Kurt Harris MD

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« Why Paleo 2.0? | Main | Tylenol and The War on Drugs Updated »
Wednesday
Mar302011

Paleo 2.0 - A Diet Manifesto

 

In 1985, a radiologist named Boyd Eaton wrote an article for the New England Journal of Medicine called Paleolithic Nutrition. As far as I can tell, we can trace the use of the term Paleolithic Diet or Paleo diet to this article. Eaton later inspired and collaborated with Loren Cordain, a professor of exercise science at Colorado State, and author of what seems to be the most popular book with the base sequence of “paleo” in the title.

A gastroenterologist named Walter L. Voegtlin had written a book called The Stone Age Diet much earlier in 1975. Starting an unfortunate trend that continues to this day, the book had a cave man on the cover, complete with loincloth and spear. Interestingly, both Voigtlin and Eaton seemed to consider the macronutrient ratio to be the key parameter of the Paleolithic diet we should try to emulate. I consider this the least important element.

I had first heard the term paleolithic diet through Eaton’s article. When I started on this path in September 2007 I came across it and remembered that I had first read it in medical school (1985) as I had a subscription to NEJM at the time. But although when I re-encountered the article it was familiar, I can’t say it had previously made much impression, as until I read Good Calories, Bad Calories (GCBC) by Gary Taubes I still thought that food was just fuel and obesity was always due to bad genes, or overeating, or lack of exercise - the usual suspects.

Reading GCBC in 2007 left me with several impressions:

1) The vilification of saturated fat, and its most common source, animal foods, was a 50-year error of criminal dimensions.

My own diet, due to hubris and the belief that I had “good genes”, had thankfully never been deficient in eggs, red meat, butter or bacon. They had tried to teach us that “cholesterol” was something to fret about when I was in medical school, but even my undergraduate and medical school biochemistry at the time made that seem only vaguely plausible. Hadn’t humans been eating meat for millions of years?

It may have helped that I had a cholesterol screening in medical school. As I recall, my total cholesterol was around 140 and HDL around 50 - on a high animal fat and egg diet. And I could not with any decent disposition go more than a day without some serious meat anyway, so if it was to ultimately kill me, then so be it.

So in the fall of 2007, this book seemed above all a vindication of the stubborn and instinctive nucleus of my by-then 45-year lifetime diet - animal products and their fats.

An anecdote from 1995: A former partner of mine, on seeing the breakfast I had just bought at the hospital cafeteria, remarked “Now there’s a heart-healthy breakfast!”. I looked down at my tray, which had about 3 scrambled eggs, as many sausage links and pieces of bacon, and a carton of whole milk. None of the mockery was intended for the single slice of wheat toast used to mop up the egg yolk, but the two pats of butter on the toast were surely part of the condemned. I was quite taken aback by his response as I had eaten this way since I was a child. I was to discover later that my lack of dietary consciousness had actually saved me from much of the harm that has been perpetrated by nutritional “experts” since Ancel Keys first fudged the data to make it look like saturated fat causes heart disease in the 1950s. And my partner’s wife was bit of a lefty; a Unitarian, and an artist. I suspect my partner was only “serving” me with what he would have received had he eaten such fare at home.

2) Some diseases that are very common today, which we call Diseases of Civilization or DOCs, do not occur with any frequency in native or hunter-gatherer populations until western foods are introduced.

I had never before heard evidence that some of the diseases I’d been seeing my whole career might be optional. Diseases like diabetes, heart disease, common epithelial cancers, diverticulitis, and appendicitis. Most medical schools don’t really treat this issue of DOCs. The background assumption was that cancer, heart disease and obesity are only issues because we live long enough to get them now, and aren’t we lucky for modern medicine? The diet/heart hypothesis - the idea that cholesterol or saturated fat or red meat was responsible for vascular disease and heart attacks - had been around for decades, but did not seem to be as woven into the fabric of culture as it is now. There was really no print equivalent to today’s 24/7 propaganda of pop nutrition via MSN and Yahoo, with perky titles about the latest worthless observational study associating a colorful plant with some tertiary biomarker of health status.

So we were taught that cholesterol and fat in the diet might contribute to heart attacks, but cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders were mostly considered just part of the human condition.

But in GCBC and in writings by Cleave and Price and others, the descriptions of populations that ate native whole-foods diets, and what happened to them when they started to eat the white man’s food, was totally eye opening and had never been hinted at in my medical school curriculum.

GCBC described the common elements as carbohydrates - easily digestible carbohydrates - and this formed the basis of his carbohydrate hypothesis of diseases of civilization. Not only were dietary fats not responsible for heart attacks - and this case seems convincing to me still -but a whole suite of diseases of civilization might instead be caused by the very macronutrient that for 40 or so years has been pushed on us by governments and their confederacy of do-gooders as the antidote to the evils of artery-clogging animal fats (saturated fats) - carbohydrate. Avoid red meat. Eat more pasta and “low-fat” fare.

The nutritional transition seemed to be related to the introduction of "easily digestible" carbohydrate in the form of wheat flour and sugar  - the staple foods of both genocidal state armies and the nanny state government rations that inevitably followed them.

Time and again it could be seen that in less than a generation, a native population that had once been free of cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, dementia, diverticulitis, appendicitis, etc., would begin to suffer from these diseases the same way that the colonizing white man had, or worse.

