Is it a good idea to eat what humans are adapted to eat, by evolution? Something like the paleo diet, including avoiding processed foods, refined carbohydrates and added sugars?
It seems highly likely, but NYT columnist Jane Brody is not convinced. Instead, she repeats a number of myths (people rarely lived past 40 in paleo times1, the kidneys can’t handle the protein2, etc. etc.). She also asks for a level of scientific evidence for a paleo diet that doesn’t exist for any diet… certainly not the one that she recommends.
“Full disclosure” by Ms. Brody should include the fact that she has promoted the Mediterranean diet for decades now and has staked her career on a lower-fat, high-carb diet that is the antithesis of the paleo diet.
Are there long-term clinical trials on the paleo diet? No, but are there long-term clinical trials on the Med diet? Only one, and that one was recently retracted/republished in a way that left quite a few scientists questioning its basic validity. Are there any long-term trials of the low-fat diet that Brody has long promoted? Yes, and they show that the low-fat diet is utterly ineffective for combatting obesity, T2 diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer. Thus, the diet that Brody defends is supported by virtually no long-term rigorous (clinical trial) evidence. Why hold the paleo diet to a higher standard than the one she defends?
Brody objects that it’s hard to broil salmon for breakfast. Agreed. How about bacon and eggs? Modern-day paleo dieters don’t need to hunt all day long; we have supermarkets. Brody quotes paleo-critic Zuk saying humans can now digest starches/sugars. Yes, but does that means they make us healthy? And why does Brody not quote any paleo-supporters? That isn’t balanced journalism.
Brody prefers the Mediterranean diet. No problem. But should we all be Mediterranean like Brody? This one-size (MY size)-fits all approach is outdated + paternalistic. It’s time to be more open-minded about the diet – and reflect the realities of the science.
Without antibiotics, emergency medical care, food security or police, people often died early from infections, accidents or violence. This drastically reduces the average lifespan. But people who did survive these things often lived long lives, comparable to ours, and seem to have been virtually free of many of today’s common chronic and lifestyle-related diseases. ↩
Clearly a myth, more here: