Paleo Diet Project - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 03-19-2012, 07:25 PM
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So, what do you all think about the Paleo Diet fad? I'm sure 99.9% of the people here think it's horrible (myself included, even though I don't necessarily think meat is super bad for you).

Anyways, for my nutritional anthropology class myself and a partner are focusing on the Paleo Diet for our project. In her section, she will be discussing whether the modern Paleo fad has any relation to the diet of actual paleo peoples. She's doing this by reviewing the literature in such fields as archaeology and physical anthropology.

For my section, I focus on the health claims. I'll go through each food category (meat, grains, starches...etc) and see if the medical literature is in agreement with the paleo diet view or not. I found a bunch of studies (15+) that conflict Paleo diet viewpoints lol. Studies that show whole grains help reduce the risk of disease, the new study that came out recently showing red meat increases risk of mortality, that legumes are good...etc.

Basically the Paleo diet is BS and I'm working on a project about why it's A. Inaccurate to the lifestyles of the real paleo peoples (they hunted and gathered, didn't drive cars to Whole Foods for grass-fed beef) and B. How it's an unhealthy diet in the long run.

Thoughts?

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#2 Old 03-19-2012, 07:29 PM
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"Paleo" is a vague term. What time-period do you believe it belongs to? When anthropologists use it, they tend to refer to people who lived up until the end of the Pleistocene/beginning of the Holocene. Almost all of the things we consider "food" today, including modern grains and vegetables, didn't even exist.
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#3 Old 03-19-2012, 07:32 PM
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"Paleo" is a vague term. What time-period do you believe it belongs to? When anthropologists use it, they tend to refer to people who lived up until the end of the Pleistocene/beginning of the Holocene. Almost all of the things we consider "food" today, including modern grains and vegetables, didn't even exist.

Well in terms of the diet and what were focusing on, it's basically the time before the neolithic (agricultural) revolution. So 2.5+mya-10,000ya or so. Paleo proponents point to the fact that after humans adopted mass agriculture, health declined. This is a true fact but it's not simply because they started eating grains.

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#4 Old 03-19-2012, 07:45 PM
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Reliable data is fairly hard to come by due to the biases of both its proponents and opponents. But I'll say this... Most of the people I know who are on Paleo diets (and I do know quite a few) are vastly healthier than most of the people I know who aren't. But the same is also true for anyone who takes a serious interest in health, even if 90% of the rules they follow are BS and only the remaining 10% are what is actually keeping them healthy. I mean the Paleo diet is popular largely among what I would call the Crossfit crowd. They watch what they eat, have a lot of willpower, and exercise regularly. Statistically speaking, they're likely to be very healthy whether the specifics of the Paleo diet are flawed or not simply because they avoid junk food and live a healthy lifestyle.

Whether or not it actually mirrors what our so called hunter/gatherer ancestors ate is somewhat irrelevant, but still an interesting discussion. I mean nothing we eat mirrors what they ate. Everything from the fat juicy apples at the grocery store to the shrink wrapped beef came to be through post agriculture breeding. A true Paleo diet would probably be more along the lines of various roots, berries, a few crab apples here and there, insects, grubs, scavenged bone marrow, and a bit of meat here and there. But that's just an educated guess. As an anthropology major, I'm sure you're aware of how difficult it is to pinpoint exactly how they survived. Given such uncertainty, the term "Paleo diet" just feels cheesy to me, but I'd still be hard pressed to critique someone who is likely among the top 1% in a country that is bursting at the seams with unhealthy people that simply don't give a damn about living a healthy lifestyle.

I personally don't do anything that resembles a Paleo diet, but have no trouble keeping up with my Paleo endorsing colleagues. I think it's a select few things we have in common (i.e. avoiding sweets) keeping us strong and healthy, not the fact that they don't eat grains and I do.

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#5 Old 03-19-2012, 08:04 PM
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Yeah, they're healthier because they pay more attention to what they eat, and exercise, more so than the general population. But long term? Can eating all that meat be healthy down the road? If you see any paleo meal plans, they advocate eating meat at almost every meal and most plans I've seen have protein intakes of 150g or more a day.

