Paleo vs cupcake: good news!


I’m at the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta at the moment. It’s the Paleo conference of the year.

One of the highlights of the first day was the new lecture by Hamilton Stapell, Ph.D., called “The End of Paleo”. He argues that Paleo will remain a fringe movement and never go mainstream, for many reasons.

I tend to agree, although I hope that some of the most important components will go mainstream (e.g. that excess sugar and flour is bad for our weight and health).

And perhaps there is some cause for celebration. Stapell showed the slide above, demonstrating that Google searches for “paleo diet” worldwide trails the searches for “cupcake”.

Statistics should always be taken with a grain of salt though. It’s all about how it’s presented.

Paleo vs Cupcake in the US

I checked searches for “paleo”, not the smaller more specific search “paleo diet”. And I checked the US, as the discussion was mostly regarding whether Paleo could go mainstream in the US.

Good news! Paleo beats cupcakes!


You can see Stapell’s lecture from last year’s AHS conference online. It’s great:

The Paleo Movement of a Hundred Years Ago

More on Paleo diets


Top comment

  1. Tomas
    "there simply wouldn't be enough real food for everyone"
    Really? Disagree.
    BTW, paleo will probably never go mainstream, but not because it is unsustainable.
    Paleo will never go mainstream because ... well ... people really really like grains (bread, pasta, croisants, cookies, pizzas...), carbs are cheap, carbs are part of culture, lots of businesses are carb-based, carbs can be transported long distance and easily kept unspoiled, ...
    Reply: #10
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All comments

  1. Kris
    We're rapidly catching up with the vegans too:
  2. J Michael Hayes
    I also heard the lecture & I disagree. The speaker failed to consider whether the Paleo template is scientifically sound. If it is, then to perpetuate the status quo will require that the entire society/world must be lied to forever & can never be told the truth. Nihilists can deny science for a while but eventually it overcomes. See Galileo.
  3. Tom Welsh
    One very good reason why Paleo can never become mainstream is that there simply wouldn't be enough real food for everyone. Norman Borlaug's famous "green revolution" aimed, successfully in the short term, to feed an extra 2-3 billion people. But it could only feed them on grains.

    I wonder how many people the world could sustain indefinitely on a Paleo diet. Maybe 1 billion?

    Reply: #7
  4. cave horse
    Tom, Allan Savory and many others would disagree with you. No matter how many people have existed in the world at any given time, there has always been enough food to feed them all. The problem has never been one of production, but of distribution, which will always be plagued by politics.
  5. George Wellan
    Never forget statistics NEVER replaces good judgment…!!!
  6. Tom Welsh
    cave horse, you set up and knocked down a straw man. I didn't say there wasn't enough food to keep people alive (yet). I said there wasn't - nearly - enough for everyone to eat along Paleo lines. Billions subsist mostly on grain, along with vegetables and (at most) a very little meat.

    Of course it is absolutely true that food distribution is 9and always has been) a matter of politics. You could almost define politics as the struggle to determine how human wealth is shared out, and food is the most basic and necessary form of wealth. Ever since the invention of farming, kings, lords and their retainers have traditionally hunted and feasted on meat, while the peasants got by with grain and whatever else they could hide or filch.

  7. Tomas
    "there simply wouldn't be enough real food for everyone"
    Really? Disagree.
    BTW, paleo will probably never go mainstream, but not because it is unsustainable.
    Paleo will never go mainstream because ... well ... people really really like grains (bread, pasta, croisants, cookies, pizzas...), carbs are cheap, carbs are part of culture, lots of businesses are carb-based, carbs can be transported long distance and easily kept unspoiled, ...
    Reply: #10
  8. Goran van Den Buske
    Low fat diets've still not had an impact in all countries and all food cultures ... However, it is sugar or sweetness we should fight with all the weapons that are available. Sugar addiction and fast carbs strikes against the poor
  9. Satu
    Funny, but I have also been thinking that hot (not so hot anymore) trend of cupcakes is really something that will disappear quite soon when people are more realizing the unhealthy madness of eating so much sugar. At supermarkets I can see plenty of cupcake books, but even more I see LOWCARB cooking books.

    Our children are not getting too much sugar, I don´t bake, I make real food. They all like salads. They like also sweets, but they know that eating too much sugar is unhealthy and is allowed only at partytime. I am trying to change party habits too to less sugar way.

  10. Tom
    " "there simply wouldn't be enough real food for everyone"
    Really? Disagree. "

    Well there's a strong argument.

    The main argument's for paleo are nutritional, not economic. Don't let your passion for the health benefits cloud your judgement over the complexities around growing and distributing enough food for a global population.

    Tom Welsh's argument (that the green revolution allowed the global population to grow and it is fundamentally predicated on feeding people with carbohydrates) may be wrong, but could someone rebut it with some evidence?

    Over half the calories consumed in developing countries come from cereals. (e.g. page 17); rice and wheat were the biggest beneficiaries from the green revolution (

    The world's food production is oriented around cereals (even if we convert them to meat before eating them) so a switch to "paleo" would probably require a massive R&D effort before it even started to become tenable.

  11. Dan
    Paleo vs. Cupcake makes me ask this question: Are those the ONLY two choices?

    As for food production? No problem. The REAL problem re. food is that we're growing corn to make ethanol which gums up engines and is utterly financially unviable w/o govt. subsidies and that drives the price of corn up--and btw, corn is fed to CATTLE which make nice paleo/lchf friendly meat and lchf-but-not-paleo friendly dairy products. So as usual, the utopian schemes and impositions of governments who think they "know best" wind up messing everything doesn't take a village to grow a food pyramid, just bureaucrats seeking power that literally winds up being dietary AND financial power over life and death.

