The Real Paleo Diet

The Real Paleo Diet
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We evolved eating huge amounts of plants. It’s estimated that 200,000 years ago we got 600mg of vitamin C a day. That’s the amount of vitamin C found in 10 oranges. Every day we appear to have consumed the amount of vitamin E found in 2 cups of nuts, the amount of fiber found in 12 bowls of oatmeal, and the amount of calcium found in 5 cups of collard greens. They weren’t milking mammoths–that came in part from all the wild greens they foraged.

As I note in my 2-min. video Paleolithic Lessons, we were exposed to such a quantity of whole healthy plant foods that we, as a species, lost our ability to make vitamin C. We still actually have the vitamin C gene in our DNA, but our bodies presumably just junked it because we were getting such massive daily doses that it wasn’t worth maintaining it. The problems occur when you take our evolutionary heritage, fine-tuned over the millennia, and plop it down into meat and potato chip country.

Advocates of the so-called Paleo diet are certainly right in railing against refined and processed junk, but may just use it as an excuse to eat loads of meat that bears little resemblance to flesh of prehistoric wild animals. The contaminant issue alone is compelling reason to eat as low as possible on the food chain. As I show in the video, the journal of the American Meat Science Association recently published a review cataloging the laundry list: arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, preservatives, and veterinary drugs such as antibiotic residues. Given what’s now in fish, for example, “it would be impossible to follow the Paleolithic diet while avoiding the risks associated with consuming mercury in amounts in excess of the suggested EPA threshold.”

The “paleo” diet patients I saw in my practice weren’t consuming weeds and eating in excess of 100 grams of fiber a day. They were eating burgers, not bugs. As concluded in a review I profile in the video, “Sufficient scientific evidence exists for public health policy to promote a plant-rich diet for health promotion.”

For those interested in digging deeper, there was an interesting Scientific American blog this summer entitled “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians” and there’s an in-depth video series on YouTube debunking the paleo diet fad. I wrote a whole book on the Atkins incarnation, Carbophobia, now available free online. I also have two videos on low carb diets: Atkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It Up and Plant-Based Atkins Diet.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image credit: jarapet / Flickr

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  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.kreill Randy Kreill

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn2L-aWtw-I
    My “why Paleo stinks video….

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

      Thanks for the video. People need to know the science vs. the fads.

    • Leslie Tsuthanatos

      Its not about what to eat or what not. Its about maintaining a balance. Not only in nutrition, but in everything really. You talk of a health epidemic while the average life span of humans especially in developed counries is rising. 50 years ago a person in their mid50′s -60′s was considered old, and now he/she doesn’t even get pension by that age. That brings the question of who long & how much will be enough? Would you like to live for ever? How many years is enough? How long before our bodies start to decay and die? well the answer is that even if we could live for a 1000 years that probably wouldn’t be enough. Humanity is greedy. Nothing will ever be enough unless we change our problematic perception of death. If one spends their entire life trying to live, what’s the point? Life will be over before we know it. Death is part of life, the last act and no matter how far we try to run from it we can’t escape it.

      Personally I’m sceptical about passionate people, as their passion often blinds the logic and analytical thinking. From my subjected point of view (and perception) you don’t look healthy Randy, neither does the little girl next to you. You are both too thin. Can you donate blood? probably not. While it is an undeniable fact that we have been disinformed in the worst way about our nutrition (based solely on standards of consumerism and capitalism which are completely irrelevant either with health or nutrition) how sure are you that this is not yet another hype? As sure as our parents were when they fed us “junk”? Is it a sign of health
      to be well in a sick society? probably not..

    • Rocko Bomanto

      Oh, look…a personal opinion. How helpful.

      • Tommasina

        That was a pretty discouraging comment, Rocko. We try to keep this a safe place for discussion by everyone so let’s keep it friendly, okay? Thanks. :)

  • PlainJane

    Very good review. Thank you. It’s good to have another view to the popular, but poorly supported by science, paleo diet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nigelprentice Nigel Prentice

    True story. So I was at a business lunch when one of my clients sitting next to me took a look at my plate and said “Oh you must be a vegetarian.” I said yes and we engaged in a short dialogue about eating healthy.

    Then she goes on to tell me that she has always been healthy but after having a baby she wanted to get her healthy body back so she went on the Paleo diet. At her yearly checkup, she was surprised to learn that she all of a sudden had high cholesterol. In my mind I was saying, “Well of course you do!!” After reading Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Fuhrman, and Dr. Greger, it is so obvious that eating a ton of meat is going to make your cholesterol jump and set her up to have other negative health outcomes.

    I couldn’t really cross the social norms that day, but I wanted to educate her so badly… especially since her ideas of health were dripping with irony- just like her lunch plate was dripping with animal fat!

