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

Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”?

paleofantasySo this is my review of the new book Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live. It’s been making the rounds for a few weeks now, and although some other people have already weighed in, I’ll add my two cents. At the outset, I’d like to make very clear that I actually agree with a decent portion of Marlene Zuk’s individual arguments. Though it may surprise you to know that Mark Sisson agrees with the most prominent paleo debunker du jour on several topics, I’m not saying I support the overall product or her final conclusions. In fact, Paleofantasy is an odd, meandering book whose ultimate purpose I’m not really sure I truly understand.

There are two main problems with the book, as I see it. First, she’s working against a straw man. Many of the arguments she debunks, like “eyeglasses aren’t paleo” or “the paleo diet was carnivorous,” seems to have been dug up from some random Internet commenter or drawn from fringe camps. In other words, they aren’t arguments people like Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Paul Jaminet, or me (or our readers) are making. Second, many of her counterarguments or “nuanced approaches” are the very same ones we’ve been exploring at length for years! After reading the book, John Durant tweeted “Paleofantasy shouldn’t have been a book in 2013, it should have been a blog post in 2010,” and that’s as good a description as I can think of.

It’s all very uncontroversial:

There is no one paleo diet.

Who’s saying that? Humans have spanned the globe for millennia, surviving and even thriving in environments ranging from tropical to temperate, from arctic to near-aquatic, all the while subsisting on the wild foods available to those regions. Same basic diet of animals and plants, different configurations.

Evolution doesn’t just stop and humans didn’t just reach a state of perfect adaptation back before agriculture from which we’ve never progressed.

Sure. I talked about how we’re still “evolving” last year, even mentioning Zuk’s favorite topics – lactase persistence (35% worldwide, which is far from 100%) and amylase production. She discusses a few more recent changes, like malaria resistance, adaptation to high altitude, and earwax differentiation, but that’s it. If she wanted to, I’m sure she “could keep adding to the list” and mount an overwhelming case for widespread genetic adaptations to grain consumption, chronic stress tolerance, and sedentary living, but she’s saving up material for the next book. Or something. Either way, I’m not very convinced by her “list” of rapid evolutionary changes, especially considering most of them have little to do with the mismatches we discuss in this community and none of them are even present in a majority of humans.

Zuk is also quick to misrepresent “our” arguments so she can swoop in and take the sensible position – positions the ancestral health community has long occupied!

In her exercise chapter, she characterizes paleo exercise proscriptions as “short and intense” and “literal-minded,” mimicking activities like “having to run down a rabbit for dinner.” We type away at our computers on caveman forums, spend a little while lifting weights and running sprints, and sit back down. Then, Zuk explains that contrary to our reenactment fantasies, the real problem and the real divergence from our past is that modern humans sit too often. It is our inactivity, our hours and hours spent doing nothing physical that hurt us. What we should be doing is lots of slow moving, steady low-level activity like walking, hiking, gardening, yard work, house work, rather than sitting all day and trying to make up for it with a hard gym session. Hmm - where have I heard that kind of stuff before? Why hasn’t the ancestral health community addressed this pernicious force in our lives?

Later, she rightly claims that paleo authors are suspicious of endurance training, mocking my position that the idea that “natural selection redesigned our simian shapes to run the Boston Marathon is… ludicrous.” As support for her claims, she cites Louis Liebenberg’s persistence hunting studies (PDF) with the Kalahari bushmen of Botswana where men would go on hunts lasting “two to five hours, with an average running speed of 6.3 kilometers (about 4 miles) per hour.” Those are fifteen minute miles. If you were running the Boston Marathon at a 15 minute-mile pace, you’d finish in six and a half hours (roughly). That’s an easy run (fast walk?), especially for someone who’s reasonably fit. You could hold a conversation at that speed. You could get up and do it again the next day at that pace. That’s not chronic cardio. That’s not a competitive time for an endurance athlete – the dogged pursuit of which is precisely what I’ve always warned against. It’s easy aerobic activity, the kind I promote!

