Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
30 Apr

10 Principles of Primal Living That Are (Finally) Getting Mainstream Media Coverage

Mainstream NewsWe don’t take credit for everything, of course, but the fact remains that the Primal/ancestral health community has been championing principles that directly oppose the conventional wisdom for nearly a decade. And while serious researchers have been paying attention to and studying these issues individually for years, no one had really synthesized them under the evolutionary umbrella. Now that our movement is becoming more popular and the scientific case for its principles more solid than ever, denying that a bit of sun might be good for you or that sitting is killing you slowly or that eggs aren’t deadly after all is no longer tenable.

Yes, Primal health principles and positions are getting mainstream recognition. Let’s take a look at some of the major ones.

That sitting is bad and exercise might not be enough.

Everyone knows that being sedentary is a poor health choice. But most people figured the solution was to set aside regular times each week to exercise. Formal exercise was the answer, and movement was segregated from “normal” life. As long as you hit the gym every other day, you could do nothing for the remainder of your time and be perfectly healthy.

That’s just intermittent sedentism, though, and it doesn’t work. Frequent low level movement throughout the day punctuated by intermittent bouts of intense exercise is what I’ve prescribed for years, and the mainstream is beginning to get the hint. Articles lamenting the prevalence of sitting, its scary effect on our health, and how exercising isn’t enough to counter it come out on a regular basis now.

Going barefoot isn’t insane.

Going barefoot is perhaps the most intuitive Primal lifestyle change. People can deny the meat-eating, fat-loving, sun-seeking behavior, they can claim that “sleep is for the weak” and “gluten-free is a fad” all they want, but they can’t ignore the shoeless feet that humans have been born with for millions of years. The bare feet we wear to bed at night somehow use to walk without teetering over and falling or twisting an ankle on the way to the bathroom are also fairly competent vehicles for daily locomotion.

Ignoring the big push back from podiatrists (likely worried about losing patients and orthotics addicts), the mass media coverage of barefooting has been reasonable. They don’t wholeheartedly endorse it, but then again, neither do we without caveats like “do it gradually” and “walk before you run.” Harvard even has a guide to safe barefoot running. And the people who matter – the ones who decide to or decide not to go barefoot, as opposed to the experts urging them to reconsider – are embracing it; sales of shoes that emulate the unshod state have stabilized but remain high.

Saturated fat isn’t so evil.

Saturated fat was a big hurdle to overcome for everyone, even in the ancestral health community. I never really considered it to be a big issue, but decades of indoctrination about the evils of saturated fat made – and makes – it the most stubborn piece of misguided CW.

Things are changing. Dr. Oz just came out in support of saturated fat on his blog and on his show (with Peter Attia). Late last year, a British cardiologist wrote in a leading medical journal that “saturated fat is not the problem.” The pathetic response dripping with cognitive dissonance from the experts doesn’t change the reality: people are realizing that saturated fat in the context of a healthy diet is not the problem and may even be a healthy fuel source.

That your gut bacteria affects your brain and almost everything else.

It used to be that suggesting the gut could affect the way your brain functioned would get you laughed out of the room for peddling woo-woo alternative medicine nonsense. And sure, there remain some holdouts among the cynic – I mean skeptic – community, who insist that “it’s too early to make conclusions” and thus “don’t waste your time trying to figure out gut health until the experts reach consensus and your doctor can tell you what to do.”

Meanwhile, reasonable people agree that the gut is the next big thing – in mental, digestive, immune, and overall health – and that we have plenty of actionable information. The Public Library of Science (PLOS) blog is writing about fecal transplants, for crying out loud. NPR is writing about the ability of your gut bacteria to control your mind, and Wired just published an interview with a researcher obsessed with the danger posed by antibiotics to our gut bacteria.

That leaky gut exists.

Mentioning leaky gut used to get you laughed out of a doctor’s appointment. It used to be the province of the quacks, the charlatans, the snake oil salesmen, and the ancestral health community.

We didn’t make it up. Researchers have been studying and referencing “intestinal permeability” and the exogenous agents and physiological conditions that cause it for years. It’s an established fact that the tight junctions lining the small intestine can become “leaky” and permit passage of potentially harmful or antigenic compounds into the body. Heck, for infants, a decent level of intestinal permeability is physiologically normal, expected, and even necessary! But until recently, it wasn’t acknowledged as real in the mainstream.

And even though it remains off the radar of most medical professionals, the Daily Beast just published a piece acknowledging both its existence and probable role in many illnesses. Will that change everything? Nope. It’s a good start, though.

Gluten can be a problem for people without celiac.

Although fervent opposition persists, the notion that gluten can be problematic for people other than celiacs is gaining wider acceptance.

One of the top tennis players in the game is famously gluten-free. Gluten sensitivity is an accepted clinical entity. Google searches for “gluten” have been trending higher month over month for years, while the number of searches for “celiac” has plateaued, indicating that something else is going on. Around 30% of American adults currently try to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets, according to a recent poll, and gluten-free dating sites are helping gluten-free dieters match up with people who share their situation. To top it all off, the FDA’s just weighed in with some official standards for gluten-labeling.

That sunlight isn’t just an agent of death and disfigurement.

The mainstream coverage of sunlight is still mainly negative, but there’s a little ray of hope poking through: a begrudging acknowledgment that strict avoidance of it often results in vitamin D deficiency. Even if their answer is to keep avoiding it and pop a few D3 capsules, they’ve admitted that the sun provides a benefit, and that’s big.

You’ve got the most prestigious publication in the history of the world, the Daily Mail, cautioning against strict sun avoidance in 2012. The Huffington Post published a similar message in 2010. Anti-sun hysteria remains the law of the land, but the message is significantly softened.

Butter is better than margarine.

For years, we were told that margarine was the healthier choice. It had SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY behind it. Plus, we made it, and everyone knows that we’ve conquered and surpassed nature. Except margarine is disgusting. The older ones were full of trans-fat and the new ones are full of omega-6.

As for butter? US butter consumption has reached its highest level in 40 year and margarine has tankedButter is back, my friends, and untouched, unsold containers of weirdly-solid-at-room-temp margarine are filling dumpsters and crowding landfills as we speak. Not even the back alley vermin will touch it, preferring instead to scour the butter wrappers for remnants. Margarine lost. Butter won.

Eggs are healthy.

Eggs are a good example of the oscillatory nature of nutritional advice. “First eggs were killing us, now they’re okay, next they’re bad…” Well, I’ve been saying it for years: eggs are good for you, darn good for you, and it sounds like people are beginning to get it. Sure, you’ve got the diehard zealots who compare egg yolks to cigarettes and do their best to scare you off them, but they’re running out of steam and their arguments always fail under scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the people are eating their whole eggs. Even the usually complicit media is including some skepticism about the results in their coverage of the latest anti-egg studies, and other articles are downright bullish on eggs.

That statins may have untoward consequences.

For years, we’ve been seeing and pointing to reports of connections between statins and diabetes, dementia, muscle pain/wasting, and overall unintended health consequences to little mainstream avail. Sure, you guys reading this are probably a bit more cautious before popping the pills, but statins are still the biggest drugs on the market.

The recent push to include an even larger swathe of the population in the “statins required” category has received a ton of resistance, which is awesome to see. Some health experts are even recommending caution when it comes to the new guidelines. And now the FDA itself is warning consumers that statins may cause memory loss and diabetes.

What do you think, folks? Have you noticed a shift in the public perception of some of these issues? What other changes are you noticing?

Thanks for reading, all!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Was your description of the Daily Mail sarcastic/ironic? I truly hope it was!

    IP wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • You took the words right out of my mouth IP! Not sure I’d be sharing this piece with my non-paleo friends if it’s not sarcasm. It would kinda take the weight out of the whole argument.

      Lorna wrote on April 30th, 2014
      • Oh I do think that was FIRMLY tongue-in-cheek! Fear not. :-)

        Paleo-curious wrote on April 30th, 2014
  2. I took a WebMD quiz today (I know, shame on me) and one of the questions was which type of fat should you avoid: unsaturated or saturated fats. This is why we’ll have such a hard time breaking the good ole’ CW.

    sdlee514 wrote on April 30th, 2014
  3. I am confused, Chris Kresser just wrote an article on sitting/only exercising a few times a week. He seems to be against what you just spoke about. Can someone clue me in? I just really don’t know. Thanks!