    • Thea

      Nigel: People who understand healthy eating have to bite their tongues so much, it is a wonder that we don’t have an epidemic of otherwise healthy people experiencing severe “tongue holes”. Serious problem as I understand it. ;-)

      • Bryan

        Can you please share any science that supports the idea that cholesterol is bad for you? It’s widely accepted now that myth and the link between cholesterol and heart disease or other heart/ blood related issues are due to cholesterol. Without that, your point is just dripping with silly and factually inaccurate conventional wisdom

        • Mike Quinoa

          Bryan,

          Where’s the evidence that cholesterol-containing foods can reverse heart disease? Disease-reversal has occurred when patients have followed a low-fat, plant-based diet (as per the works of Drs. Esselstyn and Ornish). These diets contained miniscule amounts of cholesterol.

          I would like to see a study where patients have reversed arterial blockages by pursuing a high-cholesterol diet. Where is that study?

          • Janet

            Here’s a little mini-review to get you started. In addition to the studies outlined there, there are more studies published since concerned with cardiovascular risk factors, and there are also more documenting improvements in fasting glucose, insulin response, acne, gut flora, etc. It is, of course, underresearched compared to conventional highcarb/lowfat or highfat/lowcarb. Hopefully more studies are in the work.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787021/#__sec5title

            And of course there are many studies of Paleolithic and older diets, which suggest that most humans were not in fact vegetarians and the increase of meat in our diet was very important in our divergence from other hominid and monkey species. Scientific American is infotainment.

            http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032452

          • Mike Quinoa

            Janet, the Jonsson Paleo/T2DM study was very small (13 people), and there was no indication that any of the Paleo/T2DM patients on oral medication were able to discontinue their medications. Dr. Neil Barnard and Dr. John McDougall, et al, have accomplished reversal of T2DM with a low-fat plant-based diet. Their patients were able to discontinue all oral medications.

            Heart disease being our number one killer, I would still like to find a study where reversal of atherosclerotic plaques has occured as a result of consuming a Paleo-type diet. This reversal has taken place because of a low-fat, plant-based diet.

            There are many “ancient” cultures that have thrived on a whole-foods, predominantly plant-based diet (Abkasians, Vilcabamba, Hunza, Papua Highlanders, and the Tarahumara). These societies suffer vary rarely from the lifestyle diseases that plague most North Americans.

          • tidsoptimist
          • Mike Quinoa

            Tidsoptimist,

            Thanks for your reply, but what point are you trying to make?

            I watched the Doc Oz episode you linked to with the two gents promoting their book, but most of us already know that cholesterol is essential. Our liver makes all we need, and there is no need to supplement with dietary-based sources.

            I still would really like to see a study where a high dietary intake of cholesterol is shown to reverse heart disease.

          • tidsoptimist

            I’m sorry, was having a bad day and didn’t really think it through enough.

            Yeah I would like to see a lot of well-done studies that probably never will get the fundings needed or be deemed not good enough, the ones done always fails (in my eyes) on some small parameters making them less useful in trying to prove anything.. =/

            Found a really nice experiment today. What do you think about it?
            http://live.smashthefat.com/the-21-day-5000-calorie-challenge/

          • Mike Quinoa

            Looks interesting. 40% protein seems way too high though—poor kidneys. Hope there is a before-and-after comparison of all the blood work.

          • tidsoptimist

            Ye that was my first thoughts as well. I know muscle builders often recommend around 2g protein/kg but as you say 40% is way over that line, more like 4g/kg for this guy and I wouldn’t eat it for longer periods of time. I hope that as well, it’s a isolated case but one I hope to see some buzz around =)

        • Thea

          Bryan: First, I was hardly making grand points. I was commiserating with Nigel. It’s odd that you felt a need to address your comment to me.

          Second, to address your point: I’m quite comfortable that I have seen a ton of credible science that supports the link between added dietary cholesterol and heart disease. There’s so much easily found support/science for this understanding, that I can only conclude that you consider the information a myth because you have decided to dismiss the science. I can’t imagine that it would matter what I tried to present to you.

          In other words, there isn’t any more I can say to you than I could say to a climate-change denier or a person who thinks that American President Obama was born in Kenya. At some point, it’s just not worth having that conversation. You can believe whatever you want to believe. Heck, you can find studies that show that smoking does *not* cause cancer. If that’s what someone wants to believe, there’s nothing I can do about it.

          That said, you can also always find stories of so and so who lived in so and so and who smoked a pack of cigarettes every day until he died healthy at 100. In that spirit, I wish you a long healthy life and fantastic luck with your diet.

  • John

    Curious as to your evidence for “We evolved eating huge amounts of plants.” Also the 100 grams of fiber requirement.

    Not saying it can’t exist, but where is it?

    Furthermore, you seem to ignore any potential “contaminants” that may be lurking in vegetable matter, whether organic or not.

