Paleo Diet Revisited

The article makes a lot of sense, given that’s pretty much the way I’ve been interpreting Paleo all along. I follow Gary Taubes’ template, essentially, which is low-carb. I have a Mostly Meat diet and, when I’m actually following it, rather than following the dessert cart, it works very well. The issue is the Neolithic Era, which started maybe 10,000 years ago and is denoted by the tools and materials and a major reason for those tools was initially agricultural implements. The rise of domestication and grain use is what Paleo diet was indicting originally, with the idea that the Hunter-Gatherers had millions of years to evolve along with their presumed diet of meat and berries (and worms and grubs and God Knows What Else). Kressler is taking a realistic approach and saying the obvious: We can guess at what Paleolithic Man ate, but (1) we really don’t know, (2) there may have been large variations in populations, (3) what was available to a stone-age hunter may not always have been healthy, even if tasty or available, or both, and (4) what wasn’t available to said hunter may not have been bad, just unobtainable.

The biggest problem with Paleo per se is pointed up in the article: Paleo advocates differ because they are trying to define what human beings ate a certain period in the history of the species just assuming that that equaled “A Good Diet.” How do they test that assertion? They don’t; they assert it. Those that modify the diet based those modifications on research such as that which Taubes references. At that point, Paleo is just a marketing term, since their fundamental criteria are coming from outside the Paleo paradigm. It’s like someone arguing that separating milk and meat meals in Jewish kosher laws was God’s way of protecting His flock, because wooden implements were hard to clean in cold water and milk and meat formed an emulsion [Yes, I’ve heard this explanation seriously advanced]. That Talmudic law came from the Talmud, which came from 700 years of navel gazing by rabbis in the middle ages, interpreting “Thou shalt not seethe a calf in it’s mother’s milk.” I’ve also heard “justifications” for the 10 Commandments. I pointed out that this is a great demonstration of the invalidation of the alleged Source of All Knowledge, since the “explainer” was going outside that text to observation of reality to explain it; which means that the fundamental is the observation and knowledge thus gained. Same with Paleo: Its major advocates posit that the hunter/gatherer diet is the best because of the millions of years our bodies had to adapt to that method of grocery shopping. Then, if they don’t like its implications, or even if they’re just trying to defend it, they retreat behind either actual scientific observation or personal anecdote, both from current reality, not from the Memoirs of a Cave Man [a book which has never been seen nor read]. So the point is to go to the primary source of our understanding of what a good diet might be, individually and in general terms. In which case, the Paleolithic diet might be one suggestive data point to consider, but not a prescription.

What it really comes down to is that a sensible diet would be one for which our body is adapted, but it’s just an analogy; we don’t really know what these folks ate and that it was the best thing they could eat. That’s one big set of assumptions. Gary Taubes review of diet in Good Calories, Bad Calories looks at 150 years of epidemiology, biochemistry, a wide range of studies and trials, and comes up with some compelling evidence for a healthy diet composition, one that definitely doesn’t conform to some documented and even extant indigenous diets. I’ve had that unarguable conversation with an Asian woman to whom I was suggesting low carbs, which means low rice, at which she laughed. She was thin and healthy and in her 40’s and rice was a cornerstone of her diet. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On the other hand, Taubes documents a Pennington-era diet (ca. 1940’s), in which 3 scientists who had observed the Inuits and reported their almost all meat diet, accepted a challenge and spent a year eating nothing but meat. They were tested and had no deficiencies, no diseases, lost weight, gained muscle mass, etc. etc.


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