Ancient Wisdom Confirmed by Modern Science

This is a guest post from Jonathan Bailor of The Smarter Science of Slim and

Executive Summary

Short Version: Primal has been proven right.

Longer Version: Endorsed by the world-wide scientific community including top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, and UCLA, and approved as curriculum for registered dieticians (RDs) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the single largest meta-analysis of health and fitness ever conducted shows that conventional “eat less, exercise more” approaches are far less effective than going Primal, harm our health, and lead to fat gain 95.4 percent of the time.

I Had to Stop Doing The Same Thing Over and Over and Expecting Different Results

Much like Mark, my journey into the science of wellness started because I was fed-up with the counterproductive nature of conventional wisdom. Over a decade ago I worked as a personal trainer and spent my days helping people eat less and exercise more. It didn’t take long for me to see the now proven fact that this conventional wisdom fails long-term over 95% of the time. Sure, as long as my clients paid me to “force” them to starve themselves and exercise obsessively, they’d lose weight. Then life would happen and 19 out of 20 of them would gain it all back and then some. Worse off than before they trained with me, they were disappointed and I was frustrated. Everything I was taught as a trainer said that I was doing the right thing. But how could this conventional wisdom be right if it was failing 19 out of 20 times?

General Rule: If something fails more than 95% of the time, it’s not right.

Determined to help rather than hurt my clients, I decided to leave my job as a personal trainer and spend my time researching a sustainable approach to health and fitness.

Geeking My Way To Grok

Having exhausted conventional wisdom, I turned to the only resource I had left: Raw science. Not what magazines published. Not what the news reported. Just dense, dry, and difficult to acquire academic studies from all around the world. If an academic researcher didn’t write it in a peer-reviewed journal or in an email to me or explain it to me over the phone, I wasn’t interested in it. I wanted to know what the actual experts—aka scientists/researchers…people who spend their lives in labs vs. on television—had proven about long-term fat-loss and health.

Ten years of collaboration with top medical researchers around the world, over 1,100 studies, and more than 10,000 pages of scientific research later, I realized—to my surprise and delight—that the proven key to practical and permanent wellness is to eat more and exercise less—but smarter. I then picked up a copy of The Primal Blueprint and realized that a gentleman named Mark Sisson had also discovered this smarter science…and here we are today.

More and Mainstream Support for You

In my experience, those who go Primal know it’s right since the results speak for themselves. What I hope to do here and in future posts is to reinforce your resolve with massive collection of science previously unavailable to the public. As an added bonus, we’ve been fortunate enough to receive endorsements from world-wide scientific community including top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, and UCLA, and have been approved as curriculum for registered dieticians (RDs) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, so let’s just say that you’ll be quite equipped to assist those who haven’t yet seen the science.

Let’s get started.

The Best of the Ancient World Confirmed by the Best of Modern Science

Mark and I may use different words, but our about eating and exercise findings are essentially the same. Here’s a quick overview. I’ll dig more into the science in future posts.

Reprogramming Our Genes

Mark speaks to the body’s wisdom and desire to keep us healthy automatically. We didn’t evolve to be heavy and sick. My research confirms this by digging into the endocrine and neurological signals of the metabolic regulatory system that control how much we eat, how many calories we burn, and how much body fat we store. It also shows that when we “eat poisonous things,” this system gets clogged up and begins to regulate us around a higher set-point weight. Thus, long-term fat loss has nothing to do with counting calories and everything to do with restoring our body’s natural ability to regulate our weight appropriately.

Consider a study done at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Researchers examined both heavy and thin people to see how their metabolism behaved when they were given no calories. As expected, everyone’s system slowed down and everyone burned body fat, but here’s the kicker: Thin people burned off nearly 50% more body fat than heavy people.

Think about that for a second. Despite having more body fat, the heavy people burned less body fat. In the words of the researchers, “Obese patients could not take advantage of their most abundant fat fuel sources but have to depend on the efficient use of…the breakdown products of body protein [muscle].”

Where Patients’ Metabolisms Got Energy

The heavy people needed to burn body fat, but did not burn body fat effectively. This is just one of many clinical examples of losing our natural ability to regulate weight appropriately. The researchers put the problem like this: “Profound metabolic disturbances exist in the obese state that constantly interfere with normal hormonal responses [the ability to burn body fat].”

We don’t have to manually regulate breaths in and breaths out, nor do we have to manually regulate calories in and calories out, as long as we adhere to the ancient wisdom of our ancestors and modern wisdom of the most rigorous metabolic research available: Eat more—but higher quality food and do less—but higher quality exercise.

[The simplistic notion] that weight can be controlled by ‘deciding’ to eat less and exercise more…is at odds with substantial scientific evidence illuminating a precise and powerful biologic system that maintains body weight within a relatively narrow range.

– Dr. J.M. Friedman, Rockefeller University

Millions of naturally thin people and millions of years of evolution demonstrate that our body can keep us thin automatically. The key question is how can we “reprogram our genes” to make our bodies work more like the bodies of naturally thin people? There’s a lot of science showing us exactly how to do this. We just haven’t had access to it…until now.

Eat More High-Quality Food

Mark has soundly debunked the myth that “a calorie is a calorie,” and shows that food quality matters immensely. There’s no shortage of studies supporting this. The academic research community has long proven that the quality of a calorie depends on four factors:

  1. Satiety
  2. Aggression
  3. Nutrition
  4. Efficiency

Satiety is how quickly calories fill us up. Aggression is how likely calories are to be stored as body fat. Nutrition is how many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, etc., calories provide. Efficiency is how easily calories are converted into body fat. SANE—or high quality, fat burning, and health promoting foods—are rich in water, fiber, and protein and are the basis of a Primal lifestyle: non-starchy vegetables, seafood, meat, eggs, berries, citrus, nuts, seeds, etc.

More good news: Study after study confirm that we can achieve what Mark calls “effortless weight loss” by eating more of these SANE Primal foods. For example, in all of the studies that follow, everyone ate the exact same quantity of calories, but one group’s calories were of much higher quality (aka more Primal, more SANE):

  • University of Florida researcher J.W. Krieger analyzed 87 studies and found that those people who ate SANE calories lost an average of 12 more pounds of body fat compared to those who ate an equal quantity of lower quality calories.
  • C.M. Young at Cornell University split people into three groups, each eating 1,800 calories per day, but at different levels of quality. The highest-quality group lost 86.5% more body fat than the lowest-quality group.
  • In the Annals of Internal Medicine, F.L. Benoît compared a reduced-calorie low-quality diet to a reduced-calorie high-quality diet. After ten days the high-quality diet burned twice as much body fat.
  • Additional studies by researchers U. Rabast (1978,1981), P. Greene (2003), N.H. Baba (1999), A. Golay (1996), M.E. Lean (1997), C.M. Young (1971), and D.K. Layman (2003) all show that people who ate higher-quality calories lost an average of 22% more weight than those who ate the exact same quantity of lower-quality calories.

Heal Your Hormones

We all know about the importance of hormones when it comes to long-term wellness. We’re not alone. The most brilliant minds in the research community have proven that the sooner we heal our hormones, the sooner our body will do what it’s designed to do: keep us healthy and fit. Dr. P.J. Havel from the University of California presents the scientific explanation of how hormones handle our love handles:

Short-term signals are primarily from the GI tract (e.g., CCK and GI stretch receptors) and are involved in promoting sensations of satiety that lead to meal termination. These short-term signals by themselves are not sufficient to regulate energy balance and body adiposity. The long-term signals insulin and leptin are produced and circulate in proportion to recent energy intake and body adiposity. Together, the short- and long-term signals interact to regulate energy balance in that insulin and leptin appear to determine the sensitivity of the brain to the satiety-producing effects of the short-term signals from the GI tract.

In other words, our digestive system, muscle tissue, and fat tissue are constantly communicating with our nervous system and brain via hormones. As long as we do not interfere with this communication, millions of years of evolution ensure that our weight and health will take care of itself.

“Insidious fat gain,” as Mark calls it, occurs when we lose our natural ability to stay slim, that is, when our hormonal system breaks down. J. Le Magnen in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews puts it like this: “Humans that become obese gain weight because they are no longer able to lose weight.” Le Magnen’s statement is brilliant. Gaining body fat because we lost the ability to burn body fat thanks to straying from our primal blueprint and creating hormonal havoc is totally different than gaining body fat because we eat too much or exercise too little. And if we are gaining body fat because we’ve veered away from that blueprint, the solution is not to eat less or exercise more. It’s to move back in line with our ancestry by eating more and exercising less—but smarter.

