Why the paleo movement is dying


Check out this new Instagram post from Paleo f(x) – the largest Paleo conference.

Makes perfect sense right? Because we all know that cavemen used to drink artificially sweetened soda in the summer, while eating lollipops. So why not sell it?

It’s a perfect illustration of the decline of the Paleo movement. Once, many years ago, it was about a powerful revolution, about massively improving people’s health. Now it’s about selling chocolate bars. Or mayo. Or even soda.

Here’s what’s been happening to Google searches of “paleo” in the last few years:

Going down. Fast.

It’s sad, because getting back to an evolutionarily normal lifestyle is super important for the future health of humanity. But unfortunately “Paleo” is now turning into a joke, and the people at the head of the movement have only themselves to blame.

Maybe it can still be saved, but that would require some drastic action I believe. What do you think?

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It’s precisely to try to avoid this decline that we at Diet Doctor have decided to never sell products, never post ads and never take industry money. We’re fully funded by the people, to keep our interests aligned.


  1. Aldert
    Follow the money..... as always...
  2. Mmccabe2
    I have always been a late adapter. Seems like I just get on to something when the sizzle has died. In this case, when I was ready! I am 63 years old, dieted and been overweight my entire life and FINALLY found a way of eating that agrees with my body, I am seeing good results and I am not hungry. I am trying to convince my BF, same age and an adult onset Type 1 Diabetic to try Paleo as we read that injectable insulin may cause organ damage and some patients are reversing T1D by resting the pancreas to recovery. I think it is worth a try. Thanks for your site.
    Reply: #8
  3. Lori Miller
    I don't think it's dying, it's just that the word has gotten out and everybody who's going to get on the bandwagon has gotten on. I can't remember the last time I did a Google search for Paleo.
  4. Elizabeth
    The reason I became a member is exactly for the reasons you just stated. Your work cannot be done if your money comes from the opposition. When I find a site that is selling unhealthy products in the name of health, I know they sold out for the money and celebrity. I disregard their advice because I know it is tainted.

    LCHF is really hurting the sugar, fruit, grain, oil and medical industries. These groups will do everything they can to subvert the movement with false information and harmful products if they can't take it over with research money along with rewards and awards of celebrity.
    Every time a movement comes along that will help people to improve their health the moneyed interests move in and take over. They redirect and neutralize the movement. When people became aware of the dangers of sugar the first time, artificial sweeteners were put on the market. As people got sicker, they put all sorts of medicines, vitamins, minerals and supplements on the market and then came all sorts of exercise equipment, gyms, fad diets, surgeries and other distractions to keep people from realizing the real causes of their problems.
    You are empowering people to take charge of their own health and giving them the information they need to succeed. LCHF is so simple and it works.

  5. Kiki
    In my opinion the moment people try make things easy to buy and have a profit in mind then the lifestyle takes a back seat. You know where we are suppose to find Paleo and Keto food - at the butcher's and the grocery. Our food should be the ingredients not have ingredients in them. The replica meals are just a hip hop slip away back into the High carb addictive eating of our past.
  6. Jean
    I learned about Paleo over a decade ago by reading Ray Audette's "Neanderthin". It made sense to me then and it continues to make sense to me now. The way Ray explained it was so simple. It's still a great book, written before the fad really got going and the term "paleo" got corrupted.
  7. Rimas
    Although, yes, avoiding soda as a rule is the ideal, but Zevia as a company is at least producing a product that is much less harmful (almost harmless?), and in fact the sweeteners they use are natural (erythritol and stevia), and has no dyes or other additives. This just shows that the food industry COULD make healthier food and drink if they wanted to (though of course it would cut into their profits). It appears to be all about the $$$$$$.
    Reply: #40
  8. BobM
    Mmccabe2, in addition to Paleo, also try intermittent fasting. See: https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/blog/

    Also, Paleo can be practiced in ways that aren't good. We know a couple who went on a "paleo" diet and had tons of sugar, as honey and other sugars are allowed by the paleo diet, in their coffee and had tons of "paleo" desserts. That does not help people who are insulin resistant (as these people were and are). These are fake foods that need to be avoided, particularly if you have any predisposition towards having cravings due to sweet foods.

    Even the Atkins corporation went too corporate and produces too many fake foods. When I first tried a low carb diet, I had a lot of the Atkins bars and other "sweet" foods. That did not help. Now, I try to eat as pure and clean as possible, and avoid any desserts, sweet foods, and the like. I try to eat all "real foods" as much as I can, though I do eat prepared foods at times.