I read the further source works, by John Yudkin, T.L. Cleave, Weston Price, and others, and began immersing myself in the primary literature of nutrition, metabolism, endocrinology, gastroenterology, and anthropology and paleo-anthropology. I started reading many scientifically oriented blogs and thinking about what they had to say; reading papers they referenced, and following leads on pubmed, the national library of medicine’s index of peer reviewed articles.

I came to believe very strongly in the concept of the nutritional transition.

In the early days of my blog, I thought the brightest dividing line between the healthy ancestral diets and modern ones was likely to be around the time that homo sapiens had adopted the practice of sedentism - living in one spot- and therefore the time of adoption of agriculture. (It is now thought that sedentism may have preceded domestication of grains by several thousand years). This occurred around 10,000 years ago, give or take.

So “paleolithic nutrition” seemed like good shorthand for what we should be eating to avoid the diseases that came with civilization - the DOCs.

The problem came when I started to read what others before me were characterizing as key features of the “paleolithic diet”.

Some of these ideas -like avoiding eating wheat and other gluten grains - struck me as reasonable, but some were weakly supported, some were just silly, and some of them directly contradicted what I felt to be the most scientifically sound arguments. 

Hominin ancestors ate only lean meats and little saturated fat

A paleolithic diet is characterized by plenty of cultivated nuts

A paleolithic diet has plenty of sweet fruit year-round - fruits that did not even exist until they were artificially bred a few hundred years ago

 A Hunter-gatherer diet always had a precise balance between “acidic” and “basic” foods and failure to maintain this precision would lead to calcium being “leached” from your bones, resulting in osteoporosis.

A paleolithic diet has plenty of grilled salmon and skinless chicken breasts.

Eating fish is essential to brain growth and general health.

Milk and cheese are causes of cancer.

Eggs can be eaten, but you should throw away the yolks to avoid too much cholesterol.

These ideas all seemed questionable to me at best, and so far have not withstood the scrutiny of either sustained pubmed searches or informed reasoning.

In the penumbra of the paleo internet and blogosphere, there seemed to be even nuttier ideas. Admittedly, most of the “paleo” movement does not embrace these, but their existence proves there is hardly a licensing system to prevent bizarre speculation about the natural human diet, without any reference to what is actually known about ancestral diets.

Hence we get:

We did not evolve to eat cooked food, and to do so is to invite disease.

We did not evolve to eat any plant food at all.

We did not evolve to eat any animal food at all.

(You all know this one - The vegan menace. Killing infants and robbing adults of their vitality is the ultimate denial of biology. Endorsed by countless brainless celebrities)

And then the inevitable combinatorial madness of:

The natural human diet is all raw plant food.

The natural human diet is nothing but ground beef and water.

The natural human diet is nothing but raw meat and water.

The natural human diet is nothing but raw fruit.

You get the picture 

It seemed that the only commonly agreed-upon element among those claiming to invoke what we are “evolved” to eat, might be that cereal grains should not be a predominant part of the diet.

But then I spent some time reading at the Weston Price Foundation. WAPF is inspired by, naturally enough, Weston Price, a polymath dentist who made extensive studies of traditional foodways and modern hunter- gatherers, and attempted to identify the common elements that made them all healthy. I found that although WAPF advocated consumption of grains treated using traditional preparation methods (something I do not advocate) that on the health status of virtually every other available food I agreed more with them than with most of the paleo movement luminaries at the time - the ones claiming to be basing their recommendations on what we were “designed” to eat.

Whither Paleo Diets and Paleonutrition?

So where does that leave us? What of the concept of returning to our ancestral diet, the diet we were designed by evolution to eat?

How can we eat a Paleolithic diet if no one can agree on what it is?

The concept of "a Paleolithic diet" is flawed for a number of reasons. Most of the foods that we evolved eating are not actually available to us now, either in type or quantity.

And there never was any one diet eaten by the succession of species of hominins throughout our millions of years of evolution.

The idea that there has been evolution of our food sources, but little or no adaptive evolution at all by the organisms that consume them (us), is also not completely accurate.

That we are eating some things we are clearly inadequately adapted to seems certain, but the idea that the dietary bright line is narrow and exists at the 10,000 year mark is a cartoon view not supported by the science. I believe most of the dietary damage is due to industrial processing amplifying the effect of things that have always been around and were never good for us in the first place, even as I do believe wheat and other grains to the exclusion of animal products has been an issue for 10,000 years.

The idea that anything before 10,000 years ago is good for us, and anything that with a shorter history is bad for us is incoherent.

The “Paleolithic diet “ is a chimera, a myth.

No more real than a Griffin.

A beautiful thing that doesn’t really exist.

I coined the term “evolutionary metabolic milieu” or EM2, to signify that we cannot hope to duplicate the exact diet that was eaten, for all of these reasons. Instead, we can strive to use science and our reasoning to emulate the important elements of the evolutionary metabolic environment - the internal environment of our bodies.

Here was the way to connect the ideas of Taubes, Yudkin, Cleave and Price, who never really invoke evolutionary reasoning, to a sound way of thinking about diet in an evolutionary context.

A way where “Paleo” no longer refers to any particular diet eaten at any particular time, but only to paleo in the sense of “old”. Traditional Neolithic, Paleolithic and modern foods that we know are healthy or are similar nutritionally or metabolically to what archaic diets might have been like - there is room for all of these concepts.