Lift Heavy Things

These three primal words summarize thousands of pages of exercise physiology research. The science is clear: When it comes to ­long-term fat loss and health, we do not need to exercise more. We need to exercise smarter. We need to increase the quality/intensity of our exercise, not the quantity of our exercise. In fact, the higher the quality of our exercise, the less of it we can do. But more on that and resistance training in a later post. For now let’s focus on high-quality brief cardiovascular exercise…aka “sprinting once in a while.”

University of Virginia researcher B.A. Irving took two groups of women and had them do conventional low-quality cardiovascular exercise or high-quality brief cardiovascular exercise. The two groups burned the same number of calories exercising, but the high-quality brief cardiovascular exercise group spent significantly less time exercising while losing significantly more belly fat.

McMaster University researcher M. Gibala separated people into high quality brief cardiovascular exercise and traditional cardiovascular exercise groups. Over the course of the two-week study, the brief cardiovascular group exercised for two-and-a-half hours while the traditional cardiovascular exercise group exercised for ten-and-a-half hours. At the end of the study both groups got the same results even though the high-quality brief cardiovascular exercise group spent 320% less time exercising than the traditional cardiovascular exercise group. The researcher put it like this: “We thought there would be benefits, but we did not expect them to be this obvious. It shows how effective short intense exercise can be.”

Many more studies show the same encouraging results and further prove that hours of conventional exercise per week are not needed. Consider this small sample:

  • “Vigorous activities are associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, whereas moderate or light activities have no clear association with the risk of coronary heart disease,” says H.D. Sesso at Harvard University.
  • “The intensity of effort was more important than the quantity of energy output in deterring hypertension and preventing premature mortality,” found R.S. Paffenbarger Jr. of Stanford University.
  • “There is an inverse association between relative intensity of physical activity and risk of coronary heart disease,” states I.M. Lee, also at Harvard University.
  • “Vigorous-intensity activities may have greater benefit for reducing cardiovascular disease and premature mortality than moderate-intensity physical activities,” noted the American Heart Association.
  • “Exercise training reduces the impact of the metabolic syndrome and that the magnitude of the effect depends on exercise intensity,” discovered P.M. Haram of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Even day-to-day cardiovascular benefits like not being out of breath after walking up a few flights of stairs are achieved faster with high-quality exercise. Edward Coyle’s research at the University of Texas found: “Interval training in untrained people can markedly increase aerobic endurance…. This serves as a dramatic reminder of the potency of exercise intensity…. Interval training is very time efficient with much ‘bang for the buck.’” Old Dominion University researcher D.P. Swain adds: “Vigorous intensity exercise has been shown to increase aerobic fitness more effectively than moderate intensity exercise, suggesting that the former may confer greater cardioprotective benefits.”

Living Better Through Primal Thinking and Smarter Science

There’s a famous quote along the lines of dissatisfaction is the mother of innovation. Mark’s dissatisfaction led to The Primal Blueprint. My dissatisfaction led to The Smarter Science of Slim. Take our collective dissatisfaction with convention and add in Primal wisdom, modern science, the support of the world-wide scientific community, and a growing percentage of the mainstream dietetic community, and we should all be proud to be part of a movement that will leave a legacy as vital as the ancestral legacy we’re living.

Genes provide the blueprint, modern science confirms it, and now we get to live a life that will keep us healthy and slim practically and permanently. As we “honor our genes,” we can smile even bigger and let our eyes shine even brighter knowing that we have the single largest meta-analysis of wellness ever conducted supporting us, and that the mainstream will be along shortly.

Jonathan Bailor
The Smarter Science of Slim
Trailer: Jonathan Bailor’s Smarter Science of Slim (VIDEO)

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  1. This is a good summary, but doesn’t cite the sources with enough detail to enable us to look them up ourselves. Links to the PubMed abstracts would be ideal.

        1. Well spotted Kate!

          If you read the book, as I have done, it all comes across as carefully crafted to fill a marketing niche and achieve the maximum number of high profile endorsements – sadly not to be recommended.

        2. Yeah, regardless, sources would definitely add credibility. And more credibility would help his book sales, so win-win really.

      1. “Tell me more, tell me more!” My history teacher used to quote Grease when instructing the class to be pedagogical with our essays. He demonstrated a Grok squat and said that the ancient Greeks could hold the position for hours so they could remain clean as they sat. Sometimes to snap everyone to attention he’d hammerfist the top of a desk and he frequently yelled, not angrily. He had some entertaining teaching tactics.
        According to a study ( article here: ) researchers “found that by strategically inducing confusion in a learning session on difficult conceptual topics, people actually learned more effectively and were able to apply their knowledge to new problems.”

      2. Hi Orielwen & Graham – All of the information shared here is covered in greater detail in the book, which provides detailed endnotes to the studies. Also, you can find the references online broken down by topic/blog post at the book’s site. For example:

        SANE –

        Set-point weight –

        I hope this helps. Thank you for your interest in the research!

        – Jonathan Bailor

    1. Jonathan has it in his book. Every statement in Smarter Science of Slim comes with a PubMed reference. Sound way over board, but he actually did it.

  2. Just like my mentor always said, “Let the data drive the decisions”

    1. I’ll see your zubaz pants and raise you a Zardoz one-piece banana hammock/suspenders combo.

      Back on topic: This post made me sigh. One would think that trying multiple methods until something worked would naturally lead to an ancestrally centered approach (as is the case with the overwhelming majority of the success stories I have read on paleo blogs). Yet, rather than trust ourselves, we seek out authorities to tell us what the all mighty science says (which is what we already know). We have to see someone name dropping Harvard and Stanford before we pay attention. What is the purpose of the prestigious name dropping, to impress our coworkers? To puff out our chests with pride and WIN that argument against the stubborn Vegan? Bah… stuff like this make me want to associate myself with paleo less, not more.

      I realize I’m likely in the minority with this sentiment.


      1. Tim, I see where you are coming from. However, in this day and age, the only way that paleo will get recognition is through hard science. When it comes down to it, the paleo community wants to be able to help others find the path to healthiness.

        The only way others can trust us, is to be backed by scientists, and bigger names. People can question Mark and Rob Wolff, and even Loren Cordain, but they can’t question Large scale, university studies.

        1. For me, the big thing about having the science is not to shove it in the vegan’s face or bash someone for losing weight eating low-fat.

          I like to have these things to show the people who come to me with real questions and concerns about what is best for their health.

          I’ve found that when someone has a firm foundation on which to base their belief in their efforts, their weight comes off faster, healthier, and stays off.

          So, I’m with you, Tim, in that the dogma and “so there!” part of this kind of thing is annoying.

        2. Every ‘side’ has their studies to tout, their links to show. Ask those in the oil industry what they think of climate science (it’s junk science). Ask McDougall what he thinks of studies that show the benefits of animal foods (it’s junk science) and then ask yourself what you think of the studies Mcdougall likes/links to.

          I didn’t end up here because of the studies Mark points to. I ended up here because my personal experiences with low carb showed me it was beneficial and I wanted to learn more.

          I’m expecting someone to call me anti-science or insinuate I’m a luddite (like that nice fellow who makes the fitbit did) but I am neither of those things. I’m trying to keep us focused on how we actually convince people that something as complicated as a lifestyle (like paleo/primal) is a good one… and that’s surely not by sending them links to studies. We do that by living it, being humble about it, and communicating with compassion and understanding.


        3. I just finished reading Good Calories, Bad Calories and it seems clear that part of the reason we’re in this mess is because we listened to “experts”.
          I’m torn on the whole “Paleo needs hard science” front. Yes, “proof” would be good, but I also think personal experience is very powerful. I personally don’t think science will ever “prove” Paleo, so I tend to think that personal experience is more important generally.
          Yeah, I know that was a lot of quotes. 🙂

        4. Tim, I tend to agree with you! What got me into paleo wasn’t science, it was a friend asking me to try paleo for 30 days. I was about to go vegetarian out of frustration seeing my energy and work-out strength continue on a downward spiral. It worked! I’m hooked.

          With that said, I certainly do hope the science catches up with what we already know. I do get frustrated when I see the current food pyramid or trainers giving bad advice! I think only through the science community can we make a large scale change. Just my $.02!

        5. Tim – I appreciate your point of view but I would stress that we SHOULD question large scale university studies; despite any scientist’s best efforts the science can become biased. In my research (for college coursework and for personal curiosity) I have found time and again that it pays to dig even DEEPER and discover WHY the research was conducted in the first place.

          I have found studies which–on the surface–were VERY convincing however when I discovered who funded the research all credibility was lost for me; for instance, can you really trust a paper asserting there is no such thing as global climate change once you realize the research was funded by an oil company?

          Anyway – I will get off my soapbox now…I just wanted to remind everyone that scientists are people too, and can be swayed by money as readily as you or I. 🙂 I love learning about the connections between the different systems and impulses in our bodies whether from scientific papers, anecdotes from others or personal exploration; which is why I love reading all the comments here 🙂

      2. I don’t think this post is so much for us (Primal and loving life), but for those still in doubt and thinking about going Primal.

