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How Paleo Got It Wrong

Let me start by saying that I can see what original Paleo dieters were trying to do, and at its core the Paleo diet has some great principles that people can definitely benefit from. But, as with many ideologies, philosophical, religious or political, even if they start out well intentioned in theory they usually end up divisive and destructive in practice.

Paleo

The actual Paleo diet does several things right. If you’re going to eat meat it is best to buy grass-fed, organic, free-range, or hunt your own, avoiding factory farmed, processed meats. Also, eating a lot of vegetables is a great idea! It suggests avoiding dairy, sugar, and refined carbs which is wonderful. They lose me at cutting out beans/legumes. And, at the suggestion that large amounts of animal protein and saturated fat are healthy, even though there’s endless scientific and anecdotal evidence which shows it causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and countless other ailments.

Here’s another problem. Most Paleo dieters do not eat the way it was intended. It’s nearly impossible in our modern society! Many bloggers, authors, and fitness pros are cashing in on the Paleo craze and creating their own spin offs.

I have wanted to mention something about this topic for a long time, but it is such a heated and passionate debate I’ve avoided chiming in. It’s to the point where I feel like I can no longer sit back in good conscience and do nothing while people eat bacon fat brownies and red meat pretending like it’s the healthy choice.

Paleo has turned into is little more than the Atkins diet. If you’ll recall, that did not end well for Dr. Atkins. He died obese after having had at least one heart attack. Here we are a decade later and I’m hearing the same high protein, low carb rhetoric.

paleo meat

In fact, according to NPR, “Atkins Nutritionalists say this renewed faith in the low-carb approach is helping the company grow again. Sales of Atkins’ branded products have grown by nearly 44 percent since 2011… the folks at Aktins are also hoping that the popularity of the paleo diet can give the brand a boost.

There is no doubt that low-carb, high protein diets help you lose weight in the short term. If you have an event coming up soon that you want to get skinny for then by all means eat steak wrapped in bacon for breakfast. You’ll lose weight. I also hear that methamphetamines are an effective weight loss supplement and cocaine improves energy.

Just because something works does not mean it’s healthy.

Paleo Yogi

The premise of Paleo is that we should be eating the way our ancestors ate a 2 or 3 million years ago, pre-agriculture/farming, because that is how our bodies were meant to eat. It is very true that society and technology are evolving faster than we are in many respects. But, the assumption that because something is “new” (or less than a couple million yrs old) it’s bad, and that if it’s old then it’s good is a flawed hypothesis. Personally I think beans/legumes are a part of any healthy diet and they’re completely off limits, yet lard is a staple in Paleo.

I decided to look up some credible research studies to share with you to support what I’m saying. There is no need to take my word for it when there is scientific evidence to back it up.

Here are just a few of the studies results:

  • A growing body of scholarly data suggests that no such thing as an evolved human diet exists and that popular notions of returning to a diet that is more true to human nature are inconsistent with the ways in which metabolisms and eating habits develop in humans. (Nutrition Reviews, Aug 2013)
  • Increasing scientific consensus that eating more plant foods but fewer animal foods would best promote health. One challenge to this consensus is the idea that palaeolithic man consumed more meat than currently recommended, and that this pattern is genetically determined. If such exists, a genetic basis for ideal proportions of plant or animal foods is difficult to determine; hominoid primates are largely vegetarian, current hunter-gatherer groups rely on foods that can be obtained most conveniently, and the archeological record is insufficient to determine whether plants or animals predominated. Most evidence suggests that a shift to largely plant-based diets would reduce chronic disease risks among industrialized and rapidly-industrializing populations. (The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 1999)
  • Studies have linked high protein intake with cancer, especially of the breast and colon. Studies also show that diets high in meat have a strong positive correlation with atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, but such diets are presently linked with high intakes of total and saturated fat, which probably accounts for a large part of the association (Committee on Diet and Health, 1989).
  • High fat content may promote obesity, because high fat diets may elevate serum insulin levels, and because breast/colon cancer incidence consistently shows strong positive correlation with dietary fat.
    (Department of Nutrition and Food Studies: New York University, 1994)paleo bacon

Bacon is a very popular food in Paleo recipes. It’s used in promotional materials, and widely accepted as a perfectly “healthy” food in the diet. The idea of this seems almost comical to me. Bacon is heavily processed, and smothered in sugar, sodium, and nitrates.

