8 Recommendations: Insights and Trends in Ancestral Health Documentaries

inline ancestral documentaries.jpegMost people learn about ancestral health through books and blogs, which makes sense—Primal folks tend to be big readers, and the complexity and depth and constant evolution of the knowledge almost requires the written word for proper transmission. But a well-produced, beautiful film with great content has a unique effect on viewers. The combination of video and audio are more convincing than prose to our lizard brains, making documentaries a great vehicle for the introduction of a radically new idea. Skilled creators in the paleo space have taken note, producing some excellent ancestral health documentaries.

Doesn’t hurt that we’re right, of course.

And though “ancestral health documentary” is definitely a sub-genre that’s on the smaller side, trends are emerging. Earlier documentaries were celebrations and explorations of (and introductions to) the relatively young lifestyle, intended for individuals hoping to gain control of their own health. Future documentaries are looking at the bigger picture—how ancestral health can help the entire world and the natural environment get healthier. In today’s post, I’ll go through some of the standouts, explain what they offer, look to some upcoming movies, and track the trends.


Pigeonholed by critics as a satirical response to Supersize Me, Fathead begins by disproving the other film’s tendency to infantilize the public and lay the entirety of the blame for the obesity epidemic at the feet of fast food conglomerates. But the real meat of Fathead lies in the second half, when director Tom Naughton skewers the Lipid Hypothesis and low-fat orthodoxy, drawing on interviews with experts like Dr. Mike Eades and running a personal experiment where he loses weight eating nothing but fast food.

Even though it’s not a “paleo” or Primal documentary, it’s a great entry point for beginners to the whole low-carb/high-fat way of eating, especially those skeptical of the scientific underpinnings.

Perfect Human Diet

This was the first explicitly paleo film, and it was groundbreaking. Director CJ Hunt lays out the rationale for the paleo diet, going from archaeological digs to human genome labs to Dr. Loren Cordain using a football field to give one of the better paleo analogies I’ve heard on a football field.

Perfect Human Diet is still the best introduction of these concepts I’ve seen on the big screen.

Cereal Killers

Tim Noakes, the South African professor under constant fire for his heretical views on health and nutrition, guides Donal O’Neill through a month-long low-carb, high-fat, wheat-free, sugar-free, whole foods-based diet to prevent the diabetes and heart disease his genetic history had seemingly ordained for him. I don’t want to give the end away, but the diet doesn’t kill him, doesn’t give him heart disease or diabetes and, in fact, makes him healthier and more resistant to both.

And man, how about that title? “Cereal Killers” is perfect.

The Big Fat Fix

Donal O’Neill’s followup to Cereal Killers enlists the help of Dr. Aseem Malhotra, the British cardiologist who made waves several years ago when he came out against refined carbs and vegetable oils. The two travel to Pioppi, Italy—where Ancel Keys discovered a long-lived, healthy population and created the modern notion of the Mediterranean diet to explain it—and find the good doctor may have misinterpreted or overlooked some factors. It’s much higher in fat, for one. Two, there’s way more to the Mediterranean lifestyle than diet.

In The Big Fat Fix, Malhotra and O’Neill dig deeper than Keys, uncovering and exploring all the hidden secrets of the Mediterranean lifestyle, like community, stress, sleep, sun, movement, and, yes, diet.

We Love Paleo

Millions of people love paleo. To people who follow the lifestyle, the reasons why are obvious. There are many millions more who either haven’t heard of paleo or have some bastardized version of it involving loincloths and luddism in mind. Those are the people who need to hear from people (like me) who love paleo why paleo is so lovable. We Love Paleo (Amazon Prime link, free for members) is precisely that, offering a host of practitioners, chefs, trainers, and other experts explaining why they’re paleo, what it did for them, and what it could do for you.

In the coming months and years, more excellent documentaries will likely come down the pike. I know of at least three upcoming films I’m looking forward to…. 

Perfect Human Diet 2: Dispelling the Lies

Just about every month, it seems like your vegan friend sends you the trailer to some new screed railing against the evils of meat, saturated fat, and animal agriculture. They’ve got the wind at their backs. They’re winning. Most people take their claims as common sense. “Oh, of course meat’s bad for the environment. Doesn’t a cow fart a ton of methane every day and require 100 pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat or something like that?” They won’t win, though. Not if ancestral documentary pioneer CJ Hunt and his upcoming documentary have anything to say about it.

If you want to help nudge Dispelling the Lies past its funding goal and enjoy the trailer, go here.

We Love Paleo 2

Even more people love paleo this time around, including me. I make a longer appearance in this one. But that’s not the only reason the movie is being made.

