The problem with Mark’s Daily Apple


This makes me sad. I used to be a big fan of the Paleo movement – before even the main players started selling candy and other products, starting the rapid decline.

Now I feel that even the greatest Paleo guru of them all, the awe-inspiring Mark Sisson, is cashing in with some disregard for where the money comes from, or the long-term effects to his brand. Check out the image above, that just ended up in my inbox.

Mark is selling chocolate bars with caramel coating – sweetened by purified Monk fruit extract, an artificial sweetener like Stevia.

Rest assured no Paleo people ever sweetened their food with purified super-sweet Stevia or Monk fruit extract. Nor did they ever eat chocolate bars with caramel coating to get their daily dose of “grass-fed collagen”. Paleo or Primal? Not so much.

But that’s not all. Order your sweetened chocolate bars today and you also get something else you need. We all know modern life can result in a lot of chronic stress, that’s not healthy for us. So what’s the solution? Return to a more “primal” lifestyle? That may be too hard, so why not just pop some “Primal Calm” pills that will relax you.

I kid you not.

This thing with products is a slippery slope, and the ad above is from someone who has slid quite far. Here’s the result to his brand, measured as Google searches for “Mark’s Daily Apple” from 2006 (to the left) up until now. Quite sad really.


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Every health and fitness site has to struggle with the question of how to fund themselves in a trustworthy way. It’s not easy. Originally on our Swedish blog, when we got started, we used to have ads and sell vitamin D supplements, etc. It never felt great, and we’ve stopped all that.

To avoid the slippery slope we’ve decided to never sell any products, not take industry money and not show ads. Instead we’re fully funded by the people via an optional membership, to keep our interests aligned. We’ll do everything we can to not start the slide. Because clearly even the best can fall far.

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  1. Paul
    Regardless of what products he sells (and he sells quite a few), we can always choose not to buy them and Sisson still has lots of great information. Although one may not care for his product choices, I don't believe that throwing away the baby with the bathwater makes sense. I think Sisson's website is still valuable.

    And that graph can be attributed to the growth and decline of the paleo/primal craze, rather than the site selling out, as it were.