Even when she acknowledges the potential utility of an evolutionary approach to analyzing health or current environmental “mismatches,” they are glossed over or relegated to a single sentence buried in a paragraph. Zuk spends an entire chapter explaining how traditional child-rearing, with its extended family members available for childcare, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, parental “indulgence” of crying babies, is likely the biological and evolutionary norm for human infants, citing Dr. James McKenna’s extensive research on the benefits of the aforementioned methods… and then ends the chapter by saying “most children grow up fine” so let’s not bother with it. Let’s just keep on keepin’ on.

In response to the idea that limiting artificial light at night and getting plenty of natural light during the day might improve sleep and preserve our circadian rhythms, she asks “is this really the solution to our health problems?” She creates an argument that we are all apparently positing – that smashing light bulbs and waking up at dawn are the cure to all our health problems – and then proceeds to dismiss it, to laugh it off. And yeah, it’s ridiculous to say that unnatural light is the cause of all our health ills… but who’s saying that? Who’s making this argument but her? And on that note, what about the negative effects of artificial light at night? Aren’t they worth investigating? Isn’t the data we already have fairly compelling?

(If you notice me asking a lot of questions in apparent exasperation, it’s because I’m puzzled and exasperated and driven to inquiry by some of these “arguments.” Forgive me.)

A worrisome theme starts to emerge: that the past is murky and we need more data so let’s not make any sudden changes to the way we live, especially not if they’re couched in evolution. I disagree. Whatever most people are doing isn’t really working for most people, whereas whatever we’re doing (whether it’s a paleofantasy or not) seems to be working.

To her credit, Zuk doesn’t throw out the idea of evolutionary mismatch altogether (although you could have fooled me). She just rails against “denouncing modern living as unsuitable to our Stone Age genes,” calling for research into “just what parts of that life send us too far out of our evolutionary zone of tolerance,” as if she’s stumbled upon some revolutionary concept. Really, though, we are exploring and identifying the specific aspects of modern life that trigger a mismatch. We are gathering data. Academics and scientists and bloggers and lay individuals are figuring out, in fits and starts and lurches and self-experiments and clinical trials and study analyses, just what works about modern life and what does not work. We’re not resting on our laurels, on our assumptions.

So we kind of agree, even though it appears she doesn’t know it.

I don’t necessarily blame Marlene Zuk for her failure to comb the ancestral health community’s tomes, read all the blogs, study the comment sections (although she seems to have a fondness for anonymous blog commenters), attend the symposiums and conferences (although much of the material is available online for free), and explore the message boards. There’s a lot of material to cover. It’d probably take years to really do a thorough job. But if she hoped to publish a relevant critique of the community, she probably should have understood its actual claims instead of erecting a straw man for easy defeat.

In John Hawks’ favorable review of the book, he says that we must “play with hypotheses, explore their predictions and try very hard to falsify them.”

I completely agree. I think Zuk agrees, too, and I think I may have divined her ultimate goal with this book. In her 2009 NY Times piece on the same subject, she said “we shouldn’t flagellate ourselves for having modern bodies, and we shouldn’t assume that tweaking our diets or our posture will rescue us from all our current ills.” She thinks people are rushing headlong into such dangerous lifestyle changes as giving up grains, sugar, and seed oils without doing their due diligence.

You’ll have no arguments from me. Assume nothing, test/tweak/research everything. It’s not like I’m sitting here typing away, conjuring up fantastical stories about the past and making big lifestyle proscriptions based on said stories. Those success stories are actual success stories from actual people. Those studies cited are actual studies from real journals. I suppose you could make the argument that all these folks losing weight and gaining muscle and getting off meds and regaining their lives after adopting a Primal way of eating, living, and moving cannot definitively establish the lifestyle was the precipitating factor. They can’t “prove” it works. It could all be a big dream.

A big paleofantasy. I could be making this entire world up in my head as I go along, a lonely brain in some amniotic sac with electrodes attached, my entire history and the blog and the books and my relationships all constructs of my mind. I don’t think I am, though. I think this is real, flesh-and-blood stuff.

Are improved blood sugars, better blood lipids, a hundred pounds of weight loss, newly emergent abs, steady midday energy, improvement of autoimmune disease, and new leases on life paleofantasies? No.

Are sitting in front of an LCD screen until 2 AM, spending zero time in nature, living off of Cheetos and Coke, walking under a thousand steps a day, and working 20 hour days at a miserable job evolutionary mismatches with drastic health consequences as shown by current science (and hinted at by anthropology)? Yes.