  9. Fredrik Söderlund
    Paleofx are disgracing themselves AND the entire Paleo movement
  10. Bob
    " Paleo" has been and always will be a marketing gimmick for the hucksters to make a quick buck.
  11. Bob S
    If it had a mother and or a face, eat it. If it grew (with a few exceptions), eat it. Consume way more vegetables than fruits and stay hydrated (water).
  12. Bob Niland
    Paleo has no Pope.

    Compared to named and trademarked diets, the problem with generically named diets is that there is no central specification. Nothing, for example, would prevent Krispy Kreme from hawking a "paleo" donut that is just as unhealthy as their usual fare. "LCHF" has this authority problem too.

    As another commenter has noted about Atkins, even the personally identified diets can run into trouble if the founder passes or they otherwise hand control over to someone else.

    Arguably, the Pope of Paleo is Loren Cordain, but how many paleo followers know that? In any event. I've never seen a paleo diet that is completely satisfactory. Most of them let blood glucose get too high, and often remain in denial about allegedly natural sugars like honey and agave, that are just as destructive as HFCS.

    As with a too-prominent "Gluten Free", anything pitched as "paleo" needs informed scrutiny. Getting oneself informed is much more important than which diet is initially chosen for health remediation.

    In the specific case of Zevia, my family found it to be too sweet (they are apparently trying to match the sweetness of HFCS pops). It's presumably just as acidic and caffeinated as any pop, and the can liner expresses some BpA. Their FAQs are silent on the water used, and what the caramel color and natural flavors actually are. The whole product is at least certified non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan. It might be the most benign pop on the market, but there's nothing particularly paleo about it.

    Reply: #15
  13. Deborah
    Agree that PaleoFx organizers aren't as message-oriented as they once were, BUT there will always be a use for the "housecleaning" effect of a diet that eliminates sugar, vegetable oils, grains, legumes and dairy. And so long as that is true, the myriad of Paleo cookbooks and recipes are helpful to people starting on that journey.

    And the array of speakers at PaleoFx continue to be enlightening to those attending!

  14. KW
    Marketers are always looking to profit from the current popular things with catchy names--- whether it's "paleo", "gluten free", "sugar free", "low fat", "low carb", "grass-fed", "vegetarian", "earth friendly" etc. etc.... It's what they do; it's inevitable! So consumers need to avoid processed packaged food as much as possible and just eat real food.
  15. bill
    "...never seen a paleo diet that is completely satisfactory. Most of them let blood glucose get too high, and often remain in denial..."

    Paleo is also in denial regarding healthy
    fat. Cordain might be coming
    around on that though.

  16. Joe Merc
    The word has been corrupted, but it doesn't make the original message any less relevant. It hasn't always been about the money - that came later. And in parallel with the proliferation of Paleo brownies was the media misrepresentation of Paleo as 'all-meat-all-the-time.'

    As a result, many of the people who are still about health are saying the same things they were saying five years ago*, but using different language (i.e. dropping the term Paleo). It has become a bit of a joke and it will start to show up less in searches, but many of the tenets (the main one being, eat real food) continue to gain momentum.

    *not exactly the same things they said five years ago as the really good people are not dogmatic, they evolve as the science evolves

    And, I agree that the paleofx decision to use zevia as a sponsor was ill-conceived.

  17. Jenny Penrod
    Honestly, I think this article is full of misinformation.

    1) People are living the Paleo 'diet' as a lifestyle, not a diet.
    2) Most of the people I've seen who put Paleo content (recipes, research, etc.) out, do so without ads, and only with the best intention, not greed.
    3) Most people already know what paleo is at this point, so why would the Google searches NOT go down?
    4) I'm not positive, but I think I've had a Zevia. It was the first soda I'd had in over a year. It was a treat last summer, and IMO, it was great, and not so great. The flavor was sub-par, not great. The ingredients weren't perfect, but they're WAY better than an average soda, or even the gourmet sodas I've looked into.
    5) I don't think paleofx (or whatever it is- never herd of em) should have teamed up' with zevia like they did.
    6) I think the author of this article is full of bs, and downgrading a lifestyle that's healthy & beneficial for so many when the SAD & government guideline diets so so much harm, is idiotic. I'm not usually so harsh in my online statements, but, honestly, this article made me mad. I won't be returning to dietdoctor, which I'd never heard of before today either.
    7) Paleo saved my life & have me back my fertility.