  12. Dan
    As for the "cupcake" obsession (which is already being followed-on by a brownie trend and other such small, compact, sugar-based snack foods taken to a faux-gourmet level of ridiculousness)...well, it isn't anything to do with nutrition and is EVERYthing to do with finance. If you can make a simple-recipe low-skill-set-to-produce product that is full of sugar and can be dressed up in bright colors and get trendy folks to swear by it (near me in Beverly Hills is "Sprinkles"--a famous cupcake shop where lines run out the door down the block EVERY day, and I gotta tell you from over a year ago before I gave up wheat and sugar and such, these are really DRY and ORDINARY cupcakes!) will make a HUGE profit. How much do you think a cupcake, a brownie, or other little unhealth bombs like them cost to produce? A few pennies if you do 'em in bulk? And when they're selling them for $4-$5 or more EACH? Well, you can afford to pay Beverly Hills rent, minimum wage teenage counter clerks, one just-out-of-culinary-school baker who can follow a recipe, and for some packaging and some PR and make millions anyhow.
    Expecting these people to be interested in health is ridiculous. They do what they do. They come up with stuff they can sell and they sell it. Always will. lThe only really interesting (and so-far as I know unanswered) question intellectually is this: Did the cupcake makers create the demand that led to the Google searches, or did the Google searches inspire the cupcake makers to fulfill that indicator of demand? Which came first? Regardless, eating the chicken OR the egg instead of the cupcake would be a better thing (Smile.)
  13. FrankG
    I'd be interested in Joel Salatin's take on this "not enough sustainable real food for the current population".

    Remember that much of what we hear (especially from the greenies and vegan*tarians) about how much it takes to raise livestock, is based on costs associated with growing grain to feed the livestock -- so many acres for a pound of corn vs. so many pounds of corn for a pound of beef for example. It's over-simplistic maths... just like CICO :-P

    Raise livestock on pasture, as nature intended and things change. Support locally grown and sourced food and things change. Use cattle to "grow" topsoil and to reclaim deserts. Much of the world is covered in land that is not suitable for growing grains anyway.

    If measures such as these are really not enough for us to feed the current (and still growing) human population, then I guess we are screwed even WITHOUT widespread acceptance of Paleo; because the current system is artificially buoyed up on effectively free, fossil fuels (for fertilizers, pesticides, industrial production, transportation etc...) once those run out, the "green revolution" is not sustainable anyway.

    We are an animal just like any other and if we have over-reached our resources, guess what happens next?

    Reply: #14
  14. Paul
    Plus raise sheep, which are much less fussy than cattle and can thrive in almost any environment and produce superior meat. Ask ancient Greeks and Babilonians, I doubt Homer wrote Iliad chewing on corn-knob or munching unleavened piece of bread.
    Reply: #18
  15. Nan
    I know when we started about three years ago now, it seemed no one knew anything about it; suddenly it's everywhere.We've gotten several in our family on board.
    My daughter was surprised to find a number of vendors promoting "paleo" at her farmers market in the Atlanta area where she moved recently. So, the success of paleo is getting more people's attention. But changing the way eat is a big ship to turn around; the majority of people are not there yet. I believe it will take another generation or more for the efficacy to be both proved to the satisfaction of most doctors, and accepted by most people.

  16. Jill
    So much food is wasted.
  17. Damocles
    There is an interesting cycle in the graph.
    Seems that people look for better dietary choices right around new-year.


    About Paleo.
    I think that any rather large lifestylechanges will only affect a small portion of the population.
    A "movement" did not fail, just because not everyone stuck to it 100%.
    it will have failed only if it left no impressions on the larger public.

    So its important to point out the most important (and easiest to remember) cornerstones to the mainstream.

    -dont eat sugar, dont drink softdrinks
    -avoid processed foods, eat real things.
    -fat is not evil

  18. Tom
    "I doubt Homer wrote Iliad chewing ... munching unleavened piece of bread." Really, why not? I bet he snacked on a bit of pita (why wouldn't he).

    On the other hand, FrankG is quite right about possibly raising cattle on land unfit for crops, there is some really exciting stuff going on in Australia around this.

    On the other other hand the calorie density of growing cereals is very high (even for organic, sustainable approaches).

    Reply: #19
  19. FrankG
    On the other other hand we don't just eat to provide our bodies with calories :-) And to reply to Jill's very valid observation: I would say that since switching to real whole food, locally sourced and seasonal, I find that I not only naturally eat a smaller volume of food but because the quality is higher, I am nourished with less and I find that there is much less waste this way.

    I am convinced that part of "hunger" is the body crying out for nourishment other than just energy... and no matter how much you fill your face, until that need for micronutrients or whatever is satisfied, you remain wanting. In the midst of apparent plenty, I see a great many malnourished people around me.

  20. Marc
    Over population is a myth started by Paul Ehrlich who wrote "The Population Bomb". There is a good web page that debunks this idea

    Also, mono-cropping grains will deplete all of our top soil in less than 50 years. It is a grain based diet that is really unsustainable. Returning fields to grassland and feeding cattle or other large animals and then rotating with smaller animals like chickens is very sustainable. Go take a look at you tubes made by Polyface Farms if you have not yet and get a look at how to raise healthy food very efficiently.

  21. ZellZ
    "...Google searches for “paleo diet” worldwide trails the searches for “cupcake”. - Dr. Eenfeldt. (That's only because Cronuts are the Hot new thing now! LOL)!!!!! Sorry....

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