Weekend Link Love – Edition 200

For this 200th(!) edition of Weekend Link Love I thought I’d try a slightly new format. Instead of a hodgepodge collection of links to start the blog post I’m going to break the links out into sections. Don’t worry. I’ll still be linking to and providing commentary on anything and everything I find interesting, but now you’ll know that THE latest, most important and intriguing research that was released in the last week, and THE blog posts everyone is talking about can be found here. It’s your one stop shop for catching up on what’s going on in the world of ancestral health and fitness published every Sunday. Let me know in the comment board if you prefer this little format change. Thanks, everyone!

Research of the Week

Persistence-hunting, water-carrying, tree-climbing hunter-gatherers don’t actually expend more energy than lazy soda-guzzling Westerners, a new study has found, dispelling the popular notion that losing weight is all about burning calories. (Perhaps it’s the soda?)

Dying potato chips red caused test subjects to eat 50% fewer of them.

Average daily hours of television viewed, separated by country. I could excuse the US’ poor showing if it reflected Louie, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones marathoning, but I doubt that’s the case.

Interesting Blog Posts

One paleo blogger’s successful battle against high cholesterol (and she managed to avoid statins!).

Human ancestors were nearly all vegetarian, a Scientific American blogger says. What do you say? A $50 gift certificate to PrimalBlueprint.com to the commenter with the best response! (As judged by me and the Worker Bees. This contest ends midnight PDT, July 31.)

Media, Shmedia

Bryan (future Primal doctor) and Tracy (former math teacher, newly-minted MovNat trainer) Barksdale were recently featured in The Daily News out of Galveston, Texas, where they’ve been spreading the ancestral love.

This article on “the caveman diet” in The Vancouver Sun is less impressive, but fairly even-handed. I only counted a couple references to eating grubs, bugs, and rodents. And they didn’t even mention loincloths once.

Everything Else

I’ve talked about wheat germ agglutinin before, but this article really lays into the pernicious wheat lectin. Also: “Pandora’s bread box” is coined, which I think is just fantastic.

Thank heavens the Canadian authorities are finally cracking down on illegal frontyard gardens. Think of the children!

Recipe Corner

  • Richard Nikoley’s Fat Bread – it’s not quite like the real thing, but it’s not trying to be.
  • Get some beef, some okra, a crock pot? Baby, you got yourself an okra beef stew!

Time Capsule

One year ago (July 29 – August 4)

Comment of the Week

I love that research medicine is validating and reinforcing my love for Calvinball.

– Amen, T.D. Next, I hope they confirm the existence of sentient stuffed tigers.

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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113 thoughts on “Weekend Link Love – Edition 200”

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  1. You’ve appealed to my anally retentive side with the partitioned info, and my childish humor with ‘Media Schmedia’. Bravo!

  2. Praising Louie, GoT, Breaking Bad AND making an Arrested Development reference in one article? Just perfect.

  3. The article fails in many more ways than this but really all that is needed in response is to say that it’s the paleolithic diet, not the proto-human diet. The ancestors and cousins of our species are hardly the best indicators of what our own species is like.

    1. This is essentially what I was going to say. We should be looking at what our diets were when we stopped evolving, not when we were still in the process. It is also completely unfair to compare humans and monkeys. Sure we are genetically similar, but we have different evolutionary paths. We are also genetically similar to rats, but I certainly don’t want to eat a rat diet!

      1. Yes. As Professor Steve Jones once pointed out we share 50% of our genetic material with a banana.

        Genetic, in a sense, is old hat now, anyway:


        The point, as everyone posting here has pointed out, is pretty obvious. It’s irrelevant what non-human creatures live on and it doesn’t become magically relevant somehow just because those creatures are in our family tree.

        The argument is so easy not just to question but actually to refute that one wonders why the article’s author bothered with it.

        1. Seems to me that when evolutionary pressures such as availability of food, shelter and presence of predators are removed, true evolution is no longer possible. What we see now is more like random genetic mutations, some of which stick. I believe true human physical evolution hasn’t taken place in millenia…

      2. But rat meat is supposed to be high in testosterone, and we know testosterone builds lean muscle mass. 😉

        I got a kick out of durianRider. He censored me just last night on his inflamatory blog about Robb Wolf. I just posted what he censored over on Scientific American so his followers can read what my experiences eating vegan for several years VS primal, like I am now.

        Mark has never censored my posts on the rare occasions I’ve disagreed with him.

        Well, that worked up my appetite! Time for sliced steak on organic mixed greens topped with my balsamic vinegar and organic olive oil dressing.

        Grok on!

    2. just watched a great YT presentation by Lloyd Pye – (of starchild skull fame) and he is presenting excellent discussions that the “missing link” from neanderthal to modern human cannot possiby be just one waiting-to-be-found skeleton – but would have to be 10 to 15 missing links to actually prove darwin’s evolution is functioning as claimed. we are just too damn different in so many physiological ways than these so-called ancestor primates –

      i think our “creation” story is waaaay different than we are told or have yet imagined – but for me, however we came to be genetically what we are, we most certainly lived as hunter-gatherers for thousands of generations and were thereby “selected” for the primal diet needed to survive. so, bring on the bacon….

  4. Thanks so much for the love, Mark. I am soooo excited about the cholesterol story. Despite skyrocketing cholesterol numbers and their mantra that I should take statins for the rest of my life I was able to prove that they weren’t necessary.

  5. Another study showed people at 40% less when eating on a red plate. But calories aren’t really the problem, right?

  6. Quote from teh Hazda article “. In fact, the Hadza spend a greater percentage of their daily energy budget on physical activity than Westerners do, which may contribute to the health and vitality evident among older Hadza.”
    So how do the americans match the energy expenditure of the Hazda to make up the deficit in physical activity? Chewing? Pressing the buttons on the remote?
    The article doesn’t cover that off so leaves a lot out.

    1. i had the same question. do the hazda burn fewer calories when at rest?

    2. those who regularly run, jump and climb will become much more efficient at running, jumping and climbing.

      plus, plus-sized americans will burn a couple hundred more calories at rest simply by being heavier.

      but still, that shouldn’t be enough difference to explain away hours of daily activity.

  7. Question about the CT Heart Scan after reading the 1st link under ‘Interesting blog posts’:

    Does anyone know how expensive this scan is? If it’s a better indication of disease than a full panel of lipid tests, why don’t we just skip the lipid panel and have CT scans instead? I assume the price would come down if it became standard procedure.

    1. Mine was $100 out-of-pocket. Yes, that’s right, hospitals do it as a ‘loss leader’. Imagine a population where that would be profitable? A score of 200 warrents a lifestyle change, a 2,000 would indicate bypass surgery.

      My Doc got a zero; I got a one. I always like to win, but I’m pleased with my second place!

  8. In response to what did early humans eat..
    I also wondered how ofter early humans ate meat as well but then I came up with a few theories. There where billions more animals to eat and kill in those days…think of the buffalo and the dodo bird, easy to kill, easy to catch(with tools), which brings me to my next point, monkeys and apes if they wanted to eat meat more often they would have to start to make tools, and weapons because they aren’t really equipped to hunt other animals as we once were with just there physical abilities. Small things like rodents, bugs, and birds but nothing large enough for the males of the family to bring back for the rest. Meat is the first choice of humans still living a real primal lifestyle if you can’t get meat you eat vegetables and if you’re really struggling you plant wheat and get fat until you have a successful kill, that’s why our bodies don’t store fat when eating just meat, we have no reason to we are we are neither stressed or starving, we are at the top of the food chain, with low body fat and a high meat diet our sex hormones increase because its time to reproduce because times are good, because we are getting what our bodies need.

    1. love this. I am always confused when “militant vegans” suggest we are being morally corrupt by claiming to be the “top of the food chain.”

      Also, my kids BBC Planet Earth DVD series shows a group of chimps eating the young of a rival group. Not to say this is frequent, but eating animal flesh is eating animal flesh.

      1. A buffalo jump is a cliff formation which North American Indians historically used in order to hunt and kill plains bison in mass quantities.

        Traditional Native American hunters weren’t rugged individualist (neither were the paleolithic hunter/gatherers, I suspect). They were rugged collectivists.

        1. excellent observation – rugged individualism in our distant past was more often rewarded with a quick death than healthy happy survival. we are addicted to this illusion of individualism and tend to interpret the world and all ancient worlds through this inaccurate filter – we are, by natural selection, collective creatures – and we have forgotten this-

  9. In response to the vegetarian thing: No, ancestors of humans were nearly all vegetarian. Human ancestors developed a case of bakonbraenitis, which increases the size of your brain but requires large quantities of meat to keep the disease from becoming terminal.

  10. I think it’s entirely reasonable to expect or even assume that some early humans were forced into vegetarian – or even vegan – diets, albeit for short periods. Just as there were some civilizations (the Inuit, for example) who lived entirely off animals and their fat, there were likely those humans who in their travels and migrations found little or no animal life and ate only vegetables.

    But this in no way, to me, destroys the premise of the Primal Blueprint. Oh, wait, did I just quote the 89/20 rule?! If you’re a fit Grok traversing the land and find nary a rodent, bison, etc. to devour, you’ll probably make it on nuts and vegetables for a few weeks or even months. Truth be told, I actually can’t digest meat very well, so I don’t eat it, but I’ve managed to build an otherwise primal eating plan around it. Where I have eggs, I imagine this unintentionally meatless Grok probably had insects, which is of course the basis of vegetarians being able to sustain high B12 levels historically (err, now…not so much).

    What I think is very unlikely is Grok choosing to eschew meat. I imagine it would be easier for me in the wild to kill a bison than to pick as many nuts as it requires for me to stay a veggie.

  11. I love that cholesterol story. My levels had always been high… when i went in for my annual check the doctor nearly fell off his chair due to the improvement…

    the one change= primal

    @DanielBl- nice theories

  12. “Were.” Human ancestors WERE vegetarian. Then we grew a bit and learned better 😉

  13. The fellow who wrote the Scientific American article thinks we should eat the diet that resulted in monkeys rather than the one that resulted in big brains.

  14. More work needs to be done with that study about the red potato chips. If I encountered a red potato chip, I would probably stop eating them too. However, I think it might have more to do with encountering something unexpected rather than my subconscious reading a stop sign. They should try the experiment with other colors. Also, they should try the experiment where all of the chips are an unexpected color. Would I eat an entire container of red chips vs. an entire container of blue chips? How about mixed chips?