Is it that Paleo dieters actually believe bacon is healthy, or is it wishful thinking? I’m really not sure. But, I do know that people tend to hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. So, diets that tell you eating lots of grease and lard and bacon is good for you is much sexier than me telling you to eat more beans.

One teaspoon of bacon grease contains 38 calories. It is almost 100% fat, with little nutritional value, and it’s about 40% saturated fat. Oddly, butter is popular among Paleo dieters as well. Though I can’t imagine a time when cavemen added butter to their coffee and fried up bacon for breakfast.

And, just because I’m a science nerd, here’s a couple studies cited on Wiki that I thought were interesting:

  • A  study by Columbia University suggests a link between eating cured meats (such as bacon) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found in 2010 that eating processed meats such as bacon, preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives, was associated with an increased risk of both heart disease and diabetes.

The Paleo diet is right when they say to cut out added sugar and salt, processed foods, simple carbs, and dairy, yet in practice it doesn’t look much like that at all. It appears like an excuse to eat butter and bacon without feeling guilty because it’s diet friendly. I learned a long time ago that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. It doesn’t look to me like this is any different. You can’t actually have your Paleo cake and eat it too.

90 comments… add one
  • Catherine October 3, 2013, 3:47 pm

    Nitrates and nitrites (well, the resulting nitrosamines, to be more specific) found in most processed, charred and cured meats (especially bacon!) also cause cancer. You can find some folks debating the carcinogenic effect of nitrates/nitrites–usually by conveniently ignoring the conversion process of nitrates/nitrites to nitrosamines. So trust the scientists over the bloggers.

    If you still have to have cured and charred meats, there’s some evidence that the effect can be offset by vitamin C.

    See http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_nitrite, especially the Toxicity section.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/8146105/

    • Pauli Halstead October 21, 2013, 1:37 pm

      I may be the only paleo chef and author who recommends small amounts of pure protein and sufficient fat. From what I understand when too much protein is consumed all at once it turns to glucose. I recommend no more than 45-60 grams of protein a day and no more than 25 grams at any given meal. Sufficient healthy fats should be consumed with the protein to facilitate optimum metabolism. The Atkins Diet was way too much protein (thus the obesity) and he did not make the distinction between commercially raised meat and grass-fed or wild. That is a huge difference as the grassfed and wild meat retain the omega-3 fatty acids. I imagine Dr. Atkin’s was consuming too much meat that had been fed grains and thus had changed to omega 3 fatty acids. So, he made some fatal mistakes.

      The Paleo Diet should not be confused with the Atkins diet.

      • Tatum October 21, 2013, 1:58 pm

        Thanks very much for your comment. I agree with you. Too much protein is not handled well by the body, and the Atkin’s diet is very flawed. I do think the Paleo diet is much better, however I think the details get lost in the blogosphere and the message reverts back to high protein low carb. Though, by the comments on this post it is apparent that many people do not feel the same.

  • Catherine October 3, 2013, 3:48 pm

    And great article, Tatum! I now have something to shame my Paleo friends with.

  • Tatum October 11, 2013, 1:27 am

    Thanks Catherine!

  • Crew Spence October 19, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Great work, Tatum! 🙂

    • Tatum October 19, 2013, 7:45 pm

      Thanks Crew!

  • PaulL October 20, 2013, 1:00 am

    So much wrong with this article it’s hard to know where to start.

    Dr. Atkins did not die obese or from a heart attack. He slipped on the ice and died from complications due to a head injury. Yes he had suffered heart 1 year prior, but had been treated for the previous two years for a chronic heart infection which was completely unrelated to his diet. A simple glance at Wikipedia would have informed you of this.

    All of the “studies” cited are correlative studies. Correlation does not equal causation. They are also, for the most part, extremely antiquated, and therefore, not even close to valid. They are almost all correlative and/or observational studies not double-blind clinical studies. And correlative/observational studies are at best, good only at raising more questions, certainly not good at providing scientific, evidence-based answers. Additionally, they have all been replaced by far better studies which have revealed the various flaws of their predecessors.