    Finally the conclusion that thanks to “contaminants” we ought to eat as low on the food chain as possible is a significant leap, attempting in no way to rationalize the potential harms from eschewing one food source for another, compared to said contaminants. That logic could lead me to avoid many good things — for instance, who knows what “contaminants” are in the bugs you suggest your paleo patients should have been eating. Or what’s in my water??

    • Thea

      John,

      I have a couple of answers for you.

      re: “…thanks to “contaminants” we ought to eat as low on the food chain as possible is a significant leap…” Dr. Greger has a video (I can’t remember which one – hopefully someone will jump in with the link) where he shows how contaminates get concentrated/stronger the higher you go up the food chain. It’s not that fruits and veggies don’t have any contaminants. It’s that animals which eat the fruits and veggies tend to have higher concentrations of those contaminants. Under each video is a section where sources are sited where you can learn where Dr. Greger gets his information.

      As for water, if you stay away from bottled water and stick with city water, you should know exactly what contaminants are in it and add additional fitlers if you wish to avoid those.

      Note: I do agree with you that the statement is a big leap in regards to the blog piece being self-sufficient. I’m just letting you know that there IS evidence to support Dr Greger’s claim even if it is not discussed here.

      re: “Not saying it can’t exist, but where is it?”

      Again, look under the videos for “sources sited” One of the videos linked to above has a site for the information about what our paleolithic ancestors ate. The blog is just a summary of Dr. Greger’s work. For the details and data that backs up the information in the blog, you have to go to the specific videos and then look further at the studies if you doubt the videos.

      Good luck.

      • Wes

        I don’t know the specific video you are talking about but I can say that the biological principle is called bio-magnification. Its a pretty basic principle in biology where certain substances like pesticides and heavy metal move up the food chain and concentrate within the tissue of the animals higher up on the food chain.

        • Thea

          Wes: Thanks for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated.

    • Wes

      John,

      The contaminant issue and eating lower on the food chain is not a significant leap it is related to the biological principle called bio-magnification. Its a pretty basic principle in biology where certain substances like pesticides and heavy metal move up the food chain and concentrate within the tissue of the animals higher up on the food chain. That is not to say that there aren’t risks with vegetable matter having contaminates, but the prevalence and risk is lower. There are risks with all choices we make in like the goal is to minimize those risks. Your water likely has contaminants in it as well, thanks to our liberal use of industrial chemicals, nutrient pollution from animal and human manure and the burning of coal for over 100 years all bodies of water are contaminated and unsafe for drinking without treatment. At least one can filter and buy clean water you cannot filter the contaminants that are concentrated in the flesh of animals higher up on the food chain.

      • Changisgood

        Dr. Greger FYI. The YouTUBE Video series; as well as at least one other link sited in the beginning paragraphs need updating or don’t seem to be working.

        • http://macsmiley.tumblr.com/ MacSmiley

          YouTube has changed it’s layout. Home pages start off with a display of Featured videos. To display videos in upload order, select the Videos link instead.

          Hope that solves the issue.

    • b00mer

      Find any introductory Toxicology text, and you can read all about the concentration of toxins in the food chain. This is a very well established principle. Dr. Greger is not responsible for this “leap” in logic.

      Everyone seems to accept this when it comes to mercury and the aquatic food chain, but for some reason people don’t want to believe it when it comes to land animals. Very strange.

      • Sean the Amazing

        There is a leap. We are not eating top level land predators. We do eat top level sea predators. Tuna funnels all the mercury contamination from the huge pyramid base below it into its tissues, which we then consume. Unless you are eating lions or wolves, you are not eating high enough up on the food chain to get this level of concentration of toxins in land animals.

        • b00mer

          I made a friendly suggestion to read a toxicology textbook (just an introductory one), and instead of educating yourself and replying intelligently, you have simply responded with assumptions and nonsense pulled out of thin air.

          You still ignorantly claim that Dr. Greger is “making a leap”. In how many different ways does it need to be explained to you that Dr. Greger did not come up with this idea! I don’t know if it’s more hilarious or sad that you keep attributing this to him.

          Now since you seem to have an aversion to educational literature, try to follow me here:

          Toxins are ubiquitous, and as such, even plants will inevitably absorb some. Now, if I have a choice between eating a point of plants, or a a pound of meat which has had16 lbs of these same plants filtered through it, which do you think will contain more of the toxins?

          You seem to want to draw some arbitrary line on the food chain where everything below it is completely toxin-free. Doesn’t work that way. Even Dr. Greger refers to eating plants as a way to “minimize” exposure, not eliminate. If I eat nothing but organically grown plants from my own garden, I’ll still be exposed. But if a lion or a wolf were to eat me, they’d be getting quite a bit more.

