Paleo interview with Professor Cordain

What is the paleo diet and why should you care? Well, as you know it’s the original human diet and it’s probably still the healthiest way you could eat (unless you have a health reason to reduce your carb intake even more).

Here the world’s #1 expert, professor Loren Cordain, explains what you need to know and answers common questions. For example: Is Paleo always low carb? What’s wrong with vegan diets? And what single dairy product is ok to eat?

This is the interview we did at the ASBP obesity conference in Denver last month. If you like it, feel free to share it!


  1. Kordo(Pol)
    That was mentioned a lot of about vegetables oils. What about linseed oil? Which contains huge amounts of omega-3 fats? Is it good for us when we are on lchf/paleo.
    For sure, oils extracted in high temperatures are not good for us, and almost all of producted vegetables oils in common diets, are. Thx for this website. Cause its makes me life better :)
  2. Irene
    so butter is ok, milk is not, what about full fat double cream? what about full fat greek yogurt? are these still ok to eat?
  3. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    If you're asking me I'd say yes, at least in moderation. But they are obviously not Paleo foods, as dairy products have only been eaten several thousand years.

    The way I see it LCHF is a more luxurious version of Paleo: Easier, tastier and less restrictive but still very effective (perhaps even more effective) for treating obesity and metabolic disease. LCHF includes full fat dairy like butter, cheese and heavy cream.

  4. Donna E
    I think paleo makes so much sense, but (1) I personally would find it really difficult to give up dairy completely and (2) I'm concerned about neu5gc in red meats (and to a lesser extent in dairy) and I really wish someone lilke Cordain would take a look at it. It raises a number of interesting evolutionary issues as well as nutrition ones. Most low carbers who know anything about it dismiss it, but I've seen some pro-paleo/low carb folks at least argue that it should not be a problem IF people avoid leaky gut syndrome.
  5. Ingvar Bejvel
    Don't give in to Paleo fundamentalists. Dairy products are animal textures as much as animal fats and meats, although appearing late in human evolution history. Albeit that most animal textures don't live up to the optimal fat acid balance of yorn.
  6. Mike
    Dairy or not is a difficult issue, but I don't know Prof. Cordain's stance can really be characterized as fundamentalist. Maybe some of his followers reject dairy products just because they weren't around way back when, but he has some respectable reasons for being wary, including some he didn't even mention in that video. For example, in the latest book he identifies the presence of estrone sulfate in milk (a marker for prostate cancer among other things) as a problem. That's caused by farmers unnaturally AI-ing their cows soon after birth to cause year-round milk production, which doesn't of course occur in nature.

    At the very least, one should probably say that there are problems connected with commercial dairy products from intensive farms - as with meat from grain-fed, antibiotically dosed etc. cattle. Intensive farming brings health problems in its wake. No Maasai tribesman ever had to cope with estrogenic hormones in his milk. Nor was his milk pasteurized and homogenized.

  7. Tom
    @Irene I suspect yoghurt would be ok because you have to heat it up and would probably denature the enzymes which cordain thinks of as harmful
  8. HighlySkeptical
    I'm with Ingvar. Our Northern European ancestors evolved the genes to deal with milk - cow and goat. Other cultures, such as people from North Africa, easily drink camel and donkey milk, while Mongolians thrive on mare's milk. The Masai also have genes to handle milk.

    We all know some of us have evolved to be able to drink milk. Why does Dr. Cordain continue to talk about those who can't? Sure, they may be a majority of the human race, but they aren't me. I have those genes, and I can drink milk. He never addresses this well-known fact, and to my mind it reduces his credibility.

    I'm not here to re-enact his ideas of the Caveman life. I want to be healthy with my continuing-to-evolve genes and my current epigenetics. These things aren't fixed in the Stone Age, as he would like.

    We absolutely are *not* Stone Age people in the Space/Information Age. We continue to evolve - more rapidly than ever - and my daily choices affect my gene expression. I personally now have my own genome; anyone can get theirs for about US$100. I can now eat to address my known genes, knowledge about which I get all the time as new discoveries come in.

    He needs to address this head on, but I've never heard him do so. He goes on about dangerous hormones, but of course pasture-raised, non-industrial, raw milks don't have these - and certainly traditional preparations like yogurt and kefir seem to reduce other agents he likes to cite.

    I would really love to see a discussion between Dr. Cordain and Sally Fallon on this. I do think Sally has by far the better argument.