    None of those correlative studies which looked at meat or fat intake accounted for the type of meat or fat, nor did they account for other lifestyle factors such as whether those with high intake of meat and fat also consumed high amounts of other inflammatory foods, had any kind of systemic inflammation, or controlled for stress from external life-style factors.

    Cardiovascular incidents are strongly correlated with systemic inflammation, but none of these studies cited even mention this correlation, never mind what the cause of that could be.

    Nitrites and nitrates convert to nitrosamines *in vitro*, however, *in vivo* the convert to nitrous oxide, an inert substance and one which our bodies have significant uses for. Additionally, the Federally mandated maximum amounts of nitrates and nitrites allowed in processed meats are significantly LOWER than the total amount of nitrates and nitrites found naturally occurring in a stalk of celery (and, as an aside, the highest quality bacons actually obtain their nitrites *from* organic celery). So, I guess I should therefore be avoiding celery now as well as bacon ?

    As for the Harvard Public Health claim in 2010, this again was an observational, correlative study. They did not control for anything else. They simply observed that based on survey results that those who responded noted both increased intake of processed meats and cardiovascular incidents. They did not observe what kind of processed meats the participants consumed. i.e. “processed meat” in the form of Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs, filled with countless additives, preservatives, artificial dyes, GMO corn and soy fillers, and who knows what hidden behind the labels of “artificial and natural flavorings” is not even close the same thing as “processed meat” in the form of organically cured bacon from a naturally raised and pastured pig which led a stress-free life in my local farmer’s back yard. These studies accounted for exactly NO confounding factors, of which there are countless numbers.

    Perhaps the bacon you buy is loaded in sugar and other crap. The bacon I buy is not. You can not compare crap quality mass-produced manufactured franken-foods to minimally processed, whole, natural foods originating from naturally raised, pastured, and properly cared for animals and claim there is no difference in outcome until you’ve done that study. And so far, no one has. But the anecdotal evidence of millions of people who have adopted the Paleo lifestyle, and have the perfect blood markers to prove it’s working is monumentally over-whelming.

    As for the claim that one teaspoon of bacon grease contains 38 calories, who cares? And how can you claim that it has no nutritional value? Your brain is 80% saturated fat. The cholesterol your body makes as a pre-cursor to testosterone and estrogen (which are rather important hormones) is created from saturated fat which has been metabolized and turned into cholesterol by your liver for the countless needs your body has of this essential hormone. So how can you possibly say that bacon grease, or any saturated fat has no “nutritional value”?

    And no, Paleolithic man did not consume butter in their coffee or fry up bacon. But no one said that the Paleo lifestyle was an historical re-enactment. It is merely a template based on what we know from anthropological data. Paleolithic man didn’t commute in cars or use computers either, but pretty much everyone following a Paleo template-based lifestyle is using both of those pieces of technology.

    Regarding your lack of understanding about why we cut out beans and legumes, I highly recommend that you perhaps spend some time reading the Paleo literature which goes into extreme detail as to the science-based rational. Consider it an exercise in “getting to know your enemy” if you will. But the basic reason is that legumes are extremely high in lectins which irritate the intestinal tract and result in a variety of issues for many people. Bloating and gas being the most common ones. They are also extremely high in carbohydrates and therefore illicit a high insulin response, which for many people, notably diabetics, this can be problematic.

    It’s clear that this lifestyle does not make sense to you, which is not surprising based on the pack of lies, half-truths, and completely bad-science and badly-reported science surrounding nutrition over the past 60+ years. Most people are very confused and don’t get it. But rather than ranting on blog about how you don’t get it, perhaps you should try to understand it and actually learn something about metabolism and digestion and how the human body actually works rather than just telling people that “hey, based on what these 20+ year old studies say, this is a crazy way to live!”

    Or better yet, try it out for yourself and scientifically prove that it doesn’t work. Take a 30 day period, get one of the leading Paleo books, get a bunch of blood-work done before hand, follow the book’s prescription to the letter and get your blood work redone after the 30 days and report back on the results. Granted, n=1 doesn’t really mean anything, but it will give you a good idea of what the diet does for your health!

