Paleo Diet Is "Half-Baked," Scientific American says. How Surprising.

Categories: Food News

fred-flintstone-eat-hamburger.jpg
Apparently, this is not the scientifically accurate portrayal of ancient human life that we were led to believe.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's this? Could it be that the ever-popular paleo diet, which encourages us to eat like our Stone Age hunter-gatherer forebears, is not based on a solid foundation of science? Wow, that's shocking. If we can't trust Internet-touted fad diets, then just who can we trust?

But that's the takeaway from a new article in the journal Scientific American, headlined not too subtly "How to Really Eat Like a Hunter-Gatherer: Why the Paleo Diet Is Half-Baked." Turns out, eating like a hungry, parasite-infested, probably dead-before-15, pre-agricultural human may not be the walk in the park healthwise that some paleo-diet supporters suggest -- unless that park is filled with man-eating beasts, maybe, because running for your life is a great cardio workout.

Paleo diet fans argue that humans are better genetically developed to eat a diet consisting of foods available before mankind developed agriculture -- meaning basically lots of meat, nuts and veggies, but no grains ... no bread ... no pasta ... no sugar ... no wonder ancient humans died so young. They were probably bored too death, plus they never carb-loaded, which is vital for that final kick as you sprint away from a hungry lion.

See also:
- Paleo-Focused HG Sply Co To Open Tuesday, May 21, on Lower Greenville


Scientific American noted that life in modern hunter-gatherer societies, which are about as pure paleo as one can get these days, is not exactly an idyll. Or, as the articles says about South America's Hiwi people:

The Hiwi are not particularly healthy. Compared to the Ache, a hunter-gatherer tribe in Paraguay, the Hiwi are shorter, thinner, more lethargic and less well nourished. Hiwi men and women of all ages constantly complain of hunger.

Oddly enough, lethargic, malnourished and hungry is pretty much how we feel after eating at a modern-day Arby's.

Some of the basic tenets of the paleo diet -- more vegetables, cut out bread and sugar -- are generally considered healthy by pretty much everyone, though as Scientific American suggests, the idea that anyone today can or should try to duplicate an actual paleo-human diet is pretty much scientifically "half baked." Eating a close approximation doesn't sound half bad though, at least judging from the menu of HG Sply Co, the paleo-focused restaurant that opened last month on Greenville Avenue. It's divided up into sections labeled "hunter" and "gatherer" and includes items such as braised lamb shank with fig mostarda and curried cauliflower. Of course, as Scientific American noted, cauliflower is a human-bred plant created much the same way we selectively bred the wolves that once chased us into loyal Fido.


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24 comments
Oprah
Oprah

"bored too death"  can I be your copy editor, I have experience.

primalbob
primalbob

Hey everybody, I just created a drug called "clown shoes" that cures all known forms of illness! So the question is this: Is this something you are happy about? or are you just gonna get pissy because it doesn't contain any actual clown shoes?


Do yourselves a massive favour: 


Forget the name. 


Dump the grains. 


Feel the gains :)

JustSaying
JustSaying

Every Spring I make it a point to drink less beer to shed my Winter coat. Abs are back by May. So I guess I am trying to say fuck a fad diet.

smithjosh
smithjosh

There is no nutrient in grains or legumes that can't be found elsewhere in greater abundance with less junk like phytates, gluten, and sugar along for the ride. Paleo is just a tool to help you make better choices along the way. It's not a religion no matter who, on either "side", tries to make it one. Articles like these are silly.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Wonder if HG Sply Co, with their faux paleo menu, know.

PourOneOut
PourOneOut

Jesus H Christ. 

Paleo is literally healthier, because you aren't eating so much crap- no sugar, no chemicals. End of story. 

If I'm hungry on Paleo, it's because it's time to eat, not because I just ate an hour ago and the carbs have worn off.

The article reminds us of the old "bread has fiber" bit. Compare the amount of fiber in a slice of bread with the fiber in a couple of cups of broccoli. Do it again with "vitamins". You lose. Eat your veggies.


Bird Duncan
Bird Duncan

How about just replacing junk food with vegetables and soda with water? Not very glamours, but it works. Dallas needs to get on board with menu labeling... then you really won't know who to trust!

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

The only diet that will ever work is expending more energy relative to your caloric intake, and this involves some manner of will-and maybe, exercise. Everything else is a fad, and you will get tubby. You poor bastards on diets!

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@PourOneOut Sure, but not eating potatoes, legumes or grains at all? That's just unnecessary. Whole grains are great for you. Legumes are great for you. Fad, fad, fad.

