Debunking the paleo diet

Paleo diets are the flavour of the month. Their premise is that our hunter-gatherer genes are out of kilter with our modern agriculture-driven diet and this disconnect is making us all sick. Adopting the diet of our ancestors is considered to be the pathway to health. Sounds plausible enough, yet critics say it’s based on false assumptions.

What are paleo diets?

Although paleo diets come in several guises they are all based on a similar theme. Throughout most of our time on planet Earth humans were hunter-gatherers eating game meats and wild plant foods and this shaped our genetic make-up. The development of agriculture during the last 10,000 years radically changed the human diet yet, as human evolution is slow, we have essentially retained our ancient genes. The mismatch between new diet and old genes is the root cause of high rates of obesity and other chronic diseases in the modern era.

The proposed solution is to eat like a caveman. Modern day paleo diets rely on meat, fish and seafood as staple foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs and healthful oils are all recommended. Sugar and many processed foods are restricted, though paleo diets also restrict grains, legumes, potatoes and dairy foods, which are fixtures in many healthy eating guides. The argument goes that these foods were all recently introduced into the human diet and are deleterious to health.

That’s the theory but critics of paleo diets are now coming out in force.

Continue reading