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 1:58 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough response. I appreciate your feedback. A couple things, I said that Atkins was obese when he died and had previously had a heart attack. I understand that his actual cause of death was a head injury from falling.
      And, it is wonderful that you eat only grass fed meat which is definitely more nutritious. The average consumer eats out or cannot afford grass fed meat and therefore turns to factory farmed products since they are the cheapest and most available.

      • PaulL October 21, 2013, 1:21 am

        Tatum,

        Yes, you claimed he died obese and had suffered a heart attack. Except he wasn’t obese, and the implication, whether intended or not, was that the heart attack was both connected to his diet, and therefore his obesity, and contributed to his death.

        You additionally claimed indirectly by citing magazine articles (not actual studies) that saturated fat is unhealthy. This has been known to be false since the 1930s and has plenty of actual science proving that saturated fat is indeed healthy.

        Futher, you stated:

        “The Paleo diet is right when they say to cut out added sugar and salt, processed foods, simple carbs, and dairy, yet in practice it doesn’t look much like that at all. It appears like an excuse to eat butter and bacon without feeling guilty because it’s diet friendly.”

        But in fact you know nothing of the Paleo diet “in practice” because you don’t actually follow it, not, based on what you’ve presented as “data” have you ever followed, or even actually researched how actual successful practitioners of the Paleo diet live. Your claim that it’s an excuse to consume loads of butter and bacon without guilt seems on the surface to observation based on social media posts, which are probably more representative of Paleo insider humor than anything else. And with this statement, you claim that eating bacon and butter are unhealthy things to consume yet provide absolutely no scientific backing for that claim. Yet there are piles of scientific data resulting from actual double-blind clinical trials on saturated fats proving they are indeed healthy foods to consume.

        You may not believe these things, and that’s fine. But if your goal is to actually help people, then provide them information backed by actual scientific data rather than opinion with cherry picked pseudo-data. For example, this article in Business Insider pretty much refutes everything you’ve claimed and substantiates it with actual scientific references:

        http://tinyurl.com/nnbtpz3

        If you really want to educate your readers and clients, I highly recommend reading some of the books out there about the Paleo or Low-Carb diets like Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution, Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Answer, Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo, Gary Taube’s Good Calories, Bad Calories, Drs. Mike and Mary Eades’ Protein Power Lifeplan, or Nora Gedgaudas’ Primal Body, Primal Mind. These are the books that people read when they adopt a Paleo or Primal diet. And not one them espouses eating bacon and butter all the time. But neither do they scare people away from it. Rather, they explain how the body and the metabolism actually works and explain why different macronutrients get metabolized in different ways as well as the body’s natural, homeostatic and hormetic response to those macronutrients. Reading any one of these will at best, change your mind, at worst give you the perspective of this lifestyle from the actual experts who are teaching it.

        • Tatum October 21, 2013, 1:56 am

          Thanks Paul for your thoughtful contribution to this conversation.

  • brittany October 20, 2013, 1:09 am

    This is a terrible article. You need a fact checker.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 1:58 pm

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  • Jeff October 20, 2013, 4:45 am

    The “science” you have picked is flawed, to say the least. Your vision and explanation of what a “paleo” diet is, and therefore how “paleo” dieters think is entirely flawed. The true premise is not that anything new is to be avoided; for the largest majority of paleo/primal/ancestral diet followers, the main point is to only eat “real” food, not something manufactured or overly processed. Bacon is not the mainstay of a paleo diet – it just is not demonized the way the conventional beliefs (where you pulled your studies from) make bacon out. The conventional belief that saturated fat – including that from bacon – is bad for you is a myth, as are many of the conventional diet guidelines. Here is just one (there are many – just search “lipid hypothesis myth” or “cholesterol myth”) article, succinctly explaining heart disease myths involving saturated fat and cholesterol: http://www.naturalnews.com/029533_heart_disease_myths.html
    I am amazed at how many articles trying to debunk “paleo” are written from a point of view such as yours where you only understand part of the idea, and have obviously done no actual research into it. You only think you know what “paleo” is about, but you’re way off.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:21 pm

      Thanks for your input. I’d like to clarify that I am not just talking about the premise behind the original Paleo diet, but mainly the way the diet has been adopted by the mainstream and not followed as originally intended.

