Doctors Weigh In On the Paleo Diet


 “People like to hear good news about their bad habits.” ~Dr. McDougall

Sorry to break it to you, but so far, I’m not impressed with too many things I’ve been reading about the Paleo Diet and it’s my sincere hope that, even if you’re deeply invested in this erroneous diet, you’ll come to your senses before you incur long term damage to your health and overall well being. Here’s what some noted and distinguished doctors have to say about this diet:

Now think about this…

From his newsletter, Dr. McDougall makes several poignant observations. When asked about the commonly held idea that ancient people were primarily meat-eaters, the highly respected anthropologist,  Nathanial Dominy, PhD, from Dartmouth College responded, “That’s a myth. Hunter-gathers, the majority of their calories come from plant foods…meat is just too unpredictable.” After studying the bones, teeth, and genetics of primates for his entire career as a biological anthropologist, Dr. Dominy, states, “Humans might be more appropriately described as ‘starchivores.’” What’s a “starchivore”? A Stachivore is someone who eats potatoes, beans, peas, corn, pasta, rice and grains.

Uncle Herb’s brain, coming right up!

Dr. McDougall goes on to quote Dr. Cordain and his research on the Paleo Diet. Dr. Cordain writes, “For most of us, the thought of eating organs is not only repulsive, but is also not practical as we simply do not have access to wild game.” (p 131). In addition to the usual beef, veal, pork, chicken, and fish, a Paleo follower is required to eat; alligator, bear, kangaroo, deer, rattlesnake, and wild boar are also on the menu.” Some of these may sound pretty doable, but how about trying to hunt down a few of these yourself and see how that works out. Or how about adding brains or bone marrow to your Paleo Diet? These were both said to be favorites of these original stone folks! However, the original stone age diet was worse than I’d expected! Dr. McDougall writes, No mention is made by Paleo experts about the frequent and habitual practices of nutritional cannibalism by hunter-gather societies. (Nutritional cannibalism refers to the consumption of human flesh for its taste or nutritional value.) Archeologists have found bones of our ancestors from a million years ago with de-fleshing marks and evidence of bone smashing to get at the marrow inside; there are signs that the victims also had their brains eaten. Children were not off the menu. And we are supposed to eat the favorite meats of our uncivilized, pre-Agriculture Revolution, hunter-gather, ancestors?” I’d hope your answer will be a clear “No Thanks” by the end of this!

Seriously, that’s a nightmare…not a diet!

Speaking of nightmares, Dr. McDougall calls the Paleo Diet a “nutritional nightmare”! He writes, “By nature, the Paleo Diet is based on artery-clogging saturated fats and cholesterol, and bone-damaging, acidic proteins from animal foods. Respected researchers find that those modern-day hunter-gather populations who base their diets on meat, such as the Inuits (Eskimos), suffer from heart disease and other forms of atherosclerosis, and those modern-day hunter-gathers who base their diets on plant foods (starches) are free of these diseases. Osteoporosis, from their high animal food-based diets, is also epidemic among meat and fish consuming hunter-gathers, specifically the Inuits.” I don’t know about your family, but in my family osteoporosis & heart disease are both a concern, so I know what choices I’ll be making!

Dr. McDougall further writes, “Eating animal-derived foods causes our most common diseases for many well-established reasons, including the indisputable facts that they contain no dietary fiber, are filthy with disease-causing microbes (including mad cow prions, and E. coli and salmonella bacteria), and contain the highest levels of poisonous environmental chemicals found in the food chain. Remember, disease-causing red meats, poultry, fish, and eggs make up 55% of the Paleo Diet.” These are valid points to consider. I have mentioned this before: Our environment has changed dramatically since the stone age. We don’t hunt for our food and even if we did it really wouldn’t even be close to what it was back then. Most of the meat that you buy at the store is corn fed. It may say “low fat” on the package, but you’re still ingesting all the toxins, hormones, and pesticides from the meat. Not to mention the stress and filth of the horrific conditions where these animals are kept. The good news are that you don’t have to choose this route, you can choose health & vitality. You don’t have to end up one day with a massive coronary heart attack due to someone’s erroneous and hazardous agenda.  Further reading by Dr. McDougall is at the end! 

Brains? Who needs them? 