And that’s what it comes down to in the end: results. We got ‘em, and people recognize that.

Have you read Paleofantasy? What do you think? Let everyone know in the comment board, and thanks for reading!

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. Hello everyone. Here’s a perspective (hopefully) worth considering from an athlete, fellow experienced nutrition coach, and evolutionary biology major:

    I think Mark is a great author and truly a brilliant mind in the industry. He has always been so ahead of his time with his approach to nutrition and exercise. Personally, though, I believe all of the benefits associated with ancestral health stem from eating “real” food without so much emphasis on calorie restriction. Exercise intelligently, eat natural foods, and include plenty of protein rich sources to support muscle growth and enjoy a strong, healthy metabolism and hormone profile.

    I do not believe cutting out the grains is what causes the fat loss; for MOST people anyway. I could never speak for everyone since no blanket principal or approach applies to everyone.

    If you are interested in tons (more than I can count) of cases where grains have been re-introduced into my former “paleo” clients diet and my own diet with extremely positive results (fat loss, muscle gain, increased energy/sense of well being, etc) I am happy to provide them.

    While paleo/primal has never rung true to me, I do really appreciate the results and positive impact it has on many people. Its just not for everyone and shouldn’t be viewed as dogma, and I would hope your community can appreciate a different perspective based on real world experience. Thanks for reading!

    Danny Clark wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • I made sourdough bread and let the dough sit at room temperature for 3 days before baking. I ate about 3 slices of it, and it tasted really good. Then within half an hour my energy crashed and all I could do was lay down on the couch and take a nap. When I woke up, I tossed the rest of the loaf and the starter in my compost pile.

      That’s all the re-introduction to grains I needed, thanks.

      Piper A R wrote on April 4th, 2013
      • Hi Piper,

        I’m not surprised by your results. If I ate 45-60 grams of carbs from any carb dominant source such as sweet potato, steel cut oats, or fruit by itself I’d also expect to crash after 30 minutes to an hour (some faster than others; bread being more on the fast side). Yes, carb dominant sources supply more “immediate” energy and generally digest faster. So what? That doesn’t make them (or grains) fundamentally “unhealthy” There is a more sensible approach.

        I weigh over 200 lbs, my body fat percentage is under 5%, I practice my sport on a daily basis, and strength train. Yet, I never just eat carbs by themselves and I rarely need more than 60 grams at a sitting. Try this…couple your carb sources with a protein or fat dominant source to slow down the digestion time and avoid consuming a huge sedating dose of them. Then, enjoy your great tasting meal without fear and also enjoy the hours of energy that follows.

        Or just do what works best for you :) Im cool with that. Nobody can argue with results, grains or no grains. But people like me who eat intelligently yet aren’t “paleo” will be just fine while we eat grains among many other great tasting and nourishing foods without the fear. And I continue to have my clients use common sense and listen to their bodies if they do not react well to something, whether it be grains, grass fed bison, or asparagus (which my wife is sensitive too).

        Danny Clark wrote on April 4th, 2013
  2. I have to agree with both Danny and Lee. While I’m not a die-hard primal…I do feel that what Mark delivers here is the necessity for moderation and balance-in all things. I’m still on the fence about the diet for me personally, but I know plenty of people who have significantly benefited from it. Although it isn’t really “restrictive” it my mind, it is-and that’s my hang up. Will I find it too this or that, and if so, will I fail? That is the question.

    CJ wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  3. I haven’t read the book or most of the posts but looking at the book in terms of saying paleo/primal is right or wrong, I think our (collective) thinking is also evolutionary. Hundreds of years ago tomatoes were considered to be poisonous yet would we be without them now? As little 50 years ago my mother was advised by her doctor to smoke while pregnant to “relax”….would we do this now? The rambling point I’m trying to make is that good bad or indifferent as the book may be, it brings the subject once again into the collective consciousness which is where evolutionary thinking change occurs and it may take 20/30/40 years before it’s accepted as the mainstream norm…..just like the notion that tomatoes are yum and smoking is bad for you.

    Guilia wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  4. Interestingly enough (or not) I found this site after I had started studying weight training. I was an on again, off again exerciser and always gave up because the progress was so darn slow. I was following the standard “eat lots of carbs” before and after a workout routine methodology.