  2. Paula
    I refer people to precisely because there are no gimmicks, ads, or hyper-sales. The information is appropriate, down-to-earth, and if you want scientific answers, you can find those, too. I'm glad to support this web platform.
  3. Rebecca
    I am doing Keto for health reasons. It truly saddens me to see all the crap and candy like products showing up as good keto or primal. (All the things we should be avoiding and feeling good about not including them in our diets.) To see them come from someone who is respected in the community is even worse, at least for me. They are disrespecting the diet, themselves and the people who need the diet. It is sad. I am not opposed to people making money off their knowledge and experiences but I am opposed to them being greedy and selling junk products to desperate people. They might have "good quality" ingredients - but they are still junk!
    I can't take them seriously! Just like I can't take some keto promoters who have allowed themselves to gain back weight but continue to tell people how to keto for health and weight loss!
    I also really dislike seeing all the keto books showing up... filled with bad information and promoting fake foods!
    My opinion......
  4. Rebecca
    OH BTW I received a sample pack of those "bars" they were not good, not good at all!
  5. Debra
    Thank you! I have noticed a big change on his website over the past year, much more commercial now. It is a turn off. I used to enjoy browsing through articles, and now I don't. It just feels like a shopping mart.
  6. Bryan C
    This poses an interesting question. "Should we/dietdr demonize artificial sweeteners? ". Personally, I side with Gary Fettke (though silenced by Australia now) who said we should treat them like an addict uses Methadone. For many, the addition to sugar is overwhelming. I believe it is fine to help wean people, but you are free to disagree. I think Mark's bars are fine, but he should push them as a transitional food item perhaps.
    Reply: #37
  7. Joe
    I am going to push back against this because first off, Mark Sisson has always pushed real food over any food products and he is upfront about it. And secondly, let's not forget that the Paleo diet did not come down from God on stone tablets as instructions from heaven(although I'm sure God would approve us eating the food he actually gave us). If I wanted to take your logic, I could criticize your recipe's since no caveman ever made a pizza either. You can't push uncompromised Paleo as a principle' and also create food hacks on your website, then turn around and criticize Mark Sisson for taking it further with arguably better food hacks. After all, it is perfectly possible that some man-made/processed foods may actually be benign or even healthy for us. This is probably particularly true of foods that are crafted to be more proximate to real foods. I've never fully understood this bizarre zeal for a false dicotomy: 100% Paleo(or LCHF) vs. Spawn of Satan. I will be the first to admit that Mark Sisson is a big time advertiser. It's practically obnoxious sometimes. This is why I no longer receive his regular email updates. But so what? If he can make money selling products that are undeniably healthier than total junk food alternatives, good for him. I don't have to buy them and neither does anyone else. And I know it's popular in paleo circles to blame big food for everything but I still believe that humans beings have the capability to reason and make disciplined choices. If paleo(ish) products help people to make better choices(even if they are not ideal) then I'm for it. A Hershey bar vs. a dark-chocolate almond bar sweetened with Monk fruit is no contest.
  8. Mel D
    Wow, I'm really surprised and disappointed to see this post. Why do you have to promote your website by putting someone else's down? MDA occupies a different niche in terms of content and audience from DietDoctor. Mark has always been completely transparent about the commercial aspects of his website/company, and he has never claimed that his products are purely paleo. That's why he uses the term "primal". It's meant to be a template that each person will tweak to get their best results. For some of his readers, the chocolate bars are an entirely appropriate product for them to consume, especially if they don't have insulin resistance issues and/or are athletes. I know they aren't the right choice for me. I made that decision based on the information I've read on his website. I'm also really surprised you would include that graph as "evidence" to back up your point since it shows correlation and not causation. This honestly reads like sour grapes to me and comes off as unprofessional. I really hope you take this post down. I feel like it discredits the wonderful work you are doing.
  9. Carla
    I really love Diet Doctor but I feel I must disagree strongly with this post. I think it is completely inappropriate to put down Mark's Daily Apple when he has helped countless people regain their health and vitality over the last several years, myself included. Everyone has a different carb tolerance level and are at a different place in their health journey and if he sees a need to provide people with healthier alternatives to processed food that is convenient and allows you to stay healthy I see nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, in all the years I have been following him I never felt that he was being pushy with his products at all, in fact it is just the opposite - he is adamant that a whole foods diet is optimal. The fact of the matter is that we live busy lives and the reality is that there are times when we want a convenient snack to carry with us that will keep us on track and help prevent us from hitting the vending machines. Also, all his content is 100% free to readers whether you buy his products or not, which is not the case with Diet Doctor, so to attack him on that front is simply ridiculous.
    Reply: #38
  10. lucas
    The paleo diet is hard to follow because you can't find woolly mammoths to hunt and eat.
  11. Matt
    Low Carb is hard to monetize because it isn't about adding anything to your life but rather taking something away. It doesn't lend itself to an array of products except for what you can already buy at any grocery store. This uncommercial nature of real Low Carb can cause "low carb entreprenuers" to drift away from it over time

    I basically agree with everything you've said Doc but I still think Mark is worth reading. For every "Primal Calm" pill ad you have to ignore there is an article about avoiding blue light before bed or an inspirational testimonial from someone.

  12. The Intelligent Omnivore
    I agree, it always comes down to selling questionable products eventually. I ignore the products, unless it something safe that I buy already and think what is offered is better. I love the way the Diet Doctor site is currently setup. High quality production and information and if I want more info I can subscribe.
  13. David
    I think it's fair to criticize Sisson's mistakes while still acknowledging his contributions. It's not an either/or thing. There are plenty of people who make enormous contributions and then have lapses. The people who criticize this post are falling into a classic "black/white" cognitive fallacy.
  14. Gentiann
    I agree with DietDoctor
    Just as Mercola's site, Mark's site has become so commercialized that's it can be quite misleading for people who are new to LCHF. Some of these products are questionable and need not to be promoted via DietDoctor.
    The critics can still go visit these sites on their own if they want..... but I applaud DietDoctor for keeping focus on the essential.
  15. Marion
    The older I get, the more nostalgic I wax about the wise old people from my youth - may they rest in peace... How clearly I remember how teachers would nip tattle-tale behaviour in the bud with a 'if you stopped paying so much attention on what other children were doing and more on you work, your grades would be higher'.

