“The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet), also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets.”
Having now looked into it, my personal reaction is that this lifestyle or diet plan, taken as a whole, is just plain “stupid”. The paleo diet takes sound, modern day science and clinical data on the one hand and condemns processed food, but then totally ignores it on the other hand when recommending meat as part of the diet. The faulty overriding premise of the paleo diet is the myopic look at ancestral eating, which was instinctual and solely for the continuation of the species, basically just surviving long enough to reproduce. One of the most impressive physiological traits of we humans is our ability to eat just about anything for survival, thus characterizing us as “omnivores”. However, just because we can eat almost anything to make it to procreation doesn’t mean we should eat anything. As evolved, intelligent human beings living in an age of science and technology, making it to puberty is a piece of cake (?). Our primary focus now is on longevity and quality of life. The cavemen never made it to the point where the long-term effects of certain foods manifested in the debilitating chronic diseases modern day humans now face like heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.
There was recently an international consortium of anthropologists, archaeologists and molecular biologists gathered in Germany for two days to examine the topic of the paleo diet and in a rare professional consensus, they expressed an “exasperated sigh” over its popularity. 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.” He refereneced the example of a British girl who survived 18 years on nothing but chicken nuggets. From an anthropological, species-survival perspective the diet was effective, but it does not address the myriad health issues she will likely encounter for the rest of her nugget-induced, limited lifespan.
Dr. Britta Hoyes, who organized the event, was asked what she would tell people who wished to pursue a true paleolithic diet. Her response was laughingly “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.”
In my opinion, the paleo diet is just another inconsistent fad lacking strong clinical and expert support. There are components of it that utilize the modern, growing data base of nutrition’s impact on health, but others that seem to totally ignore the facts. Also, how many other things do you do today just because it’s the way our ancestors did it 10,000 years ago? In short, to build a sound, informed nutritional plan around cavemen is ridiculous.
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