Archaeologists Officially Declare Collective Sigh Over “Paleo Diet”

FRANKFURT- In a rare display of professional consensus, an international consortium of anthropologists, archaeologists, and molecular biologists have formally released an exasperated sigh over the popularity of the so-called “Paleo Diet” during a two-day conference dedicated to the topic.

The Paleo Diet is a nutritional framework based on the assumption that the human species has not yet adapted to the dietary changes engendered by the development of agriculture over the past ten thousand years. Proponents of the diet emphasize in particular the negative effects of eating large quantities of grain and its numerous by-products, which can lead to hypertension, obesity, and various other health problems. Instead, the Paleo Diet posits that a reliance on lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables while minimizing processed food is the key to health and longevity.

The nutritional benefits of the diet are not what the grievance is about, said Dr. Britta Hoyes, who organized the event. She agreed that a high-carbohydrate diet can have a detrimental effect on long-term health, as many studies have demonstrated. Instead, the group’s protest is a reaction to the biological and historical pediments of the diet, in particular the contention that pre-agricultural societies were only adapted to eat those foods existing before the Neolithic Revolution.

Hoyes, a paleoethnobotanist who specializes in reconstructing prehistoric subsistence, stated that only thing unifying the myriad diets that she’s studied has been their diversity. “You simply do not see specific, trans-regional trends in human subsistence in the archaeological record. People can live off everything from whale blubber to seeds and grasses. You want to know what the ideal human diet consists of? Everything. Humans can and will eat everything, and we are remarkably successful not in spite of this fact, but because of it. Our adaptability is the hallmark of the human species. We’re not called omnivores for nothing.”

As for the idea that agricultural products are somehow maladaptive to the human species, researchers at a seminar entitled “It’s When You Mate, Not What You Ate,”  pointed out that evolutionary fitness is measured by reproductive success, not by the health or longevity of an individual.

Richard Wenkel, a biostatistician who chaired the panel, explained: “As long as the diet of an individual keeps them alive long enough to successfully mate, then that diet has conferred an evolutionary advantage. By that metric, the agricultural revolution has proven to be the most effective dietary system in the history of our species. We are the most prolific higher-order vertebrate on the planet.” It is a point that he feels is overlooked by Paleo Diet enthusiasts.

“Look at that British girl who lived off of chicken nuggets for almost eighteen years, ” Wenkel continued. “The fact that her body was able to utilize the meager nutritional value of those things and get her to reproductive age is an incredible feat. It shows exactly how effective our versatility has been in human development. In a strict evolutionary framework, all your body needs to do is keep you alive until you breed. After that, you’re just living on borrowed time.”

Wenkel stressed that personal health is too often confused and conflated with evolutionary fitness, a fact that has become more pronounced with the popularity of the Paleo Diet. Roddy Collins, a colleague of Wenkel’s, drove the point home: “It’s like, even my barber is suddenly an expert in evolutionary physiology. A seventeen-year-old kid at my gym give me a ten minute lecture on how my Clif Bar was poison because humans can’t metabolize soy. I’ve been studying human evolution for thirty years.”

One of the strongest critiques of the Paleo Diet was presented by Karl Fenst, a bioarchaeologist with the Ardipithecus Institute, in a keynote address entitled “Papayas Ain’t Paleo, and Neither Are You.” Rather than focus on relative merits of one diet over another, Dr. Fenst instead attacked the premise that agricultural products are somehow “‘unnatural,” with wheat being specifically singled out.  What people seem to ignore, he said, was that the fresh fruits and vegetables forming the basis of the Paleo Diet were created by the same agricultural process that produced cereal grains.

“Nearly every food item you currently eat today has been modified from its ancestral form, typically in a drastic way, ” he began. “The notion that we have not yet adapted to eat wheat, yet we have had sufficient time to adapt to kale or lentils is ridiculous. In fact, for most practitioners of the Paleo Diet, who are typically westerners, the majority of the food they consume has been available to their gene pool for less than five centuries. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, avocados, pecans, cashews, and blueberries are all New World crops, and have only been on the dinner table of African and Eurasian populations for probably 10 generations of their evolutionary history. Europeans have been eating grain for the last 10,000 years; we’ve been eating sweet potatoes for less than 500. Yet the human body has seemingly adapted perfectly well to yams, let alone pineapple and sunflower seeds.”

In a Q-and-A session afterwards, Dr. Fenst provided some clarification into what he felt was at the heart of the issue: “The real problem is that people are cherry-picking data to sell this diet, and that it seriously misrepresents the historical and evolutionary development of our species.”

Back in the lobby, Dr. Hoyes was busily collecting signatures for an even stronger gesture than the sigh to be held at the conference next year. “Were thinking of something big,” she explained, “like a statue of a Cro-Magnon eating a baguette.” The room burst into applause at his news.

When asked what she would tell people who wished to pursue a true paleolithic diet, Dr. Hoyes laughed harshly before replying. “You really want to be paleo? Then don’t buy anything from a store. Gather and kill what you need to eat. Wild grasses and tubers, acorns, gophers, crickets- They all provide a lot of nutrition. You’ll spend a lot of energy gathering the stuff, of course, and you’re going to be hungry, but that’ll help you maintain that lean physique you’re after. And hunting down the neighbor’s cats for dinner because you’ve already eaten your way through the local squirrel population will probably give you all the exercise you’ll ever need.”

Summing up what many considered to be the main point of the entire conference, she told reporters:

“Look, the diet itself is sound; it’s the philosophy that’s bullshit. Eat what you want. Just leave the damn cavemen out of it.”

221 thoughts on “Archaeologists Officially Declare Collective Sigh Over “Paleo Diet”

    1. What’s awesome about it, James? You know there are going to be a bunch of idiots that’ll throw the baby out with the bathwater because of bullshit hair-splitting over the name of this diet. You may even be one of them!

      1. But the last sentence of the piece (and quote from Dr. Hoyes) refutes your worries Cranky and your attitude about the statement proves the point the conference members were arguing. If you want to enter into a worth while debate on the topic you should remove the emotional overtones from your argument.
        Will people through out the “whole food” diet with the “Paleo” name? Probably, but they wouldn’t have understood the benefits of such a diet to begin with.
        Eat your fruit, eat your good nuts (not the ones high in bad fat), eat your lean chicken and fish. Stay away from processed foods, refined sugar, refined corn products, and GMO foods (which, by the way, is also a poorly named trend- we have been modifying the genetics of our vegetables for as long as we have been growing them, it’s called horticulture. Calling them “Franken-foods” would be better).
        Run every day, turn off your TV, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t fight, don’t burn fossil fuels, don’t cut your hair, stay out of the sun, don’t use plastic.
        You will die just like everyone else.

        1. Exactly Fred. I almost laugh in hysterics over these debates. No matter what you do, you are going to die some day. We are mortal. Get over it. With that said, the purpose of living a healthier lifestyle is so that we have quality of life while we are here, but whatever diet you choose make sure that you are still enjoying your life. Otherwise, what’s the point?

          1. If you’re happy to just ‘survive’ and not realise how good you can feel and function, then yep. the attitude of ‘we’re all gonna die some day’ may work for you. I’d rather thrive. I’d rather feel great. I’d rather look great. I’d rather be around for my nephews a little bit longer.

        2. How badass would it be to break your neck trying to catch a squirrel with your bare hands though? Beats heart disease.

        3. There is a HUGE difference between hybridization of crops and genetically modified organisms. Inserting DNA from bacteria and bugs into plants results in both the intentional trait and unintentional traits – genetically foreign proteins being introduced into our bodies.

        4. Ok, just sit at home and hold your breath then….. “Don’t cut your hair” who the f are you? Eat well, exercise as much as you possibly can and enjoy life!

      2. Well your username surely is accurate.

        It’s not just a name, it’s a blatant misrepresentation of our evolutionary development. I am vehemently opposed to spreading false science no matter its context.

        1. Blatant misrepresentaion? How so?
          If you read ANY of the primary literature on Paleo you’d know that it’s no such thing.

          *Sigh* All these chumps bleating because they want to somehow justify that their addiction to bread and sugar is in some way okay and even ‘normal’. Christ on a stick. Talk about self-destructive. Then again, perhaps this is evolution at work. People so dim that they CHOOSE to huddle in the disease-riddled corner that we’ve painted ourselves into since the agricultural revolution (subsequently amplified by the industrial revolution) may just be doing evolution’s job for it by removing themselves from the playing field early. ;-)

          1. These ‘chumps’ are highly educated scientists with years of data and analysis. Even to the point that they can look at the molecular structure of foods and diets from ancient remains. Next your going to say the earth is 10,000 years old and climate change is a conspiracy to buy more Air Conditioners?

            Dude….

          2. I have been eating, sugar, yes real sugar, for 35 years, I also eat bread, and carbs, and sometimes even sweets and drink alochol, and guess what? I am beyond healthy, I don’t get sick, the last time I had a cold was three years ago I think. I have a few extra pounds I am fighting with after having my three kidlets, but with extra excercise it’s coming off…I even have muscle, lots of it! Get off your high horse, you eat your way, I’ll eat mine, don’t call us chumps and stupid because we choose to eat the way we want to.