    Sneering remarks and ugly gossip about the competitor does not a quality website make.

  16. Pierre
    Ingredients: Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Grass-Fed Hydrolyzed Collagen, Pre-Biotic Fiber (From Cassava Root), Coconut Flakes, Honey, Natural Flavors, Water, Coconut Oil, Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Fair Trade Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Nibs, Himalayan Pink Salt, Monk Fruit Extract, Tocopherols, Hazelnuts, Macadamia Nuts, Cashews

    I see no junk here, all the ingredients would have been eaten by cave man.

  17. Steve
    Andreas, once again, I salute you sir.

    The temptation here is that people have been programmed by the media and society that they can plop down a credit card and buy anything. Want good health? Just give me your credit card number and I will send it to you. And the money flows. The MBAs call it "monetizing your brand".

    I, among others here, thank you for not yielding to that temptation. I will continue to entrust my friends and family to you.

  18. gbl
    So. Bad news all around, because here, they push laxatives. For the rest of your life on low-carb, you can ruin your digestive system for someone's ego. Will increased rates of colon cancer be a side effect of low-carbing?
    Reply: #28
  19. Cynthia
    I agree with your assessment that Mark Sisson has "sold out." In addition to the dubious products he now peddles, he appears to have changed his stance on many foods over time to integrate "quasi-paleo" foods that clearly are not so (e.g., rice and white potatoes) merely because those foods make his life easier. This is not the premise that comprises the Paleo lifestyle. In terms of what we really should be eating on a Paleo diet, I most often defer to the Paleo Mom's expertise, as she bases her reasoning for what we should be eating on how the food/beverage/ingredient affects the body (e.g., does it cause inflammation, does it irritate the gut lining, etc.).
  20. Margaret
    Well said Diet Doctor. I could not agree with you more.
  21. Barb
    I have really been enjoying Mark Sisson's line of mayonnaise from his Primal Kitchen line. There's both a basic mayo and a Chipotle Lime mayo which are delicious. They're made from avocado oil and have no canola or soy oils, and no sugar either. I could make my own, but I find these so convenient and delicious. I've purchased them at Whole Foods and some grocery stores as well. The only negative is that they're not cheap. Tuna salad made with the Chipotle Lime, avocado, scallions and chopped celery spread on lettuce leaves is super nummy!
  22. Carl
    While I am sure this post was written in good faith, I don't think it was very wise. Andreas, as the author, it makes you look petty and mean. Adding the graph showing the decline in popularity of his site also appears like gloating, especially given that you often post similar graphs showing the increasing popularity of your site.

    I am reminded of the old management adage to always 'praise in public, chide in private' (which I am, ironically, violating now). Given that there is very little chance that your opinion would have any effect on Mr Sissons, and that you already have pages detailing your views on artificial sweeteners, I can't help but think that this would have been better left unsaid.

    You are, otherwise, doing an absolutely wonderful job, and I sincerely hope you'll focus on the good work you're doing instead of more unbecoming posts like these.

