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

In Search of the Perfect Human Diet

PhD one sheetI was recently given the opportunity to watch a pre-release copy of CJ Hunt’s long-awaited documentary, “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet.”  Honored and delighted, I accepted. This is a big film, guys. I wouldn’t expect to see it on any Oscar lists or anything, but it’s big nonetheless. You may have heard of it already. Robb Wolf’s been championing the cause since way back in 2010, when CJ was trying to raise funds for production. Erwan Le Corre drummed up some support, too. I gave the trailer’s release some Weekend Link Love last year, and now, on the eve of its release, I’m reviewing the film. I couldn’t be more excited.

This film was a labor of love on the part of CJ. It kinda had to be, since its premise isn’t blockbuster material. It doesn’t tug at heartstrings, nor does it present a harrowing, gripping narrative full of conflicts and conflict resolutions that rival the best feature films. No, “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet” is exactly what it sounds like: the chronicling of one man’s quest to figure out what humans should be eating. It’s not a sexy premise that sponsors would fall all over themselves to get in on. It’s not selling anything (but the film itself). It’s not even promoting any particular paleo or Primal eating book. It appears, on its surface, to be a niche title, with a limited audience, but consider the subject matter. It’s about you, me, your friends, that guy across the street whose name you don’t even know, billions of strangers scattered across the globe, and billions more scattered across time. In short, this movie is about humans, about real people, and the diet we evolved eating. That sounds like a massive target demographic to me. But because the ancestral health community, while growing, is still relatively small, the film had to funded almost entirely by donations from individual humans who love this way of life and believe in it, have garnered benefits from it, and who want it available on a larger, different stage for all to see. If you were among the donators, I thank you, because you made this very important documentary possible.

That said, let’s talk a bit about the contents of the film and why I liked it so much.

First, CJ Hunt is a natural in front of the camera. He has over twenty years of experience in broadcasting, voice-overs, and television, and it definitely shows. The guy has a smooth voice and just comes across really well. No sign of loincloths, spears, scraggly beards (although I have no doubt he could pull one off), or toe shoes that might scare off Grandma.

Second, it tells a great story that should be pretty familiar to most of you. CJ was a seemingly healthy, lean 23-year old doing the right exercises and eating the right food when he had a heart attack. A full cardiac arrest – while jogging, no less. Now, this was due to a birth defect, not a poor lifestyle, but it made him think about health in a different way. He resolved to find the “perfect diet,” if such a thing existed at all. It’s what many of us have gone through, whether personally or vicariously: a catastrophic health event strikes, early in life when everything is supposed to be all peaches and roses; bouncing from diet to diet in his search for absolute dietary truth (complete with forays into veganism and raw foodism), never really finding it; discovering a promising lead on yet another dietary path; following that one, bumping into Paleolithic anthropology, and everything just clicking. Is that your story? It’s mine.

Third, although CJ’s been eating this way for over five years now, he doesn’t assume that the viewer knows what’s going on. He doesn’t gear this movie to you, the faithful Mark’s Daily Apple reader. He aims it directly at those who actually need the help most, as well as the skeptics who think the ancestral lifestyle is nonsense, a “just-so” story steeped in the naturalistic fallacy with zero evidence in its favor. All those common complaints and “debunkings” get smashed to pieces. Best of all, the film’s science is extremely approachable, made all the more so thanks to CJ. When an expert on neanderthal and early human genetics at the Max Planck Institute throws around talk about isotopic dietary analyses that might confuse some folks, CJ asks the right questions to get at the real-world dietary implications of these findings. So instead of jumping out with standard Primal eating prescriptions or suggestions from the start, the film is a gradual exploration of human evolution, including the dietary pressures that shaped and informed that evolution. The diet arises organically out of the scientific groundwork. CJ makes no prescriptions, instead letting the evidence and the experts speak for themselves.