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#6 Old 03-19-2012, 08:12 PM
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In your first post, you say the focus is on whether the Paleo diet "has any relation to the diet of actual paleo peoples." I wouldn't get tied up in a debate over whether it is healthy or not. You should probably try to flush out the differences in diet in hominids 2.5 mya versus 10K years ago as well as regional variables that must have existed to flush out the profound variability in diet even in that time.
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#7 Old 03-19-2012, 08:17 PM
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Yeah, they're healthier because they pay more attention to what they eat, and exercise, more so than the general population. But long term? Can eating all that meat be healthy down the road? If you see any paleo meal plans, they advocate eating meat at almost every meal and most plans I've seen have protein intakes of 150g or more a day.

Hard to say because there isn't much data. I mean in theory it should be bad, but actually analyzing it over a long period of time is a different story. The longest average lifespan for men in the world goes to Iceland, and their diet is traditionally very high in red meat, fish, and dairy (not allowed in the Paleo diet btw). That doesn't mean it's the reason, but it does mean it isn't hurting their chances of survival as much as traditional nutritionists would like to believe. In the U.S., the statistics seem to tell a different story. That could mean we're missing something, or it could simply mean no correlation. That's why I tend to stick to ethical arguments when supporting vegetarianism, because nutrition is a lot more complicated than it seems. I don't feel that I have the necessary data to rationalize a Paleo diet as unhealthy, but I do have the necessary data to support my belief that a non-Paleo diet IS healthy.

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#8 Old 03-19-2012, 08:23 PM
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It also could be genetics in that the Icelandic people have eaten that way for a long time their body is more adapted to it. I could be wrong though because the amount of time the Icelandic peoples have been around isn't that long enough to warrant such an adaptation is it? Like, if the Inuit of Alaska for some reason switched to a vegan diet they'd probably suffer health consequences for not being adapted to it.

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#9 Old 03-19-2012, 08:30 PM
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It also could be genetics in that the Icelandic people have eaten that way for a long time their body is more adapted to it. I could be wrong though because the amount of time the Icelandic peoples have been around isn't that long enough to warrant such an adaptation is it? Like, if the Inuit of Alaska for some reason switched to a vegan diet they'd probably suffer health consequences for not being adapted to it.

And actually the Inuit populations are having some serious health issues to my knowledge. The source of those issues is, again, open to bias though. There are two main theories. One is that it's because their traditional sources of food are increasingly contaminated by pollutants, and the other is that the government supplements them with refined flours that now form a significant portion of their diet, since fresh vegetables aren't exactly easy to come by up there. How long they lived and how healthy they were prior to modern times is debatable.

Iceland, on the other hand, is known for it's incredibly low level of pollution. This is due largely to the fact that they rely almost completely on geothermal power, an option which most countries don't have.

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#10 Old 03-19-2012, 08:33 PM
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It also could be genetics in that the Icelandic people have eaten that way for a long time their body is more adapted to it. I could be wrong though because the amount of time the Icelandic peoples have been around isn't that long enough to warrant such an adaptation is it? Like, if the Inuit of Alaska for some reason switched to a vegan diet they'd probably suffer health consequences for not being adapted to it.

Plenty of time to adapt, but to what? Mortality rates, not longevity measure success of natural adaptation to such base factors.

If the Inuit became vegan they would die of starvation.
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#11 Old 03-19-2012, 08:35 PM
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Plenty of time to adapt, but to what? Mortality rates, not longevity measure success of natural adaptation to such base factors.

If the Inuit became vegan they would die of starvation.

Well, I meant more on the lines of you took the Inuit and moved them to a place with access to vegan foods. Obviously in their environment they'd starve.

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#12 Old 03-19-2012, 08:38 PM
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And actually the Inuit populations are having some serious health issues to my knowledge. The source of those issues is, again, open to bias though. There are two main theories. One is that it's because their traditional sources of food are increasingly contaminated by pollutants, and the other is that the government supplements them with refined flours that now form a significant portion of their diet, since fresh vegetables aren't exactly easy to come by up there. How long they lived and how healthy they were prior to modern times is debatable.

