the latest to make that always-panned-as-pseudosci-hype-unless-you-get-on-it show:  Doctor Oz.  When the paleo diet last made the "big time" it was with Paleoista Nell Stephenson and capital T, The Paleo Diet® author Loren Cordain PhD Exercise Science.   I blogged on that previously.  

Now, anyone who has ever skimmed more than two blog posts of Paleoista knows that Nell is one of the remaining few hard core purists.  She has taken to calling this True Paleo, or as she said on the first episode:
... there are no inflammatory foods so there is no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no refined sugars. 

She again went on the Oz show with her "Cheater Plan" whereby you eat strict paleo per this screenshot compilation.   But if you're good on that, you get 3 cheat meals a week!

And a paleofied dessert daily (shhhhh, don't tell the Hartwigs you're having sex with your pants on!).  This was some green smoothie that I wouldn't equate with dessert even if you dumped a quarter cup of sugar in it and tossed it in an ice cream maker, but ...

Of course nobody can accuse her of selling out on Oz, because she took to her blog to make sure everyone knows that this isn't what she really advocates.   Kinda funny as her segment came after Chris had explained his version ... but not before Dr. Oz did rather hilarious intro considering the state of "paleo" today.

Paleo ancestors survived on lean meats and plants as the pictures in the screenshot compilation at right depict.  Ummm cattle and beets?  But onward.

Oz also launched into an absurd visual animated blue people thing about how excess carbs turn to fat and how protein burns fat or something right in the middle of Kresser's segment.
Yes ... I'm going out of order here ... roll with me folks!  Enter Chris Kresser!  He is going to explain his version of paleo, which boils down to paleo being too restrictive for most people ... so they have to eat some version of what the rest of us would call "just eating".   The part about 2 minutes in is the most uncomfortable to watch and I imagine it was quite uncomfortable for the two paleo reps onstage.  Here you have Chris who was never really paleo to begin with and Nell who is as diligent old-Cordain school (minus the canola) paleo as you'll ever find.  Oz shoots a question to Nell right after Chris explains about restriction and she shifts into the weight loss schtick about how important it is to find your personal paleo code.  Bizarre really, but indicative of a big problem in the community.  Paleo was highly searched in January because January is diet month.  FAD diet month.  That's right, along with your sugar detoxes and you whole nine yards of orthorexia, along comes paleo-ish.

But here's where it gets weird.  Dr. Oz creates two paleo code types.  I went back to my copy of YPPC ... I could find no such types.  I know the folks don't get much say on Dr. Oz, but at some point the schtick should match the book if he's going to use that "paleo code" label.  I imagine some audience members are thinking let me buy that book and find my paleo type!  Where the heck are these paleo code types??

In any case, we've already covered the Cheater (Type 2 Paleo?! ) version Oz made up for Nell.  Now let's discuss Paleo Code Type 1:  The High Volume Eater.

First things first, Chris says there's no such thing as counting calories -- Oz pans to the audience for the round of applause for that good news!  I'm kinda tired of this whole calorie counting thing.  It is useful for some, not for others.  Some need to do it for at least a period of time to get a handle on things, others don't.  And yes, increasing protein can lead to a spontaneous decrease in caloric intake that is sustained, at least over a 3 month period.   But to even imply that the stress eater or the mindless eater will necessarily improve by going paleo?    Or that eating a high volume of so-called paleo foods is going to produce a better result than eating a high volume of other foods per se?  Bordering on the outright dishonest at this point.  Oz asks how he can tell people they can eat all they want and lose weight and Chris counters with the bait-and-switch on how paleo causes you to naturally eat less.  OK!

So let's take a look at the foods you can eat without restriction!  These are so nutrient rich they overwhelm you body with nutrientisity so you can't possibly overeat them, you're so satiated!

As they go through them:

  1. Non-Starchy Veggies:  Nothing new under the sun about the veggies, and those have been a fundamental push of all governments and every diet guru except the rare ketotic bird so let's dispense with this notion that there's anything new or unique to paleo here.  Weight Watchers classifies these as "free points" to the best of my knowledge.  
  2. Good Carbs:  Ruh roh!!!   Those be yams, sweet potatoes and plantains.  None of that blood sugar and weight gain causing white rice or white potatoes (and corn).  Paging just about every other paleo that allows starch in the diet!!!
  3. Healthy Fats:  No lard, butter or such in the unrestricted category here!  Avocado, coconut oil and olive oil ... reduce sugar cravings (citation please!!)
  4. Steak, eggs, pork chops, turkey  -- pork chops a great source of absorbable protein.  I'm not sure if he's talking about animal vs. veg protein here ....
So then they move on to the restricted but allowed foods.
  • Full fat dairy:  Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.   This is at the root of diabetes and obesity, etc.  So if tolerated consume 1/2 cup up to twice/day.  Splash of cream in coffee, pat of butter on sweet potato ...:

"I don't want people to go crazy here.  We're not talking about a half a cup or stick of butter at each meal."