          3. The point of the story here: Most people don’t die from their diet before they have the opportunity to breed. “Removing themselves” after that has noting to do with evolution.

          4. BW
            you have a point.
            this article is as usual. lots of chest beating over details, that if they actually did their homework, is moot.
            Mat LaLonde and Chris Kresser, did a pretty good job of refuting this article a full year before it was ever even published.
            i really wish everyone would stop blowing their own horn so dam loud they never get to experience the rest of the symphony.
            can we all just get along?
            like Seinfeld said “look to the (gluten free) cookie”

          5. I love how paleo defenders always paint those who are critical of the diet as people who are crazily addicted to bread and sugar. BW, you are fucking moron.

      3. That is certainly not the point, Cranky. The point is eat what your guru feels is good for you. Or what your personal trainer feels is good for you. Or what your nutritionist feels is good for you. Hell, you can even eat what you think is good for you. Just don’t justify the whole thing with some pseudo scientific claptrap. In other words, as the lady said ‘leave the damned cave man out of it

      4. So what do you suggest then,perhaps making an “idiot proof” article for people who cannot look at the article in it’s entirety and draw their own conclusions?” Worry not though, the people too stupid to not get misled by the “hair splitting” Have most likely bred already,so, the rest of their lives are a bonus! Why give James a hard time for being not only accurate but, positive!(Maybe go have another wank, you might not be so cranky!

      5. You should probably do a re-boot on that board name of yours. Perhaps Cranky Wanker. If you had anything substantive to contribute your reply might possibly have been looked upon as a dissenting opinion intended to actually generate dialogue. Instead, you come across as a trolling, sophomoric slobberdonkey. Good luck with that adolescent behavior.

    2. got me thinking, off point but on reflecting on the comment ‘In a strict evolutionary framework, all your body needs to do is keep you alive until you breed’.
      Possibly the powers that be underestimate, at least in part, the impact longevity had on the evolution of man. ok, my stance here is partly out of context to the arguments presented, and off point to the naming of a diet, and disregarding ‘an incredible feat’ ‘to utilize the meager nutritional value of those’…which i agree on…and notwithstanding my argument is likely only an evolutionary step that comes later, i.e. of man competing against other humanoids and less so versus the soaring eagle and corrupt torti..but regardless, and breath here, longevity must have in fact had a massive impact in human growth.
      it not only provided experience and hence invaluable knowledge gained beyond young adulthood, but also added another dynamic to social structures important to both family and clan.
      The elders impact, from babysats to transferal of knowledge cannot be underestimated.
      Further knowledge would also partly have been largely confined to the clans ‘longevity’. complex language and oral knowledge transfer may be seen to make this redundant in some ways, but this argument precludes hindsight and well, actually living experience in the decision making…. Elders likely further made the juggling of hunting and child rearing easier,…just a thought, I may have got carried away 8 )

  1. Its not bullshit hairsplitting anything. I work in a Sports Science institue studying this stuff. If the premise itself is bullshit (i.e. that we are not adapted to eating grains etc.) then everything that follows is flawed.

    Also, they state that the diet is fine for you. Its just that why its good for you is incorrect.

    Also Cranky Wanker, you are aptly named.

    1. “If the premise itself is bullshit then everything that follows is flawed.”. This itself is of couse false. If you want something that can drive you around town and you ask for a Volvo, but I sell you a Citröen disguised as a Volvo, that will still get you around town. Your problem is solved, just not for the reasons you believe it is. No matter how much bullshit the premise is. After all, our understanding of the atom gave is the utility of atom, way before we had solid proof or understanding of the underlying mechanics of the atom.

      Of course, in the field of science, what you say is mostly true, at least when it comes to the theories of the world – however the results of flawed premises is always truth in itself.

      1. Two reasons that this is not the logical error you think it is. First, there is actually plenty of evidence that shows people can be, and are, very healthy when they are eating grains as part of a low-fat diet (so they aren’t basing their argument purely on the idea that the paleo argument is bad). Second, they are not claiming the diet is bad (as your point suggests). In fact, the final line of the article clearly states that they are not dismissing the health merits of the diet. Your point would only be correct if they were disputing the merits of the Paleo diet based purely on the idea that the arguments in favour of the diet are not very good, or arguing that the diet is unhealthy for these reasons. I don’t think they are doing either of these things

    2. The premise that we’re not adapted to grain isn’t part of Paleo thinking. The premise that we’re STILL adapting and that most of us do better without it (and its anti-predation self-defence mechanisms) IS part of Paleo thinking. This isn’t bullshit, has good science behind it and no anthropological biologist disagrees with this notion.

      What’s bullshit is the utter ignorance of what the Paleo/Primal/Ancestral movement is about. They don’t say it’s good for you BECAUSE a caveman ate it. They say it’s good for you because BIOLOGY has shown it to be. Then they talk about the ancestral biological backstory which supports the science.

      1. Exactly! Paleo is a great way to live. No one is arguing that this is how cavemen ate. Or that because cavemen didn’t eat grains, they are bad for you. They are bad for you because they are bad for you!

        1. Wow, and all this time the Japanese, those folks that live longer than any other culture on the planet, those people that eat rice with every meal, have it wrong. Damn. Fooled me.

          1. Cereal grains are much more problematic than rice, especially white rice that has all the undigestible bits polished off. Also, the traditional Japanese diet is very low in sugar and high in other items that are good for you ie. vegetables, fish, etc. so eating rice at meals is less of an issue.

          2. The Japanese are only the longest lived people in the world when you count violent crime in the average. When you remove it (and why wouldn’t you? Violent crime has nothing to do with health or disease) the Japanese fall to #9 and the US moves to #1.

        2. Grains aren’t inherently bad for you, in moderation they can be part of the healthiest of diets. The most healthy people in the world are Japanese women who eat white rice. They do, however, eat it in moderation with a lot of vegetables, fish and soy protein. The point is if you feel good, exercise every day and are healthy weight you should do what feels right to you. The pseudo science behind Paelo is what bothers everyone. I think if you are eating that way and feel good, good for you but if you choose to have some grains in your diet you are NOT poisoning yourself.

      2. THANK YOU! Everyone needs to chill about the use of the caveman reference. For anyone who actually studies the science, all roads (to health) lead this way, to paleo, primal, ancestral, what ever the flip you want to call it. It’s not a historical re-enactment, it’s a template to learn what works for you. We are aware that we are going to die, duh, I just want to be around to be with my loved ones and put quality into those years, whether this way of eating extends my life or not , doesn’t really matter, it’s more quality than quantity for me. I’ve learned a lot about my own body by eating and living this way, it’s amazing when you find what works best for you, everything else falls into place. I’m still learning and it’s such a cool process that I hope it never ends. If all the anthropologists want people to stop saying “Paleo” we will, it’s absurd to throw good science out because you don’t like the name of the movement or “diet”

        PS, anyone doing this as a “diet”, move on, you have to be willing to really change your whole mindset, you have to be ok with people thinking you’re a dirty weird hippie too. Grass fed meat for all!

        1. Exactly Jas, it’s funny how “there’s no such thing as consensus in science”, oh, except where man made global warming is concerned – too much money to be made there by keeping the “consensus” going.

          Obviously there’s no money to be made from this diet, that’s why there’s no consensus.

          1. There is tons of money being made off this diet. Books, seminars, protein powders, drinks – you name it. Sort of like making a ton of money off of ‘cleansing’ your body of toxins. Total crap but people love it and, trumped up science aside, these things work for people because they engage in much more mindful eating and therefore, lose weight.

          2. There is definitely money to be made. Just take a look at the ever competitive vitamin and supplements market. Both of my parent s were MD’s and so are my three sisters. I would spend a lot of money on vitamins, supplements, herbal concoctions and tinctures and health food. Every time I did this my mother would comment “You must have the most expensive pee in the world”. And she would remind me that if you really want to lose weight, eat less calories and become more active – DUH!

            I like to eat certain raw and whole foods (hell I grew up in Berkelely) especially now that I’m in my 40′s because I feel better. I love Ben & Jerry’s and for a very long time would pound down a pint or two in the evening and the next morning I would have what I call a ‘hangover’. Grumpy and irritable. There is no having just a few bites of that stuff – its like crack

        2. Um, no. There’s consensus on global warming because people have examined the evidence behind it, done independent testing and data-gathering and the like, and found the results to be consistent and fitting with the fact of global warming.

          There’s a difference between that and “voting something to be true.”

          For another example, I could (in theory) get ten million people to agree that the theory of gravity, being “only a theory,” isn’t true. Does their voting make one whit of difference? Not in the least. They’ll all still pick things up, let them go, and watch them fall to the ground. That’s the “voting on fact” that’s being called out.

          Global warming, by comparison (and using gravity, again) is one person picking up a ball, dropping it and seeing it falls to the ground in a measurable way, publishing that data, having others pick things up and replicate the experiment and agreeing the data is correct, coming to a consensus (not a vote) that gravity does actually exist.

          See the difference?

          1. Actuallly, they have falsified results, thrown out data and voted their political wishes instead of facts. Global warming is an enormmous hoax whose prophets will not admit that their models do not accurately predict anything; they can’t account for facts; but they think they must fix it right away. The result is not science. It is a blatant power grab. Let us run your life. That’s all global warming is.

