It's Official: Paleo is NOT Ancestral
But even since I first heard of the paleo diet, and began reading about all of these remote ancestral tribes and cultures, there has been this nagging voice asking me how these populations can be translated back into the paleolithic. Some of these tribes are decidedly neolithic despite their "primitive" cultures. Any domestication of animals or cultivation of vegetation would be counter to the HG existence we are told we evolved through. So in addition to looking to remote tribes for answers -- as opposed to looking to where diets in our own cultures went off the rails -- we are essentially being asked to make the leap that these modern "paleos" in some way mirror the true paleos, but we must ignore any facets of their diet that pre-date agriculture. Hmmmph.
But paleo is not about that. As evidence of this I bring you Loren Cordain gnashing his teeth once again over the terrible blight on the world that is the legume, and we can throw the grains in there too: MEXICAN CUISINE, INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY AND THE PALEO DIET (this is taglined to GotPaleo but signed at the end with Cordain's name). He writes:
As with most eating traditions found worldwide, current day Mexican cuisine is derived from an amalgamation of people, cultures, historical events and available foods. Prior to the European “discovery” of the Americas by Columbus in 1492, the indigenous peoples of the area we now call Mexico were necessarily reliant upon native plant and animal foods that could either be collected wild or domesticated. Notable domesticated plant foods native to Mexico and the Americas were corn (maize), chile peppers (all varieties), tomatoes, squash, certain bean species (Phaseolus vulgaris [kidney, pinto, black and navy beans], Phaseolus lunatus [lima beans]), tomatillos, maguey (mescal), cassava, avocadoes, chocolate and potatoes, among others.
With the arrival of Europeans came the introduction of cows (beef, dairy products: milk, butter, sour cream and cheese), pigs (pork), goat, and sheep (lamb, mutton) which were rapidly incorporated into the native Mexican cuisine. Other European/Asian food introductions that are frequently found in the present day Mexican cuisine are wheat, rice, barley, hops, lettuce, onions, green onions (scallions), garlic, cilantro, limes, olives, olive oils, cumin, black pepper, vinegar, and sugar.Cordain then launches into a list of "Mexican foods" and the usual paleo treatises on lectins, phytates and saponins and how bad all of these things are for you. I include a screenshot of one section for full effect:
So what I found ironic about this article is here you have Cordain, however briefly, outlining the foods that were native to the land and which made up the basis of their diets -- regionally differing of course based on climate, terrain and access to water life -- and then basically laying down the paleo hammer as to why none of these are appropriate. I guess since he trademarked The Paleo Diet (capital T, capital P, capital D) he can pretty much make up whatever rules he wants. But this article surely demonstrates the utter disconnect with this approach and the true spirit of the movement and its basis. At some point TPD is supposed to be a form of reenactment -- at least the spirit was to emulate and copy the foods eaten by our ancestors before the modern foods ravaged our health. Only Cordain goes to great lengths to explain to us why the ancestral populations in this hemisphere should have died out long ago from leaky gut and whatever else his triad of bad plant food actors is supposed to kill you with. If you're going to eat "Mexican"
I guess Cordain hasn't gotten the memo on salt yet, and I'm not sure if his "pupil" recommends a salt rim on the Nor Cal. But meat and a side salad sounds like the perfect Mexican cuisine? NO. Sorry. It is not. Corn, beans and squash. This is the basis of the ancestral diet of most natives to the Americas. If Cordain wants to be honest and just come out and say that those of us of European descent are better off emulating the traditional diets of Europeans, then he needs to come out and say that, but he's going to run into problems there as the "paleo papers" put the birthplace of humanity in Africa ... It's a mess. I know. But even those of long lines of descent in this hemisphere don't get special dispensation. There's no caveat that such a diet might at least be more appropriate for you!! No. We should all -- in a quest for optimal health -- adopt TPD which means no grains, not even corn, and no beans of any kind, ever. Oh ... he's also against dairy even though that came with the European livestock, so he's somewhat true in the end to the P in paleo.