Instead of just telling everyone why paleo will make you healthier, happier, and more productive, WLP2 also explains why animal agriculture doesn’t have to destroy the environment and is probably quite crucial for its continued existence.

Bread Head

Max Lugavere, author of the fantastic (and NY Times bestselling) Genius Foods, is producing a documentary on Alzheimer’s prevention called Bread Head. He immersed himself in the topic for the same reason I got involved in ancestral health and fitness way back in the day: to scratch an itch and address a personal need. Lugavere’s itch was his mom developing cognitive symptoms at age 59 despite no family history of the disease. Perplexed and understandably worried about his own future, Lugavere talked to the leading experts in the field and began to uncover a potential solution to the scourge.

Is Alzheimer’s disease a kind of “type 3 diabetes” of the brain? Could the decisions we make as 20-year-olds in the checkout line have ramifications for our cognitive function 30 years down the line? Check out the teaser trailer, donate to the crowdfunding campaign, and find out!

Kale vs. Cow: The Case for Better Meat

Diana Rodgers is a dietician, organic farmer, and now filmmaker whose upcoming Kale vs. Cow: The Case for Better Meat will represent a huge salvo against the misguided and frankly wrong idea that animal agriculture cannot coexist with a healthy environment. Not only is environmentally-friendly animal agriculture possible to achieve, this movie will argue that we can’t have a healthy environment at all without animals—especially the most vilified ones of all, cattle—in our food system. They’re actually necessary. You just have to do it right.

If you can, watch the trailer and donate a few bucks to help them reach their funding goal.

Are you noticing a trend?

Earlier documentaries were personal and prescriptive, offering a set of dietary guidelines that upended what many people thought was the right way to eat, train, and live. And it worked—paleo has captured the hearts, minds, mouths, and digestive tracts of millions. But many remain resistant, either swayed by the authoritative power of conventional wisdom about the health and environmental effects of animal foods, or unwilling to give that weird fad diet a try. The opposition isn’t letting up, either, releasing cinematic diatribe after cinematic diatribe that only buttress the conventional stance.

These upcoming documentaries are taking the fight to the opposition. They’re facing down the big challenges, the major criticisms and claims that, if taken to their logical conclusion, threaten our access to healthy animal foods. Nothing is more important than that.

Did I miss any? What are your favorite paleo/Primal/ancestral-friendly documentaries?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be well!

Primal Kitchen Hollandaise

TAGS:  marketing, reviews

About the Author

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.

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29 thoughts on “8 Recommendations: Insights and Trends in Ancestral Health Documentaries”

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  1. https://FoodLies.org

    I’m talking with Elle about getting Mark in this one. The goal is to tell the entire story in one fell swoop:

    – What are humans supposed to eat and what is the evidence?
    – The bad science, misinformation, and sometimes lies that led us astray over the last 50 years
    – Current state of rampant obesity and chronic disease
    – What we can do to fix it
    – How raising cattle can be (and is) actually good for the environment

    I’ve already shot interviews with Ted Naiman, Shawn Baker, Denise Minger, and shooting Gary Taubes Thursday. Other people on the list are Nina Teicholz, Robb Wolf, Dom D’Agostino, hopefully Mark, and more!

    I’ve teamed up with an amazing production company to make this a very high quality film and attempt to give the widest possible audience a compelling overview of this entire subject.

    Crowdfunding at the end of May! Follow along by adding your email to https://FoodLies.org

    1. Been following this one on Twitter as well. Looks awesome!

  2. Mark, entirely unrelated to this interesting post, but I wasn’t sure where to post a general question for one of your occasional Q and A articles, so here it goes:

    I have been intermittent fasting, last food around 8 or 9 pm and then not eating until around noon, and this has been working great. But I have added in a morning workout and now I am getting hungry sooner, sometimes right after the workout. I suspect I need to up my calories overall. Should I just go ahead and eat “WHEN” as you say, and not worry about the IF timing, or should I try to get more calories in during my current compressed window?

  3. Interesting sounding documentaries, thanks for listing and reviewing these Mark. Probably preaching to the choir on this site, but hopefully these will reach a larger audience. I try to pick the best (in my opinion LOL) from the ancestral health paradigm, the Blue Zone types of studies, and some of the leading edge research on biohacking and supplementation (which has fascinated me over the decades) to create my own personal blueprint for success. I know I fall short in several categories but keeping fighting the good fight to improve each day. Mitochondrial health and autophagy and hormesis seem to be the latest and greatest emphasis, and for good reason I believe. I used to think that diet and exercise were the keys to good health (and don’t get me wrong, they are very important), but I’ve learned that an optimal circadian rhythm, controlling stress, having a purpose in life, getting outdoors as much as possible, and strong family / friend / community relationships are the primary keys to quality of life. /end diatribe all the best to everyone. – George

    1. I’d be wary of following the Blue Zone stuff regarding specific foods. It is very observational and there are many factors we can’t measure. The reported foods they eat also don’t always line up with what people actually eat.