  15. One thing that I haven’t seen as a response to the article is that while our ancestors may have been primarily vegetarian, it was the switch to eating cooked vegetables and the addition of meat to our diets that allowed humans to evolve as they did. The additional protein and calories, and the lowered digestive requirements meant that our brains could grow bigger (along with the needed brain capacity to stalk and capture the meat) means smarter humans and babies, which grow into smarter adults.

  16. Okay, even if we were herbivores or frugivores at one time, how could of we tamed fire of made tools doing that? I bet our ancestors were very curious, probably a Smilidon kill was pretty close to their home. So don’t you think that they would of atleast tasted the meat and thought that they could get more energy and think a little better? I don’t mind if we were herbivores at one point(Considering most other apes are herbivores) but I’d rather be a smart, bipedial omnivorous ape then an average, tree-dwelling herbivore.

    1. And just one more thing to point out. Look at Chimpanzee’s, our closest cousin, they are so close to becoming as smart as us; they use tools, have social skills everything that defines us but a few things. They don’t walk upright, they don’t eat as much meat as us, and they can’t communicate with an actual language. All key components we developed after eating meat and taming fire(Oh, that’s another thing!) I think depending on where you or your ancestors come from that’s what you should base your diets off of. Now I’m not saying that you should eat bread because of that, but research the indigenous groups around that area, say the Sami people of Scandanavia(My primary diet, with exception of reindeer) and just learn what they eat. Not everyone is the same so follow your own path and don’t listen to everyone you meet.

    2. If something else had made the kill there may have been little or no meat left. However, what they could do was crack the long-bones to get at the marrow, which is very nutritious.

      There’s a woolly mammoth carcase that bears marks suggesting that lions killed it but that humans took the kill off the lions at an early stage:


      I’ve seen footage of Maasai deliberately hunting in this way — using lions to catch game for them. They keep an eye on the lions and when they kill, drive them off the kill. It’s obviously a dangerous hunting technique that takes a lot of guts, but in face of a group of humans armed with spears it seems lions will back down.

      1. The excellent documentary, In Search of the Perfect Human Diet, covers this issue of humans scavenging the kill of other animals quite well.

        One of the excellent points that it makes is that other, stronger hunting animals like lions were not, in fact, able to bite through the skulls of their prey, and so, left that choice food — brain — behind.

        Humans, on the other hand, with their tool-making ability were able to come up with tools in order to break through the skulls of the left-behind carcasses of the prey and eat the choice brain portion.

        Thinking back to my early life, having had parents from the backwoods of N. Carolina, I recall eating brains and eggs for breakfast sometimes. I think they were pork brains and came in a can way back then.

  17. Psst, Mark, I’m sure the pun was unintended when you talked of “dying” potato chips. Though eating enough of them might make you *die*, the word is “dyeing”.

    Congrats on the 200th WLL!

  18. FAT Bread (link): Maybe I missed something; however, I could not see where / how to make the coconut butter in the fat bread recipe?

    1. John, the coconut butter you can buy. Artisana makes a product (called coconut butter), as does Nutiva (called coconut manna). You can also use shredded coconut meat, (just introduce it in the beginning and let the eggs do the work, as for the macadamias). However, the desiccation process for shredded coconut meat sweats out a lot of the fat. To equalize with coconut butter, it takes about 8.5 level tablespoons of coconut oil. This is why in my nutritional analysis where I used shredded coconut as surrogate for coconut butter was off (see the update at the end of the post). When I adjust for the more fat in coconut butter, the macro ratio changes to 88% fat instead of 80%, but the micros don’t change much. Still [more] fatty, just as nutritious.

  19. “IF we want to return to our ancestral diets, the ones we ate when most of the features of our guts were evolving, we might reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts. If that is the case, we need to be eating fruits, nuts, and vegetables—especially fungus-covered tropical leaves.”

    No…we want to be eating the diet that enabled humans to evolve large brains, discover fire, and invent the wheel (along with art, music, language, and stories). Therefore, an argument based off any of our ancestors before Homo sapiens is a deliberate misdirection. Additionally, it’s not just about the evolution of the gut in our primate ancestors, but more importantly, the gene regulation that diets influence (and all the new discoveries about our gut microbiota).

    We need to see an article titled “Humans Were Nearly All _____________,” not “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All…” well, anything.

    The author alluded to this idea in the article and mentioned that further study could convince him. So why this article that doesn’t address the actual question at hand?

  20. I’ll give you several comments: If our ancestors were vegetarian then why are we even here now? How many vegans & vegetarians survived the Ice Ages? NONE.

    That’s why all the ancient cave paintings by early man are of bison and the other ANIMALS they revered, respected and subsisted on for food, clothing, tools & implements. Ever notice you don’t ever see or find cave paintings of broccoli carrots & potatoes? Hmmm, why do you suppose that is?? Next chance you get try making a pair of moccasins out of potato skins, see how that works for you.

    Dumbasses. People like that writer with such meager brain power must be vegetarian themselves and are proof that ‘education’ does not equal intelligence nor does it confer common sense.

    1. There’s really no need to hate on vegetarians. Some of us are quite bright. I think humans have always, rightfully so, respected the animals they’ve eaten more than the vegetables or the fruit. The only culture that respects some vegetables and fruits the way others respect animals is Jadists. Even omnivores who eat large quantities of meat, I think, at least realize the intense efforts and energy given to the task of raising healthy, nutritious animals. I believe Grok, with necessary hunting and sprinting, etc., to get his food, would have realized that animals for food are much more dear (or deer…haha) than are veggies or fruits simly because they’re that much less reliable. Animals can run away; there’s no hope for the zucchini.

