Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”?

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

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

It’s all very uncontroversial:

There is no one paleo diet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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315 thoughts on “Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”?”

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  1. I read an article in Discover magazine about this book and just shook my head. It seemed neither here nor there, somewhat rambling and her arguments seemed weak, circular or not counter to paleo at all. Meh.

      1. Awesome! Did you get the email about your prize yet? I got a pair of vibram five fingers and a month supply of pastured bacon last time I claimed the first post.

        1. Dang! I could have been first too and I didn’t jump on it.

          I think there are always going to be doubters, always going to be people who cannot let go and who cannot fathom that modern society has been able to lead us so astray from our natural environments.

          While skepticism is natural and many times productive (it brought us all here and helped us debunk may of the commonly accepted ‘facts’), what good does it really serve? Promoting skepticism just gives people another confusing data point, one that may cause people to not act due to conflicting opinions.

          So, another piece of conflicting data that will confuse the heck out of my family friends. Great…..

          I like the summary though; we have results which are ever growing, keep up the good work everybody!

        2. A month is a LOT of bacon, at least for me. Did it come with a chest freezer?

    1. I also read that article and once I saw that she was arguing against what a commenter said from a blog (this one), I knew the book/her premise would be almost worthless. That’s a perfect reason not to bother with a book – I’ve got plenty other good stuff that I want to read. It just seemed to me that she was trying to find something to write about that would sell. Bleh.

      1. Would it be overly cynical of me to suggest that she herself could be the anonymous commenter?
        If she knows what her ‘counter arguments’ are going to be, then she needs to have a view point they are counter to- and if you can’t find one….make one!

    2. I meet similar resistance. Every time I mention the primal lifestyle, people act as though I’ve suggested abandoning modern medicine, hygiene and santitation and proposed that we all go live in caves.

      1. Geez. I am up against the same thing. I get either the ‘It’s dangerous/unwise to eliminate any food group’ or the ‘What? You can’t eat anything now?’ response from every person whom I engage in a conversation about the Primal approach. BTW, all but two of the naysayers I’ve encountered are obese. The other two are young and don’t seem to have developed overt symptoms of the SAD yet. Oh, well. Off to lift something heavy . . .

      2. Exactly. And most of us don’t.
        I mean, I wash in the river once a week, and live in a tree house! 🙂

        Plus aspirin is basically just willow bark tea that has been around, well probably since the paleolithic era actually!

        (To be fair I’ve actually had some quite good reactions, and have directed a few people to do a bit of research in the field.)

    3. As someone with an extensive science background (BS Biology and MD) as well as a born skeptic, I can only chuckle to myself regarding those who present arguments such as those in Paleofantasies. I’ve been Primal for 3 years and have extensively researched the Primal diet/lifestyle premises and find them to be based on solid science and valid conclusions. In my Orthopedic/Sports Medicine practice I am selective as to whom I introduce the topic of the Primal Blueprint (so as not to appear evangelical on the topic) but I have NEVER seen it fail to produce the desired results in patients who actually follow it. I have reformed ultramarathoners, converted vegans, had patients drop 75+ lbs, had patients with autoimmune diseases significantly reduce symptoms etc. Unfortunately we live in country which is by and large math and science illiterate (we have to look no farther than the US Congress) so it is no surprise there are those who can’t understand a Primal/Paleo life or wish to criticize it. My philosophy is “Live and Let Live”. Don’t waste precious moments of your life worrying about detractors. We know it is effective and benefits us personally. Mark, a quick plug for The Primal Connection–great book! It pulls it all together!

      1. Hi I started trying to go paleo a couple of years ago but was only half hearted about. A little over a year ago i was diagnosed with CREST (limited scleroderma) which was affecting my lungs so I went totally paleo all additives preservatives etc were banished, as well, all chemicals in the house were banished (enjo made a small fortune just from me). While I will never improve I haven’t gotten any worse. This is a life style that suits me is relatively easy to stick with and makes me feel like I have taken control of my health and control of something that if left to degenerate will eventualy kill me. How can that be a bad thing. On a side note since I’ve gone paleo I’ve been able to go off my depression medication. So get lost naysayers we are happy and not hurting anyone.

    4. So, you “read an article” in a magazine *about* the book, and you’re willing to dismiss the book as “rambling” based on that? Interesting….

    5. I feel very good about questions that you Mark, and so many other questioners of current diets, lifestyles…have not only helped me ask, but have helped me experiment. My wife’s (triglicoerides) have been cut in half; I am gradually gaining energy “moments” I did not know I had. And it is good to temper enthusiasm when the is good evidence I seek out that says ,”Wait a second on this idea about paleo…” I will keep looking, but I will keep doing what works too!

      Thank you for review, Mark and to commenter for your questioning stances which does not really threaten. “Just check it out”, is all I read. Happy day!

    6. Whoops. I need to thank you for writing! I, however, (inadverdantly) clicked reply down lower. I am the one who says “Happy Day” at end of my short comment about Mark’s and your questioning stances which I like. And I do value how much energy and time I put where. Not this book.

    7. I don’t think the anti paleo stuff will ever end and a main part of that is that paleo is not really a definitive facts based program. I don’t mean not facts based in that the science of eating “clean” doesn’t have quantifiable and testable results, I mean facts based on what a paleo diet is specifically. It’s mostly an educated guess. There really is no such thing as a paleo diet. It’s made up. It’s more of a shorthand way to describe some basic principles around diet and lifestyle.

      The principles are sound, but the name paleo will always be problematic because among the followers, it’s understood that it’s an abstraction, but the naysayers will always critique as literal. On a literal level, paleo can’t be defended. As a metaphor it works very well and is easily defended. The palo followers don’t literally think they are eating like cavemen, they know that’s impossible, and understand that it’s really besides the point. But the haters will always say things like “cavemen didn’t have the types of big juicy blackberries like we eat now so you’re a hypocrite” while totally ignoring the fact that berries are emphasized because of their low glycemic load and their antioxidant properties. Not because cavemen enjoyed flats of pre-picked berries on a daily basis.

  2. I disagree. I imagine she did do her research, likely obtained a base understanding of the material and found it didn’t make for a very interesting critique. If this is the best she can come up with {YAWN} …

    1. What’s sad is that too us who actually understand, these arguments are petty and ridiculous but to a lot of my fellow Americans who thrive on comical relief and take pride in “the last laugh” they might think she really told us something.. What’s funny/sad is that we will probably end up being the ones who have the last laugh when they’re bound to their house with arthritis and IBS we will be hiking, surfing, and boarding the slopes still.
      I suppose change doesn’t happen all at once… one person at a time we can all work to help our loved ones discover optimal health.

      1. wait, we’re allowed to surf? cool. can’t wait to carve a stone board and head to the beach!

        1. Hahaha.. NICE… Good luck getting that thing down here… but when you do we will be waiting with our fiberglass surfboards… don’t worry, it’s uhhh.. paleo fiberglass ofcourse

        2. Actually, surfing was developed by native Hawaiians-with stone age technology.

  3. A friend (who I have never talked to about eating paleo) gleefully told me about this book, so I mentioned there was evidence for a link between autoimmunity and grain consumption and that autoimmunity was increasing generally, and received a blank look. Oh dear.

    1. I don’t really give a *&%@ what the detractors say and write. I KNOW for a fact that paleo/low-carb works for me. Eliminating grains and most dairy products, while increasing veggies and fresh whole fruit, has done wonders for my IBS. It is also eliminating the underlying inflammation that has been causing me musculoskeletal pain for years.

      It just floors me that so many people can continue to cling to the old food pyramid, with its 11 servings of grain, claiming that people “need” grains in order to be healthy. Meanwhile the population is getting sicker and fatter on the Standard American Diet. Of course, we should keep in mind that Ms. Zuk is trying to make…you guessed it…money from her book.

      1. Just bought a couple of copies of that Wheat Belly for mother and lil bro (dating a vegan). Skimmed it, seemed okay for a first intro.
        You can lead a horse to water.. but some horses will always think you’re an idiot.

        1. With a bruise on your forehead from all that ‘banging head against a brick wall’!

      2. My experience was exactly this as well. I was a college athlete in the 90s when they told us to carbo load..

      3. Well, I don’t think “she’s trying to make money from her book therefore it’s bullshit” is a valid argument. There are plenty of Paleo books too, including, of course, “The Primal Blueprint” which is my favourite so far. Yes, maybe Mark Sisson wrote it because he was really passionate about it and wanted to introduce this idea to people and make the society healthier, but if he didn’t want to earn money from it, he would have made it free. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making money out of something you love and are passionate about – on the contrary, I’d say it’s the best and most enjoyable way to make money. But if you’re arguing that Zuk only wrote her book to make money out of it, you’d also have to argue that every Paleo/Primal book was only written to make money out of it, therefore Paleo is bullshit.

  4. nice backlash

    people failing to understand arguments then evaluating their failed understandings is a common problem, especially in regards to this movement/ sub culture

    1. Yup… misrepresent something then argue how it is wrong. A common tactic of trolls on the internet. However I guess there must be a readership for some of this…. Ah well – Life’s too short to argue back too hard! 🙂

    2. Also in regards to Catholicism…or any faith tradition with any depth of history. In fact, now that I think about it, this seems to be a problem for every single community I’ve taken the time to understand even superficially well. That’s what makes me hesitant to write off any idea as totally meaningless or dismissible.

      1. I am Catholic, and you’re so right. Once I realized that, just as other people leapt to conclusions about my beliefs, I was doing the same about theirs …. I started being a lot more openminded and learned a lot!

  5. Love this: “In fact, Paleofantasy is an odd, meandering book whose ultimate purpose I’m not really sure I truly understand.”

    Reading this whole post, I suspect Zuk and her publisher didn’t see a need for any real purpose. I’m guessing this is one of those (many) books that came into being on the belief it would sell. (It even has the word “sex” in the title for good measure.)

    A very well done post here, Mark. Thanks for saving me the trouble of reading the book. 🙂

    1. I think the publishers say, “Hey, this paleo thing has a lot of momentum right now. Let’s leach off it’s popularity and publish an anti-paleo book.” With the number of health books out on Amazon that have “paleo” in the title, an anti-paleo book would really stand out. And your right with the title – if the anti-paleo message didn’t hook them, sex sells!

    2. The actual journey is what puts the meat on the bones (pun!!) of an argument. She barely skimmed the surface for a book designed to make some of her mortgage payments. Good luck to her. We all know she secretly eats meat in her closet while lovely loaves of bread cool in her kitchen (that she feeds to her birds)….

    3. Exactly, Susan. I smell a “gravy train-er” here wanting to sop up some of the cash and figuring that a counter-stance will be a good way to do it. That sure isn’t a new thing under the sun.

  6. Im all for trying to understand why things work. But why some people mock something like ancestral health because it to them seems silly or has no evidence to back it up, in spite of the fact that it works, confuses me to no end.

    I honestly believe that some people dont want to succeed and will question something to death in order to continue their nonsense. I suppose we will have the victory in the long run because eating real food and moving has always worked and it always will. Some people just have to learn the hard way I guess!

    1. And that takes us neatly back to yesterday’s post and the comments that followed!

      There is a fascinating study to be made of the underlying reasons people don’t want to succeed, despite everything they say to the contrary!

    2. “I honestly believe that some people don’t want to succeed and will question something to death in order to continue their nonsense.”


      this actually is no fantasy … but a REAL common mechanism of our human brains. :-/

      our mind is full of BELIEVE SYSTEMS … once we believe something, our brain tries everything to maintain that believe as ‘true’.

      just sit a chistian, a moslem and an atheist at one table and let them come to a final conclusion about what the whole humanity should believe in. 🙂

      the same thing happens with politics and a million other things.