        I still enjoyed reading it, though.

        1. Yeah, I was wondering if I should post it to a doctor friend. Doctor “friend”. He’s more likely to double-take if he see’s all the credential-bashing.
          Or not.

        2. Agreed Nicole – this is a nice gateway article into the paleo mindset – for those that need ‘Science’ to hold their hands past the scary notion that there’s more to getting fit and healthy than counting calories, diet coke and hours of treadmill…

          I posted it on Facebook and the floodgates of Friday afternoon debatage appear to be opening…

      3. We name-drop because that is the only thing people listen to… who is going to listen to an argument made by a guy who posited a blog on a random website?

        When somebody is skeptical and being bombarded by info on all fronts, the only way to get their attention is to demonstrate: “This guy is an expert. Here are his credentials. Here is what he says, and how he can make that claim”

        1. I agree. The problem of veracity isn’t within the group of believers. That’s a case of “preachin’ to the choir.” The dilemma is in shifting a 35+ year paradigm of unwellness.

          The advantages of having recognition and support from people in, ahem, so called, “esteemed positions of authority” is mainly in being able to shift nutritional dogma and paradigms but even more,shifting nutritional POLICY.

          Here’s a real-world example of what I’m referring to: I went to a mainstream nutritionist on the advice of my internist to receive counsel on my “so called unbalanced” style of eating.

          The nutritionist informed me immediately that he did not prescribe or endorse low carb nutrition and that Paleo nutrition showed some bit of promise but as yet was an “untested” theory existing in test tubes only and not tested long term on human subjects. So he would not recommend Paleo nutrition.

          The nutritionist advised me and send me home with an ADA diet with 5 servings of “healthy complex grains and starches such as whole wheat pasta and bread or brown rice and other grains”, 2 servings of low fat dairy, 3 servings of fruits, 6oz of low fat protein and 3tsp of added “healthy oils” per day.

          Within 2 days of following his plan, I reverted to having asthma symptoms again, blood sugars were elevated, food cravings were re-activated, sleep became more disrupted, arthritic pain and inflammation increases, I felt like I’d aged 10 years and had to go back on inhaled steroids and nebulizer treatments…long story short, I fired the nutritionist and resumed my low carb lifestyle, eliminating gluten and continued my evolution into Paleo nutrition.

          It’s taken me almost a month to get back to the point of where I was health-wise, pre-nutritionist. I’m still on inhaled steroids, still have sleep disruption and elevated levels of pain, but at least have been neb-free for a week.

          So how much easier would it be for people who aren’t familiar with the advantages and superiority of Paleo nutrition if they had informed doctors, allied health care,nutritionists and the media helping to educate and raise awareness of a better way of eating?

          People would no longer be subjected to ADA style – antiquated nutritional advice that contributes to their disease progression and sickness.

          The results would be a slimmer nation/world and perhaps a decrease in the pandemic growth of diseases of civilization such as diabetes, hyperinsulinemia, heart disease, and cancer.

        2. Argumentum ad Authoritatum. People with letters after their name and special titles, I’ve met many of them. I even have a few myself, but I’d much rather trust my own feelings and my own body, than the pronouncements of an ‘expert’ but maybe that’s just me. Generally when I hear or see credentials being tossed around I assume someone is planning to sell me something.


        3. Tim, your comment makes me think of an old “In Living Color” skit where people are dropping titles. One guy speaks up and says, “I once got VD in DC”. 😉

        4. “Argumentum ad Authoritatum. People with letters after their name and special titles, I’ve met many of them.”

          One of the things I respect Mark for is the fact he has a Ph.D in biology but doesn’t call himself Dr. Sisson, Ph.D.

        5. It’s not a fallacious appeal to authority to say “look, this guy who is actually skilled in the relevant areas of expertise has published, peer-reviewed, and accepted scientific papers that support claim X and the results have been independently replicated and others skilled in these areas do not have substantive claims that the findings or methodologies are in error”.

          That is what science is all about, when it’s done correctly. And no, not all science is done correctly. Just because a paper is published does not mean it is correct. But it is extremely difficult, as a layperson, to do the proper due diligence to evaluate a published paper – and if the findings in the paper haven’t been independently replicated then they are on shaky ground. This is the case for the vast majority of “run of the mill” research. Only extraordinary and/or powerfully compelling claims really get that kind of attention (such as faster-than-light neutrino’s — which was found to be due to a loose cable).

          It is only a fallacy to say some claim is true BECAUSE the person is an Authority. If the data and findings are published then there is no fallacy to cite them.

          And if you aren’t extremely well-educated so that you can properly evaluate such claims yourself, then you are in a real pickle because we are poor self-evaluators of our own cognitive abilities.

          It is, however, virtually always a complete waste of time to dig through someone’s argument when they are NOT educated in the relevant fields and cannot make cogent arguments and do not have data supporting their conclusions and they are using factual errors or fallacious arguments in support of their conclusions.

          If you cannot do the necessary math and you cannot make a sound formal argument, then your pet opinion on Magic Quantum Healing is irrelevant. Not because you are a nobody but because you’ve demonstrated that you don’t actually know what you are talking about.

          So, it’s not about the degree or the formal education — it’s about the demonstrated ability, the data, the methodology, and the consensus building processes that are part of “science”. Nailing all those down is a hard fought battle against our innate cognitive shortcomings — that is why and where the education come into play.

          Think of it like this — science, in some given field, is the best methodologies that have been identified for removing sources of factual error, illogic, and biases from conclusions. If those methodologies are not applied, then your conclusions are virtually worthless. And there are a LOT of them, even top scientists screw it up.

          How many of these do you know off the top of your head and know how to protect against them and take specific steps to do so?

          The most common errors people make are Confirmation Bias, Selection Bias and the Hasty Generalization.

          And I definitely see some Hasty Generalizations being made (“it worked for me”), which exclude the data points where there are non-primal/paleo eaters who do NOT seem to have a problem with their diet.

          Just some thoughts.

        6. I agree that name-dropping is important. If not to entice others to at least read one’s scientific claims, then to add credibility to the claim itself. Authority does not cause credibility, but there is a correlation – I would trust a Harvard researcher more than just some average joe, unless Joe can go to greater lengths to prove his scientific ability.

          As for Marky-Mark, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he has a BS in Biology from Williams, not a PhD. He has, however, proved his worth by constant reference-citing and measured analyses of data (like not saying wheat is addictive, even though the literature suggests it and anecdotal evidence supports it – an incredibly mature take on research, one which McDougall would do well to learn). I would rank Mark at the level of Dr. or PhD, or even at the much sought-after title of “guru”. Keep workin’ the studies, because I’m Lovin’ It (wouldn’t it be ironic if that became a Paleo slogan?).

      4. I think the science is important to non-believers because they have heard so much erroneous “science” over the last few decades that is not CW in our society.

        For example, I can tell someone that I was a CW super-healthy vegetarian for 25 years, but after switching to a paleo diet, I effortlessly lost 15 pounds that I thought were a natural part of aging and ended up with more energy than ever. But invariable their reply is, “Sure you look better and feel better NOW but in 10 years you’ll be dead from clogged arteries from all that fatty meat!” I can’t prove the “in 10 years” argument wrong without scientific evidence that it won’t happen because high-fat diets and/or meat isn’t the cause of clogged arteries.

        1. For people who are unsure about the best way to be healthy, or who are used to looking to experts, I think it helps to have a person in authority, who has data to back them up, assert that something like a paleo diet has benefits that are measureable, and predictable.

          I am a person who tries things for myself to see how I feel doing/eating XYZ, and I venture to say many commenters here are the same. Many people are not like this though; they don’t want to do something that will damage their health in the long run (oh the irony), and after all the CW reversals (on transfats, HRT, etc) they may not be sure what to believe. Perhaps they feel like they were duped before – some of my relative sure have felt like this – and don’t want to fall prey to some kind of snake oil.

          I think especially with the astonishing (some would say) results of healing long-standing and previously-thought-to-be permanent chronic health problems, for many people it looks too good to be true, unless you have proper scientific studies to back it up.

      5. Relax. Name dropping a bunch of scientists is not like name dropping someone famous.
        Science is essential to develop a broader understanding of our universe and ourselves. I think this post speaks more to the fact that scientists are discovering what should have always been obvious (but modern times has forgotten), and less about name dropping to prove something to vegans. This is good news because one day this will start translating to better medicine and a better health system. We need science to investigate and understand this lifestyle so that the knowledge can be passed on. I’m sorry, some random guy on the street who wears a paleo shirt proves nothing – even if he looks good.

        1. I’m quite relaxed actually. I have no quarrel with science as a process and/or method. It us a very useful tool. My issue is with how people use science.