      1. Which is why the plant oftentimes tries to poison you. The animal generally stops trying to kill you when the butchering starts.

  21. Not sure that Rob Dunn (or Scientific American) read his own article.

    Complete title fail.

  22. Thanks for including my Okra Beef Stew recipe in your roundup 🙂 I love what you are putting out there into the world and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

  23. Grok the vegetarian. He dug up giant carrots on his hunting trips and rode a T-rex to church every Sunday to partake of wheat, the staff of life. 🙄

    1. Grok wouldn’t get near the giant carrots as they were the T-Rex’s main food. When they weren’t munching on carrots they were playfully cavorting with the unicorns in fields of daisies.

      Honest, a vegan told me so it must be true!

  24. Re; vegetarian ancestors.

    Dear America,
    Catch up with science.

    – Whilst this stunning ‘look at the gut and try to hold it up against other animal guts to see which fits best’ approach just screams good science, the authors may wish to look into genes. I hear the human genome was cracked a while ago now…
    – And if you do look into it, you will find any number of genes and variations associated with meat eating. You will also find certain populations die living of plants; has anyone told the Evenks to just go veggie in the Siberian winters? (Indeed their legendary intolerance to grain alcohol comes from their having adapted so well to meat and fat that they can’t even digest carbohydrates in that quantity well any more).

  25. Not to divert from the contest, but I live in an area that allows front yard gardens to encompass whole front yards and I will testify to the fact that few look as beautiful or are as well maintained as the one featured in the article. Generally I would like to see HOAs taking the brunt of the responsibility, but in their absence 30% seems like a reasonable amount.

  26. For the vegetarian theory:
    In my culture there is one classic saying: “The pig is the best vegetable!” 😉

  27. Wheat lectins…
    consider also oleosins. These are the fat-binding proteins in seed and grain fat droplets. Sesame oleosins are a trigger for sesame allergy.
    The toxic core protein of Hep C Virus has a similar protein sequence to oleosins.

  28. “Human ancestors were nearly all vegetarian, a Scientific American blogger says.”

    Natural selection is cruel sieve, and those species that can’t adapt become extinct. That our distant vegetarian relatives are now all extinct is the pure and simple proof: Vegetarianism doesn’t work as a survival strategy for hominids.

    They’re all dead. And we omnivores are not. There is no other necessary factor to consider in an evidence-based discussion of evolution.

  29. I love the new layout, Mark! When my Sundays are lazy enough that I can settle in with your news of the week it will be much easier for me to prioritize which to read first 😉

    I do love reading all the comments for the comeback contests, too!

    Grok on!

  30. I’m all for being allowed to grow a garden in your front yard but…I wonder what type of lovely toxins those veggies absorb being right next to what looks like a normal usage road.

  31. I am so glad this human diet article came up this week. It’s so funny because a vegetarian friend of mine just posted this to my Facebook wall a few days ago and here is the response I gave to her:

    The title is a little misleading because, as the author admits, he is not even concluding that our human ancestors were vegetarians but instead that they ate a greater proportion of vegetables. A fact that I would not disagree with from a “paleo-minded” standpoint. In fact, this author’s idea that a “paleo diet” should be rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables is right on target with a paleo diet. Though obviously the difference lies in his position on meat eating. He makes an interesting argument but one that is not very well supported. The first research he sites does not actually support his argument that our ancestors ate primarily vegetable matter but instead suggests simply that their diet “included plants.” Another point I would have to agree with. In my mind everyone’s diet should include plants.
    He goes on to argue that we can get a good idea of our ancestral diet from observing the diets of certain monkeys. That is not going to give a very accurate picture. What the author fails to recognize is the fact that while we are closely related to chimps, when we split in the evolutionary line we evolved to be better suited to eating meat and the chimps to be better suited to plant matter. So we both include animal and plant matter in our diets, just in different ratios. This difference is observable in differences in our teeth and in our digestive systems. (And the fact that he brushes aside the fact that humans have less large intestine in relation to small intestine [a point that would suggest a diet of less plant and more animal matter] saying it doesn’t prove that we didn’t eat less plant matter but just that “we are more likely to fart” makes me question how much he actually knows about the human body to begin with. [Farting is a sign that the body is having difficulty breaking down food. So he is essentially saying we are designed to have difficulty digesting our foods.])
    Near the end of the article, the author suggests different people being better suited to eat different foods. This is another point that I agree with and think it is a good message for his article and that he should make that his main point and encourage experimenting with your diet to find what works best for you and educating oneself in how foods really work with the human body.

    1. I like your thoughtful and respectful response. I gathered the same ideas from the article, and feel the title really misleads. You break the points down nicely without calling the author an idiot (which he clearly is not).

  32. Repsonse to article

    Things which I found rather odd were that there was not mention about the increase of brain size which correlates with the decrease in gut size. Something had to occur to allow the transition of biomass from one region to the next. That had to be Fat, animal fat specifically. Another thing was he mentions amylase in the article and immediately attributes amylase increases due to agriculture, however, I amylase was something which most likely come about as a result of starchy tubers which were scavenged, not because of agricultural development.

  33. I can’t improve on the many good rebuttals to “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians” but will nonetheless add my own comments.