      “the quantity of pork consumption per person a year in Okinawa in 1979 was 7.9 kilograms which exceeded about 50% that of national average.” https://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110000220190/en

      Okinawans believe pork to be a “longevity food” https://web.archive.org/web/20120113035029/

      “The Okinawan diet has only 30% of the sugar and 15% of the grains of the average Japanese dietary intake.”
      They also practiced calorie restriction “1972 Japan National Nutrition survey suggested Okinawan adults consumed only 83% of the Japan average caloric intake”

      I side more on the normal ancestral viewpoint that human longevity centers around animal products, and not the more popular Blue Zone dogma centered around plant-based diets.

      1. Thanks for this information Brian, great stuff, appreciate that! Yeah, as I alluded to, I try to take the best (which is certainly subjective) from the various approaches, and for the Blue Zone types of studies I think the lifestyle … great attitudes, sense of community, getting good sleep, outdoors a lot, a sense of purpose, eating locally sourced fresh, non-processed food is the most important takeaway (and to be fair that’s all part of the ancestral viewpoint too). I definitely eat a LOT more protein than what some of these folks are purported to do. But … I’m not gonna lie … I do eat a lot of veggies and also some berries each day in addition to meat, nuts and other kinds of fats. All the best!

        1. In my opinion, while following the tricks of zones that have high longevity might work (since it’s a nice heuristic — it works there, so copying it might help), I think it’s far too complex to judge why their lifestyle is working based on what they do…

          I’d rather focus on what they DON’T do — what harmful behaviors they don’t engage into. It’s hard to say what works, and it’s a sweet spot that depends on the individual, but it’s easier to point down what doesn’t work. In particular, there’s a direct relationship between mTOR expression, stress and longevity — the faster your cells grow and divide (mTOR expression), the more accelerated the risk of damage. The more harmful behaviors you engage into (stress, sedentary lifestyle, bad nutrition), the more damage-prone your body becomes, and the faster damage accumulates. When you accumulate too much damage, you die.

          It’s not black-and-white, since both doing too little of something and doing too much of something can render the body more fragile to damage.

          1. Great point Stefan! For every To Do there is usually the flip side Don’t Do. For example, the opposite of staying calm if someone is personally attacking you and realize often it is not about you it’s about the person’s state of mind that is going off on you, how can you facilitate a constructive discussion … is to start screaming at that person and taking it as a personal affront on you and everything you stand for. In one case you are minimizing stress, in the other case you are exacerbating it.

          2. Indeed, I’ve come to believe that first minimising harm by avoiding things and then starting to optimise by nailing down the right things to do… Is the most efficient long-term strategy in finance, health, relationships, etc… It’s known as the Via Negativa.

  4. I real appreciate the educational media in this article. It is an opportunity to gain knowledge and background on healthier options and live a fuller life.

  5. It happened to be my day off and just watched Love Paleo on Amazon. It was fantastic. I’m always worried about documentaries being overly dramatic or cheesy (like the “reality” TV that has plagued our society, lol), but everyone that was in it seemed completely genuine and they hit all the major points about the benefits of paleo without sounding like they were in an infomercial. I just wish it could be on all streaming services so more people could experience it.

  6. Looks like we are in good hands for the near future. Great stuff here. Looking forward.

    1. My wife and I really enjoyed this one. She was particularly affected by some of the stories.

  7. Chris and Mark Bell are currently working on a new documentary about nutrition. They haven’t committed to a name yet, but were considering The War on Carbs as a potential title.

  8. Awesome recommendations! I’m excited to check out a few this weekend. I would add “That Sugar Film” to the list. I thought it did a great job explaining the danger of sugar in a highly entertaining way. Has anyone else seen it?

    1. Totally agree! That film convinced some friends of mine when I couldn’t! ; )

  9. I just finished watching a new one on Amazon: “Carb Loaded” which features some great interviews, including insightful perspectives from Mark Sisson.

  10. No “Human longevity project”? I suppose it has only just launched..

  11. Hey Mark, another documentary that I really enjoyed was “What’s with Wheat”, where you make a few appearances. While there were a couple claims made in the documentary that I thought were a little far-reaching, its over message and presentation was fantastic. Not specifically paleo, but it certainly fits into a similar category.

  12. Netflix, by the way, streams none of “We Love Paleo”, “The Big Fat Fix”, “FatHead”, “The Perfect Human Diet” or “Cereal Killers.” For each of those searches, it recommends “What the Health” and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” which I believe have a somewhat different slant