          1. I love to share intelligent debates like the one going on here…then I have to read a post like yours and I can’t “Share”. Delete you post so I can help folks, not hurt them…please.

    1. This is a Law Society commenting on food science – I’m going to suggest that that isn’t the best source for facts for a rebuttal.

    2. “… various individuals who proudly live an ancestral lifestyle …”

      No they don’t. I guarantee it.

      1. Harvard – no.
        UCLA – yes.

        Regardless, the group seems like the are more akin to zealots/ideologues rather than skeptical scientists.

    3. All you have done is provide a link to a symposium that is sponsored by two corporations who are pushing their economic agenda. I fail to see how this is a valid argument against the consortium of anthropologists like myself who disagree with the paleo fad.

      1. And you will also see that all the sponsors are companies looking to cash in on the myth by making money off it! Narry a research or education body behind it. I pitty the fools who pony up their cash to attend.

    4. I looked to see what the Ancestry Foundation is. Here is part of their About Us page

      “What does it mean to live an Ancestral Lifestyle? Good question. We don’t know. We don’t know specifically because each human being descends from a unique genetic lineage and cultural heritage. We respect these realities of individuality. As a result, we hope that Ancestry fosters human development by challenging people to think about the wisdom embedded in our evolutionary histories as human beings.”

      I don’t think they are promoting the Paleo Diet. Would say they are closer to this article.

      According to the website their upcoming meeting is in Atlanta.

    5. Harvard academics also convinced Europe to go austerity because they can’t use a regular spreadsheet and control their own data. Not sure I’d trust them.

    6. Hey don’t let that “reasonable mom” get away with spreading lies unchallenged. The one thing she is referring to is the CRU emails that the anti-climate change people (all not climate scientists that study this sort of thing) “made up” data. Not only was this not true if you just read the emails yourself and the several independent investigations vindicated the CRU of doing anything wrong, but the CRU is only one of 4 surface temp datasets. And there is remarkable correlation between all 4 of them regardless, even though they all work independently with their own instruments and methods. So please, tell me how they “made data up” Unreasonable Mom.

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/CRU-tampered-temperature-data.htm

    7. “Harvard”?
      There is NO link between Harvard university and the “ancestry foundation” whatsoever.
      It’s just another crackpot site that panders to the idiots who claim that the Paleo diet or whatever flash in the pan nonsense they latch onto this week, actually works.
      Zero evidence, Zero Science, just outlandish claims and “personal accounts”.
      Reminds of of religion actually.

      1. Oh I don’t know… Mat Lalonde is both a Harvard Phd and a Harvard employee and he pretty solidly endorses a paleo diet.

    8. All those folks at Harvard? LOL. The main page says nothing about Harvard. It DOES have all sorts of descriptions of “silver sponsors” that are businesses profiting from ‘paleo’ diet trends.

      LOL.

      P.S. The “about us” doesn’t say anything about Harvard either.

    9. Trying to imply that a random group holding a meeting in a rented conference room on the campus of Harvard are “from Harvard” in your “appeal to authority” fallacy? Sorry, but that qualifies as a “fail” in internet parlance.

  2. Oddly, just last week I wrote a blog entry titled “Are Wheat and Dairy Dangerous?”

    Our conclusion was very similar to yours. The basic tone/summary:

    “Allow us to offer the following analogy: it’s possible to be attacked and killed by a Chihuahua, but this possibility requires a number of very rare circumstances. Wheat and other glutinous grains pose a similarly specialized threat. If you have Celiac disease or a similar autoimmune disorder, grains are truly dangerous. For those of us who prefer to drink our carbs, they are simply too calorically dense. Swapping these simple carbs for the more complex carbs in fresh fruits and vegetable allows us to eat more food while taking in fewer calories. . . . ”

    It goes on from there. You can check out the whole thing at http://www.drinkyourcarbs.com/index.php/news/comments/are_wheat_and_dairy_dangerous

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  4. As scientific archaeologists we make every attempt to remain objective and professional in our research and debates. Personally, I would be embarrassed by the closing statement in this essay, as it conveys neither of these qualities.

    In my opinion, this essay illustrates a fundamental, and all-too-common, misunderstanding of the tenets of Natural Selection. To simply eat chicken nuggets until you reproduce does not constitute reproductive fitness, nor does it confer an evolutionary advantage to the individual consuming them. Reproduction involves the transformation of food (calories) into sexually mature offspring. Therefore, reproductive success requires not only fertility, but also significant parental investment to ensure the survival of offspring to a reproductive age.
    Additionally, and contrary to statements in this essay, there is a reproductive advantage to those individuals whose health and longevity allow them to live beyond their reproductive years. This advantage is commonly referred to as grandchildren. The ability to contribute to the successful survival of grandchildren to a reproductive age confers more reproductive success on all members of a linage.

    A conference with the sole purpose of bashing the Paleo Diet seems more like one that is riding the diet’s coattails. What’s next… symposia dedicated to disproving Geico’s “so easy a caveman can do it” campaign?

    1. Did you not read the very last line in this article, fool? This is a satirical article, totally fiction. You are definitely a stoop.

      1. Perhaps, but unless the target of the parody is a dismal misunderstanding of evolution, the article would be improved by not airing the same mistake repeatedly.

    2. FYI it was not necessary to live long enough to bring up our own offspring, in a time where you lived in a “harem” of young females who looked after the babies for you.

      1. Are you out of your mind? A harem of young females? Let’s take the ancient pre-Christian Celts for example. They had words for up to 7 generations of men, (imagine an anologue of great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, but not for women. Why? Because there was no birth control, so young women had babies until it killed them and the children were raised by a generation or two, if if they were lucky, of women, and clusters of many generations of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc. We don’t know the breeding or child-rearing methods of our ancient near-primate ancestors for sure. Modern humans around the globe present every kind of breeding and offspring-rearing method, from harems of women or harems of men to mated pairs to mostly mated pairs with some adultery to rape and disappearance of the male to some portion verging off into homosexuality or other genders/sexualities, etc. We are as close to Bonobos genetically and we are to chimpanzees – they diverged from each other fewer than one million years ago, and their common ancestor from us about 7 million years ago, as near as we can guess based on genetics, archaeology, etc. Their breeding and child-rearing behaviors are so different from each other that you can assume little if nothing about the mating and child-rearing habits of our common ancestors based on our closest living relatives. Having determined that, how we choose to mate and rear children in the present is entirely up to us. We must decided for ourselves what the most effective methods will be and how we shall enforce that. What colors that analysis will be our experiences in this arena, our scientific knowledge, religion, and other spiritual and moral beliefs. Personally, I find it emotionally more fulfilling to be in a committed relationship with a single person than the other other options. I believe it is safer in terms of avoiding exposure to STDs and the wrath or discomfort of partners due to infidelity or “sharing.” It also seems to me to increase to the likelihood of your offspring succesfully making it to adulthood, prepared to themselves successfully have offspring. It also fits with my spiritual beliefs, although spiritually I don’t believe we should force this form of pairing on people, simply that it should be a strongly encouraged option.

    3. @ KD : You are arguing an entirely different idea than the author of this article. You are talking about the societal advantages of eating right to living a long healthy life. The article is only talking about how, from a biologic perspective, humans can and do live to be able to reproduce successfully of terrible diets.

      Secondly, were it true that “Reproduction involves the transformation of food (calories) into sexually mature offspring.” then, there would be no generations after generations of starving children in Africa. All reproduction takes is a viable egg and sperm coming together in a vessel able to carry it to term and deliver the offspring into the world. A healthy and nutritious diet is not necessary for that, nor is it required in able to keep the child alive long enough to repeat the cycle.

      1. I think you missed the point. The point was that “successful reproduction” involves MORE than popping out a living baby. It involves that child being well-nourished and nurtured while it is dependent, and intelligent and fit enough to survive on its own when it becomes independent.

  5. Ya we can survive on nuggets and wheat – but can we THRIVE? I agree that we can only attempt to eat a paleo diet, as the time that has past has left us virtually unable to mimic the foods and environment of the era. I feel we should instead do our best to mimic the principles by which they thrived under:

    -eat a variety of fresh nutrient dense foods namely wild animals, fish and plants
    -feast until satiety
    -limit simple carbohydrates especially that which is fructose rich
    -moderate bouts of intense full body exercise

    1. It’s not possible to thrive without eating wild animals and fish, or doing those other things on that list? I guess I can’t be thriving then. Funny, I hadn’t noticed my quality of life or health withering away and spiralling into decline. Faddish silliness.

      1. People often don’t notice when their health declines… and many (like myself) don’t even know what healthy feels like until we get healthy. Who knows if you are thriving.

        1. I thought I’d throw out a “commenters beware” that Paleo Huntress (who does not hunt, BTW) has a habit of trolling and creating IDs so that she can ask herself questions and agree with herself. Check it out for yourself, and this is not the only time: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/changing-our-taste-buds/ Just skip right to the comments. Or do a page search for Huntress… Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up. But be aware also that she does NOT represent the paleo lifestyle. She is simply a bully.