      1. ..a chistian, a moslem and an atheist and a vegan. : )

      2. YES! And this is the area we need to address when moving our populations toward a healthier lifestyle.

        Beliefs, often deeply hidden by the psyche are at the root of self-sabotage and until they are uncovered permanent behaviour change is unlikely.

  7. I don’t understand why some people are so motivated to debunk Paleo in the first place, and at times I wonder why we even care. The fact is that eating, exercising, and existing in this way is unbelievably superior to the way I used to live, and I have no plans to stop. If some people choose to do whatever they can to resist it, it’s their loss.

    1. I think the fact we’re starting to get people trying to debunk it is evidence we’re starting to get some real traction.

    2. There are always going to be haters, and in this case the sole reason is they lack the discipline, effort, and inconvenience (i.e., shopping somewhere other than the corner grocery) it takes to live a healthy lifestyle. So of course they are going to mock what they don’t understand. My favorite stories are when my kids come home from school and tell me how someone told them that eating bacon and eggs for breakfast every day is soooo bad for you, and then my son proceeded to explain how that’s not the case IF you live a “paleo” lifestyle. He even provided proof by going to your blog!!!!! LOVE IT!!!

      1. When I tell people I don’t eat grains, the first thing out of their mouth is “what DO you eat”? Like the only thing to eat on the planet is bread…

        1. I’ve had the same experience. I’ve been off bread for about a year now, after reading Davis’ Wheat Belly, and when I tell people I’m “wheat-free,” the usual reaction is a mixture of shock and genuine concern… People think I’m depriving myself of some essential nutrient (presumably fiber), and they “helpfully” direct me toward their favorite brands of whole grain bread.

        2. My husband and I went out to eat at an Italian restaurant the other night. I love Caprese salads and was fine ordering that, it’s big at this restaurant, but I decided to ask the waiter if ‘by chance they had gluten free pasta’ and he answered, yes, we have whole wheat pasta if you would like that instead of the regular pasta.


          I then explained that gluten COMES from wheat, to which he replied, ‘oh, we have a pasta for people like you, it’s made from corn’.

        3. That’s funny cause I had the same response when my husband was diagonised with coeliacs, people were like “can’t eat bread! What do you eat then”

      2. I had to comment because it too adorable. I can’t even get my family to understand and they are all adults. I predict your children are gonna grow up healthy and strong in a world declining in both those attributes. Made me smile, thank you.

    3. I believe it means to them that they have been doing something wrong, and are infact responsible for the situation they are in, misguided as they may have been by “experts”

    4. That’s what boggles my mind. It’s like… um… I’m just eating food and moving more and sleeping better. WHY do you have a problem with this?

      I think they have the problem because they’re currently starving themselves or avoiding all fat or eating some tasteless “low carb” thing, while killing themselves at the gym, and your results are better than theirs.

      Oh, well. Smile on. You know how good you feel.

    5. As someone with an extensive science background (BS Biology and MD) as well as a born skeptic, I can only chuckle to myself regarding those who present arguments such as those in Paleofantasies. I’ve been Primal for 3 years and have extensively researched the Primal diet/lifestyle premises and find them to be based on solid science and valid conclusions. In my Orthopedic/Sports Medicine practice I am selective as to whom I introduce the topic of the Primal Blueprint (so as not to appear evangelical on the topic) but I have NEVER seen it fail to produce the desired results in patients who actually follow it. I have reformed ultramarathoners, converted vegans, had patients drop 75+ lbs, had patients with autoimmune diseases significantly reduce symptoms etc. Unfortunately we live in country which is by and large math and science illiterate (we have to look no farther than the US Congress) so it is no surprise there are those who can’t understand a Primal/Paleo life or wish to criticize it. My philosophy is “Live and Let Live”. Don’t waste precious moments of your life worrying about detractors. We know it is effective and benefits us personally. Mark, a quick plug for The Primal Connection–great book! It pulls it all together!

      1. wow Rick, great comments- i’m with you on the evangelical thing, I only discuss the paleo/primal ideas with someone I know is curious, and I have lots of friends who work in the medical field that I can’t even bring this up around. I am thrilled to hear you have had great success with your patients. I will pick up the Primal Connection- thanks for the tip, and I really wonder who Zuk’s audience is.

  8. Written by a naysayer, for the naysayers. I’m pretty sure anyone who would purchase this book will never have tried, or go on to try, any aspect of a primal/paleo lifestyle regardless of the content. Almost anyone who has tried any of the recommendations expressed over the years forming this movement will attest to a positive change.
    While I loved the response, Mark, nobody will be talking about this in a few months, let alone any reasonable amount of time that it takes to create a larger change. It’s just another case of information overload. Let it die it’s death.

    1. I agree. I had heard about this book before. It seems like it is written specifically for friends and relatives of people who eat paleo, who don’t themselves believe in it (despite evidence in front of them). I can just imagine people I know brandishing this book at my husband and saying “SEE?!” while he just shakes his head and points to his transformed body and says “……. See?”

    2. Yes, gives them justification to keep sitting on the couch eating crap and blaming all their health woes on “bad genes.”

      1. I totally agree, it allows them to continue to NOT take responsibility for themselves, their health and the ultimate outcome. “Debunking” us makes them feel better about themselves and continuing to give their power away. I think the fact that we’re all so freakin’ healthy and happy but we don’t need doctors, medicine or someone to cook for us makes them feel bad about themselves.

    3. I think this post and others give too much attention to a poorly conceived analysis (which is any analysis that doesn’t accurately portray the actual “mainstream” paleo tenants).

      About the we are still evolving argument, the issue here is the difference between shallow adaptations and those that are more deeply embedded. Her examples are shallow adaptations. Perhaps we can digest starch and milk products, but many (most?) cannot simply eat carbs, carbs, carbs and maintain health (especially if we grew up eating too many refined carbs (i.e. sugar and flour)).

      It really would be a paleo fantasy if I could eat that pan of fat free brownies, rice with no fat dressing, and pasta with low fat cottage cheese and be in great health, but when I ate like that I was not healthy. 25 years later I am eating paleo and healthy. No fantasy here.

      1. Well, after seeing photos of the Zukster, the bags under her eyes and pasty skin tone, etc. We should put photos of Mark next to her!

      2. Our big problem with grains is not that they are recent in human diet, but that we are much more sedentary. Very few small farmers have problems with carbs. If you go to the gym for exercise, yes, you will have a problem. But if you get up after your carb-heavy meal and hoe weeds for the next four hours, you will not notice any carb problems.

    4. Totally agree. Do not plan on reading it. (totally get why Mark would need to, tho)

  9. Have you seen christina Warriner’s TEDx talk? Here is the link:

    In the first part of the talk she basically makes a similar argument to Zuk. She goes through various paleo books (yours and Robb Wolf’s books are pictured in her slides) and “debunks” a strawman with arguments such as the diet is not being truly paleo — that our modern fruits and vegetables did not exist in the current form in a paleolithic diet.

    But then in the second part of her talk, her conclusions are basically straight out of your books and blog — that we should inform ourselves from paleolithic diets and have a diverse diet (including organs) and eat whole and seasonal foods.

    Did Warriner and Zuk even open the books they are purportedly criticizing? It seems to me that their entire purpose is to establishing eminent domain: we are the scientists and these are popular books that lack our authority.

    1. The domain between the academic world and the growing “real” knowledge base outside of it is really one of those huge quiet changes the Internet has brought.

      For instance, “peer review” was supposed to be exactly what blogs do today. Research, post an article, get feedback from others. In that sense, most blog writers and popular book authors have experienced genuine peer review in a way that an academic in a closed field cannot.

      (Mythbusters, by the way, is the the ultimate form of peer review — and I’ve known a few people with way too many letters after their names to be upset and frustrated with that show, but can’t articulate the issue other than it’s not “real” science.)

      Of course, the blog sphere can turn into an echo chamber. What the academics rarely admit to themselves, however, is that formal peer review has the same echo chamber quality, but far, far worse. The system is shut to those who haven’t wasted time in many pointless classes. The articles themselves don’t get published unless a committee agrees even at some level. Commenting is not immediately available with the article.

      Modern academics is finding itself in a weird position. Modern society (at least in the US) agree that knowledge is important for everyone. And yet thanks to the Internet, it’s losing it’s grip as the “knowledge guild”. Right now, unfortunately, most of the solution has been what was suggested above — assume the outsiders are extremists and *gasp* populists and then move in with a more “moderate” view. After all, you don’t have to read the book if it’s “just” a talk anyway. 😉

      1. Exactly! I saw an interview where Mark was describing his daily lifestyle — he wakes up, writes in the morning, reads and researches in the afternoons, and takes several breaks — and the thought running through my mind was that he’s basically a modern academic.

        Now there is something to be said about academic institutions and the academic process. It constructs an environment where intelligent people are able to get together, discuss their ideas and get feedback. The blog-o-sphere can reproduce some of these functions but there are limitations. But there is something very wrong when instead of applying the relatively flat-hierarchy of academic discussion, people like Zuk resort to “argument by authority”.

        1. I don’t have a problem with academics or academic institutions. Face to face discussions and the formal atmosphere/language has some benefits over blogsphere.

          However, in many ways academia is as limited (in different ways) than the blogs-o-phere. The blogs much more approach the academic ideal, warts and all. It’s just hard to acknowledge if most of your life’s blood, sweat, (and not to mention paycheck) is in a system that in terms of communication and knowledge storage, is merely adequate (but totally antiquated) in comparison with system people use to post pictures of funny cats. 😉

          I agree with you on “appeals to authority”. I’ve come to choose professionals on their confidence (and humility) with their own skill sets. True story – 2 very different specialists (surgery) regarding an issue with our infant daughter.

          One had a very hard time breaking out of Latin (thank god I had enough education to mostly keep up), brought an entire student retinue (without real permission), and did not show us some of the hard won imagery that was the diagnosis until I directly asked. Ordered another test before being willing to order surgery. When asked, had no idea how the test was performed but was “standard” for this type of issue. Hey, that other test wasn’t his specialty.

          Horrified with the whole experience, requested a “2nd opinion” at another teaching hospital. Doc came in alone after consult with the nurse with the printout of the same image. Clearly pointed out the part of the image that confirmed the diagnosis. Discussed the test (clearly) that the first Doc had ordered, why and the improvement his department had made to do it the day of surgery. Gave us leave to go back the 1st, if we wanted, at the end of the discussion.

          Guess which one wrote the book (literally) in his field? Yep, the second. And guess one which one we went with? I’ve come to distrust “authority” bluster. Professional yes, if you can’t break out of the terms of your profession and be clear, I don’t really trust that you know what you’re doing. Competence means you don’t need most of the “trappings”.

      2. I don’t think you understand what peer review means. Peer review means academic literature has been reviewed by experts in the same or similar academic fields. Not by your internet friends. Because let’s face it, with a geology paper, another geologist’s opinion is more important than someone with a phD in English or an interior designer. Same goes for health science.

        Peer review is done by people who have been trained to learn and think critically, which is the actual point of University. Trust me, students spend a semester on a unit, pass it, then forget the details and only retain the key concepts. But they’ve proven that they can train themselves to learn detail and they know where to find that information of they ever need it again. And from all those essays and reports they learn how to criticize everything.

        Referees don’t just read the first paragraph and say ‘I agree’. They read in detail, check the citations and compare it with other articles to see how credible or innovative it is. If it contradicts fifty years of peer reviewed literature it may still be published, but it better be a damn good article with a lot of evidence and an explanation for why it contradicts other evidence. And publication doesn’t make it true. Until there is enough evidence to outweigh the past body of knowledge, it is just something to consider and test further.