          For some it is a method of self promotion. “See? I can link to all these people with letters after their name, I’m important and so are my ideas, because these expert letter laden people believe like I do.”

          For others it is a sword to slash at others arguments. “Ha! Take that you with your bogus single blind study link… I shall one up you with THIS much better link to a double blind study with twice as many people in it!” The funniest part being that people expect this process to then convert that person, rather than anger them because they’re being attacked.

          And no, I don’t own a paleo shirt but I’m not looking to prove anything, so maybe I should.


      6. Tim, every diet/lifestyle has its crowd with enthusiastic followers with their success stories.

        Furthermore, personal experience is nice, but it does not tell you how you will feel in a decade or so. Fruitarians are enthusiastic about eating only fruits and short term it is probably an improvement only in the long term you start missing the fat dissolved vitamins as the body has large stores of them.

        Are you prepared to life in every aspect the way our ancestors lived? I must say, I like modern life.

        We need science to tell us which aspects of ancestral life are important for health, especially long term.

        1. That being said, the guest post was a bit too much name dropping to me. Science is not about authority, it counts whether you are right, not what title you have.

      7. @Tim – so basically you’re telling any doubters to try it themselves in order to prove that it works. you point to yourself as proof that it works, because you did it and it worked. maybe you point to all the people who write in and comment on MDA as proof.

        so… what’s so bad about having some other well-documented groups people who it worked for? what is so different about expecting somebody to be convinced based on seeing something work for some test group of 100 people vs expecting them to be convinced based on the results of your test group of 1?

        1. Josh, I’d say you used the words ‘prove’ and ‘proof’ a few too times for my liking. I’m not trying to prove anything. I point to myself and say that it worked for me only to help the other person have hope and consider trying it for themselves. Will it work for them? I don’t know, they aren’t me, but I think it’s worth a shot. And even if it doesn’t end up working for them (for any number of reasons) those weeks where they buy grass fed beef will help support a few local farmers and I can’t say I’m unhappy about that.

          I ask you… what is more likely to convince someone to try something? I’m sitting at the allergist and the poor lady next to me, who is literally struggling for breath enough to speak to me, asks me how I have had such amazing results that I’m off my asthma meds. Should I quote her a litany of peer reviewed studies? Or should I describe how having one slice of pizza will have me wheezing for the entire next day? Hard data is nice to have, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it… but when it’s the thrust of your communications with others, well, you might come off as a pretentious know it all.


      8. I dont remember where I read it, but someone once likened modern nutrition science with surgery during the Renaissance (or something to that effect). We are still pretty much in the dark and there is alot of conjecture. We are going to make alot of mistakes on the way. But ultiately it’s for the good becuase the beauty of science is that it will always correct itself in the long run. Nutrition is an especially difficult topic to research i think because there are so many variables involved. At this point it’s probably best to make educated guesses and find out what works best for you.

      9. Tim, I know a number of women who are starving themselves on low-fat, high carb, fake food diets and burning out on cardio because they believe Calories In / Calories Out. These are beautiful women who are fat or skinny fat or ashen and haggard beyond their years; they are depressed and anxious, and tortured by “their” “failure” to just eat less or exercise more. I’m still morbidly obese (but everyone tells me I don’t look anywhere near 35), so I’m not exactly a poster child for success (yet!). These articles aren’t about smug points for me. They are about helping women, whom I care for and who are suffering physically and psychologically, to understand that this is not a fad or a fluke.

        1. Hi em,

          I completely agree with helping people, women, men, children, all trapped like hamsters in the perpetual wheel of ‘eat eat eat, run run run, eat eat eat’, they all need help. I’m only trying to say that how we deliver a message can be as important as the message we deliver, even more so.

          That said, there are some for whom loads of links to Hardvards and Stanfords and is exactly what they’re looking for from a website. More power to them I suppose.


        2. Tim, EXACTLY. These are stubborn women who pride themselves on their nutrition knowledge and healthy choices, and have never been forced to re-evaluate what they think they know. They’re unwilling to experiment on themselves, because “everyone knows…” tautology. Eat more, do less seems like an outrageously extraordinary claim, so they hold out for extraordinary evidence. An article like this, with the appeals to authority, is precisely the sort of thing they’re holding out for. Until then, I might as well be a climate change denier. Oh that em, and her crackpot theories… she’s going to kill herself… I feel so sorry for her kids.

        3. Also, now I feel nostalgic for my hamster. She died a few months ago. We fed her all our left over organic whole grains, and she lived a nice long healthy hamster life. Heart healthy whole grains ftw! 😉

      10. I followed paleo with my heart, and have been spectacularly successful. My spouse, while supportive, wants to see the science. I dont care which route you take- filled with emotion or reason or something in between. Just join us!

      11. The percentage of people who don’t read any dietary info at all other than what literature is in their doctors waiting room would probably be surprising. I would always ask my Mom, does your doctor tell you anything about diet or exercise? She has rheumatoid arthritis, my Dad has ankylosing spondylitis, brother, he has psoriatic arthritis, WTF! They all go to the same rheumatologist. I have always been an outside person, running, walking, cycling sports in the sun, maybe that has helped me not wind up like them. Anyway, after I discovered primal and realized so many personal bennies I talked my mom into trying it out, it’s changing her life and my dad’s life. So much less pain and inflammation. They have both lost 20 and 30 lbs. respectively. What does the dr. say? Keep doing whatever you are doing… Anyhow, friends and family have a real impact on those who maybe don’t know what else to do.

      12. Yea, I understand your point of view. It was in fact the disgust I felt at the bazillions of “doctor experts”, all of whom disagree on a whole boatload of subjects that caused me to toss my volumnous and extremely deep library of “diet” books and physiology studies – and go with my own personal physical reactions after having undergone a cleanse.
        Since no doctor can predict what the combination of factors: age, physiology, personality, current medicines, and food intake can do to our bodies – they can only surmise based on some numbers of study results gauged and exponentially presented as “fact”.
        Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – it’s not about “science” – it’s about you, how healthy you are, and in the end – how you feel.

      13. “One would think that trying multiple methods until something worked would naturally lead to an ancestrally centered approach (as is the case with the overwhelming majority of the success stories I have read on paleo blogs).

        This is a false statement. All the success stories specifically credit Mark or others for their turnaround. Mark’s principles are thoroughly grounded in science via studies and observation. He has changed his stance on various things based on science. Perhaps you are new to MDA but it’s very science driven. As you are a “dystopic writer” it makes sense that you would take an antagonistic position so I can understand your positions a bit better though that lens. However, I’m not sure why additional confirmation makes you uncomfortable. The fact that you assume that people want this information to fight with Vegans is a bit odd and a bit telling. This blog gives confirmation that helps people stay on track and that is afterall the point of MDA (that and pay for Mark’s lifestyle in Malibu). That you can win arguments against Vegans is simply a pleasant side effect.

    2. I can’t wait for this! got my pair stashed deep in the closet waiting for their revival

      1. To Susie above…

        I thoroughly understand the problem of responding or seeking advise from a nutritionist. By the way, a nutritionist and a Registered Dietition are very different by way of lots more education required of the Registered Dietition.

        Having said all that, my daughter is a Registered Dietition and I battle her daily concerning the Paleo/Hunter Gatherer lifestyle.

        Hopefully, after years of testimonials going to their local nutritionist or Registered Dietition with their own personal health journey, maybe just maybe, all the “health guru’s” will start to listen and see the overwhelming results in this lifestyle.

        1. Hi Donna! Yes, he is an RD, PhD…blah, blah, blah and not to besmirch his name,nor cast derogatory aspersions on professional letters, but having met him, I’m pretty sure he would be one of the guys out there dropping cred to which someone would reply, “Hey, I once got VD in DC!” 🙂

    3. Wait, what? They went out of style? Next thing they will be telling me my mullett likes out of place

      1. The mullet isn’t a hairstyle, it’s a way of life, according to Jared Allen.

        1. You hit the nail on the head Trav, it is a lifestyle. So is wearing a matching velour jump suit with sandals. (Which I do- all black with a white pin stripe on the sides. It’s more of a late fall outfit. For added class, say out for a Sunday morning brunch on a crisp day, I wear my tuxedo t-shirt under the zip up top. Often worn with sandals. No socks! Socks with sandals, now THAT is a major fashion faux pas).

        2. “Socks with sandals, now THAT is a major fashion faux pas).”

          Depends on where you live — in Seattle?! It’s de rigeur!

    4. History repeats itself and we can always learn from it. The past is a wonderful thing to learn from. You only learn from your past experiences.

    5. Paleo Bon–

      I had to look up what Zubaz pants are! They’re great! Think I’m going to buy some…..maybe we can launch a resurgence…

  3. “Endorsed by the world-wide scientific community including top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, John Hopkins, and UCLA, and approved as curriculum for registered dieticians (RDs) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics…”

    This makes me so happy.

