Author Topic: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?  (Read 4135 times)

Offline Andy Animus Tran

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Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« on: October 22, 2010, 04:42:05 PM »
http://www.leighpeele.com/the-paleo-diet-fad-religion-or-solution

A good read by one of the most no-nonsense health/fitness writers and trainers out there.
Andy Tran, C.S.C.S.
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Offline Patrick Witbrod

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2010, 06:51:37 PM »
    I don't really know who that guy is bu he seemed more concerned with the supposed religion surrounding the paleo diet then the actual nutritional gains or losses of the diet itself.

   I have been on it somewhat for about two weeks now and feel pretty good and have lost weight. I say somewhat because I can't control what my sister cooks so I end up eating grains around once a day some days I don't and it's always in lower quantities then I used to. That also just may be something that is just for me apparently my family has slight gluten allergies.

   All that being said what he is saying does make sense and I am in no position to argue about research considering I am fairly new to this eating healthy thing as well as researching it. Teaching to include more vegetables does make sense although it increases your calorie intake. You have to exclude something to include more of something otherwise wouldn't you just be eating more.

Example. I had a steak with two servings of mashed potatoes for dinner tonight. I also added a serving of carrots to dinner because this diet expert told me to add carrots to my diet and not exclude anything.  Does that make any sense. Sure you got the health benefits of the carrots but you also got  a lot more calories your not used to.     

   Again I don't know much about research that has been done. I'll leave that to other people but I do know from my future sister-in-law who was a nutrition minor and her husband who is a health conscious siliac (sp??) chef that potatoes are one of the most un-healthy things you can eat and that they aren't regulated by the FDA.   

Offline TimothyJS

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2010, 02:08:28 AM »
I didn't really like the article.  It keeps hinting at criticism of those who think the paleo diet is a 'solution' but some of the statistics used are taken a bit out of context.  For example, speaking of life expectancy; when living a life of a hunter gatherer it is truly a case of survival and it wasn't as simple as living behind a brick wall.


I think this is the worst paragraph:

Research suggests the defining turning point from Paleolithic to Neolithic is – behavior. It shows extreme leaps and progress in the ability to plan, think, and assess situations on greater levels. The humans of the Paleolithic period are thought to be led by an extreme amount of fear, impulse and superstition. Much like a dog reacts to a severe thunderstorm or Brendon Frasier in Encino Man at MTV. What I find to be so fascinating by the Paleo phenomenon, is the desire to emulate such a savage and underdeveloped mindset. The glorification is beyond me. Especially since it is made mostly out of preconceived notion, rather than literal understanding of those times.

Regardless of what our diet was during the paleolithic era we would have had those same characteristics as at the time that was as far as we had evolved.  But was it the paleolithic diet which helped us evolve and progress to become smarter and more intelligent beings? 


What I hate the most are all the people bumming the writer in the comments section; to me it's just another flakey article worded to convince.

Edit:  Also farming your own grains and storing/soaking them is a bit different to buying mass produced/treated grains off the shelf.  I've read an article about this somewhere but I can't remember where.  Again out of context.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2010, 02:10:14 AM by TimothyJS »

Offline Steve Low

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2010, 05:25:34 AM »
If I wrote a controversial article like that I could generate tens of thousands of hits for my site too.

For every article he cited I could site some others that show differently. Research in nutrition is terrible even the stuff that looks back at what we ate back then.

(If you didn't notice by now I don't buy it).

Simple fact is most everyone would be healthier on Paleo. There's no more evidence I need than that.


edit re: grains. See some of Stephan's stuff at wholehealthsource
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Offline Andy Animus Tran

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2010, 07:48:15 AM »
The point of the article is to really be educated on the matter, not necessarily to denigrate Paleo.

I've been on Paleo.  I got results.  That... doesn't mean I was any healthier than I am now.  Do most people overeat carbs?  Yeah, no question about that.  Does that mean all starches should be removed, or that everyone is intolerant of gluten?  No, I think that's pretty ridiculous.

Whatever happened to "everything in moderation"?
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Offline Patrick Witbrod

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2010, 07:58:48 AM »
Unfortunately most people do not understand moderation. For me at least it is easier to try and cut it out completely. My reason behind it is everything has bread. So If I decide not to eat bread except for when my sister makes pasta or rice then I find my self eating a lot less unhealthy stuff. Like Pizza and things like 50 crackers (I exaggerated) in soup or chili. Also becasue I'm trying to "Quit" I don't eat as much of the pasta or rice as I used to would have. So not only less carbs but less sodium from the crackers and soy sauce, less high fat spaghetti or Alfredo sauce and less calories in general. Also I am not under eating I am just eating right.   


Offline Nathaniel Kauffman

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2010, 08:20:18 AM »
Where do we draw the line on what to 'moderate'?  Is this universal, if so crystal meth I suppose is fine if one uses it in moderation...better to cut out the bad completely than risk overdoing it.
*Yawns*

Offline Ryan Nicolai

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2010, 09:30:21 AM »
I think it's more of an "everything that isn't obviously harmful to our bodies/minds in moderation".