    • Lisa Clark October 21, 2013, 10:51 pm

      I don’t think naturalnews.com is a peer reviewed medical journal.

      • PaulL October 22, 2013, 1:07 am

        No, Natural News tends to be a hyperbolic, over-reactionary, extremist site. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Sara October 20, 2013, 5:38 am

    Actually, I eat Paleo, and what you’re describing as a ‘paleo diet’ is not what I eat, or what any of my paleo friends eat. I’m sure that there are a lot of people who come to Paleo looking for a quick, easy fix, who will buy the processed stuff with a ‘Paleo’ or ‘Atkins’ label slapped onto it, but that’s not what real Paleo is.

    Paleo doesn’t have to be low-carb at all – I eat plenty of potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruit and vegetables. I eat a LOOOOOT of vegetables, in fact, that’s most of what my diet is. The meat I eat is grass-fed, hormone-free, and not processed. It’s the processed, horomone-laden meats that are associated with cancer. We don’t eat that. Uncured, nitrate-free bacon isn’t the same bacon that you’re talking about.

    The commercialized Paleo diet is no better than any commercialized diet… but Paleo, if done right, is healthy.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Thanks for your input. I could not agree with you more! I do believe there are a lot great things about the actual Paleo diet. However, the commercialized Paleo is reinforcing excess meat and most people do not buy local grass fed cuts.

      • brittany October 21, 2013, 12:34 am

        Nope, you’re wrong. Please go back to your day job, whatever it is.

        • PaulL October 21, 2013, 1:25 am

          Brittany,

          Uncalled for. No need to be hostile. Tatum has a point of view, to which she’s entitled. If you feel she’s wrong, please add to the conversation in an intelligent, meaning, and contributory way. Ad hominem attacks and insults don’t help anyone.

        • Lisa Clark October 21, 2013, 10:52 pm

          Brittany, I don’t sense that you are really trying to contribute to the conversation here.

      • Joshua October 21, 2013, 9:07 am

        Hi Tatum,

        I just wanted to say I appreciate that you are replying to your dissenters. A lot of people don’t acknowledge the people that disagree with them, and this shows that you both care and keep an open mind. So, thanks.

        • Tatum October 21, 2013, 2:08 pm

          Thanks very much Joshua.

  • Nicole October 20, 2013, 6:10 am

    If your premise were correct, Americans should be getting healthier, instead of sicker and more obese. A half cup of white rice has 11 teaspoons of sugar. This is most definitely more detrimental than a few teaspoons of butter. Our children are the first generation since they have kept track, who will not outlive their parents. Low fat has been an abysmal failure. The proof is all around you. Paleo, as I’ve seen, cuts out the damaging processed foods and advocates veggies, lean meats, fruits and nuts/seeds. Americans are sicker and fatter than all other industrialized countries. Clearly, we’ve had it all wrong.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:08 pm

      Please understand, I am NOT a proponent of a low fat diet. I completely agree that refined carbs, low fat or fat free products are terrible. My point is that the bulk of the diet should be vegetables and the mainstream Paleo crowd is eating meat, and often times factory farmed processed meats because that is what is the most affordable and what is served at most restaurants.

      • brittany October 21, 2013, 12:35 am

        The great majority of those who eat paleo do not eat out restaurants except occasionally.

  • Nicole Carney October 20, 2013, 6:21 am

    You obviously won’t allow any opposing opinions. That means you must know your opinion is on thin ground. No one is impressed by you or fooled by you.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:17 pm

      I moderate to prevent spam on the site and published all of the comments that were waiting for me when I woke up this morning.

      • Nicole October 21, 2013, 11:53 pm

        I stand corrected and I apologize for jumping to the conclusion that you were screening out opposing views.

        • Tatum October 22, 2013, 12:19 am

          Thanks Nicole, I appreciate that and understand it’s frustrating when people only present one side of the argument.

  • Cale October 20, 2013, 6:23 am

    A science nerd that has no idea how to properly cite a study? Of course.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:23 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I was not writing a paper for my master’s degree, it is blog post where I was sharing info in case people wanted to read more for themselves.