  18. BobM
    I think the original "Paleo" was good. That is, trying to eat food as we would have eaten it hundreds or thousands of years ago, before wheat and agriculture. I also think eating seasonally (eg, more carbs in the summer and many fewer in the winter) is also probably good. And avoiding oils and sweets and the gigantic fruit of today is also probably good. But paleo, like everything else, is subject to getting commercialized. And that's bad.
  19. LiveBetter
    Pretty sure Kurt Harris covered this 4 years ago in a great comment. Nothing has changed since then. This isn't a "new" phenomenon. It's no different than some of the low carb champions. When you choose to earn your living hocking a diet/lifestyle, good chance it's going to happen. In the same comment he said, "Finally we have the fatal virus that has infected paleo from the beginning but now looks more like an ineradicable retrovirus rather than a 24 hour flu. Low Carb hucksterism ..."
    Reply: #20
  20. LiveBetter
    He went on to say, "Low Carb hucksterism ... has evolved into a full fledged dietary cult that has now, with aid of it’s profiteers selling books and xylitol based treats not found in nature, glommed on to “paleo” like Ursus Maritimus hugging a newborn penguin." Maybe that's when paleo took a turn for the worse.
  21. Candice
    It is also possible that the decline in the searches for Paleo is partially due to the splintering of what was the Paleo movement into Primal and Ancestral ... and possibly others. Despite the fact that these concepts (whether you call them Paleo, Primal or Ancestral) are being used to market products now, the core ideas are still being adopted by many new people. Marketers jumping on a trend to sell product is not new or unique to Paleo.
  22. Marion
    Why is diet doctor gloating about the supposed 'downfall' of 'paleo'?

    Why is it assumed that because a company tries to pander stevia sweetened beveraged to the paleo community that 'paleo' is 'going down'? Is the 'low carb movement' going down because Atkins co. has been pandering soybased 'atkins bars' to the LC community for decades?

    Why is dietdoctor even interested in wether or not 'paleo' is on the rise or on the way down? Wouldn't it be far more productive for dietdoctor to concern itself with the shenanigans of Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Agra and Big State, all of whom only rub their hands in joy to see infighting among the Low Carbers and the Paleo?

    This whole article smacks of a kindergarten mentality.

    Grow the *bleep* up!

  23. Jan
    The Paleo movement is not dying. And just because a product calls itself "paleo" doesn't mean the entire movement no longer has a good message. No one can control what any commercial product call's itself. I consider myself part of the paleo movement, did they ask me? They did not.
    What I see is a very bad attitude "i'm the good guy, come to my website, I'll never sell out" "see those guys, they're the bad people, don't listen to them".
  24. Jennie
    I was a bit shocked by this article, as I am a very happy follower of a Paleo lifestyle and a member at dietdoctor.com as well. I see the two as being very closely related. I'm in Australia and moved to Paleo from LCHF because of the work of the wonderful Pete Evans who is a "celebrity chef" doing a great job of promoting it here. He would not touch the product above. Everything he promotes is natural, real food. I expect the number of people eating Paleo in Australia would currently be increasing.
    Reply: #31
  25. George Henderson (@puddleg)
    The criticism is valid because this kind of PaleoTM hucksterism puts people off, and can be used by the enemies of Paleo to discredit it. It will also undermine some people's efforts.

    But at the serious, scientific level, the paleolithic diet is doing just fine, thank you.

  26. Nate
    I don't begrudge people trying to sell a product whether it is healthy for everyone or only for a few athletes with metabolisms like furnaces. Machines have taken away most manufacturing jobs and computers have taken away many desk jobs. There is only so much land available to grow healthy whole food. So, people need to make a living. And, consumers must assume some responsibility to learn what they can and can't eat to make them healthy. Of course one way to do that is to follow this great blog.

    If the word 'Paleo' takes a hit, so what? The meaning of words change all the time. Natural, organic, healthy diet, etc are all in flux depending on who is using the words.

    I'm just enjoying that USDA finally said things like cholesterol is no longer a substance of concern; that major scientific journals are publishing more articles by low carb advocates; that staid Harvard has professors not staying on the low fat message; that more and more blogs about low carb, Paleo, regenerative agriculture exist.