    1) He cherry-picks his timeline: that of chimp-like semi-vegetarian apes; he mentions the insectivorous ancestor of primates, but then proceeds to ignore that much-longer period.
    And what is more relevant, the tree-dwelling common ancestor of 7 million years ago, or the latest 3-4 million years when the major adaptations of walking upright, killing large mammals, fire, and other selective omnivorous activities took place? The 5% genome change from chimps is immense, and could easily encompass the change from a near-vegetarian to a more complete omnivore.

    2) The proper proxies for a paleo diet are not chimps, but rather existing hunter-gatherer populations, both extant and historic, representing the tendencies over the last few million years. Medical studies support this view, considering the absence of the severest modern diseases from H-G lives, and the health problems of vegans.

    3) He compares colobus monkey guts to those of cows? That’s just flat-out wrong.

    4) So, we ‘DID’ [sic] adapt to agriculture? The medical and anthropological evidence suggests otherwise, that we are far more adapted to a meat-and-veggie diet, than to an grain & legume diet that is short on meat and fat.

  34. The thing about arguments for our ancestors eating a “mainly vegetarian diet” is that the wording is what gets people. Vegetarian can mean many things: Someone who eats lots of vegetables, or someone who eats no meat. Honestly, yes, our ancestors ate a lot of “vegetarian” things, but those included vegetables, fruits, nuts // seeds. They ALSO hunted for and ate meat // fish // game. So a “mostly vegetarian diet” can mean many things, but the truth is, is that it makes people think that most of our ancestors didn’t eat any flesh. No. Eggs, meat // game // seafood were all essential staples in diets worldwide ever since the dawn of time. It’s all about what was accessible and what was not.

    1. You really got to the heart if it. “Mostly vegetarian with a little meat” is what vegan bloggers use all the time to try to disprove paleo- funny since that description is far closer to the way of paleo than the way of veganism.

  35. Humans = Hunt animals…Make beer…talk to Aliens…

  36. My diet is mainly vegetarians. Omnivores are good, too, but I draw the line at carnivores.

  37. *The Paleo
    The end of the article should read
    “Sometimes what happens in -the- paleo should really stay in -the- paleo.”
    That’s my only rebuttal, the author repeatedly refutes his own claims and it’s generally wise not to argue with someone when they’re arguing with themselves.

  38. Mark & Co.

    Thanks for the Fat Bread mention. I have hated every paleo bread recipe I every tasted, since this. Plus, I ws very concerned about the n-6 and phytic acid content of most nut meals. By using macadamias and coconut in butter form, all that is a non issue, the bread is about 88% fat from macadamia (monounsaturated), coconut (saturated) and eggs. And a 1/8″ slice actually holds together like bread. No need to mayo, either. The fat’s in the bread.

  39. In response to the article..
    I cannot find the article I am going to reference but don’t primates have different digestive systems to break down vegetables and fruits than humans? I could be making this up but I remember reading somewhere about it. Vegetarians are usually just misguided when it comes to eating meat. He makes valid points which are noticed but hes missing many as well. Humans can digest meat very well (although there are exceptions) and there is a reason we have incisors in our mouths. They are not there so we can rip apart carrots and celery. They are for tearing meats and connective tissue down (along with saliva etc). I do like how he displayed how different species and humans from around have varying degrees of gut bacteria. Probably why some people can eat tons of meat and some people just cant.

  40. About the Scientific American article; Having listened to Barry Groves’ presentation from the Real Food Summit a week or so ago, I felt very slighted by the lack of concrete, factual details on the comparison between our guts and that of other primates. Of course, I don’t remember everything from his presentation exactly, but he was arguing that having a high-fat diet is truly the healthiest for us. Apparently, other primates have a much larger cecum than us, and that is where fermentation of indigestible carbs (like cellulose) takes place. Bacteria there ferment these carbs into short chain fatty acids, which are then absorbed by the animal, making their diets much higher in fat than it would appear judging by what they put into their mouths.

    I think he mentioned in passing the relationship between gut and brain size; that is a huge factor, and really deserved more research. Having less gut means we NEED more meat and fat than other primates in order to derive the same amount of nutrition from our diets, and having a much larger brain than would be expected based on our size, we need even MORE. I really wish I had taken notes on that presentation during the free viewing, although it’s almost worth buying the whole Summit just to listen to it again!

    1. You summarized it really well, actually!

      I have the presentation, and it is just as you say: Groves was able to describe very nicely how ultimately all animals have in common a high proportion of fatty acids absorption via the gut.

      The food going in might not be high in fatty acids per a given volume, but it is in how the animal ferments/breaks down the food that the proportion is reached before absorption.

  41. The problem with his argument is that paleo/primal is not about vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian. Paleo/primal is about the paleolithic vs the neolithic. He says paleolithic like it just means ‘old,’ but really the bulk of our human biology, and what separates us from our more-vegetarian cousins happened during the paleolithic! Tool use, cooking, and an eventual rise to become the greatest hunters the world has ever seen all happened during the paleolithic (except maybe those “velociraptors” in jurassic park).

    There’s no argument that our ancestors ate more plant matter than us. It’s completely irrelevant. Paleo dieters eat more animal products because we eschew the products of agriculture, not because we eschew plants. We necessarily have to choose more animal foods because human beings not eating the products of agriculture cannot digest leaves like chimps and gorillas, and we’re not going to adopt things like copraphagia to try extra hard to. We are not our ancestors! We’re omnivorous homo sapiens sapiens. End of story.