The other article I came across was from the HuffPost by David Katz, M.D. called “The Paleo Diet: Can We Really Eat Like Our Ancestors Did?” Although, Dr. Katz says he’s a proponent of the Paleolithic diet he does make some great points. He writes, “Our Stone Age ancestors had a high caloric throughput, meaning lots of calories both out and in every day, due to the high energy demands of Stone Age survival. Perhaps consuming 4,000 or so calories a day — and burning them all — should be required before the “Paleo diet” label truly pertains. Dr. Eaton among others suggests that our Paleolithic ancestors consumed as much as 100 grams of fiber daily, from a variety of plant foods eaten in large enough quantities to fuel that high energy demand. If 100 grams of fiber a day were required to defend a Paleo diet claim, there would be very few signed up. In reality, virtually no one today practices anything close to a true Stone Age diet and no one at all practices such a diet perfectly. When was the last time you saw a mammoth?” That’s a good question!

Recreation of a living Woolly Mammoth

Dr. David Katz further writes, “When the Paleo diet label is used to justify a diet of sausages and bacon cheeseburgers, the concept has wandered well off the reservation. When used as guidance away from processed foods and toward a diet based on a variety of plants, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish and lean meats (preferably wild game), it is eminently reasonable, and no doubt a vast improvement, over the typical American diet. Stone Agers did a lot more running than we do and most certainly did not run on Dunkin’!” Need I say more? Time to get off the imaginary woolly mammoth and use our brains! The other morning I awoke and had this thought: We aren’t born with an instinctual need for meat. Nor do we dream about hunting or killing animals. (If this is the case, you may want to stop reading and call a psychiatrist!) Meat is something that we’re taught to eat and continue to eat largely due to misinformation, clever marketing campaigns, also known as scare tactics, and because we’ve become addicted to it! My dog and cats on the other hand have a natural instinct to hunt, kill and seek out prey if they were living in the wild.  

At the end of his article, Dr. Katz writes, “We don’t know that even a well-practiced Paleo diet is the “best” choice for health, as compared to a Mediterranean diet, a traditional Asian diet, a mostly-plant diet, or a well-balanced vegan diet. We do know that a population of some 7 billion people cannot eat as much meat as a population in the millions did, without doing the irreparable harm to the planet that is already far advanced.” I don’t agree with him on his uncertainty of the “best” choice for a diet, but I do agree with him on his concerns for our planet. Do consider this: If the planet “goes to hell in a handbasket” due to our current unsustainable practices and unhealthy eating habits and we were to run out of food. Who would you rather live next door to with your family? A Paleo follower or a plant-based vegan? Looking at historical evidence, I think the answer is clear! And if you think this thought is too far fetched then do me a favor and read Jared Diamond’s excellent book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”.



About urbanveganchic

I'm an urban chic woman, who is passionate about educating others about the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet, cancer prevention & survival, as well as art & life. I love adventures and travel. As an artist and a teacher, I care deeply about healthy living, being a conscious steward of our planet, and being kind & respectful towards animals. Learning about a vegan plant-based diet has been like discovering a new country and falling in love with it, so if I sound like I'm enamored you now know why! As a world traveler, I truly wish I had discovered this beautiful new country twenty years ago! Better late than never, as they say, cause there's no going back now! Born and raised in Scandinavia. Proud owner of a tripod cat & a foxy little pup. Speak four languages...some better than others. Working on the fifth one. We are all either part of the problem or the solution! Health & Happiness to you! ~UrbanVeganChic

4 responses »

  1. Pingback: A sneaky grain or two « ErinLovesLife

  2. Pingback: My Top Ten Most Popular Posts | urbanveganchic

    • You sound like a highly intelligent man, Steven! You’ve found what works and what doesn’t work for you. That’s great! But as much I’d love to agree with you, most people are so incredibly confused due to all the misinformation that is out there so they stick with what is familiar, convenient and easy! Does this lead to long term health? I think not! There’s a new diet plan popping up almost every other week. If you can come up with an enticing title and some kind of diet plan, then you’re almost guaranteed a following! Yea, and let’s link it back in time to those Neanderthals shall we?

      Thanks for weighing in! Health & Happiness to you!

  3. There are too many assumptions on both sides of this article to really make a solid judgement, in my opinion. My short term answer? An informed opinion based on the evidence of many. I, for instance, once adhered to the USDA food pyramid. I tried vegetarian diets. My own life has taught me to watch my thyroid: some vegetables are not good for people with thyroid problems. I eat to perform. I exercise regularly and require foods that help me recuperate energy loss and damage incurred from my job, and my fitness program. I am 42 now. My take-away? All the nutritional wisdom in the world is going to have you on the road to an early grave if you don’t take a personal approach.

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