  9. Mike W
    Well-done interview. It covers a lot of ground in only 50 minutes. I like how you politely challenge Cordain to defend his views - you did that in the Taubes video, too. An interviewer shouldn't simply give someone a soapbox and step back.

    Cordain seems to be a reasonable guy. But I'm with Ingvar and HS regarding dairy. I say, if you can digest lactose, go for it. I don't buy the galactose-cataracts argument: if you look at prevalence charts for senile cataracts, Japan and China have about the same rate as the U.S. even though they drink a LOT less milk than we do.

    And as for milk protein being bad for you, maybe I just don't understand what he is talking about. The amino acid profile for milk is virtually identical to beef. Both are good sources of complete protein. I've heard that some people have a problem digesting casein, to get to those amino acids, but if I had that problem I think I would have noticed some gastrointestinal symptoms by now.

  10. Egill
    Hej Andreas,

    Thanks for a nice interview. I'm curious about the intake of fruits. Would you say the Paleo diet allows for more consumption of them compared to LCHF?

  11. John Myers
    Great video, thank you for sharing it. I'll continue with butter and even low lactose cheese.
    One other point that Dr. Cordain might might be too fundamentalist on is salt. Eric Westman at Duke University considers added sodium as essential, but Cordain eschews it.
    I'm glad Andreas is in the video, instead of being a disembodied voice. I'm guessing it takes longer to edit interviews that way, but I think in the end it's good for the viewer. Before it was like having TV and radio combined.
  12. Jen
    Hey, Andreas, great job with the interview. I think you are building up a very useful archive of content.

    If you want to make the next one look little bit better, place the second camera so that it's looking over your subject's left shoulder. Also, that camera should be zoomed in a little tighter. Typically, the bottom of its frame should cross the bottom of your chest, or even your belly button.

    And you can begin the interview by looking directly into your camera, and introducing your subject and why they atter, then turning to them, looking them in the eye and welcoming them.

    Basically, most interviews are done this way. (if what I'm describing isn't clear, you can see what I'm talking about by watching almost any interview on television.)

    Finally, you may want to consider getting another lavaliere microphone, for your own audio.

  13. Jen
  14. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    Egill #10,
    Yes. But even Paleo experts usually recommend to be careful with fruit if you're obese or diabetic.

    Thanks for your tips. I have two lavalier mikes now. ;)

  15. Laura
    I cannot refrain as a strict paleo and anti-dairy person to say that paelo or not mammary gland fluids of any animal are intended for the consumption by the young of their cognate species.
    As to weather we are adaptied to drink milk as ADULTS this I msut always specify yes there has been amongst indo-caucasian a selection for people who are able to retain lactase in the adult. But this is only at the stomach level all the absorbtion of food occurs in the small intestine. I don't think we are close to knowing whether components of milk and derivatives are harmful at that level. I am a geneticist so i know that this story of the adaptation is weak and flimsy. Speak to most Chinese people and they would not even see milk and derivatives as food. Most of them retain the NORMAL inability to digest lactose in the adult which all mammals have.

    I'd rather much eat fruit...we have had MILLIONS of years to adapt to fructose ando only 10000 to adapt to milk&Co. Mark my words NO other food increases Insulin-like growth factor 1 a known mitogen and carcinogen as milk does. So as much as i appreciate that mlik and dairies fill in a fat gap in the LCHF regime and provide taste and variety they are NOT meant to be eaten by adults. They are a convenience food the ready meals of the LCHF. Please do not try to pass them off as healthy beacsue they are not. It is not teh fat the problem hence why butter is the best of the worst but the proteins and sugars. So good luck to you all who eat them but I recommend you look harder into this and make an informed decision. The adult body should receive so much of its nutrition from a fluid intended for the young...I am zipping up

  16. Moreporkplease

    Because the Chinese don't recognize milk as food I shouldn't either? But I'm not Chinese! Is this really a scientific argument? What's next, because the Chinese are short I have to cut off my own legs?

    Cordain has some theoretical ideas about why dairy could be harmful; but there are many good studies showing that it has benefits in reality. The Masai of course were famously cancer free. That would rebut that.

    Again, raw milk has few of the problems he cites. As for IGF-1, traditional preparation such as kefir reduces this by more than 75%. But to concern yourself with 1 or 2 possible components while neglecting the whole food is classic nutritionism. We're about whole foods, real foods.