  • Tammy Henry October 20, 2013, 11:07 am

    Why do you continue to delete any negative comments? I think you really have not done your research on this one!

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:18 pm

      I haven’t deleted anything, simply don’t publish comments while I’m out of the office or sleeping.

  • Christina October 20, 2013, 11:16 am

    I can’t believe that people are still perpetuating the rumor of Dr. Atkins death. I would encourage you to spend some time with people before they die, especially when they are kept artificially alive. http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/atkinsdiet/a/dratkinsdeath.htm

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:25 pm

      Thanks for your input. I mentioned that Atkins was obese when he died and had previously had a heart attack, which is true. I understand that his actual cause of death was a head injury from falling.

  • Mitzi October 20, 2013, 11:48 am

    You contradicted yourself in the article. You’re talking about processed bacon, not grass fed pork. There is a tremendous difference in the omega 6 and omega 3 profiles when grass fed as opposed to factory farmed. Please educate yourself about the lipid hypothesis. The human body works best as a fat burning machine.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 2:29 pm

      I agree that there is a huge difference between bacon and grass fed pork. That’s why I mentioned that grass fed meat is the best option, and the way Paleo was originally intended, but the commercialized Paleo diet promotes bacon as a staple. Many dieters go out to eat at places or buy products at grocery stores where they do not have access or can’t afford to eat grass fed meats.

  • Rip Torn October 20, 2013, 12:25 pm

    So, does Christina Warriner know you ripped off her TED presentation? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8

  • Rob October 20, 2013, 3:03 pm

    WOW you lost me on how fat causes diabetes….in already carb overloaded obese people there is some tenuous link but in a normal weigh individual not a chance – sugar, including sugar in grains is the cause of diabetes.

    As for sat fat some of the research you are posting is 20 years out of date it is time to update your research
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20354806
    http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/conditions/saturated-fat-is-not-your-hearts-enemy/article4266464/?service=mobile
    http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/not-guilty-the-long-standing-vilification-of-saturated-fat-finally-turning-to-vindication/7026

    I will also add this Harvard link http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fats-full-story/ where they say “several studies seemed to suggest that eating diets high in saturated fat did not raise the risk of heart disease—a finding that ran counter to decades of dietary advice.” You read that right, dietary advice NOT science. The whole high carb low fat diet is nothing more than a big con.

    Paleo/Primal is not about eating tonnes of meat as you implied, the bulk of the plate should be full of colourful veg with a modest/small amount of animal protein including wild fish.

    Not to mention a higher fat diet is proven to be best for brain health and even help reverse dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 3:21 pm

      I appreciate your input!

    • Lisa October 21, 2013, 10:55 pm

      The NIH article you referenced from the Pub Med search results is an abstract from the journal Lipids. It does not say that eating saturated fatty acids (SFAs) is a great thing to do. The researchers’ findings actually say that “replacing SFA with polyunsaturated fat modestly lowers coronary heart disease risk… Public health emphasis on reducing SFA consumption without considering the replacement nutrient or, more importantly, the many other food-based risk factors for cardiometabolic disease is unlikely to produce substantial intended benefits.” The article’s key point is that you can’t replace SFAs with just any fat or carbohydrate and expect to be healthy. It is not saying to eat all the SFAs you want because they are great for you.

      • Tatum October 22, 2013, 12:17 am

        Great point Lisa! Thanks for your thoughtful analysis.

  • Matt October 20, 2013, 3:08 pm

    You do a fantastic job of describing not only the reasons why these things are unhealthy, but also the motivation to market them as being a good choice for people. Like you said, beans are not as sexy as bacon. Great post!

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 3:21 pm

      Thanks Matt!

    • Brittany October 21, 2013, 12:37 am

      Beans are not “as sexy” as bacon because they cause inflammation and are poorly digested. Thus the old adage about beans being “the musical fruit.” And they are mostly a source of carbs, not protein.

  • dany October 20, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Tatum, your article is stirring the paleo pot… Just one thing to add, where/how have you collected data that led you to say “… and most people do not buy local grass fed cuts.”