I wrote a blog post about how my concept of evolutionary reasoning was different from trying to re-create a chimerical past. 


I said:

….if foods contribute to disease, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that the bad foods are what we have been eating a long time, and much more likely that they are something relatively new 

…. a food being evolutionarily novel was a likely condition for it being an agent of disease, but that novelty was neither necessary nor sufficient for agent of disease status.

It seems obvious that the universe of foods that were newer or Neolithic would provide candidates for the dietary agents of disease, and that a disease-causing agent would be very likely to be a Neolithic one

but…. being a Neolithic food alone is not sufficient to make it an agent of disease.

When we have medical and metabolic evidence that a Neolithic food is healthy and we find its constituents to be totally compatible with foods we consider Paleolithic, we can conclude that food is not in the agent of disease part of the Venn diagram.

So we are defining a healthy diet more by what is missing from it than by trying to duplicate a chimera.

If Neolithic Agents of Disease, by definition, are something that causes the nutritional transition that ushers in the DOCS, then our efforts should be focused on defining what they are.

I call such an approach, when using all available science, and not just evolutionary speculation, Paleo 2.0

Paleo 2.0  is paleonutrition where the paleo- prefix means archaic, not paleolithic

We appeal to archaic foodways to learn what is wrong with our modern Neolithic/industrial diet. These archaic foodways could be hundreds of years old, or many thousands.

We focus on the nutritional transition, then we bring all of our scientific resources to bear on finding putative Neolithic agents of disease.

In biology, “putative” means an agent that we think is the responsible or active agent, but we are always trying to falsify our hypothesis. We are always looking for evidence that we might be wrong about our agent.

In my own intellectual evolution, I have expanded and modified the "carbohydrate hypothesis" of the nutritional transition to one that does not indict a whole class of macronutrients.

I don’t believe the problem with wheat or sugar is either that they contain or are carbohydrates.

My Neolithic Agents of Disease include the following, in chronological order of introduction into our diets.

Wheat

Wheat contains starch, which is fine, but along with starch wheat contains gluten, which is a complex of proteins that has been linked to a variety of diseases, and wheat germ agglutinin, that is a lectin antinutrient. Celiac disease, obesity, diabetes and mental illness are all linked to wheat consumption.

The problem in wheat is likely the proteins, not carbohydrate. White flour is dense and highly concentrated in these problematic proteins and antinutrients. Wheat causes problems even in populations who’ve been eating it for thousands of years.

Eat potatoes, sweet potatoes or root veggies for your starch, and stop eating all bread, cookies cakes and other baked goods.

Excess Fructose

Fructose is a carbohydrate, but metabolically it is quite different from the glucose that comes from starch. In small amounts or in moderate amounts in real food, fructose may not be a problem, but the ubiquity of fructose in the modern diet may create obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and abnormal bacterial growth in the gut with consequent inflammation.

Fructose is easily minimized by simply refusing to eat processed food that comes in a box (especially “low fat” foods), and by refusing to drink caloric drinks like soda pop and fruit juices and sports drinks.

Wheat flour and fructose are the two NADs in most of the historically documented nutritional transitions.

Excess Linoleic acid

Linoleic acid is an omega 6 fatty acid, a polyunsaturated fat or PUFA. Along with n-3, the other type of PUFA, it is technically an essential fatty acid, but the actual requirement is so small it might be better considered a micronutrient. A hunter-gatherer or Paleolithic human might have had a total PUFA intake of 3% of calories. Modern north americans have a PUFA intake of around 15%, most of it due to n-6. The problem with this is twofold.

1)   As n-3 and n-6 precursors compete for the same enzyme in the eicosanoid pathway, the excess of n-6 in the diet means that n-3 is outcompeted at the enzyme level. The result is a preponderance of inflammatory molecules. Increased cancer and inflammation are both likely related to this

2)   Many are aware that 6:3 ratio is important, so they try to compensate by taking fish oil to balance the 6:3 ratio. This doesn’t really work too well – you can’t realistically eat that much fish, and if you take fish oil supplements, you now exacerbate the second and more important problem with excess n-6, which is your total PUFA intake. High total PUFA, especially including the highly unstable n-3, leads to oxidative damage to your cells. Your arteries, liver and  other organs don't appreciate extra oxidative damage.

The way to correct the modern excess of n-6 or linoleic acid is to avoid the modern sources of it. Stop eating all temperate vegetable oils – cooking and frying oils like corn, soy, canola, flax, all of it. And go easy on the nuts and factory chicken. These are big sources of n-6, especially the nuts and nut oils.

I started reading and thinking about nutrition over 3 ½ years ago and began blogging almost 2 years ago. What I have seen in the past few years is that there are a number of other writers who also emphasize these same Neolithic Agents.

Critically, these other writers also:

1) Reject the alternative hypothesis of saturated fat or cholesterol as a Neolithic agent – the so-called diet/heart hypothesis

2) Believe that obtaining a substantial fraction of nutrition from animal sources is necessary for health

3) Discount the absolute importance of macronutrient ratios in the nutritional transition.

4) Believe that a whole foods diet that includes adequate micronutrients is the best way to eat healthy.

5) Believe that tubers, root vegetables and other sources of starch can be healthy for normal people, but that gluten grains are a suboptimal source of nutrition in other than small amounts.