          You also seem to be missing the point that the “top level” predator has a bunch of toxins accumulated in it! Do you really think that it’s only eating that predator that will affect you? That the predator itself doesn’t experience any effects from this vast accumulation of toxic compounds?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

            Thanks b00mer, but you’re actually responding to two different “leap” accusers. :)

    • Toxins

      Dr. Greger gets the 100 grams of fiber reference from this study which he shares in his video http://www.faculty.sfasu.edu/burtdonal/evolution/jewetal2009.pdf

  • Dee

    What would you say to someone who counters every bit of evidence for a plant-based diet with the argument that grass-fed, hormone-free, etc. animal foods are beneficial to our health? Are there legitimate studies that shed light on this?

    • Mike Quinoa

      Dee, first, who is that “someone”?

    • http://twitter.com/kennita728 Kennita Watson

      I am living with three guys who say the same thing. We have two refrigerators; mine contains no animal products, and theirs contains almost no plants. Evan says it’s good for his digestion (including his ulcerative colitis). Brian and Chris are pretty slim. I wonder what it will do for/to them in the long term.

      • http://www.facebook.com/InjunSun Herne Webber

        It will probably give them colon cancer and/or heart disease. I would have thought that having colitis, possibly caused by a gluten allergy, that the one guy would have had a doctor make better recommendations, but our docs come from the same culture we all do.

    • L

      It seems that Dr. Greger has posted many, many videos/blog entries about the harmful effects of animal protein on our bodies and health already. And all based on evidence in studies.

    • Toxins

      Most of the videos on nutritionfacts.org have to do with inherent compounds found in animal products that are separate from the organic vs conventional issue. Endotoxins and increased IGF-1 levels being two examples.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Many studies are out there but the most profound I have found is T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study. Any animal protein above 5% turns on genes that promote cancer and above 10% (the amount needed for normal body growth) becomes nearly exponential in your risk of disease. It’s kinda like smoking–if you smoke one cigarette once a week, although not good for you, probably won’t cause any statistically significant increased rates in disease (eg. cancer, COPD, etc–I know someone will pull up a study to show I’m wrong and that’s OK) but when you start smoking that cigarette everyday you will definitely increase your risk of disease (aka Morbidity and mortality). Imaging when you get to 3 packs of cigs a day (60 cigs), just walking becomes a chore. Just like having large amounts of animal proteins daily you will get sick (and will have a hard time taking a crap –defecating) regardless of whether its Grass fed, Massaged and Beer fed (Kobe beef), or Crossfed (grass and corn). Dean Ornish, MD has shown that not eating meat turned off genes that promote cancer and the patients have better outcomes. So if you want to eat your meat, sure eat hormone free, grass fed beef that was killed humanely (oxymoron there) but do it rarely.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Many studies are out there but the most profound I have found is T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study. Any animal protein above 5% turns on genes that promote cancer and above 10% (the amount needed for normal body growth) becomes nearly exponential in your risk of disease. It’s kinda like smoking–if you smoke one cigarette once a week, although not good for you, probably won’t cause any statistically significant increased rates in disease (eg. cancer, COPD, etc–I know someone will pull up a study to show I’m wrong and that’s OK) but when you start smoking that cigarette everyday you will definitely increase your risk of disease (aka Morbidity and mortality). Imaging when you get to 3 packs of cigs a day (60 cigs), just walking becomes a chore. Just like having large amounts of animal proteins daily you will get sick (and will have a hard time taking a crap –defecating) regardless of whether its Grass fed, Massaged and Beer fed (Kobe beef), or Crossfed (grass and corn). Dean Ornish, MD has shown that not eating meat turned off genes that promote cancer and the patients have better outcomes. So if you want to eat your meat, sure eat hormone free, grass fed beef that was killed humanely (oxymoron there) but do it rarely.

  • http://twitter.com/Builder507 Bill Allin

    Anyone who believes that our paleolithic ancestors ate mostly meat needs to do some studying. Meat is hard to catch and put into edible form, whereas plants are (were) available for the taking. They did far more gathering than hunting. Women did the gathering, men did the hunting. There is your bias.

  • Peter the Average

    Not to interrupt your vegan circle jerk but I was vegan for 10 years plus and was never sicker in my life. Added a bit of healthy animal proteins and fats and _all_ of my health problems disappeared – I’m now _healthier_ than I’ve ever been. But, I have vegan friends that are very healthy and have virtually no health problems. So, I conclude that everyone needs to eat what they need to eat and quit worrying about what the guy next door is doing. By the way, my “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides went down and my “good cholesterol” went up after adding animal protein. So worry about your own diet and go eat dirt if you don’t like what I eat.

    • Sean the Amazing

      This. A thousand times this.

    • b00mer

      When saturated fat and cholesterol increase in a person’s diet, the body will try to compensate by producing more HDL cholesterol. If a person improves the quality of their diet, they will often see a decrease in HDL, since there’s less of the bad cholesterol that needs to be processed and excreted. Some people are better at producing more HDL when it becomes necessary, so you must be one of them.

      You must have been eating a pretty poor diet to make yourself so sick during your vegan days.