    Gabrielle wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • I think I read that article & they were both on the same page as far as I could tell– constant sitting causes problems that intense exercise can’t cure. I can speak from experience as I have a very sedentary line of work, & if I don’t break it up with some activity I feel terrible!

      Paleo-curious wrote on April 30th, 2014
      • Thank you Paleocurious! I guess my reading skills suck. I just skimmed or maybe just read out of context. I’ll give it another read and contemplate then. Yeah, that sucks. I am opposite and am constantly looking for a sit down but I guess I should appreciate the movement I have all day.

        Gabrielle wrote on April 30th, 2014
  4. I recently went in for a foot x-ray because I thought I might have a stress fracture (I amped up my run training and the next day could barely walk right). Luckily, it was just a ligament strain, but the doctor asked if I was wearing shoes with a good arch support. I had just put my foot back in my VivoBarefoot shoe and just said “Ummmmm…” and explained that I wear minimalist and barefoot shoes, quickly adding “I’ve been wearing them for a long time though….I put on my ‘regular’ Nikes and it hurt even more!”

    She kind of raised her eyebrows at me and said I should rest my foot for 2-3 weeks. Well, I’m training for a triathlon, so a week later (Monday) I went for a 4 mile run. It was a little tender but basically healed, and both my feet feel stronger than ever. Not to mention my knees no longer hurt from running and the actual act of running is so much easier. I LOVE the barefoot movement and am never looking back. I do nearly every sport in vivos or vibrams (even volleyball) and have never felt stronger, both because of Primal eating and barefoot shoes.

    Stacie wrote on April 30th, 2014
  5. Sleep in darkness is next. Hopefully.

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on April 30th, 2014
  6. The clincher for me was the “magarine is better for you than butter” thing. I knew they were full of the stinky brown stuff when they tried to tell me that. I never fell for the low fat craze, and I’m sure I’m healthier and, ironically, less overweight because of it.

    lsh wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • Even in my worst conventional wisdom days, NOBODY could convince me that margarine was better than butter. I was also a steadfast egg yolk believer. :-)

      Paleo-curious wrote on April 30th, 2014
  7. I continue to see a correlation between CW and the decline in our educational system. I started teaching in 1975 and those students performed better than many students today. Look at old textbooks or even magazines to see how our overall reading and comprehension abilities have declined. And why wouldn’t our skills decline when students eat sugared junk for breakfast and think a lunch of chips and a soft drink provide enough nutrients for a growing brain and body. The best thing we can do for the human race is to continue to tell the primal message to everyone.

    Deanine wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • This is so true. As a student, I have experienced the change in intellect, time to focus and overall quality of my work from SAD to Primal within a month. Because of impaired gut health I started AIP recently and have even improved more.
      I used to be mediocre in my field of study and comparing myself now to people who always scored similar to me illustrates the change. Without extra work put in, I am now (18 months later) in the top 10% of my class.
      If you have kids in school, please feed them a nutrient dense diet. It really does make the difference!

      Simone wrote on May 1st, 2014
  8. Thanks Mark for the fantastic work you’re doing. This blog is music to my ears! It’s great that all these issues/topics are finally making it into mainstream, albeit slowly and often hotly contested.. A recent documentary piece on local TV here in New Zealand had a dietitian (converted away from conventional wisdom) giving information that was debunked because of “lack of relevant research” by an epidemiologist and a professor of human nutrition. Results were inconclusive but at least there was some good debate – seems like they all should read the links in this blog.

    And, yesterday in a supplement to the local Auckland newspaper, there was an article about a woman who cured her 2 year old of extreme eczema by ditching grains, sugar and processed foods.

    Keep up the good work of spreading this far and wide!

    Barbara wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • are you talking about the one on third degree? oh my god that guy from Otago who was going on about the evils of sat fats sounded like such a tosser haha i’m watching it right now!