    I was moving toward eating “healthier,” no white flours, lots of brown rice and whole grain breads plus whole food meats and salads. There was SOME improvement, but for all the effort I was still really disappointed. I found this site while researching whether sprouted bread was worth the cost or not and, for the first time, read about grain elimination.

    It worked. It worked really well. Not only was able to lose weight pretty quickly but chronic hip pain that I had struggled with for years is gone.

    What am I getting at that relates to this review?

    Studies are nice. Expert advice is handy. Whatever. In health, I’ve found the only way to really figure out what works is to try it out yourself and test the results. Pretty simple. The author can say things about whether modifying sleep patterns is worth it, but I can tell you that in my experience it totally is.

    What I have enjoyed most about this particular primal community is that it’s not touted as just a diet and nothing pretends to be, on it’s own, a silver bullet for all of life’s woes. However, adopt a more active lifestyle, eat whole foods, cut carbs (grains in particular), engage in things that reduce chronic stress, sleep more and better and life will improve. It’s improved dramatically for me.

    I’m not living in a cave. I’m a programmer for crying out loud. I love my smart phone. I love the internet. I love many of the trappings of modern life. However, what, it’s not about becoming primitive or living exactly like Grok. It’s about remembering that while technology has evolved rapidly and the world around us has changed dramatically in the past 10,000 years we should not forget what we’re made of where we came from. Keeping in touch with that is essential to constructing a healthy lifestyle.

    Before starting my primal journey, I had spent over a year doing regular yoga, and still do. I once mocked it as “not manly enough” but it taught me to be more in touch with my physical being and to pay more attention to what is going on inside. My life was the better for it. I’ve found this primal lifestyle to be a different expression of the same concept and once again, my life is better for it.

    Joshua wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • to me it seems just a very common phenomena: the paleo-lifestyle does not surrender to conventional “wisdom”, so it makes kind of revolutionary claims. and it is making ground, so Ms Zuk just hopped on the train, making money and fame on the energy of the paleo wave – without making sense, which is easy after all given the fact that outside of the community few people have clear informations about nutrition, exercise, archeological findings, foods politics etc.
      It happened with the mind-blowing statistics about sexual violence in families: people dared to speak up, there was a rapidly growing of public interest and then somebody else says ” oooh but it could just as well be only a fantasy !”
      and it happened to Galileo Galilei, so Mark, You are in good company !

      Annie wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  5. I was hypertensive, had terrifying lab values, was diabetic and 180 pounds overweight before going primal. After going primal, I am now 120 pounds lighter and still losing, no longer hypertensive and my blood sugar is always on the low side of normal now. I think I will believe my results thank you very much!!!

    Sheri wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  6. Respectfully, I decline to read the book. No sugar, no grains? No eczema, no sinus infections, no crash after eating a bowl of oatmeal or a sandwich. I have the evidence I need to refute her arguments.

    susan thatcher wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  7. I have had such ridiculous success with Paleo, (weight loss, sleep habits, performance improvements, mood and energy elevation, etc), that I can cry talking about it. The nuances and ticky-tack details are unimportant and irrelevant to me. I conform the best I can, while still living a modern life, and I have never looked, felt or performed better. Just my two cents. Thanks Mark for the on-going encouragement and thoughtful posts.

    Scooter J wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  8. I am living my “Paleofantasy” and loving it!!! I have been overweight my entire life, even though I was the “healthiest” eater of all of my acquaintances and often worked out for 5-6 days a week. I have had dysautonomia and fybromyalgia and all the fatigue, pain, migraines and depressed mood that goes with for the past 20 years. No diet, doctor, medicine or willpower made me feel better – ever…until I began the Primal diet. Let those that criticize continue to struggle. I am now migraine free, full of energy, losing weight, pain free and happy. Thanks Mark, your book opened my low fat diet, obsessive working out, medical mind!!

    Dr Tank wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  9. Great article, always right on, keep up the good work

    Isaac wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  10. Whenever I need “proof” that paleo/primal works, I just tell the person that it is a FACT that humans have survived being paleo for over a million years, while modern science has at least 998,000 years to match that record and prove doctors knows best.

    Chris wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  11. Those wannabe paleo-debunkers remind me of kids that cannot play with a toy and want to break it, so that nobody else can.
    They know they have been doing wrong all their life and they prefer to deny the stunning results that other people are obtaining with primal and paleo lifestyles, just because it is too hard to change idea. Not that they know what they are doing, they are actually convinced to be right. That is utter closemindedness.

    primal_alex wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  12. Yf Feller wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • Yay. Debunking the Paleo Diet by Christina Warriner. A lady telling us mostly what’s correct (and what we know already). She in fact mostly agrees with everything “Primal Blueprint” (but is a clever puss and likes to show us how smart she is).

      It’s a pity she never read one of the books (PB) that she’s debunking (but actually agrees with!). (I don’t know about the other books but would guess that much the same applies to them.)

      Don’t trust scientists that don’t do research. ;)

      Cal wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  13. Honestly, I wouldn’t waste 5 minutes on her book. The thing is, I know what I know. Personal results aside, everything I’ve watched and read makes perfect sense. I’m not getting the information from one source but many credible people and places. From Wheat Belly to Fathead, from Atkins to Paleo, From Jimmy Moore to Mark Sisson…I’m a believer. Since I quit eating sugar, carbs and processed crap, I’ve never felt better. The Paleo story just futher cements in my mind what I already know. It all falls together and makes perfect sense. I think it’s hard for some people to grasp that it could really be so simple. So for me, I don’t really care about the naysayers. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t agree but in the end, they are the ones who pay the price for their ignorance.

    Laurie wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  14. Well, as far as evidence and studies are concerned – I have been reading eveidence for over a decade about how grains and sugars negatively effect our health. If you look at Atkins for starters, there is a ton of evidence there! If you read yahoo articles and other health sites, they are posting studies with the same evidence. They are also posting studies about artificial light, artificial food and so forth being bad for your health. There are plenty and plenty of studies that show that primal is the healthy way of eating. Celiac sites are explaining to people that even if you don’t have Celiac, you could be intolerant to gluten as most people can’t digest it properly. If she says there’s no evidence, she hasn’t done a lick of research. It is EVERYWHERE!

    Sissalem wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  15. I haven’t read the book, but the Straw Man argument is used all over the place to “debunk” paleo and other things.

    Here are the steps:

    1. Wildly misinterpret the original argument so it sounds ridiculous.

    2. Debunk the argument that nobody is making.

    3. Collect royalty checks.

    It takes a lot more courage to do a well-informed critique of something that you really understand, and Mark is totally right: primal gets results. “Mainstream” science just needs to catch up.

    Daniel wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  16. Forget Zuk. Who has time? Review some REAL research, such as Food and Western Disease by Staffan Lindeberg (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

    Kris Feder wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  17. I’ve been following various dietary regimens since I was 20 (now 64). I was macrobiotic in the 60′s 70′s and 80′s (I taught macrobiotic cooking in those years). I added back chicken, fish, eggs in the 90′s looking for more strength and energy. Two years ago I went gluten free and improved a lot. 6 months later I went full out paleo, red meat and all. I haven’t been this healthy since I was 12. So many things that were wrong have gone away and left energy in their place. I’m once again as slender as I was for most of my life. I take no meds and I’m healthy as a horse. I don’t care how closely this resembles a ancient diet. I only care that this works! I feel good. I looks good. I’m happy. So, debunk away. I couldn’t care less.

    ellen wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  18. I saw the New Scientist interview with Zuk, and my comment to them was: “I’ve been following a paleo, or if you prefer a low carbohydrate diet for three months now. I’m lighter and faster than I have been in 20 years, my blood pressure has come down by 57/27 without taking a single drug, my resitance to passing colds etc is way up and I feel great. Personally I couldn’t care if the “paleo” theory is myth. The diet works. If you prefer to stick to “My Plate” and take pills for your blood pressure, cholestrol etc, that’s your choice.

    Frank Mason wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  19. This was actually very encouraging… I’m really excited to get back on Paleo… I’m at a school right now where the food is by no means as awful as some food in some schools (and I add things like the occasional avocado and generally skip dessert) but it’s rather carb-heavy. I’ll be home in 10 days and hitting Paleo hard!

    Thanks Mark!

