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Debunking a Paleo Diet Strawman

Debunking a Paleo Diet Strawman
Angelo Coppola

Update: If you would like to hear / watch this article instead of reading it, you can do so hereHumans Are Not Broken

As the Paleo diet movement has grown, it has also become increasingly difficult to talk about, at times. This is because there is no single set of guidelines for what constitutes the Paleo diet, and as it grows in popularity, the variants continue to pile on.

This is both a strength and a weakness.

It is a strength, because like any legitimate field of study, there is always more to learn. With near-infinite variables, the unknowns always outweigh the knowns. As we learn more, we can modify basic starting point macro-guidelines and then the micro-guidelines at the individual level. It also makes the field more inclusive as far as people trying new things, researching new areas, and hopefully adding to the overall body of knowledge.

This uncertainty and malleability is also a weakness, though. For example, the media latches on to the most flamboyant imagery and ratings-grabbing sound bites when describing the Paleo diet. Attacking the Paleo approach is also easier, because with many versions to choose from, it is quite easy to cherry-pick the weakest features from the weakest (and often outdated) sources, and then to simply do battle against this hastily constructed straw man.

In Dr. Christina Warinner’s recent TEDx Talk, she did a great job of ignoring the strengths of the Paleo approach, arguing against some straw-man tenets, and then providing her own dietary advice — which happens to line up neatly with what most Paleo eaters try to practice themselves.

The Opening

As Robb Wolf points out in a recent blog post:

This is possibly nit-picky on my part, but getting a PhD from Harvard, I think Prof. Warinner picked “fad” in lieu of “trend” for a bit more…”pop.” It’s kind of a bummer, as right out of the gate one is feeling a bit set upon if you are rooting for an Evolution based dietary template to make some headway into academia.

I want to talk to you about the Paleo Diet...it's one of America's fastest growing diet fads

According to Merriam-Webster

 \’fad\
a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal.

Nearly all approaches to health and well being can be practiced faddishly by end-users, but in the case of Paleo there is also a sizable scientific community behind the approach. The big-umbrella idea is that of Evolutionary Health, Nutrition, and Fitness.

There’s a baby in the bathwater, but Warinner seems to completely ignore it.

2

Well, that’s a broad list of general sources, and she doesn’t actually say whether she’s read any of the books. This potentially explains why she lays out a caricatured version of Paleo. Here’s what I mean…

Myth 1

3

Warinner starts her Paleo mythbusting by contrasting human beings to carnivores. Unlike carnivores:

  • We can’t synthesize our own Vitamin C
  • Our intestinal tracts are much longer
  • Some of us have adapted to milk consumption, but not meat consumption
  • And we have generalist teeth that aren’t specialized for shredding meat

First of all, who is arguing that human beings are carnivores? Virtually no one who is taken seriously, that’s who.

Yet, based on this presentation, one who doesn’t know otherwise might easily assume that the Paleo approach argues that human beings are, or ought to be, carnivores. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Human beings are omnivores, like all primates. And heck, even deer will partake in the occasional injured bird. No arguing about the differences between deer and lion intestines will change this bird’s fate.

Humans have no teeth for shredding meat, huh?

Watch a few minutes of this video (the link should start you off at the 19:24 mark), and decide for yourself whether this issue of meat-shredding dentition is as black and white as Dr. Warinner would lead us to believe.

Dr. Alice Roberts, Anatomist (Narrating): The smaller, sharper teeth that evolved in all our mouths seem well-adapted to sheering through the tough muscle fibers of meat.

Dr. Alice Roberts: And these are the teeth of a vegetarian…by choice. [laughter]

Dr. Peter Ungar, Anthropologist: [Vegetarian] by choice. Not by evolution.