  23. Ron
    Dr Eenfeldt made a choice and I'm sure he knew some would disagree with his choice. The choice was whether to self-censor or give rein to the free expression of his thoughts. I think that was the right thing to do regardless of the merits of the post.
    Would you prefer we look the other way and not comment on things with which we disagree?
  24. John
    Andreas is right.
    I have stopped following Sisson's site quite some time ago. It went too commercial without the good tips he once had.
    There is still good info, but Sisson just can not advertise the stuff he argues against. That's selling your soul to the devil.
  25. John Myers
    Sisson puts sugar in his coffee. Don't know how much. A little sugar on a primal bar? I'm not worried about that.
  26. Hulya
    Thank you for not selling out Andreas. After finding your website I am grateful that you see the merits of not diluting your message with advertising and product pushing. Thanks for saying what most of us feel.
  27. Pam
    I just wanted to put in my 2¢ worth. I like both Diet Doctor and Mark's Daily Apple and check them almost daily. Regarding Mark's content he needs to keep coming up with something to write about every day/week. Therefore, his earlier work was no doubt more valuable for our education. This could account for some of the downturn in traffic. I do not find the ads annoying. I love the Friday success stories. As for the products, I doubt Mark started out planning to market anything. But along with his success comes people begging for him to just sell them what they need so they don't have to figure it out for themselves. Perhaps Mark was just trying to assist those who struggle. Dr. Andreas, have you not gotten requests to market things to make the LCHF lifestyle easier?
  28. MerryKate
    Low carbing does not cause colon cancer. If you're doing it right, you eat plenty of vegetables, which are a good source of water-soluable fibre. I personally take in far more fibre on a low carb diet than i ever did on the Standard Ameian diet.
  29. bill
    I just bought some of his primal mayonnaise.
    It's pretty good.
  30. gbl
    Nothing *directly* causes colon cancer, but using laxatives regularly may contribute to that. Digestive health isn't only about fibre (one type, at that) and trading one life-long potentially dangerous habit for another is not good medicine. Root vegs, grain, and fruit may be necessary for the long plan.

    Using laxatives as a solution to diet caused constipation is not healthy. There is no "doing it right". Believing that makes you susceptible to quackery.

  31. Darlene b
    With millions of people suffering or dying from heart disease, diabetes and many other food caused chronic diseases as well as the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on healthcare to treat these diseases, i think it is important to make people aware of how marketers and food sellers manipulate and play to most people's lack of understanding of what food choices do to us individually and and as a society. People are saying that Sissons has a lot of good info to offer on his site but that good info is outweighed by the bad message that he is sending that gimmicky pandering to food cravings rather than eating real food is ok. The millions of people struggling with metabolic derangement are proof that people have been getting the wrong messages about food for far too long and the cost to our society is far too great. I, for one, don't want to continue to pay that cost for myself or for anyone for that matter. Healthcare systems all over the world are under imminent threat of crashing and burning because of misinformation about how we should be eating. Thank you diet doctor for being the one place i can go for reliable information free of marketing gimmicks and gimmicky food.
  32. Annette
    I do read marksdailyapple AND dietdoctor AND a few more paleo/primal/lchf websites regularly. And I totally agree, that we can observe a commercialization of the paleo/primal-movement. Perhaps it is more repulsive to europeans, but we have to watch this carefully. It is not a question of being totally altruistic or selling yourself to the devil. It is not black or white, but it is a thin line.
    Everybody can decide, if someone went to far to the selling-out-side of the movement and I am personally concerned about the growing numbers of products and supplements on the market in general and especially under the name of the primal blueprint.
    The important thing about Andreas' post is in my opinion, that we discuss this topic without taboos and perhaps someone's hero is knocked off his pedestal. Get over it and have some real food that doesn't come in a package.
  33. Steve
    Andreas is possibly more right than he knows to be concerned about "leaders of the herd" going astray and taking their followers with them. 12 years ago the Atkins diet was making real progress, but then, as Dr Jay Wortman chronicles in Undoing Atkins: A Cautionary Tale,, the herd was led astray by nutritional pundits coerced by the dark side. Learn how the pundits are coerced to the dark side in Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming [and LCHF diets],
    Possible climate changed futures:
    The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future,
    Above Evil: A Science Prediction Novel, by Stephen Phinney,
    N.B.: On page 215, Steve implies that people in high radiation environments (e.g., X-ray technicians and patients) should be following LCHF diets as they are protective against radiation damage.
    A lengthier post is here:
  34. Mark Bousquet
    I'm a regular buyer of Primal Kitchen's mayo and extra virgin avocado oil as well as some of their new avocado oil based salad dressings. I'm sharp enough to figure out that those products you spoke of are for the more carb tolerant. Thrive Market has sent me their collagen bars as a "free gift" and to tell you honestly, they're CRAP. I much prefer Dave Asprey's Bulletproof collagen bars and have been enjoying those since they came out - no weight or blood sugar issues resulted in that time. :)
  35. Marla
    I am a member of Dietdoc which has been amazing as far as ongoing education. I think its great that Mark Sisson is selling these bars, which I like to have around as an occasional treat from my fairly strict LCHF diet. I also have an IF eating style of 20/4, and sometimes use these as dessert. I think it's great that Mark has found a way to support himself on the blogosphere, and he has helped countless people to be healthier.
    I was surprised that Dr. Andreas was so critical of a fellow traveler.
  36. Karrie
    Thank you Diet Doctors! Love your site, love the recipes, love all the great formation! Thank you for not going down that slippery slope! I've lost 13 pounds, feel great and finally got over my sugar cravings!! I really appreciate all that you stand for.
  37. lizzie
    That is such a constructive criticism/point of view. I think the analogy to methadone is succinct. Well done for pointing it out. PS. What I like about MDA is that he incorporates very clear ideas on exercises & how to do them.
  38. Larry
    I'll have to agree with Carla here. The biggest problem in the Paleo/Keto "movement" is the tendency for these experts to tear each other down. This article would have been easier to swallow had you reached out to Mark and asked for his insight on the why's and the wherefore's of how his products fit into his overall philosophy instead of making an assumption that is as wide-ranging as this article is.