    Sarah wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  20. Primal lifestyle is amazing. If only to engage nature and activity more.

    Edward Hailes wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  21. If its a Paleofantasy at least it is my Paleofantasy :)

    Edward Hailes wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  22. The biggest argument in favor of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle is that it works. My story is like the thousands of other anecdotes you find in the blogs. At age 47 I lost 25 pounds of body fat, my weight is now stable more or less regardless of how much I eat or exercise, my fitness and strength have improved significantly despite exercising less, and my incurable auto-immune condition has just faded away despite no longer taking three kinds of immuno-suppressant drugs every day. Its instructive to debate how our ancestors lived and what we can learn from that, but there’s not much point arguing about whether the Paleo/Primal lifestyle is healthier. Ask anyone whose tried it.

    Kimbo wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  23. People attack labels. Paleo is no different. Once we say we’re [insert label here] it becomes one-size-fits-all. Cantankerous people and those looking to profit from being a pundit see a way to get 15 minutes.

    On both sides, I’ve been annoyed from folks touting their PaleoMayo, made exactly like other mayo save the seed oil. “You mean walnut oil mayo?” After a while, paloe-this and paleo-that annoys anyone. The YouTube videos about Stuff Crossfitters/Paleo People Say are funny for a reason.

    The other side, unfortunately, tries to assualt the label and flare up defense mechanism for their continued McD’s runs and buckets of caramel macchiatos.

    One label that I’ve used that seems to stop 80% of the drama is “I stopped eating shit food.” Really no comeback for that especially when the other person is eating a #1 from a fast food joint.

    Julian wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • “I stopped eating shit food.”

      Priceless.

      BillP wrote on April 4th, 2013
  24. Every argument against paleo that I’ve heard of is weak. *Yawn*, just another “writer” trying to make a name for herself.

    Mark P wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  25. There was 199 comments.. Didn’t feel right.. I feel much better now.. Night

    Big Ben wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  26. Although the arguments and facts presented in the book seem weak and ill-contrived, I think that challenging the status-quo (even the status-quo within a minority such as the MDA crew) can only help stimulate evolution and progression. While it is unfortunate that this book is a flop, I think that it serves as a reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.

    Barnaby Nichols wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  27. Quote from this article: “She thinks people are rushing headlong into such dangerous lifestyle changes as giving up grains, sugar, and seed oils without doing their due diligence.” Am I missing something? Does that mean if I’m eating wheat, sugar and seed oils from a supermarket and change might be risky? I didn’t know due dilegence was recommended before one gives up foods that kill or make one ill. Is she being satirical or just didn’t edit the line or am I missing the point? The Paleo thing could be summed up in seven pages and was by Joe Mercola and if the Paleo advocates and devout believers, a highly factual and eye-opening article by Jerry Brunneti, http://www.agri-dynamics.com. Doctors game him 6 months to live in 1999, he told them he’d be his own doctor and he was. He’s fit, he’s also written a brilliant article about free-radicals, mitochondria, how Vitamin A, C, E and carotenoids will not slow down th aging process until anti-oxidant enzymes like Glutathione and SOD scavenge free radicals. In other words, we start the journey of fitness by first “cleaning-house.” Anyway, Brunetti’s a great source for good science we can use to our advantage.

    ROBERT KINDELAN wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  28. Clearly, this is just a by-the-numbers book greenlighted by industry types who thought it would sell a few copies. Expect more like this as paleo explodes into mainstream consciousness.

    MrT wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • +1

      Paleo is the most recent lifestyle laughing-stock amongst the New York media: books, tv, newspapers, all jeering at the ‘caveman’ (the antithesis to their urban existance.) Typical was Christina Warriner’s ridiculous PowerPoint mischaracterization, using a cartoon slide of a barechested guy at a plate stacked with three 20 lb steaks.

      BillP wrote on April 4th, 2013
  29. I just watched the Paleo Diet Debunked Ted Talk, and it seemed to be very similar to this. Many of the points she made to try and debunk the paleo diet were actually aspects of the paleo diet. Paraphrased but “The meat paleo man would eat would be leaner and he would eat the marrow and organs, the paleo diet just tells you to eat meat”….. She obviously isn’t reading MDA and even though she used a picture of the Primal Blueprint I don’t think she even cracked it open. Just uninformed pandering to the skeptical masses.