After telling us that there are no anatomical, physiological, or genetic adaptations to meat consumption, Dr. Warinner goes on to say:

  • There is more evidence of meat eating in our ancient ancestors than plant eating, because bones preserve better than plants
  • Organ meats would have been eaten, perhaps preferred over muscle meat
  • The meat that was eaten was not from commercially-fattened cows
  • More meat would have been eaten in arctic regions than in tropical regions

And this differs with the Paleo approach, exactly how? Far from being different, this is precisely what many influencers in the Paleo community have said for years. There is disagreement as too how much meat we should be eating and macronutrient ratios. Healthy disagreement. But all of these bullet points are clearly integrated into the basic framework.

Myth 2

4

Look, this is nothing new. In fact, the last time this was made into a big deal was 2010, and I talked about it on This Week in Paleo, Episode 8: PaleogateWarinner covers old ground when she tells us there is 30,000-year old evidence of grain grinding tools. Of course, the ground-up grains could have been used for some home-brewed chicha, medicinal concoctions, or for some food.

The thing is, there is no evidence of grain being a staple food in pre-agricultural times, and it seems quite unlikely.

From this assertion, the evolutionary approach hypothesizes that vastly increased grain consumption could be problematic. Fast forward to Paleo 2013, and many of us consider non-gluten containing grains and starches excellent sources of energy — in the form of sweet potatoes, yams, rice and potatoes, anyway — unless there are underlying medical conditions that provide reasons for avoiding them.

The Paleo approach does not exclude foods grown on neolithic branches of the tree of knowledge. There is, instead a proceed-with-caution warning applied to them.

I fully understand that corn tortillas (two three ingredients: corn & salt corn, water, and lime) might do me in, but I take that occasional risk anyway, because it’s worth having a damn fine plate of fajitas once in a while. Especially since I estimate this occasional risk to be nearly zero.

On the other hand, the keeled-over cramps I experience when eating a bit of bread or a splash of malt vinegar tells me to stay away from those all of the time. Seed oils? There is zero upside: they don’t taste good, help with body composition, or provide any psychological reward…so why bother with them?

No upside + risk is a fool’s game.

This is what I consider the applied Paleo approach at the individual level.

5

This reminds me of the purveyors of processed food telling us that Everything is Processed (if you haven’t read this article yet, you can click the link and it will open in a new tab — crazy stuff), so we can’t help but eat processed foods. In fact, we shouldn’t even think in terms of processed versus not-processed. According to them, it’s pointless.

Basically, with this myth, Dr. Warinner is telling us the same thing. We have no access to Paleolithic era foods, so it is impossible to eat a Paleo diet. Today, we have domesticated, neolithic foods. Game over. No white-dotted, 1-up, green mushroom for you. You’re stuck here in the neolithic milieu along with the rest of us.

Bananas can’t even breed anymore. They’re all genetic clones grown from clippings. And wild bananas are fibrous and nasty, hardly recognizable as food by modern people. Wild lettuce is full of latex and difficult to digest. We’ve bred toxins right out of many plants, like tomatoes, to make them edible.

And on top of all that…Paleolithic people could never have squeezed oil out of olives. They couldn’t have eaten anything but local foods. They couldn’t have eaten eggs every day, year-round. Broccoli didn’t exist in the Paleolithic. Oh and carrots were gross.

OK, therefore I should just eat a bowl of corn flakes, some ding dongs and a Gatorade.

Pretending this is Warinner’s conclusion is about as fair as Dr. Warinner pretending that promoters of an evolutionary approach to nutrition conclude that somehow the foods we eat today are identical to what our Paleolithic ancestors were eating. This is her straw man, not ours.

Can we all just agree that there are degrees ranging from naturally occurring foods to highly processed foods — and that judging the value of these food solely through the lens of nutritionism is the wrong way to go about it?

Lately, I’ve been eating much less muscle meat…maybe a few times a week in small portions. I also eat goat liver and fatty fish frequently. Bone broths from grass-fed cows and bug-eating chickens have long been staples for me. I do eat nutrient-rich eggs almost daily. And, I also eat more vegetables than most vegetarians.

Is this not an evolutionary approach to food choice? Does my diet really need to be debunked?

Now that she’s torn down her version of the Paleo diet, let’s see how Dr. Warinner recommends we should eat based on archaeological evidence.