    That said, I do agree that these products are questionable at best and harmful at worst (unless every product comes with a serious educational pamphlet that describes how easy these things are to abuse) and whether Mark intends it or not, these can be damaging to someone's diet lifestyle and he'd be profiting off of that - which I know would never be his hope or intent. While it's true that you can't control what people do with your products and you can't really hold him responsible for individual irresponsibility, these products are difficult to justify in my mind.

    But, again agreeing with Carla, this is not an excuse for you to tear down a site (or a person) who has helped so many and, frankly, led me to this site. If not for people like Mark Sisson, a site like Diet Doctor would have far fewer subscribers. He's one of the most public faces of the Paleo/Keto movement and I would have never found this site if I wasn't looking for other ideas to support the Keto lifestyle.

    As in all things, be gracious, be investigative (certainly), but be kind. Recognize that what you see at first blush rarely tells the whole story.

  39. Steve
    Nothing wrong with those bars for a primal (not paleo) diet. Very low sugar/carb high nutrient density, and, most of all, collagen. No problem keeping carbs low eating one or two of those. And while they are just sweet enough to land on the desirable side, they are chewy and not so easy to down that you would binge.
  40. Claudia
    Oh well ... the American way. Mark is a great guy. Is his way the only way? Go figure ... many ways leads to Rome. As Europeans we know. I'm a paying member of this site because I know how hard it is to run a company or make a living out of information. I'm paying for content. Do I agree with everything you publish? No. But you know, I'm a big girl and can read and have actually a brain that works just fine. I agree with the issues you mentioned with these kind of products, same goes for Valder Longo and his FMD and so on. So what, I don't buy it anyway. I cook and I enjoy my food. That's about it. Take the time to listen to Marks interviews on so many different channels over the years and you realize that he is a decent Californian guy. Only human ...
  41. Rig D
    I had great success following Sisson's Primal Blueprint and got virtually all the info off the site (MDA). There is still a lot of good content, but I find that there is less good stuff and more "other" as time goes by. I also concur that it seems that in the last couple of years there has been a huge monetization effort at MDA to tout his products, new restaurants, coaching classes, etc. I found a huge amount of info and support on his site coming from the MDA Forum, which Sisson essentially ignored for about 2 years, allowing it to deteriorate and finally shutting it down and opening up a FaceBook alternative.

