Paleolithic Lessons

Paleolithic Lessons
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An evolutionary argument for a plant-based diet is presented, in contrast to “Paleo” fad diets.

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A review published recently makes an evolutionary argument for a plant-based diet, given the fact that we apparently evolved eating huge amounts of whole plant foods. 200,000 years ago, it’s estimated that we consumed 600mg of vitamin C a day. That’s the amount of vitamin C found in ten oranges, the amount of vitamin E found in two cups of nuts, the amount of calcium found in five cups of collard greens—and they weren’t milking mammoths or anything. That all came from their wild greens. 100 plus grams of fiber—now, we’re are lucky if we get 20 a day.

In fact, we were exposed to such a quantity of healthy, whole plant foods, we as a species lost our ability to make vitamin C. We still actually have the vitamin C synthesis gene in our DNA, but our bodies just junked it because, why bother? Why waste the energy? We were getting massive doses all day long, every day.

The problem is, now what happens when you take our evolutionary heritage, finely 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 just loads of meat that bears little resemblance to the flesh of prehistoric wild animals.

Just on the contaminant issue alone, recently in the Meat Science, a review was published cataloging the laundry list: arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, preservatives, and veterinary drugs, like the 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 subsisting on weeds and eating 100 grams of fiber a day. They were eating burgers, not bugs. Based in part on our evolutionary history, “Sufficient scientific evidence exists for public health policy to promote a plant-rich diet for health promotion.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to GrahamIX via flickr

A review published recently makes an evolutionary argument for a plant-based diet, given the fact that we apparently evolved eating huge amounts of whole plant foods. 200,000 years ago, it’s estimated that we consumed 600mg of vitamin C a day. That’s the amount of vitamin C found in ten oranges, the amount of vitamin E found in two cups of nuts, the amount of calcium found in five cups of collard greens—and they weren’t milking mammoths or anything. That all came from their wild greens. 100 plus grams of fiber—now, we’re are lucky if we get 20 a day.

In fact, we were exposed to such a quantity of healthy, whole plant foods, we as a species lost our ability to make vitamin C. We still actually have the vitamin C synthesis gene in our DNA, but our bodies just junked it because, why bother? Why waste the energy? We were getting massive doses all day long, every day.

The problem is, now what happens when you take our evolutionary heritage, finely 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 just loads of meat that bears little resemblance to the flesh of prehistoric wild animals.

Just on the contaminant issue alone, recently in the Meat Science, a review was published cataloging the laundry list: arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, preservatives, and veterinary drugs, like the 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 subsisting on weeds and eating 100 grams of fiber a day. They were eating burgers, not bugs. Based in part on our evolutionary history, “Sufficient scientific evidence exists for public health policy to promote a plant-rich diet for health promotion.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to GrahamIX via flickr

Doctor's Note

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. I wrote a whole book on the former low-carb fad incarnation, Carbophobia, now available free online (like all of my work). I also have two videos: Atkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It Up, and Plant-Based Atkins Diet.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: The Real Paleo Diet98% of American Diets Potassium-Deficient; and Uric Acid From Meat and Sugar.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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