    Chris Kesser has a great article on this:

  17. Troy Wynn
    Can you get more specific about combining sugar and saturated fat? I don't eat sugar, however what is sugar? Right? Combining heavy cream and berries is saturated fat and sugar. Combining butter and sweet potatoes or yams is fat and sugar. Am I looking at this out of context? Does he just mean processed sugars, hfcs, and refined flour and saturated fat? I needs to know!
  18. Zepp
    Troy.. just count carbs in your meals.. becuse almoste every carb gets to be bloodsugar in the end.. exept fructose, its gonna be fat in your liver!
  19. Alexandra
    I thought Cordain was against all dairy, including butter, because of betacellulin. Also, I thought only bovine IGF-1 in dairy could raise human IGF-1 -- but not that of goat or sheep dairy products.
  20. Troy Wynn
    Zepp, Thanks. I keep carbs below 50 grms/ day. Combining heavy cream (fat) with some berries (sugar)... is it okay, not okay? Cordain said it is a sick combination (fat and sugar) as it does not exist in any natural food on our planet earth. Or is he referring to refined carb (flour sugar) and saturated fat. I don't eat that combination (junk). I'd like to know what the combination does....what are the mechanics?

    I get the blood sugar - insulin - fat conversion and storage and cell lock down. What is the effects of sugar + saturated fat?

  21. Zepp
    Troy.. I think thats if you only eat 50 gr/day.. it dosnt matter were you got them from, you can probably take it from sugar, but then you miss the nutrishment in berrys anyhow!

    50 gram/day is probably not more then 5-10E%.. to be compare with 50E% carbs in SAD!

    I think he meant that one shouldnt get high amount of energy from foods that high in both sugar and fats?

    The mecanism is.. your blod sugar rise, and insulin to.. to lower toxic levels of glucose.

    It does that by cuting of fatoxidation in cells stops lipolysis, promotes lipoproteinlipas to store some fat so that our cells burn moste glucose till the glucose level is in normal levels.

    But.. but, when blod sugar gets lower, one get cravings.. and mayby eat som more fat and sugar, and then its start over again.

    You know, humans dont have that good de novo lipogenesis, so we cant convert that much carbs to fat.. but constantly high insulin levels do keep fats stored.. its cald internal starvation.

    The thing thats promotes lipolysis is normal to low insulin levels.. becuse it seems that if only insulin get low the other hormones can act to start fats to be broken down by hydrolysis for energy.

    With adequate amounts of broken down free fatty acids in your blood you have enough of energy and dont get cravings.

    Then it is Leptin that signaling thats your fat stores geting emptyed, and that is not so demanding.. it feels like.. soon its time to eat!

    Becuse almost every one do have a lot of fat to use as fuel.

  22. moreporkplease
    Hi Troy:

    "What is the effects of sugar + saturated fat?"

    Cordain's going to say this combo generated trigs in the blood, which are markers for heart disease. Because Cordain is against all dairy products, he would definitely ban your tablespoon of heavy cream over your 1/4 cup blackberries. Yes, he would.

    However, please note that many many many people include such small amounts of cream + berries in the LCHF diets without ill effect, and still see improvements in lipid measurements.

    For most people, the big fight is get them to give up the rich buttery cakes with thick sweet frosting slathered all around an in between the layers. This is the sat fat w/sugar that is truly dangerous!!! This is the stuff we LCHF folks will tell you is dangerous.

    In short, go have a few berries and a spoon of cream on a Saturday night in peace. You're not killing yourself with real food in reasonable amounts once a week.

  23. I'm apparently one of those people who are exceptionally carbohydrate sensitive, to the point where I can't even eat fruit--I try to keep my daily carbohydrate intake under 20 grams. If I go over, I swell up, gaining 10 lbs. in a single day. When I go back under, all that retained water just vanishes.

    Dairy, however, I have no problem with, although of course I can't drink milk since like fruit it contains too many carbs for me. But I eat butter, cream, and fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese without issue. In fact, eating dairy is about the only way I can manage the "High Fat" part of the diet--I tried doing a month elimination of dairy and the result was insatiable hunger and severe diarrhea.

    Since the science is iffy, I have to go with what works for me. Of course, if you personally try eliminating dairy and find that you, say, eliminate constipation or your skin clears up or whatever, then yeah, you should avoid dairy.

    Although coconut oil gives me the runs when taken internally, it works great on my skin.

  24. Robbo
    Thanks for that interview. It is particularly interesting that Dr Cordain has changed his mind over saturated fat and the idea that hunters ate lean meat some time in the last ten or so years.

    His argument on dairy seems to me the right way to craft an argument. Dairy foods are a possible risk because they were absent prior to pastoralism, but instead of just a blanket ban, let us look into the details of whether in fact there is anything bad, and to what extent it applies to the different types of dairy food.