    1. Now, we just need to get people to listen to the experts, not their next-door neighbor or the guy in Men’s Health magazine.

  4. “eat more and exercise less” love it.

    One question though, you say you did all of this scientific research, and read all fo these scientific papers. Had you heard of the paleo/primal approach before you started your research? If so, were you against it? You say you were a personal trainer with CW on your side. Did this effect your pre-researched view on paleo/primal? How so?

    Awesome Post.

    1. Hi Max – Thank you.

      I had not. I started this research over a decade ago…so it was a bit before primal/paleo became as pervasive as it is today. My first exposure to it was the work of S. Boyd Eaton, Marjorie Shostak and Melvin Konner

      Regarding my pre-researched view: One of the reasons I am now so passionate about sharing this research is because of how different it is from the CW I was taught as a trainer. I was telling my clients to eat less and exercise more and leaving them worse off than when they started. This made me try to–as much as is humanly possible–start from scratch and see what the studies showed…as what I thought going in clearly wasn’t working. Interestingly that lead me to a very primal conclusion 🙂

      Thanks again for your kind words

      – Jonathan Bailor

  5. I’ve always thought that deciding to eat less was like deciding to have less blood or deciding to keep sleeping once you’re wide awake or deciding to have more money…

  6. This was so awesome. It sounds like Jonathan will be a regular guest poster in the coming weeks?

    I can not wait to learn more. This is exciting stuff!

  7. Interesting acronym: SANE – considering I was always insanely hungry eating a low-fat high-carb “eat less, exercise more” diet. Gross!

    Hello delicious, body shredding fats 🙂

  8. Loved this – concise, clear and very well-researched. Hooray to eating better and exercising smarter. They should print this in school textbooks.

  9. This is really great, but I REALLY want to see the citations of these articles/studies.

    1. Hi cTo – Thank you so much for your kind words.

      All of the information shared here is covered in greater detail in the book, which provides detailed endnotes to the studies. Also, you can find the references online broken down by topic/blog post at the book’s site. For example:

      SANE –

      Set-point weight –

      Thank you for your interest in the research!

      – Jonathan Bailor

    1. He does have a book out you can buy. Since he has done a lot of work, those who want to see the data links can support him by purchasing the book, just as I support Mark, Robb Wolf and others.

  10. Short duration, high intensity activities- weightlifting, sprints, etc. Less chronic cardio.

  11. Well, I don’t know when Mark actually started his research so he really may be leading the way, but Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution was written almost 10 years ago. Dr. Gundry, a notable heart surgeon and inventor of a special heart pump, did his own journey of research
    for heart health, losing weight and going very Primal.
    I just wish any of these “newcomers” that are “spring boarding” their “new, I discovered a better way of eating and it’s Paleo” give
    Credit where Credit is due in research and who really was a forerunner of this information.
    I follow Mark daily because I thought he was first in this information, but he may not be.
    At any rate, Dr. Gundry and Mark Sisson will be the ONLY two I follow as they seem to be the frontrunners as tested, tried and survived in their research.
    All others are just jumping on the “bandwagon” of their success and hard work.

    1. I don’t care who was first. Mark is reasoned, informative and inspiring. That’s what counts with me.

  12. I work at UCLA and participate in their employee health improvement program. Through the program is how I found this site (and I am eternally grateful to my employer!!). After nearly 10 weeks of “boot camp,” I’ve learned for myself what the benefits are of quality exercise as well as the benefits of going primal with my diet (cutting out wheat, especially!) It’s great to have studies to back it, but honestly, doesn’t eating whole, non-processed, chemical/hormone free foods and exercising in short bursts with a “heavier” load make sense? Sure beats counting points on Weight Watchers while stuffing my face with their little one point, processed snack cakes and running on a treadmill like a hamster for an hour every day! (

  13. I eat less eating primal than any other way. Sometimes I find it hard to eat 2000 calories but, like they said, quality counts. I’m never hungry, have tons of energy, and feel great. Even on days that I only end up eating 1000 calories. I know primal is the way to go just from doing it, but I like to have these study’s to prove to my friends and family that I’m not going to have a stroke or heart attack from “all that terrible food.”

  14. Not enough citations and no mention of the role of dietary fat in SANE acronym…avoidance on purpose? Please advise. 🙂

    1. Hi Kati – Thank you for your interest in my research.

      Regarding citations: All of the information shared here is covered in greater detail in the book, which provides detailed endnotes to the studies. Also, you can find the references online broken down by topic/blog post at the book’s site. For example: SANE – & Set-point weight –

      There are many chapters in the book that cover the critical role of natural fats in a SANE diet…my apologies for not being able to include that info here. There is also a lot more info on fats on the book’s site. I hope this helps.

      – Jonathan Bailor

  15. Loved the guest post, but there was a small repeated grammatical error. While John Hopkins is a fine name, the are actually spelt Johns(notice the extra s) Hopkins. And while it seems unbelievable, his parents really did decide to call him that…

  16. Gosh, I would sure like to see a link to the the “single largest meta-analysis of health and fitness ever conducted.” Or at least the title of the study and the journal where it was publushed, Without that info, I’m sorry, but this whole article comes across as a little skeevy.

  17. Shared — had to keep myself from being preachy on FB, but if a couple of people read it and the message truly resonates with 1 person, I’ll call it a success!

  18. I’d be more impressed if you actualy listed the specific references, rather than saying ” a study done at”.
    Some of us actually like to go over the specific methods and data to confirm the quality of the data.

  19. Thank you for all of your kind words and wonderful comments! 🙂

    I will reply more usefully asap…in the meantime, references can be found:

    – In total:

    – Broken down by topic: in the book & in relevant blogs…for example:
    SANE –
    Set-point weight –

    Thank you again and I will be back asap. – Jonathan Bailor

  20. CrossFit? a solid 10 min workout with plenty of intensity using major lifts and some gymnastic type moves? anybody else think this?

    1. Of course! but it doesn’t have to be the brand name (if that makes the haters feel better).

    1. I occasionally Cross Fit. They say it is for everyone but that is not true. If you are really fit and want to compete with ours, okay, cool. If you don’t give a hoot about competing against others and work at your own pace then also cool. If you are the average joe and not really fit then I say no- even WITH the mandated ON-RAMP. Why?

      Lack of flexibility.
      Weak tendons and joints.
      Too much too fast.
      AMRAPs will destroy you.

      For real strength and conditioning- not to mention affordable- that you can do almost anywhere is with your own body weight. I greatly recommend the book “Convict Conditioning”.

      The book covers it all: history, joints, the nervous system, form all coupled with a well defined 6 by 10 exercise program (with variants) to get you on the path to functional and affordable power.

      Side note: Cross Fit concerns me regarding the long term impact on my joints due to competitive time limits. Form can suffer, cause injury, etc. And yes, they can be the case with any exercise/physical activity. I just think the competitively timed rounds are not health friendly to the average Joe or Jane.

      For those who say nay, well, agree to disagree.

      1. I don’t want to post too many replies, so I am limiting myself to this one, regarding your Side Note … one of the main points of CrossFit is scalability. When I do AMRAPS, I realize up front that I am nowhere near fit enough to do them as quickly as some other folks do. What I *can* do is *my* best. I can follow my coach’s advice and instructions. I can do more than I think I can, but she actually does know my limits and makes sure I’m safe. Maybe your experience with CrossFit has been at a different type of box than mine, but this 57-year-old woman knows it’s good functional fitness if taught correctly!

      2. I can respect your feelings on CrossFit – however I don’t want CrossFit to get a bad rep so here are $.02- part of CrossFit is knowing where your at and not going too far to the point of hurting yourself- like you said any gym/workout has the possibility to cause injury- and yes it is costly – i have been trained be the “experts” and now do it on my own to avoid the cost- you will see me doing pull-ups from the lil kids swing set and box jumps on the picnic tables in the local park

  21. Awesome analysis of what Mark has already discovered! My biggest challenge is lifting heavy things although I do like to hoist the wife occasionally! (125lbs)

    Yes I’m a pastor and yes I am not at all prudish– I have preached to my congregation of heavyweights about walking, sprinting, and even not bringing carb laden dishes to the church potlucks. So far they have not totally repented but neither have they defrocked me and chased me from teh pulpit!

  22. Someone! Please! Post list or links to mentioned studies… NEED SCIENCE …HURRRY.


    1. Hi Sarah – All of the information shared here is covered in greater detail in the book, which provides detailed endnotes to the studies. Also, you can find the references online broken down by topic/blog post at the book’s site. For example:

      SANE –

      Set-point weight –

      Thank you for your interest in the research!