Lesson 1

6

Quit eating just corn, wheat and soy? No problem there for a Paleo eater.

Let’s just say we go ahead and give up the wheat and soy all together and save the corn for that occasional plate of previously mentioned low-risk fajitas? That puts my version of Paleo and Warinner’s version of the archaeological diet pretty close together, so far.

Eat a diverse diet? Okay, how about a diet that includes:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Naturally raised and wild meats
  • Fish
  • Organ meats
  • Bone-based broths that include the marrow
  • Some nuts and seeds
  • Some tubers
  • Fermented vegetables and beverages
  • Eggs
  • Low-processed fats and oils
  • A rainbow of natural spices and herbs that have therapeutic effects, but can also transform food into meals, cuisine, and even art.

Simply put, I’ve never eaten such a diverse selection of foods as I have on my Paleo-inspired diet. Sure, sometimes Paleo dieters do veer off into the meat-only spectrum of real food, and I tend to shake my head a bit when I hear about it. But that’s not what defines the Paleo diet or the diets of most of us who are inspired by evolutionary health, nutrition, and fitness.

Lesson 2

7

Again, how is this not Paleo?

One of the evolutionary advantages of color vision is being able to easily discern ripe and unripe foods. Is Dr. Warinner not hypothesizing here that our Paleolithic ancestors practiced this discernment and that we should, too? Welcome to the Paleo approach.

And as far as minding your microbiome, only card-holding Weston A. Price Foundation members seem to think more about their gut flora than do Paleo eaters. So, Lesson 2 amounts to more Paleo diet advice.

Lesson 3

8If the Paleolithic diet tells us anything, is this not it?

The Paleo diet is now perhaps the leading movement in the world advocating the consumption of whole, real foods. And it is the latest research (along with our intuitions as human animals) that tells us food is more than the sum of calories and nutrients.

This is why for 3 years, I have described the Paleo approach as being at the intersection of scientific evidence and evolutionary clues.

Dr. Warinner tells us:

  • We are eating more calories in smaller packages
  • Processed foods are short circuiting our ability to know when we’re full
  • a 32 oz soda contains 8 feet of sugar cane, minus the fiber.
  • that decoupling whole foods from nutrients tricks our bodies

Again, as someone who has talked about these issues for years, why exactly is Dr. Warinner debunking the Paleo diet and not simply promoting an evolutionary approach to food choice?

Offering three Paleo diet lessons in a presentation aimed at debunking the Paleo diet is, at the very least, bad form.

Conclusion

I hope it has become evident that Dr. Christina Warinner does not grasp the Paleo diet, circa 2013. Some of her so-called myths are well-known and have been discussed exensively (and synthesized) within the Paleo approach. Others, like that humans are not adapted to eat meat, are either nonsense or not the settled science that she portrays.

Dr. Warinner’s lessons for eating, on the other hand, are indeed core tenets of the Paleo approach for myself as well as most of the practitioners I have met over the years.

Something about Dr. Warinner’s presentation makes me uneasy, beyond what I’ve already talked about in this article. And it’s this: if she did the due diligence required to debunk a set of ideas on a semi-worldwide stage…how is it that she would not mention the similarities between the Paleo diet and her own recommendations?

It is my familiarity with the subject matter that leads me to say, yes, I can see how the Paleo movement can be a bit confusing and less than perfect. The marketing alliance with the low-carb community has muddied some of the waters. Some of the Paleo cookbooks and recipe sites are helping us to become a bit Too Good at Paleo. There is some in-fighting that becomes overly dramatic at times.

We’re a mix of jocks and bookworms and obese and formerly-obese and newbie zealots and old-hands passing through many phases of health and recovery that lead to new personal discoveries — so yeah, there is no one Paleo neck to choke. With near-infinite variables and billions of people, perhaps this is the best we can hope for…and I’m OK with that.

As soon as we have THE Paleo Diet ™ for Everyone, I will whole-heartedly agree that we are eyebrow deep in fad territory. As it stands, we’re perhaps only ankle deep. It slows us down a bit, but it’s still not difficult to make progress. Even if it sounds quaint, I’ll say it anyway: eating real food is helping a lot of people.