  27. Sheryl
    While I'm not a fan of zevia, this is overboard as zevia is sweetened with stevia and erithrytol, which are the most natural of the low carb sweeteners. They also have the
    Smallest number of negative side effects.
  28. RF121
    Individually many of us suffer through carb creep before resetting and getting back on track. Looks like that also applies to some of the movement leaders.
  29. Robert Louis
    This is the information for Zevia....


    C'mon people seriously? They didn't "CLAIM to be PALEO" Is the sky really falling? Or do you think perfection is Paleo? I think this post is rather ridiculous and makes me question following this blog any further. Quite frankly, Zevia is a good option for those who need to kick the habit of regular sugar-ridden sodas. It's posts like this and this ridiculous notion of perfection that is killing paleo because people think it's too restrictive not the addition of healthier choices of convenience foods like this! SMH

    Reply: #30
  30. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    "No sugar" and "no artificial sweeteners".... So why do you think it's so sweet?

    Did people sweeten their drinks with concentrated Stevia and erythritol powders in Paleolithic times?

  31. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor

    I was a bit shocked by this article, as I am a very happy follower of a Paleo lifestyle and a member at dietdoctor.com as well. I see the two as being very closely related. I'm in Australia and moved to Paleo from LCHF because of the work of the wonderful Pete Evans who is a "celebrity chef" doing a great job of promoting it here. He would not touch the product above. Everything he promotes is natural, real food. I expect the number of people eating Paleo in Australia would currently be increasing.

    Actually it seems to have peaked in Australia too, although a year later than in the US:

    Pete Evans seems like a great guy, I have no reason to believe he is part of the problem in any way.

    Personally I'm a huge fan of the ideas behind the earlier Paleo movement. I was at the Ancestral Health Symposium in 2011 (and '12 and '13) and it was fantastic. And very important. That's why the deterioration into "anything that sells" saddens me. I think the widespread acceptance of that, even among the main spokespeople, can kill the movement.

    Of course I do not believe the hostility towards low carb in some Paleo circles has helped either. The low carb component is probably the main reason Paleo diets work so well against obesity and metabolic disease. Take away that and it's simply not as effective anymore...

  32. Marion
    Can I just add that I would love, *love*, LOVE to have the opportunity to buy Zevia here in Europe?

    Do you know how difficult it is to be social and low carb here? It's easier in general, because we have a tradition of homecooking, and so we don't rely on ready made and 'convenience' food, but going out with friends is always a bit of a downer. Because I always end up drinking water the entire evening. I don't drink alcohol, I don't drink fruit juice, I don't drink fizzy drinks... Water it is, then, and boy! does it suck to be at a birthday party and refuse a slice of birthday cake because of the sugar and flour, and refuse the drinks because of the sugar and alcohol, and just stand there like sipping a glass of water... I might as well go dressed in black robes of doom and carry a placard with "The End is Nigh" on it, or a set of clappers and shouting "Leper! Leper!"
    So I usually go for a diet coke, even though I know that they are loaded with aspartame and other junk.
    Zevia sounds like a godsend to me! I wouldn't buy it to drink at home, but I would finally have something I could order at a bar!

  33. Sharon
    Love this site. Recommend it every chance I get. Thank you, thank you!!!
  34. Michael
    Love this article. I think it makes a great point. We all have our demons and diet soda is one of mine, however, the paleo communities ties to primal eating does fly in the face of soda consumption. I don't get that feeling as much in the keto world. The foundations are similar but the emphasis is place elsewhere. I've tried the Zevia drinks and. . . if you can't say something nice. . .
  35. Francoise
    In my opinion, the opportunity to create sodas and other "packaged food" items happen because many people prefer to buy "healthy" foods rather than spending the time to cook. It's so much easier to grab a meal bar and not feel "guilty" about it because it has the "blessing" of the fill-in-the-name movement or lifestyle you have adopted. Remember, the decision to adopt these drinks and foods are yours.

    I came to the LCHF lifestyle via paleo. I am a 69 year old woman and felt like an 80 year old one. My joints ached terribly, had developed tendinitis that I just could not make go away, and being overweight didn't help. By going Paleo, in no time did the pain go away. But I didn't lose a y weight. Going LCHF is giving results.

    For people who can tolerate a higher carb level, paleo might suit them perfectly.
    after all the research I have done so far, LCHF is a lifestyle that teaches me to determine the carb level that is optimal for me to initially lose the weight I need to lose and then to maintain it. And that, for me, is so empowering, as I now start to understand how the food we eat impacts our bodies.

