Part 1 explored the Paleo Diet Religion from the outside-in.
In previous articles I have discussed the fact that Paleolithic humans were not lean because of what they ate (another point often insinuated in the Paleo Religious dogma). Humans were lean because of how they lived, and because of the harsh conditions of being human in earlier epochs of human history.
You would think that would be obvious, when you compare their lives to our modern ones of abundance, and the modern provisions of heat, food and shelter we enjoy.
But this is how diet fad religions work. They twist common sense to the point of laughable absurdity, all the while trying to make an argument that is supposedly based in science and research. But as I illustrated in Part 1, the science and research supporting “The Paleo Diet” is just plain in error, so you are left to take The Paleo Diet on faith, as any hapless religious follower should do.
It’s an aspect of sub-culture more generally: when it comes to “diets,” any diet fad is a fad when it becomes “a movement.”
But like most “movements” these fad diet religions go only so far and then stop, hence the literal meaning of the term “a movement.” They stop because they are simply wrong, and they don’t work.
Remember that what “works” must be defined in the long-term: diets must not just be “doable” but also sustainable in a pleasurable way as well.
Members of the fad diet-religions believe they are eating more sensibly than you or I, and that their diet god is the one and only “true” diet god. But just like religions of spirituality, fad diet religious followers are just eating more ritualistically.
There is “ritual” in what they do, and that is one of its main draws among consumers who don’t know any better.
In this case, poor misinformed Paleo dieters see not eating starches as necessary to health and well-being, when actually this is just a sacrament of the Paleo diet.
It is just like those who want to develop their bodies, and think that their special brand of protein shake (taken at such and such a time) is a vital key to their development, yet really it’s just a sacrament to being a consumer in that particular sub-culture.
In today’s culture, a person’s identity formation has more to do with fad diet popularity than anyone wants to admit. Consumers want to think that their diet-adherence is based in research and science, when it’s likely based in faith and other ritualistic behaviors that go with it.
Here, let’s Debunk Paleo from the Inside-Out:
The Actual Food and Eating Claims of the Paleo Diet
One of the prominent “food” claims made by Paleo purists is that a diet of 50% red meat is healthier than a diet with less meat. But in 2012, the Harvard School of Public Health released a study that shows that the more red meat people eat… the sooner they die.
Also popular with Paleo pundits and other modern pop-diet experts is the claim that a diet without dairy is healthier than a diet that includes dairy. But 2010 research from Cardiff University in Wales showed that eating more dairy products was associated with lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and death by any cause.
In the Paleo religious “bible” the argument is that a diet that excludes all grains is healthier than one that includes whole grains. (Bashing grains is the “sodium demon” of our generation, and of Paleo in particular. Grains are the Satan of the Paleo bible.) And yet The National Institute of Health’s AARP Diet and Health Study, a MASSIVE research undertaking that tracked the death and disease rates of half a million men and women over 9 years, found that those who ate THE MOST whole grains were 22% LESS LIKELY to die during this 9 years period than those who ate less whole grains. Furthermore, the people with THE MOST consumption of whole grains were about 30% LESS LIKELY to develop heart disease.
So much for the Paleo diet and avoiding grains being “healthier.”
Clearly, the research just does not bear out the claims made by Paleo. So once again, as any good religious follower, you have to go on faith.
But here’s the thing, as with most “diet religions,” of course Paleo Preaching Pundits will turn critics into skeptics, into “non-believers” and “outsiders” if you will.
And when research doesn’t support a fad diet religion-du-jour? Why, then what you do is attack the researchers!
This tactic is alive and well in the modern fitness and diet industries.
I’ve been on the receiving end of attacks from zealots many times in my career.
Any research that doesn’t support a fad diet religion like Paleo “must be” tainted by food industry interests. It’s a conspiracy!
And yet as I showed in Part 1, the Paleo God, and Paleo's creator, has no background at all as a paleobiologist or evolutionary biologist. His arguments are just flat out incorrect!
This whole fitness and diet industry conspiracy theory nonsense is getting really, really old and stale. What we witness here in the religion of Paleo is the long-standing cultural tradition of all vogue diet cults and trends that I’ve lived long enough to keep witnessing again, and again, and again.
Let’s be honest:
If there is a paradigm blindness bias at work here… it is probably NOT with academic research, but more likely with the evangelists who continue to promote, prop up, and push an agenda based in opinion – even when the research is to the contrary on a point by point basis – as it is in the fad diet Paleo arguments.
But instead of dealing with the research, it is much easier for these diet zealots to simply attack the credibility of the researchers and yell “conspiracy.”
Let’s tear down the so-called “evil” of grains some more.
Professor Ann Stone of Arizona State University has demonstrated that humans from populations with high-starch diets typically have more copies of the gene that regulates the production of the enzyme amylase, an enzyme that aids starch digestion.
What this shows is that humans living in areas where grain agriculture was adapted at the beginning of the Neolithic period evolved pretty darn quickly to BENEFIT from a grain-focused diet.
Once again, contrary to Paleo arguments, research like Professor Stone’s illustrate that when it comes to diet adaptation, human evolution as an omnivore species is not always slow – a fact that flies in the face of the religious dogma of the Paleo Diet.
Other research also shows that the human species was quick to adapt to increased grain consumption, suggesting that the human’s capacity for genetic adaptations to all kinds of diets, foods and environments is one of the factors that allowed our species to thrive and spread across the globe.
Eating grain is not “unnatural.” It is merely a reflection of the evolution of our omnivore species, and of our ability to adapt.
Modern nutrition “lore” (that is, the kind preached by Paleo religious zealots) has posited that eating grains causes systemic inflammation and other related issues, including “cognitive impairment” often labeled as “grain brain.”
But the ACTUAL research (and an abundance of it I may add), shows that people around the world who consume the most whole grains actually have LOWER levels of systemic inflammation. (For instance, Lefevre, M et al, “Effect of whole grains on markers of subclinical inflammation,” Nutrition Review, July 2012)
What we see here is that there is a cycle of fad diet religiosity that takes hold of pop-culture every few years.
The Paleo diet is just one of the latest examples. Atkins came before it.
But these fad diet religions are seldom based in hard science and accredited research. People come to believe in them based on little more than the rudimentary elements of “faith” and “psychology.”
Paleo has been debunked over and over again… but the books continue to sell.
I even saw “Paleo Diet for Women” the other day at the bookstore, as if to imply that one gender should of course eat differently, and that one gender has different metabolic needs than the other, even though we are both of the same species and evolution. So by that logic your female German Shepherd needs to eat differently than your male German Shepherd, and the male lion must have to eat a different “kill” than the female lion, and so on.
But of course, I am just an outsider skeptic, a non-believer, non-follower, a Paleo “atheist” if you will.
And for that I thankfully say AMEN!