  • Up to 3 servings a week.  This one he takes a jab at "paleo purists" who think legumes are inflammatory but says he hasn't seen evidence to justify that claim.   Can we rewind to the dairy??  I mean you don't even need to go to the paleo community on that one, and while I'm not sure it's inflammatory, I think the opposite as he claimed is on thin evidencial ground (is that a word?). 
I know I went out of order but I'm just imagining the look on Paleoista's face as Kresser knocks the paleo purists such as herself, and those he should be most aligned with, such as his supplement salesman partner Robb Wolf and the man who he sat on the same side of the Safe Starches panel with at AHS12, Paul Jaminet.  Noice!  

In Chris' defense, the two paleo types typify the problem with the diet and the community.  Which side looks healthier overall?  I'd say Chris'.  But the paleo purists were gnashing their teeth at that carton of milk, even if they'll make concessions for butter in your coffee.  And the legumes!  Oh the horror!!  More on that in a minute here.

Speaking of a stick of butter with every meal ... Jimmy Moore weighed in on Facebook:
Although it was great exposure for the concept of Paleo, I think it did a lot more harm than good. There was a heavy emphasis on "lean meats" while avoiding the health benefits of saturated fats like butter.
That's a screenshot of Jimmy's current FB Profile pic.  Yes that's a chunk of butter being eaten with each bite of some meat concoction known as a Defibrillator.  Sorry Jimmy, you got paleo confused with WAPF again.  No butter on paleo.   He goes on to get upset with Nell for saying it's not a fad diet like Atkins.  I guess some didn't like Jimmy's take so he had to follow up with a kumbaya olive branch wave to Chris, again on FB.  There he does his best to praise Kresser but dig once more at Nell.  Now this is not to defend Nell, but she's pretty spot on in her description of Atkins and low carbing in general, and paleo?  It's a fad diet.  It's on Dr. Oz fer cryin out loud!!   In his initial response, Jimmy also wrote:
But I wasn't the only upset about this segment on Paleo. Mr. Paleo Diet himself Dr. Cordain chimed in with a blog post yesterday expressing concern about the promotion of beans and legumes on Paleo:
Ahhh Dr. Cordain.  He's been a guest on Jimmy's show a few times over the years.  Has Jimmy read a Cordain book?  Cordain calls low carb diets "fad diets" repeatedly in his first book.  And while he's more nimble than Michael Flatly these days with regards to saturated fats, the record is as long as certain noses would be were they Pinocchio of Cordain being for higher MUFA and PUFA, and LOW saturated fat.   But Cordain's complaint?  Go read his piece if you need to, but the title says it all and he is adamant that legumes aren't paleo (just ignore the clear archeologic evidence to the contrary).

I imagine Cordain was none too happy with anything on Kresser's table there.  He is vehemently anti-dairy, and his post on legumes focuses on saponins.  Now where did I read that these are actually brewed into a tea by hunter gatherers ... oh yeah, I wrote about that:  Saponin Sacrum.  I agree with Kresser, the evidence against legumes is exceedingly weak, but furthermore, the evidence for legume consumption is pretty strong.  Oh ... and S. Boyd Eaton!  Those are legumes he sheepishly touted at AHS12, and were even listed in the first paper written with Konner.

All of this ultimately making for mindless entertainment at this point.


Jaie Jac said…
*Sigh* I am still longing for that paleo book that forces us to eat only wild foods. Beef, Salad? Pshh... Amateurs. I want some Cattail roots and acorn bread. Heck, where's my Non-existent Mammoth steak and constant endemic clan warfare? In all seriousness, a diet limits foods with very limited evidence is just silly. The toxins in Grains are clearly not unique to just grains, many actual wild roots are highly toxic (Unlike that good little buddy, Sweet potato), real paleolithic and H/g groups had ways of processing these.
carbsane said…
Yeah, when Nell says (paraphrase) "bet you didn't know you were eating paleo" for that lunch plate I cringed. You really just need to put legumes and tubers in the base part - e.g. starches - and you get many HG diets and likely at least some version of a human diet in the paleo era.

I don't think this sort of exposure really does anyone any good ... except for Oz's wallet.
Jaie Jac said…
Paleo really is a useless concept, IMO. Just eat a healthy diet, the USDA myplate is pretty darn sound.
LWC said…
I didn't watch the show and don't intend to do so, so thanks for recapping. For all the (mostly deserved) grief Oz gets, I this case I think he did the audience a service by highlighting the contradictions behind the "Paleo" brand.

I didn't know legumes were included in the first "paleo" list. That's interesting because IIRC the latest evidence from actual paleontology seems to suggest that both legumes and grains were a part of the human diet much earlier than some assume. (Note: I am not a paleontologist, an archeologist nor an evolutionary biologist. I do not study ancient humans. I'm just an interested lay person who reads the occasional articles).
Bob Theroux said…
I'm definitely not paleo. Loved my Cuban pork with black beans and rice last night. Don't use much milk but eat a ton of cheese. Can't have wine without cheese. Potatoes in my beef stew. I put lettuce leaves IN my sandwich - under the crusty bread. I use cauliflower as a vegetable, not as rice, mashed potatoes or pizza crust. Never watch Dr Oz show unless I find out that something like this is will be presented. I think both Chris and Nell did a good job describing their eating plans. Are they paleo? Who knows. Are they a good way of eating? Absolutely. Was Dr Cordain upset? Of course. He's the elder. Mustn't disagree with his version (or vision). Was Jimmy upset? Sure, esp with Nell. But Jimmy is far from paleo anyway so it really doesn't matter. BTW, I tried Nell's "smoothie" recipe. I liked it. Very tasty. But maybe because I used more vodka than she did.
Susanne said…
I'm waiting for the Paleo book to debut on Dr Oz that promotes bug-eating! Because although it would be hard to find evidence for it in most archaeological conditions, the fact that our closest primate cousins eat bugs, as well as plenty of modern cultures, strongly suggests that at least some Paleolithic cultures were into bug-eating. Why can't we walk into Whole Foods and buy us a nice packet of gluten-free high protein Paleo(tm) powdered bug yet, to mix into our Paleoish smoothie?!

But I've come to conclude that most "popular" Paleo(tm) has very little to do with actual science and evidence. I went over to the MDA forums to see if there was any reaction to this show yet, and found a long thread of people patting each other on the back because they didn't get the flu shot. Instead they kept themselves healthy by taking vitamin D supplements because they "didn't want those chemicals in their body," which they will say without any irony whatever, as far as I can tell. It's also pretty clear from the forums I've lurked in that most people there don't really understand evolution and adaptation, and haven't looked at all into actual research on the Paleolithic beyond what their guru's books tell them. If their favorite author hasn't specifically commented on a practice, they imagine what Grok would do, based on what they feel: "If I were Grok, what I would do for breakfast is ..." Any article by actual working, researching archaeologists or anthropologists which mentions the Paleo diet gets spammed with comments from Paleo fans accusing them of ignorance. (And I'm sure their campus voicemail also fills up quickly, which is why the few academics who come across Paleo(tm) rarely venture to comment on it.)
carbsane said…
LOL ... maybe I need to try vodka in my avocado and greens desert :D
Screennamerequired said…
I think people can conclude basically conclude that "paleo" is useless besides those that are making money of the marketing tag.When you try to base a diet from an " paleo evolutionarily" perspective you mainly just end up wallowing in a bunch of stupid speculations that will probably be updated or disputed in the near future. One paleo observation could be completely differently interpreted by another paleo promoter.

If you're in the position to be giving out general advice to the population I think this one is pretty sensible.
carbsane said…
Yep, it was in this one

Now of course they are talking about hunter gatherers, which is the problem with the "paleo" diet to begin with -- these guys are not any of the ologists you list either! They didn't study that record.
carbsane said…
Where's that comment from Rad about what it takes to make coconut oil?! Olives are also mostly inedible without processing.
carbsane said…
There is that upstart selling cricket protein paleo bars!

To me the worst part about paleo is the functional medicine woo woo that goes along with it.
LWC said…
Anthropologist! That's the "ologist" I didn't mention in my comment. I knew I was forgetting an important one, but couldn't think of it
charles grashow said…

Step 1
Shave off as much of the outer shell of the coconut as you can. Do this by using the knife to scrape off the outer shell. Always point the blade of the knife away from you.

Step 2
Cut the coconut in half with a knife. Drain the coconut milk into a jar.

Step 3
Scoop out the meat of the coconut with a chisel and place the meat into a bowl.

Step 4
Measure the amount of coconut meat you have. Add 50 percent more water to the bowl than you have coconut meat. For example, if you have two cups of coconut meat, add three cups of water.

Step 5
Pour the contents of the bowl into the blender. Place the lid on the blender and plug it in. Turn the blender on to its "chop" setting for one minute then switch the setting to "blend" for two to three minutes, or until the coconut has a smooth, creamy consistency. According to, "Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut," it is essential that this consistency be reached to make the coconut oil.