    • http://www.facebook.com/InjunSun Herne Webber

      Peter, the only way to be sick as a vegan due to the diet itself is due to a lack of a seriously nutritious diet (unless you have a metabolic disorder). I once knew a vegan who tried to live on peanut butter and lettuce. That’s vegan, but it will also kill you. Did you study the amounts of protein, carbs, fats, and vitamins in foods before or during your stint as a vegan? Because missing just one important nutrient can really mess you up. While one does not need to become a food scholar, when moving form one’s family diet to a new tradition within which one was not raised, one *must* learn about it. My cousin also tried going vegan, and had muscle wasting because she was not getting enough protein. Well, duh, if one does not eat enough protein-rich foods, one will be deficient. I just wonder if your situation was similar, where you just missed something important. Since there are around a billion vegans, doing relatively well, while those eating the Standard American Diet are having dietary cancers and heart disease, the choice becomes obvious. There are other things that affect metabolism, including your viral burden (chronic viruses like those in the herpes family and HIV cause cholesterol and related hormonal issues). There are also other reasons to go back to eating meat, including the psychological one of not being able to handle all of the social pressures of others telling one that one is not manly, or even family turning on one, as if one had turned on the family first.

      • Toxins

        Well said

      • abeleehane

        1 billion vegans ? Could you please post sources as the ones I have mention around only 0.5% of world population…May be you mean vegetarians, but still, it is a high number.

      • Halloween Jack

        Herne Webber, I know your comments are well-meaning, but reading between the lines, I see “Dog-gone it, Peter the Average! If you only you had found THE MISSING VEGAN NUTRIENT during your 10 years of veganism, you would have been a HEALTHY VEGAN. Geez, why did you give up? Oh, how I wish you had been smart enough or determined enough to figure it out. ARGH!!!”

        Is that right? I know you didn’t say anything like that in your message, but that’s the feeling I get from reading your response. :)

        My thought is, if Peter the Average was vegan for 10 years, he certainly did try. Whatever he was missing, obviously it wasn’t something easy, because if it was, he would have done it, sometime during those 10 years. Apparently eating “a bit of healthy animal proteins and fats” was Peter the Average’s fastest and most effective path to feeling healthy again. So I agree with what “Peter the Average” says, with regards to how each individual needs to eat what they need to feel good.

        I’ve been vegan for 8 years now … and I feel fine. I don’t feel “healthier than I ever did” … my “healthiest” feeling years were when I was about 20-21 and about 26-27 … and I didn’t go vegan until I was 30. But I’ve doing well on a vegan diet, and I’m happy with it.

        Meanwhile, for people who have TRIED a vegan diet but couldn’t thrive on it, for whatever reason … well, I don’t want to fault them for eating meat, if that’s what it took to make them feel better. Being in charge of our personal health is one of the most important things we can do as human beings.

        Yes, it’s true, the animal cruelty involved with the production of meat and eggs is absolutely awful. But if you had to choose between your own health vs. some animals that you’ll never ever see, being tortured and killed somewhere “out there,” well, probably you’d choose your own health. I know, folks would say “But you don’t have to choose! A vegan diet is healthy!”

        Well, yes, so far it’s been healthy for me, and lots of other people, too, but it didn’t work out for Peter the Average. If he was vegan for 10 years, I’m sure he is very well informed and compassionate and knows all about the benefits of plant-based diets (especially with regards to the suffering of the animals). So … I think there is some level of acceptance and understanding that needs to go into this reality and the real decision that someone like Peter the Average has to make.

    • abeleehane

      Nobody asked you anything, including for you to stop eating meat. This is here to educate people to make their own choices.Since you were next door, why did you have to come all the way here and type your rubbish ? Hurry…hurry, you still have a lot of vegan sites waiting to publish your idiotic comments…

    • bettb

      The way you begin your statement is offensive and clearly hostile, and throws doubt upon the already questionable and entirely anecdotal story that follows. There is more to the story than cholesterol. Homocysteine is another problem, just for example, only one more among many.

      Michael Greger does meta-analyses of all the nutritional research, and cites his references in his materials. If you want more authoritative material I suggest you start there. What happened to you or somebody’s neice’s cousin’s best friend’s roomate just has no place in a discussion of the larger trends in research. `:-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/robin.saxby Robin Saxby

      I agree with your post (I follow a vegan diet) different diets work for different people, genetics and environmental factors probably come into the equation as to whether someone will become sick or improve on whatever diet they follow.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

      Anecdotes are interesting, but studies with statistical significance are what matters most. For example, consider

      Cancer incidence in British vegetarians

      “In conclusion, this study suggests that the incidence of all malignant neoplasms combined may be lower among both fish eaters and vegetarians than among meat eaters. The most striking finding was the relatively low risk for cancers of the lymphatic and haematopoietic tissues among vegetarians.”

      http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v101/n1/pdf/6605098a.pdf

      I don’t know about you, but the circle jerk I’d like to be in is the one that science favours.