  42. With regard to the Human Ancestors post, maybe its our fault for not explaining it properly, but it seems like most people take a look at Paleo or Primal diets and think that it is 70% meat and then 30% of a gray zone of foods that is possibly berries or nuts, but probably just more meat. When I make a meal, the center piece is naturally meat, but its maybe 20-35% of my actual meal. The rest is vegetables, fruits and some type of fat like avocado or coconut. You can’t really judge something if you don’t understand its defining feature. That’s like pointing out that the vegetarian diet is bad for you because eating large quantities of tofu is linked to high estrogen levels. Vegetarians don’t eat tofu exclusively, and Paleo and Primal diet advocates don’t eat meat exclusively. I gave up on arguing with vegetarians a while ago though, so now I just stare at them with my best crazy eyes and slight grin and repeat “You know, they say bacon is a gateway meat. You should try some.” over and over again.

    1. Good point. And I think a lot of the media is fixated on that guy in Manhattan who lives on just raw meat. So, in some cases they’re just having fun shooting at a straw man, but I think they sorta believe it. Some of the paleo crowd IS over the top, and sometimes the exhibitionists and publicity grabbers start to be perceived as the norm; they’re easy headline fodder. That why it’s always good for people like Mark to clarify things when they are guests on TV shows. It was disappointing when Gary Taubes let Dr. Oz ride over him roughshod during that one episode.

  43. What’s important to remember when comparing our diets with our earliest ancestors, is that as the brain became larger in its progression from monkey to our current form our brain required more and more calories to function properly hence the need for alternative food sources such as meat.

  44. As a resident of Quebec it warms my heart to see my people building such a beautiful garden, and im horrified that my government actually passed a law saying how big a garden youre allowed to make, its absoultely ridiculous and further proof that my government needs to be torn down *sigh*

    1. Although the bylaw limiting front yard gardens to 30% of the area is bad, what’s far worse is the mention that they’re working to completely outlaw any front yard gardens.

  45. Love the new format!

    a cup of whole mac nuts + a cup of coconut butter makes the “fat bread” recipe kinda pricey! I don’t miss bread that much!

  46. The gist of the article is “monkeys don’t each much meat, and we have digestive tracts very similar to monkeys.”. All well good and true. Here’s where his argument falls apart. Digestion is not metabolism. Considering that since the homo sapiens line split from the monkeys we’ve changed and separated ourselves from them in all sorts of way (not the least of which is an advanced brain). The idea that we may have evolved a separate metabolism that receives nutrients via a similar digestive tract, but uses the nutrients in different way is not too far fetched.

    Evidence for this is as plain as the geographic distribution of primates vs. the various stripes of early-man. Monkeys never (not now, not in the fossil record) get very far away from the equatorial temperate zones where there are year round growing seasons. Early-man has a long fossil history in climates that are distinctly seasonal. There is plenty of evolutionary-scale time and selective pressure to separate man from the monkey line in terms of the ability to thrive on a distinctly seasonal diet where meat would be the most available source of food in winter and spring.

    If our metabolism were as the author describes, we would not have been able to inhabit and thrive in as many different climates as we have.

  47. Human ancestors were nearly all vegetarian – So the study referenced is telling me that Neanderthals that don’t eat meat, and are subsisting on the paleolithic version of twinkies get sick and die? but your take on that gets you to Humans are mean’t to live vegetarian…right… well, I’m Human and I’m sticking with the steak and non starchy veggies.

  48. My thoughts about, “Human ancestors were nearly all vegetarian”:
    Firstly, I can recommend the fascinating book the author of this blog post, Rob Dunn, wrote called: The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today. It discusses the effect of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still will always cling to us. In his “Human ancestors were nearly all vegetarian” post I think he is simply highlighting the fact that humans have evolved to be able to eat a wide variety of foods and the primate diet is generally plant based. He doesn’t denounce eating meat he just questions those who suggest that the paleo diet is all about eating meat. He’s also enquiring why the paleo diet seems to focus on a specific point in time. Saying this, there are number of points which need to be highlighted:

    1. “A paleo diet is an arbitrary thing. Which paleo diet should we eat? The one from twelve thousand years ago? A hundred thousand years ago? Forty million years ago?” Forty million years: I’m not sure where this figure came from? As I understand it the paleo diet applies to the middle (300,000 years ago) and upper (50,000 years ago) Palaeolithic eras.

    2. We diverged from primates around 2.3 million years ago. So can we really be evaluated by what primates do in 2012?

    3. He also uses some logical fallacies: begging the question later in the post which is a statement that refers to its own assertion to prove the assertion. He then argues uses an irrelevant “stawman” by arguing whether we can digest nuts and seeds: we can.

    Rob is overlooking the connection between the evolution of the evolution of the metabolically costly human brain and the gut: humans lost some gut and gained brain. This is called the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis. This required that we consume fattier, more nutrient dense food (although this paper suggests that meat wasn’t critical to human evolution: Energetics and the evolution of human brain size: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10629.html)

    Fundamentally I think the main point that the post misses is that “eating paleo” is more about taking prompts from simpler diets, backed-up with up to date scientific studies. For me it’s as simple as that!

  49. Ugh… the most annoying thing about the SA article was the big old grammatical error in the first paragraph. I sometimes struggle to take things seriously when I see glaring errors like that :P.

