Sunday, January 10, 2010

Paleo is Going Mainstream

There was an article on the modern "Paleolithic" lifestyle in the New York Times today. I thought it was a pretty fair treatment of the subject, although it did paint it as more macho and carnivorous than it needs to be. It features three attractive NY cave people. It appeared in the styles section here. Paleo is going mainstream. I expect media health authorities to start getting defensive about it any minute now.

[2013 update.  Did I call it or what??]

41 comments:

aurelia.donka said...

Saw that in my rss reader a few days ago. I thought the tone was a bit patronizing.

Waiting for the backlash.

zach said...

Bloodletting? Never heard of that one on the paleo diet. Sounds like a bit much.

Greta from www.bigbottomblogger.blogspot.com said...

I am going to go read that..thanks for the heads-up.

Did you happen to read the article in American Profile on Saturday about Jack LaLanne? It indicates that, while he might not be totally paleo...he advocates lean meat, fruit, veggies.....does not EVER mention grains. And...I want to look like him when I am 95! Paleo power! :)

Flowerdew Onehundred said...

The reasoning is a little odd - to duplicate Grok's injuries.

The Eades' Protein Power books recommend giving blood to reduce iron, especially for men since women already have a monthly bloodletting where they lose some iron.

Todd Hargrove said...
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Todd Hargrove said...

I thought the "cavemen" came off looking rather foolish. Perhaps fair enough, but I would be a little embarrassed to show this to my friends.

Adolfo David said...

Interesting to see Zone Diet here, a paleodiet (another one, of course) although some want to deny it.

Melissa said...

I'm a big fan of your site! Yes, the tone was a little bit patronizing, but we are a strange bunch. It's a style piece though...maybe at least it will get people thinking.

Melissa said...

I discuss the article and my involvement in it on Metafilter


as well as my own new site
huntgatherlove.com

Cusick said...

Well, it's better than the Standard American Diet, or even the Standard American "Health Food".

I think the Paleo people are "off" though. It's just another low carb diet, with an emphasis on fresh and non-processed (making it an immediate improvement on Atkins and Eades' work). But they fundamentally misunderstand things, and come across looking foolish.

1. Man has been cooking food for 100,000 years AT LEAST. Possibly 1 million years. In fact the raw foodies miss out on a lot of nutrients and calories.

2. Man has had access to carbohydrates (in the form of tubers) for as long as we've been cooking (again, possibly 1 million years). There is no reason at all to avoid carbs. De Vany was lead astray by his wife's Type 1 diabetes. Any normal healthy person thrives on unprocessed, natural carbohydrates.

The "paleo" people would do well to read (or re-read, with a closer eye) Price and McCarrison. Other than Price's Northern Canadian Indians their "healthy aborigines" were not low carb types.

Todd Hargrove said...

No offense Melissa:) If my wife could write an article about my lifestyle it might come out looking about the same. By the way, nice website.

Melissa said...

Cusick, you underestimate the diversity of the paleo diet. I am on the paleo diet for stomach problems and do not care about carb counts. I ate a black sapote for breakfast today and I do eat tubers and I often attend NYC Weston A. Price events... we unite around fat (check out the latest event http://www.culinaryhistoriansny.org/events.html). Personally, I do not tolerate dairy or gluten well, although I do really like to indulge in dosas, which I learned about here.

El said...

interesting wasn't it, that piece in the Times. The paleos the anti-vegetarians. for every action there is a reaction.
Linda Eckhardt
co-author The Silver Cloud Diet.com

Stephan said...

Hi Melissa,

Good to have you on the blog!

Hi Greta,

I haven't read that, sounds great though.

Hi Brock,

Paleo doesn't necessarily mean raw, in fact I don't think most paleos eat raw. You might be interested in Staffan Lindeberg, the author of the Kitava study. He advocates a paleo diet that's higher in carbohydrate. He just published a book in English (in January). I'm looking forward to reading it.

kilton9 said...

Hey Stephan,

I'd be interested in your thoughts on ketosis, especially long-term ketosis via carb restriction. Some say it's good because ketones are a more natural fuel for the body. Others say it's bad because it's stressful for the liver and can screw up thyroid hormones. What do you think?

DancinPete said...

so.. how long until we start seeing the 'McPaleo' platter at Mcdonald's?.. it will come with a little plastic dinosaur to really mess kids up.

mccuej14 said...

There was a recent article re: Paleo in the Washington Post too!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/01/AR2010010101611.html?nav=hcmodule

PJS said...

Beside the point of course, but it drove me crazy that they wrote "millenniums" instead of "millennia".

Emily said...

cusick-
i know a few paleo folks, have researched the diet ad-nauseum,and don't find any emphasis on raw foods.

Daryl said...

Nah, not going mainstream.