Ultimately, Dr. Warinner is telling Paleo dieters nothing new, but she does provide some fantastic advice for her TEDx audience (live and online). I hope they implement all three of her lessons. Whether or not they call it a Paleo or an evolutionary approach to making their food choices is of little consequence.

And as for us? This debunking doesn’t really matter. You can still find real food at your farmer’s market, at the grocery store, and in your backyard.

Humans Are Not Broken

What are your thoughts? Is the Paleo Diet being unfairly targeted here, and if so why? Have I been too hard / soft on Warinner’s attempt at debunking Paleo? Are there other important facts, issues and points that I’ve left out? I hope you’ll contribute in the comments.

Want to read more Humans are not Broken feature stories? Here you go. Also, you can receive Humans are not Broken articles right in your email inbox. Here’s how subscribe on Feedly.

  • http://twitter.com/Feralization Karen Phelps

    Thanks for being a rare voice of reason in the wilderness, Angelo. This is well-balanced and thoughtful, as usual.

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Thanks, Karen. It’s a bit frustrating that Warinner wasn’t a bit more even-handed. It is obvious by her talk that she agrees with many aspects of the Paleo approach, yet she painted those areas of agreement as areas of disagreement, as if the Paleo approach does not promote whole foods, diet diversity, and good gut flora health.

      • carbsane

        Hi Angelo,

        I have an archeologist (PhD, professor) who comments on my blog from time to time and I consider her to be a truthful source. She has commented several times that basically the real evolutionary biologists consider “paleo” to be a joke. If this community wants to be taken seriously by Warinner and her colleagues, that begins with not demonizing them a la Robb Wolf’s response to her talk. At this point I think paleo is drowning in marketing and selling things and when you do (supplements, decidedly non-paleo products, recipes, etc.) it’s a fad. Paleo™ is a fad. Sorry. It will wax and wane like other diets™ before it.

        Most of the more reasoned arguments you make in your article here are simply not coming across in the marketed paleo diet which is what Warinner was debunking. I don’t see her debunking strawmen. She debunked the popular paleo theories that one can see every day on sites like PaleoHacks and that came out in the Twitter feed from PaleoFX.

        Nobody said certain foods were necessarily staples, but so that only argues against whole grains on the base of the food pyramid. It does not justify the remaining common threads amongst paleo types that grains and legumes are downright toxic — remember the term NAD? Paleo™ certainly has NOT changed its tune regarding grains and legumes. I’m also seeing her being mocked for bringing up so-called “paleo approved” foods being Neolithic. They are! All of our food is. So we are back to attempts to mimic A diet that none of the “templates” and such really address. You can’t say “we didn’t evolve to consume dairy, dairy is bad b/c of XYZ, but if you tolerate it, go ahead and enjoy your cheese!”

        Best, Ev

        • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

          Hi, Ev —

          Is it safe to say that in the multi-billion dollar dieting market, that as soon as any diet becomes popular the marketing machine revs into gear? These products and service can range from good (helpful) to absurd (harmless, but useless) to bad (harmful). I don’t know that there is any way to avoid this, but we can talk about it and make sure that people who google hard enough can at least find this point of view.

          For now, I’m looking at Warinner’s presentation as stand-alone content and I’m talking about it from that angle (as opposed to the broader archaeological community vs paleo community…although I do realize there is a discussion to be had there, too). When two sides want a dialog, they often start by talking about what they have in common. Warinner avoided talking about these commonalities almost to the point of evading them, since they are so obvious.

          I have some thoughts about mimicry that I plan on writing about soon, but with regards to Paleolithic era foods and Neolithic era foods…if the semantics of this become a huge roadblock, maybe we will eventually transform this to “degrees of processing.” The processed food industry already has a 5-tier scale, but I find it lacking.

          Cheers!