Nail on the head for pretty much any more recent "native" analogues.
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#13 Old 03-19-2012, 08:42 PM
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Well, I meant more on the lines of you took the Inuit and moved them to a place with access to vegan foods. Obviously in their environment they'd starve.

Something similar happened in the US west. Indians had their lifestyles disrupted and in attempt to accommodate their inability to maintain their foodways they were introduced to concentrated carbs. Now obesity and diabetes are rampant. Is it just a change in diet, or are there other cultural factors involved? Are they taking in the same amount of calories? Getting the same amount of exercise? It's never just one thing.
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#14 Old 03-19-2012, 08:51 PM
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Something similar happened in the US west. Indians had their lifestyles disrupted and in attempt to accommodate their inability to maintain their foodways they were introduced to concentrated carbs. Now obesity and diabetes are rampant. Is it just a change in diet, or are there other cultural factors involved? Are they taking in the same amount of calories? Getting the same amount of exercise? It's never just one thing.

I'm aware of this...know all about it. It's very sad

But what would happen if for the Inuit analogy they adopted a whole foods, vegan diet with no processed sugar, refined carbs...etc. Fresh fruits and vegetables mostly. Would they still get sick for their bodies not being used to these foods?

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#15 Old 03-19-2012, 08:56 PM
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I'm aware of this...know all about it. It's very sad

But what would happen if for the Inuit analogy they adopted a whole foods, vegan diet with no processed sugar, refined carbs...etc. Fresh fruits and vegetables mostly. Would they still get sick for their bodies not being used to these foods?

Your question is already loaded with the word "fresh".

I would bet, but not argue, that most people would manage just fine on a nutritionally well-balanced vegan diet. But again, you never do just one thing.
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#16 Old 03-19-2012, 09:01 PM
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Your question is already loaded with the word "fresh".

I would bet, but not argue, that most people would manage just fine on a nutritionally well-balanced vegan diet. But again, you never do just one thing.

Like if your vegan for 10 years then one day eat organic, grass fed beef would you get sick? If you eat whale and seal fat for 90% of your diet for most of your life and one day switch to organic fruits and veggies and nuts would you get sick?

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#17 Old 03-19-2012, 09:04 PM
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Like if your vegan for 10 years then one day eat organic, grass fed beef would you get sick? If you eat whale and seal fat for 90% of your diet for most of your life and one day switch to organic fruits and veggies and nuts would you get sick?

I suspect it would require some adjustment, but would it kill you? I doubt it. I know a couple of vegans who had GI problems for over a year when they changed diets, but they are still alive.

Also, "most of your life" is a relative thing.
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#18 Old 03-19-2012, 09:07 PM
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During a hiking trip into Outer Mongolia, I actually brought some irradiated apples with me (the regular ones wouldn't have survived the trip) to give away. During the days of the Soviet Union they apparently had some access to such things through trading, but I found that the farther away from civilization I got, the more likely I was to stumble across some kid who had never even tasted an apple before. The apples turned out to be valuable tools for making friends lol. No point really, I just found it interesting given the direction of the conversation

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#19 Old 03-19-2012, 09:14 PM
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During a hiking trip into Outer Mongolia, I actually brought some irradiated apples with me (the regular ones wouldn't have survived the trip) to give away. During the days of the Soviet Union they apparently had some access to such things through trading, but I found that the farther away from civilization I got, the more likely I was to stumble across some kid who had never even tasted an apple before. The apples turned out to be valuable tools for making friends lol. No point really, I just found it interesting given the direction of the conversation

Very cool. That's one place I've really wanted to visit but have yet to.

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#20 Old 03-19-2012, 09:16 PM
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When the kid ate the apple did you refer to it as "nuking a commie"? Because it would have been funny if you had.
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#21 Old 03-19-2012, 09:20 PM
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When the kid ate the apple did you refer to it as "nuking a commie"? Because it would have been funny if you had.

Lol unfortunately no. I actually couldn't communicate with them too well anyway. They didn't speak Chinese like in Inner Mongolia. I was depending mostly on a Chinese friend who was with me who also happened to speak a little Russian. Quite a few of the middle aged and older Mongolians could speak a fair amount of Russian.

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"On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club)

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