        Being picked as a referee is an honor. Only the best in the field get to do peer reviews. Not Jo Bloggs who spent 5 minutes on Better Health Channel. Referees can’t speak to each other or the author during the process. They also have to declare any conflicts of interest and, where possible, should have as little to do with the author as possible. They ay not even know who the author is and the author often won’t know who they referees are. Referees are not paid either. So the process is as independent as possible. Peer review takes a lot longer than commenting on a blog for a minute too (about 8 months longer). With all the rewrites and research. It’s often done more than once-if the author is told to resubmit.

        Unlike blogs, papers must be reviewed BEFORE they are published. Not the other way around. This is to stop just anyone writing just anything. But then once it’s published the subscribers, mostly scientists in the field too, also throw in their two cents. Oh and then it will probably be included in a Lit review down the track.

        And ‘peer review’ is a very sugar coated term for it. More like, ‘be prepared to have your argument ripped to shreds and your self esteem shattered for all eternity’. Any flaws that is not addressed by the author in the first submission will be picked up by the referees, editor or readers. Brutally. With pens dipped in acid (OK I made that up but you get the idea) To be a scientist you have to be prepared to rip yourself and others to shreds, or someone else will do it for you. And you have to consider any criticism that comes your way. Most papers are not accepted or must be resubmitted because they just aren’t written well enough or the studies are done badly (often through lack of time and funding).

        Like Democracy, it certainly has it’s flaws (having to pay to read articles to fund the cost of the journal, being hard to administer in small fields where everyone knows each other) but it’s the the best system out there for academic writing.

        1. “… it’s the the best system out there for academic writing”

          True. The problem lies in the medical field itself. Doctors (and docs that become researchers and therefore peer reviewers) have little grounding in science and scientific analysis: experimental design, statistical analysis, and the possible sources of errors in those. Lacking in these skills especially are the older, established leaders of the profession, typically known for being rather conservative, and possibly allied to external special interests. That is why most published medical research is, many times, way off the mark. This is something that you would not find in the regular sciences (physics, for example, or even most engineering disciplines.) The medical field needs to clean up its act.

        2. I perfectly comprehend peer review. I almost went into academia (Geology, actually) and have acquaintances in it. The toughest part is being published is coming up with a politically correct topic that passes muster the committee. I haven’t met anyone who fears the discussion afterwards.

          And everything you point out as an “advantage” is also a disadvantage as well. School classes do not automatically confer either expertise nor critical thinking. The current system systematically shuts out both informed outsiders and opinions/evidence foreign to the current body of knowledge thanks to the committee vote before publishing.

          Yes, a fellow geologists opinion will bear more weight than an interior designer on a geology paper. However, an interior designer will also naturally lack both the interest and the language of geology to write a credible opinion. Opening up the system to mimic the blog world will not result in free for all.

          This post merely confirms my view – academia has in place the top of the line communication and knowledge storage system of the 18th century and is in awkward place of trying to defend the status quo.

          Notice also your only argument is that I don’t “understand” the peer review system. Then the discussion goes on to how all the rest of the outsiders are well, idiots. I’m not naive to over estimate the intelligence of all of humanity. 😉 However, I’ve met enough Phd scientists to say they would benefit from some true review outside their closed circles.

        3. “Only the best in the field get to do peer reviews.”

          Nope. Only the people who have the time ended up doing peer reviews. The best researchers research and the best teachers teach. Peer review is mostly for those into the ego trips, unfortunately. That’s where the “acid pen” effect comes from and why getting published is a much worse process than actually being published. 🙁

        4. OMG! Have you entirely missed John Ionnides? Climategate? What you’ve described sounds like a lovely well-thought-out, and productive reviewing system. Alas that it: IS. NOT. USED. in the modern-day!

          Instead, the “peer review” that is active today has very little to do with critical thinking — and a LOT to do with political maneuvering and “insider” support / “outsider” rejection. Peer reviewers are skilled in critical thinking? That would explain why the “climate scientists” (it is to laugh!) didn’t try to … what did you write?: “read in detail, check the citations and compare it with other articles to see how credible or innovative it is” — no, no, THEY (plotted) to close-out differing opinions!

          Scientists and academics who do not fit into the current political “climate” (ha.) are NOT reviewed and published; they’re blocked and pushed away. (Alfred Wegener, anyone?)

        5. The peer reviews I endured at Bell Laboratories, in my Department anyway, were only a couple of hours long for each session with 12 of your peers around a table and you get to stand, present, and defend. We would get one of 4 grades. 1) Publish as is (never happened) 2) Make the changes noted and publish (seldom) 3) Make the changes noted and circulate for comments. (often) 4) Make changes noted and schedule another peer review with the same 12 peers. (often … especially if you had ordered coffee and donuts)

          But, it was effective and often would uncover aspects of the paper that might not have been initially considered usually resulting in a better document.

    2. I just watched that the other day. The part the I couldn’t understand is where she mentions some nitrogen (?) analysis of bones where she explains it’s how we can tell where something is on the food chain. She then gives several examples, all of which are different, showing humans/jaguars/mammoths at different levels and explains how all sorts of factors determine the nitrogen levels in bones and that we don’t really know how it works. But then she concludes paleo has misinterpreted these results. What? So this analysis is widely affected by several unknown factors but paleo people definitely misinterpret it?

      Also, she never mentions Ootsi, the iceman who was found with a bellyful of goat meat. Now, which is more likely, that we happened to find the rare 5,000 year old man just as he ate his once in a blue moon meat meal? or that people often ate meat?

    3. The point about Warriner’s talk is she explains why this approach is not like how our paleolithic ancestors ate.

      She does conclude that a lot of this approach to eating is positive.

      But her point is that it doesn’t have any basis in history.

      So if Mark & others want to explain why this approach works, they need to come up with other reasons.

      Again – this doesn’t mean this way of eating doesn’t work. It just means that reasons given for it are not true.

      1. The problem is that she’s misrepresenting what it is that Mark & others are proposing that we eat. She shows a guy with a gigantic plate of meat and goes on to say that hunter-gatherers prized other cuts of meat as organs — well that’s exactly what Mark is saying as well. She also implies that these popular paleo plans eschew plants, which is not true.

  10. There are plenty of people ready to tell Apple readers that what we’re doing is wrong, that’s nothing new.

    It’s also kind of a bummer to read a negative post from Mark, I like the inspiring, positive stuff and was hoping for a lift at the end of a tough day.

  11. Mark it saddens me to think that you took time to read and review this book. You have too many more important things to be doing then denouncing stuff like this.

    The number of lives you’ve improved and altered is fantastic but if you could have convinced one more person to try living a primal life it would have been a more productive use of your time then reading this nonsense.

    If the naysayers and the close minded folks don’t want to hear then I don’t want to tell them.

    When someone comes asking for my opinion based on my massively improved health and positive outlook thanks to the Primal Blueprint I help them in any way I can because that’s time well spent. I consider it to be a charitable act and a fantastic use of my time.

    But arguing with idiots reminds of the classic saying “They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience” Grok on Mark.

    1. Sometimes you have to respond, I think. Silence can be taken as either an affirmation of the other side’s arguments or you’re just too darn arrogant to care about people’s concerns. If the book gains traction (I know I won’t be buying it), he can at least do the whole “read this article” link thing. 😉

      1. But why?? Is this author that powerful? Has she got legions of fans signing up and reading her blog everyday? I doubt it.

        We live in an age of information overload and the beauty of it is you don’t have to respond or read any of it. Let keyboard warriors go at it and I’ll be doing my best to get outdoors and enjoy this primal life thanks to the tips and well judged prodding of Mr. Sisson.

        I had never heard of this author before today and now Mark has gone and given her the oxygen of publicity on the front page of his website. If I stumbled across MDA for the first time today and I read this somewhat negative and potentially defensive sounding post responding to this book, I might not be so inclined to give primal a shot. What a shame that would be.

        Mark has gone and written a well researched and carefully crafted blog post as he always does, but I don’t think it it helps to achieve his goal of primal global domination on this occasion!! 🙂

        Again just my opinion.

        1. Critical analysis is one of the most important aspects of intelligent living. Mark ends his review with a positive note and includes logical reasons to continue a primal lifestyle throughout the post. I’ve heard far more anti-paleo stuff than pro-paleo in the press lately, so it can do nothing but good for a major voice in the movement to debunk the debunkers.

          In the long run, it doesn’t really matter if people think you are a quack or a zealot for following a paleo lifestyle. What matters most is how you feel and whether you’re happy with your life every day. But there are plenty of people who only need one small word of discouragement to keep from taking that first step. If books like Paleofantasy are allowed to go unchallenged – or are even held up by the mainstream press as examples of “real science” debunking “pseudoscience” – then people on the bubble may find excuses in the book to keep from trying something different, even though they know that what they’re doing now isn’t working.

        2. You’re totally right about giving people publicity they don’t deserve. And I agree, this may have not been the battle to pick. 🙂

          But…having an answer to craziness appears to be part of the blogging gig. For instance, at some if you’re low carb/Paleo and promoting, you end up having to deal the “The China Study”.

          Frankly, it hardly even warrants are a refute. It’s correlation study — you don’t come to solid conclusions based on those. Instead, they are used to uncover promising new areas of research. Correlations are important basic research, but that’s all they are – basic research. To give you some idea of how poor the science is behind it, one of the original researchers abandoned the project when it became clear the purpose was to market it as conclusive research.

          Yet, the questions on “The China Study” pop up endless all over the net. In that sense, you better have at least read the made for TV version of the study and have some answers, even though the real answer is “incredibly poor scientist with agenda and excellent book agent”. 😉

          I think we mostly agree, though anyway. I get tired of blogs that devolve to turf wars. But I do see the need to on occasion answer or have at the ready answers to common questions/criticism.

        3. PrimalParkGirl has already had a friend tell her all about this book (in her words) “gleefully”. What Mark has given done for us here, is taken the time to read the book and provide his insight on it. I know now that if someone where to come to me and talk about this book, I would feel confident pointing out the issues with it because I trust Mark and he’s done the work for me.

          Again, thanks to Mark for everything that he’s done. He takes time to do all the research and give us the final nitty-gritty, so we can spend more time moving, eating right, and having fun! 😉

          Cheers all!

    2. It is important for Mark to post these rebuttals. After all, Zuk is not just some hack — she is a respected evolutionary biologist whose opinion is likely to be taken seriously (however misguided this may be).

      1. I agree — and the other reason it helps is that no doubt, smug SAD relatives of Mark’s readers will trot the existence of this book (that they’ve never read themselves or researched) out as proof of why they don’t have to think about paleo at all.

    3. There are many currently in the naysayers camp who are not full citizens of its ideologies. They are thoughtful people confused by the farce that is the predominant conventional secular and scientific thought on thriving. Many don’t even believe actual thriving — on all levels — physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, relational, creative, soulful thriving — is truly possible. The culture is so profoundly misaligned, out of harmony, with our basic nature as beings designed to be in motion (on all levels), the reality seems preposterous to them. Some of those people are actually somewhat open to change, and some of those will be influenced by a cogent rebuttal of a weak argument.

      So I for one am thrilled that Mark wrote this piece. It is important at times to engage in this way. Some minds will be opened, some people will step into a more empowered response-ability, some lives will change for the better as a result of such efforts. I appreciate what Mark is doing here.

    4. I’m thankful. It can be scary for those who maybe aren’t as skilled at reading this type of thing (I haven’t read it and don’t plan to, but then I don’t have a well-known paleo blog and lots of loyal readers) who suddenly get a book “debunking” their whole lifestyle waved in their face. They don’t know what to say. I think that a reply like this is adequately polite (after all, Ms. Zuk has put herself out there publicly as an authority on this; she may be legitimately publicly refuted… it’s not an attack on her personal character or intelligence… it just sounds like it’s a poorly written book) while addressing the flaws and errors of the book. Pointing out that it’s poorly organized and confusing is all a part of reviewing a book. Some people just need the clear “This is not death to paleo. Relax,” message, before they decide that all that they’re doing is worthless. And others need to realize that the book they may be waving in their poor paleo relative’s face is not a valid argument.