The most moving scenes take place at the dig site and with the Max Planck geneticist. I talk about this stuff all the time, and I and many others write about how meat eating shaped our evolution, but there’s always a sense of distance and abstraction. Links to journal articles are helpful and all, but there’s really nothing like seeing the dig site with the layers of animal bones and tools, hearing the anthropologist with dirty knees from kneeling in the ancient, ancient earth say that the diet of the humans who lived there was “primarily reindeer,” or listening to Prof. Michael Richards discuss how his team has yet to find evidence of a vegan human via isotope analysis. These are the people who actually do the hard labor, write the papers, and run tests talking directly about the implications of their work. Rather than me or Robb or whoever else writing blogs or books about our interpretations of the work, the people who produce the work are stepping out from academia and giving their honest summation of the evidence for ancestral eating. If they’re coming to similar conclusions as us, that’s huge.

Professor Loren Cordain has a great scene where he uses a football field to illustrate just how far we’ve come as a species, how long we were eating wild plants and animals exclusively, and how recently – in the big picture – our lifestyles have drastically changed. It’s a great visual that will resonate with a lot of people.

Overall, “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet” presents a great introduction to and justification for ancestral eating. It’s hard to get someone to read a book or even check out a blog, but if they can sit reasonably still for an hour and a half while an entertaining, engaging movie plays, they’ll get the general idea behind this stuff and want to learn more. It presents a compelling case for the evolutionary foundation of the diet we prescribe.

The movie has been made and released to DVD, but the battle doesn’t stop there. The more copies they sell and the more people watch it, the larger our community will grow. If you want to support a great movie, a great cause, and (in my opinion) the answer to the obesity epidemic that’s showing no signs of reversing, pick up a copy of “In Search of the Perfect Human Diet.” Copies begin shipping tomorrow.

Let’s see how big we can make this! It’s important, guys, real important!

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. Just ordered – so excited! Now when Farmageddon comes out in April, I’ll really have a collection going!

    Emily Mekeel wrote on February 28th, 2012
  2. Hope CJ finds the perfect human diet. It’s always great to hear from experts. I’m glad he gave them the respect they deserve.

    However,considering modern sources of food are hard to compare to what was available in the Paleolithic Era, even the most diligent and astute Paleo/Primal followers are far from eating from what was actually eaten. Don’t get me wrong, you still far, far better off than average.

    But he faces even more challenges than that.

    With new genetic evidence, the term “human” becomes questionable, and so the question will arise, what diet is best suited for which type of human?

    Case-in-point:
    Neanderthals were purley carnivorous, and some humans share genes with these carnivores. Is it possible that some humans with Neanderthal DNA will live optimally as carnivores?

    Lastly, the human diet is probably only half the equation in creating optimal health. Considering that activity, in all its various forms, is a huge factor in “human” metabolism, and considering the role epigenetics play in how our genes determine everything about us, it’s easy to see how things might not be as simple as a “human diet”.

    I’m not trying to dimish his work. I’m sure it is great. But I’ve learned that by always asking critical questions, we can keep our perspective open to a big picture that will hopefully lead us to even better answers.

    Can’t wait to see it.

    Sincerely,
    Matthew Caton

    Matthew Caton wrote on February 28th, 2012
    • You know, I tend to agree with you – about the big picture and about not having all the facts as yet – and most especially about the importance of critical reasoning.

      Cheers!

      rarebird wrote on February 28th, 2012
  3. I remember seeing the trailer years back and wanting very badly for the movie to be made and made right. So glad to see it finally get released. Hopefully the special edition is sitting in my mailbox when I get back to Tokyo (from South America) in a month :-D

    TokyoJarrett wrote on February 28th, 2012
  4. Ordered! Thanks Mark!

    Cathi wrote on February 28th, 2012
  5. Just pre-ordered and can’t wait to watch it!

    Katherine wrote on February 28th, 2012
  6. Interesting stuff, will be keen to check the DVD out.

    Lyndon wrote on February 28th, 2012
  7. Thanks for the rec, Mark. I’m pretty stoked to see this movie. After I view it, I will probably be ordering a second copy and sending it to my cousin and his wife. I hope it can affect them the same way this website and others have me.