      Natalie wrote on May 1st, 2014
  9. Having a science and clinical practice background as well as advancing age, I am aware that research continues to turn accepted notions on their heads. I have always believed that long term health benefits tremendously from unprocessed food and an active lifestyle. I enjoy your updates and links. I do, however, dispute the description of The Daily Mail as a “prestigious publication”. It is a daily newspaper that caters to the lowest common denominator and would kindly be called a “daily rag” in England. You do your argument no justice by referring to it in your updates.

    Tracy Prior wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • Pretty sure it was sarcasm.

      And really? England? lol

      MC wrote on April 30th, 2014
  10. Saturated fat can actually be “good for you”, especially, but not only, if you drink alcohol.
    Otherwise, it is mainly a marker of a healthy diet when people eat a range of wholefoods.
    Some good associations of SFA here:

    Love the Daily Mail reference.

    George Henderson wrote on April 30th, 2014
  11. I honestly think the sitting vs bad health connection is correlation, not causation–or, I should say, perhaps the causation runs in the opposite direction and it’s the bad health causing the sitting. The better I eat, the more energy I have. It seems to me that forcing someone to move around before they’ve improved their diet and other health parameters is putting the cart before the horse and you will probably not improve their mortality prospects any.

    Similarly we get confused over the connection between overeating and fattening. Most of us believe overeating drives fattening. It’s more likely that fattening drives overeating. We know that dormice will put on fat in late summer and fall even if they’re starved (this from controlled lab experiments), and we know growing children will eat like horses just before a growth spurt. I don’t see much difference, since fattening is hormonally driven anyway. Solve whatever’s driving the fattening and you’ll see food consumption drop to normal. Which is why you see people in ketosis majorly reduce their appetites.

    Dana wrote on April 30th, 2014
    • I conducted a self-experiment on that issue. I was sitting a lot because my work is sedentary, and not moving around much outside of that. About two or three weeks ago, without changing my diet or any other variable in my life, I started getting up every hour on the hour, and doing ten reps of some sort of exercise – bodyweight squats, pushups, stuff like that. Within a day, I felt more energetic and happier – I started to want to move more even outside of the once-an-hour framework. The energy level stayed up throughout the exercise program.

      meepster wrote on May 1st, 2014
  12. I would like to make a stand up desk. I work at a computer for the most part of a day, and naturally these studies about sitting vs death concern me.

    BT wrote on April 30th, 2014
  13. Thank you Mark! My body prefers primal eating. Thank you for all that you do. Lots of love from CT <3

    Lara wrote on May 1st, 2014
  14. I knew CW “health” was unhealthy even when I was a teenager – or rather, I didn’t know it, but my body knew it. I tried “chronic cardio” style jogging when I was a teenager because I thought that was a way to “get healthy”. I hated it, I was miserable, and that didn’t last long. I tried getting up earlier in the morning because I thought it was “healthier” to be a morning person. That didn’t last long at all. And so on and so forth. I decided that I just wasn’t cut out for “healthiness.”

    The things that I gravitated towards, all by myself, with no guidance other than my own body? Lifting heavy things, sleeping as much as my body needed, moving at a slow pace, eating lots of meat, and playing outdoors in the sunshine.

    meepster wrote on May 1st, 2014
  15. I’m really curious, Mark, as to why you never seem to give other health people credit. Weston A. Price Foundation has it right and has had it right for decades. Weston A. Price did his travels in the 20’s and 30’s and documented everything he found. GAPs diet put “leaky gut” on the radar. But you never mention these that I can see – instead it’s all about what YOU have told people.

    Elle wrote on May 2nd, 2014
    • Apparently, you haven’t been through his site. Search ‘Weston A Price’ and ‘GAPs diet’ and you will get some nice search results of Mark’s articles that include these terms. Do a little research before reaching a conclusion. Make sure there is good evidence behind it.

      Heather wrote on May 5th, 2014
  16. An informative article. You are right that the perceived wisdom seems t be turning upside-down. My wife was pushing me to have orange juice and yoghurt for breakfast. Now this is considered bad because of the high sugar levels. Turns out my bacon sandwich with butter wasn’t so bad after all.