  12. Mark or someone should invite Marlene Zuk to AHS or one of these big shindigs. Extend an olive branch and let her see what Paleo really is in order to show her she’s just fighting a straw man.

    Being nice to and educating the haters couldn’t hurt, could it? Worst case scenario they stay the same, best case scenario they change their minds and hop on the Paleo wagon.

    1. Absolutely a great idea. It’s to disparage a cartoon you’ve created — not so much when confronted with “normal” people who moderate what they say.

    2. This is a really great idea! Come meet some of the thinkers in this area and have a reasoned discussion. Maybe even put them on a panel and do a Q&A session. It sounds like there is a lot more in common than disagreement, and it seems primarily to be a rejection of the evolutionary label.

      1. +3. Get her into the fold.

        She is probably a good scientist (though she is primarily an insect geneticist.), but I, too wonder why she wrote this book, exhibiting a gross misunderstanding of paleo, primal, low-carb, lifehacking, the whole nine yards.

        Hopefully it wasn’t just a pub or money grab by a frustrated scientist in an obscure field. Or that she’s a secret vegan. (Horrors!)

  13. Thanks for this post, Mark. As a graduate student in philosophy, I spend a lot of time trying to teach my students what constitutes a good argument. One thing that I emphasize in class is that if you’re going to object to a position, the most important thing to do is to interpret that position as charitably as possible, i.e. make a strong case for it first, and then knock it down. It’s clear that Zuk has not only failed to do this, but as you rightly point out, is replying to a straw-man position that nobody in the ancestral health community actually holds.

    As I see it, the paleo diet takes its inspiration from how we as humans evolved to live, but is ultimately about what’s best for us today. And this is best determined by individual experimentation with food and lifestyle. I certainly was skeptical about paleo before I tried it, but once I did, I couldn’t believe how good I could feel all day, every day. The success stories here also attest to that, and should be given more evidential weight than some of the faulty studies you talk about here that support the standard American diet.

      1. Hey now, trains aren’t paleo! It was correct the first time. 😉

  14. John Durant’s tweet sums it up perfectly as does this line: “So we kind of agree, even though it appears she doesn’t know it.”

    The standard issue attack on the Paleo diet/lifestyle is based off a faulty notion of what it actually is. And she wrote an entire book based on that. 10 minutes of actual research into what people who follow this diet are doing would have either changed the arguments of this book or rendered it unnecessary.

    1. No, she knew all along. They did it this way to get attention. It’s a cheap ploy.

      1. Ha! She saw the straw man argument being used against paleo and said “I can sell a book to these idiots”

  15. Why do people care? If you don’t like the Paleo way of life…don’t do it. I don’t like lima beans but I wouldn’t bother writing a book slamming all the people who do. It’s just not nice.

    1. Although if you genuinely believe that something is detrimental to general health or that a specific notion is propagating falsehoods or is built on faulty science, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not pointing it out in whatever form you can. Following your argument, Mark Sisson would have stayed home and lived his primal lifestyle by himself, quietly reaping the benefits without ever encouraging others to do the same.

      Whether you agree with Marlene Zuk or not, it’s important to recognize that dialog and disagreement are crucial to drawing long-term conclusions.

      1. Dialog, yes! Disagreement, of course. My kids live by this tenant.

        Derision? No.

  16. Mark I like how you have meet her head on!
    In order for her to sell her book idea she had to take this position – thats why some of her arguments don’t wash completely. If the Paleo moment didn’t exist she’d have no story and no paycheck.
    By taking a counter position she created the controversy she needed to interest publishers and generate a buzz.
    It is actually a good sign that some of these ideas are coming under scrutiny and attack – shows that Paleo ideas are starting to impinge on the status quo.

  17. Id still be interested in reading this, regardless of whether or not I agree with everything, its another perspective which is always interesting.

  18. Possibly not “on topic” but I wonder what creationists think of the whole paleo thing – not only no humans that far back (nor anything really) but what of daily bread?

    1. Hi-

      I’m pretty sure God made us a few hours after the proto-apes (not all evolution is BS).

      Now, as I recall, our “daily bread” was soaked and sprouted. And made from grains that contained much, much less gluten than grains found today.

      Personally, my daily bread is in the 5 of my 95/5. I don’t need the full 20 anymore.

      1. As far as I’m concerned, God created us in the midst of a perfect “Garden” where all things necessary for our survival/health grew naturally. Once we got involved in the decision making process it’s been all down hill!

        On a side note: The phrase “daily bread” was used by Jesus while explaining the manor in which we should speak to our creator (IE: Pray). I believe He was inferring that we should ask the Creator for daily provision, both physically, in the form of food and metaphorically, in the form of spiritual sustenance. As with the vast majority of Jesus’s teaching, it was delivered in a manor that his audience could relate to. In this case, Bread being a staple among the people at the time. (someone should definitely do a study on the gluten and lectin content of the wheat at the time!)

        If it helps, I like to think: “Give us this day our daily Bacon.”

        1. Thanks for that insight (and the chuckle)! I agree: I don’t think Jesus meant bread literally. When I say that prayer, I substitute “Give us this day, our daily strength.”

    2. I believe that when Jesus asked us to eat bread that he wouldn’t have done so if it was bad for us. But he also didn’t say eat the equivalent of 2 loaves a day, and the hybridization and genetic modification of wheat that occurred in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s changed wheat into something totally different than the original. I just finished re-reading that chapter in “Wheat Belly”. It’s some real Frankenstein stuff that went on with the goal of ending world hunger, but with no thought to what the end product would do to us.

      1. The “bread ” part could easily be an interpretation, you need to remember that the bible wasn’t originally written it was all word of mouth, when fist written it wasn’t in english. Have a look at the different religions bibles, the Giddions interepration is different to the catholics in many small ways

    3. Creationism and evolution do not need to be separate things. I sure do not ever think I can put God in a box. I am sure that everything that has happened in this universe at Gods hands if far bigger and more amazing than anyone of us can fully comprehend. I for one whole heartily believe in God and evolution! I also do not take the Old Testament as literarily as some.

      As for Daily Bread. It has nothing to do with “bread” and everything to do with the Body. It’s a representation. A symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Also too bread long ago was not what we call bread now. And God isn’t going to throw a lighting bolt down on me if I eat a gluten free communion wafer instead of a regular one.

      I cannot speak for others but for me I believe God is happy with me when I am treating my body with care and respect. Making it the best it can be! For me that is eating Primal!

      1. I agree but part of what I was getting at was that sometimes “debunkers” are not interested in evidence of any kind let alone any of that science kind. Many of the same people also ‘literally’ do not do metaphor . . . so to speak.

        1. Yes, but I would hesitate to lump creationists into one giant group that “don’t believe” in science or logical arguments. I’ve seen atheists on forum boards go on and on about evolution like it’s all of science, rather a “our best guess” creation story. The *theory* of evolution will always be that – a theory because it can’t be tested or repeated.

          To flip the picture, there are many people who believe in evolution but absolutely don’t get science or how to sift through evidence properly. Hard core evolutionists (by the way I believe in evolution myself) would have us believe that it’s a litmus test into believing in all of science and progress, but it certainly is not. Scientists are usually much more interested in what they can know and test, rather than a theory that will never have definite answers and has little impact on our day to day lives.

    4. I love it! Well, the evolution part is nonsense but the science is merely pointing out how the body that God created best functions. The evolution part is non-essential. Grok is just a mascot. This is why all the conclusions are based on studies and observable chemistry and the surrounding article is an interesting story of how that feature might have aided our mythical Grok in his presumed surroundings.

    5. I have no problem with it, as a creationist (as in I believe that way… I don’t make it the central issue of my entire life…). I’d agree that we ate a lot of meat for much of our history and that grains in quantity came much later. But whether we did or not, I feel just fabulous eating paleo and lousy eating any other way. So personally, I can overlook small portions of the books, etc., that I might disagree with (and believe me, they are quite small) and go with everything else.

      As I tell people all the time, I have deeply-held beliefs and I believe they are valid, but it’s very, very difficult to truly offend me. 🙂

    6. As a creationist, I see Paleo style eating as correct and logical since I believe humans are designed to eat real natural food.

  19. I believe in reading some “nay saying” material — it gives me the chance to question my beliefs. Questioning your beliefs is always a good idea.

    However, I will wait for the book to come to my library. I am not sure that I want to give her money for something that could really hurt people.

    How could this book hurt people — by giving them the “arguments” they “need” to not try changing their lifestyle.

    I am one of the many people who have experienced amazing results with on the paleo/primal path. And I wasn’t all that far from being “healthy” by modern standards.

  20. I’d love to see a fight to the death between the success stories before and afters. On one side, type 2 diabetes, fat, inflamed miserable people. the other side leaner, happier, healthier, productive folks. The proof is in the pudding (or lack thereof).

  21. This books sounds incredibly stupid. I was planning on reading it, just to see if there were any good arguments, but it appears there aren’t. Thanks for saving me the time, Mark.

  22. Cessastion of IBS,improved body composition, awesome energy, improved mood, stable blood sugars, clear skin and the bloodwork to go with it. Dangerous? I don’t think so. What’s dangerous is continuing to buy into the mainstream thinking on diet and lifestyle that was literally ruining my life.

  23. Fun fact — I just emailed this article to Marlene. I wonder if she’ll respond…probably not!

  24. Why do people feel the need to debunk their preservation’s? Since flipping my ‘primal switch’ (that’s what I call it), I’ve never taken the approach that I have to be a ‘salesperson’ for primal living. Nor do I accept any argument against it from friends, family or foes.

    If Marlene aspires to be an author, she should find a topic that she’s an authority on and consider not writing about topics where she’s assuming. Or, this is a novel concept, try it for a while and see if you notice a physical or mental change….then, write about your results, i.e. a blog, as mentioned in the beginning.

  25. Conformational Bias…….

    Ms. Zuk’s tome is just that and it is not so much dangerous to the Paleo/Primal/Low Carb communities as to all those people out there who will use Paleofantasy as a reason to continue eating those “healthy whole grains” etc. in spite of the fact they are gaining weight among other issues.

    On the other hand this may be a great sign the Paleo/Primal/Low Carb movements are actually getting the attention of the larger population because of the recent trend in vehement denial of the health mess we are in due to dietary recommendations that all the exercise in the world does not seem to correct.

    1. Thats the sad part in all this…

      But I suppose it has more to do with yesterdays posting than it does with todays.

      People who are not opening up their mind, are more inclined to sit back passively and subscribe to the notion that we cannot change (and those that due, are clearly living a fantasy).

  26. It’s dead clear to me. She has shamelessly gone for a controversial title to grab attention and sales. She should be embarrassed.

    1. +1 totally agree Jordi.

      Mark, thanks for reminding us of why we embrace and live the Primal lifestyle. Marlene Zuk and the other wanna-be debunkers can have their grains and seed oils. Paleo 100% all the way!

  27. A true researcher would try the lifestyle in order to properly understand it and then use the results to argue his/her side. Doesn’t sound like she tried going primal, but instead relied on web research, books, and talking to people. I would challenge her to try it and then see if she would still write about the same topic.

    1. But giving up bread is so….hard! (I’m sorry I had to, been following MDA for a long, long time.) I would challenge her to a constest of atlatls. Now that spring is coming around, time to get mine out again.

