Saturday, December 6, 2008

Doctor, please don't poo-poo the Paleo diet!

A friend of mine forwarded an article to me about the paleo diet a while ago. It's a question and answer session in Oprah Magazine with a doctor named David Katz, MD. The article is called, "Should We Eat a Paleolithic Diet?" and it's flawed in many ways. See for yourself:

After reading the first few paragraphs, it is very apparent that the author is one of these politically-correct nutrition gurus that never seems to make a solid stand on anything except what mainstream nutritionists and dieticians recommend. Certainly not a breath of fresh air from all of the unfounded dietary recommendations that inundate the media. Following are points brought up in the article by Katz, along with my response.

Quote: "However, many anthropologists prefer describing our ancestors as gatherer-hunters because about two-thirds of their diet was plant based."

You begin to see from this quote that he has strong bias towards a plant-based diet for maintaining health. Two-thirds is a huge stretch, in my opinion. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers conflict with this information. Loren Cordain, one of the foremost researchers on the Paleolithic diet, has very solid data showing HG's eating a meat-based diet. (However, like this Katz guy, Cordain sells out to politically correct nutrition, claiming that HG's ate very little saturated fat and cholesterol.)

A great resource for paleo diet information, based on anthropological research can be found by doing a search for HL Abrams. This dude is on par, in my opinion.

Quote: " The flesh of antelope, which paleontologists believe most resembles the flesh our Stone Age ancestors would have eaten, has a very low fat content, roughly 16 percent of total calories. Contrast that with beef, which can be 30 percent fat or higher. Even more important is the quality of the fat. "

Typical ignorant viewpoint from a man who has most likely never butchered an animal. Fatty portions of an animal that HG's used include: bone marrow, back fat, cavity fat, tongue, kidney fat, intestinal fat, brains, and -- in some cases, when boiling bones for long periods -- bone grease. The fatty acid composition of muscle meat is irrelevant because HG's didn't only eat muscle meat -- they ate the whole animal!

By the way, much of an antelope's fat is actually quite high in saturated fatty acids. Not to mention *gasp!* cholesterol!

Quote: "Meat from animals that graze on grass contains a much higher proportion of polyunsaturated fat, including those heart-healthy omega-3s."

Notice he says grass-fed "meat" contains a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fat. Again, he neglects to mention all of the fat from the rest of the animal, which are dominated by saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Not only that, but he is implying that polyunsaturates are the healthiest fats to consume. A big no-no, indeed, considering the studies done on test animals in which a high-polyunsaturated vegetable fat diet leads to death and disease. Also, factor in the lack of polyunsaturates in HG's diets when taking into account the entire animal.

Quote: "Our Stone Age ancestors lived to only about the age of 40—who knows how their health would have fared after 80 years of eating like this?"

Lifespan statistics are influenced by infant mortality rates, which were certainly higher before the advent of modern medicine due to environmental factors. For every set of bones from a paleo 80-year-old, an infant death -- being listed statistically as 0-years old -- will affect the average. The average of 80 and 0 is 40, correct? You can see how statisticians come to such silly conclusions. Also, factor in deaths from weapons and accidents. The fact is that there were elderly castes in many primitive cultures, such as the aborigines. I've heard anectodotal accounts from personal communications with modern Native American people claiming that their grandparents lived to be 100-years-old and beyond. I'm sure if I searched enough I could find some archaelogical evidence (dentition studies) of ancient peoples reaching such an age.

And, as for HGs health when they reach 80-years and beyond: if they still have all of their perfectly straight teeth and dense bones at 80, they're doing a hell of a lot better health-wise than us brace-face moderns. Ancient skulls would suggest that paleo people were optimally healthy (perfect teeth, fully-developed noggin) throughout their lives.

Quote: " The dietary plan I prefer to espouse is one supported by both anthropology and modern science: plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as a stand-in for the wild plants our ancestors ate, nuts and seeds, beans, seafood, lean meats, eggs, and low-fat or nonfat dairy."

Lord, have mercy! This guy isn't saying anything new -- just sticking to the same line of BS that we've been hearing since faulty, biased studies in the 50s and 60s "proved" that all disease is caused by fat and cholesterol. If this guy truly eats this way, he's got to be one hungry, fat-starved dude.

Our ancestors ate lean meat WITH FAT from all parts of the animal. Gathering plants is entirely impractical in many parts of the world. Hunting animals is the most energy-efficient way to attain nutrition in the wild (especially the all-important vitamins A & D from animal fats -- as documented by Weston Price -- and complete amino acids). We evolved on meat and fat with supplemental plants in season. And, in my opinion, this is what we are biologically suited for. Period.


Harper said...

I'm glad you tore that article apart - I can't stand any of the diet or health "experts" that come on Oprah. She probably follows everything they say, and she's STILL fat. Nice blog, by the way.

chlOe said...

Yeah man, even in my Anthropology book it contradicts itself. It seems to emphasize the gathering in hunter-gatherer, yet, talks about how if the animals were getting less food from grass and things (leaner meat) then the people (of tribes who relied on bigger game) would begin to basically loose health from that because there was no fat calories to sustain life or to go around for everyone (mentioned once out of huge contexts of 'fishing and vegetables' and their abundance - but excluded the fat part, I added that bit). Gouin to bed hongray. Like the people writing for Oprah, eating in moderation like the "paleo" people, too I'm guessing. Like everyone in the world ate the same thing anyway.
Mainstream opinions are so silly sometimes.

Ryan Koch said...

Harper: Yup, Oprah's still fat. She's tried every diet ever devised EXCEPT the low-carb, high-fat diet. She actually tried a version of low-carb (a liquid protein diet), but unfortunately it was also low-fat which is very unsustainable. She lost the most weight and felt the best on this diet. If Oprah ever tried an Atkins-style diet, maybe she would be the poster child for the weight-loss success that comes with low-carb, high-fat -- not to mention improved lipid profiles.

Thanks for the kind words, BTW!

Chloe: Textbooks apparently aren't based upon reality. One argument against the whole "feast-and-famine" idea is the fact that wild game was FAR more plentiful in ancient times, and so it was much easier to procure animal foods. And if the animals were lean, all that our ancestors had to do was kill several antelope, buffalo, or whatever was around and take ONLY the fat from some of the carcasses. Hunter-gatherers were not stupid, and they weren't afraid to be "wasteful" to obtain the fat they needed (usually 65-80% of the calories on a meat-based diet).

I agree, mainstream thought is silly, not to mention oversimplified. Most of us moderns have truly lost our connection with nature and reality.