Monday, 24 June 2013

Paleo-Kerfuffle; 'Paleo' is Shorthand Guys.

Paleo is NOT about re-enactment.  It is simply short-hand for an evolutionary perspective on eating, exercise and wider lifestyle.

The food part simply means eating 'close to the ground' - 'low order' or real foods (we know them when we see them), that could be hunted, gathered and prepared out in the field.  This means meat, fish, shell fish,  nuts, fruit and veg.  Simple!  Dairy in the form of milk is most definitely 'in' - although tolerance may vary.

There is no one paleo diet nor one simple ratio of macros (seasonal and geographic factors would have put paid to that).  With modern science we can look at optimising macro ratios, but remember that what is 'optimal' will be a moving target given our dynamic biology.

That is fundamentally it.  Not sure why there is such a kerfuffle, but kerfuffle there is. What is funny is that most of the kerfufflers seem to recommend a diet not too dissimilar to that which would be considered 'paleo-compliant'.

If you want to try adding cheese, wine, chocolate, legumes and grains then these may well be tolerated and may be beneficial to your health.  There is a definite argument that they WILL be tolerated when prepared in traditional ways.

Modern foods may be made using these same raw materials, but they are not processed to the same nutritional profile as traditionally prepared foods and so may not be tolerated as well.  The foods may also be 'engineered' which means that their nutritional signature/payload will vary to what the body may well expect given the colour, smell, texture and flavour of the food.  

Yes, modern food can be made to taste, smell and mouth-feel to whatever extent optimises economic return.  The rate of reformulation is far beyond any traditional agricultural breeding program.  The more 'high order' a food is, the easier it is to reformulate.

Is this good or bad?  Well, look at the incentives of the people manufacturing these foods, and look at the health of the people eating them.  Your call.  

I would caution that ill health can take root at a micro level and take years to manifest at a macro level.  How long do you think they test the health implications of high order foods for (if at all)?  As I said, your call.


Personally I rarely eat food that can be reformulated.  I know my food isn't the same as that eaten by my ancestral forefathers, but I do know that if I was living out in the field given time to develop basic hunting and foraging skills, my diet would approximate what I eat now, and that is good enough for me.

Robb Wolff's paleo fight back is worth reading for this quote from Kim Hill (Professor of Anthropology at ASU),
  • A few quick observations since the work of my wife and I on the Hiwi is extensively cited here (as is our demographic documentation of hunter-gatherer lifespans). First, the Hiwi, like the other hunter-gatherers that we have worked with and visited, are much healthier in general than are Americans, but with the caveat that they suffer from maladies that we can cure with modern medicine (infections, parasites). They are lean and fit. Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay are even more fit than the Hiwi, they eat more and have extremely high exercise loads. High mortality of hunter-gatherers (mainly in infancy) is not relevant to the argument here because it mainly comes from violence and trauma. Warfare was a major cause of death among the Hiwi, nobody is suggesting we emulate that part of the paleo lifestyle. Parasites are unpleasant, and yes luckily we now have ways to eliminate them that our ancestors never achieved. But the point is that if Hunter-gatherers are lean, and fit (they look much more like serious athletes than do modern people), why? If not their diet and exercise regime, then what does make them lean and fit compared to modern people? Logic suggests that diet is part of the solution (excercise seems downplayed by everyone). So the discussion here should be focused on what we can learn from hunter-gatherers to improve our own health. How do “paleofantasy” critiques contribute to that discussion? Im not sure, I havent read the book. Yes there is significant genetic evolution in recent times, yes dietary variation in human foragers around the world suggest no single optimal diet, but still, what can be extracted by acknowledging that they are lean and fit? The paleodiet discussion has been very important for advancing our understanding of human nutrition — a field which has been dominated by the search for “minimal requirements” rather than “optimality”. But the bottom line is that the paleodiet critics need to contribute rather than just critique. And for the record, my wife Ana Hurtado and I have been eating a paleodiet (by accident because of fieldwork) for more than 30 years, because we grew accustomed to that diet (long before the fad). Meats, and unprocessed plant foods are a simple generalized ancestral diet and appear to produce better health than the current standard modern diet. As anyone who knows us can affirm, Hurtado and I are a lot leaner and fitter than most Americans in our age cohort (near 60). Why?
Looking at another way, if you wanted to fuck your health up without smoking and drinking, if you wanted to damage your health through food, what would you eat?

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