    When it comes to what we “should” eat, I think the evidence is in what science has shown about the effects of hormones on the body! Whether we ate more plant or animal is immaterial. We weren’t going around gorging on wheat, that’s for sure. I think early humans were eating what early humans could reasonably get!

    Humans living in the tropics would have had more easily accessible fruit to eat, for example, and would thus have consumed a greater proportion of carbohydrates (and plants) than humans living in the arctic where there were few plants to eat. It’s impossible to lump everyone in together and say humans ate XYZ.

  50. In essence, what Rob Dunn is saying is that if we never ate meat, we’d still have the brain of a monkey.

  51. At this point I’m simply echoing most of the other excellent points already made in the comment section, but since I had a friend post the article on my wall and I already responded to it, I’ll include my response to the article.
    The only “condemnation” of Paleo I found in the entire article was the studies proclaiming that our ancestors didn’t only eat meat, which has never been a claim of the Paleo diet. Paleo has always been roughly split 50/50 between animal products and vegetables — the real focus for Paleo is the avoidance of grains, seed oils, and sugars. The author himself specifically notes that “our bodies are all fully-equipped to deal with meat (which is relatively easy). ”

    As for the study he quoted, from the abstract, “Until recently, Neanderthals were understood to have been predominantly meat-eaters; however, a growing body of evidence suggests their diet also included plants” — not “their diet was mostly plants” or even “their diet was more plants than animal products” but “also included plants”.

    You’ll also note that the author doesn’t provide any study actually showing or determining the amount of meat in the Paleolithic Man’s diet, he simply states “Although ‘Paleolithic’ diets in diet books tend to be very meaty, reasonable minds disagree as to whether ancient, Paleolithic diets actually were” (We’ll ignore the sad attempt to discredit the other camp by silently calling them unreasonable). Turns out there ARE studies where people attempted to determine how much meat hunter-gatherer tribes actually ate: http://www.ajcn.org/content/71/3/682.full . In the abstract for that, it states

    “Our analysis showed that whenever and wherever it was ecologically possible, hunter-gatherers consumed high amounts (45–65% of energy) of animal food. Most (73%) of the worldwide hunter-gatherer societies derived >50% (?56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from animal foods, whereas only 14% of these societies derived >50% (?56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods”

    Furthermore, it appears that prior studies may have estimated a lower percentage of energy coming from animal products because they assumed the Paleolithic man only ate (protein-rich and therefore lower-calorie) muscle tissue; do you think it is at all likely that they would have ignored the fattiest (and therefore tastiest and – I’m convinced – healthiest) parts of the meat?

    But what happens when the Paleolithic man didn’t catch meat, you ask? How did he eat throughout the day? Quite simply, he didn’t. Our bodies (provided we’re used to burning fat as energy and not carbohydrates) can survive quite easily without food for stretches of 6 to 24 or even 36 hours at a time with no ill effect by burning stored body fat; this is the entire purpose for storing excess calories as opposed to simply excreting them as waste. Our bodies didn’t evolve through eating at regular meal times every day; some days you just can’t catch a deer.

    Honestly, this article just makes me feel sad for the readers who will be turned off of Paleo because some author felt the need to attempt to bolster his own diet by creating a strawman of another diet. I understand that it’s an age-old tradition to make yourself look good by criticizing someone else in comparison, but honestly, you shouldn’t do it if you’re bad at it.

  52. If our ancestors ate so little meat, where did they get the bones for their tools?

  53. Does anyone have a recipe for “half-rotten Wildebeest leg” gelatin ring? Mmmmmmm.

  54. The gut goes from mouth to anus.

    Look at our teeth. We have teeth that tear and teeth that grind. We’re ominivores.

    Look at cat teeth (no grinding surfaces, so they are fairly strict carnivores).

    Cows and goats are herbivores. They have no incisors on top.

    You can’t say that the gut tells the story and then skip the very first step in how we process food.

    1. That’s a good point, but an incorrect treatment of human dental capacities. Some races – including many of Asian descent – have teeth much less adapted to meat-eating. And these are the cultures that have the best vital markers, in most cases. So we can’t treat human teeth as if they are all so pointy, because many are not.

      1. I haven’t seen the proof of “some races” having teeth much less adapted to meat-eating. I would love to read about it if you can provide some scientific material on this subject. Did Weston Price discover that in his extensive anthropological studies of teeth?

        However, I have read of a cultural, coming-of-age ceremony in Bali that involves the filing of the “sharp canines.”

        I read:
        “The ceremony is symbolic essentially of three things: a coming of age, a transition from animal to human represented by the filing of the sharp canines, and the control of the six human evils: desire (kama), greed (lobha), anger (krodha), intoxication or being under the influence of strong emotion (mada), confusion (moha), and jealousy (matsarya).”

        But I’m thinking that’s just vegetarian propaganda.

  55. What a beautiful well organized garden I would make these mandatory (lawns should be illegal unless you own a cow) and you have to grow no less than one pound medical marijuana for your local hospital.

  56. The article’s argument was flawed the moment it began to make a sweeping generalization about a very adaptive species. Primitive humans’ diet would have differed greatly depending on environment (coastal, grasslands, etc).

  57. What’s with berries being in the little pointy part of the pyramid above “fruits?” (the Vancouver article)

  58. For the contest:

    “Nearly all” were vegetarians, except for the one ancestral line that evolved consciousness, created art and science, and grew the largest penises of any primate – that ancestral line ate meat.

