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The Paleo Diet


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This is the "Eat meat, eggs, nuts, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables/Don't eat dairy, cereal, legumes, starchy vegetables, sugar, processed foods, or salt" diet. It looks a lot like Atkins, but with fruit and some vegetables. It's touted as more of a "healthy lifestyle" diet than a weight-loss diet, but apparently you can lose unwanted weight on it as well. It's supposed to be helpful for those of us with "Syndrome X" AKA Metabolic Syndrome (insulin resistance).

Anybody out there have any experience with it? I think I'm going to have to try it. I never had much luck sticking with Atkins, but if I can have some vegetables, this might work for me!

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Any diet that provides less energy than you use will result in weight loss. It really is a matter of energy balance (energy-in less than energy-out) rather than avoiding certain foods. Pick a way of eating that provides you with satiety (lower glycemic index foods will help http://www.glycemicindex.com); that you can maintain and that is reasonably balanced in terms of nutrients (take a multivitamin to be sure). Add in some physical activity for an extra edge in the "energy out" equation.

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Any diet that provides less energy than you use will result in weight loss. It really is a matter of energy balance (energy-in less than energy-out) rather than avoiding certain foods.

I strongly urge you to carefully read science journalist Gary Taubes' excellent book Good Calories, Bad Calories... long story short, the science behind nearly every word in your post is at best heavily disputed, and likely false.

To the OP: After reading Taubes and a number of related sources, I went on a variation of paleo. I have lost 10 lb in 3 weeks and have immeasurably more energy. It does work.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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This is the "Eat meat, eggs, nuts, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables/Don't eat dairy, cereal, legumes, starchy vegetables, sugar, processed foods, or salt" diet.

While I don't know the details of this diet, the premise that it starts with is seriously flawed. From The Paleo Diet: "The Agricultural Revolution began 10,000 years ago. . . . Until that time -- just 500 generations ago -- everyone on the planet ate lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables." This is so clearly wrong that it makes me doubt everything else in the book.

The fact is, "everyone on the planet" has never eaten the same things. Humans have eaten just about every possible variation of diets imaginable. The diet of the nomads was milk-based (camel or goat); in the Arctic regions, the diet was almost exclusively meat -- and fatty meat, at that. Tribes in Africa and South America subsisted on mostly roots and tubers (that is, starch). And if "our ancestors" weren't eating cereal grains and legumes, then how in world could they have domesticated them? If they weren't staying alive by eating them, why would they have even wanted to try?

The generalization that the author makes here is simply ludicrous. It might be that a diet of lean meat, fruits and non-starchy vegetables can be quite healthy, but don't muddy the waters by saying that it's what our -- imaginary -- ancestors ate.

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Mark's Daily Apple is a useful resource for paleo-esque eating. He calls his approach "Primal" rather than "Paleo", and he has some important differences with the hardcore-paleo crowd in terms of approach, but his science is up to date and his book is pretty decent.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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I think they're talking about pre-civilization man - literally cave man - before there were nomads or tribes, before they learned to herd animals and do even any rudimentary farming. The idea is that if they could kill it with a rock or maybe a spear, or pick it off a tree or find it growing wild, they could eat it.

The paleo diet enthusiasts say eat food only if it can be eaten raw (doesn't have to be raw, but it could be). I don't think anybody's going to ask me to eat raw meat (except steak tartare) or seafood (except oysters). I'm guessing cave men learned how to use fire to roast meat before they began to farm, etc.

I'm not sure I buy it either, JAZ. I'm just gathering info. But regardless of the premise, the diet itself doesn't sound as radical as Atkins.

Thanks for your input.

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I'm not trying to suggest that this diet is no good--if it works for you, it works.

On the other hand, the premise behind this seems to be that we were "designed" to eat the kinds of foods listed above. The problem I have with this is that whatever lifestyle our "ancient ancestors" were designed for, we're no longer living. We're no longer living the kinds of lifestyle(s) people lived a hundred years ago, and we're not eating the kinds of food they ate then either. I tend to think about diets in terms of matching the foods we eat to the lifestyles we live. Eating mainly lean meat is a good thing to do for lots of reasons, but not because our ancestors ate it.

nunc est bibendum...

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I lost 15 pounds eating a balanced diet with exercise. How come athletes who eat a higher carbohydrate diet aren't all fat? What's up with that??

Read Taubes. If you can refute the substance of his points, I'd love to know about it... I consider anyone who hasn't read that book to be completely uninformed as to the current state of nutritional science, and yes that includes cardiologists, professional nutritionists, etc. It is at least as essential a read for foodies as anything by Pollan (who blurbed it prominently, by the way).

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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My two cents are that eating as few processed foods as possible with a wide variety of vegetables, plus moderate exercise, are key. If you look at most reducing food plans, that is where they take you. Restricting to an extreme, as in no carbs, time and again for most, results in out of proportion cravings at some point and then the plan goes out the window.

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And there are some of us who simply cannot live on the no-carb diet. I become very distressed, emotionally and physically, on that diet. It's quite weird.

