We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.