    2. They didn’t thrive under it. They *starved.*

      That’s why you lose weight on a paleo diet; because you can’t get enough calories eating that way! Today you do well on such a diet because the availability of these foods is so high that you can get by on quantity even if they aren’t calorie rich, but you wouldn’t last a MONTH if you were kicked back to those times.

    3. Just because you are eating a diet similar to earlier humans doesn’t mean you will thrive. Like the article says, evolution is based on reproductive success, not on physical health. To the extent that physical help aids in reproduction, the two are linked (the parental investment and grandparents benefit mentioned earlier, being attractive enough to reproduce with another fit specimen, etc). But the important part is reproductive success–if, for some reason, being fat and unhealthy and short-lived lead to reproductive success, then evolution would turn on a dime and favor those traits instead.

      Evolution does not care whether or not we thrive. It does not work towards perfection. It only works towards “good enough.”

      Also, just because we evolved under certain conditions doesn’t mean that those conditions are necessarily the best possible ones for us. We did what we could with what we had. In many ways we evolved to survive DESPITE the Paleo diet, not BECAUSE of it.

      Now, there are many aspects of modern life that work against our evolutionary nature–super high-calorie diets, constant loud noises, tribal nationalism coupled with a breakdown in close family and friends, etc. And I think there is a lot to be gained by looking to our past and trying to design our present a bit more intelligently. But it is a mistake to think that Paleolithic times were some sort of idyllic Garden of Eden, and to expect that diet to somehow be magically healthy.

      1. “Can’t get enough calories”? On Paleo? Gimme a break!
        I get plenty. But what’s more important is what happens to those calories, along with the nutrients. 3,000 calories of grass fed beef and fresh vegetables vs. 3,000 calories of bread. Who’s going to thrive and who’s on a fast track to diabetes and a myriad of chronic disease?

  6. Considering this article is a total work of fiction, I can actually appreciate that the fictional experts are sighing over the historical inaccuracies of diets movements like these but what I do not appreciate is the complete dismissal of basic science as it applies to the modifications that various foodstuffs have undergone in recent history. That inaccuracy causes as many problems as the issues these fictitious experts are decrying.

    Wheat currently being grown for use in our food chain is being grown for the highest possible amount of wheat protein per kernel of wheat. This has been happening for at least the past 5 decades – wheat is tested each year and only the higher protein (gluten) producing wheat varieties stay within the food chain and get planted the next season because higher prices are paid for higher protein (gluten) producing crops. The wheat we eat today has a MUCH higher amount of gluten than the wheat that our parents grew up eating and blows the wheat that our grandparents and great-grandparents ate right off the charts. The number of people testing positive for gluten sensitivity or intolerance increases every year and this type of sensitivity or intolerance is NOT the same as Celiac’s Disease although it produces similar problems as well as other issues altogether.

    My point being, it’s a reasonable argument (fictitious or not) to make that the paleo movement is based on historical inaccuracies, but it’s not a reasonable argument to discount the effect that our changing food supply is having on people. Those changes are scientific fact, not fiction.

    1. What of the argument that all our other food sources are significantly modified from their “natural” versions as well? Why do you single out wheat when tomatoes, apples, pretty much everything we eat including meat is from plants/animals that have been modified significantly?

  7. I think people are missing the point – Kurt Cobain is still alive due to the paleo diet and Tupac is still ghost writing songs for Yanni. I don’t see the humor or need for argument here – The author is clearly well versed in musical metaphor.

  8. I thought a main point of the ‘caveman’ diet was avoiding things that require cooking; ie, things that are poisonous if eaten raw, such as beans and Irish’ potatoes. I didn’t see that addressed in the article.

  9. Instead of arguing about whether or not the “Paleo Diet” is actually “Paleo” how about we look at the evidence that an awesome way to eat is developing. Whether its Paleo or not I don’t care, I am now after 8 months on the diet in top health, lost weight, growing muscles, have energy, and I am now in the top 1% of my age and gender group for bmi. Grains? I’m not looking back and don’t miss them. I’m no longer going down hill but uphill. for what it matters I have a masters in Anthropology.

  10. Aww… I was so sad when I got to the disclaimer at the end. Maybe bump it up to the beginning for gullible saps like me?

    In any case, excellent story. :-D

  11. I graduated from Syracuse community college (with honors) with an associates in modern health and wellness with a concentration in accelerated dietary weight loss programs. I’m also an assistant manager at local McDonalds. So I think Im somewhat of a subject matter expert specifically in regards to the topics covered in this article.

    I have two children, from two different women. My ability to bear a child from two independent “samples” is a clear indicator as to my potency as it pertains to the passing on of my genetic material.

    Having worked at McDonalds for the majority of my young adult life, I have personally consumed chicken mcnuggets, Big Macs, and even parfaites regularly. McDonalds has been a staple of my diet and didn’t at all hinder my ability bear offspring. I should add I play softball once a week and spend AT LEAST 20min a day on the elliptical.

    Basing one’s diet on anthropological tennants is like basing your exercise regime on primate behavior. Lord knows I’m no primate! I’m a person!

    That’s just my two cents.

    1. FYI….YOU didn’t bear the children. You impregnated and fertilized the egg that evolved into a child. The woman actually bears the child.

  12. While we can survive to an age to reproduce on many different things, I’m not interested merely in surviving to reproduce. If I have, say, a pet cat, I wouldn’t feed it on just the bare minimum to get it to reproductive age, I’d ask myself what kind of animal it is, what’s it do best on, and I’d feed it that. The good cat foods don’t have the fillers, for example.

    I think perhaps the caveman thing is overplayed, but I think what the Paleo idea is trying to get at is, “Probably how best to feed ourselves can be known by trying to understand what kind of animal we’ve been, what has been the essence of what’s available wherever we managed to survive, for most of our history.”

    So, how can we make as close an approximation to what got us through the ice age , and still get to use the store and hold our cubicle jobs? We have to make these guesses, and this seems like a reasonable ballpark approach. Weston A. Price did an excellent job of cataloging very different dietaries and finding their common traits: animal involvement always, and when plants could be had, from good mineral-rich soil. There were some grains, in some cultures, but those were mineral-rich, and their benefits exposed through the fat soluble vitamins in the animal products.

    What is the framework the scientists in the article can use to guide people toward what makes sense for feeling great? What kind of animal are we? “Omnivore” won’t get us to “healthiest omnivore.” Paleo is a guess at what kind of animal we are in an effort to answer this. Most of us are not imagining that cavemen ate strawberries the size of a child’s fist, believe me. :-)

  13. I hope the study was more fair than the article. I’m sure some hungry ‘cavemen’ ate whatever they could find, even if it made them sick. Reproducing then dying is not our ideal of fitness. Where’s a study that looks at what healthy cavemen who had a wide choice of food, ate before they had fire? Or is that getting too obvious?

  14. You guys did read the fine print on the bottom where it says this article is a work of fiction. Mr Paul D Zimmer obliviously has a bone to pick with the paleo group and their philosophy, so he made up an event filled with anthropologists, archaeologists, and molecular biologists so that he may ramble on about his point of view.

  15. Lol! Thank you for the disclaimer because I was starting to get really annoyed by the “logic”. By reading some of these comments, it seems some people DO subscribe to that thought… shame.

  16. I didn’t read through all the comments and someone may have already said this but; as Weston Price demonstrated it is not about the type of food but the quality of it and the degree to which it is processed.

  17. Yams are an old world food. Also there is another old world food called the bilberry which is identical to the blueberry.

    You had many more mistakes but it would take too long to correct them all.

  18. In response to Ann’s cogent comment, “You all realize this may as well be an article from The Onion, right?”… well, actually, it seems unlikely, since the Onion has an editorial staff that enfores standards of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

    If being published is the literary equivalent of surviving to reproduce, then, apparently there’s no evolutionary advantage for a “writer” to know how to handle your and you’re, or its and it’s.

    The sad part is: as this is not a print medium, any errors can be corrected at any time, before, during, or after publication. Yet here they remain.

    1. This was a joke post? With all of the dummies out there it gets hard to tell. I thought this was someone saying that even though we made this up, we’re still right. You’d be surprised how often I’m told something along those lines.

  19. LOL! Was the disclaimer there all along? My first thoughts were that the article was slanted, or the conference was funded by some white flour company.

    For one thing, the logic equates similar vegetables unknown on different continents, which can be eaten raw — with grains that need fire.

  20. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

  21. Europeans have been eating grains for 10,000 years, and they also brought many diseases to the New World, that killed off much of the native people.

  22. The human diet anywhere in the world has consisted of anything people could get down their throat. Human behavior, ingrained in every newborn, consists of putting anything at hand into the mouth. If it tastes bad spit it out. Otherwise attempt to swallow. If its too big to swallow, chew it then attempt to swallow. If it can’t be chewed and swallowed, spit it out. If it can, swallow and wait for reaction. If its rejected by the stomach, make a note to avoid in the future.
    If it stays put, repeat until supply runs out or stomach bursts.

    If dysentary ensues, make a sacrifice to the gods.

  23. “You want to know what the ideal human diet consists of? Everything. Humans can and will eat everything, and we are remarkably successful not in spite of this fact, but because of it. Our adaptability is the hallmark of the human species. We’re not called omnivores for nothing.”