      • Halloween Jack

        Yes, be he’s saying that he was vegan for 10 years, and it didn’t work for him. So he tried. Someone who is vegan for 10 years is likely very knowledgeable about all the reasons for a plant-based diet … therefore, for him to go back to eating meat, surely required a lot of soul searching on his part. Clearly he knows about all of the suffering that goes into animal products, but he had decided that he feels better eating animal products, and his health is more important than the suffering of those animals. Decisions about one’s own health are very personal, don’t you think? We can’t very well make the decision for him. Also: if Peter the Average felt better eating meat, after 10 years on a vegan diet, all the statistical studies in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans. His only reality is his own experience.

        • Lloyd

          You’ve made a lot of assumptions about Peter’s “soul searching” and such.

          His health and his feelings aren’t necessarily related. Of course if you want to eat meat, nothing will stop you, and anyone’s own reality is their own, but does one have the science to prove that you NEED to eat meat to thrive? The science right now points in the direction that it’s a lot more social and psychological than physiological.

          Peter’s comments would have been more acceptable and credible if he didn’t come in all hostile. That’s a flag for bias and with an agenda.

          However, I agree with everything you said starting from “Decisions”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/InjunSun Herne Webber

    I like this article! Coming from a vegetarian perspective (with Anth and Bio college minors), I have two ‘beefs’ on this topic that just keep coming back.

    First, even if the Paleo Diet people were 100% right about our ancestors, given the proofs we have today that a low-fat vegetarian diet (or the richer Mediterranean Diet) rich in vegetal variety is the key to good health, why stick with their diet? And why do they ignore muscle attachment, tooth wear, and spectrographic enamel studies? Just scientifically illiterate? But health aside, there are tons of *other* reasons, from environmental, to resource use and waste, to human hunger to go veg.

    Second, given the coprolite studies that prove what paleolithic people ate, BECAUSE IT WAS STUDYING THEIR *ACTUAL* POOP, how is it that there is still so much debate? I can only conclude it’s because people don’t like changes. People like their foods, and fear that vegetarian or vegan choices will be less mouth-watering. They picture meat substitutes as cardboard-like or tasteless, like unflavoured tofu. Once people start thinking about it, their opinions become concrete, so if anyone wants to change anything, better start with the hide-bound rule-followers we call grade-schoolers. Too bad they quit publishing National Scholastic, because that would be a good place for an article like the above, written for children’s grasp.

    • http://www.facebook.com/InjunSun Herne Webber

      Oops, forgot my third ‘beef’, that phrase about eating lower or higher on “the food chain.” It’s not a chain, but a web, thus there is no “higher”. The idea of considering primary consumers (i.e., cows and other animals likely to be hunted) to be “lower” than carnivores is actually backwards. We need to eat “closer to the sun,” which is, in fact, “higher” than carnivores. Higher, lower, it’s all psychological bullshit wrapped around dietary choices that people don’t want futzed with.

    • http://macsmiley.tumblr.com/ MacSmiley

      ” Too bad they quit publishing National Scholastic, because that would be a good place for an article like the above, written for children’s grasp.”

      Amen to that!

  • sirios

    Hi,
    I would like to suggest a video on the topic of hormonal acne. I know dairy is a major culprit but I stopped drinking dairy a year ago and I still have the same problem, together with hirsutism. I don’t have PCOS.

    • b00mer

      Hi sirios, I don’t know if you’ll get any more videos on the topic but from what I’ve researched myself it seems the most well established dietary connections to acne are milk and refined sugars/grains. I’ve also read about low Zn and various food allergies but these don’t seem to be as conclusive.

      I just wanted to throw in my two cents about my own experiences here in case they might help you out. I started getting adult onset acne a few years ago. After going vegan and trying all the “natural” skincare products in the last year or so, I was really disappointed that it wasn’t going away (it was still getting worse over time in fact). Anyway, long story short I discovered the world of “chemical exfoliation”, and in the last two months or so, my skin has completely cleared up. I had what’s usually described as the “hormonal” type of acne, on the sides of my chin and in those parentheses around the lips mostly, and also a bunch of milia around my forehead and temples. I don’t want to sound like an infomercial here, but I’d suggest Beautypedia to get reviews on the best products to use (I am using the brand that is sold directly on that site). For a long time I wanted to believe that it was something in my diet that I could fix, but turns out I just had too many dead skin cells clogging up my face. :) I didn’t want to have to use special “products”, but it’s worked out so well for me I’ve changed my tune. Hope this may help you. All the best.

      • HereHere

        Certainly cats do get acne in response to food allergies. Perhaps a soy allergy or mustard allergy could be the cause. Or sesame. Those are amongst the top ten most common allergies, although a person can develop an allergy to anything in their diet.