          • carbsane

            Yeah, I would agree — some level of marketing is bound to happen, but I don’t think the movers and shakers should be so thin-skinned about criticism. The truth of the matter here is that the different versions of paleo are basically constructs of different gurus and their own takes. As someone who is pretty new to the paleo side of things, I can say that this is a very confused and confusing movement, and not a very welcoming one at that. It is gimmicky and not based on thorough investigation of the evolutionary science. I don’t see paleo ever being anything but a fad diet — the label is too restrictive and, frankly, tainted.

            I think it is for this reason that (and I don’t know her) Warinner likely has no interest in finding commonalities with marketeers of paleo — the diet is too at odds with her research. If she were to get involved in influencing food policy and/or diet recommendations, I imagine she would engage nutritionists at her institution or other academic organizations. Evolutionary, ancestral, etc. are still terms that could mainstream but “paleo” is mired in the definition as pre-agricultural. That it has “evolved” somewhat is more an acquiescence to increase buy in vs. the very restrictive Cordain-style paleo.

            I believe that the paleo folks are the ones who need to find their place under the bigger real-food tent rather than try to be the standard bearers of that movement. Because it is very difficult, IMO, to continue to proscribe grains and legumes (and usually dairy) and say they aren’t real food when there are even paleolithic cultures who likely consumes substantial quantities of at least the grains/legumes. So you can’t lay out a case — as for example Paul Jaminet does in PHD — that legumes are toxic and non-paleo and to be avoided, and have that square with traditional cultures thriving on legume rich diets. You can’t just change that, and the “we are evolving as we learn new things” doesn’t cut it when many of those new things are old hat.

            I guess if paleo still has visions of leading a movement it really will be up to the leaders to reach out to the Warinners of this world to get them on board. I’m not sure how to go about that, but I’m pretty sure that criticizing her for not reaching out to a community of largely ignorant (of the real science) diet book authors and their followers isn’t going to help. Your criticisms were mild and appropriate here. I’ve seen/heard worse elsewhere and if I were Warinner I’d run away!

            :D

  • http://evolvify.com Andrew

    To be fair, it did take me almost 4 minutes to find a recent article from a respected journal showing that human dentition across evolutionary time is supports a meat eating perspective.

    “A broader range of microwear texture complexity values in H. erectus compared with H. habilis accords with the consumption of a wider variety of foods, and smaller average feature size is consistent with the incorporation of more tough items in the diet.

    Are these lines of evidence consistent with increased meat eating or tool use in food preparation? The short answer is yes”

    Dental Evidence for the Reconstruction of Diet in African Early Homo, Peter S. Ungar, Current Anthropology, Vol. 53, No. S6, Human Biology and the Origins of Homo (December 2012), pp. S318-S329

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      I suppose investing 4 minutes of research in a 20-minute talk is insufficient ROI? :)

      Thanks for the link, Andrew.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kate.giovino Kate Giovino

    Fantastic piece, Angelo. I agree completely. I’m glad that paleo is now more macronutrient agnostic and realizing how vital nutrient dense carbohydrates are to health and physical performance, let alone aesthetics. It is less a fad the less it is associated with Atkins and low carb.

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Thanks, Kate!

      It’s getting there. There are certainly still some good uses for low-carb. If I had to do it all over again, I would still go low-carb for the first few months of Paleo as a sort of reset.

      I had been eating low-fat & wrong-fat prior to going Paleo, which I think my body really needed as a first step to recovering / healing. Unfortunately, many people may be staying low-carb for much longer than their bodies require, and it becomes anti-productive at a certain point. At least it was for me.

  • Meredith

    My mother-in-law sent me this talk – and thought that it ‘was interesting’… she’s been trying to de-bunk paleo for me for a long time. Dr. Warriner does a great job to convince everyone – with the exception of those that already embrace a paleo approach – that this paleo thing is silly.

    Maybe Paleo(TM) has been indefinitely sullied. I never bring up the word with my clients (I’m a health coach), but steer them toward real food that agrees with them. Before they know it, they are gaining health by applying their own approach – which is informed by paleo (unbeknownst to them).