      – Jonathan Bailor

  23. Eating primal for the last year and a half has improved my health immensely even though I’ve spent that time living like it’s all one continuous party, much of it spent scraping a living on the streets. That’s enough proof for me.
    People used to say things like, “You do oxys or something eh?” Not so anymore. Occasionally I get told I look healthy and get compliments on my physique and climbing / maneuvering in nature skills. Going to the beach is a self-esteem enhancing experience these days. 😉

  24. Something that bothers me about this, though, is that he doesn’t say a single word about the benefits of moving frequently at a slow pace. And this is made more confusing by the comparison of high-intensity to low-to-moderate intensity exercise. If I didn’t read Mark’s stuff, I’d assume he meant that we should do only interval training and nothing else.

    1. Maybe in the book he addresses it? I think this post is more centered on the health benefits that run contrary to CW – just about everyone agrees walking is great. For weight loss and cardiovascular health, however, the old adage was that long and moderately intense exercises would give the best results. I think he preferentially focused on that (and the eat less to lose more lie) to highlight what real exercise should consist of. Low-level activity, by definition, doesn’t stress the body enough to really be “exercise”, so I think that’s why it is not mentioned here. But he can correct me if I’m wrong 🙂

  25. I only wish I could have read something like this 3 or 4 years ago…but now that I DO know I’m taking full advantage. I think we have a long way to go before the general public will accept this, but this is a step forward. Thanks to both you and Mark for all the work you do…it’s so comforting to know that SOMEONE out there actually cares about our health!

    1. To be honest I think Jonathan is a step BETWEEN Conventional Wisdom and Primal. Jonathan is saying “cut out processed food” but he’s also saying “avoid animal fat”. I think it would be a step backwards for Primal people to start following Jonathan but would perhaps be an easier way of getting more people off the SAD diet in the first place. I’d call it Semi-SAD personally.

  26. My wifes grandma died a few years back and as we were going through her old recipes, I found a 3×5 card with a paleo/low carb diet written on it. It was for weight loss. The date was something like 1948. I cracked up. Nothing new under the sun. Oh, she lived to be 100 yrs.old. Older then Jack Lalane. Go figure.

    1. My mom and grandma have always cut carbs when they wanted to lose weight. They’d just not eat potatoes or pasta or bread with dinner. Transitioning into Paleo for me seemed a logical extention of what they knew all the time.

  27. Hi. I enjoyed Mr. Bailor’s post and am quite glad for the street cred of the endorsements from major scientific institutions. However, it is unclear whether the studies meta-analyzed were looking at whole food natural, lower carb, grain free diets or CW plus more protein, veggies, and fruit? I’m guessing due to the relative dearth of the former, that the studies meta-analyzed were generally of the latter type diet. Would this confound results for using it to promote the SoS or PB approach? Just curious, even if that was the case, it still sounds like a great study and it is still an extremely important finding to note that the more SANE foods included, the better the participants did. Also, from what I could glean on Mr. Bailor’s Web sites and the Amazon link to the book, he is adamantly against the fear of fat and Ancel Keys hysteria but then recommends “as little oil” as possible and what appears to be predominantly lean meat in the program. Wondering why.

    1. Ingesting refined sugar requires the utilization of micronutrients. It stands to reason ingesting refined fat or protein would too.

      1. That does make sense as oils are more refined than fat in whole foods. I would assume this is worse the more processed the oil and type of oil and perhaps the author refers more to the highly processed and damaged PUFAs and resultant trans fats (at high heat) of seed, soy, and vegetable oils. I generally think of cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil and grass fed butter as healthy.

      1. Hi Jonathan, I’m a bit confused. In that FAQ you linked, you say to use as little butter as possible, and also to have 4-6 meals a day. You also mention using low-fat Greek yogurt; you say full-fat milk is inSANE while skim milk is okay; you’re arguing for lean meats (chicken breasts?)… none of this stuff strikes me as being very primal.

        1. Bailor’s recommendations may not be Primal, but are they Primal enough…? There is disagreement about the fat content of paleolithic diets. And there is also some evidence that some people respond better to fat restriction than carb restriction (Google “genotype-appropriate diet”). If Bailor’s data backs up 60% percent of strict Primal tenets, that’s more in common than not. No need to go splitting hairs — especially not on a diet that emphasizes self-experimentation and customization over strict adherence.

        2. Sorry, the title of this post is: “Ancient Wisdom Confirmed by Modern Science”. Seems to me the only primal thing about SANE is that he’s recommending carbohydrate-reduction, but other than that there’s almost no convergence. He even states that vegetarians can be SANE, and if that’s primal I no longer know what is primal.

        3. Let me try again. Bailor’s point is that Calories In / Calories Out isn’t the whole picture, and creating a calorie deficit doesn’t work. I think that message is important enough (and Primal enough) on its own. So he recommends a different diet. Loren Cordain recommends a different diet, and so does WAPF. It doesn’t bother me. We have Primal folks who can’t do dairy even as a sensible indulgence and Paleo guys (Robb Wolf!) who do. You gotta find what works for YOU… But people never will if they’re stuck on a completely erroneous model of nutrition and weight maintenance. So I say, Meh! Close enough!

      2. “Note: Eating reduced fat/low-fat anything is only desirable if the fat is not replaced with sugar. Low-fat food that is chock-full of sugar is terrible for health and fat loss.”

        lol.. don’t eat low fat dairy then.

    2. Both Cordain and Wolf, stress “lean meat” and even Mark’s book avoids the whole “fat burner” issue. I suspect it is a bow to CW to avoid being compared to Atkins.
      I thought this article was perfect for sharing on Facebook, and I did.

  28. I checked out the first page of the book, and this is in the forward:

    “For example, we’ve published papers from the Nurse’s Health Study indicating that at least 90% of cases of type 2 diabetes and at least 80% of heart attacks can be prevented by lifestyle changes, including being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a diet high in fruits, vegetables and *whole grains*, and *low in saturated* and trans fats and refined carbohydrates.” (emphasis mine)

    That doesn’t exactly sound like the medical community has embraced the Primal Blueprint to me. It doesn’t sound very different from the CW at all, actually.

    I don’t think adding in “refined carbohydrates” at the end of that sentence is enough to warrant the headline of this post. It actually just sounds like more of the same old tune to me. Low fat, lots of whole grain, exercise. You’ll be fiiiiiiiiine.

    1. I found the portion of the forward you quoted as I was starting to read the book. I note that it refers to older papers published by the author of the forward, not previous or current papers by Jonathon Bailor. I will continue to read the book before deciding that this is just CW in disguise.

    2. Read on only a few pages and you’ll find recommendations to consume no/low fat cottage cheese, no/low fat greek yoghurt and lean meat. Eek, what’s Mark doing allowing this guy space on The Apple?

  29. As a researcher and confirmed data geek AND 100% Primal, I sincerely appreciate this article. Well written!

    1. If you’re 100% Primal then you won’t appreciate this article once you read the book!

      1. Yeah.. I’m not understanding the recommendations for low fat dairy and 40/20/20 either… hmmmm

  30. This guy is OBNOXIOUS! Is he even qualified to conduct such a rigorous scientific analysis (if it can even be called that)? The fact that he doesn’t even site his sources is a terrible sign (please at least correct this if you can before the academic integrity lords get too angry). Why would we need his book when we have Mark’s?

  31. Great Read. I’ve always tried to help my clients and students see that short bouts of high-intensity exercise is so much more effective for health and ‘fitness’ than the long and grueling stuff (who wants to be exercising all day anyway?!)

  32. Where can I find a ADA Accredited University that approves of, or teaches the grain-free way? When I was first interested in becoming a RD, I was discouraged by multiple (closet primal) Dieticians that said it wasn’t possible as a RD to suggest that grains are unhealthy…. Did I miss something?

  33. I did buy the book, assuming all the references would be provided therein. I’m making a couple of assumptions here-the first of which is that Mark is a pretty savvy guy. One can’t just jump on MDA and make a big post like this-I have to assume that Mark put him on. Given that, I have found Mark to be a reasonable person who would not put a grain preaching guru in this blog. So, I will read Mr. Bailor’s book in the hopes it will provide exactly what’s promised-some scientific research to back up primal claims.
    Secondly, I have to say as an RN currently working in a hospital with all the physicians and registered dieticians that I have to deal with on a daily basis, being able to name drop Johns Hopkins and the like is incredibly useful. I work at a teaching hospital, so I have daily contact with a lot of residents and fellows, and I do try to point them towards paleo/primal as something interesting to check out that may benefit not only them, but their patients. I have a set of lipid labs drawn pre-primal and 1 month post primal diet that always impress them. I do believe in personal experience; I took Mark’s 21 day challenge and have never looked back, but when you are talking to people who work 36 hour shifts at times, you have to offer a pretty big potential payoff to get them to pay attention. Hard evidence, like my labs, and quotable studies are the best way to get that attention. If I can convince even a few fledgling doctors of the flaws in conventional thought, there could potentially be a huge payoff for their patients down the line.