    2. I LOVE this thought, Emily! I was vegan when my sister tried to convince me to go paleo. I thought she was killing herself, eating all this meat (cuz I read The China Study.) Finally she scolded me, said, “oh, you’re so smart, you just know EVERYTHING, don’t cha? You can’t even TRY 30 days? You think you’re gonna die in 30 days?” So I tried it. I remember my first meal…bacon and eggs with greens. It was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted, after being vegan for years, and I could literally feel my body rejoicing, “YES! YES!” and my mood turned to rosy and happy and I was full until 3pm! I never looked back and feel better than ever.
      I would share this experience with a dear friend of mine, a bread junkie, and she scoffed at me. “Our bodies ADAPT. We can eat bread.” Yet she always had a puffiness about her, couldn’t lose weight, etc. Finally she gave up the gluten for a Beach Body cleanse program, ate more primal, and now she weighs what she did in high school, looks and feels amazing, and says that she can tell that now when she has bread or other processed stuff because it makes her sick….
      You really only need to try it to know if your body likes it. And then you will know immediately. But if you don’t try it, you really don’t have a place for an opinion…

      1. Eating paleo since 3 years now, I feel so healthy that I never felt before. I feel so energetic that I can ride 200+ km., almost non stop in 8 hours, without bonking nor muscle cramps. (I am 53 years old). I can live without eating 24 hours without feeling any hunger. I am away from infections (cold,flu etc) . I loose less hair now.:)

        Whoever tells the paleo diet is not the best, I strongly disagree. I can see the difference on myself (and on many friends too). Period..


  28. I’m glad to see your post, Mark. I read about this book in the Nutrition Action Newsletter, something a friend had given me a one year gift subscription to. I was not surprised at her assertions because Nutrition Action is very conventional in its endorsement of a diet low in fat, low in saturated fat, and in the promotion of grains, beans, dairy products, and many processed foods.

    It is wise for us to keep up with papers and books that try to debunk the paleo and primal diet so that we know what the critics are saying. Usually they’ve read very little of our books and know very little about what we are recommending so it is usually easy to spot the flaws in their arguments, as you have.

    Good work!

  29. These naysayers are fools. You cant argue with results. Ive been paleo since novemeber 26th and have lost 80 lbs. My life has changed. Im happier and healthier than Ive been in years. Im finally able to begin playing rugby again. This book is a fantasy

  30. Had to laugh!
    “A big paleofantasy. I could be making this entire world up in my head as I go along.”

    ……Being Mark Sissonvich…..

  31. Been eating paleo (except for the wine) for two years. While I started out relying on the ancestral justification, having lost patience for explaining the rationale and rolling my eyes at the fringe examples thrown at me, I now focus on how not eating sugar, soy, dairy, grains, legumes has vastly improved my health. Even as a walking example of how eating this way benefits one’s well being, there are still those among family and friends who think it’s a miracle I’m not gravely ill from lack of toast.

    I appreciate you taking the time to review this book–you articulate everything that’s misguided about it far better than I. Several people have emailed a review done on the daily beast about what a great book this is, so your comments are a good balance.

    1. “there are still those among family and friends who think it’s a miracle I’m not gravely ill from lack of toast.”

      That is FUNNY! & true. “I’d like to see your cholesterol numbers!” Then I tell them how good all my blood work is. And then continue on with the school of thought that maybe high cholesterol is not the real problem anyhow.

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

    Let’s not set up some straw man ourselves here. There are lifestyles out there that are fairly obviously unhealthy, even to the people that lead them. I don’t think Zuk would argue that. We should just be making our case for primal living as the best, most natural, achievable and sustainable alternative.

  33. I for one am grateful for the debunking. We need to keep as many people on the CW track as possible. My investments in pharmaceutical companies and other standard 401K fare are depending on it.

    “Whatever most people are doing isn’t really working for most people, whereas whatever we’re doing (whether it’s a paleofantasy or not) seems to be working.” True. I’ll just keep plugging along with my liver and sweet potatoes and enjoy my muscles out in the sunshine. You all just keep taking your pills…

  34. I may browse this book at the bookstore but I sure won’t buy it. I’m interested to see the counter arguments to Paleo. I haven’t commented before but have been following your blog for over a year. I consider my entry into “Paleo” a complete accident. My young son had some dental issues relating to possibly his diet and we bought the book “cure tooth decay” by Ramiel Nagel and it has changed our families’ life for the better. Wouldn’t you know the diet he suggested is largely paleo and in fact he stated that healing tooth decay problems on a Veg/grain diet is almost impossible. Human’s teeth and gum health went to hell once a mostly grain and or western diet was imposed on more primitive cultures. I discovered your site and went mostly Paleo in Jan 2012 after a miserable cold took me out of commission for awhile. I stopped drinking beer(don’t miss it at all), stopped my morning bowl of cereal routine, no pasta, breads., and did a mostly bodyweight exercise program. Jan 2012 I was 188 (6 feet tall), within 6 months I hit my college weight of 165. I turned 40 last year by the way. I’m currently 168 lbs. and that’s with slacking on my exercising. More energy and haven’t had a cold in over a year. I don’t care what that book says the Paleo lifestyle has totally worked for me and my family. Thanks for this blog Mark, it’s awesome!

  35. I think the head of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard would take huge issue with Zuk’s dismissal of disturbed sleep as a major contributor to modern health ills.

    On that (completely unscientific) assertion alone, I have no interest in reading this book.

    –signed someone who used to have a major circadian rhythm / psychiatric disorder, i.e., bipolar disorder, before protecting my sleep, ditching grains, and eating lots of fat, and is now in complete remission for three years without the use of neuron-killing psychiatric meds

    1. You go! I’d like to see more about the psychological benefits of paleo in general–seems to have cured my mood disorder, too.

  36. What really makes me angry is John Hawks. He thinks he knows the arguments, and the science behind eating paleo. He does not. Why in the world is he responding to something that he clearly knows nothing about.

  37. Mark:

    Excellent, thorough, balanced work. Really accessible and down to earth.

    In the end, as many things often go, I’d expect the book to have the unintended consequence of actually adding to the Paleo / Primal momentum. Which has me wondering, do you ever write in a pen name, perhaps with a last name that begins with a ‘Z’?


  38. I was eating lunch one day in a military cafeteria that offered few food options that were considered “paleo.” After a few comments on my choices, none of which included meat (because I like to know where it comes from before I eat it), I began a conversation on paleo and why I eat like I do. The person sitting across from me, who was much higher ranking, busted out and said “I don’t believe that evolutionary crap.” From there, I couldn’t continue. I just kept quiet, ate my salad, and got out of there. Whether it be religion, ignorance, or just plain stubborness, some people don’t want to believe. There’s nothing we can say or do, we can just go about our business and make ourselves happy, and anybody else who wants to come along for the ride.

  39. I think many of our communication and understanding problems as a society come from our lack of solid foundational education in logic and reasoning. We’re not really taught these skills anymore or appreciate their value (generally speaking). We are not encouraged or required to think critically in today’s world in order to survive. We can go on auto-pilot and live, but not necessarily well.

    If we continue to improve our logic skills, while maintaining compassion and understanding for where others are coming from, I think that the ancestral health community will continue to have a positive impact on the world and people’s health and well-being. The point after all isn’t to be right to simply stoke our egos, but to spread the truth so that the most people can prosper.

    Arrogance is very off-putting and blocks our desire to continue learning (if we think we know it all already), so I think we should continue to be aware of this when we talk with others…and hope for the patience and openness of mind to listen, and possibly learn ourselves 🙂

    1. Thank you for hitting the nail on the head. I often feel as a society we’re heading to a future that looks like the movie “Idiocracy”. Where asking for a simple glass of water will invoke raised eyebrows and responses like “You mean that stuff in the toilet?”. So sad, yet so true…

  40. If Ms. Zuk really wanted to debunk Paleo living, would she not have tried it first? This would have deprived us all of spending more quality time together.

  41. Marlene Zuk only has any readers because most of her titles have “sex” in part of the title.
    Getz’m every time!!
    What a funny quacker she is.
    Funny and sad.
    Unfortunately, she will probably keep a few people in Ill health
    because of her book.
    As we have witnessed in the last few years, there are many
    ill-informed, mis-informed and out right lied to people that
    really don’t know any better.
    They can not sort through information critically and logically,
    and thus they are doomed in their irgnorance, lazyness and fear
    of learning.

  42. Great post, thanks Mark!

    My girlfriend (& others) like to take shots at Paleo for some reason. Actually I know why my gal does it… she just likes to have fun with it. After seeing my success, she is 60-70% Paleo. Why others do it I am unsure. Is it some weird envy at my weight loss? Is it a true concern that I am somehow hurting myself?

    The author just hopes to cash in on anti-paleo folks who will buy it. She & her editors knew that they were using straw-man arguments. The same goes with that Discovery mag article. They just poke around the edges just to get a rise out of people & make money.

    Why do people hate Paleo so much? I really don’t understand. The same people will talk about the virtues of the Mediterranean diet when Paleo is not all that different.

    Joe S.

  43. This reminds me of the pro-smoking campaigns of the 80s. It’s hard to give up something that gives us pleasure (especially when addicted to it) even if it’s not good for us. It’s often easier to try and debunk a theory that makes you feel like you may not be living healthy than it is to apply that theory to your life. It’s easier to eat corn bread and birthday cake than it is to refuse and chose something better. It’s easier to believe that running yourself to death is better than short, intense, heavy workouts that leave you with more energy. You should here my friends talk with me about my primal lifestyle…

    “Isn’t all that meat really bad for you?”
    As if I only eat big hunks of raw flesh with the bones still attached.

    “I couldn’t live without bread. That can’t be healthy.”
    The same excuse I used to use.

    “My nutritionist friend says its really bad for your adrenal glands and that you could die.”
    Nutritionists are not doctors and are trained and certified by our corn-pushing government.

    “My friend, whose a personal trainer, says that you’ll get all big and bulky if you do all that heavy lifting and that if you want to lose weight, you’ve gotta do an hour of cardio a day”.
    Trainers are certified over a weekend at whatever big box gym they work at.

    Either way, I’m sure this book is just a way for the publisher to make money off of those people who say all of these things above.

  44. I wonder if Ms. Zuk, as part of her research, read the book “Wheat Belly,” an indictment against modern wheat that has been so altered by hybridisation that it can be considered a GMO now. Also, she should have checked out the Weston A. Price Foundation site. Although they still recommend “healthy whole grains” after soaking and-or souring to reduce phytates, they are very much down on sugar and vegetable oils which our modern diets are full of.

  45. When I first came upon Mark’s website and read the success stories, I was immediately interested but at the same time my radar sent up a signal – if it’s too good to be true, it likely is just that. However, being trained as an engineer, I am driven by data, empirical evidence and observation, and after just two months of switching to a paleo diet, working out at the local gym three times a week, and walking every evening for an hour, my blood work told my doctor and me all I needed to know: dramatic decreases in total cholesterol, increases in HDL, decreases in LDL, triglycerides, blood sugar, and another notch in one’s belt. Most of us here have similar data streams and can put a price on better numbers (i.e., walking instead of driving, increased activity at home and work, less visits to the doctor) but how does one measure the change in attitude?


  46. Zuk’s arguments, and those presented in positive reviews like the one in Nutrition Action, are a classic example of flawed critical thinking. She and all other authors should be required to take a freshman level critical thinking course (if p, then q) before submitting their final works. or – “every time it rains the street is wet, so is it raining every time the street is wet?” Obviously, this is not the case, because in the latter you could have a wet street from group tears crying over such an irresponsible book on a sunny day.

    In the meanwhile, readers can be alerted when they come across phrases like, “it follows that…” or “it stands to reason…” or worst of all: “don’t you think?”

  47. The basic research into ‘the paleo diet’ itself shows that there is no one paleo diet; rather, there were a range of diets (Cordain et al., 2000; Kuipers et al., 2010). The argument is that modern diets fall outside of this range — with regard to macronutrient ratios, and micronutrient levels (Cordain, 2002) — and that this may cause specific problems (Kuipers, Joordens, & Muskiet, 2012).