    Many of us on MDA Forum formed our own forum: I'd encourage any interested in this type of thing to try it out.

  42. Larry Johnson
    First off the Primal/Paleo/Caveman diet is all BS. As a 30 year veteran of the health food industry, I witnessed the same degeneration with the Eat Right for Your Blood Type, Atkins & clones and Gluten Free diets. None of our African ancestors ever ate the way people in the Primal/Paleo/Caveman diet promoters would have you believe. If you want to eat in the spirit of our ancestors the best way is to eat fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and lean meat you cook yourself.
  43. Tyson
    Mark Sisson isn't a strict Paleo advocate. He even makes that obvious with his Primal nomenclature. Put words into his mouth more why don't yah? His carb level recommendations are still the same too! Sheesh
  44. Skeezix
    I feel that Mark is gradually drifting away from the Paleo concept. Today's blog post (4/28/18) featured a woman who sells Paleo treats. Read that as junk food made with supposedly healthful ingredients. This isn't the first time a guest has promoted Paleo desserts as being "good for you." To be clear, stuffing one's face with almond flour, coconut flour, and alternative sweeteners might be marginally better than conventional sweets, but to say they are actually good for you is a real stretch. This kind of thing definitely sends newbies the wrong message, particularly if they are looking for substitute foods in order to feed a sugar addiction.

    Mark has begun to toady to the mainstream readers who want to claim they are Paleo but can't bear the thought of giving up sweets and grain products. On the other hand, he is also trying to make the fringe element happy by promoting the ketogenic diet, which, for most people, is unsustainably difficult to adhere to and quite probably does not include enough in the way of fruit and vegetables to be considered very nutritious.

    All this is unfortunate since he has helped many people lose weight and get off medications with his initial and almost effortless Primal approach. The upshot will likely be an eventual label of "extremist" and a loss of readership due to the fact that his stance has become about as solid as (non-Paleo) Jell-O. You simply cannot please everyone without compromising what you stand for.

  45. Discordia
    Calm is a magnesium supplement, and monks fruit is a natural sweetener, like stevia. Not artificial. Big deal. This article is very badly written. Mark is awesome.
  46. Nancy Gilpin
    What is this guy-the fun police? For lords sake to think you can't ,for the rest of your life, ever have something sweet as a treat is just crazy. Don't you think primal people ate honey once in a while? I, for one, am glad to have healthy options if it between staying with the program or not. If this is truly a life-long commitment for you it's extremely naive to think you would never treat yourself once in a while. Jeeze!
  47. Tbone
    Great article, and a very fair critique of MDA. Thank you!
  48. Ben

    Speaks truth to (advertising) power.

    People: you don’t need snacks, you don’t need sugary sweets.

    Eat real food. If it comes in a package, you probably shouldn’t eating it.

  49. Skeezix
    Update: Sisson has started pushing his product line much harder (maybe too many expensive toys or too extravagant a lifestyle?) whereas previously it was kept in the background. He still writes a good article or two, but most days the blog is either blatant advertising, some sort of contest, or recipes offered by Worker Bees who don't know how to cook very well.

    His supplements might be okay, but the Primal Kitchen line of salad dressings and mayo all need improvement. They are expensive and not very good. I've tried a few but don't plan to buy anymore. Moreover, I'm tired of the way these internet Paleo gurus all plug each other's stuff to the point that it's impossible to get an honest review of any of it.

    I find myself checking in with MDA less and less, and the day is not far off that I won't bother at all. None of these guys are necessary once you understand good nutrition and the Paleo lifestyle.

  50. LCat
    Tacky, "The Problem with Mark's Daily Apple," should you not focus on your strengths as they relate to serving the public with knowledge? Why worry about someone else? Read- The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and then you can focus on what you YOU have as your gift to offer the world.
    I know Mark personally and he is one of the nicest, most authentic people I have ever known.
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