    Evolution is not a democracy; we should not look at the majority of our ancestors for guidance, but at the ones that survive and thrive.

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  60. “If our ancestors were all truly vegetarians, lettuce NOT Wooly Mammoths, would be extinct.”

  61. Wow. IDBFHEIDJCNBDKDKSJSJWJKDNFJFJ!?*! That makes about as much sense as Rob Dunn’s article in ‘The Scientific American’. Talk about missing the forest for the trees! It’s almost as if he thinks the entire Primal “trend diet” is baseless simply because it’s based on doing what worked well for our HUMAN ancestors, meaning we’re being CHOOSY or UNEDUCATED in the era with which we choose to emulate… So, in order to be CORRECT in emulating a Primal diet, we must eat what apes did before humans? I just have to say, that NUT has had one too many NUTS (perhaps they even fell from the tree and gave him a good wack on the nogen) if he thinks ANYONE wants to eat like an ape, regressing our humanity, in order TO BE RIGHT on what diet was eaten by each creature in which thousand-year era… I choose to let him be the authority so he can continue to malnourish himself in an attempt to be RIGHT. I will be enjoying the diet and lifestyle that makes me feel the healthiest I EVER have and BE the healthiest I EVER have, while allowing my brain to function at a level where I can read his entire article and say ,”BWAHAHAHA! What a freaking DORK! Someone in North Carolina, PLEASE go feed that man a chicken leg before all his brain matter erodes!”

  62. I find the Article about primate intestine and all to be laughable.
    Not olny did they fail to site any scientific study to back up their own poor presentation, to bolster vegetarian health supremacy. But other vegan readers did a great job of rejecting the validity of the article. Especially the title.

    Now that’s funny.

    People are not as stupid as the media, and Agenda 21 scientist would like us to believe.
    Thank you.

  63. Okay. Two specific things on S.A.: 1. The title is misleading. It is subject to at least two meanings and is thus ambiguous in at least two ways. The title leads you to believe that the article will tell you our “human ancestors” were “nearly all vegetarians.” First, the article does not focus on “human” ancestors, or even proto-humans, but apes. Second, the article does not state or demonstrate that even these apes were “vegetarian” at all. What he meant to say, as is revealed later in the article, is that monkeys and apes, which do have an enlarged lower intestine compared to humans, ate a lot of plant matter and that our more closely-related ancestors ate plants too. This has nothing to do with being “nearly all vegetarian,” in either the sense of nearly “all of human ancestors” being vegetarian, or their diets being “nearly all vegetarian” (i.e. consisting of only plant life). 2. Okay, so having dispelled the myth raised by the title of the article, I will go on to point out the most glaring fallacy of the piece, which others have also eloquently discussed. Although apparently attempting to discredit “paleo” diets by going much earlier than the paelolithic period to discuss our “human ancestors,” Mr. Dunn misses the point of the “paleo” diet entirely. He simply doesn’t discuss any of our paleolithic period ancestors, which were standing upright, using tools, and growing enlarged brains roughly 2.6 million years ago, and what they ate. It can certainly be argued that this was the time period in which we began to truly diverge from apes in gut, brain, and lifestyle characteristics as we split from the A. Afarensis and australopithecus genus into the homo genus, nearly concurrent with use of stone tools (although there is evidence of stone tool use slightly earlier). It was the use of stone tools by these hominins that dates the beginning of the paleolithic era. Mr. Dunn also fails to note that the “paleo diet” principles stem from the later middle and upper paleolithic period during which we as homo sapiens sapiens developed art and spirituality and became increasingly efficient hunters (as well as gatherers, I would imagine). Can it be said that the monkeys, chimps, and orangutans Mr. Dunn discusses are our “human ancestors” or constitute, in yet another meaning of the title, “nearly all” of our “human” ancestors. I would say no. While apes may be ancestors of humans, I don’t believe they constitute the bulk of “human ancestors” in this context because our brains and guts diverged from apes as we evolved into the homo genus and it was during this period of evolution and diversion that we became uniquely human, arguably due in large part to those two specific and related divergences. If looking beyond the paleolithic period to early human ancestors, discussion of those ancestors that were developing our smaller lower intestine and enlarged brain, those of the homo genus, simply makes more sense. Also, since those shorter, smaller large intestines can’t digest cellulose, our guts are very different from those of the apes highlighted.

  64. The article about ancestral diet – how can one even claim human guts are similar to other primates’, if it’s visible to the naked eye that they are so much smaller in comparison to body size? Did this guy even hear of Richard Wrangham and his explanation of human gut size (and other features of human digestive system as well as behavior) by the invention of cooking, which in all probability has been going on for a million years or more?

  65. Ahh man! I missed the deadline! No worries, my reply wouldn’t have been nearly as eloquent as the ones I’ve been reading. Would have been something like, “Well, that confirms my theory that space aliens made the cave drawings with the men hunting animals”.

  66. thanks mark for getting people over to Sayer Ji’s Green MEd Info (Pandora’s bread box) – a great site with fabulous information (especially useful when getting someone’s attention about the horrors of modern wheat) and search engines – but just be aware – trying to comment is a bit troublesome as they don’e seem to have a good spam filter/comment thread setup – perhaps. Mark, you could help them? your comment threads seem to run pretty smooth— i am sure Sayer would be very appreciative–