    I wish critics of the diet would read (and criticise) the actual research, rather than criticise their own fantasies about it.

    Cordain, L. (2002). The Nutritional Characteristics of a Contemporary Diet Based Upon Paleolithic Food Groups. JANA, 5(3), 15-24.

    Cordain, L., Miller, J. B., Eaton, S. B., Mann, N., Holt, S. H. A., & Speth, J. D. (2000). Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(3), 682-692.

    Kuipers, R. S., Joordens, J. C. A., & Muskiet, F. A. J. (2012). A multidisciplinary reconstruction of Palaeolithic nutrition that holds promise for the prevention and treatment of diseases of civilisation. Nutrition Research Reviews, 25(01), 96-129. doi: doi:10.1017/S0954422412000017

    Kuipers, R. S., Luxwolda, M. F., Dijck-Brouwer, D. A. J., Eaton, S. B., Crawford, M. A., Cordain, L., & Muskiet, F. A. J. (2010). Estimated macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African Paleolithic diet. British Journal of Nutrition, 104(11), 1666-1687. doi: Doi 10.1017/S0007114510002679

  48. Mark. I thank you for reviewing the book and taking the time to clarify, once again, what the Primal community actually believes and teaches. As one of the leaders in this movement you correctly saw the need for you to weigh in and be “on the record” with a clear response. Since many of us will at some point have this article shoved in our faces it is just a matter of time before we will hit this link and invite the naysayer to read. Looking forward to that!

  49. The idea of “Paleofantasy” being some kind of put-down reminded me of this quote:

    “I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” ? J.R.R. Tolkien

    I know it’s a helluva lot better to go primal than to keep doing what I was doing (CW) and expecting a different outcome that I had been getting (Fat, Sick, and Tired).

  50. Don’t feed the troll, Mark.
    These types of people are only hijacking the latest popular diet to get some attention, simply because they can’t do any better.
    Waste of time to de-bunk.
    Any person with common sense eats a diet that ACTUALLY WORKS to build a strong body and brain (i.e. organic paleo).

  51. I saw the book over at Amazon, and read the blurb, as well as checked out some of the interior pages (like I always do before buying any book), and I came away with two opinions:

    1. This woman is a rabid vegan obviously annoyed at losing the dietary battle, so she wrote a book to act as her megaphone.

    2. This woman is a rabid CW dietician, and is striking out through her paper megaphone to bash our way of eating, because she fears for her job.

    Either way, SHE is the one caught up in a Paleo fantasy of her own making!

  52. I’d be curious about studies that specifically confirm that grain production of any type is harmful.

    I agree with a lot of the paleo advice. Eating natural organic products, lots of veggies and quality meat, getting exercise and not being sedentary, all great points.

    But the idea that all grains are poison seems to be supported by scientific evidence only tangentially. Have there been any real studies simply concluding that eating grains are harmful?

    1. “grain production of any type”
      “all grains are poison”
      All statements of absolute are always wrong. (Irony intentional.)

      Also I don’t know what you mean by “poison”. That they will cause instant death? That they do more harm than good? That you are better off not eating them than eating them?

      “All grains” are not equal. Wheat is “really bad”, oats are “less bad”. I rarely eat either but if I was forced to choose between a serving of whole wheat bread and a serving of oatmeal, I’d choose the oatmeal.

      I’m not understanding what it is that you’re really asking. But the answer to your question as you phrased it is no, such studies probably do not exist.

  53. Thanks, Mark, for taking one for the team. Nice review of what sounds like a brutal read.

    To show my appreciation, I’m gonna take my primal-fueled, 35-pound lighter body down to the gym and lift some heavy stuff.

  54. If I’m at risk of being quoted in a book, I better start watching what I say more often on here.


  55. All I know is that I keep singing “It’s alllllriiiiiiight – it’s my Paaaaaleeoooooo Fantasyyyyyy” in my head…

    …all while stuffing my face with a bunless grass-fed beef burger and raw organic peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomoatos…suck on THAT Zuk =P

  56. I think like most of us that learned about Paleo, Zuk or one of her loved ones will have to be so ill and not getting relief from modern medicine before she will be willing to try something like Paleo.

    Sometimes you have to hit close to rock bottom before you can look up and see the light 🙂

    1. Hmm, you’ve posed an interesting theory, that many of us found this site due to our, or a loved one’s, poor health, with little relief from modern medicine. There should be a poll about that, though one of the possible answers would have to be “I don’t know/not sure.” I had been all set to argue that my husband’s poor health is not what led me to Paleo, but I don’t recall if I was trying to find answers to what is going on with him, or reading something totally unrelated when I link hopped my way here…

      1. Yep. I had a chance back in the late ’90s to get Paleo info when I was suffering from really bad adult onset asthma, but there were no books and little in the way of on-line info. We moved to France and there was no opportunity to go further in discovery. Fifteen years later, my son got very ill and Celiac was one of the possible causes. We had moved back to Canada and low and behold, there was suddenly a whole lot of infirmation available on line! As cutting out gluten is “easy” to do if you eat Paleo (and a heck of a lot less expensive!) it made sense to check it out again. The best thing that could have happened to me and my son was his getting sick. It lead both of us on a journey to Paleo and much improved health.

        Now the fine tuning is another learning curve 😉

    2. I heard about paleo from a commenter on a football blog I follow. I was 36, 6’1, 195 lbs with bodyfat in the high teens and wearing 34″ pants. My cholesteral was 42 HDL 110 LDL 150 total. So I was doing pretty good for a mid 30s guy. I went paleo because I wanted better than pretty good.

  57. PaleoFantasy : Not exactly wrong , no discernible point.

    The Evolutionary story brings life and colour to some of the dryer science stuff.

    Don’t want to give up your tasty lab created “food” buy a bag of wheat a bottle of canola oil and take a few packets of sugar from Denny’s , try each on on its own before the “food” companies can work their magic… yum yum, it will be a tortured existence without these naturally delicious… substances.

    My paleofantasy is that our ancestors tamed dinosaurs, I know its wrong now but I do remember watching a very compelling documentary about it as a child called “Flintstones”.

  58. I’ve read the comments and don’t get it…personally I feel so much better eating 95 percent paleo (I occasionally indulge in dessert). Try it, if it doesn’t work, stop and go back to the SAD diet. Been there and I know it definitely doesn’t work. All of this back and forth tends to be a waste of time and energy. Let your personal results speak for themselves. Success is always the best measuring stick!

  59. Mark,
    What does Marlene look like? I’d like to see a photo of her next to you & let the facts speak for themselves…

  60. I’ll let the academics debate the fine points of paleo diet and evolutionary theory. I prefer to rely on my personal experience and general observations.

    It may be anecdotal but one has only to observe the drastic change towards chronic ill health, diabetes and obesity of Native Americans after adopting the SAD foods in the last several generations. These people were as close to the Paleo concept as anybody just a few generations ago and now they are so obviously unable to thrive on modern food ‘technology’. Other ethnic groups are better able to tolerate it but any visit to Walmart will show that in general we are not faring well on grains and sugars.

    In general terms I don’t see why anyone would argue with the basic concept of eating healthy whole unprocessed foods.

  61. I saw this book on the shelf in the bookstore the other day, skimmed through it, and immediately saw the flaws in her reasoning. It seems so irresponsible of people to publish things like this without thoroughly researching it first. I am so glad that I stumbled on MDA while wandering the Internet one day, but if I had seen this book a year ago, when I was just starting to look at the primal lifestyle, I probably would not have looked any further. I would still be over three hundred pounds and on my way to an early death, and it makes me sad to think of all the others who may have had their own chances at good health cut short by reading this book, or even just seeing it on the shelf and saying “paleofantasy? I guess that caveman guy really is full of it, oh well.”

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

    That would be one massive community dream!! If it is all fantasy I am cool with not waking up!!! Fact is when I eat and live this way I feel amazing and look amazing. That’s what counts!!

  63. I’ve lost 5lbs and 2 inches in 3 weeks, and I feel amazing. That’s not a fantasy, that’s pretty darn real.

  64. The more popular Primal/Paleo lifestyles get, the more you can expect these sorts of mainstream media denunciations and attacks.

    J. Stanton makes this point rather well:

    “There’s one big reason that industrial food manufacturers like Kraft (Nabisco, Snackwells, General Foods, many more), Con-Agra (Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, Healthy Choice, many more), Pepsico (Frito-Lay, Quaker), Kellogg’s (Kashi, Morningstar Farms, Nutrigrain, more) are huge and profitable.

    It’s because grains are cheap, but the “foods” made from them aren’t.

    One reason grains are so cheap in the USA, of course, is gigantic subsidies for commodity agriculture that, while advertised as helping farmers, go mostly to agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland ($62 billion in sales), Cargill ($108 billion), ConAgra ($12 billion), and Monsanto ($11 billion)—and result in a corn surplus so large that we are forced to turn corn into ethanol and feed it to our cars, at a net energy loss!

    “There isn’t one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country.”
    -Dwayne Andreas, then-CEO of Archer Daniels Midland

    “At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM’s corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10.” (Source.)

    (And if you’re not clear on just how deeply in control of our government these corporations are, here’s another example: Leaked cables reveal that US diplomats take orders directly from Monsanto.)

    That cheapness, however, doesn’t translate to profits for farmers or cheap food at the supermarket.”

    “It’s clear that it’s far more profitable to sell us processed grain products than meat, eggs, and vegetables…which leaves a lot of money available to spend on persuading us to buy them. Are you starting to understand why grains are encased in colorful packaging, pushed on us as “heart-healthy” by the government, and advertised continually in all forms of media?

    And when we purchase grass-fed beef directly from the rancher, eggs from the farmer, and produce from the grower, we are bypassing the entire monumentally profitable system of industrial agriculture—the railroads, grain elevators, antibiotics, growth hormones, plows, combines, chemical fertilizers (the Haber process, by which ammonium nitrate fertilizer is made, uses 3-5% of world natural gas production!), processors, inspectors, fortifiers, manufacturers, distributors, and advertisers that profit so handsomely by turning cheap grains into expensive food-like substances.

    Conclusion: You Are A Radical (And So Am I)

    Simply by eating a paleo diet, we have made ourselves enemies of the establishment, and will be treated henceforth as dangerous radicals.

    This is not a conspiracy theory. By eschewing commodity crops and advocating the consumption of grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, and local produce, we are making several very, very powerful enemies.

    * The medical and nutritional establishments hate paleo, because we’re exposing the fact that they’ve been wrong for decades and have killed millions of people with their bad advice.

    * The agribusinesses and industrial food processors hate paleo, because we’re hurting their business by not buying their highly profitable grain- and soy-based products.

    * The mainstream media hates paleo, because they profit handsomely from advertising those grain- and soy-based products.

    * The government hates paleo, because they’re the enforcement arm of big agribusinesses, industrial food processors, and mainstream media—and because their subsidy programs create mountains of surplus grain that must be consumed somehow.

    Is anyone surprised that a government which spends billions of dollars subsidizing the production of corn, soy, and wheat, would issue nutritional recommendations emphasizing the consumption of corn, soy, and wheat?”

    Mark, as a leader at the forefront of this movement, I’d expect a lot more of these kinds of attacks and denunciations in the future.

    1. I know lots of small farmers–I get my milk, eggs and meat from them. They don’t see anything of all the subsidies that are supposed to go to farmers. They scrap by hoping this year will be wetter than last year, because there is no safety net for them beyond their neighbors.

  65. Thanks for this review. It answers two of the three questions I had based on what I’ve read about the book so far:

    1) Does she have science to back up her claim that humans have evolved to consume mostly grains? (Not really.)

    2) Does she understand what the paleo lifestyle actually is? (No. She REALLY doesn’t.)

    The third question is how she addresses paleo authors’ claims that barring childhood death, childbearing death, or accident, paleolithic humans were generally healthier than modern humans.