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 3:32 pm

      You’re right about that Dany! Pretty sure I have not created too many friends with this post. My comment comes from years of observation in the blogosphere and in person, plus what I hear when I’m doing personal training and nutritional counseling, and personal research on the topic.

      Please understand that I am not speaking in absolutes, but rather about people who take a grain of truth and run with it. I believe in eating whole foods, local, grass fed, etc, but not in overindulging in meat/bacon and saturated fat.

      Also, this is my opinion based on observation, research and personal experience. I respect other people’s opinion and freedom to eat however they feel is right for them.

      • dany October 21, 2013, 12:45 pm

        Nice that your responding to everyone’s comments – ur clearly a sweety! Its always good to highlight to people the importance of grass fed and pastured animals and animal products over their grain fed, diseased counterparts. We are all trying to raise this awareness and elevate diet and wellness to the status it deserves. Keep writing, researching and living well Tatum, minor disagreements mean nothing when the bigger goal is the same for us all 🙂

        • Tatum October 21, 2013, 2:00 pm

          Thank you very much Dany.

  • Billy October 20, 2013, 3:21 pm

    If you did your research, you would have found that Dr Atkins heart condition had nothing to do with his diet. According to his doctor: “Clearly, [Atkins’] own nutritional protocols have left him, at the age of 71, with an extraordinarily healthy cardiovascular system”.

    That’s from Wikipedia. And if you go to Snopes, you’ll see that Atkins was not obese when he died. After falling and sustaining head injuries, he was admitted to the hospital, and according to hospital records released to USA Today, Atkins weighted 195 pounds. He went into a coma and because of his organs shutting down over the next ten days he became bloated, retained fluids and gained some weight, but it’s inaccurate to imply that Atkins was an obese man. He wasn’t.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 3:36 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I understand that Atkins died of a head injury. The rest is still a heavily debated topic.

      • Liz October 20, 2013, 4:49 pm

        What do you mean “debated”? When people are on their “death bed” and their organs are shutting down and failing to work properly they fail to eliminate fluids from the body. You don’t need to “debate” this. It’s medical fact!

        • Tatum October 20, 2013, 10:35 pm

          Liz, people debate about whether a man really landed on the moon and whether the holocaust actually happened. For there to be a debate you simply need two or more sides with differing opinions. Unless you were the attending doctor in the hospital room when Dr. Atkins died we can compare our notes, theories and medical facts and have a spirited debate.

  • Brian Call October 20, 2013, 3:22 pm

    Hi Tatum. I’ve seen lots of material lately, pro and con for Paleo. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that for most people eating Paleo is an improvement from their previous standard American diet (SAD) and their bodies will respond appropriately (weight loss), in the beginning. It does not appear to be a sustainable lifestyle, health wise. As you know, the crazy amount of animal protein in the SAD is contributing to all of our health problems. Paleo does not address this, and many will up their protein intake on Paleo (we need WAY less, not more). What’s more, the emerging data on gut flora, the body’s inflammatory response and the effects of our overall systemic pH levels will no doubt reinforce what we already know. Plant-based, whole food nutrition is best for our health (and performance, Paleo-Crossfitters). Your post is well written and I agree with it all. Research supports your arguments. You gotta remember, people will always try to justify bacon 🙂

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 3:34 pm

      Thanks for your input Brian! I appreciate it

  • Stefani October 20, 2013, 4:01 pm

    One teaspoon of any fat source contains 38 calories of fat. That’s what fat is — fat. Lard, olive oil, coconut oil, shortening, margarine — all 38 calories of fat. It’s the quality of the fat that is important. This fact brings a lot to bear on your citation that increased fat intake is associated with increased risk of disease. Of course it is. But what kinds of fat are people eating and using in those studies? Most likely vegetable oils first and foremost and saturated fat second — and probably fried, too. Fried fats are incredibly toxic. It is unlikely the people in these studies are eating organic, whole, slow and low cooked animal products or fish or coconut oil or olive oil as their primary fat sources.

    Lots of other problems in your post abound. The paleo diet as a ‘diet’ was a term coined by Loren Cordain …. of course its not perfect, either. But I’m not a huge fan of trying to take down admittedly imperfect science with even worse science.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 4:49 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Stefani.