I think it is fair to say that the so-called "diseases of civilization" have wrought far greater havoc upon indigenous populations around the globe than they have on the already-somewhat-civilized. Even many rural settlers already began living a different life than those they displaced, bringing with them food stuffs from their homelands rather than adapting to those of their new homes.
If the community were to listen to the ancestral voices, they would be encouraging these peoples to return to THEIR traditional foods and practices. There are any number of legitimate nutrition programs aimed at doing just that, but you won't find Robb Wolf out working with any of these programs until he retires to farm coconuts. They simply cannot because such diets are, as Cordain demonstrates in such incredibly tone-deaf fashion, inferior and unacceptable to their standards of dietary purity and superiority. It is unquestionably racist and elitist, although I don't really think many of the people who think this way really recognize just how badly it is! There appear to be two strategies here:
- You have those who reconcile the disconnect by insisting that the traditional diets of these populations weren't really what they have been documented to be. In this regard we are to believe that all Native (North) Americans were carnivorous hunter gathering peoples who subsisted on very little dietary carbohydrate and ate mostly buffalo. Whatever "grain" or "tuber" would likely have been the equivalent of chewing on rope or straw and likely starchless and certainly sugarless ... just don't read the abundant literature outlining otherwise.
- Ignoring the traditional diet entirely and insisting that their paleo diet is nutritionally superior for all. Forget that they thrived on maize and legumes, those were merely the best they could do at the time and if they'd had their druthers, would have been abandoned long ago. This latter approach appears to be the one Cordain is taking, and, sadly, a majority one within the movement.
Interestingly enough, Cordain has aligned himself with the two stooges of cocolactocoloncleanse primaleo as a means of distinguishing himself in the paleo community now that he's retired from academia. Good choice Loren! I am of course talking about Heath Squier and Gary Collins who are having fun with themselves trying to tear down the house that Victory Belt built by baking one loaf of paleo bread at a time. These self appointed guardians of authentic capital P-aleo are an interesting duo. You've got Collins who will remind you any chance he gets that he was a pro.FESS.ion.AL and that he's not an expert but he is an expert, I guess even he can't tell. This is a man who has written articles on grounding and accupuncture, embraced colon cleansing and who has adopted the label "primal" to divert any possible criticism for his consumption of neolithic dairy.
Basically, according to him, Cordain invented paleo so call it something else and he's fine with you. He'll trash anyone who graduated from college and wrote a cookbook, but sees no irony in the fact that his side kick basically inherited his parents' business and would like you to believe that his nutritionist (? training ?) mother had no idea for years and years that kamut, spelt, lentils and beans had carbs in them. If most of the VB authors have no cred, what does that say of Heath? He's morphed the business into a paleo goods supplier selling paleo wraps and coconut flakes and a bunch of supplements. Heath's paleo day begins with the following non-foods within the first 2 hours:
I'm thinking that 3 years in he should be off the "transitional" paleo foods he sells, and I'm also thinking that paleo man didn't have a bunch of pill bottles in place of food. The rest of Heath's day includes some actual food, and another few scoops of protein powder because ... paleo. Do note the heavy dose of woo woo here too.
I'm not sure how this alliance came about, but good choice?
I get that Cordain and these two guys don't much like Chris Kresser for some reason. I guess being in with Robb hasn't brought Kresser any trail cred with Cordain. It's all a mess, but my my and SMH :-)
But oh my the legume cannot buy a break with this guy! Cordain says paleo man didn't eat legumes. Oddly enough he goes on about fire and cooking and then later talks of steamed broccoli and broiled salmon. Since paleo man walked out Africa to the shores of the British Isles, it is exceedingly unlikely that either of the aforementioned foods were paleo cooked or otherwise.