    Courtney wrote on February 28th, 2012
  8. I am just beginning to learn about primal/paleo eating. I can’t wait to watch this video!

    Lyn wrote on February 28th, 2012
  9. will do!

    DThalman wrote on February 28th, 2012
  10. Sweet…. I bet Food Inc. started out the same way, which is what started my search for the paleo diet in the first place.

    Mary wrote on February 28th, 2012
  11. No subtitle (closed caption)? That is a shame. I am sure there are a lot of hard of hearing people including me would like to watch it.

    Karl Roberts wrote on February 28th, 2012
  12. Ordered! Can’t wait to get it, hope it doesn’t take too long to get to Australia :)

    Reedy wrote on February 29th, 2012
  13. Ordered. Not necessarily because I need to be convinced, but because this film with its message needs to be supported. The food industry and the pharmaceutical industry has duped the masses. It’s time the truth was told and without our support this stuff doesn’t get out.

    Cynthia wrote on February 29th, 2012
  14. I called all my Primal friends to tell them about this movie.
    We are planning on having a screening night and each inviting someone we love or care about who could benefit from this information.
    I am planning to make delicious eats to serve…just to drive the point home!

    Sarah Martini wrote on February 29th, 2012
  15. Anyone know what the prospects are for a Netflix release? I’ll keep an eye out for it!

    mixie wrote on February 29th, 2012
  16. Just a thought–but anyone who has a Netflix account should call and request they add it to their library. They’re really great about taking suggestions and looking for esoteric titles that are hard to find through major, brick-and-mortar rental outlets!

    mixie wrote on February 29th, 2012
  17. Interesting. I’m gonna wait to see what kind of reviews is gets before I decide whether to pick it up or not, but definitely sounds like it’s worth checking out from this post.

    Josh Frey wrote on February 29th, 2012
  18. I just ordered my copy! maybe I’ll play it in my reception area!

    PaleoDentist wrote on February 29th, 2012
  19. No, no, no! The Russian Fox Study came to exactly the wrong conclusion about the foxes evolving rapidly into obedient creatures that serve humans.

    My trusted pet, Charles Dogwin, has explained to me that foxes and dogs did not evolve their docility in response to selection by humans. On the contrary, humans evolved because the foxes and dogs selected for tame humans that obediently served the animals.

    When humans are not around, dogs quit acting and they revert to their innate very aggressive behaviot.

    My dog, Charles Dogwin, is the only dog ever to break the code of silence and to tell their secret to a human.

    However, there is one huge clue right in front of us. Who are the most blindly obedient, non-questioning, humans among us? The answer is clear:

    The most blindly obedient humans who unquestioningly follow their masters’ orders are … the viewers of FOX News!

    JimPurdy.blogspot.com wrote on February 29th, 2012
    • Hehehehe!!!!! That’s great!

      You won’t get an argument from me!!! At least on that notion :-).

      Btw, again speaking as the person who you felt was making ignorant “creationist fairytale” statements – I’d like to clarify.

      Reflecting on my probably poor choice of words i.e. “just a theory”, I realize that is essentially the argument made by creationists. That argument is sometimes offensive. I wasn’t thinking in those terms or I would have presented my thoughts in a different way.

      That said, it is true that theory is not the ultimate stage of the scientific method. Law is that stage.

      Many lay people lack clarity on the distinctions between the various stages and steps of the method – not understanding how a working hypothesis differs from a general hypothesis (or rationale) – they will use the term “theory” when what they are actually referring to is a hypothesis – and they confuse a well articulated and maturing theory for an established law – such as the law of gravity.

      A big however – there is a convention – although not universally accepted – to consider some theories in the sciences other than physics and chemistry as the equivalent to laws.