    When it is all said and done we do see results.

    Why would someone buy or read a book telling them not to do something?

    Dan Lankenau wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • Totally agree about the TED talk, I watched this in dismay – exactly the same process of setting up erroneous ideas about Paleo/Primal and then ‘disproving’ them.

      Owen wrote on April 4th, 2013
  30. A vegetarian in our homeschooling group, trolling, sent the link to the article. For anyone interested in seeing it the article is available here: http://discovermagazine.com/2013/april/17-paleomythic-how-people-really-lived-during-the-stone-age

    My husband wanted me to post my response to our group:

    I am always amazed by people who seem to have an opinion about a topic, without really adequately researching it, and then feel that their opinion is worthy of being shared. I cannot believe someone was willing to pay for such drivel or allow it to be published. However opinion pieces really do not require any credibility. I would question what her bias is? What does she personally believe in, to feel that she should publicly attack a belief system she obviously does not agree with in such an obnoxious way. To suggest that choosing a paleo lifestyle means that I don’t believe in monogamy is an insult. Sensationalizing paleo with ideas of polygamy and crazy people who hole their kids up, away from other people, sit around eating nothing but meat. Ridiculous.

    I for one beg to differ wholeheartedly with her asinine opinions. I do so with a masters degree in health care, 20 years of experience in healthcare, and an entire year spent heavily researching nutrition, while I have personally watched my body change drastically. I am well versed in the analysis and dissemination of research and have spent many an hour doing so in peer-reviewed journal articles.

    I have personally read all of the books that she mentioned, which I doubt seriously that the author of this article could say herself, because if she had read any of them I don’t see how she could get the philosophy so wrong, unless it is pure malicious intent in the effort to promote her personal agenda. Nowhere do Robb Wolf (Paleo Solution), Lorain Cordain (Paleo Diet), nor Mark Sisson (Primal Blueprint) suggest that meat only is an appropriate diet. They do state that we are adapted to animal protein and foods that do not require cooking to eat (such as the hundreds of varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available on this planet, as well as the ample varieties of nuts and seeds). The primary premise of paleo is not to live only on animal sources, although, technically you can safely, but instead to avoid certain plants that require cooking to ingest…and those are primarily grains and legumes. Nutritionally these are inferior in every way to vegetables, and on top of that cause a massive insulin spike that has a very adverse effect on the body over time….and the amount of time that the repeated insult of too much insulin on the body causes problems varies with everyone. Not everyone gets fat from too much insulin circulating in their blood stream every day. Over production of insulin effects all of the endocrine system, and with it all hormones that flow through the body, and also has negative ramifications on the cardiovascular system just to start with. We are not meant to run around all the time with excessive insulin circulating all of the time.

    Loren Cordain, who published the Paleo Diet 11 years ago, is a heavily published (in academic, peer reviewed journals) cultural anthropologist from CSU in Fort Collins. (Yup! Right here in our back yard) He published this book based on the evaluation of hundreds if not thousands of skeletal remains, fossilized stomach contents, and fossilized fecal material. In the context of evolution, the human body is not substantially different than 10,000 or even 100,000 years ago. While some people fare better than others eating grains and legumes, they adversely effect most everyone to some extent or another.

    She also is completely uneducated about the theories of attachment parenting, something I know a few things about, as a midwife, a labor nurse, and a mother who practiced and advocates it. There is nothing in attachment parenting that suggests that one or even two parents are the exclusive caregivers of a child. Attachment parenting is established on the basis that newborn infants are born neurologically immature and were not meant to be separated from other human beings (such as sleeping in a crib). Touch is an essential element to proper growth and development. The constant contact between the infant and the parent (especially in the first three months of life) establish trust and a sense of security and well being that translates into more confidence as they go out into the world.

    Furthermore, alluding to the idea that eating paleo = laying around like a slug is also ridiculous. Robb Wolf (Paleo Solution) owns a gym, and is a trainer. Mark Sisson ha been a professional athlete and trainer. Paleo promoters recommend healthy exercise, which includes weight bearing activities and cardiovascular fitness, but not chronic cardio, nor abusing your body with overuse.