I’ve written this post both for my regular readers, and also for new readers who may never have heard of “paleo” diets or paleonutrition.

I invite all new readers to start with the blog posts I’ve linked to get a better idea of what Archevore is all about as a diet. It is really more of a philosophy and an approach than a set of rules to follow.

I also invite other bloggers, writers and thinkers to voluntarily affiliate with the appellation Paleo 2.0.

Many figures whom I think of as Paleo 2.0 compliant don’t and probably won't identity themselves as “paleo” at all. Given some of the nonsense I’ve seen under the rubric of paleo, I can understand that, and I’ve considered the extirpation of the label from my own blog for some time now.

But no one owns the greek word palaios. The English paleo- is just a modifier. And language evolves. We can use Paleo 2.0 until it means what we want it to. A diet that is archaic, in the sense of appealing to the past with both science and history, but not intending to re-enact a battle that has only happened in our imaginations.

If you identify with the concept of the NAD and the 5 corollary points, and want to claim the “paleo-” prefix as separate from the chimera of a paleo- “lithic” diet, then please say so.

Some will criticize my proposal as threatening to collapse a big tent.

I prefer to think of it as leaving the tent to erect a proper building.

 

There is no such thing as a macronutrient

No such thing as a macronutrient part II

The argument against cereal grains part I

The argument against cereal grains part II

Get Started

 

 

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Reader Comments (95)

Perfect.

I believe it follows that insulin "spiking" foods do not cause insulin resistance. Therefore glycemic index and load are not useful as well. They have caused poor decisions anyway leading people to choose whole wheat and high fructose products.

The caveat is once you are insulin resistant then you must limit carbohydrate intake. I think this is what confuses the issue - especially since a large percentage of us are insulin resistant.

Having said that, it is not clear to me what causes insulin resistance.

KGH: It's an introductory article. I think pathologic IR is multifactorial and obviously related to the NAD to some degree.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Lentzner

Well said. I read this blog because it avoids the emotional hysteria found on many other "paleo" sites. The posts are well thought out and grounded in the available literature. Keep up the good work.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Kurt,

This post is brilliant. it is the most clear, concise statement of nutrition I have ever seen. No books necessary.

Dan

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Hagg, MD

Thankyou, Thankyou! I really appreciate the work you do.

Julianne

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjulianne

Thank you for the detailed and carefully-researched post, Kurt. There are a lot of talks about paleo diet in the last few years and I was also quite surprised by some of the extreme advice/recommendations made. The existence of long living Americans, Asians as well as Europeans who don't follow paleo diets but yet are strong and healthy are examples that these recommendations may not what they claimed to be. People who looked into these different cultures failed to identify specific foods that conclusively promote longevity. People in different parts of the world eat what they can find around them and to suggest that we eat only animal foods and not plant foods, for instance, is just too simplistic.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWP @ The Conscious Life

Okay, I'm in: I identify with the concept of the NAD and the 5 corollary points, and want to claim the “paleo-” prefix as separate from the chimera of a paleo-“lithic” diet!!

Now that that's taken care of, what can we do to make it so that pathologic insulin resistance is not a life sentence of limiting carbs? I can hope, can't I?

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth@WeightMaven

Interestingly, I was just discussing how a similar thing has been happening with physical conditioning and used your EM2 vs "paleo diet" as an analogy.

A proper exercise program should mimic the stimulus for physical improvement resulting from demanding physical activity, but does not have to mimic the kind of demanding physical activities our paleolithic ancestors might have experienced, but instead should be done in the safest manner possible. There are people who suggest we run around, climbing and jumping out of trees or over rocks, etc., however the same or better stimulus can be achieved far more safely and effectively with basic weight training programs using more contemporary equipment (barbells, machines, etc.).

KGH:

I just watched 127 hours with James Franco. Outstanding film. Getting crushed by a falling rock is pretty authentically paleo, but I would not advocate that either.

I agree with your general idea that re-enactment can be misguided in the physical training realm as well. I like dumbbells with rubber even thought they are not too archaic.

Thanks for your comments.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDrew Baye

Wow. As usual, you're incisive with great writing style, and in your own league as a blogger. Thank you for all you've offered at your own expense and effort. Paleo 2.0!

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan G

Great. The "paleo" label is just plain embarrassing and I'd be happy to see it fade. Let's face it: It's 2011, not earlier than 10,000BC. Can't we just accept that, while still working with the general constraints of how our bodies function? Thanks for the leading the way on this.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Well said and hopefully well-received. In truth, paleo speculation is about as far as you can get from what real science is. It is inductive reasoning, a priori in nature and simply not adequate. Whether adhering dogmatically to exactly what early h sapiens would do or trying to reconcile paleo with dietician dogma is unhelpful to say the least. I believe that Dr. Harris has identified the major issues and dispelled the major myths and from here on it is all tweaking.

Okay so starch doesn't cause insulin resistance. But if we get too much of it we are less healthy than if we replaced much of it with saturated and monounsaturated fats. But too little carbohydrate may be problematic and sub-optimal in some situations. But ketogenic diets have benefits too. Intermittent fasting or fat-fasting might resolve the issue, allowing for bot.

An animal isn't just the muscle meat and organs but also the connective tissue. There is benefit in consuming gelatin and probably benefit in limiting consumption of methionine-rich protein to a point.