        • b00mer

          It’s definitely a possibility and I’ve read plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that a certain food allergy was the source of someone’s acne. I tried a godawful elimination diet for several weeks to try to determine if I had one, and it just wasn’t the case for me. But it’s certainly worth a shot for someone who has exhausted other options.

  • blaine decker

    The Stanford A to Z diet comparison study, (conducted by 25 year vegetarian, Dr. Christopher Gardner) found that Atkins was superior to Ornish diet, especially for people who have metabolic syndrome. Since there are 100 million people in US who are diabetic or pre-diabetec, recommending a high-carb plant based diet that spikes blood sugar is not helpful.

    Out of the 1,500 videos here, it doesn’t look like there is anything on metabolic syndrome are how the Ornish diet doesn’t work for many people who are insulin resistant.

    The Stanford study did show that compliance is the most important factor and that people who are metabolically healthy can do well on either diet.

    It’s just that one out of three people many not be able to do well on a the diet Greger reccomends as a panacea for everyone.

    • Just Josh

      Weight loss is a horrible indication of overall health. In the conclusions of the mentioned A to Z Weight Loss Study, it is mentioned that:

      “While questions remain about the long-term effects and mechanisms, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet may be considered a feasible alternative recommendation for weight loss.”

      I would be much more concerned about long term effects and not weight loss.

  • katie

    Dr. Greger, you are amazing! I’m so glad I found this website to read all about food (plants in particular because I’m a vegan too). My grandmother was messing around with Paleo Diet for a few months and had one kidney surgically removed. I’ve read that it’s hell on your kidneys. Thank you SO MUCH for all of the fantastic videos and articles you post often!

  • http://www.facebook.com/darryl.roy.752 Darryl Roy

    Thought I’d share some of my favorite papers on paleolithic plant eating.

    I think the first paper should be better known in both the vegan and feminist communities, as it lays out a compelling hypothesis of how our ancestors adapted to climate change ~1.9 mya, and how they persisted for longer than any prior or subsequent hominid species: digging for the underground storage organs of plants. Subsequent evidence has been fairly supportive, and this list is by no means comprehensive:

    Hawkes, K., and J. F. O’Connell. “Grandmothering and the evolution of Homo erectus.” J Hum Evol (1999) http://www.radicalanthropologygroup.org/old/class_text_069.pdf

    Laden, Greg, and Richard Wrangham. “The rise of the hominids as an adaptive shift in fallback foods: plant underground storage organs (USOs) and australopith origins.” J Hum Evol (2005)
    http://gregladen.com/wordpress/wp-content/pdf/Laden_Wrangham_Roots.pdf

    Perry, George H., et al. “Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation.” Nat Genet (2007)
    http://sws.bu.edu/MSOREN/Perry.pdf

    Hernandez-Aguilar, R. Adriana, Jim Moore, and Travis Rayne Pickering. “Savanna chimpanzees use tools to harvest the underground storage organs of plants.” (2007)
    http://sociology.ucsd.edu/~jmoore/publications/HernandezEtAlPNAS07.pdf

    Once we get to the last 50,000 years, we can start looking at starch grains between teeth.

    Piperno, Dolores R., and Tom D. Dillehay. “Starch grains on human teeth reveal early broad crop diet in northern Peru.” PNAS (2008)
    http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/papers2/agriculture/Starch%20grains%20on%20human%20teeth%20reveal%20early%20broad%20crop%20diet%20in%20northern%20Peru.pdf

    Revedin, Anna, et al. “Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food processing.” PNAS (2010)
    http://www.foodlog.nl/files/achtergrond/pnas.201006993.pdf

    Henry, Amanda G., Alison S. Brooks, and Dolores R. Piperno. “Microfossils in calculus demonstrate consumption of plants and cooked foods in Neanderthal diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium).” PNAS (2011)
    http://www.gwu.edu/~anth/docs/Microfossils_in_calculus.pdf

    Quite recently, in the past 100k years some of us moved (or were forced) into marginal habitats where wild tubers and grains weren’t the dietary mainstays – judging by heart disease rates our physiology hasn’t quite adapted yet.

    • Thea

      Wow. Awesome info Darryl! And so timely. Thanks for taking the time to share it!!

    • Myron Schwarzennecker

      Interesting, except that people following Paleo are in it to be part of the “cool” fad. They only use “science” afterward to support their decision to be in the cool crowd.

      • b00mer

        I agree it’s partly the exclusive “cool crowd” effect (especially in those crossfit circles), but I also think it’s a case of people like to hear good things about their bad habits.

        Across the internet we now have people singing the praises of “good fats” like lard and bacon and butter (oh, only grass-fed of course). Isn’t that just the ultimate fantasy that anyone could have hoped to hear since evidence about diet and heart disease first came out forty years ago?

        But give it another couple decades and (unfortunately for all the paleo followers) we’ll have the epidemiological data to put the nail in the paleo coffin. Though even then will they listen? Or will they just keep coming up with more and more question-based rebuttals (they never rebut with information, always with questions about an infinite number of variables that should have been tested) to keep eating their bacon? We will see.

