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Author Topic: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet  (Read 7529 times)

Offline NatalieP

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Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« on: October 02, 2010, 12:12:44 PM »
Hey everyone! I have been having a lot of people comment on the Paleo diet, so I decided to write an article on it.

Posting it in the hopes that other NE/NC's feel confident talking about it, and also explaining why the Eating for Health model is still a great choice!

Natalie Pescetti

Offline blujay

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2010, 12:57:04 AM »
Thank you for that, very refreshing.

I'm an advocate of traditional dietary approaches, yet I think that there is to much emphasis on fat and animal protein. And that we need to focus on the healing foods more...veggies/fruits/spices.

Here are some quotes I liked (I've been saying the same things for years)

"The source of feed, and experience of the animal, were what constituted the products health benefits."

"Now more than ever we need more plant-based disease fighting, anti-aging, immune-enhancing phytonutrients to combat our stressful and toxic state, that are not present in animal products."

Have you heard of the "Nutritional Excellence" approach?
Of the diets (I'm not one for any "DIEt") I think that this one is the closest to the most healthy approach for the widest contemporary western population. Its mostly vegetarian, but I would advocate for small amounts of high quality animal products also...

Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you what you will become!

Offline RamyaR

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2010, 10:01:13 PM »

Very well written!! I am so glad your wrote this article and agree with everything. One more point about a diet that is heavily dependent on animal protein is the ecological impact on our planet. I was listening to NPR the other day and it was mind blowing to hear the amount of natural resources that are being consumed for this very reason. I will try to locate the archives and post it on the forum if I can.

You wrote "It is an assumption based on the flimsy demonizing of a wide-range of foods that some populations have thrived on, with good qualities of life. Legumes, root vegetables and grains, for instance, have been used in the highly touted Mediterranean diet, and in the Mexican, African, and Greek populations with longer life spans and hardly any sign of western disease."

You can add the entire continent of Asia to the above list.

I wish more people realize that there is no diet that is THE best. Different cultures have had their own set of foods and their unique way of preparation based on their body needs, availability of foods, climate, and where they have lived for generation after generation. Unfortunately today's diets take bits and pieces from several different cultures around the world without understanding the context of how a particular food/herb/spice was used and how that could impact the whole body, when not used the way it was meant to be eaten.

People don't hunt and gather anymore - at least not where we live. I wonder how one can then adopt a diet that is meant for that purpose? I believe that our body's needs are way different today.

Offline NatalieP

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2010, 01:13:22 PM »

Thank you for the comments! I have never heard of that approach, but I will read more into it. Sounds very interesting.... :)

Ramya - great point about adding Asia on there, too! I also mirror your beliefs about the ecological impact. If everyone adopted to the 'Paleo' hype the wild nature of animals, and their benefits, could never exists to support the mass of humanity.

I wrote this article after talking with a client who was really into it. It occurred to me that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, is based upon a lifestyle of being a hunter gatherer. He was ordering kangaroo meat from Australia online, and other exotic foodstuffs, all from his computer. There seemed to be yet another disconnect from the process of nourishment here.

Thanks for the feedback everyone!
Natalie Pescetti

Offline AlisonM

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2010, 07:08:09 PM »
I wasn't sure if I was going to reply to this, but here it goes:
As someone who considers herself to follow a paleo diet. I want to add my point of view. I first want to mention when I heard about the paleo diet, I thought it was a little out there. Then I started listening to Robb Wolf's podcast, The Paleo Solution. Robb's a former research biochemist, and to me this way of eating made sense.

 I feel that the digestive system has not been adapted to consume grains in the portion that most people do.  When people tout the Mediterranean diet as being healthy, I want to remind others that the french have less heart disease, yet consume lots of saturated fat in the form of butter, cheese, cream, eggs, meats and liver.(I don't think it's the wine that lowers heart disease either) We also have to take into account that these people who follow a Mediterranean diet aren't consuming junk food like americans do. So if humans consumed a paleo diet, would we outlive those that follow a mediterranean diet?

 For the diet being heavily dependent on animal protein. Just because a person is paleo doesn't mean that they are eating a large chunk of meat with every meal. Some people may consume 70% carbs in the form of veggies and fruits and 30% protein. Everyone has to find the correct macronutrient ratio for their body and lifestyle.  As for the guy ordering kangaroo, I agree that is nuts. I know a lot of people who follow the paleo diet, who source their meat locally and they feel great on the diet. As for dairy, and potatoes. I know some paleo people that do consume sweet potatoes, and some raw dairy. I think its all about what's best for the individual. I'm 80-90% paleo, in that I do eat brown rice a couple times a month along with corn tortillas.