Dr.G
Dr.G

Actually, it's not as simple as calories in, calories out.  100 calories of sugar is not processed by the body the same as 100 calories of broccoli.  Eating less and exercising more is good advice, but the quality of what we consume is also vitally important.  Also, no one who follows a paleo lifestyle is doing so to mimic prehistoric humans -- they are doing it to improve health by eating less of the foods known to cause problems for many people -- processed foods, sugar, grain/gluten, and dairy/lactose -- and more whole nutrient-rich foods that are also kinder to the digestive system  (local fruits, vegetables, and humanely raised animals).

bziegs
bziegs

No, you're flat out wrong. Potato, grains and legumes are completely unnecessary. There are much more efficient and optimal foods that are available that make much more sense and don't come with the same negative attributes that they do. You want to eat down potatoes--go ahead, who the hell cares but it's not going to help you or your body so why the hell put it in? That makes no sense. If you believe all the nutrients in legumes are good for you, great, eat them--except the phytates are going to prevent the absorption of them so why not find a better source. You've made no argument for grains other than basically "because its the way it is". What the hell are grains and what benefit are they to your body? Fiber? You can get way more with vegetables and they'll actually have vitamins and minerals as well. Grain does nothing but convert to sugar, spike your insulin, provide a delivery system for sugary and bad for you sauces, cheeses, etc and make you fat. Awesome. You're really going to side with the people who eat a "normal" American/Western diet and bash paleo? Okay, that makes sense--fat, sick and dying people vs. ripped six packs galore. Yup good luck with that.

bziegs
bziegs

Well done Dr. G.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@Dr.G OK, but what about the prohibition of whole grains and legumes? That seems a little gratuitous in that it more closely resembles the diet of prehistoric humans. Is there any true health benefit to avoiding these foods?

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@bziegs Show me the quality research, fella. Else, you're all talk and about a fad. I'm pretty sure you're a meathead gym rat, but if there's a brain up there, let's get a glimpse.

primetime
primetime

@CogitoErgoSum @bziegs 

What you say is essentially true, take for example the twinkie diet, wich has been proved to work for short term weight loss. However, the keyword here is "short term", since eating a less than optimal diet will cause nutrient deficiencies which cause hunger and an inevitable rebound weight gain.

With the paleo way of eating, if done right and sufficient carbohydrates are included (potatoes and even white rice are ok), you eat really nutrient dense foods which increase satiety and therefore you eat less calories and lose weight. Moreover, it is also sustainable over a long time because you don't develop nutrien deficiencies.

So, as you say, calories - calories out works for short time weight loss, but it is not a good strategy if you want to get lean and stay lean. You also neglect metabolic and hormonal changes that occur when eating more fats and less carbohydrates which promote optimal body composition. I could go on, but the post is getting too long.

P.S. No one will ever die of malnourishment on a modern paleo diet.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@bziegsSeriously, if you burn 2,500 calories a day and only take in 2,000, chances are good that you'll see some weight loss. It's simple and it's true. Show me research that says it's not, and I'll listen. I'm not defending crappy, processed foods at all here. However, I do maintain that whole grains, legumes and potatoes can be a valuable part of a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Prove me wrong. Aside from allergy reasons, any diet that categorically prohibits the foods I just mentioned, is doing so for pure coolness points. In this case, it's to render the diet more like ancestral humans, who often died of malnutrition and malnourishment.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@bziegs 


WTF?  I'd keep posts to, mmmmm, less than 3 pages sir, ahhh, ma'am.  Let's, for the basic yeoman farmer keep the calories in, calories out theory; Marge in Garland could live three lifetimes, and never understand how certain foods affect her.......and Marge is probably 60-70% of Americans.  Same reason the newspaper is written on an eight grade level, genius. 

bziegs
bziegs

Oh so you're not so sure anymore now that a Dr says it? Interesting. Calories in, calories out is nonsense and doesn't take into account the hormonal changes that certain foods cause inside your body. You really need to expand your elementary understanding of bodily science and chemistry before you jump on here and make an ass of yourself spouting nonsense conventional wisdom that has been disproven time and time again scientifically. And Dr. G's argument doesn't even begin to dissect what processed foods are engineered to do which is to deliberately prevent your mind and body from communicating signals of satiety which in turn cause people to over eat. The idea that you can eat responsibly on a diet of grains and sugars is basically crazy talk and it's why Americans are disgustingly overweight. It's a slippery slope. Sure moderation is a good thought but nearly impossible in practice for most people. Elimination works great and there are ZERO ill effects from doing so. And even that argument doesn't start to talk about GMO's and their prevalence in processed foods. So you keep enjoying the garbage that the food industry puts in front of you while we all educate ourselves against that and live a much healthier and longer life.

Dr.G
Dr.G

Not if you're healthy.  For those who are sensitive to grains and legumes, and the numbers seem to be growing, they should be avoided. 

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