This is a CYA article to make them appear to be practicing real journalism. Don't worry, they will bow to their masters, big pharma. Got to keep those advertising dollars flowing!!!!

Bryce said...

Cusick,

Don't be too quick to generalize us. Most of the Paleo community I'm familiar with acknowledge that Cooked meat was instrumental in the evolution of our smaller guts and larger brains (compared to other primates), as well as the fact that starchy tubers were essential when fatty meat was unavailable.

Is Paleo lowER carb than the SAD? Yes of course, but you could eat a large potato every single day, be fully paleo, and still less than a third as much carbohydrate as the average American.

Do we recognize that lowering the carb can accelerate fat loss, certainly, but there is no requirement to be low-carb to eat Paleo.

Myth About Paleo # 67 - Debunked!

-bryce

JBG said...

Re bloodletting, I just recently came upon The Blood Thinner Cure (©2001) by Kensey & Turkington. It recommends donating blood (among other measures), especially for men and menopausal women, in order to retard artery damage caused by the extra stress of pumping over-thick blood. Donating thins the blood by encouraging replacement of older, stiff red blood cells by new, more supple ones.

For Melissa and others interested-- I originally became interested in paleo thinking by reading The Continuum Concept by Jean Leidloff. This is an old book now, 1982 I think, and includes some strange parts that I don't go along with, but it is very much worth reading. It is not directed to food/health, but rather to social life, especially the raising of children. This is a side of things that Paleo folks don't often discuss, but I think it provides us with guidance that is sound for the same basic reasons as the familiar food guidance is sound. Recollect that white kids captured and raised by Indians in America's early days generally had no interest in returning to "civilization", while Indian kids captured and raised by us couldn't get back to the tribe quick enough. There's something going on there that is useful to understand, and as important as food.

BTW, Melissa's site has a couple nice displays listing good books and various foods.

JBG said...

Turns out the Leidloff book is older than I remembered -- 1975. It's been reprinted/revised several times since, and two versions are currently available via Amazon. Here is the blurb from one of them:

"The Continuum Concept" introduces the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings - especially babies - require the kind of instinctive nurturing as practiced by our ancient relatives. It is a true 'back to basics' approach to parenting. Author Jean Liedloff spent two and-a-half years in the jungle deep in the heart of South America living with indigenous tribes and was astounded at how differently children are raised outside the Western world. She came to the realisation that essential child-rearing techniques such as touch, trust and community have been undermined in modern times, and in this book suggests practical ways to regain our natural well-being, for our children and ourselves.

JBG said...

Sorry, make that Jean Liedloff, with an IE, not an EI.

Kennedy said...

Funny article! Those guys sound great.

Meat-lockers, Paleo enthusiast meetings, hardcore fasting and parkour like urban-workouts!

God I hope Paleo is going mainstream.

Paleo Phil said...
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Paleo Phil said...

Neat coincidence, Stephan... without seeing your blog post I also posted about the NYT article at the Raw Paleo forum yesterday under the title "Paleo is getting mainstream attention."

Someone claiming to be a Toronto photojournalist just expressed interest in reporting on us raw Paleo folks. Now that the big boys (Washington Post and NYT) have reported on it, others are apparently taking note. I'm not sure it's necessarily a good thing, though, in the long run.

I'm one of those unusual folks who's been trying raw Paleo. I've been doing a carnivorous version of it as an experiment I started when more standard cooked Paleo wasn't doing it for me anymore, and raw carnivore Paleo has so far worked better than I expected. However, I'm not in the habit of prescribing what other people should eat and I believe in a big-tent approach to the Paleo community.

Love your blog. It's one of my faves.

Paleo Phil said...

...actually, I posted about the NYT article 2 days ago, not that it matters much.

Robert McLeod said...

I am under the impression Arthur de Vany lives in LA and not Utah, but what do I know.

bob said...

paleo phil, tell me more about this raw meat diet. i've been thinking about eating some raw meat (not exclusively) but not sure what type of meat (do u mean u buy a normal steak say at a supermarket and just eat it raw, or is it a particular type of meat from a particular source) and whether it is this safe (germs etc after its been sitting in a supermarket shelf for a few days).

not that paleo is likely to ever become really mainstream (as in replacing the SAD) but what would be the consequences if it did? the demand (and price) of meat would probably sky rocket

Paleo Phil said...

Some people eat that. I happen to eat mostly pasture-fed ground beef and bison with pasture-fed suet. The media fears about bacteria seem overblown (though one should learn about the risks of anaerobic bacteria like Clostridium botulinum before storing and eating raw meat/seafood). There's even a fairly new scientific view called the hygiene hypothesis that views many--not all--bacteria as beneficial, and some Arctic tribes apparently view bacteria-rich raw meats and seafood as the healthiest. It's a new field of inquiry, so there's still much to learn.