      If you talk to physicists or chemists – or watch the “Big Bang Theory” TV show – you’ll discover that physical scientists often consider themselves to be the only true scientists. They tend to regard the softer, biological sciences as less rigorous. And, let’s not even talk about their views on the social sciences, including anthropology. Let’s just say – “sloppy thinkers” and “not real science” is not infrequently heard.

      Consequently, while its PC in larger scientific circles to acquiesce to the convention of allowing concessions in the case of certain “soft science” theories that may never meet the rigors of scientific law – behind closed doors these same theories are never regarded as true laws.

      So, I guess that means that physical scientists can be as judgmental as creationists can be. Oh, well.

      rarebird wrote on March 1st, 2012
  20. No one uses “DVD’s” anymore! Where’s the digital copies? Reach way more people this way, how hard is it to get on iTunes?

    Natedizzle™ wrote on February 29th, 2012
  21. Glad to see the reviews are good given that I was one of the people who donated. Just got an email that we may not get our DVDs until mid-March. Not sure if the regular versions will ship faster.

    Dracil wrote on February 29th, 2012
  22. For anyone in Seattle – our Paleo Meet-up group managed to get a local theater (the Grand Illusion) to rent us their space for a private viewing, on April 25th. If you’re interested, you can RSVP on our meet-up group page! http://www.meetup.com/paleoseattle/events/54138012/

    Paleolady wrote on February 29th, 2012
    • @Paleolady. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I really appreciate your enthusiasm for the film. However, there is a problem in obtaining the film and then charging to show it to others in a theater. The US copyright laws specifically prohibit that use (that’s that FBI warning you see on the beginning of all home videos).

      CJ worked very hard for nearly a decade to get this to completion. He sank his life savings into making it. He is selling limited copies of the dvds for home use and is also trying to get it into general theatrical release by showing it at film festivals around the world. If a distributor found out that it had been shown at a theater, they might balk at picking it up.

      No problem at all having a few friends over to your house to watch, but any commercial use (even if it is to cover costs or at a loss) would be a problem. Hope you understand, and again, thrilled that you want this message to get out.

      Mark Sisson wrote on March 1st, 2012
      • Thanks Mark. I hadn’t realized showing it to a private group would be breaking any laws, but that does make sense. With regret, I have gone and cancelled the meet-up, and am hoping that we do get a chance to watch it in someone’s house (but not mine, because I’m sure the high pitch squeel of my DVD player will cause my meet-up group members to want to kill me).

        I certainly don’t want to put the film in jeopardy, though, and keep this message from getting out in the world!

        Paleolady wrote on March 2nd, 2012
  23. I am sure it is worth the postage for Scotland! Just ordered it

    Tobi wrote on March 1st, 2012
  24. It doesn’t ship to other countries does it? I live in the Netherlands

    William wrote on March 1st, 2012
  25. Ordered mine yesterday. I think it’s going to be a live saver for my CW boyfriend who’s looking to loose 20 lbs by going on a diet of rice and chicken for couple of months straight.

    chocolatechip69 wrote on March 1st, 2012
  26. Just ordered mine…I am a nutritionist and I plan on showing it during nutrition classes.

    Kathy wrote on March 1st, 2012
  27. I just ordered mine! I am a nutritionist and plan on showing it to my clients during nutrition classes.

    Kathy wrote on March 1st, 2012
  28. The trailer for the movie can be seen at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2kJK25X67o

    Kala Nui wrote on March 1st, 2012
  29. When dealing with “pale sceptics” I now tell them to forget about the whole “would a caveman have eat it” argument. I just advise them to make healthier choices, ie food that hasn’t been messed with….grass fed beef, organic meat, wild caught fish, vegetables and fruits. There’s nothing for them to argue with. I also thrown in the fact I played pro rugby and lived on high carb pasta/bread base diets and now having retired, at 37 hrs of age I’m doing ironman tri’s on a paleo diet and I’m fitter and healthier than ever!

    Geraint wrote on March 3rd, 2012
  30. No digital version? REALLY?? I don’t want a DVD :(

    I will pay the DVD equivalent price for a digital copy. If they make this available on iTunes or in any other digital format then CJ will get my money. It’s 2012 for crying out loud. Digital should be standard.