    Awesome! This means I can eat Twinkies again!! Britta, you are amazing. I knew that whole paleo meme of eating real food was nonsense. Now I can quote an expert to back it up, while I chug down a coke and a couple of proton pump inhibitors!

    Does anyone else get the feeling that it is all too common for archeologists to confuse “what’s good for the species” and “what’s good for the specimen”?

  24. (Paraphrasing here)”…evolutionary success is measured by the ability to reach reproductive age”. Well, I’m 32, well past reproductive age, and I’m not ready to cash in my chips quite yet. By this logic, Americans should delight in the fact that 1 in 3 born after the year 200 will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Afterall, they should live to reproduce! Let’s just encourage teen sex and McDonald’s consumption to ensure the survival of the species.

    I am a paleo eater who has lost over 40 lbs, reduced my BMI by 1/2, lowered my resting heart rate, and generally feel wonderful. All of this by eating whole foods, (local produce, pastured meats and eggs) and eliminating all grains, legumes, and what I call “science experiments” (i.e. seed oils, soy and corn derivatives, preservatives, etc). I have not changed my exercise regimen of weekly competitive sports (about 2 1/2 hrs, weekly) my routine for years before and after Paleo, in any way. I am a minimally-educated, blue collar tradesman earning a middle-class income. I am in no way affluent, nor do I have lots of free time to attend conferences.

    To classify my diet as a fad is simply ridiculous. Paleo dieters eat food. Actual food as produced by nature. The “fad” is eating highly modified grain products in the name of reducing the evil (vital) FAT. It is valid to argue that modern man does not eat a true Paleolitic diet – of course that is impossible given the time that has passed and 10,000 years of agriculture. But of course we should do our best to eat the most natural food available which is what ancestral health is really all about.

    I could be wrong. Maybe the most optimal diet is chemically treated vegetable oils, gluten-laden grains, corn-fed beef, all washed down with hefty portions of high-fructose corn syrup. Judging by the astronomical rise in disease and health care in the U.S., it doesn’t seem to be working. Go ahead and eat that, but I won’t.

    1. I had PCOS and infertility while eating a SAD and a vegan diet. Had it not been for the miracles of modern fertility treatments, we would be a childless couple… though we are grateful for the three boys we do have.

      When I went paleo, it restored my fertility in less than 2 months. I hadn’t had a regular cycle in over a decade. Who on Earth thinks our modern diet doesn’t effect our ability to reproduce?

  25. My son-in-law and daughter are having good success with this paleo stuff, by that I mean looking very fit and getting good physicals and blood work results. My guess is that cutting out all the processed junk is the reason, but who knows. This did seem to be a very good informational article. I’m always surprised at all the bickering some people want to do, calling each other names, ego-posturing and such… Seems like we could do without this, no?

  26. LOL she goes on that it is bullshit then at the end does NOT say eat lots of processed crap and wheat…she discribes exactly what the caveman diet is all about fresh meat veggies and fruit…from grass hoppers or cows…still the cave man diet…

    She stresses throughout fresh variety of foods. So does the caveman diet unless you talk to an extremest. Grass seeds would be fine for the caveman diet….agriculturally produced mass quantities of as grass seed that are chemically processed and full of other chemical additives and preservatives are not….

    She is welcome to eat whole wheat bread and coffee and get fat and sick…I will stick to what is WORKING for me…50 lbs down and feeling better every day..

  27. I’ve been juicing for about a month and a half. I’ve never felt better. I’ve mated and have a kid, so I’m on borrowed time. Eff it.

  28. I totally agree with this article. There has been much ado about the paleo diet as being THE WAY to eat healthy. Sure, eating foods having a higher protein content while limiting carbs (particularly processed carbs) is healthy but there is nothing magical about the paleo diet. Indeed, the human body is incredibly resilient and can adapt to any food eaten in order to survive. This, after all, is what evolution is all about–survival of the fittest.

    1. “This, after all, is what evolution is all about–survival of the fittest.”

      Did you miss the part of the article where it’s explained that Darwinian “fitness” refers ONLY to the number of fertile offspring you produce?

  29. This implies it’s safe to eat anything. Unfortunately it’s far from the truth.
    The flood of sugar/fructose in processed food is very unhealthy and weighing a very heavy toll on people and the health care system.

  30. Then there’s the other question: are milk and dairy products part of the ‘everything’ that is OK to eat?
    You can reproduce despite awesome acne, and the breast and ovarian and prostate cancers happen long after you breed, so no evolutionary impact.
    So at least we can continue to have lots of little archeopaleobioethnoecoagronomists running around even if they grow up and die earlier than the rest of us.
    Just like lawyers, though, arguing for fun and profit, combining entertainment and self-agrandizement without personal commitment.
    All in all an excellent parody.

  31. “In a strict evolutionary framework, all your body needs to do is keep you alive until you breed.” Wenkel.

    Surely your body must survive long enough to be able to raise the offspring to survive to breeding age themselves. More than twice as long as just breeding age unless you assume a collectivity continually capable of raising it’s offspring.

  32. I love how this article generalizes, and completely ignores the rate at which wheat DNA mutates, and adapts. Once you actually accommodate for that in this article, and start comparing it to something else that does the same, or maybe even take into account that the majority of American food supply now is genetically modified in a lab, THEN you might be making valid points. Until then, this research mean nothing. Sure we may have been eating sweet potatoes for far less time that grains…but how many genetic changes has the sweet potato gone through, in comparison to our grains?

  33. I’ve been solely eating carrion for the past month. Besides the frequent BM surprises, it tastes great and it’s free.

  34. I’m an RN. I provide dietary teaching daily. Unless you have a specific medical condition requiring you to eat only certain things to avoid injury, you don’t need to “diet”. Eat healthy home made meals, eat mostly fruits and vegetables, and don’t over eat. Oh, and exercise.

  35. Some of us arguably have adapted to a neolithic diet- it’s quite possible that the genetic mutation which leads to Hemochromotosis (a condition where the body absorbs too MUCH iron) was an adaptation to the neolithic diet. As people (especially, Northern and Celtic Europeans) relied less on meat for their caloric intake, a gene mutation appeared which allowed for a greater amount of iron to be absorbed from the grains these people ate. Unfortunately, with our modern diet and the fact that a great many of the foods that we eat are fortified with iron, this adaptation has become a liability and people with hemochromotosis run the risk of ‘iron overload’ and eventual organ decay if they do not remove the excess iron from their bodies. The way to do this? Bloodletting, Phlebotomy, blood donation is the only way. Perhaps when the rest of you evolve past the Paleo (or really return to it!) you will stop poisoning us mutants with your iron supplementation!

  36. and thats exactly what the higher ups want you to do. they just want you to breed and do not care about your own body. They are in control. Predator vs Prey!

  37. “You want to know what the ideal human diet consists of? Everything. ”

    That is brilliantly and succinctly stated. Let us go a little farther and come to the realization that those who exclude items from their diet for no reason except personal ideology (vegans, for instance) have an eating disorder. Dietary laws that are based on a religious belief, even if ridiculous, I can tolerate, but those who think they are “eating better” by not eating something have a problem.

  38. I read the article and I was disappointed that it was simply bitching and sneering at laypeople who don’t fully understand academic concepts. My understanding is that paleolithic hunter-gatherers were very healthy – and that with the introduction of agriculture, human health went downhill significantly. Do they seriously think this has NO implications for how we can improve our health today? They had an opportunity to educate us on real information about ancient nutrition and health, and how we can learn from it, instead they just want to joke and sneer. Most of the people I know who are on the paleo diet are well aware that we are not eating “exactly like a caveman” – it’s an inspiration for how to adapt our modern lifestyles.
    Richard Wenkel takes the cake, (so to speak) “Look at that British girl who lived off of chicken nuggets for almost eighteen years, The fact that her body was able to utilize the meager nutritional value of those things and get her to reproductive age is an incredible feat. It shows exactly how effective our versatility has been in human development. In a strict evolutionary framework, all your body needs to do is keep you alive until you breed. After that, you’re just living on borrowed time.” – How the hell is that supposed to inspire me? That’s not how I want to live. I think they all just want to keep eating bagels and chicken nuggets and don’t care about anything relevant to people wanting to improve their lives.

  39. Archeologists are profoundly ignorant of the fact humans, such as the one eating only chicken nuggets, may breed offspring on a low nutrient diet, but the children will most likely come out with severe deficits, autism being an example, and not thrive or possibly breed themselves. Grains or rice that has been processed into its white form, which constituents a growing trend, or ones that have been significantly hybridized or grown in overcultivated fields will also be low in nutrients. This article shows profound ignorance of how the health care system is failing because people are continuing to eat a non-Paleo diet.

  40. Unless newborns become self-sufficient within 24 hours, the female humans will need to survive until the crumbsnatchers are at least 15 to be considered successful.

  41. The Paleo diet it not for retards.

    If you’re retarded or mentally enfeeble do not attempt a paleo diet.

    If you have no understanding or interest or belief in evolution , have extra soybean oil and corn syrup on your dominos pizza.