Folks need to write scholarly papers if they think paleo man ate legumes or potatoes. I don't suppose that during his academic career Cordain ever encountered an actual anthropologist? There is ample evidence for considerable starch consumption in the form of tubers, legumes and grains back into the paleolithic. If one can even draw a bright line in time, one can't just pick and choose which modern day plants to select. Avocados are a darling of the paleo crowd, but these are *cultivated* ... and said cultivation began with the humans populating this hemisphere, aka what we call Native Americans in the northern continent, but stretching down to South America too. Similarly, I don't think you can select just those HG groups who fit your dialog and dismiss others. There's also not much difference, IMO, between purposeful agriculture and gathering from plentiful wild sources. Clearly many ancestral populations did a bit of both and "paleo foods" are grown on freakin' farms and orchards and whatnot. You cannot acknowledge that and then say -- but no potatoes or legumes.
One of these guys -- don't recall which -- joked about people that must be addicted to chili. Get real. Paleoista is so anti-legume she suggested hummus be replaced with pureed broccoli recently on her blog. I don't suppose she suggests adding anything to that puree to replicate the flavor of hummus? Oh that's right, the beans add nothing, it's all in the spices. What's the deal with the broccoli? Not paleo. But who would go through all the soaking and sprouting and rinsing for a mushy bean? This is another thing. Where did this notion come from? This was the reason for my recent question about Weston A. Price's writings. Some were somewhat detailed in terms of foods and their preparation, but mostly you got a listing of a few staples and that was about it.
So this is from Hrdlicka's early 20th century account of the Pima:
Sounds like some labor was involved and then there was food for a long while to be had. Do you see any soaking, rinsing or sprouting? Collins is a big fan of Cordain's triad of plant toxins -- lectins, phytates and saponins. Do you see the soapy water when you boil your beans? That will dissolve your gut and kill you. Really really, you gotta believe Cordain knows what he's talking about. Pay NO attention to the billions of humans who thrived and were ripped. Lebron James has gone paleo and gotten ripped (I'd remind the audience here that Shanahan's star client was ripped on Hershey bars and dastardly fruit before going half-baked paleo.) If I were going to speculate -- which is mostly what Cordain does anyway -- I'd say that fermenting was what happened and humans figured out that doing it deliberately resulted in "acceptable spoilage" to something that remained edible thereby preventing losses to rotting etc. There is mention of drying of almost every food out there, which then in most cases required some form of rehydration. Hence soaking and some of the soaked beans sprouted. I have read a lot about various preparations and it would appear that this need to detoxify these dangerous foods is a myth. If anything, these "toxins" were medicinal. Again from Hrdlicka:
Somehow I doubt the Pima would have kept drinking bean juice if it "made them ill" as the paleos would have you believe. Saponins? Well I discussed these at length in this post, but the important point is that various African tribes specifically prepare a tea to contain saponins and drink it. They add it to milk based soups, etc. Rather than soaking and rinsing as if these compounds were deadly toxins rendering some foods inedible, humans have been "extracting" them and consuming them deliberately. For benefit.
Ancestral peoples. Pre-industrialized peoples. Traditional peoples. Whatever you want to call them. Cordain keeps repeating that 70% of our diet is refined flour, sugar and veggie oil. He is now teaming up with a purveyor of coconut flour wraps and almond meal breads. He has put his name on a bar that Julian sells.
In this country, paleo is being marketed to more than just whites of Euro descent. Only anyone of Native (North) American, Mexican or further on south to the tip of Chile have a long relationship with foods the paleos dismiss as nutritionally inferior and to be avoided. By his own telling, Cordain attributes many modern paleo foods to invaders from Europe. He also tells them that their health rests on going only as far back as this point and rejecting what came before. Makes a ton of sense doesn't it?
I have a few posts in the hopper on this topic as AHS14 had some interesting related talks. I'll also weigh in on what I've decided to dub Paleo Shneckenfeude ... because who can resist having a little fun with the paleo and low carb communities eating their own young.
Happy Sunday all!