    And I’ve yet to meet a human carnivore. Ugh.

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      An unintended consequence of Dr. Warinner’s talk will be that she will introduce a new set of people to the concept. Once they dig in a little further than Warinner was willing to…I suspect many of them will come to describe themselves as Paleo eaters.

  • Dr. Chase Hayden

    Great post Angelo. I feel you were spot on. I had a few people send me her talk and after watching it felt like your assessment was correct. A few of those same people commented to me that she just recommended the same paleo-like diet she “debunked” without calling it paleo. Once again, good post, I enjoy reading your posts.

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Thanks, Dr. Hayden. Warinner used some pretty impressive jiu-jitsu in her talk, for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fineartphotography German Aaron Eigendorf

    THANK YOU! for this answere!

  • http://twitter.com/escapist82 escapist82

    Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t have any problem with Dr Warren’s speech, quite the opposite. Sure she chose a way too confrontational title for her presentation, but the material provided was solid.

    I think her message was very close to your post: “too good at paleo” she was not trying to “debunk” the paleo diet, but she explained what the “real” paleo diet is like – and how to distinguish it from the “fad” (aka paleo muffins :) )

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Overall, I agree. From the standpoint of getting some good information out there and disseminating it to a large audience, her talk is a win. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the TED folks helped with the title. They offer much coaching to make presentations more compelling and interesting — it’s what they do well.

      I hope that eventually the dust can settle and we’ll be able to focus more on the commonalities between what she was promoting as archaeological evidence for eating lessons and what Paleo promotes as well.

  • Pingback: Anthropologist Debunks the Paleolithic Diet | Paleo Diabetic

  • Steve Parker, M.D.

    The most outrageous thing I heard in Dr. Warriner’s talk was “we’re not adapted to eat meat.” I strongly disagree.

    She did impress upon me that most of us can’t eat a pure paleo diet because we’ve modified, through selective breeding, our foods so much. To go pure paleo, you’d have to eat wild animals and forage natural plants.

    Anthony, I like your tone and thought processes here.

    -Steve

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Thank you, Dr. Parker.

  • http://twitter.com/JakeRadakovich Jake Radakovich

    Awesome article. One pedantic point… the 1-up mushroom was green!

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Doh! How the heck could I mess that up? Editing now… :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/raptorinblack Colleen O’Rourke

    Thank you so much for the calm and rational point-by-point deconstruction of the talk! It is by far the best response I have yet read. I will send it to everyone who still insists on sending me that TED talk ;)

  • Deann

    Spot on Angelo. Well thought out, well written. Kudos.

    My favourite: “And as for us? This debunking doesn’t really matter. You can still find
    real food at your farmer’s market, at the grocery store, and in your
    backyard.”

    Cheers

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.knapp.77 Kyle Knapp

    Well done- refreshing to see that Paleo has earned a debunking, I guess that means it has gained some momentum. I, like many in paleo land, have evolved away from paleo (because it gets knee jerk reactions and opposition) into a philosophy of let’s take a step back, act like humans should be acting, eat some better food, be attentive to our evolution and limit our man made concoctions. It’s almost more along the lines of “humans aren’t broken”…
    I just wonder why, if real anthropologists think paleo is so off base, what do they think is a better approach? Is there harm in trying to take clues (even if slightly misunderstood or exaggerated) from our evolution? Shouldn’t those academics be screaming for everyone to do so? Or should we just study it yet ignore the knowledge gained because we don’t know exactly what happened?
    Great thoughts as usual Angelo

  • http://thefitink.com/ Roland Denzel

    Good job!

    The smart Paleos could take this as a lesson in ‘perception is reality,’ and start a more public movement that makes them seem more reasonable.

    The paleo movement is huge, but the entry points are still the books on amazon and google’s most popular articles, which are most likely where she got her outdated myths. I meet people daily who ask me about those same myths, so she’s not alone when she thinks that’s what the paleo diet is all about.

    I think the word ‘paleo’ really helped get this thing going, but now that it’s going well, it’s dragging us down.