My biggest issue with your article is with this paragraph:
The prime flaw in this approach is the emphasis on animal products. In a world brimming with over populated, factory raised, hormone and antibiotic-laden animals, we are not going to be receiving the health benefits of the wild game that was once present in the open lands of our ancestors. No longer do we have an abundance of animals at our disposal free from human influence and taint. Even 'grass-fed,' 'organic,' and 'free range' labels are devised by man, with numerous loop holes and criminal actions set behind them.

This is why it's important to know who is producing your food. Paleo really emphasizes the importance of grass-fed meat. I know people who buy 1/4th of a cow straight from the farm, ensuring that they are receiving the best meat possible.

For this portion: How can we claim to mimic that lifestyle when the consumption of animal-based products today coincides with the consumption of low-grade, low-nutrient density material? We are exposing ourselves to animals who are not pure and wild in their origin, and who are eating plants or feed that is from nutrient-poor, degraded soil.

I could use the same argument to eat less fruits, vegetables and grains. That the soil is no longer nutrient-rich, and even if your consuming organic fruits and veggies, there's no where near the amount of nutrients that there were in those crops 100 years ago. Which is why I think the quality of the food you purchase is the most important thing. I feel that if one of your arguments is that unless you can kill your own animal on a regular basis, that would be like me saying "If you can't grow your own food then you shouldn't eat it" Therefore if your backyard isn't full of vegetables and fruits that you can pick yourself then you shouldn't be eating fruits and veggies. If you look at the human diet, we consumed a hunter-gather diet for approximately 2.5 million year, that ended 10,000 years ago when agriculture began. Have our digestive systems changed so much that are nutrition needs have also changed?
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."
Thomas Edison

Offline Jackie Chatman

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2010, 11:06:54 AM »
Great article Natalie! 

I just wanted to add what might be a missing piece to this puzzle.  Most of us don't lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in that we don't exert the physical movement that the hunter-gatherers did to get food.  Forging through Whole Foods or the local farmers market is not the same as really going out and gathering your food.  Plus, we live in an overly indulgent society where food is readily available.  The hunter-gatherers had less food available and really had to work to get it!  Maybe that is the key to their health and longevity and that of the other cultures studied!

Jackie!!! .

Offline NatalieP

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2010, 05:09:36 PM »
Alison, I really appreciate your reply - it makes for good conversation. :)

I completely understand where you are coming from. My focus for the article was really the dynamic of people getting so involved with a 'fad' that they lose sight of their own intuitive feelings with their body. It sounds like you and many of the people you know are flexible and open to incorporating other foods, should it feel good in their bodies. That is the foundation for a whole food lifestyle that anyone can reap rewards from and I think that is the example that we strive to lead as Nutritionists.

What I have seen in the average individual following the Paleo diet is that unless they already had a mind-set of eating healthy, preparing and cooking their own foods, and incorporating organic and vegetable based meals into their diet (which is a lot of people in America today who are not yet educated on these things) they tend to rely on animal-dense meals as the staple of the diet.

I did not mean to imply that we should not eat animal products unless we kill them on our own. My concern (and again, this would be for the category of people who are relying heavily on the animal based products and exotic meats) is that the living beings at the top of the food chain tend to accumulate more toxins from the environment than the products lower on  the chain (like plants). This can promote an overly acidic state overtime, if care is not pointed towards adequate plants (as you mentioned, in incorporating veggies in a proper ratio at every meal) and budget is not allotted towards organic/free range/grass-fed animals.

My primary concern in my practice is never demonizing any foods. Some people can eat dairy - other people it causes them to hack up a storm of mucous. :) Some people love meat, others it makes them feel heavy, and their digestion sluggish. Others skin break out with grains, while some can eat them as a general staple and still benefit health wise (my Russian mother-in-law being one of them ;) ). I have learned that to truly impact my clients I must be open to teaching them to ultimately listen to their inner voice and feel their bodies first and foremost since we are each so unique, biochemically and in life experience. I think that you are a shining example (since you have reaped rewards from the Paleo concept) of what happens when you listen to your body and honor what it has to say. But I am not yet to the point where I could recommend to clients to exclude all grains, legumes, tubers, etc. when I have met so many people who can enjoy them and enjoy their health alongside.

I love your ideas about the Mediterranean Diet and the French diet. I agree that it is very presumptuous to assume that the Mediterranean Diet's health effects are due to wine, or grains, or whatever other food they isolate. We must look at the being and the diet as a whole synergistic system. But this is where I have issue with the Paleo philosophy - out of all the blue zones (where people live the longest with the most quality of life) - and also when you look at Westin A Price's research- there is NO right diet. Some blue zones eat legumes and whole grains and veggies and minimal meat (only as a condiment) or none. Other societies with amazing health eat large amounts of fresh, local, meat (although benefit has only been shown in societies where the meat is wild, or is feeding off of pristine land w/o toxic exposure). Some are a little bit of both. The deciding factor in their health is how whole the food is, and a seemingly active lifestyle.  I would also add that each group of healthy people followed the natural flow of what their bodies needed in that climate and with unique demands.