As HG & primitive cultures have shown macro nutrient ratios are all over the place. The commonality is whole foods & no modern refined junk foodstuff. Macro nutrient ratios may be followed, for a while, to improve athletic performance & or help weight/fat loss.
BTW a great read "The Story of the Human Body" by Daniel E. Lieberman. Perhaps the "Paleo fadists" should read this book & offer their counterpoints.
Yes, instead of incorporating authentic heritage Mexican foods like homemade tortillas and Oaxaca cheese into my diet, I'll go on a binge at a mediocre Tex-Mex restaurant once in awhile. *facepalm*
it's a decent read for other anthropological discussions but his diet-related hypotheses overemphasized the outdated ETH for me
Anyone with links?
Cordain confuses me. It sometimes seems as thought he expected the field to end when he stopped. I mean "paleo" or TPD takes it's name from paleolithic which is actively and continuously studied, researched and advanced by scientists called paleontologists. And for example, the evidence unearthed (literally) by these scientists in fossilized teeth indicates that paleolithic man ate legumes (unless as Stephan Guyenet quipped you believe they were flossing with them). If you're going to pretend that your diet is based on science, doesn't your diet have to evolve to reflect the actual, up to date, science?
The one at the end is just Dana Carvey's "Chopping Broccoli" routine
I would have thought that these sorts of facts would be used to prove that traditional diets are based on the wisdom of our bodies or some such thing. Oh, and every ancient society that ever left any record considered salt to be pretty damn important as well. That's why you get paid a SALary and you eat SALad. Wars have been fought over salt. Probably because it's an essential nutrient, without which you would die.
Around here, squashes grow like weeds and you can't kill them if you try. If you eat the seeds in addition to the flesh, they aren't actually high carb, low fat foods. For example, for each cup of pumpkin flesh (50 calories, 12 g carb, 2 g protein), you get about 1 oz of hulled pumpkin seeds (150 calories, 12 g fat, 4 g carb, 9 g protein). This means that a squash like pumpkin gets approximately 50% of calories from fat, about 30% from carb and about 20% protein. So it's high fat, low carb, moderate protein. It should be the darling of the paleo / ancestral movement. Especially since you can eat the flowers and leaves.
As regards salt, there is a section of the paleo community that is deeply into the Na+/K+ ratio ... there is also a significant dabbling in the acid/alkaline stuff as well.
Exactly. Much of this evidence predates the popular paleo diet, but still it's never too late to learn. When some of the new stuff comes down the pike it offers up the opportunity to revise based on the science, and yet they never seem to be interested. I harped on the broccoli because this was specifically mentioned by Christine Warriner in her TED talk and yet Cordain talks of the unsuccessful hunter stopping at the edge of the village to bring home some broccoli from the patch as a consolation meal. Say what??!! Meanwhile, potatoes are now Whole30 Approved just so long as you know they don't mean French fries!! This seems to be the Hartwig test on everything and they nix legumes because they can be psychologically damaging (their words) and most folks eat beans as bean dip with corn chips (I'd beg to differ on that but anyway ...). So their logic is to skip the beans on this basis. Well, lots of people only eat avocados as guacamole and that means with chips too, so I guess we should avoid those too?
to be pretty damn important as well. That's why you get paid a SALary
and you eat SALad. Wars have been fought over salt. Probably because
it's an essential nutrient, without which you would die."
Humans evolved from tropical apes (chimpanzees consume about . As a result our sodium needs are actually negligible. It is almost impossible to to get too little dietary sodium.
The Yanomani rainforest people from Brazil have a sodium intake of around 1mg/day. The average Westerner consumes about *6000* (SIX THOUSAND) times as much sodium.
I disagree. Human evolution never stopped and my ancestors have been living in cold marine climates for thousands of years. I was hospitalized for low blood pressure and told to eat more salt (I was eating almost none at the time). I've been following that advice ever since and I feel much better.
Eating Paleo, presented by Nell Stephenson
I again state (see my comment about ketogenic diet and arthritis) that I do not follow any dietary regime and do not care what and how people eat.