I'll second Heidi's statements.

Thanks for all the information...I have saved quite a bit of it to read later and have asked for the newsletters available. To be able to look up the GI index of foods quickly would be a boon.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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A question for those who've actually read the paleo diet books: do they claim the human body was actually "designed" for a certain diet? If so, that's pretty broken.

A few things the human body isn't "designed" for: sunscreen, antibiotics, vaccines, living past the age of 30.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I haven't read The Paleo Diet. I have read a couple of other books along the same lines, and the claim isn't so much about "design" as it is that the human body hasn't yet evolved to properly handle relatively-recently introduced things like grains and sucrose and HFCS. Speaking as someone with a celiac diagnosis who is noticeably sensitive to dairy and soy, that seems extremely plausible, but YMMV.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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The average life expectancy of paleo man was ~30. The average life expectancy of modern man is ~75. And yet we're meant to get inspiration from them about health advice?

Low life expectancy of paleo man was from lack of treatment for infections, injury and exposure, not diet per se. But I must be prudent in basing our dietary and nutritional needs on what we supposedly have evolved from or into. I am of the idea that perhaps, the genetic variations due to environmental adaptation is what should determine our diet. IMHO If you come from a temperate or cold climate look at what diet may best make you survive in that condition while adjusting for lifestyle differences. But I have a tendency to agree that processed sugar (sucrose and corn syrup) and processed fat (hydrogenated fat) have contributed the most to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In our country, the average working person consumes about 1-2 cups of rice per meal and yet obesity is not an issue perhaps because our genes have been so used to intense manual labor (fishing and manual farming) that the carbs are consumed straight off and there are no insulin issues to speak of.

I'm a plant-rights activist... I only eat meat!

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Low life expectancy of paleo man was from lack of treatment for infections, injury and exposure, not diet per se.

Also, high infant/child mortality--brings the average down a bit. Arguably, one of the reasons we have so much cancer and heart disease now is because we have less early death from tuberculosis, pneumonia, smallpox, etc. It used to be we didn't live long enough to have heart attacks.

But I have a tendency to agree that processed sugar (sucrose and corn syrup) and processed fat (hydrogenated fat) have contributed the most to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In our country, the average working person consumes about 1-2 cups of rice per meal and yet obesity is not an issue perhaps because our genes have been so used to intense manual labor (fishing and manual farming) that the carbs are consumed straight off and there are no insulin issues to speak of.

Yes--we've had agriculture for 10,000 years (approximately!) and only relatively recently have obesity and food-related chronic conditions become widespread problems. It's industrialization--an overabundance of cheap, low-grade, low-nutrition food supplied to people who live relatively sedentary lives--not agriculture.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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And there are some of us who simply cannot live on the no-carb diet. I become very distressed, emotionally and physically, on that diet. It's quite weird.

I'll second Heidi's statements.

Thanks for all the information...I have saved quite a bit of it to read later and have asked for the newsletters available. To be able to look up the GI index of foods quickly would be a boon.

This could be indicative of a larger problem, like a candida infection.

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Low life expectancy of paleo man was from lack of treatment for infections, injury and exposure, not diet per se.

Also, high infant/child mortality--brings the average down a bit.

Just to hammer this home, archaeology shows that average life expectancy and average height declined significantly between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic. I don't think there is any debate among the anthropological community that hunter-gatherers were healthier than their neolithic counterparts, and that nutrition played a role.

That said, I'm pretty skeptical about the premises made here, as I always am when I hear people make claims about what God nature our genes "intended us to do". Used bookstores are filled with fad diet books making claims like this (what about the Mediterranean diet, clearly a product of thousands of years of (agri)culture?) I suspect that for a modern human, there are any number of healthy and successful ways of eating, and that most of them are based on boring, straightforward things like encouraging moderation and exercise and discouraging highly processed foods.

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Dr. Ronald Hoffman, a complementary medicine practitioner and radio talk show host, speaks often of the Paleolithic Diet, primarily as it seems to benefit those with multiple food allergies or autoimmune diseases. While he is more a proponent of his less restrictive Salad and Salmon Diet (a link to which can be found here), he often suggests eliminating wheat and dairy products from one's diet, if not just temporarily, in order to minimize inflammation or to try to pinpoint the origin of some physical distress. This, to me, seems a more worthy benefit than weight loss, and would be the only thing that might motivate me to try it, given my awful carb addiction.

Edited by abooja (log)
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Endocrinologist and obesity expert Dr Robert Lustig says that the paleo diet will "cure" type 2 diabetes in "about a week". (The quote is from a 90-minute video presentation/scientific rant on the effects of sugar that's

and worth taking the time to watch, if you can.)

The link between metabolic syndrome/"diseases of civilization" and grains-and-sugars is becoming quite glaring.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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We bought our current house from a guy who was big on the paleo diet. He was in spectacular shape, not just given that he was retirement age, but for anyone at any age. But I just about lost it when we finally met him - he was drinking Bud out of the can! Now I have this vision of cavemen doing the 'this bud's for you thing'.

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