    I’m torn between whether or not I want to actually read this book. As someone who’s spent most her life following non-SAD diets in pursuit of health, I’m sick of defending myself against nitpickers. And you know what? I don’t care if everything I’ve read about how paleolithic humans lived is wrong – paleo lifestyle works for me and that’s what matters.

  66. I think it is more of a fantasy to believe that our digestive systems can evolve at the pace of industrial food production. She says that people “are rushing headlong into such dangerous lifestyle changes as giving up grains, sugar, and seed oils without doing their due diligence” without mentioning how people have rushed headlong into dangerous lifestyle changes such as eating food conceived in a laboratory without doing their due diligence.

    I can only speak from my experience. For years, I ate the recommended diet of whole grains, lean protein (without consideration of animal diet), and limited saturated fat. I got plenty of excercise, running a half marathon and biking 2 centuries. Despite all this, I was still overweight, plagued with migraines and felt generally unhealthy.

    I started living according to the Primal Blueprint in January 2013. After 3 months, I get better sleep, lost 15 lbs, have not had a single migraine, and have a furnace of sustained energy in my belly.

    Due dilligence be damned, I’m sticking with what works. I cannot thank Mark Sisson enough for the changes this awesome resource have brought about in my life.

  67. There appears to be a very one sided argument going on here. She can bash grain, sugar, legume free eating all day, but that doesn’t change that I am allergy free in the midst of a Willamette Valley spring for the second consecutive year having previously been ‘allergic to everything.’ Bash away, Zuk. This shit works!

  68. “Anecdotal” or “Scientific”….hmm. Why should I argue about my own results / successes? I don’t. I just look in the mirror, nod my head and smile.

  69. Le sigh. I enjoy reading articles and information about “the other camps”, but it always disappoints me when it’s unfounded and based on half-truths. I will stick this one on the “don’t bother” shelf, and hope that there’s someone out there willing to present an enlightened and sound argument against paleo, just for kicks.

  70. I always enjoy a logical smack down whether direct or praxeological. My favorite book review ever written is by Murray Rothbard, reviewing a two volume, “History of the American Repbulic” by of George Dehousar and Thomas Holbert Stevenson. The review is a 100+ page smack down. A must read for anyone who wants to see how a review is done.

  71. Hey, the way I see it, the best thing we can have are the naysayers. They make us THINK, make us reanalyze, make us confirm what we are doing; even if her arguments are circular and not really arguments at all, Zuk and others like her do serve a purpose: they challenge us to constantly reflect on what we are doing and look for answers and counterarguments, and they stimulate our cognition in a way that fellow PB’ers cannot. Great book review Mark… I think this is one I can skip out on.

  72. This was very timely for me. I read a magazine article on Zuk’s book recently and was wholly uminpressed, except for one of the comments that said Zuk’s area of expertise was studying fossilized insects. Yep. How this makes her an expert on Paleolithic diet escapes me. But what was more timely was the frustration I experianced with family members over the Easter weekend. They can see the results (me, minus 30 pounds and lots more muscle) but would rather slit their own throats than cut back on bread, cake, pastries, gooey cake, you name it. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but I do. One of them is on some new fad diet every six months or so, going as far as taking injections and never loses weight. HELLO!!!! Good to have this family forum to fall back on. 🙂

  73. Wow, I do all of my urban hunting at a 4mph (15min mile) pace. Glad to know when I go distance walking, I don’t have to run !!!

  74. Fantasy? The 80 pounds I have lost simply by changing my diet is no fantasy; No other diet ever came close to this. My blood tests are perfect. I feel better.

    No meds, no surgery.
    So it´s kinda hard to “debunk” it for me, really.

  75. It is easy to criticize something one does not understand. I have not read the book, but it appears from Mark’s comments in this post that Zuk terribly misunderstands the topic of living primally, both in its details and in its broad scope.

    I am a living testament of this idea. I was skeptical of getting rid of grains when my wife tried to get me to take the 21-Day Challenge in the summer of 2012. I reluctantly agreed to do it because she needed the support (she didn’t want to see me eating ice cream while she was eating healthy foods). Now, I tell her all the time that I am so glad she got me to live primally. I have always been “healthy,” but I feel better than I ever have in my life, and after starting to exercise and move primally, I am getting ripped (though it’s difficult to devote the time I want to devote to exercising, etc. as I am in law school, have a 16-month-old, and my wife is in grad school as well).

    But my point is that I was very skeptical at first. And I am one who does not easily change his mind about anything. I am very stubborn and set in my ways. But I had my mind totally blown by PB and MDA. I am a daily visitor to MDA, and I find that I go here for advice for about every facet of my life. Coincidentally, I started wearing glasses a couple years ago, and having them makes my quality of life better, so I would disagree with those who say there is no need for such devices.

    The problem I see for many people is that they have a very black and white mentality. They fail to practice any sort of moderation in their lives. It’s all primal or death; it’s no technology or all the latest technology. These are simple and possibly unrealistic examples, but they emphasize my point: in order to find ways of doing things and ways of living that are effective, one must be adaptable (as Grok most definitely was). One of the things I really appreciate about Mark and his work is that he stresses moderation of thought and of execution (for example, using computers is part of our reality today, but there are ways of using them effectively whilst not doing harm to one’s health).

    I appreciate your input, Mark. Thanks for doing what you do!

  76. I’m not a sceptic. I’ve been ‘primal’ for about 3 weeks now and I’ve lost body fat visibly, have cured my ‘where’s the sweets?’ afternoon hunt and am full of energy. On top of that I’m loving eating more meat and veg and healthy nuts and seeds and im no longer addicted to chronic cardio or hours in the gym.

    Primal – its the future!

  77. My Paleofantasy? To be able to go out to eat in any restaurant & enjoy a healthy meal without having to interrogate the waiter or chef, or be interrogated by my friends about my weird eating habits!

    I hope someday it will become a reality!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      1. Hi Piper,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What am I getting at that relates to this review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  83. Respectfully, I decline to read the book. No sugar, no grains? No eczema, no sinus infections, no crash after eating a bowl of oatmeal or a sandwich. I have the evidence I need to refute her arguments.

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

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

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

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

    1. Yay. Debunking the Paleo Diet by Christina Warriner. A lady telling us mostly what’s correct (and what we know already). She in fact mostly agrees with everything “Primal Blueprint” (but is a clever puss and likes to show us how smart she is).

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

      Don’t trust scientists that don’t do research. 😉

        1. Ha! Many thanks for the link Yf Feller. A good read, appreciated. 🙂

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

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

  90. I haven’t read the book, but the Straw Man argument is used all over the place to “debunk” paleo and other things.

    Here are the steps:

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

    2. Debunk the argument that nobody is making.

    3. Collect royalty checks.

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

  91. Forget Zuk. Who has time? Review some REAL research, such as Food and Western Disease by Staffan Lindeberg (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

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

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

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

    Thanks Mark!

  95. Primal lifestyle is amazing. If only to engage nature and activity more.

  96. If its a Paleofantasy at least it is my Paleofantasy 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

  99. Every argument against paleo that I’ve heard of is weak. *Yawn*, just another “writer” trying to make a name for herself.

  100. There was 199 comments.. Didn’t feel right.. I feel much better now.. Night

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

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

  103. Clearly, this is just a by-the-numbers book greenlighted by industry types who thought it would sell a few copies. Expect more like this as paleo explodes into mainstream consciousness.

    1. +1

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

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

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

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

    1. Totally agree about the TED talk, I watched this in dismay – exactly the same process of setting up erroneous ideas about Paleo/Primal and then ‘disproving’ them.

  105. A vegetarian in our homeschooling group, trolling, sent the link to the article. For anyone interested in seeing it the article is available here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Do I need to go on?

    1. sorry it posted twice. 🙁 the 1st sent in the middle of editing. Sigh.

  106. “She thinks people are rushing headlong into such dangerous lifestyle changes as giving up grains, sugar, and seed oils without doing their due diligence.”

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

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

  107. Is there a way to combine the paleo lifestyle with “The China Study’s” way of eating? Meaning cut way back on animal protein but still stay primal?

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

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

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

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

  110. Dear Mark,

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

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

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

    Thanks for what you’re doing for this community.

  111. It’s like asking a drug addict why?

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

  112. Was going to post a simple comment and ended up writing a blog post of my own. Great rational review of the book and great blog!

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

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

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

  114. Yeah, this lady is way off the mark.

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

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

  115. My main issue with the book is that every time I see the title, that awful Bad Company song starts playing in my head… “It’s all paht… of my Paleo Fantasy… It’s all paht… of my Paleo Dream….”

    Curse you for that, Marlene Zuk!

  116. It seems that Zuk is trying to say, “I know something too, listen to me, please Mommy, listen to me, I am so smart and pretty, too, Mommy.” She sets up strawmen and courageously knocks them down, when the school of thought called paleo have gone way past those ideas. Then she in the end agrees with us.

    But she is doing damage. Many people may think that this here scientist just said that paleo is bunk. Hopefully they will notice that she agreed with the paleo premise all along. I fault TED for putting her on. My respect for TED has dropped quite few notches.

  117. I saw the book a bookshop in Park City as I was over skiing for 10 days from Sydney in Deer Valley. I’ve been following paleo eating for a few years and thought I’d read it to get another point of view.
    After the first chapter I flicked through and couldn’t work out what she was trying to say.
    My bags fairly full so this book will stay behind for someone else to try and work out the point of the book

  118. The book is obviously not worth reading. I’d rather live in a Paleo fantasy than in the gruel reality I lived before, eating grains, growing fatter, sicker, hungrier and more desperate all the time.

  119. Europeans have been smoking tobacco for some 500 years. In the Americas, tobacco has been cultivated for some 3,500 years and smoked probably for far longer. Are we adapted to it? Perfectly? Is it even healthy? Possibly healthier than not smoking?

    The dishonesty of these “assessments” of Paleo has become borderline insane.

    1. nobody needs to think in terms of evolution to show that tobacco is bad for us. just like nobody needs to think about evolution to show sitting around eating heaps of carbs is gonna make you unhealthy. basic stuff, people, no need to get into evolutionary psuedoscience. zuk might not be as concise or satisfying to read as punchy, answer-driven diet books – ones that are written to sell. but she’s a scientist. and so is warriner. listen up folks.

  120. Mark, great, concise paragraph on Chronic Cardio and the Bushmen Studies. More fuel to lay in front of the glucose burning friends who feel exercising their hearts at a faster pace than normal will protect them. Tell that to Jim Fixx or their fat doctor who approved and recommended it. That’s because his son is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee replacement and his brother is in cardio thorasic…baby needs new shoes!

  121. I didn’t want to read the book, expecting it to be full of straw man arguments and similarly weak nonsense, but I got it any way. If you work in the field or if you get asked about this stuff often I think it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the criticisms and claims so you are prepared to respond more helpfully when people ask questions about it.

    I am only about half way through, and my extraocular muscles are getting DOMS from the near constant eye rolling it has caused.

  122. She should have addressed real paleofantasies, such as the notion that our paleolithic ancestors all died out at about 35 years of age, cavemen dragged their women back to the cave by their hair, life was nasty and short and the horizon was always a source of horror, etc.

  123. I read the review of this book, and thanks for the giggles. I will be reading this book, out of curiosity,(and for more giggles) and as soon as the local library gets their newly-ordered copies. Note: it won’t be wasting a single hard-earned cent, to read a library book.

    Second note: I did spend hard-earned money on Loren Cordain’s brilliant book and intend to buy Robb Wolf’s and others when I can.

    The proof of the Paleo lifestyle, as I prefer to call it, is in the results. Skin conditions, my eczema that was chronic, cleared up almost immediately. The backs of my hands especially used to crack and bleed, and irritated my wife so much she said I looked like a monkey, scratching at it. To look at my hands-gone-primal, there is no sign of it. You’d never know I had eczema. I dropped weight and feel better.