    Critical thought , analysis and regularly changing your beliefs and assumptions not your thing don’t even try .

    Don’t think about cavemen or the past or the science just eat whatever you want whenever you want to.

  42. I think they anthropologists are confused about what is motivating Paleo types…they think they want to be dietetic anthropologists, they really don’t, they just want to be healthy.

  43. I love the fact that everyone who wants to criticize the “Paleo” diet always make it a point to mention that the best way of eating is, in fact, exactly what the “Paleo” diet espouses.

    It’s just a marketing term, people. Grow up.

  44. From the persoective of a nationally recognized body & life transformation coach (fitsystemsatx.com), this is why I always tell my clients, “I don’t care to be a psuedo-anthropologist. What I care about is the research on the output of the approach, whether or not it works for me and my clients, and how it makes me feel.” The theoretical framework Robb Wolf has given us to understand “why” it works – and what is kosher and not kosher – makes Paleo ‘sticky’ to the human Brady-Bunch-Theme-Reciting-Mind – but it’s not meant to be a biblical record. I get why anthropologists and archaeologists would feel the need to chime in on the Caveman’s cultural moment – but really Paleo efficacy is a conversation for sports nutritionists. This ‘exasperated sigh’ is about as useful to the conversation as a bunch of scientists getting together and weighing the probability that a man could be crucified and rise from the dead.

  45. I’m not impressed. The Paleo Diet has caught imaginations around the world and not only is it advocating a diet that is healthy but also one that is sustainable. It offers a simple metric “Is this something my ancestors would have recognized as food” which is the exact same idea as Michael Pollan’s “Would your grandmother recognize this as food?”.

    Now, as for the snippy comments about narrative and the lunatic fringe that takes it too far. Great, you put them in their place, you tore them a new one, you showed them. Way to go. Of course none of you lived up to a reasonable expectation of academia – you utterly failed to further human knowledge, you failed to educate anyone. You have an audience, you can make a respectful critique, help them make better decisions with information that is accurate but no. Instead you just talk crap, call the people who pursue this stupid and fail to educate anyone. Way to go academics.

  46. Sheesh, there are some folks in these comments with a very underdeveloped sense of irony. I hope no one took this guys article on the geological epoch called the Whorecene and the “Greater Cuckold Interstition” this seriously … (its also really funny) Trust me, no one is attacking your healthy eating habits, besides “paleo diet” is a pretty inaccurate name when you get right down to it anyway.

  47. Correction: “Biostatician” isn’t a word. Yes, you may find a return or two for that word on google, but “statician” isn’t in any dictionary I can find. The correct job title/qualification is a “Biostatistician”.

    As for the diet, the article focuses on the ideology of the diet, and it did make the point I will make, although it was at the very beginning and end and sort of glossed over. The point is, the diet is absolutely sound, if a little anal about certain foods (like legumes). But overall, the diet is sound. It keeps you maintained with lean proteins, low-glycemic carbohydrates and good fats. Who cares if that determines evolutionary fitness? If that’s all we cared about we’d still be dying at 40. What we’re worried about is longevity and associated quality of life, both of which would be drastically improved if we all followed this diet (or a less restrictive one followed the basic aforementioned criteria).

  48. Hmmmm, not sure how to break this to the world but anthropologists are pretty generally annoyed by the concept of the paleo diet and there are a large number who attack both the health and academic points. Social anthropologists also see the diet as a very 1st world way of life which could never be followed by the majority of the population unless there was massive die off coupled with tech increases which have not occurred.

    Read some Richard Wagner and do some better study and you learn quickly that not only does all that raw food not get completely digested but you also learn (from Wagner) that humans have been cooking almost everything they eat for the past 40 or so thousand years. Not sure why nutritionalists get more street cred than an anthropologist but maybe people just don’t know we are? It’s also worth noting that paleo diet rules have shifted all over the place in the last 10 years. The diet itself doesn’t even know what it is.

    1. That’s all nice, but Paleo is not a raw food diet. And it’s not a raw food diet because, go figure, some scientists figured out we’ve been cooking since before we were anatomically modern.

  49. I think it’s hilarious. Mostly people get heated over religion or politics and now it’s a diet what a joke!. Since when does it matter what people think about what you eat and what diet you follow? Have you not left the schoolyard? I have been following Paleo without even knowing it until it was given a name, I liked the philosophy but I can look at this objectively and see logically that a summit of archy’s etc are probably not conspiring against paleo but most likely are the ones who can gather the facts to see if its founding truths are actually true. They aren’t really but big effing deal, why be a zealot?! You’d think someone called your mumma fat!

  50. The article has issues for sure. I have always opposed any diet that excludes a naturally occurring food group proven to be safe to consume and nutritionally valuable, unless it’s a diet customized for an individual for medical reasons. Despite everyone’s opinions about what’s paleo and what isn’t, or what foods have more nutritional merit than others, the problem with the paleo diet is the broad concept. It is a fad. Society, with science, established long ago that a person who eats a moderate amount of all food groups, stays fully hydrated, and consistently participates in various forms of exercise appropriate for the amount of food they consume should be healthy and enjoy longevity, baring disease or injury. One of my friends eats according to the paleo concept. He seems happy and healthy. I’m happy for him. The only objection I have is that he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that he could have achieved a high standard of health and wellness without it. Anyone can, by utilizing a unique human characteristic, which is willpower. Choosing/not choosing to be healthy is why diets like this one exist. It motivates, but it not the only/best option for everyone.

  51. It’ s really a no brainer: paleo man lived to the ripe old age of 45, and got to be all of 4 feet tall. Yay paleo diet-NOT!

    1. Actually, that 45 age that’s tossed around is a median age that also includes infant deaths, plague, injury, etc. If prehistoric man made it to the age of 40, it was highly likely he would live to 90 in relatively good health. He was also on average five foot four. Neolithic man lost height do to a drop in bone density (caused by several factors).

    2. Wrong. Upper paleo men were 5’10″, they dropped to 5’3″ by the height of the Neolithic. We didn’t return to 5’10″ until recently.

      Avg life doesn’t correlate well with nutrition. Avg life was 35 in the 1700s. It only increased recently with the Industrial Age.

      Wrong twice.

  52. If this piece is a fair summary of this gathering, then it’s patently clear that none of these people have bothered with even the most basic of scientific rigour (like the self-promoting prof. who wrote ‘Debunking Paleo’. You can see her talk on TED) which is to at LEAST read the primary literature on the subject.

    If they had, they’d know that no-one except morning TV pseudo-journos, hacks, vegos and vegans, processed food salespeople, big pharma and the dangerously ill-informed are saying the Paleo/Primal/Ancestral blueprint/nom-de-jour is about eating exactly what hunter gatherers ate. Nor do the Paleoligarchy say that there is a specific set of foods that all humans have adapted to. Nor do they say we haven’t ‘begun’ to adapt to grains or dairy, legumes etc. with some populations further down the road than others. But they all talk of the diversity of the pre-agricultural human diet – and how some thrived better than others.

    It’s heartbreaking really. Such is the extent of lazy research out there, that many of the loudest critics STILL think it’s a primarily meat-based diet!

    Paleo isn’t at odds with what most of these scientists and experts believe (it came from people with many of the same qualifications and fields of study after all). They poo-poo the idea of ‘paleo’ and then go on to recommend a way of eating which is pretty much what the Paleo/slow-carb stalwarts are eating themselves, which suggests to me that there’s a lot of petty professional demarcation shite in these (still uncommon) attacks.

    Forget the word Paleo if you’re uncomfortable with it and distil it down to Just Eat Real Food (JERFing) and avoiding the stuff that’s been shown to be problematic. Nobody ever died from avoiding grains, processed factory-foods and sugar after all.

  53. The names of the scientists mentioned in this article are fake. The article appears to be completely fake–no links, no dates, fake names. I agree with the fake scientists, though.

  54. I tried to research the people and info sited in this article and found nothing. While I really enjoyed it, I have to assume its pure satire and completely false. If you can site any references I’d definitely be interested! Thanks!

  55. Just love this debate!

    Logically, the main point of this debate should be is this diet HEALTHY?
    For all those who oppose the PALEO diet (I prefer to call it an EATING PLAN – A way of eating I plan to follow permanently), people ate what they could find, that which was available, to keep alive and they did not have the choice or opportunity to hunt/find something better.
    In fact that was what a lot of people had to do in the WWI, the depressions, and WWII.

    We really don’t know exactly what the cavemen (cave people to be accurate) ate, and to say cavepeople only lived to be about 40 years of age(probably only a guestimate average) and were only 4 foot(also probably only a guestimate average), probably had more to do with the fact that they (unlike us who manage to drive our cars to the supermarket and roam the aisles for mostly processed “foods” (frankenfoods??) had to go out in all weathers
    rain, hail or shine – or snow ice and slush – forage for edible roots, nuts, leaves, berries (fruit)
    and leaves, trail animals, chase and hunt them to kill them(and that was fraught with danger and a good chance of getting badly injured ), lug them back to the caves whilst avoiding predators who had to be fought off because the cavemen didn’t want to be dinner and to keep their kills. And possibly fight off “other groups of cavepeople” to get sufficient to survive.