    Pulling obscure quotes out of blogs, not even by the authors themselves, but people who read the blogs and follow them really does nothing to add to her credibility.

    Do I consider my n=1 (or even n=3 since the whole family has adopted the changes) worth of being a placebo controlled, randomized, double blind study? no. But I also know that the way I feel, that all of my family feels, and the way our lives have changed is masterful. We are all nicer to be around, healthier, happier, and more fit.

    Do I need to go on?

    Chantel wrote on April 3rd, 2013
    • sorry it posted twice. :( the 1st sent in the middle of editing. Sigh.

      Chantel wrote on April 4th, 2013
  31. “She thinks people are rushing headlong into such dangerous lifestyle changes as giving up grains, sugar, and seed oils without doing their due diligence.”

    I love this…No one seems to think about the fact that we all just jumped right on board the low-fat train WITHOUT any actual proof that the diet worked…when there were actually numerous studies even proving that it didn’t!

    But no…eating processed crap can’t be dangerous right!?! A diet that pushes whole natural foods has to be bad!

    Cori wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  32. Is there a way to combine the paleo lifestyle with “The China Study’s” way of eating? Meaning cut way back on animal protein but still stay primal?

    David wrote on April 4th, 2013
    • Yes, the primal diet for cows and sheep is grass.

      Cloudy wrote on April 4th, 2013
  33. Maybe she needs a better understanding of what she’s writing about. It is not really good if you just did some mild research and most of your ideas came from blog commenters. Studying the topic and sharing useful information or argument to the people is very important in any book.

    Kenneth wrote on April 4th, 2013
  34. In all the wildlife documentaries I’ve watched on tv about mamals I’ve never seen ones with mammals that run everywhere. Nor have I seen ones with mammals eating grains of any description. I have seen wildlife documentaries with mammals that eat vegetation, meat and fruits. I have also seen documentaries with mammals that walk, stalk and only run when necessary, hunters and hunted (hmm is that the fight or flight instinct kicking in?). And finally I have seen wildlife documentaries with mammals that play, adults and young alike.

    If Mz Zuk is so hacked off with the paleo lifestyle then every mammalian species on the planet is quite clearly wrong with the way they live…NOT! I would suggest she takes a good look at the mammalian animal kingdom in general, that way she will discover that we are the same as all the other mammals on planet earth. The only thing that differentiates us from the others is intelligence however given the argument of Mz Zuks book that point is debateable.

    Look no further people than the animal kingdom for your proof that the paleo way of life works…they live it everyday!

    Gary wrote on April 4th, 2013
  35. Dear Mark,

    Thank you for reading this ridiculous publication and restraining yourself for long enough to give us a detailed critique. I could not imagine reading such a book from cover to cover.

    I am confident in your present approach to researching, reflecting, and writing about what you researched for us to read and comment on. “It’s working.”

    It sort of made my head hurt reading some of what she posited. Why would I want to put myself through direct reading of her poorly written work?

    Thanks for what you’re doing for this community.

    Jackie Palmer wrote on April 4th, 2013
  36. It’s like asking a drug addict why?

    They will defend the addiction no matter what. It never makes sense to anyone else.

    wendy wrote on April 4th, 2013
  37. Was going to post a simple comment and ended up writing a blog post of my own. Great rational review of the book and great blog!

    grant wrote on April 4th, 2013
  38. The paleo lifestyle has helped me tremendously over the past 1 1/2 years. No more hypertension medications(3 per day) coupled with significant weight loss. I’m now showing muscles I didn’t even know I had.

    I have enough energy to run as far and as fast – and – to play as long and as hard as I want. I just feel better.

    I feel compassion for those who do not/cannot embrace this lifestyle.

    Dave wrote on April 4th, 2013
  39. You go Girl!!! Great reply.

    Nocona wrote on April 4th, 2013
  40. Yeah, this lady is way off the mark.

    This is a really great critique of some “paleo” diet issues from an archaeologist. A very good read!

    http://archaeonova.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/myths-of-paleo-part-one.html

    For the record, I think Mark Sisson is one of the good guys in paleo. Not a tuber pushing idiot. Someone that acknowledges that we don’t “need” starch and that some people will need to limit carbs for life.

    Rachel wrote on April 4th, 2013

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