  25. Laura
    why do some people take one thing you say and use it badly to demolish the armgument

    Morepork (or should it be more milk??)you can BATHE in milk for all i care..careful not to drawn though.The mention of the Chinese is to show that milk palatability is cultural not was jsut an example to open your mind to the fact that there are entire cultures that do NOT consider milk or derivatives as food. THE BEST argument against dairy is that it is the food of the young of their cognate species. We caucasians have an aberration that allows us as adults to drink milk and not get sick because of undigested lactose..but teh normal natural course of things is to STOP drinking milk as adults. You would not drink your mother's milk now so why that of another species. The other more biological argument against dairy intake as adults is that it is full of growth hormones (industrial milk specially) and other bioactive substances that can go through your gut and upset the normal growth balance in teh adult...there is also evidence that milk from cows drunk even in childhood when it may be more acceptable can reprogramme your epigenetic signals and scew you for joy!! We should stick to milk of our own species and only in teh real world you can do what ever you like....

  26. Laura
    #8 hihgly skeptical...sorry jsut to be precise as mammals we all have the genes 'to deal' with milk as you put it but in infancy as it is our only food for teh first several months of life. These genes code for digestive enzymes that allow us to extract energy from the nutrients in milk but as INFANTS!! Out ability to digest and benefit from milk decreases with age and in a normal situation is gone by early childhood as it should do also to allow the mother to resume her normal cycle and be fertile again (brest feeding reduces fertility a natural mechanism of birth control to allow recent progeny to grow before a new lot goes in teh natural incubator of the wormb)
    A recent mutation has caused expression of the gene responsible for lactose (the main sugar in milk) digestion to PERSIST in adulthood in some human groups. Some say it is an adaptation to life in colder climates (even though it is found also around the Med bacin, Africa etc) or perhaps it is due to conditions of famine to which are ancestors were exposed after animal domestication that led us to rely on milk from our newly domesticated cattle.
    So milk jsut like wheat one of our greatest enemies was starvation food and consumed liberally in the adult may not necessarily be a good idea but go and read for yourself and make up your mind. Like wheat the side effects of milk would be long term...
  27. Maggan A
    Potato has been the staplefood for very poor people many hundreds of years, and saved a lot from starvation, because potato contains a lot of importent stuff - exept for calcium. Very lucky for people who had a cow and could get milk - otherways they sufferd from different deficiency disorders.

    But I´m amazed that anyone still today (2012) belive that potato and milk is GOOD for people. Yes it USED to make the differens between surviving or starving to death a long time ago... but havent we come a little blit further by now?

    I dont understand this discussion about dairy... we can eat it as an accessory - but noone need it to live on - unless you only eat ONLY potato for the rest.

    in my personal opinion/experiance dairy (exept butter) is highly overrated and need not to be on anyones plate.

  28. Em J
    Really good interview.

    Although, I had thought the correlation between milk and cancer was with skimmed milk rather than whole?

    Also, what are people's thoughts on whey and it's apparently positive effect on the digestive system?

    Personally I don't bother with milk, I just stick to butter and double cream...mmm...butter. ;)

  29. AnotherRachel
    Thank you for this. Really interested in the vegetarian/vegan stuff, as I was veggie for 15 years, and vegan for around 2 or 3 of those years (it gets vague because I ended up cheating, kind of a part-time vegan). I became vitamin B12 deficient as a vegan. Lord knows what else was wrong with me, but I got colds every winter and also developed hayfever in grass-pollen season every year, as well as being fat and depressed. Oddly it NEVER occurred to me that any of this might be diet related. Duh.

    Needless to say, all better now- low-carb grain-free meat eater since September 2011! Although hayfever season is nearly upon me and I've no idea what will happen! I've not been taking anti-histamines which I usually do at the end of May, to build it up before the pollen hits in June. Fingers crossed!

  30. I was a little dismayed to see one of my favorite foods (jalapenos) dissed by Dr. Cordain. Sigh. Now I have to decide whether I really want to cut out spicy-hot foods. Maybe I'll try that for one of my N=1 experiments. But not right now.

    The real reason I wanted to contact you is that Georgene showed me an article in the Food Issue of Smithsonian Magazine this morning that make me want to gag. I immediately pounded out a screed post on it at (*). You might want to look at the Smithsonian article (I have a link to the online version of Smithsonian in the blog post) for future comment. We really need to counter this drivel!

    (*) I found out from Jimmy Moore that you were the original inspiration for the N=1 bit.

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