Notice - BLENDER
charles grashow said…
Another Jumping The Shark Moment

Are Antibiotics Paleo?
Nope. Not remotely. But that doesn’t mean there is not a time and place for them.
charles grashow said…
Diet-dependent acid load, Paleolithic nutrition, and evolutionary health promotion
S Boyd Eaton, Melvin J Konner, and Loren Cordain
"Estimated Saturated fat intake in ancestral diet: 7.5 - 12%"

"Palmitic acid is atherogenic. And there’s not an experiment in humans
or animals or tissue to show that it doesn’t down regulate the LDL
receptor. This is a point that is never addressed in Gary Taubes’s book
or Eric Westman’s articles, or Ron Krauss. You need to address the
down regulation of the LDL receptor. That controls the flux of oxidized
LDL in and out of the intima."

"Although a small vocal group of scientists and nutritionists believe
that saturated fat has virtually nothing to do with CHD, this notion is
incorrect. An interesting study was published about 30 years ago involving
an autopsy of an eskimo that had been frozen in the artic tundra for almost 800 years. Obviously, this individual ate no western foods and because she lived above 60 degrees N. latitude, her diet would have been composed almost entirely of fish, sea mammals and meat and hence would have had considerable quantities of saturated fat. The autopsy showed significant atherosclerosis on the coronary arteries (the arteries supplying the heart).

Similar autopsies done on the Masai people in Africa during the 1960s before westernization revealed extensive atherosclerosis on their coronary
arteries. Their diet was high in saturated fat from the milk and blood of
their cattle which was regularly consumed throughout their lives. In numerous animal models, including primates, atherosclerosis is routinely produced by high saturated fat feedings. Hence, dietary saturated fatty acids have the capacity to promote atherosclerosis, however by itself, without inflammation the atherosclerotic process likely is not fatal. Atherosclerosis causes a plaque to form in the tissue (the intima) on the inside of an artery. When the fibrous cap of the plaque ruptures, it causes a clot to form. If this clot occurrs in a coronary artery, a heart attack results and is frequently fatal. Chronic low level inflammation sets off a series of hormonal events which ultimately are responsible for rupturing of the fibrous cap. Accordingly, because the 800 year old frozen eskimo developed atherosclerosis in her coronary arteries, she may not have necessarily died from a heart attack, providing she had a non-inflammatory blood profile. Studies of eskimos in Greenland
during the 1960s and 1970s showed that they were virtually immune to death from heart attacks and this absence of disease likely occurred because their diet was high in omega 3 fatty acids which are known to produce anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body."
John Craft said…
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John Craft said…
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Subcalva said…
I'm 99% sure I read somewhere on Kresser's site where he says that going to low in carbohydrates may effect your thyroid in a negative way but now of course I can't find it. I did find this quote though where he recommends eating more carbs:
"Another reason that some people have sugar cravings is they’re not eating enough carbohydrate, and so they end up having really strong sugar cravings in the evening that they tend to satisfy with less healthy carbs, like sweets, candy, sugar, etc. And one thing you can do is just eat more fruit and safe starch, and by that I mean starchy tubers or plants like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, plantains, yuca, taro root, lotus root, white rice if you tolerate it, things like that, and eat more of that throughout the day so that you don’t have these really intense carb cravings at night that you’re more likely to go off the rails with."
Genevieve Evans said…
Just read this myself. Ugh. The minute any person giving out health advice mentions homeopathy, they lose all credibility with me and deserve to be called out as a quack. Not to mention homeopathy is hardly "paleo." Sadly, this seems to be rampant in the "ancestral health" movement.
carbsane said…
I don't get this idea that women somehow inherently should eat fewer carbs than men. If anything they were the gatherers in the HG's and would would have eaten more carbs than men.
charles grashow said…

"I just read one post on a site in which the author wondered why I didn’t include ‘healthy animal fats like butter’ in my presentation (um…that would be because dairy is not Paleo), another which criticized my suggestion to eat lean meat (if you’re questioning this- have a look at Chapter Two in Dr. Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, in which he states ” Eat plenty of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables’) and yet a third which angrily addressed the fact that I said Paleo was not a fad (right-it’s not).

Another blog commented that Dr. Oz doesn’t stick with one type of diet approach and that he ‘goes back and forth from one to another’. Well… he’s a show host. What’s he supposed to do? His job isn’t to become a Paleo advocate and I’m simply thrilled to have had the opportunity to be a guest twice so far and to present a manner of healthy eating to millions.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most? Getting people to eat more veggies, more natural proteins and less sugar and junk all together?

How about spending more time getting this message out?

If you truly are Paleo, lead by example and teach those around you.

If you’re not truly Paleo, that’s fine as well, but couldn’t all the different approaches be called something else? If your name is Mr X and you’re mostly Paleo but you eat grass fed butter, Oscar Mayer bacon and cream, couldn’t your method be called The Mr X Method and not Paleo, since, well…because it’s not Paleo?"
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