  34. Jonathan Bailor you are HOT! lol. Are you single? If you are ever in south western Ohio look me up 😉 (jenniferk29 at gmail)

  35. Not sure how primal and skim milk can be used in the same sentence, but hey, the “One True Religion” thing never worked out well either. The next generation will make thier mark, come what may. I am going to order the e-book!

  36. Can we take MDA’s posting of this article as an endorsement? I found it strange that there was no introduction to Jonathan Bailor other than a short summary of what was to follow…. I can never tell if Mark checks every blog post himself or if someone that works at MDA posts now and then. I too found Bailor’s salespitch (if you want sources, buy the book!), oddly round about way of stating certain aspects of his research, and lack of citations in his post disconcerting. If he has been following Mark, he should know that MDA blog posts are always cited when factual science data is in question. It all feels too much like an advertisement for a not-really-that-primal diet and the guy who “started it all”.

    1. I think perhaps Mark sells post space? After all, the Daily Apple is a tremendous sales tool. I’ve just bought Jonathan’s book on Kindle. Not convinced it fits in with Primal just yet as early in his book he suggests carbs/protein/fat breakdown as being 40/40/20. Hmmmmmm…..

  37. This post makes me so incredibly happy! The food research addict bounced with joy as I read this post! What a great way to start the weekend 🙂 Thank you Jonathan and Mark!

  38. I have started reading this guy’s book, but I’m a tad concerned at the whole saturated fat is bad vibe that he has going on. I’ve just stopped reading at the bit that suggests consumption of no/low fat greek yoghurt, no/low fat cottage cheese and lean meat. Eek. I will continue to read in the hope that he actually does have some science to back this up.

  39. Saying “don’t eat processed foods” is not Primal. This guy’s post needs removing in my opinion. He recommends a carb/protein/fat ratio of 40/40/20 which isn’t Primal. Paleo maybe, but not Primal.

    1. In repy to myself, to clarify what I meant….someone simply saying that you shouldn’t eat processed foods does not automatically label them as Primal. There are other things such as not avoiding natural fats, which this guy does. I’m disappointed but will continue to read his book in case Mark has been wrong all this time! Put simply, Mark and Jonathan can’t BOTH be right!

    2. Agreed. Lots of Vegans don’t eat processed foods either. Not that that makes it bad, I’m just saying that’s a wide open field.


  40. Jonathan-

    I am a bit of a fence-straddler on your post, as well.

    First, I do sincerely want to commend you on seeing a major problematic trend with the standard training you were providing your clients and STOPPING the cycle, then dedicating your effort to FIGURE OUT what in the heck was going on! Most people in your former position consider themselves experts and any failures as the fault of the client, not the method the client was taught. So, first off, high-five on that one.

    Second, most Americans (not all, but the majority of non-Primal peeps out there) are blissfully unaware of the Primal movement. There are thin peeps, and overweight ones, active and sedentary, “healthy” and sick. I was one of these unaware folks just a couple months ago. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and my (really great) rheumatologist never mentioned diet. I was fine a year and three months ago, had a minor fender-bender, fractured rib, pit on Celebrex and WHOA, BUDDY! Allergic reaction. Did anybody know Celebrex has Sulfa? Not me, also didn’t know I was allergic… After swelling to almost twice my body size with fluid and being hospitalized (we honestly thought I may be having congestive heart failure as a 31 year old, relatively “healthy” professional working mom and wife until allergy detected!), the symptoms of the AS started. Leaky gut, anyone?! Anyway, downhill spiral, allergic to most effective meds so had to jump.straight to weekly chemo injections and Humira (a biologic). Not to mention steroids, a sleep aid, pain medication – I mean ENOUGH ALREADY! I kept getting worse and worse, lost my job in February while on Short-Term Disability, fighting to keep the house, could BARELY walk (with the assistance of my hot pink cane), sometimes couldn’t even stand up off the toilet because of the agony in my knees and my husband would have to come lift me up. I seriously until he got home. Since I was sleeping about 14 hours a day due to the extreme exhaustion, I was able to hold it, but I WAS MISSING OUT ON LIFE. Ayway, blah blah, blah – it got worse and worse and WORSE. Until 5 weeks ago when I stumbled upon first- (thank you, Bob – you are a lifesaver), where I was pointed then in the direction of MDA. It seems (all POTENTIAL since no definitive causation study has been conducts yet – I mean why would a drug company conduct a study where the outcome is “diet change achieves complete remission in Ankylosing Spondylitis? Humira casts $1,250 per injection and is taken twice a month! Diet, you say? Neva!) eliminating all starch from the diet of a person with AS causes remission to happen! Like I said, no.CONCLUSIVE

  41. Proof… YET. Me? I’m all the proof I need. I immediately cut out ALL STARCH (I’m talking – I test food, beverages, supplements, anything I intend to ingest -with iodine to make sure there’s no starch) from my diet. Had my first pain-free moments in over a YEAR in only 8 days. Ditched my hot pink cane a couple weeks ago. FINALLY filled up the kid’s little pool this summer about a week ago with NO ASSISTANCE (bless my poor kiddos and Hubby for all they’ve been through the past year de facto)

    1. Throw some ice in that pool and go read Jack Kruse. Dr Kruse is doing brain surgery based on a primal life style and cold therapy. Mark is great for overweight and over the hill athletes but Dr Kruse takes it to a whole new level to cure physical, hormonal, and metabolic broken people, such as you (and me). Dr K comments on EVERY blog comment. Caution, he will make your head hurt more than your joints.

  42. I love the post and the research summaries are great but I’m a little confused by the section titled” Lift Heavy Things.” It mentions nothing about lifting and instead describes the benefits of intense vs moderate cardio. I was hoping for a summary of the science supporting lifting as a means of gaining muscle losing weight etc. A future guest post perhaps?

  43. So… Bringing it home, here (I know – after way TMI bordering on overkill -Sorry), my point for SECOND is that the majority of us poor suckers out here (even someone educated and conscientious of their health), go along with what we’ve been taught, and make minor changes to our lifestyle when big headlines make the news (i.e. I started the whole family on fish oil.supplements a couple years ago). We equate valid health info with “recent study”, ‘Human Genome”, “double-blind trial with astounding results”, etc… Sadly, I was that person not long ago. And would still be had I not been faced with debilitating pain, paralysis starting in both my arms, losing the ability to drive since my C4&C5 in my neck are fusing and can’t look over shoulder and barely bend enough to get in car, etc., all of it PSYCHOLOGICALLY BREAKING ME until I started looking beyond the typical sites for AS I had been frequenting for a YEAR. That is what brought me here, via and a British study done back in the 80’s showing that a common gut flora bacteria, Klebsiella, to my immune system (AS is auto-immune) looks identical to my AS gene (HLA-B27) on the surface. So, to simplify, don’t eat starch, starve Klebsiella in gut, immune system stops producing antibodies, antibodies stop destroying my joints and spine. I was game and MDA is how I’ve put my self-experimentation to work. The sad thing is though, I needed to suffer a rapidly progressive and destructive “incurable” genetic disease in order to look for a scientific study from to point me in the right direction… On principle, I detest muckety-muck-uppety-hoop-dee-doos that throw credentials around, but in reality, that’s who will win over the masses to THE TRUTH about healthy diets and exercise, so it’s great to have Johns Hopkins and Harvard on board. This.will open up Primal to the masses with those catchy news titles. Great job there, as well!

    I suppose the reason I’m still sittin here on the fence is the whole low-fat yogurt, skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese, etc. I have no problem with dairy at all… At least not until it gets low fat. Two months ago, I drank Skim Milk BECAUSE I LOVE IT, but no more. Are you aware it’s filled with starch to thicken it? Useless starch with no food value. Same goes for Lo-fat dairy ANYTHING (so far as I’ve been able to determine with my trusty iodine bottle). Were you aware that even cheese, identical types processed by the same company, same weight to the package (i.e. Kraft cheddar cheese), the only difference being block and shredded, will.contain starch in the shredded but not the block? It’s used to keep the shreds from caking. Almost all dairy items contain that starch aspect if low fat or processed for any level of convenience. Same goes for a lot of frozen fruits and meats (and obviously anything in a box). Starch is used in this country to make foods prettier, package better, fluff nicer, etc. It’s in foods as a preservative (I mean- do chicken legs REALLY need to have starch added to preserve while frozen for two years?) and is called many other names than “starch”. Baking powder has starch, sodium bicarbonate can have starch, and don’t even get me started on vitamins, supplements, and generic medications! There are a ton of chemicall-y sounding names for starch to disguise it, and dairy is the only problematic “fresh food” that seems to be getting more and more added while few are the wiser. It would seem to me if you truly want to promote “quality SANE foods”, a deeper dive into the additives/peservatives/starch in low-fat and fat free dairy products would be in order so that all those majority of folks out there just like I was not too long ago aren’t following your plan and studies while still having the old CW starch snuck in on them while they’re unaware. You don’t strike me as having THAT as your intention, since it would hold any individual back from truly “becoming Primal” by keeping them from fully detoxing their system and reprogramming their hormones.