So - my point is that not everyone is destined to be on the Paleo diet - just like not everyone should be vegetarian or vegan or macrobiotic or raw. It is not that there is anything inherently wrong with these diets, other than the tendency for one to listen to outside rules, instead of the inner voice of what the body really needs.

Natalie Pescetti

Offline rachelo477

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2010, 05:50:53 PM »
I am a Natural Chef student at the SC campus this fall and I follow a primal/paleo diet a la Robb Wolf (the Paleolithic Solution) and Mark Sisson (The Primal Blueprint).

While I don't want to get into specifics of why I eat Paleo, I do want to direct the readers of this post to a recent article on Sisson's website, This article gives some clarity (or more confusion depending on your stance) to the issue of rice.

Enjoy the read.

like Natalie, I do not promote anything that is "fad" in nature and I do believe that everyone's diet should be modified based on a range of factors including family history, geographical location and ancestral regional influences, digestive strength, blood type, eating history, and various medical issues.

I think that eating "paleo" is the exact opposite of a "fad" diet. It's an ancient way of eating that was interrupted by technological and agricultural advances. While I'm all in favor of advancing as a society, our ability to manipulate and mutate our food sources has not been doing society any huge favors.

Offline MistyH

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2010, 09:58:59 AM »
I think we have to be very careful referring to a Paleo/Primal lifestyle as fad.  In the world of whole, unprocessed foods and when discussing macronutrient needs, high quality animal proteins provide us the most bang for our buck.  As Enig states, our highest nutrients are concentrated in that of animal proteins. 

I don't eat grains at all nor do I consume legumes.  I only eat animal protein once to twice daily and always locally sourced. 

I have been my own experiment suffering cognitive issues my whole life, I am finally healed.   I have suffered ADD, compulsive disorders, digestive issues, and hormonal distress. 

I am currently reading the paleo solution and will further comment later but I can tell you that I have several clients both vegetarian and omnivore suffering extreme digestive distress.  These are not clients that I am assisting in transitioning from a SAD lifestyle either.  I have seen folks heal eliminating grains, legumes and dairy. 

I teach my clients how to consume only what they need which consequently is actually much less than if they were 1. consuming low quality proteins 2.  consuming a higher carbohydrate diet.

Robb Wolf is always promoting local and sustainable as well, wild caught.  He orders local beef himself and has it delivered to his gym in Chico putting together a nice beef CSA. 

The paleo lifestyle does not eliminate tubers in fact Robb is a huge proponent of the sweet potato and also promotes squash as well, you have mentioned the berries and other green veggies AND from your local farmers market. 

In today's world, Eating 4 Health is a fad to many.  How can we judge a traditional foods lifestyle as a fad?  High nutrient density sourced from organic local farms is what at the end of the day we are promoting and this, considered a building diet works very well for so many.  In fact, biochemical individuality from my eyes without hormonal derangement is much less apparent than some would like to think. 

We would like to think a produce/grain dominant diet is the panacea for the environment, the human frame etc. I will refer you to "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith for a much more eloquent read than I can provide. 

I must be honest here, I have learned more from Robb Wolf's podcasts than any classes or programs I have attended.  He is well read when it comes to studies as is his mentor, Loren Cordain.

I think what we might have here is a moral issue which can be touchy.  Has anyone seen Denise Minger's peeling of the layers of the China Study? 

Have we discussed the issue of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in India where a vegetarian diet is dominant? 

My final message, consume only what you need and with great conscience and thanks.

These young, highly intelligent biochemists are making a huge splash in the world of nutrition and if I were following a 65% + carbohydrate rich diet I would again be a fat cognitive mess. 

Eat Well, Feel Well

Offline MistyH

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2010, 10:03:49 AM »
I should add that I am a 10+ year 85 lb. weight loss maintaner.  I lost my weight on a paleo model actually beginning with the Atkins Diet.

When I began my schooling, I questioned my lifestyle, experimented and did poorly with the change. 

Thank goodness The Diet Cure and Know Your Fats were included in our schooling as these reiterated what I already knew about myself prior to beginning school
Eat Well, Feel Well

Offline francesco

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2010, 10:36:20 PM »
I think it's absolutely amazing that more nutritionists and dietitians don't talk about the morality of the way people eat. I mean, come on; dietary protocols like Atkins and now the Paleolithic trend both take a huge toll on the amount of "live stock" slaughtered in order to befit our privileged lifestyles.

Are we built to follow the nutritional guidelines of the Paleolithic Diet?


However, the quality of meat that most people eat doesnít in any way, shape or form meet the nutritional value that our Paleolithic Age counterparts had the benefit of consuming.