    Kamal wrote on March 4th, 2012
  31. I think I may have to order multiple copies to hand out to friends.

    Casey wrote on March 6th, 2012
  32. Ordered mine! I’m looking forward to it. I thought $16.95 for shipping to Canada was a bit “off the charts”. But… whatever.

    Mark Cruden wrote on March 6th, 2012
  33. GREAT. Ordered this + shipping for $40 15 days ago and never arrived

    William wrote on March 16th, 2012
  34. got my copy about 1 week ago, great movie, and it shows how imo the way to eat if want for our race(human race) to continue, is to follow the evolution eating plan. i hate the word diet

    desmond wrote on March 29th, 2012
  35. I hope that this DVD because available online and on popular online stores like Amazon when that becomes possible. It’s an important message, that is not going to reach a lot of people at 42$ a pop. That’s how much it will cost for me to get it in Canada.

    Angelyne wrote on April 1st, 2012
  36. I would like to buy a copy to watch but i live in the UK.

    Anna wrote on April 3rd, 2012
  37. 1 million to 7 billion in just 10,000 years is not evolution. It’s an infestation!

    What the heck caused it?

    Localad wrote on April 17th, 2012
    • Very good question!

      But this film would have you believe that, no, humans took a real downturn since eating grains etc., grains have done all sorts of bad things like shrink our brains… yet human population has exploded and it’s not looking like slowing down anytime soon.

      Mugget wrote on January 6th, 2013
    • Cheap energy.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 7th, 2013
  38. I am an agriculture teacher and was wondering if there was any way to view this video prior to purchasing it for a classroom? Have any teachers given feedback about their use of this video in their classrooms? i read a positive article about the video in BEEF Magazine and would like to consider incorporating it into my lessons.
    Thanks, Annette

    Annette Bryant wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • I use to get that magazine. I cancelled it because all the ladies looked like heifers. I was utterly repulsed.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on January 7th, 2013
  39. As a former archeologist and a Primal follower, all I can say it WOW! This is an amazing film!

    Susan wrote on July 14th, 2012
  40. what ever happened to the idea of eating a complete balanced diet? With dairy, meats, fruits and veggies? Its been said a million times but eat in moderation. The problem I find today is that people are bored with this idea, they need something different. We evolve, I get that, its a natural thing. In my opinion there is no need to go backwards. We should just be more educated on what is REALLy healthy and not put the added pressure of trying to take out and put in things to our diets. Think back to grade school, teacher always said to follow the 4 food groups…whats wrong with that!!?? It may be boring, but if you exercise and eat balanced (meaning take from each group within moderation), have a healthy sex life and decrease the real killer which is STRESS!!!, then you too can lead a full and wonderful life. I just think society today wants that magic trick or that quick fix or that “miracle lifetsyle change” when in actuality, if you just live balanced, thats all you really need.

    JD wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Unfortunately I think the whole “everything in moderation” mindset is exactly what has put so many people in the predicament they’re in (obesity, serious health problems, smaller annoying health problems etc.).

      To put it simply – it’s incorrect to think that all things in moderation are okay. Not everything is good for you, not even in moderation!

      In the case of someone who wants to make a change, maybe they are obese and want to do something about it – again the “everything in moderation” mentality is not going to do any favours for them. If they want to make real changes, they need to take drastic, even extreme action.

      It is a problem that so many people are looking for a quick fix. They don’t want to spend the time investing in their own education which just opens the market for all the fad diets and seemingly simple & easy “do this, don’t do that” guidelines.

      Government dietary guidelines and even a lot of what the “health industry” would tell us is just plain wrong, it’s no wonder that people are confused after constantly being told incorrect and conflicting information.

      The only sure solution I see is for individuals to take an interest in their own wellbeing and start to learn and educate themselves.

      Mugget wrote on January 6th, 2013

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