        • Myron Schwarzennecker

          Yep, I would think that the hucksters would be doing CIMT scans to try and demonstrate safety, but they don’t. There is a blog http://carbsanity.blogspot.com/ that discusses evidence based rebuttals to the Paleos and to LC opportunists like Taubes.

    • b00mer

      Great info! Thanks for taking the time to write it all up. I’ll be referring back to this post to read up on the sources you provided. Thanks!

    • b00mer

      This should really be the basis for a whole separate nutritionfacts blog post!

    • Timar

      Excellent review, thank you very much!

  • HereHere

    I liked the Tedx presentation by the anthropologist Dr. Warinner. She said anthropologists have found microfossils on neanderthals that showed they ate lentils, barley, and tubers. So the paleolithic diet is based on pure myth. http://blog.tedx.com/post/45914179742/debunking-the-paleo-diet-christina-warinner

  • Joejones

    According to me that is the finest diet because i have personally tried it and results are always very good for that.
    What you have wrote is correct.

    http://www.nitin360.com

  • Mahonie

    Why do people always think their vision is the truth, both vegans and meat eaters alike; You cannot overgeneralize your own experiences;
    I have been a vegan for three years and a vegetarian for almost my entire life (for animal right reasons) but will probably not continue a plant based diet because I encounter lot of health problems; I started to do some research reading up on both sides (those promoting veganism and those promoting grass fedd meat and hunting) about health, ethical and environmental aspects; Now a vegan diet can definitely be a healthy diet and I know lots of vegans who are healthy but apparently there are also lot of people who do not do so well on a vegan diet despise the best efforts and intentions, like me and many others (most paleo dieters are ex vegans who did not do well on the vegan diet) why is that ? I have no idea I eat a very healthy vegan diet (lots and lots of fruits vegetables, healthy grains and legumes almost no processed foods and sugar or fat) and still I experience all those health problems (acne, loss of eye sight, insomnia, serious digestive problems, thinning hair,…) Maybe some people’s body are not good at converting the nutritions that is already found converted in meat (like vitamin a, iron, …) or maybe some people need more zinc (which is very hard to obtain in the right ratio on a vegan diet) maybe some people functions better with fewer carbs I don’t know I just know I do not feel healthy on a vegetarian/vegan diet and I want to be healthy because I have been experiencing health problems my whole life and I am really sick of it (I am not going paleo or anything but maybe will start eating some meat for time to time see if I feel better)
    Just please stop blaming people (like they are doing it wrong) who don’t do well on the diet and stop overgeneralizing your own experience; you have both healthy meat eaters as you have vegans (most centenarians were meat eaters so meat cannot be as poisonous as is claimed, can it ? )

    (a very interesting book about the ethical aspects is the mindful carnivore)

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      There are many folks who are following a plant based diet that are both “sick” and/or “fat”. i have the opportunity to occasionally work in supportive systems of care such as Meals for Health and the McDougall Whole Foods program. It is clear to me that a varied whole food plant based diet with adequate B-12 intake is the basis for good health. You are correct that there can be individual conditions which require “tweaking” beyond that starting point. The autoimmune disorders come to mind. I have patients who have plant triggers for their conditions and have to avoid specific plant foods. You might find some useful information on the McDougall website. I am thinking of two newsletter articles specifically… The Sic Vegan(10/02) and The Diet for the Desperate(12/02) and another if you are interested in losing fat… The Fat Vegan(12/08). Good luck in your journey.

  • Sara

    Hi Dr. Greger. I would appreciate if you can do a video/article on lectins. The Paleo side of things, say they avoid plant food because of the lectins. And beans and grains have more lectins than other plants, and we should avoid lectins because they are toxic. I tried doing my research and so far, yes they are toxic. But our bodies must have a way of getting rid of it so it doesn’t hurt us? Or else we wouldn’t live so long on beans? Can you debunk this myth. Thanks!

  • Suchbunch

    I think the problem here is ignorance of the Paleo Diet which IS plant based with meat. It is NOT about eating an abundance of meat. Those that don’t do the research and jump in the Paleo diet with that assumption are dead wrong. The Paleo Diet promotes very high amounts of vegetables, juicing, fruits nuts and seeds, raw, healthy fats, clean organic non processed foods. When any diet is done wrong its going to go bad and your blood work will prove it every time. I have friends who were Vegan, over weight depressed and not healthy. I believe that’s because they were doing processed Vegan foods rather then healthy whole foods. My husband and I have done Paleo for 3 years. We lost 120lbs. between the two of us with amazing blood results. Our good Cholesterol is through the roof! That’s Paleo done right, the way its supposed to be done. And it drives me nuts when people do it wrong and wonder why they get bad results along with people who write articles who aren’t really aware of what it means to be Paleo.