    Roland

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      Excellent point, and I think Ev (in another comment) is potentially saying something similar. As someone who has kept up with the Paleo movement for several years now, it can be difficult to gauge what the newcomer sees when starting off — hence, the confusion.

      The word Paleo definitely carries some baggage, pro and con. It may be that “Paleo” will be the public-facing side and “Ancestral” or “Evolutionary” will be the academic- / research-facing side.

  • Melissa

    “I fully understand that corn tortillas (two ingredients: corn & salt) might do me in”

    I hope they have a third ingredient, lime, or they aren’t good tortillas. Lime is what makes corn a lot more digestible. And I sincerely doubt they are any more likely to “do you in” than bacon.

    All the folks that are saying “actually paleo is X and not Y like the critics say” are going to have to contend that the vast majority of paleo books on the shelves say that paleo is Y. Until there is a paleo book on the self that’s got recommendations like X, that defense doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    • http://www.humansarenotbroken.com/ Angelo Coppola

      “I hope they have a third ingredient, lime, or they aren’t good tortillas.”

      Edited.

    • http://thefitink.com/ Roland Denzel

      Just keep in mind that the process to make masa uses lime, but they don’t always consider that the tortillas CONTAIN lime.

      They soak the corn in water and lime, then shake/take/rinse the husks off the resulting swollen kernels. What’s left behind is nixtamalized corn, which is often listed as mere ‘corn’ on many tortilla wrappers.

      Although, since many companies (like Trader Joe’s) are proudly making whole grain corn products now, they tend to list it on the ingredient list, so be sure to skip those versions in favor of more traditional corn tortillas.

      • Melissa

        Legally I believe they have to list the lime. I’ve never seen traditional tortillas without in NY or Chicago.

        • Paleo Huntress

          My experience has been that the “lime” listed in the ingredients of corn products usually refers to the citrus fruit and not the mineral.

          • Melissa

            Depends on if you are looking at traditional corn products or things like bagged tortilla chips.

          • Paleo Huntress

            No, I don’t believe it does. If the finished product no longer contains lime, (and it doesn’t), the lime doesn’t need to listed in the ingredients. Many makers of bagged tortilla chips are still starting with real corn tortillas- formed and baked. Then they are cut apart and cooked again in oil.

            To add to this idea, non-nixtamalized corn can’t hold together in a dough without the addition of wheat/gluten. So if your corn chips or tortillas contain only corn, it is soaked corn.

          • Melissa

            I’m looking at my tortillas from El Milagro here in Chicago right now. They list lime on the ingredients. Same for the ones I bought in NYC.

          • Paleo Huntress

            I have some here that list lime too- but it’s citrus lime. I don’t think it’s worth arguing about, I just wanted to make the point that corn soaked in lime-water no longer contains lime so it doesn’t need to be listed in the ingredients. I don’t think there’s any reason they wouldn’t be ALLOWED to list it though. So though it may read “lime” in the ingredients, chances are that even those that don’t were still soaked with lime.

    • Paleo Huntress

      I disagree. The “paleo books” she references DON’T make the claims she stated they make. They don’t say primitive man ate no grains or legumes. They don’t say modern man can find real paleolithic foods today. They don’t say primitive man ate mostly meat or that primitive man ate one single kind of diet.

      Have you read the “vast majority” of the paleo books on the shelf? My sense is that you haven’t.

      • Melissa

        Unfortunately, I have read most of the books, particularly the most popular ones. I’ve reviewed a lot of them on my site. I get sent them by publishers because they know I have reviewed paleo books (though I no longer do). I’m would agree most say you cannot eat “real” paleolithic foods. Some do say they ate mostly meat (Gedgaudas for example). Most say paleolithic humans didn’t eat grains or legumes (Sisson, which I’m looking at right this second).

        • Paleo Huntress

          I own the Primal Blueprint, Wolf’s Paleolithic Solution and Cordain’s Paleo Diet. ALL THREE state that primitive man ate some grains and legumes. The point they make is that it wasn’t a STAPLE in the diet.