Although we are far from herbivorous, Grok (to borrow Mark's meme) ate a fair bit of fiber, and included the fiber inulin. In moderation these are beneficial, although they can be potentially detrimental in excess. It is also wise to have an external source of bacteria.

Some supplements can improve health. Robb Wolf more or less covers that in his book, although I dislike fish oil and I am starting to agree with Dr. Harris about the need for sun and about limiting vitamin D supplements to only what is necessary to be sufficient. Maybe, just maybe some of this stuff like curcumin or grapeseed have merit for people trying to extend their lives and improve upon an already sound foundation.

Just throwing those out there. It will never follow that whatever we can garner about macronutrient ratios from Loren Cordain's work will necessarily be what we ought to emulate. Technically with some liver once a week and maybe some eggs is paleo.

Ha! Kidding. Most of all, scientific evidence is the boss. Paleo is just our bias, our hypothesis-generator, since evolution is the wise axiom for biology. I think we need a lot more civil controversy. We need to hold a lighter to the ides of every paleo thinker and researcher and see whose ideas are the most resilient.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStabby

Wait, so--taking fish oil is bad for you? And legumes and dairy aren't a huge deal?

If I'm mass gaining and trying to get more carbs and fat, but I'm in a college dining hall where potatoes aren't always available--is it better to eat white rice with olive oil, 100% orange juice with olive oil (yes, it's wacky...) or potato chips? Or what else would you suggest? (I'm assuming fried rice is bad news; they have plenty of that here.) There's whole fruit around but that's not enough calories and it's too filling anyway.

Thanks!
Dan

College tip: meat, potatoes or white rice and lots of butter. Read some more of the blog.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Hmm, the liver and eggs comment was supposed to come up "standard raw vegan with some liver and eggs added in is technically paleo" or something to that extent. Sorry for the double-post.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStabby

Dr. Harris,

After following the Paleo community for the last two years, I have arrived at the same conclusions and have the same problems with it that you have made clear here.

I'm in the process of starting a business called Evolutionary Health Systems that integrates nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle (sleep, stress) changes to get people to their goals as efficiently as possible.

Our methods are directly influenced by Chris Masterjohn, Stephen Guyenet, Paul Jaminet, Chris Kresser, and yourself.

The number one question I address is why I rarely ever mention Paleo or call our approach a "Paleo diet" in my writing, and it is exactly for the reasons you state above. Up to this point I have used evolutionary nutrition instead of paleo to describe our diet... Fortunately it looks like things will be easier now as I can direct them to this Paleo 2.0 approach that I wholeheartedly agree with.

In my opinion this is the absolute pinnacle of nutrition guidelines so far... of course we will continue to improve and refine, but it is apparent to me that the Paleo 2.0 approach is so close to optimal that in a pragmatic sense, we know exactly what to do.

Thank you for your contributions to this.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTyler Simmons

A much needed manifesto! Thank you very much for writing it.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrent Kearney

Great post , as always. I would prefer calling it neo-Paleo; the term Paleo 2.0 reads like an academic course or some exercise module.

KGH: You've no familiarity with iterative software improvements? How did you make your comment, I wonder?

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDominic DiCarlo

Thanks for this great post, there sure is a lot of confusion to clear up. This fits in and solidifies a lot of what I've though when reading on paleo and nutrition. There's only one part that surprises me: the dangers of fish oil. I have an open mind on the matter of course, so could you please point to any further explanation of these dangers?

I only take fish oil for the anti-inflammatory effect and to guard against arthritis which runs in my family, not for 3/6 balancing. But if the dangers outweigh those benefits obviously I'll stop.

Thanks again.

KGH:

"the anti-inflammatory effect"

But 6:3 balancing IS the anti-inflammatory effect. 6:3 imbalance is 90% due to too much n-6, not lack of n-3.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacques

Very articulate and succinct. I definitely identify with Paleo 2.0. Taubes GCBC, Weston Price (not the foundation) and Stephen Guyenet were my gateway into primal (Mark Sisson) and then into paleo. All along, my views have mirrored your Paleo 2.0 statement.

Btw, I was given a copy of Eaton's Paleolithic Diet book when I was an undergraduate anthropology major. I remember skimming through it, thinking it was interesting, and never paying a bit of mind to it afterwards. After finally connecting with the Primal/paleo zeitgeist I discovered that I still had Eaton's book in my library!

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Blaisdell

Great post, Dr. Harris. This very much relates to the K.I.S.S. principle - Keep It Simple, Stupid. You stated the three most important things in the nutrition realm that people should change. Eliminate gluten, excess fructose and excess Omega-6s and explained the reasoning behind that.

I think reading from so many informative websites, they give varying recommendations (esp. consumption of starches and also the CrossFit community going into the Zone, which is essentially calorie counting and obsessing over macronutrients) that sometimes it confuses me!

I believe with these three tools, people can tinker what gives them the best results and be their own scientists of their own bodies.

P.S. I enjoyed the podcast with Chris Kresser! Looking forward to your input on the Mind/Body connection and meditation in the future!