    I am prone to seizures, resulting from a long-ago concussion, and I can say happily that seizure activity has been very quiet for weeks or months since I gave up wheat and started giving my body what it really needs.

    Pity the people who will read this book and believe it.

  124. How do we explain the old yogis like BKS Iyengar a vegetarian by ancestry, never did cardio, ate meat, eggs, or organic as certified, practised only yoga all.his life and still going at 93 plus. And just published an awesome book last year…
    And live in a severely polluted part of India?
    How would Paleo define a master like that? A rare evolution of a man?

  125. Ms. Warriner brought up vitamin C but obiously she didn’t do her homework. The Inuit and Eskimo ate very little plant matter, some lemon grass and berries in the summer, no plants in the winter. They got their vitamin C from the blubber of seals and whales, which they ate raw. (That’s right you can’t cook it, because it degrades and destroys the vitamin C.)

    The artic explorer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, live among the Inuits for several years. Ninety percent of their diet was meat and fish yet they were perfectly healthy. When he made these claims publicly he and another artic explorer did a one year experiment eating only meat. At the end of the year they were perfectly healty. Scroll down to “Low-carbohydrate diet of meat and fish.”

    Of course, Mr. Stefansson was only eating pasture-raised, organic beef. This was before pesticides, herbicides and confined feeding operations with corn and soy.

    She also missed the fact that our stomachs produce hydrochloric acid, needed to digest meat proteins.

    1. Okay, I wasn’t quite done and I was going to delete that last sentence. Herbivores also produce acid in their stomachs. But from my research and waht all of you should know, humans are omnivores. We can eat plants and meat.

  126. I wonder who is financing her. Arguments like “more research is needed” remind me of Big Sugar’s guerilla warfare tactics in defending the claim, that sugar is not unhealthy. Just try to spread as much doubt as possible, so that the majority never tries the thing out and never finds the truth. Those of us who know where the truth lies – she can not fool (Wow, that’s Yoda’ish). But the rest of the population is free game. I would not read the book, because to me calling Primal/Paleo/PHD into question is like trying to argue that 2+2 does not equal 4. I write you off as crazy. And everytime I meet a person who is trying to undermine my authority on the subject, I tell them, “OK, let’s take down our T-Shirts and see who will be laughing at the cost of who!” Up untill now, this meant the end of discussion every single time. Because if you want to convince me about something, you’d better have very solid arguments. You must look like what you preach at least to the extent I do. And that is hard to beat 🙂

  127. Last night (before reading this), I just renamed my diet throwing “Paleolithic-influenced” in front of it, as in “Paleolithic-influenced, low-carb, high-fat diet”.

    Hardly a big deal, but it shows how I and I think most of us think about it. We’re not trying to re-enact the Paleolithic era; we’re trying to use certain genetic realities of human beings as shaped through evolution to recreate a more healthy diet and lifestyle, more in tune with how we evolved … while still enjoying most of the benefits of modern technology and society.

    Why so many people find this concept hard to follow is a mystery to me.

    By way of analogy, if I observed that one thing the military does to stay fit is exercise — push-ups, chin-ups, running, etc. — then I can use that observation to inform my activity choices without necessarily invading my neighbour’s patio.

  128. Just a small word quibble, Mark. A “proscription” is something one advises people NOT to do. It’s the opposite of the word you want: “prescription.”

    (That’s all a medical prescription is, for example: something that is recommended for a patient.)

  129. Interview from WPR

    Is it really better to eat and exercise the way our caveman ancestors did? Joy Cardin speaks to an professor of evolution and behavior about the belief that we should live the way our ancestors did, and why she says this belief is a “paleofantasy.” Guest: Marlene Zuk (ZOOK, rhymes with BOOK), author of “Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live.” She’s a professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota. She joins us from St. Paul, MN.

  130. For the cough, fill a tea cup full of hot (but not boiling hot, if boiling let it sit 2 min first) water and add 1/2 tsp honey, a good shake of cayenne pepper, a shake of ginger, and a tsp of apple cider vinegar.

    Take a swig and gargle each time for 20-30 seconds before swallowing. Repeat until all gone. Takes care of a sore throat as well. I drink this exact thing if I’m about to feel sick at all and I don’t get sick.

  131. Stuff like this fires me up… a sense that I am so incredibly grateful someone lived out paleo before me and I finally was willing to be taught. I will never go back. Love clean eating, love REAL food and cooking, love great workouts—love TRUTH. Good stuff. Thanks!

  132. Totally agree with Emily! There are just too many ‘experts’ out there these days coming out with new theories on how we should eat, or why this will work and that won’t work blah blah blah…Unfortunately, for many like us who are ACTUALLY interested to have healthier bodies, mind and greater energy, this can lead us to analysis paralysis. People should just experiment with different lifestyles and stick with one that is actually making them live and feel better.

  133. Great topic. Whenever I am confronted (with anger) by detractors, I have to bite my tongue, because their ignorance is soo very obvious (to me at least- perhaps they don’t look in the mirror)and I refrain from saying (thanks Doc Phil) “So how is it working for YOU??? And it is obviously not because they are fat sorry obese – sometimes morbidly obese.
    And me – I am admittedly about 8 Kilograms over what I should be – my goal as advised by my heart surgeon. AND I am still working on it – gradually but slowly I am reducing my excess baggage(because of heart condition) and have removed 25 kilograms over about 18 months since my heart operation- so I smile and just look at them (okay I pointedly survey their ample proportions – well I am not a saint).
    PALEO makes sense to me (and my body – I am not increasing my mass at 70 yrs old). I am fairly active and exercise daily with an ever increasing goal to lift more weight and do more intensity training. Slowly does it. Sadly.
    Last week I read an “international authority on celiac disease” burble on about
    the “dangers of cutting a whole range of foods out of a diet” LIMITING the variety of foods (and nutrients) available for consumption.
    HA! And she said that when “the people cut grains/carbs and dairy from their diet they put on the pounds. Crikey has she had a look at all the people who do eat that stuff and see how they are (fat, obese and morbidly obese – here in Bundaberg Qld Australia (the fatest town in Australia).
    And since I have totally wiped grains and dairy from my eating plan (it’s here to stay) I have discovered a HUGE RANGE OF VARIETY IN FOOD STUFFS all healthy, all unprocessed and delicious.
    So far I have refrained of answering that article, I am just astounded that a PROFESSIONAL medico should say such ignorant things. But then I do not hold with dietitians (all the ones I have met have no idea of nutrition – most of them are overweight and pudgy looking themselves or are so scrawny ).
    The general population is struggling with all these opposing comments and sadly are not able (through lack of education perhaps) to understand and research this topic. They blindly believe everything they are told by the health professionals (who are often severely overweight themselves – not a good look – and does not promote confidence in their knowledge of nutrition).
    SO THANK YOU MARK for your very informative website – and your PALEO eating plan. It is working great.
    I am getting fitter and healthier as I am going along the Paleo way.
    Thank you, Cheers Peggy

  134. I lost 100 pounds and dropped a bunch of meds (put my fibro into remission) by going what I call modified paleo. I eat what works for my body, I now listen to it instead of my doctor. Much better results I must say. No gluten (some oats and rice otherwise grain free), no corn, no soy and no dairy. I have also found that foods packaged in BPA make me ill as well. I eat way more veggies especially greens now than I ever did, and with no dairy I have to get creative with my cooking instead of just dumping cheese all over it. Raw nuts and grass fed meats are high components of my diet now as well.

  135. I have not read the book but watched her lecture on the subject. Every piece of evidence she presented on genetic adaptation is correct scientically but flawed when interpreted as fast adaptations in us as a species. These are adaptations of restricted populations to local factors. A population evolved to digest lactose may develop celiac disease by consuming gluten etc.

  136. Acceptance of evolution provides “instant equality” for all humans since whether or not they survive, how well, or how poorly, must then be embedded within how any peoples throughout history have managed their cultural, social, and economic hierarchies, and the “power-forces” driving those “traditions.”

    Failure to accept evolution is the Devine right of Kings, the Devine right of the Pope, or to somehow adjudge that Darwin’s method of the fittest determines survival for humans much as it does for animals – through violence.

    Once the concept of Imperialism and Empire, or religious dictate is debunked as stacked, moulded, and padded prerogative, mIntIned by artifice, and artificial construction, it is possible to view the world as the fragile planet it is, subject to the justification of its global bullies as fantasy to attempt some form of global dominance over resources. Can humans live with reality as it is, or must it be spoonfed fantasy that drives his opinions?

  137. If your diet and exercise plan makes you lose weight and feel better about yourself, then that should be reason enough to continue it. Yes, exercising regularly and eating a diet that is high in fiber and protein will help you lose weight. Losing weight and exercising regularly does indeed lessen the risk for heart disease and diabetes. But the claim that the primal diets are better than every other diet because they’re based on evolutionary science is dubious and what’s even more dubious is the claim that it will cure everything from autism to autoimmune disorders.

    So maybe you went on the paleodiet and your eczema went into remission. That, in and of itself, doesn’t prove that the grains were the cause of your eczema. Autoimmune disorders often do go into spontaneous remission and it’s hard to pinpoint what the cause of any remission is unless it’s specifically being controlled. What’s more, the elephant in the room that a lot of people are ignoring is that the most chronic diseases (like cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer’s) are all associated with aging. From a strict, evolutionary standpoint, such diseases post little to no threat to a species because they don’t interfere with reproduction.

  138. All Paleolithic diet writers are also motivated by money, including Mark. So, too, all diet writers whatever the diet they’re trying to push might be.

    If they weren’t, and they just wanted to make everyone skinny and healthy, they wouldn’t be charging money for their books, vacations, vitamins, and clothing – they’d be giving them away for free.

  139. Great information. Lucky me I came across your site by chance (stumbleupon).

    I’ve book marked it for later!

  140. You know you’re on to TRUTH when the attacks come out. A full book to attempt to simplify, dumb-down, and ‘debunk’ eating real food and moving like the animals that we are? Congratulations, you’ve help start a powerful revolution, Mark! The genie’s out and cannot be put back in the bottle.

    By the way, this reminds me of a powerful video I saw re: “brand development” by the Crossfit founder. (I’m not a Crossfitter, but appreciate their eat-real-food-and-move-your-body fundamental message… )

    I love his “marketing” versus “branding” discussion as it pertains to attacks that Crossfit is a ‘cult’.) What is the *belief set* underneath the ‘cult’ vs. ‘anti-cult’ groups?

  141. Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Thank you
    for providing these details.

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  143. Marlene’s book was excellent. She is a professor of evolutionary biology! She was making the point the human body has moved on from paleolithic times and so there is no point in tying yourselves up in knots about what paleo people did/did not do and avoid perfectly healthy foods, such as whole grains on the basis of a list of supposed things paleolithic people ate.

    Funny you lot often say she just wanted to sell books! Do you think she’ll make as much money as Mark??????

  144. I agree Christine – she’s also saying that the fossil records show that Paleolithic man ate grains. She also doesnt say that the Paleolithic diet is bad per se (although she does think it’s limits what one can eat unnecessarily) but just that the data doesn’t prove that what you lot eat and the way you exercise mimics Peleolithic man’s behaviour

  145. “Either way, I’m not very convinced by her “list” of rapid evolutionary changes, especially considering most of them have little to do with the mismatches we discuss in this community and none of them are even present in a majority of humans”
    – You simply lack the knowledge about evolution. Evolutionary changes (esp rapid ones) do not have to be widespread? This book was intended to educate ignorant followers of this illogical lifestyle. Guess it didn’t do its job. She is a biologist, having done extensive research. And your qualifications are…?