    Am having a long hard look at what I eat now – just recovering from a burst appendix when I was hit with every antibiotic under the sun. Not sure how long it will take me to recover from this but I’m certainly going to stay away from sugar.

    Tom wrote on May 2nd, 2014
  17. Now for all of those truths to make it over the sea and help people accept me and my lifestyle here in Belgium… 😛

    meg wrote on May 2nd, 2014
  18. doesn’t going barefoot outside allow nasty bacteria and such to enter the body via the bared skin of the feet?

    J. K. Michelson wrote on May 3rd, 2014
  19. The Wall Street Journal today (Saturday 5/3/14) has the BEST article called “Fat (Reconsidered)” by someone named Nina Teicholz who has a book coming out on May 13, 2014 called “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese [sorry Paleo purists] Belong in a Healthy Diet.” She disses the right kind of oils, and everything she says comports with what I’ve been learning the past 4 years (lost 30 lbs, have kept it off…ditto my husband re: his weight loss). No more colds/bronchitis, lots of energy… am at my marriage weight of 34 years ago! :-0 ANYWAY, CHECK OUT THIS WSJ ARTICLE!!! I bought 10 papers and delivered a bunch to friends of mine! I’m in the Boston area. I felt like Paul Revere. “Americans have been told for decades to avoid red meat, butter, cheese and other fatty foods because they cause heart disease. But do they really? The dubious science behind the anti-fat crusade.”

    Paula wrote on May 3rd, 2014
  20. Fecal Transplants: wasn’t that a South Park episode? It should be.

    Samantha wrote on May 3rd, 2014
  21. Been following MDA for over 2 years, lost 18kilos. But still my friends argue the whole “eat when your hungry, whole foods as fuel” conversations. “Oh but you MUST eat breakfast”. I tell them I do eat breakfast every day, just sometimes not until noon! They tut tut at me and say it’s bad for you. And just see them disapprove when i say I eat bacon & eggs frequently, and don’t eat bread or other grains (I do eat a little rice occassionally). But I stand before them 55 years old, deadlifting for exercise, squatting, lunging, kettle belling, doing push ups, learning to chin up/pull up. No illness, other than a very minor sniffle or two, in two years. No presecription medications, great skin, stronger nails. Basically a changed woman. What will it take for people to look at the evidence of health improvement of others, let alone the statistical evidence. I shake my head at peoples lack of open mindedness to change. They just keep on popping those pills and complaining how they are getting old! SAD (in more than one way!)

    HillyM wrote on May 3rd, 2014
  22. Mark,
    I am pleased you mentioned fecal transplants. As a gastroenterology nurse, I have seen this simple/primitive solution bring closure to patients with refractory C-diff. I work in a military hosp so there is no cost to our patients. The perfect “donor” is a spouse, it takes about as much time as a routine colonoscopy takes (though a little prep time for nurses), and it seems to be a solution that is getting some needed attention. Thanks for highlighting gut issues.

    Beth Baum wrote on May 4th, 2014
  23. George Orwell linked bad food and bad character. Bad food: margarine. An essay on the rise of margarine during the first world war and how this is reflected in the novels on post-war England.

    NMF wrote on May 5th, 2014
  24. epic post

    Scott wrote on May 5th, 2014
  25. This year my father passed away after a severe mental breakdown that just happened to coincide with an up in his dosage of statins, and the doctors finally getting his cholesterol “in check”.
    Beware the use of statins, they can disrupt your hormone production and thus lead to depression, anxiety, and other severe mental and physical disorders.

    Joel wrote on May 10th, 2014
    • Joel, I’m sorry about losing your dad. We talked to our dad about his statin use, no heart problems and in his 80’s. After talking with his doctor he decided he didn’t want to take them anymore. He was starting to “get dementia” but his doctor assured him that it wasn’t connected to his statins. However, he no longer has “dementia” now that he isn’t taking them. Most older people would rather not lose their mind to save their life if given the choice.

      2Rae wrote on May 10th, 2014
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