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBea Binag

...Yes. ...Onward! Let's put 'evolve' back into 'evolutionary'.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmergent

Hello Kurt, You talk about lectins in wheat, but you don't mention lectins and other anti-nutrients in e.g. legumes and nightshades. What is your view on these kinds of foods? VBR Hans Keer. BTW I liked the podcast with Chris K.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHans Keer

I've gone through mostly the same path as Dr. Harris in the past 3 years, and arrived at the same point. I'm not sure Paleo 2.0 is the best name. I would prefer a new name (I think the Jaminets PHD is a very good name) or just calling it "eating healthy". Anyway, I'm glad for this terrific summary.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoran Bentzur

Great post Kurt, destined to be cast out into web-world and change opinions, I hope. You have a knack of simplifying the hard science in an intelligent way, free from the sensationalism too often associated with "new movements". I agree this whole debate is about common sense and how the methodology can be received by the layman and his loaf of bread and diet coke. You seem to be onto something, that "Paleo" needs now to be elevated from the realms of popular media/trend setters/those who think of it as a fad etc, to a philosophy of life that will slowly but surely change the nature of society.
Keep up the great work!

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Dr. Harris:

To your list of Paleo 1.0 myths, I would mostly duplicate the sentence on "fruit" and replace with "vegetables", thus:

"A paleolithic diet has plenty of fresh vegetables year-round, which should take up half or more of the room on your plate - vegetables that did not even exist until they were artificially bred a few hundred years ago"

I have to laugh at the people who imagine that hunter-gatherers were walking around Africa and Europe picking Paleolithic broccoli, or carefully slicing Paleolithic bell peppers with stone bifaces in order to spice up their mastodon fat.

I might also add to the subsequent section "Sorghum residue found amongst many kinds of tuberous starch residue in one cave in Africa, and not associated with signs of storage or cooking, mean that Paleolithic humans consumed a cereal grain-based diet"
and
"Potatoes are poisonous, and humans have large quantities of amylase in their saliva for absolutely no reason"

Whatever you decide to call it, we're in agreement. If humans needed an entire book to teach us how to eat, we'd have died out long ago.

JS - gnolls.org

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Stanton

Yes. This. "Paleo" is not an excuse to abandon critical thinking.

I've drifted away from the "paleo" label (and from the online community, such as it is) in recent months, for exactly the reasons you list. With luck, your manifesto will provoke thought and more sensible discussion. Thank you.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Rosevear

Perfect. and Perfect timing: Right when I decide to link to your site to explain to my sisters why I am feeling better the last three weeks and this post is what I get to link to - could not have asked for better.

Thank you
C

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCecilia

I've taken to using the phrase "evolutionarily appropriate" when referring to diet, specifically from reading your blog. I've been reading Evolution of the Human Diet: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable, which includes an article by Dr. Cordain, and one thing that struck me is how he goes from "grains, refined flour, sugar, industrial oils, and dairy are recent additions on an evolutionary time scale" to "humans were meant to eat primarily lean meat." It's almost similar to how vegans go from "the meat industry hurts the environment" to "we should all be vegan" without considering non-industrial meat. While I respect Cordain for the exposure he brought to the idea of rejecting modern foods and grains, some of the orthodoxy involved in "Paleo" can mean clinging to outdated, unhealthy ideas. Thanks again for your work in clarifying what can seem at times like a hopeless mess of warring dogma.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Best article I've ever read about nutrition. You seriously have to think about writting a book! Congrats. Besides, Paleo 2.0 sounds good to me, since somehow it mixes Paleo (old) and 2.0 (new & social).

As a father of a 5yo PKU (Phenylketonuria) daughter, really worried about nutrition, in particual if her nutrition would be good enough, your blog and articles has been a tremendous source of knowledge and a motivation to investigate on my own even more. Thank you very much!

Greetings from Spain.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAitor

This is an excellent proposition that I am sure will get broad support in the 'paleosphere', if not beyond.

"You've no familiarity with iterative software improvements?" - I guess you must have considered 'P++'! ;)

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsclepius

Kurt - could you post a link or just elaborate on the idea that PUFA in the 15% range is inherently dangerous? I get that it may be toxic owing to the fact that such fatty acids are unstable--but what if you take certain precautions (e.g. freezing one's fish oil or some such)? My practice has been to have fish oil w/ all meals that involve chicken or non-grass fed beef.

KGH: Google Lands

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

This post is now my go-to post when people ask me to explain my diet to them. The conservative nature of the claims of what this diet can accomplish is indeed appealing to me and if people get more than they expect from it- and i believe many of them will- it's a net plus.

I am curious about what some other paleo clinicians and researchers are dubbing as the next step in paleo as it deals with longevity. Have you opinions on the current research on telomeres, TA-65, resveratrol and the other hot topics out there that deal with anti-aging and longevity? I'm not a science person but some of the claims seem nothing short of amazing- if they are true. But my conservative nature tells me to be wary...

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDerrick

You rock.

I want no dogma.
I want clear ideas & simple solutions that use the principle of precaution against what food industry wants us to eat.

Thank you for your hard work.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterspace

What about trans fatty acids, they seam at least as dangerous as the three horsemen you mentioned.

I wonder where smoking and alcohol would fit in.

KGH:

My baseline assumption - an unstated premise - is to eat food. Artificial trans fats, wood, sawdust.. I assume these things are not eaten.

Do you really need to be told not to smoke or drink too much?

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichal

But proper buildings aren't archaic:-).