    Anyway, I like taking the scenic route to get to my point

    1. MegDallas, please teach us the technique for testing for starch with iodine!

      1. OMG! Now you’re making ME feel like some kind of expert! Woo-hoo; this is one of the few things I actually do have mastered:-)

        Okay-first, go to a pharmacy. Any pharmacy will do, but the pharmacy in a WalMart is cheaper than a Walgreens… However the sickly people in WalMart are usually more plentiful. Pick your poison on that one! Go to the first aid section and get a bottle of iodine. Any first aid iodine will work. Purchase and race home to begin conducting your experiment!

        The test is super-simple. Cut off a portion to test of whatever you want to test. Example: Since apples are pure starch until totally ripe when the starch then converts to sugar, and are often picked early to ship, I test every apple. I cut it in half, then slice a thin slice near the center the full width of the apple. I drop about 3-4 drops, one in the middle, a couple towards the outer edges, then I just add more because it’s still new and fun:-) Try a smiley face or something! Be careful not to touch the dropper on the test object or it can infect the whole bottle if it is starchy. I’ll probably get a spray bottle to put it in soon, but as of now I have a 2 ounce bottle convenient for my purse that I refill with a larger size.

        The iodine is a rust color originally. And it will stay this way of there’s no starch in the object. BUT if your object starts to cause the iodine to turn black, BEWARE! Poison! AKA starch. The more starch, the quicker the change. I usually give it up to a couple minutes if I’m iffy about the color changing a little…

        Just a couple quick helpful tips-I’ve noticed that a large area around a knick or bruise on an apple stays starchy, so cut those off. I suppose whenever it’s injured, it stops “growing” in that area causing the starch to never convert? Don’t know, I just like having a hypothesis:-)

        Also, if you’re really trying to cut starch, go test all your meds and supplements, including OTC. I’m talking even the generic ibuprofen. Can I just say “travesty”? WHO would have ever thought there would be starch hiding in there? How long does their shelf life really NEED to be? I mean – REALLY?!

        If you want the step-by-step with pictures to compare positive vs. negative starch test, just check out Bob Connors’ blog at Bob is my hero that basically spelled out the science of what NO STARCH really means for us with AS, then he told all us readers to quit whining, get off our butts, and go buy iodine because in a few weeks we’d actually be pain-free and possibly less deformed, but this was our opportunity to turn our sickness into our ticket to the healthiest US ever! He deals with a lot of AS-specific info, then kind of directs us to MDA to develop our game plan. At this point, Mark then became my hero, too! I’m seriously accomplishing remission for the first time since diagnosis of my “degenerative and painful genetic auto-immune disease for which there is no cure”. THAT from the national non-profit association for Ankylosing Spondylitis in the US. I’m just thinking mine probably isn’t the ONLY auto-immune disease that could benefit from starch elimination… And for everyone else – SAVE YOURSELVES from all this hidden, evil starch!

        Anyway, Elenor, you truly made my day! I mean – you all are the PROS and I still had a tiny tidbit of something helpful I could share! Have a great weekend and have fun starch testing everything:-)

  44. So, apologies tor my long-windedness. Take my feedback with a grain of salt (sea salt:-), I am new at this and certainly have no room to be preaching to anyone, it just seems you are sincere in wanting to make a difference in a way that will connect with more people that those like I was, desperate and falling apart, and trying to fix big problems. It seems you’re attempting to validate this lifestyle and establish credibility to those that need the expert opinion, as a preemptive strike, BEFORE they’re desperate and falling apart – so please consider examining the dairy aspect so those following your advice and those of the experts don’t fail at improving their life over one small, silly, evil, elusive and hidden aspect and throw the whole damn towel in:-) Good Luck! -Megan Dallas

    1. Megan, it sounds like you’re on the right track. The thing I love about MDA is that he’s all about personalization of your diet/exercise/lifestyle plan and that its not a set of hard and fast rules you have to follow. Understanding the science behind your health (and not what’s in the papers on or Dr. Oz) is where you start. Where you go is up to you! Good job.

      To quote Gloria Steinem (I think it was her) – “The truth will set you free. But It’ll piss you off first.”

  45. great post. my former “room-mate” (single mom, no income, whom I “adopted” w/ her child) was a French woman ~50/60 lbs overweight. Her diet consisted mainly of sugar (Big Gulp every day), carbs (cookies, candies, pastries, rice, potatoes) and fat (ice cream, pizza, cheese). During 2.5 years I provided a home for her and her kid, I watched her weight continue to increase. In her mind, she believes she “may need to lose a few pounds”, of course, she needs to lose about 55#. Another friend of mine, a male, has pronounced beer belly. He claims it is very healthy and part of his Germanic heritage. He considers himself fit and healthy because he goes skiing a few times per year. These fat people refuse to accept the fact that they are fat and unhealthy! the mind is the most powerful organ in our bodies! seek the truth and believe the truth! Amen!

  46. Excellent post! Thank you for sharing and I look forward to diving into the details of the research you mention. I, for one, really do appreciate backing up this lifestyle with harder science. I have been sadly surprised by the negative criticism that I have received from some friends and family, and even my own physician (who I just “fired”). My own results speak volumes to the success of eating this way. But, I do like having a bit of harder science to back it up, which is sometimes necessary for naysayers to at least take it a bit more seriously.

  47. My apologies for not being able to spend more time covering the science around natural fats that I discovered during my research. My conversation with The China Study’s T. Colin Campell may help here:

    These blog posts may also help:

    As well as these FAQs:

    I hope this helps…and I’ll be back in a few weeks to dig more into research around “lifting heavy things.”

    Thank you for all of the kind words and helpful feedback 🙂

    – Jonathan Bailor

  48. Awesome article.. one i can send to people when they ask me what i’ve been doing to get these results and why i believe in the science (other than the results speak for themselves!)

  49. It would be awesome if dietetics programs actually taught this or encouraged us to explore and look at the research for other diets besides the USDA dietary guidelines. Thankfully, my nutritional biochem professor taught us how metabolism actually works on the biochemical level. After my internship to become an RD, I do not plan on regurgitating info about eating whole grains with every meal to patients.

  50. This method sounds so logical, and so simple, but I tend to have so much trouble sticking to any diet and fitness routine. It’s probably because of societal conditioning…

  51. “eat more exercise less”
    This sounds like a marketing punch line to me. If you are overweight I agree that you will have to fix your metabolism first but once you do then you need to tap into body fat stores and that can be done by eating less and exercising more! This will happen naturally if your metabolism is fixed and you are eating real foods (e.g. paleo).You will feel satiated with less calories and you will get an urge to move!
    Calories in calories out might be misleading as it’s promoted in mainstream advice because it actually doesn’t tell you how , but it is not a wrong statement.

    1. Sorry, you are missing some major pieces of the puzzle. When your metabolism is functioning correctly, your body takes all the excess calories from that day and burns them as body heat. Is heat production a source of calories Out? Proper metabolism is about more than hunger or energy levels and “calories in, calories out ” is more involved than even you realise.

  52. Great post as usual. This confirms how we the people living primal now feel about our life style. Eating this way and living this way just feels natural.

  53. Anyone else notice the massive misrepresentation of that fuel derivation graph? Post-trauma patients’ bodies glucose/fat fuel preference does not relate remotely to individuals attempting to lose fat. . . . I like Mark, but if he’s going to endorse crap science like this, I’m not sure I’ll be reading this blog for anything other than recipes.

  54. I wish that primal eating would be accepted mainstream but would it not be highly unsustainable? I know that it would be impossible for the whole world to eat primal but what if it were widely accepted in the united states? Or in developed countries?

  55. Just finished reading the book. His method is solid and I appreciated the x to calorie ratio which is the best way to get this info across without saying “paleo”.

    But, is it just me, or is the saturated fat recommendations, and the macronutrient profile quite different than Mark’s?

    33/33/34 C/P/F versus <20/30/50 is quite different. That difference I believe is directly from the sat fat recommendation. I believe Coradian's research said HG ate ~20% of their calories from vegetable sources?

    Lastly, I'm curious what the transfer from animal to human studies is for nutrition studies. It can often be as poor as a coinflip in teratology, and pharmaceutical testing whether the result seen in animals will also be seen in humans.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong. Other than that and a few chart change recommendations, I think it's a great book. Really appreciate the amount of research that went into this.

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