The latest issue of North and South is out today. It has several excellent articles on the Paleo diet and lifestyle.
There are several articles, all are balanced and provide a good overview of the paleo diet and lifestyle:
Graham Adams introduces the paleo lifestyle principles, “Is mimicking the diet and habits of a caveman in the 21st century a good idea?” with an excellent overview of many books and theories surrounding it. He decides to put it to the test himself. He lost 4 kg over two months, painlessly he reports, as he was never hungry. His slightly high blood pressure of 25 years improved to good – even slightly low to his doctors surprise. He says “…the fact it’s possible to lose weight without ever feeling hungry or measuring out quantities and counting calories … is a huge advantage” and he won’t be going back to has old diet anytime soon as “I continue to slip into clothes long consigned to the back of the wardrobe.”
Next comes Shorty Clark’s (world class triathlete) journey to paleo in which he describes how it dramatically diminished his osteo arthritis pain, and he credits paleo for moving him from ranking 15th in the world in his age-group (60 – 64) to 6th. He describes his weird “reddish greeny-brown” concoction of bone broth, meat, vegetables and spices that “looks like the back end of a cow”. You can also read Shorty’s story here.
Brian, 87 and Pauline Wilkins 78 take no medication and do not suffer from any of the ailments that their contemporaries complain of, such as arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. They have been following a paleo like zone diet for the last 20 years. Brian, a former pharmacy lecturer analysed the diet using his biochemistry background and decided it had merit enough to try it out. They report a big boost in energy from it as well.
Donna Chisholm’s article “Putting Paleo to the Test” asks “does the paleo diet stack up scientifically?” She starts with Mikki Willlidin‘s (registered nutritionist and AUT lecturer) story of how her diet evolved to paleo by progressively removing processed food. Mikki entertainingly describes her transition to paleo on her blog: So have you gone all Paleo?
Both Sir Peter Gluckman (an evolutionary biologist) and Professor Lynette Ferguson (who researches the role of genes and diet in the development of chronic disease) give their views. (I’ve heard both speak and have huge respect for their work). While they agree cutting processed food is agood idea, they don’t agree with cutting grains, legumes and dairy, and give their reasons. Both assume the plaeo diet is low carb, low starch. Peter Gluckman points out that we have high amounts of amylase enzyme in our saliva, and many populations have greater numbers of the amylase gene suggesting we are well able to handle starches, and by starches he means grains.
Professor Elaine Rush who is quoted, also makes the mistake of assuming paleo is a meat based low starch diet, and suggests paleo man would have eaten grains and seeds from the stomach’s of herbivores, and that we are indeed adapted to eat starch.
My beef is that these experts completely ignore the other forms of starch, and assume paleo is a low carb diet. Many paleo and hunter gatherer people consumed starches in the form of root vegetables, tubers and unripe fruit. These were widely eaten and are not shunned today by most paleo folk. (Chris Masterjohn gave an excellent lecture on this topic in last year’s Ancestral Health Symposium: Oxidative Stress & Carbohydrate Intolerance: An Ancestral Perspective)
If any of these experts had read the excellent text book by Staffan Lindeberg, Food and Western Disease, they would see that much of his research into hunter gatherer / paleo diets was conducted on the Kitavan Islanders, a group whose diet is primarily root vegetables; yam, sweet potato, taro and tapioca, supplemented with seafood, coconut and pork.
Also, those who did eat grains in the agricultural era, knew of their high anti-nutrient status and spent up to 10 days processing (soaking, cooking, fermenting) grains to make them digestible. FAO; Cereal Fermentations in African Countries. Grains eaten from stomachs of animals would have been partially digested by enzymes and bacteria, dramatically reducing toxic components and antinutrients. (FAO; Antinutrients and Toxic components in Cereals) It is also pertinent to note that no-one digests gluten well and 30% of our population have the gene that makes us susceptible to celiac disease. Celiac disease rates have increased with increased consumption of cereal grains, so clearly this is an example where we are not yet adapted.
To be fair, many Paleo writers do speak of eating a low carbohydrate diet, so the view that paleo diet is very low carb is widespread. Why do most paleo authors describe a low carb diet? For the average person who is likely to be overweight, sedentary and suffering from prediabetes, type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, a low carb approach is by far the best at least initially. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21524314
It would have been good to see a little information on the positive benefits of a reduced carbohydrate diet, particularly for those with type 2 diabetes for example.
The article also talks of intermittent fasting, and the theory surrounding fasting, and talks about an Aucklander Kim Ollivier who reversed his type 2 diabetes using a very restricted diet for 6 weeks; 500 – 600 calories per day. He followed it after seeing a report on th 2011 British study from Newcastle University: “Reversal of type 2 diabetes, normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol”
The article finishes with a little profile on myself.
The final paleo article is on the pros and cons of barefoot running “Run For Your Life”
Overall an excellent and balanced group of articles. Go pick up a copy!
More on the topic: An excellent post by Jamie Scott Why Cave Girls Didn’t Get Fat