          Warinner references 5 Paleo diet books and Gedgaudas’ Primal Body, Primal Mind isn’t one of them.

          We could certainly sit around and discuss what we all think she INTENDED, but the point is, based on her talk alone, she debunked absolutely nothing.

          • Melissa

            Um, I have a Kindle copy of the Sisson Primal Blueprint. Tell me where it says that because I searched for “legumes” in it, and did not see it at all.

          • Paleo Huntress

            Well, I have the paper copy and I can’t do a “search”, so I’ll have to find it. I think it’s worth pointing out the obvious though, if you can’t find mention of legumes specifically, how could he have stated that primitive people DIDN’T eat them?

          • Melissa

            He quotes Loren Cordain “Most legumes in their mature state are non-digestible and/or toxic to most mammals, when eaten in even moderate quantities.” So no, he doesn’t say that primitive people didn’t eat them, but implies they are too toxic for anyone.

          • Paleo Huntress

            I’d say he implies they are toxic in “moderate quantities” just like he writes. Given the limited use of cooking and the fact that many legumes are toxic enough to poison a person and in some cases even MORE toxic when only partially cooked… this is a perfectly reasonable statement. And once again, he doesn’t write that no one ate them (just like Cordain doesn’t write it), which is what Ms. Warinner claims was written.

            Therefore, there is no claim to debunk.

          • Melissa

            I just wish I hadn’t given away a lot of my paleo books. In my experience the lower-quality ones like Primal Body Primal Mind have more of the claims that Warinner addresses.

          • Paleo Huntress

            ~nods~ There’s no question that the “Primitive people didn’t eat x, y, z…” message gets repeated a lot in the community at large. What really bothers me about Warinner’s talk is that this person is a PhD. Shouldn’t she KNOW how to research and cite a source? How much time could she really have spent learning what the modern paleo diet/lifestyle movement was about if she didn’t actually read the books she is claiming to debunk?

            I’m embarrassed FOR her.

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  • Jan Rendek

    Well, I believe that the term “paleo” was chosen to streamline human communication. Well, what would be the proper alternative? “Practical nutritional approach based on known facts of evolutionary biology of genus homo sapiens, seasonality and best time-tested traditions”? Not sure about that …

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  • Arthur Haines

    Regarding myth number 3 (the types of foods we
    eat), I feel Dr. Warinner has discussed something that most followers of the
    Paleo Diet are not giving enough attention to.
    Supermarket and Farmer’s Market plants are all genetically modified
    (through breeding, and sometimes also through laboratory methods). They cannot be regarded as paleo in any way
    (even though that is what most people have access to). The wild foods that occur on our landscapes
    (even here in the United States) are much closer representations of the foods
    consumed by Paleolithic hominids than cultivated plants. In many cases, species that can found on this
    continent are virtually indistinguishable (to those without training in
    taxonomy) to plants that were historically eaten in Europe, Asia, and Africa
    (i.e., they are close relatives). Wild
    plants, on average, are more nutrient dense, possess more beneficial
    phytochemicals, have a better balance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, and
    contain more fiber (i.e., fewer calories per unit mass). This is documented in numerous studies
    comparing wild plants to cultivated plants.
    Modern day wild plants are a closer fit to paleolithic plant foods. Given all this, I still don’t understand why
    popular paleo authors are not trying to present this information and provide
    ways people can bring these foods into the diet, even if only occassionally (it
    may exist, I just haven’t seen it). Not
    all people have expertise in or access to these foods (I understand this). However, given that the paleo diet is trying
    to emulate aspects of a diet that was actually practiced at one point, I do
    think we can do a much better job in the plant food department. Present-day produce has significant
    short-comings in this regard. Great
    article here, it was a pleasure to read it.
    Best wishes.

  • Andreas

    Carnivores or omnivores. Same thing. Just labels.

    She is indicating the consumption of an animal.

    If we can sheer through meat easily, how come my jaw clicks out of its socket whenever I eat meat? Whether cooked or raw.

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