Honestly, I've been debating about starting Paleo to study it's effect on my body. At the moment, I can eat large quantities of grains/breads/beans without feeling sluggish or bloated and I haven't noticed weight gain from it.


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Offline Gabe Arnold

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2010, 10:01:39 AM »
I normally stay out of commenting on specifics in this section because I know I'm far less informed on the topics than even half the people posting. But this time I wanted to share some thoughts.

Where do we draw the line on what to 'moderate'?  Is this universal, if so crystal meth I suppose is fine if one uses it in moderation...better to cut out the bad completely than risk overdoing it.

This is taken from one of the author's notes in the comments section.

What you are saying is that “It doesn’t matter what we call it or how we get there, as long as we get there.” While I understand the good nature of that, I can’t agree with it. As much as I want to, where does the bending stop?
If you try to arrive to a destination through lies or misinformation, that is what hurts your cause. Being as honest as you can about the results, no matter how much it swings you in different direction is the best course of action.

I really don’t care about the word Paleo or where it came from. If it was left to just pushing the benefits of more nutrients – great. The problem is it time and time again goes after dairy, grains, and legumes claiming them to be dangerous, addictive, and infectious. That is not a healthy movement, that is fear mongering.


I believe that sums up the article and part of the reason Animus posted it here. At the risk of breaking forum rules, 'cutting out the bad completely to avoid overdoing it' is a religious-style argument. X is a potentially dangerous habit, and even though X is okay from time to time, we'll say "Thou shalt not do X" in order to stop anyone from harming themselves.

Is Paleo a better solution than most other diets today? Yes, from what I've seen. But it's a crutch. I would bet the large number of people following it today don't understand the mechanics behind it: they follow the code, they get the results. (read: follow the dogma, get to the afterlife.) THAT is troubling, and choosing the lesser of two evils to get your point across is what the argument is about, I believe.

As for my thoughts on Paleo as a whole, I tend to side with Alan Aragon. Paleo Cream Puffs
http://alanaragon.com/
« Last Edit: October 23, 2010, 10:03:54 AM by Gabe Arnold »

Offline Rafe

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2010, 10:25:19 AM »
Theres a few central facts that article gets right,

1. We are not Cavemen there has been significant evolution in our species since the paleolithic
2. We do not know that much about specifics of the diet of paleolithic peoples
3. The evidence that grains legumes and Dairy are universally bad for you is not established by robust data and allot of it is cherry picked data.

However overall it does not give an in depth treatment of any of these facts, it does not make a convincing case that paleo is less healthy then another alternative or that another alternative is healthier points like, "10 years ago everyone was saying whole grains are great for you" do not actually help us establish whether they are or are not good for us.

I second the suggestion of Stephan's wholehealthsource blog. Stephan has much more nuanced and evidence based approach to understanding diet then most of the paleo authors.

I do agree with Steven that most people would do better on paleo diet, but I disagree that the model is optimal or based on robust reasoning.

My advice try paleo for month then reintroduce, grains legumes and dairy, one by one focusing on traditional prepared methods(soaked grains sourdough started, raw whole milk, yogurt etc) see how your respond.
I shall not fear, fear is the mind killer the little death that precedes total obliteration

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Offline Andy Animus Tran

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2010, 12:50:54 PM »
I'm impressed.  This was a good discussion thread and actually assessed things pretty well.
Andy Tran, C.S.C.S.
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Offline Chris Salvato

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2010, 03:21:40 PM »
Personally, despite the cult following and shortcomings, I see a lot of strengths in the Paleo Diet that are not found elsewhere.  Pretty much every other diet out there tries to say something like "You can eat everything you WANT to eat, but...." then they fill in the blanks:
1) in moderation (zone)
2) just not the carbs (atkin's)
3) only if you buy it from our store (jenny craig)

And that is just a short list.  Paleo addresses that the healthiest foods are the foods that are prepared well from the birth of the animal/planting of the seed to the meal being on your plate.  Paleo addresses that we aren't meant to eat a hoarde of processed foods and highly refined proteins, carbs and fats.  Paleo addresses these wonderfully.

The problem with paleo is that there are some very bold claims that lack solid evidence.  Gluten intolerance is a great example where some big paleo pushers (Robb Wolf, Cordain, etc.) are very much against gluten for everyone.  Really, I dont think there is enough evidence either way to say what makes up gluten intolerance, but I am not quite ready to curse grains to high hell.

What Paleo does, indirectly, is swear off foods that are extremely calorie dense and not really beneficial, anyway.  Now, Paleo says these foods (beans, breads, grains, peanuts, etc.) are dangerous and unhealthy.  I am not quite sure I buy that.  But they aren't any more beneficial than the foods paleo DOES recommend like greens, veggies, fruits and pasture-reared meats.  The bottom line is that if you buy into the Paleo way of eating you are missing out on the tastes of some foods, but not any real nutritional quality that I can discern.

Overall, I am a proponent of Paleo in the same way I am a proponent of CrossFit.  Both are very good ideologies for their target demographics, but I am wary of the cult following.

Paleo eating yields some very strong results, regardless of what data does and does not exist.

Bottom line: whether or not you believe in "the Paleo Diet" you should be avoiding all processed foods and be eating only the most ethically raised of foods (grassfed beef, pasture reared pork, produce grown locally with minimal chemical additives).  If you do this, then all the intricacies of paleo are somewhat immaterial because you won't be eating a potato nearly as much as you would be eating salad and grass fed lamb chops.

Offline Leland

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2010, 04:34:10 PM »
Chris sums it up well.

I'm always confused with the paleo diet, I mean I understand why it's good (because I lurk here and watch you guys talk about it for half a year now) but the thing that irks me most is it calls everyone to cut off dairy.

Well, what's wrong with milk and cheese? They're great source of protein and fat, taste great, convenient. I believe 99% of people would find it easier to include dairy in their diet.

Why can't we just tell people to cut grains, get carbs from/eat lots of  veges and fruits, eat a good amount of protein, and don't be afraid of fat? Paleo is just unnecessarily restrictive.


On a side note, I read a book called The 10,000 year explosion which tallies well with the information I get from this forum. It's basically about how 10,000 years ago, the introduction of agriculture significantly changed the human diet, and therefore selection pressure changed as well. As grains become the staple, those who are adapted to it (defined by can survive from a diet of) survived and those that totally cannot survived on grains died. That's why we all can survive on a grain-based diet today, but it's not optimal because we've only got 10,000 years to evolve for it. Also, the invention of dairy was brought up, the ability to consume  (lactose, etc) was such a huge selection advantage that it took a very short time to spread around the world, because dairy is calorie dense and nutritious.

Offline Rafe

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2010, 10:39:25 PM »

On a side note, I read a book called The 10,000 year explosion which tallies well with the information I get from this forum. It's basically about how 10,000 years ago, the introduction of agriculture significantly changed the human diet, and therefore selection pressure changed as well. As grains become the staple, those who are adapted to it (defined by can survive from a diet of) survived and those that totally cannot survived on grains died. That's why we all can survive on a grain-based diet today, but it's not optimal because we've only got 10,000 years to evolve for it. Also, the invention of dairy was brought up, the ability to consume  (lactose, etc) was such a huge selection advantage that it took a very short time to spread around the world, because dairy is calorie dense and nutritious.

Ten thousand year explosion is great book something anyone interested in paleo should read and the scholar articles by Harpending and hawks and acceleration of adaptive evolution as well.  So far as I remember the do not make any points about us being imperfectly adapted to agriculture.

More importantly they do not say the capacity to drink milk has reached high levels across all human populations, lactase persistence isevolved independently in north west eurasia and east africa, it does not exist in appreciable numbers in west africans, southern africans, east asians, amerindians, or austronesian populations. Whether dairy is healthy for you depends on your ancestry. This one of the big points of the book evolution has not resulted in identical developments of all the worlds populations.
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Offline Steve Low

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2010, 08:27:22 AM »
Given the preponderance of autoimmune and GI tract health issues gluten intolerance is a huge thing.

That's one of the most important things to take away from Paleo. I'm one of the hard pushers of anti-gluten, and I think its for good reason. There's tons of literature on it but it doesnt get out. Search through pubmed if you want.

Dairy, eggs, cheese,... all fine IMO as long as you are not allergic. If you bloat, pass a lot of gas, etc. from these then you likely have some level of intolerance which would be best to avoid in this case
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Offline Nathaniel Kauffman

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2010, 12:11:30 PM »
So if I drink 2.5 gallons of whole milk in a day and only flatulate occasionally am I good?
*Yawns*

Offline Patrick Witbrod

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2010, 02:08:46 PM »
No if only for the high  number of calories your getting. Not to mention that even though there is good fat in milk that is still too much of a good thing. I may be completely wrong though it just sounds really bad.


Also is the fat in milk good fat or bad fat?

Offline Ryan Nicolai

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2010, 03:38:24 PM »
Now I know why milk is getting expensive... Jerk.


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Offline Steve Low

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Re: Is the Paleo Diet really backed by research?
« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2010, 08:28:38 PM »
No if only for the high  number of calories your getting. Not to mention that even though there is good fat in milk that is still too much of a good thing. I may be completely wrong though it just sounds really bad.


Also is the fat in milk good fat or bad fat?

All studies show that milk fat is beneficial for health or neutral at worst.

Go to pubmed if yo dont believe me.


There is no reason to drink anything other than whole milk if you're going to drink milk. Skim and low fat is a waste of money because you get less kcals and because its less healthy.

Need to lose weight? Drink whole milk... just less of it.
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