    The women usually did the gathering whilst looking after their children .The Australian aborigine people provide much information how the cave people lived – and they TOO DID LIVE MUCH HEALTHIER LIVES than they do now on the (poor) WESTERN DIET. (Come to think of it – the Western World people are not doing so well on the “modern” diet with all the processessed foods etc. ) In fact this deterioration can be seen in all races of native peoples who have been “westernized”.

    This quite naturally meant there were times of very little food, very little of anything and very often big chances of being killed or simply dying from injuries (or childbirth) and/or because there was no food.

    So the idea of eating whole foods, drinking clean water,eating fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, nuts, grassfed beef , free range eggs and chickens is much more logical than eating the typical Western Fare ( calories laden with sugar, (toxic) fats, chemicals, ) which results in the epidemic of obese and sick people – 70% of the American people are in this situation and Australia is closely following behind along with England and others. Just look about you – the Health Industry is the biggest industry in the Western World.

    So to those who poo hoo the Paleo eating style, how are you doing? What are you eating?
    What are you doing for your health?

  56. Man, I don’t normally have much to say when it comes to this type of article considering everything I believe is based on intuition, but you just sound too dumb to ignore. How can you proclaim that the entire community of anthropologists has somehow dismissed the efficacy of a diet without mentioning who any of those people are, or where they made such a claim? You offer literally zero evidence to support anything you say. To be honest, it seems like you are just a guy who is personally not a fan of the paleo diet, and so you wrote a bunch of unfounded crap to let out your frustration.

    Furthermore, the points you make are entirely unrelated to the one at hand. You’ve got this whole thing about how a successful diet is any one that allows us to reproduce–what does that have to do with anything? Why are we now talking about the success of the human race? People don’t eat specific diets as a kind gesture to the human species, they eat healthy for themselves; They want to live longer. Sure, both someone who eats chicken nuggets and someone else who eats paleo will both live long enough to reproduce, but when the chicken nugget person dies at 25 and the other lives to 90, I think it’s pretty obvious which diet is more successful on a personal level–the level that matters.

    Honestly, it’s hard for me to believe you are even serious. This could easily be an epic trolling spree. Do you really think that when people say a diet works well, they mean to say, “This diet is great because it’s definitely going to help me survive until it’s time to reproduce?”

    Waste of time.

  57. None of the doctors are nutrotionists and probably know very little on nutrition more than what the average person does. I suggests people read up on the topic before misusing their titel to guide people in something they themselves have little information about.

    Robert H. Lustig has a brilliant lecture on this and how the body reacts to sugary foods and drinks – so called “sportsoda” that is a healthrisk and not consumed at all.among real sportsmen and sportswomen (beacuse of the risks involved).

    It’s funny how these archeologists gather and talk for two days and come out only to say: eat what ever you want” as if nothing was dangerous.

    WHO are ringing the warninhbells and along comes these bonediggers and says say “it’s safe to eat pizza and drink coke as long as you reach sexual maturity”

  58. I can agree with plenty of what these scientists are saying, but to say that we are grain-adapted just because we are fruit adapted is ridiculous. They aren’t taking into account all the improved health markers people are showing when things like grains, beans, and refined carbs are taken OUT of the diet. If we are so well-adapted to eating them, then why are they so harmful to us?

    Fundamentally, it’s one factor that simply cannot be denied – most people who cut the grains, beans, and refined carbs from their diet see their health skyrocket, and their medical bio-markers almost universally and without exception, improve.

    Soooo thennnnn, biologically adapted or not, why should we NOT avoid these foods?

  59. Of course we’re adapted to eating fruit. We’re primates. Fruit grows in trees and it’s pretty well accepted that primates as a group began our existence in the tree canopy.

    But since we like to use gorillas and orangs–incorrectly, I might add–as an excuse for pushing vegan diets on everybody, fine, I can play that game. Show me one primate besides us that regularly eats grain.

    (Gorillas and orangs both eat bugs, which last I checked are animals. And by the way, chimps hunt.)

    No Paleo eater in their right mind would dispute that pre-agricultural human diets are varied. No kidding, really? But except in less-than-optimal circumstances where the food has run away and we haven’t caught up to it yet, we do NOT habitually eat grass seed. Why? It’s not palatable. And it takes too much energy and too much processing to make it edible, never mind safer (but never completely safe) to eat. If you’d take five minutes and consider that you never, ever eat the stuff raw, and then exercise a few more brain cells and understand that a lot of the grain’s processing happened before it ever got to you and that most of you don’t own grain grinders, you’d understand this.

    Not to mention the environmental devastation involved in growing the stuff. Grains are grasses. (Amaranth and quinoa are not grains.) In particular they are specific grasses that adapted to post-catastrophe lands, usually lands that have been flooded or burned. They also must grow in full sun. So we have to devastate the land over and over again and keep trees off of it in order to grow large amounts of grain. Can you see maybe how this might be contributing to global climate change?

    Wow, people. Come on. I don’t care if those people mentioned in the article have letters after their names, it doesn’t mean they actually think enough.

    1. I should add, in case it’s not clear, that I’m aware some fruit grows other places besides trees–that was poorly worded. BUT, some fruit nevertheless does grow in trees and we would have encountered it very early in our evolution.

      Ten thousand years is not long enough to have adapted to a food foreign to our evolution and the anthropological record shows pretty clearly that we have NOT adapted. The only reason modern people get away with as much grain-eating as we do is because we learned about vitamins and minerals and that we could supplement them.

      And by the way, only some Paleo advocates believe we have to eat lean meat. Those who actually pay attention to human physiology say otherwise. We tend to thrive on fat, especially animal fat, and a fair amount of it besides. If you think about it, this makes sense too: primates started out eating bugs as well as fruit, and bugs are fatty. Humans in particular need it because our brains are so large. Only certain brain tissues need glucose to function. The rest thrive on fatty acids when given the chance, which most modern people do not do. (If you have enough glucose in your system, your body burns that preferentially so that it doesn’t destroy your tissues as it does in diabetics. Absent excess glucose, your body will burn fats instead as its main fuel.)

    2. Sorry about All The Commenting but I had another thought. We’re supposed to abandon Paleo eating because of a bunch of archaeologists. That would be like going to an architect or a fashion designer for dietitian services. I think I will listen to ANTHROpologists instead. I mean, some archaeologists are creationists! They’re over there in the Middle East all the time trying to prove that the Bible is true. Why would they care about biological accuracy?

      1. Perhaps the most ignorant comment on the whole page. Archaeologists ARE anthropologists!!

        NOT TO MENTION THAT THIS ARTICLE IS A JOKE!! (Not a joke in the sense that the facts are wrong, but an actual joke meant to laugh at)

        So sorry you cannot take a joke and get all butt-hurt when someone take a jab at your diet….

  60. The basis of this article is saying that humans can eat carbs, of course they can we can all open our mouth’s very well and eat potatoes etc. The only reason the ‘diet sellers’ say you only eat what a caveman can’ is because the general public are very simple …. very!

    In America before the obesity epidemic started people thought french fries were one of there 5 a day because it’s made of potato so a veg!

    Therefore a simple message needed putting out, even the most simple of person can guess what a caveman ate i.e. meat, veg/foliage.

  61. I have literally never heard one single paleo diet proponent argue for the paleo diet because of how well it would help the species, as a collective unit, thrive.

    E.g.:
    If I’m faced with the hypothetical choice between 2 actions:

    Action A: I live to about 40 then die of cancer, but this choice also lets 100 other people live to 40 who otherwise would have died before childbearing years.

    Action B: I live to 100 nice and healthy. Those 100 other people all died in infancy, never having passed on their genes.

    I fully concede that Action A is better for “the species”, whatever that means. So what? What sort of failed philosophy does one have to adopt to think that the highest purpose of their life is to “history of the species”?

  62. As laughable as the paleo diet is, I’m wondering why Karl Fenst seems to sound as if he doesn’t know that yams and sweet potatoes are different things.

    There is no debate. We know from hundreds of studies over the last 50 years which diet is healthiest. The studies repeatedly show that meat consumption is a liability. The evidence is overwhelming.

    1. Sorry Patrick but the last fifty years has shown us that a low fat diet is not only unnatural but very unhealthy. In the early 1900’s the amount of saturated fat consumed in the form of eggs, meat and dairy was far more than is consumed today and yet heart disease, obesity/diabetes, and cancer were rare. The difference was the huge increase in consumption of processed grains/sugars and vegetable oils consumed. One food that has been demonized for it’s saturated fat content is Lard which if it comes from pastured animals is the second highest source of vitamin D just behind Cod Fish Liver oil. Vitamin D is crucial for heart health. Is it any wonder CVD is so prevalent these days ? ? ! !

  63. “As long as the diet of an individual keeps them alive long enough to successfully mate, then that diet has conferred an evolutionary advantage.”

    “In a strict evolutionary framework, all your body needs to do is keep you alive until you breed. After that, you’re just living on borrowed time.”

    Geez – this from a man who claims to have ‘studied human evolution for thirty years’…Time to change professions, because if you haven’t gotten some very basic concepts down by now you’re just beating a dead horse. The above statements might apply to a Salmon that dies after mating, but NOT a human. Humans have a rather long breeding cycle. That means an “evolutionary advantage” allows MORE breedings to occur throughout the cycle.