Excellent post.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjosef brandenburg

I really enjoyed reading this post. I follow a lot of paleo nutrition blogs/writings but lately as I look at my dinner plate every night which may typically include a slice of meatloaf, baked potato with butter and sour cream and greens cooked in bacon grease I think, I'm not "paleo" and my diet isn't paleo. What I do see is the kind of old-fashioned food that your grandmother made but most now wouldn't dream of eating for fear of heart attack.

This realization made me feel that I clearly couldn't call myself a paleo eater without feeling a bit silly, so I decided that I don't eat a paleo diet- I eat a Human diet, a very simple explanation. However, Paleo 2.0 does have a certain ring to it, so maybe I've found a way to keep being paleo!
Thanks for the great work!

KGH: My Grandmother used Crisco and Wesson oil freely. The grandmother meme is not quite archaic enough, It think.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I've been wondering why the sugar in a sweet potato is any better than the starch in a white potato other than the starch raises blood glucose faster. I don't look down upon all carb foods like I once did and avoid industrial oils like the plague.

I would think most people trying to "diet" (and ending up on a "paleo" diet) are trying to reverse the metabolic damage they have already done in order to loose weight while still avoiding DOC. Do you think that correction would require carbohydrate restriction or simply Paleo 2.0 + calorie restriction/fasting? My current thought is that almost ketogenic carb restriction is required for effective weight loss but agree that starch is not poisonous.

KGH: "why the sugar in a sweet potato is any better than the starch in a white potato" -I've not seen anyone claim it is.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Thanks Dr. Clarity(Harris),
I wrote in my journal the other day that the only reason for nutritional and diet insanity is starvation.
ps-It's almost time for a list of the abbreviations in all your posts to be listed in maybe getting started?I have had several people who I have directed to your blog tell me they have a hard time keeping track of them all because they are new to the game.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Dr. Harris,

Brilliant as always! THANK YOU for not only pursuing the truth, thinking on it, and extracting the useful info, but most of all for SHARING it.

I started eating "Paleo" in January 2010, after much reading and thought. Your blog has been INSTRUMENTAL in focusing my logic while evaluating the issues of consumption. You will be happy to hear that I have NEARLY broken myself of the use of the "Paleo" label...I simply preach to those who wish to learn, "Don't eat the NAD's!!" Well, that's it in a nutshell, right? You passion inspires me to teach other's, but I have become better at restraint. My wife used to feel I was over zealous! I am a CrossFitter, so that typical fervor spilled over into my nutritional philosophy...and desire to "share it".

Your blog keeps the sea of information simplified and supplies the logic behind it. Thanks for showing so many of us the clear. logical path, and for bringing a zealot like myself down to earth!

PL

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick L

"Some will criticize my proposal as threatening to collapse a big tent.

I prefer to think of it as leaving the tent to erect a proper building."

This is good, but wholly understanding what makes a healthy diet requires critical reading of papers/refs. The majority of people don't think or absorb anything that doesn't come as a direct rule from an authoritative figure. If I print out 50 supportive papers and present them to a random stranger, I would still have a very difficult time convincing them of the health of saturated fat or sunshine, probably even moreso if I used specific food names like "bacon" or "fatty red meat ." Anyway, the point is that popular nutrition knowledge develops extremely slowly, and erecting a "building" is pretty unlikely (if that's even what you mean).

KGH:

I think you misunderstood the metaphor.

I am referring to whether the "paleo" movement is better as a big tent - large with lots of variety in it - or whether it is better to have part of it split off, and have that part more scientific, conservative, and solid.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

I love this post. Enough said really.. Just great.

I found paleo first, but had some issues...after I read your thoughts and views on the research I found I really feel you have nailed it.

Erika

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErika

Every person who identify themselves as eating "paleo" should read this article. Theres lots paleo people condemning the awful CARBZ and at the same time eating stuff like nut butter and using nut flour just beacuse its "paleo" and low carb.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Dr. Harris,

Long time reader...first time poster.....I have been taking in the whole Paleo concept for the last year or so and am steeped in its readings, podcasts, tweets, links etc...and am always curious as to how it has taken on, or grown, its own "griffin" or head of factions and groups about what is right or wrong with this food or that way of exercising etc..(sounds like vegan huh:-)? With that though, I believe that you have done an excellent job of pulling together many of the underlying concepts that I believe most of the well educated and thought of "experts" agree on in regards to nutrition and give us a great place to begin to build on for the future. I believe we cannot continue to view ourselves as cavemen and women (not a fan of calling it "paleo" either), except from the standpoint that our physiology has been dictated and developed by those before us and we must use this knowledge to continue to "feed and water" our populations so that we can continue to evolve globally and to not end up extinct by making mistakes that are misguided by short thinking and not learning from the past. My problem now comes with the term "Paleo" as you have stated as well, and I think many of us agree, is not a good way to describe what is going on here. I say, going on, because it believe that nutrition is only one portion of what we are learning about our past and its teaching for the future ie. mind/body connection. So I think the problem continues with Paleo 2.0. Allthough I understand exactly what you are trying to get across (Venn dig included) however, it still uses the term paleo and almost provides a cartoon type feel by adding the 2.0. Why? What was wrong with 1.0? Too many viruses? Crashed too often? (insert joke here:) I guess I'm just not feeling it. I agree, and think many people have begun to use alternate names as well, we cant keep going with "Paleo" and the PHD has a great ring to it, but what if its not...perfect?