You can find plenty more info re: your questions at the Raw Paleo forum. Check out Lex Rooker's journal in particular. Of course, neither Lex nor I are experts and I don't advocate that other people necessarily do what we're doing.

Demand-driven price inflation of Paleo foods is indeed one potential problem I was thinking of. It's amazing how much the price of wild salmon has already gone up since I started eating cooked Paleo foods about 5 or so years ago.

Paleo Phil said...

I should also mention that I eat raw organ meats and eggs too, which are rich in some nutrients that are more scarce in muscle meat and fat.

Half Navajo said...

they need to eat some sweet potatoes... mmmm.. and chocolate milk...

troy

Lisa said...

Paleo Phil said, "I started when more standard cooked Paleo wasn't doing it for me anymore,"...

Phil, will you please expound upon this? Did you have a worsening of health?

This reminds me of all the low carbers who have to keep reducing their carb intake to try to replicate how they felt and how they lost weight at the beginning.

I'm thinking that a real-food seasonal approach that's higher carb in summer and lower in winter is the way to go so that our bodies don't get accustomed to anything.

Lisa

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Glenn said...

Bryce:

“Most of the Paleo community I'm familiar with acknowledge that Cooked meat was instrumental in the evolution of our smaller guts and larger brains (compared to other primates)…”

There was just a great Nova show about evolution called “What Darwin Never Knew.”

One scientist hypothesized that our large human brain came about when our ancestors stopped exerting as much force when they chewed, thereby allowing the skull platelets to continue expanding to accommodate a larger brain.

He contrasted humans with gorillas who have a muscle contracting their jaw the size of a human quadriceps. This great chewing force stops skull expansion much earlier in the apes, limiting the size of their brains.

I wonder if pre-humans that had a variation/mutation to chew with less force naturally gravitated to softer cooked foods, causing them to survive more so (due to disease prevention) than those who chewed with more force and ate more raw foods.

Paleo Phil said...

Lisa said, "Phil, will you please expound upon this? Did you have a worsening of health?"

Yes, some of my old symptoms were gradually creeping back.

Lisa said, "This reminds me of all the low carbers who have to keep reducing their carb intake to try to replicate how they felt and how they lost weight at the beginning."

Yes, it was similar for me on conventional Paleo, except I was trying to get the excellent level of health and well being back that I had early on from that approach, rather than lose weight. For whatever reason, the more I cut back on carbs and the more raw meat/fat I ate, the better I did. It's still early in my current experiment, though and I don't know that I should expound much on it here, as I don't wish to go too off topic or show any disrespect to Stephan's blog.

Lisa said, "I'm thinking that a real-food seasonal approach that's higher carb in summer and lower in winter is the way to go so that our bodies don't get accustomed to anything."

That sounds reasonable. I'm just doing what seems to work for me and not advocating it for anyone else. I'm even hoping to try some wild fruits this summer and hoping I do better on them than I do on domestic fruits, though that may just be wishful thinking. In the meantime I'm enjoying the fact that animal fat keeps me warm in the winter. :)

David said...

New meta-analysis showing no association between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease:

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/rapidpdf/ajcn.2009.27725v1

guyberliner said...

"I wonder if pre-humans that had a variation/mutation to chew with less force naturally gravitated to softer cooked foods, causing them to survive more so (due to disease prevention) than those who chewed with more force and ate more raw foods."

Don't bring that one up to the raw foodists. Them's fightin' words!

Dana Seilhan said...

I don't go in much for raw foodism anyway, especially not with plants, since so many of them contain defensive chemicals even when they're not outright poisonous. If you're eating a part that isn't meant to be eaten (except maybe by grazers), better be sure you've prepared it right because there may be long-term consequences. Like cruciferous veggies and how they affect the thyroid gland.

I love Liedloff's work. I don't quite agree with her phrasing of "evolutionary expectations," I don't think babies have a conscious desire to be held and carried around and stuff, at least not in the very beginning. But they definitely suffer when they don't get what their instincts are calling for.

It'd be nice if more reformatory social movements would include the kids... not enough of them do.

Since we're on the subject of paleo I thought people might be interested to hear about the human rewilding movement. That takes the whole "paleo" concept one step farther, I think. Look up the Anthropik Network via Google, there's lots of material there.

JBG said...

"I love Liedloff's work. I don't quite agree with her phrasing of "evolutionary expectations," I don't think babies have a conscious desire to be held and carried around and stuff..."

Liedloff uses "expectation" as a metaphor. The idea is that evolution has designed human beings in such a way that certain events have to occur at appropriate times in order for development to proceed in a normal way. Babies do not consciously expect anything, but, as Frederick the Great discovered when, in order to grow fierce soldiers, he ordered some babies *not* to be held, lack of "expected" experience can actually cause babies to die.

Thanks for the steer to Anthropik!