Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Eocene Diet

Warning -- Satire -- April Fool's Post

65 million years ago, a massive asteroid slammed into the Yucatan peninsula, creating a giant dust cloud that contributed to the extinction of terrestrial dinosaurs.  In the resulting re-adjustment of global ecosystems, a new plant tissue evolved, which paved the way for the eventual appearance of humans: fruit.  Fruit represents a finely crafted symbiosis between plants and animals, in which the plant provides a nourishing morsel, and the animal disperses the plant's seeds inside a packet of rich fertilizer.

Fruit was such a powerful selective pressure that mammals quickly evolved to exploit it more effectively, developing adaptations for life in the forest canopy.  One result of this was the rapid emergence of primates, carrying physical, digestive and metabolic adaptations for the acquisition and consumption of fruit and leaves.  Primates also continued eating insects, a vestige of our early mammalian heritage. 

The Eocene epoch began 55.8 million years ago, just after the emergence of primates.  For most of the time between the beginning of the Eocene and today, our ancestors ate the archetypal primate diet of fruit, leaves and insects, just as most primates do today. 

In contrast, the Paleolithic era, marked by the development of stone tools and a dietary shift toward meat and cooked starches, began only 2.6 million years ago.  The Paleolithic era represents only 5 percent of the time that shaped our primate genome-- 95 percent of primate evolutionary history occurred prior to the Paleolithic.  The Neolithic period, since humans domesticated plants roughly 10,000 years ago, accounts for only 0.02 percent.

Therefore, we are not well adapted to eating grains, legumes and dairy, and we aren't well adapted to eating meat and starch either.  Our true, deepest evolutionary adaptations are to the foods that sustained our primate ancestors for the tens of millions of years prior to the Paleolithic.  That's why I designed the Eocene Diet (TM). 

The Eocene Diet is easy.  You simply eat these three foods:
  • Raw fruit
  • Raw leaves (no dressing!)
  • Live insects
Once a week, you also get to eat a two ounce portion of raw meat or liver, to mimic the occasional meat consumption of chimpanzees and other primates.  
Here's a photo of a sample meal:

Fruit and leaves are easy to find, but what about insects?  With a little practice, you'll see that they're easy to find too, often for free.  Here are some tips:
  • Pet stores.  They usually sell crickets and mealworms.
  • Look under rotting logs.
  • Find a long, flexible stem and stick it into a termite mound.  Termites will grab onto it and you can eat them off the stem. 
How well does the Eocene Diet work?  Here's a photo of WHS reader Cristina B. after only three weeks on the diet:

She looks pleased.

April Fools!


Matthius said...

Ahaha, brilliant post. Lot of truth in there, too. It's easy to look to historical dietary patterns as optimal relative to the SAD, but in the end our past only provides clues into how we might go about optimizing our diets. In the end, chemistry trumps traditionalism!

Nigel Kinbrum said...

Ooh, that's subtle!

Unknown said...

Smart people, who have a vocabulary of 5,6,or even 7 letter words, make the best comedians.

Txomin said...

Amusing post. The April fools tag spoils it a bit. Remove it.

HoneyRazwell said...

Hi, Stephan

I think it is very likely that our ancestors from waaaaaay back were hugely insectivorous. Insects are great nutrition. In Thailand they eat them today. I admit I could not stomach it, but it is superb nutrition none the less. Paleolithic Man himself from only 30,000 years back probably ate vast amounts of insects.

As far as your April fool's thing (laugh out loud )!

Kim Gray said...

Thanks so much for the laugh this morning! Hilarious. :D

My husband wants to know if it's legal to dip the bugs in hot lava before consumption. ;D

Honestly, I have been researching the consumption of insects recently. Anyone else reading here and interested can check out cicadas. I had no idea there's actually a fair few people in North America who eat them.

Last spring there was a bumper crop.

I may try it myself this year:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=925&bih=455


Alex said...

Bad advice on the pet store crickets. They are factory farmed CAFO crickets with a terrible Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. Free range pastured crickets are vastly preferable.

Brendan Coburn said...

I think I found my new diet. I have ants all over the place right now, and I think I just found a new solution ;)

WildGorillaMan said...

No matter how satirical this was intended, someone somewhere has already advocated it in all seriousness.

Gretchen said...

Will you be boxing up those meals and selling them on the Internet? Sign me up. I'd love it if I didn't have to comb my hair.

Aaron Blaisdell said...

@ Burn. If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em!

R. K. said...

Not to disillusion anybody who is thinking about taking up the Eocene diet and hoping to get the same results as Cristina B., but I heard from a friend of a friend that Cristina B. drinks a gallon of orange juice every day.

Alina said...

I love that this year you actually ended the post with the qualifier that it's April Fools. I look forward to these every year!

Unknown said...

I was hoping you'd post a photo of YOU about to dig into that meal! Thanks for a good laugh which is, if you haven't heard, good for my health.

SamAbroad said...


Can you expand a bit on this diet?

Can I use powdered bug instead of eating grubs or do you think the proteins will get denatured?

You mention apples in the picture but surely they wouldn't have existed in that time? I can get some fossilised seeds from the internet for $18 a seed, do you think that's worth it?

What is your opinion on the non-nutrition related aspects of the eocene that might have contributed to health? For example faeces flinging? I read on a blog last week that this is the reason that people have bad results on the eocene diet as they don't fling their crap around enough.

What are your thoughts on supplemental CO2 to mimic the possible slightly higher levels in the atmosphere (though I know this is disputed)?

Exceptionally Brash said...

I don't you have yur facts straight? She looks like she has a bit of PCOS.

Deirdre said...

That was hilarious!
(I actually thought you were cueing up for Dr. Lustig on 60 minutes tonight ... )

Nigel Kinbrum said...

Cristina B is ginger?!!!

J-Rock said...

I'm busy working on my Pleistocene Diet book.

Maybe we could get these diets elevated to cult status by some sect of kipping exercise fetishists.

Oh wait, it's been done. *shrug*. Carry on.

Unknown said...

I admit I could not stomach it, but it is superb nutrition none the less.thanks for sharing.....

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George Adventures In Health said...

I have to admit, that reading this a few days after April 1st I was a little baffled until I reached the end.

I've not had as much fun reading blog post, or it comments, since I read about the 83 year old woman who's suing Apple after she walked into a glass window and broke her nose. Read the comments for a good dose of satirical fun:

Good Job Stephan!
Keep up the good work,
George Super Boot Camps

viji said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
HeideB said...

You did a great job on this! I was ready along, getting more and more sarcastic, thinking that you must have ditched all your education.
Then I saw your photo of a successful dieter and was so relieved. Good joke.

ahmasmi said...

Eggs, you forgot eggs. Every morning, the eager early birds were so busy foraging for THEIR insects that primates merrily stole their eggs. We must add eggs in that food basket.