  36. Lisa
    The same can be said for Atkins. The junk Atkins Nutritionals is peddling is really sad and now they'll even sell you a frozen meal delivery service along with their "fairy tale" low CHO products. Sad and disgusting. Their nutritionist Colette Heimowitz says Dr Atkins wanted a low CHO product for every item in the grocery store. Maybe that's true given they sold so much junk prior to their bankruptcy but that didn't/doesn't make it healthy.

    Eat real low CHO healthy fat food!

  37. Lisa
    I really liked how Jimmy Moore confronted Heimowitz about the Atkins products.


  38. joe
    The Paleo diet is hard to follow. It's very difficult to find a woolly mammoth to hunt and eat.
    Reply: #39
  39. Lisa
    Have you tried a park? lololol
  40. PaleoPetal
    Not correct. Latest research demonstrates that the "natural" artificial sweeteners are just as harmful as fructose other sugars that are being implanted into processed foods. Dieters on sodas with zero sugar have actually been gaining weight as a result of the artificial sweeteners. Very sobering and exactly why the big companies are spending millions to discredit and suppress paleo.
  41. Darryl Edwards
    My belief is that the growth has expanded sideways - Paleo is not just about food/nutrients/diet (which is always fairly contentious and ambiguous hence the above heated discussions) but is about embracing other aspects of natural health and wellbeing:

    the environment and sustainability,
    sleep quantity and quality,
    movement and physical activity (rather than just fitness),
    stress management,
    circadian rhythms,
    light exposure,
    social interaction, managing toxic burden and every else that is now far more a part of our vernacular than it once was.

    The discussions around a lot of the good that we do in the movement has become more mainstream.

    There is arguably far more to health than food and I am certain that this is reflected as a composite as the 'Paleo' term incorporates so many other areas (whether that search term is used or not) with growth in slow, natural, organic and other health movements.

  42. Dr Jay Wortman
    As Andreas has said, I think a large part of the benefit of a Paleo diet comes from the reduction in sugar and processed starch. I think their promotion of sugar-free beverages reflects this realization at some level. Part of my practice involves patients who use methadone as a stepping stone in the treatment of opiate addiction. Similarly, I see no problem with using artificially sweetened products as a stepping stone in overcoming sugar addiction. I recall, after giving a lecture to a medical class, a young man telling me that he had lost 20 lbs simply by replacing regular Coke with diet Coke. And I have to confess, I find diet Coke makes a far better approximation of an occasional Cuba Libre than does water.
  43. Robert Louis
    So you are saying you would rather people stick with Coke, Pepsi and Mountain Dew? Do you have any idea the number of people that are addicted to these sugary drinks and how difficult it is to stop drinking them? Zevia is a much healthier choice, you cannot deny that.

    Here is an excerpt from an article:
    The health hazards of drinking sugar sweetened beverages like sodas and sugary fruit drinks is no secret. In fact, a Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity study found that a majority of Americans understand that soda is bad for them. But despite this, a Gallup poll reveals that 48 percent of surveyed Americans — nearly half! — drink soda on a daily basis. What’s more, among those who drank soda, the average daily intake was 2.6 glasses per day.

    So do you honestly believe that people are just going to get off the soda, cold turkey? Really a naive belief, if you do. They will need something in lieu of the soda to be able to come off of it. Zevia is a much healthier choice. To deny that or the need for healthier choices, is negligent as a health practitioner.

  44. Rae
    I think Andreas is saying that it looks like the Paleo movement has sold out by accepting money from a company that is advertising a product that is NOT Paleo. The same way the Atkins people sell candy and call it low carb. I can see how Zevia is a better choice than mainstream sodas, but it is still not a good choice for anyone following a Paleo plan. A lot of plans are hard to follow perfectly in this day and age, but "cheating" should not be promoted by the powers that be, not for financial gain.
  45. Wendy
    No colds, no flus, no meds and at 60 yrs old i have tons of energy and in much better shape than most people my age ( and younger-). Plant based for 40 yrs.. great skin and hair....VEGAN?
  46. Aton
    After some time following paleo it becomes difficult to avoid seeing all the corpses. Paleo is dying because it is a diet of death and suffering. It's a diet of stealing the parts of others as to satisfy ones desires.
    Veganism is the seed planted by paleo.
  47. Stacie
    Sadly, many in the Keto movement are now peddling similar products.

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