So, in an effort not to ramble ......even more.....Thanks so much for this post. Like so many others, the work you do, bringing together so many ideas and collaborating with CK and others, helps myself and so many people lead healthier lives for the short time we are here. I am merely going to have to disagree with 2.0 thing though IMO. I often get many questions when in social functions why I eat the way I do. I have struggled many times with the crossed eyes, squished noses and tilted heads (picture dog staring at you) when I say "We call it Paleo" and too wish there was a better way to explain to people, without the immediate push back, lack of interest to listen to real science and ideas about health, because of pre-determined biased to the audiology of "Paleo" why we really do eat this way. Why cant we say its called "THE HUMAN DIET" becuase it is. It is based off sound anthropologic, evolutionary and modern evidence about what humans should eat, not just to survive, but to thrive, be fertile, and live to our fullest.

Thanks again Dr. Harris!

KGH:

You do in general eat food that is more archaic than not, don't you? And you get the part where paleo- just means old and not "paleolithic cave men", right?

Do you read much in the realm of politics? Paleoconservative does not mean cave men who voted for Reagan, does it?

If you think it is more rigorous, accurate and scientific to call your WOE "perfect" then knock yoursef out. I think it sounds totally ridiculous. But I'm not much for beleiviing in or claiming perfecion, I guess. By the way, I mean no disrespect to Paul Jaminet, as PHD is a catchy title for a book. promising to make your health perfect. But if someone thinks my blog is going to start calling eliminating toxins "perfection" they are reading the wrong blog.

And you can't call it "the Human diet" if you are actually trying to communicate anything. Humans can eat anything, as they demonstrate all the time.

And it is paleonutrition - it's not a single diet anyway.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDB

"And my partner’s wife was bit of a lefty; a Unitarian, and an artist. I suspect my partner was only “serving” me with what he would have received had he eaten such fare at home."

I and otherUnitarians I know are flying the primal/paleo flag, so religion was not and is not the issue. That was the AHA, AMA, etc., message most of us were trying to follow. After all, we aren't doctors. What'd we know?

KGH: Good grief, tell me you're surprised that she was more likely to be using the term heart healthy than I was. Personally, I'd sooner be a unitarian than a catholic or protestant. I am not blaming the Unitarian church!

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDigby

Another welcome dose of sanity and sense! Thank you, thank you, (clicking the donation button), thank you! Please sir, may I have another?

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskitterling

Thank you, thank you. I have been looking, but never been able to find, the book/article/blog post/podcast that I can hand to friends and loved ones to help them understand why I eat how I eat. "Cartoon paleo" is a major obstacle to most of these cynical people. (And who wouldn't be cynical with the amount of pseudo-science we are bombarded with? So many competing stories, so we defer to our default authority, the government...) Now I have the most concise, clearly expressed piece I have yet seen to share, and to supplement my own ramblings, which are reasonably well-informed, but lacking in erudition. Now perhaps I can convert a few more folks to the "healthy eating 2.0", a way of eating that includes "energy-boosting heavy cream", "heart healthy saturated fats", and "nutrient-powerhouse organ meats".

Doing my own part to evolve the language game around food!

p.s. Is this the PaNu book intro? If so, I can wait to pre-order it on Amazon.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRichard M

This was an excellent post. Thanks for sharing. As someone with a DOC I appreciate your application of logic, common sense and your rockin' sense of humor.

Enjoyed your podcast with CK. Second the motion for another on meditation.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterz

Excellent summary of the current Paleo nutrition trend. I discovered "paleo" nutrition via the wieght loss route ie low carb diets which led to Taubes GBBC and Why We Get Fat which led to .... your blog (and others). So while I understand that macronutrient ratios are not important and carbs aren't evil in Paleo 2.0, from a weight loss perspective they seem to be. And wt. loss and DOC are linked. So while Splenda allows me to keep my carb ratio low, lose wt and therefore decrease the chance of DOC, Splenda is not "paleo" and is it an agent of disease? And while nuts are a handy easy snack that leaves me satisfied and compliant with a low carb diet, they are full of the much maligned PUFA n-6s. These are the choices I face everyday in trying to both lose wt. and be true with the tenets of a Paleo 2.0 diet.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Great article, i agree completely.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZach

KGH: "I think you misunderstood the metaphor.

I am referring to whether the "paleo" movement is better as a big tent - large with lots of variety in it - or whether it is better to have part of it split off, and have that part more scientific, conservative, and solid."

Oh okay, yea, I thought you meant in terms of awareness growth. Most people have at least some sense of scienctific reasoning along with their beliefs in "paleolithic" magic. For example, Sisson, who I think overuses "replication reasoning," does sometimes provide/use good evidence and science. Others of course are convinced that barbells and cream and shoes are powerful poisons--they deserve their own tent, literally.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

Dear Dr. Harris,

I've said it before and I'll say it again: you're a terrific writer! Your blog (along with Stephan and Peter's) is my very favorite. I also enjoyed the podcast with Chris Kresser and that's saying something. Being a mom to a six year old boy my day is filled morning to night so when I have a little time to myself I rarely listen to podcasts. But I made an exception for yours and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thank you so much for your work.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

What a fine summary of all you've thought about and shared thus far. To me, this post reinforces the simple piece of advice I've been guided by for some time: Shop at the periphery of the store and mostly avoid the aisles and shelves full of industrially processed, heavily packaged stuff.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia C Psy.D.
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