When we choose what we eat, we need to educate ourselves and become aware about the affects our decisions create on the planet. This is not a time to selfishly make decisions that donít take into account how our lifestyle choices burden the planet or bring inhumane treatment to animals. I think itís blatantly ignorant for people to essentially pattern their diets after information that isnít adequately presenting all of the relevant facts.

When the health professionals on this forum take it upon themselves to become authorities in helping people who donít necessarily know better what and how to eat, they need to make sure theyíre conveying the whole picture.

The Paleolithic Diet has numerous negative affects on the planet. The methane gas that cows emit is a detriment to the atmosphere we all share. The sheer amount of cows (for example) that are inhumanely slaughtered to befit the luxury we have to eat their flesh without getting blood on our hands is taken way too lightly. In my opinion, until we stand up to corporate slaughter houses, not just in America, but in other countries like Brazil, and demand the humane treatment of animals, we are only perpetuating ignorance.

Nutritionists and Dietitians are accountable for making sure their clients understand the consequences of their decisions; just like doctors are responsible for explaining the negative side effects pharmaceuticals can have on a personís health. Why isnít this a bigger deal?

Having been raised by a Nutritionists and also being interested in becoming one, I can tell you that (from my perspective) more energy is spent by healing professionals on trying to be right and feed their egos. I certainly see a lot of that in this thread alone. More energy must be expended in making sure weíre accountable for how we affect each other, animals and the planet as a whole.

Doctors, nutritionists and dietitians should always be held accountable for speaking in integrity with what our character should be. Again, itís ignorant to only make decisions based upon diet, rather than also integrating our awareness about how animals are treated or how weíre collectively affecting the planet.

People of all walks of life can flourish without eating meat, or at least eating as much flesh products as most Americans (especially) do. Iíll be blunt, unless youíre living on a farm doing the actual slaughtering of these animals, you really donít have much to say on the subject. And while I realize the Paleolithic Diet is much more than just animal products, itís certainly a significant part of it.

Weíre not hunters. Get over it. Weíre stressed out, emotional beings trying to contend with the stresses of the social structure weíve co-created. Imbalances and disease are manifestations of so much more than what we eat or how we ingest it.

I think the nutritional world as a whole needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and collectively stand for something. If health professionals are going to advise their clients to eat meat; they must also be responsible for becoming aware of and imparting their knowledge of how animals are treated.

Just imagine the impact we could create if religious meat eaters were successfully encouraged to cut back their consumption of animal products in their meals to just one or two days a week. It would enormously positively affect how many animals are inhumanely slaughtered and diminish the way we are harming the environment by eliminating our ridiculous high demand for flesh.

This isnít the Paleolithic Age. Weíve got huge problems on this planet and everyone needs to work together to solve them. Health professionals spend too much time getting caught up on the micro issues about our nutritional needs, while almost completely disregarding the bigger picture. And itís criminal.

Michael Pollen said: ďPerhaps more than any other, the food industry is very sensitive to consumer demand.Ē Why arenít we more deliberately using this power?

Well, if I may answerÖ We donít use this power of influence for sake of getting caught up in the semantics of trying to prove intellectual dominance over each other.

However, if history has proven anything, itís that we know nothing.

Offline MistyH

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2010, 04:02:05 PM »
Francesco, I too believe our animal protein supply is very different than that of our ancestors.  As is our entire food supply. 

There is no easy answer in this promotion of nutrient density healthful foods. 

I must say, I'm a bit offended by your post and feel like you didn't read all of the interjections above. 

I clearly stated that while I consume a more paleo style diet, my food is locally sourced.  I don't promote factory farmed animal proteins and never ever consume them myself. 

We conveniently forget how damaging to the planet agriculture is.  How many small animals, insects and water way life suffer in the face of agriculture? 

The easiest answer of course is to raise our own food.  How noble!  Tell that to my client that I work with for free who is on foodstamps.......

The moral high ground is so easy to walk when you have the cash to balance it. 

If you've ever read any of Robert Atkins or Robb Wolf's work you would know that they too promote local, organic, sustainable, etc. 

Yes, we are far from our what our ancestors ate but, I can tell you consuming grains  is even farther yet. 

Let's put it this way, my body doesn't respond well to food that cannot be consumed in its raw state.

Know thy body
Eat Well, Feel Well

Offline DianeS

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2011, 10:38:53 AM »
I'm looking for the original blog post that this thread was started around and I can't find it. Has the author since changed her stance and removed the post? Or did the website simply move/change?

Author, "Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle," available on >

Offline Marlina E

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Re: Article on the Possible Downsides of the Paleolithic Diet
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2011, 04:57:18 PM »
Try contacting Natalie directly, you can find her email if you click on her name.
BA Environmental Studies UCSB
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Offline NatalieP

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Natalie Pescetti