>>>What is curious, however is that current research shows that modern human genome responds to a low (or very low) carbohydrate diet much more favorably - health-wise (judging by diverse set of biochemical markers) than to carbohydrate rich diet.<<<
1. What do you mean by the genome responding? and
2. I have seen no evidence of this even on a subjective level of cherry picked biomarkers let alone any comprehensive analysis.
The true keto diet for conditions like epilepsy keeps ketones stedily higher than what Volek and Phinney have decided to term "nutritional ketosis". I think most who experience improvements on such a diet may well be seeing a "side effect" of something other than direct action of ketones themselves. It is possible the effect is direct, but far more likely it is indirect.
The paleo peeps who are going on about all the trouble beans are to prepare get that out of the WAPF edicts but I really haven't come across much if anything about this. Many cultures wouldn't have limitless clean water to waste in rinsing, etc.
Certain people might do best to avoid certain grains and beans, but that doesn't mean everyone needs to.
How about all the healthy, lean, non-arthritic populations eating 75-85% of calories from carbohydrate?
I recall an interview with Dr Lieberman in which he gave the following thought experiment to keep in mind:
Picture yourself standing on a kitchen chair. Now jump down from the chair. In your mind's eye, think about how you will land: you know
immediately that you would ABSOLUTELY NOT LAND HEELS FIRST.
Well, said Lieberman, running IS jumping! A steady, progressive falling-forward and catching yourself that is in fact a forward jumping.
And the point of our Achilles tendon is to act as a sort of physiological shock absorber during forefoot running that makes the pounding of running MUCH less stressful.
This advice was a great benefit.
Walter C Willett is the the Head of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. He has published more papers than any other nutrition researcher. He avoids red meat, rarely eats fish or chicken and avoids dairy products.[ His wife, a registered nurse, teaches vegan cooking.] I'm pretty sure that Willett has based his personal diet on science.
Kaiser Pemanente, the largest HMO in the USA, now recommends plant based (vegan) diets for ALL patients.
The anthropological evidence is also overwhelming that plants formed the vast bulk of most human diets until very recently.
the foods highest in fiber and lowest in carbohydrate calories is
absurd. That we would eat leaves over seeds?'
Subsistence harvesting and processing of grains is one the most labour intensive and unpleasant means of obtaining food imaginable. The fact that large scale grain production only developed three times in human history (all at the end of the last ice age) suggests that most people considered it to be an extremely undesirable way to obtain food.
BTW, the INTERSALT study was widely criticized by Gary Taubes in a 1997 Science Magazine article written by Gary Taubes.
In 2008, a couple of statisticians demonstrated that the entire correlation of the INTERSALT study was determined by 4 outlying data points (out of 52). One of these was the Yanomani. Without these 4 outliers, the correlation between high sodium intake and high blood pressure is actually negative.
Pumpkin isn't some unique food. You could get similar nutrients from a similar squash - acorn squash, butternut squash, etc.
Even though you can't know the ratio of macronutrients, it seems reasonable to assume that if there's a nutrient found in a squash, your primitive ancestors probably ingested that nutrient at some point over the past 2.5 million years.
Everywhere around the world, every traditional diet contains at least some fat, some protein, some starch, some sugar, some fiber. So I don't really see the sense in excluding one of these elements from your own diet and then calling it "ancestral".
So, if a nutritionally dense low carb diet is "magic", and a nutritionally dense high carb diet is "magic" and a nutritionally dense moderate carb diet is "magic", maybe it's not the carb count that's creating the "magic".
"For more than 2.5 million years our ancestors have been cutting meat off animal bones, and the impact was huge. A diet that included raw meat as well as plant foods pushed our forbears out of the australopithecine rut, initiated the evolution of their larger brains, and probably inspired a series of food-processing innovations...according to the evidence carried in our bodies, it would take the invention of cooking to convert habilines
into Homo Erectus, and launch the journey that has led without any major changes to the anatomy of modern humans."