    Idiotic statements like that just makes the entire article questionable.

  64. Hair splitting. Not smart.

    We know what they ate, meat. And some gathered foods. Expensive tissue hypothesis.

    Stop acting stupid. The variance between modern paleo and true paleo is less than the variance between modern paleo and the American diet. That makes it healthier.

  65. Yams are not the same as sweet potatoes, and one of them has been eaten for a majority of our generations (perhaps not in its present evolutionary state).

  66. “As long as the diet of an individual keeps them alive long enough to successfully mate, then that diet has conferred an evolutionary advantage. By that metric, the agricultural revolution has proven to be the most effective dietary system in the history of our species”

    Agricultural revolution divided people into rich and poor, with only rich being succesful at reproduction. According to Gregory Clark, author of “The Farewall to Alms”, during the Middle Ages there was a large demographic transition: about 90% of people in 18th centaury descended from just 10% of people at the beginning of the Middle Ages.

    He also describes a process by which the poor were eliminated from the population: every woman gave birth to about 5 children, but the survability of children from poor families were 1,77 per woman, while from rich families were as high as 3 to 4 per woman. After each generation some children from the richer families migrated to lower classes, taking over jobs that the dying out poor population left unpopulated.

    There are also similar, but worse quality, data for Roman times, that prove that slaves were demographically dying-out population, with fertility below the replacement levels. From Egypt we know of pharaos having hundreds of children, while the poor starved etc.

    So it looks like agricultural revolution didn’t lead to the universal demographic succes of the human kind, but just allowed some 10% minority to demographically dominate the entire world, at the cost of 90% of the initial human gene pool.

  67. I couldn’t disagree with this statement more “evolutionary fitness is measured by reproductive success, not by the health or longevity of an individual.” Why do I call bunk? For example a tribe with more learned adaptations (even monkeys learn), cultivated through experience, would have an edge over other shorter life span tribes, which would allow them to obtain more resources to feed more babies. This is to say that it starts with a father of a child who posses longevity who can better protect his genes and who can better pass knowledge down. Thus making the gene more pervasive as he would have less dead children and potentially attract more mates, due to having more time to climb the tribal hierarchy. As the gene spreads in to the tribe you have tribal elders who improve the prospects of the the whole group (genetic profile). Evolution is not just dependent on individual dynamics but group dynamics as well.

  68. If I could just interject a few thoughts, and no offense intended. “people can live off everything” does not equal “people will thrive”. Of course, you can LIVE off chicken nuggets. Does that mean it will result in vibrant health?

    The “it’s when you mate, not what you ate” idea reduces existence to the mere propagation of it. I think most of us hope for a little more in life even if survival of the species doesn’t require it. Besides, it helps to be around long enough to make sure your offspring survive.

    Further, this: “Dr. Fenst instead attacked the premise that agricultural products are somehow “‘unnatural,” with wheat being specifically singled out. What people seem to ignore, he said, was that the fresh fruits and vegetables forming the basis of the Paleo Diet were created by the same agricultural process that produced cereal grains.” is a straw man argument. No one in the paleo lifestyle is attacking the “agricultural process” per se. This Dr. Fenst seems to think that the same length of time is required to adapt to a food and that they are all one in the same in that regard, a premise I reject. Some things are simply more digestible than others. Plants don’t “want” their seeds eaten hence protective (largely undigestible) coatings. They are probably less “concerned” about their storage organs (ie. roots, ie yams) which may be why they may more digestible in certain instances. Digestibility seems to be pretty important in some cases since grains tend to irritate the gut. Irritated guts can become leaky guts. Leaky guts require the immune system to step in. Grains also contain lectins which bind to the insulin receptors on fat cells and tell them to make fat. Unlike insulin, they are not pre-programmed to drop off the receptor after a given amount of time and can hang on there indefinitely signalling the cell to make fat. Grains also contain phytates which inhibits enyzmes needed to digest food and also bind to minerals preventing their uptake which is supposed to be one of the benefits of eating grain in the first place.

    As for the “do you really want to be paleo, well, then go eat crickets and lose weight hunting your neighbors squirrels” is another straw man. People don’t want to give up benefits of modern innovation. It’s about leveraging what we know about our past to attain the greatest health today to the best but also most reasonable extent possible. It does not demand complete compliance to a pure, ancestral lifestyle that eschews all modernity.

  69. I would say it is there conclusion that is bullshit.

    It isn’t that we have adapted to eat a tomato and not a head of wheat, that isn’t what paleo/primal are all about.

    It is that there is no way in hell ancient man lived on grain, period the end, over and out. The energy return on wild grains is so low it can’t make up the majority of a diet. The tomato by the way is quite old, older than people. It was a desert plant and yes in modern times modified. It was consumed as food in its native habitat though.

    That isn’t the point though. A tomato is an analog to food consumed by paleo peoples. So is a cow, so is a carrot. These foods are bio chemically similar to foods eaten by ancient man.

    People like this should stick to what they know, how ancient man acted and what he did. They should leave nutrition to those that understand it.

    1. If you want to eat “Paleo” that’s your personal choice but before spouting forth about what is or isn’t good for you and slagging off the “authors” of this article you should try refuting their argument(s) properly. For starters, your opinion, your experiences, your mates, your PT, your Paleo Book/Muscle Mag, are at best anecdotal evidence (I’m being kind with the latter). You need to try some published peer-reviewed RCT type evidence (& without using it out of context ).

      e.g from more recent posts – @Tina “This Dr. Fenst.. ….., a premise I reject” YOU reject ? Who are you? What are you qualifications and background? Again, @ Tina ” Digestibility seems to be pretty important in some cases since grains tend to irritate the gut..” etc etc ad nauseum Source please.

      Clearly I’ve got too much time on my hands; I’m “banging my head against a brick wall here” – those who understand know all this already.

      1. It seems pretty self-evident that some foods are more digestible than others. It’s not a huge logical leap to then say it would take less time to adapt to eating certain foods which are more digestible than others which are not. Sorry if my lack of a PhD. or several double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies with huge cohorts renders that non-sensical to you.

        This study published in the Scandiavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006 clearly showed that gliadin can affect zonulin (a substance that opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining) even in people without the genetics for celiac. The researchers concluded that, “Based on our results, we concluded that gliadin activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.” http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/gliadin-causes-intestinal-permeability-both-celiac-and-non-celiac-intestinal

        A particularly harsh lectin called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is present in our modern day wheat (Triticum aestivum) and is very problematic. It is implicated in many reactions that cause cell death and stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19332085

        Lectins (carbohydrate binding proteins present in most plants, especially seeds and tubers like cereals, potatoes, and beans) are capable of binding to insulin receptors. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC433288/

        Lectins bind to intestinal mucosa and may be suspect in causing autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115436/?tool=pubmed

        The WGA is actually more concentrated in whole wheat because it is located in the bran. It has been found to stimulate antibodies specific to to WGA with some ability to cross-react with other proteins. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8955334

        Gliadin (the prolamine in gluten) causes zonulin levels to increase in people with the genetic pre-disposition to celiac disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16456012

        As zonulin levels go up, the tight junctions become lax, widening the space between the cells of the lining and increasing gut permeability. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18485912

        Now the gut membrane has spaces which allow large food particles into the body that shouldn’t be there. These are noticed by the immune system and targeted as foreign.

        Phytic acid is present in the bran or hulls of all seeds (this includes all grains and nuts as well as soy) and blocks the uptake of critical minerals like phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Phytic acid also inhibits enzymes needed to digest food. These include pepsin, which is needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, which is needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. It also inhibits trypsin, which is needed for protein digestion in the small intestine. http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/living-with-phytic-acid
        (with many sources listed at the bottom of the page)

        As for all the stuff so kindly referred to as anecdotal, why don’t you cruise over to marksdailyapple.com and click on Success Stories. You’ll find 150 or more anecdotes about people who have not only lost major poundage but many of whom who also know longer suffer from IBS, poor cholesterol ratios, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, cystic acne, body aches, depression, and the list goes on.

        1. Beautiful! Thanks for all the references. I can also add, anecdotally, that I no longer have migraines since cutting out grains. It’s a miracle, but more science than miracle since I’ve learned the science and understand better how my body works through my own self experimentation. I’m just happy I found this way of eating and living so I no longer have to deal with these horrible migraines that NOTHING from modern medicine could help me with, literally nothing helped. I also feel better overall and have more energy.

          I think it’s more about finding what works best for YOU than what cavemen ate, it’s just something to call it. It’s fine if you want to call it something else. I generally call it a primal or ancestral template over paleo. Or for people who can’t handle that, just call it eating food, not processed garbage.

  70. ‘Paleo diet’ is a figure of speech used to reference the practice of eating the least processed foods possible. Anyone who thinks it means we should eat like cavemen is a dim wit. It’s impossible for modern people to eat that way. Everything we eat and drink has been processed in some, even if we grow our own food. Paleo means Avoid the over-processed. junk. Stop trying to insult something you dont understand. It makes you look like you got your Ph. D. from a guy in an alley.

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