Before we get too deep into Paleo-this, Paleo-that, I'd like to start off by saying we are not doctors, nor are we dietitians. We promote a "Nutrient Dense/Toxin Free" form of eating at Axistence Athletics. For more info on exactly what that means check out this past article here.
The article starts out by briefly mentioning how modern diets rely too much on processed foods and how the Paleo diet makes a case for simulating a diet more along the lines of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. So far, so good. Then they start quoting a few health professionals who seem to have a differing opinion (totally cool...except they're wrong).
Below I'll outline the main points in which the article tries to "debunk the Paleo diet" and allow for the truth to be told. Here goes!
The health professionals quoted in the article attempt 5 different ways to skew the perception of the Paleo diet. I'll address each one below.
1) “There was no one single Paleo diet; there were many,”
- True. This is covered in every Paleo text. In fact, nobody is claiming there is "One" Paleo diet, we're simply saying that the processed crap of today didn't exist back then, and the focus of the hunter-gatherer's diets was exactly that (what they could hunt and gather). So essentially plants and animals.
2) "It was unusual for hunter-gatherers to live much beyond reproductive age, he says, and “it’s hard to be healthy when you’re dead.”
- False. Early man/modern hunter gatherers didn't/don't have access to things like flu medicine, vaccines and antibiotics. Besides that, the chances of being eaten or dying from the elements was far greater. Because of this, many of them died before they were teenagers. The average life span of a hunter gatherer is usually projected at around 35 years of age. Of course when you have half of a population dying before the age of 15, and the other half living into their 70s and 80s, you wind up with an average number in the 30's. There are plenty of current tribal cultures where people live well into their 80s with no issues of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
3) "Paleo diets forbid milk."
- False. This is an issue that has been beaten to death in the Paleo community, yet the "headliners" won't let it go. Here's the gist of it. We did NOT drink milk until about 10k years ago because we hadn't domesticated cattle. So it is true that dairy was NOT a source of nutrients prior to that time, hence diets in the Paleolithic era were devoid of milk. Once we became an agricultural society, we planted seeds and drank milk. For the first 3k years, most humans were lactose intolerant. Then, approximately 7K years ago, something interesting happened. SOME humans managed not to turn off the gene for lactose absorption (also known as lactase persistence). Usually, humans will absorb lactose from the mother until about 3 years of age, then the gene shuts off. About 7K years ago in Northern Europe, for some reason this gene remained active. Today, about 9/10 descendants from Northern Europeans possess the gene for lactase persistence. Every Paleo author has covered this for several years but apparently nobody cares.
4) “We know that hunter-gatherers in the Middle East were eating grains,” Lieberman says, because archaeologists have found remains of wild barley they were gathering, along with the mortars and pestles they used to grind this grain into flour. Not every population ate grains, Lieberman says, but those who had them available certainly did. “Whether they were healthy was beside the point,” he says.
- Ummmmmm, "Whether they were healthy was beside the point"????? Seriously? I'm going to have to argue that since the entire point of this article is about health, then "whether they were healthy" IS NOT BESIDE THE POINT! Sure, some hunter-gatherers eat/ate grain. However, it is/was not a "staple" of their diet, nor is/was it the same grain we're producing in mass quantities today.
5) “At this time, there is not enough research on the Paleo diet and its potential impact on health over time.”
- False. By making the statement above, the USDA is saying that "We don't have enough information on nutrient dense foods and the toxicity of our current foods (of course they do have this information by the way) to make an informed decision on whether or not the Paleo diet is healthy. Also, keep in mind who's saying this: The United States Department of Agriculture...who's job it is to sell the public on grains and milk...
Whether you call it Paleo, Primal or Nutrient Dense-Toxin Free, every health professional can agree on a few things:
1) Processed vegetable oils are harmful and should me eliminated or at least heavily moderated in the diet.
2) Dairy isn't for everyone. Some folks do really well with it and some don't. To find out, its best to do a personal experiment.
3) There is far too much sugar in the American diet.
4) Besides fiber (that can be derived from veggies, and is technically not a nutrient) wheat does not contain a high amount of nutrients, but it can potentially cause a host of other issues like insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac, and allergies.
5) Religion, Politics & Nutrition: Don't confuse me with the facts, because in my heart I know I'm right. Anyone who wants to tell you their opinions on those subjects, most likely doesn't want to hear yours...
In the end, I don't care what anyone eats. But personally, I feel better eating a diet similar to what I think a hunter-gatherer may have eaten :)
Eat well my friends,
If you'd like to get your hands on some nutrient-dense grass-fed beef, please check out our friends at Sun Prairie Beef and put in your order!