[Richard Wrangham. [Professor of Biological Anthropology, Harvard]Catching Fire.(2009) Basic Books. p.103.
Gut Microbiome Biohacking Basics; Mild Havoc? Or Unmitigated Upheaval?
"OTHER MICROBIOME KILLERS = Atkin's, VLC, Ketotic, Low-Fiber Diets
There are many ways to kill your gut besides antibiotics. Dietary changes make profound changes to the gut. Diet is in fact one of the primary drivers of diversity and populations in the gut. As we know with Darwin and his finches, diet drives evolution of morphology and anatomy. The main gut characters that produce the anti-inflammatory BUTYRIC ACIDand other SCFAs are also the same ones often associated with longevity in centanarians, better health and less fraility (Roseburia, F prausnitzii, Ruminococci, Bifidobacteria). The preferred diet of these butyrate-producers is fiber + RS. These 2 groups: (1) Ruminococci (Clostridiumcluster IV) and (2) Roseburia (Clostridium cluster XIVa) munch on mostly RS, not inulin, other fibers or meat (eg other microbes...in a bacteria eats bacteria world LOL). They do not appear too diversified in their culinary palate, yet they comprise the great majority of gut characters in healthy, disease-free, cancer-free individuals. Ruminococcus bromii assists all of the other gut inhabitants by being an enthusiastic and primary degrader of resistant starches, making carb by-products that can be utilized by others lower in the ecosystem. When these 2 groups 'bloom' in the colon, gut pathogen populations go down, gut inflammation is reduced and even horrific diseases completely and 100% reverse in new research trials (C diff antibiotic-induced colitis, UC, IBS, autism, etc).
Butyrate drops precipitously with a low-carbohydrate, low fiber/RS diet in a study by Duncan et al 2007. The anti-inflammatory gut species took nosedives (see below) -- Roseburia, F prausnitzii, Ruminococci,and Bifidobacteria. Subsequently, butyrate in the stools became only 1/5 to 1/4 of the maintenance diet amount. Butyrate trended with Roseburia(Clostridium cluster XIVa) populations. The prime fuel (70-80%) for colonocytes is butyrate from microbial fermentation (the next best is glutamine from skeletal muscle, then glucose). An energy crisis occurs when they are not supplied well.
Human gut characters prefer and need indigestible carbohydrates. Indigestible to Homo sapien but digestible to microbial amylases and a consortium of enzymes that break down all configurations of fiber and RS starches down. These butyrate-producers are not as carnivorous as other species (Bacteroidetes). This is likely from millions or perhaps I suspect billions of years of co-evolution where our gut species took advantage of the environmental bounty and abundance of plant fibers. The biomass of earth is 75% plant carbohydrates; microbes blanket the earth, air and water."
hehehehe ... maybe Mister
"I'm too busy helping people to get the science right "
The Zone fared better in one trial if I'm not mistaken -- but generally most "low fat" diets and the like don't because it's not much of a change from the usual. Unless you're a creature of habit (one slice of toast vs two, two eggs vs. three) it's not going to go well ad libitum.
1 immediately looking for reasons to reject the proposal
2 voice is Sam Feltham's, IMHO, infamous to me for showing up in a discussion on some science  that "I'm too busy helping ..."
 granted it was a facebook "science" discussion
Pittas AG, Roberts SB. Dietary composition and weight loss: can we individualize dietary prescriptions according to insulin sensitivity or secretion status? Nutr Rev. 2006 Oct;64(10 Pt 1):435-48. Review.
Cornier MA et. al. Insulin sensitivity determines the effectiveness of dietary macronutrient composition on weight loss in obese women. Obes Res. 2005 Apr;13(4):703-9.
Pittas AG et. al. A low-glycemic load diet facilitates greater weight loss in overweight adults with high insulin secretion but not in overweight adults with low insulin secretion in the CALERIE Trial. Diabetes Care. 2005 Dec;28(12):2939-41.
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