  • Nick October 20, 2013, 4:43 pm

    To all you Paleo-dorks… the fact that you think you need to eat like your 200M year old ancestors is ridiculous. Why dont you do a quick scan of your microbiota… it can change at the drop of a butter dollop. Forget the fact you are looking for vanity – lets look at what you are doing to the earth. Dont avoid what you truly feel when you eat nothing but meat that you had no energy use in acquiring. Dont fool yourself- too much of anything (meat included) is wrong on many levels and not in line with mortality- which I guess is the real reason to eat “Well”? The China Study is the undisputed epidemiological study of all time… try to polk holes in it but if you look at it, what its about and what era of techno it occurred- you would wise up.
    Dont defend Bacon either- its US CORPORATE BACON and always will be- b/c it must by USDA law go through a slaughterhouse. Only chickens can be self-slaughtered (harvested) on grounds with a permit. There is maybe a few farms where you can get “REAL” Bacon- and goodness, its still fat of a pig… so then you have to wonder, “what was that pig fed?” “was he happy?” – make fun all you want but its been shown time and time again- stress causes (not correlates) but causes all types of metabolic breakdowns.

    Ignore away- and do what you do, obviously there is no educating you further- the irony is… you can still slip on your head and die. Oh well.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 4:50 pm

      Great point about the USDA Nick. Thanks for your contribution to this lively discussion 🙂

    • Jacob S. October 21, 2013, 12:38 am

      Actually, The China Study has been debunked already:

      http://www.westonaprice.org/vegetarianism-and-plant-foods/the-china-study-myth

    • PaulL October 21, 2013, 1:39 am

      Starting out your response with an ad hominem attack on those you disagree with is a rather childish way to “contribute”. Not a single person here arguing the Pro-Paleo side of this debate has yet resorted to ad hominem attacks (there were a couple who were certainly less than civil in their tone). Why must you start out by attacking us with name calling?

    • Judith October 21, 2013, 4:59 am

      Nick, regarding “The China Study is the undisputed epidemiological study of all time”, here’s a well-referenced rebuttal widely respected as disputing it:
      http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

  • Nicholas HIll October 20, 2013, 8:33 pm

    What is evident in this article is the author’s emotional issues with this diet. As with every diet program I have studied over the last 35 years – People are emotional thus irrational when it comes to diet theory. I am not sure what is the best way for the human “animal’ to eat but I am quite sure that neither does anyone else. So many “experts” are out there telling us what we should or shouldn’t eat but there is always the other side of the argument. Most people are closed minded and ego-centric when it comes to nutrition. Are you?

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 9:55 pm

      So, to be emotional is to be irrational? That’s an interesting theory. I’d like to think I’m not closed minded which is why I named both the pros and the cons of the diet as I see them. But, you are of course welcome to make up your own mind about that. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      • PaulL October 21, 2013, 1:42 am

        Actually, yes (I’m incredibly pedantic). Emotion is the antithesis of reason. Reason is calculated, and fact-based. Emotion is not.

        However, there is a difference between an emotional (i.e. non-rational) response and a spirited, rational one. I believe we are mostly engaged in the later 🙂

        • Tatum October 21, 2013, 3:02 pm

          I would argue that we are all emotional beings, and if we’re not it’s probably due to a psychopath or sociopath disorder which affects one’s ability to feel. To be emotional is to be human.

          • PaulL October 22, 2013, 1:05 am

            I didn’t say we weren’t emotional, I said that emotion and reason are antithetical to each other in argument. Of course we’re emotional beings, but when arguing (in the classic sense of the word, i.e. debate) one should attempt to put their emotion aside and use reason. To not do is to lose the debate.

  • Lynn Allen October 20, 2013, 9:32 pm

    Atkins was neither obese nor had a history do heart attack when he died. Please read to the end of the article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/11/nyregion/just-what-killed-the-diet-doctor-and-what-keeps-the-issue-alive.html

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 9:50 pm

      Interesting article Lynn. Thanks for sharing.

  • Peter T October 20, 2013, 9:41 pm

    When I read all comments carefully, it seems that the nutty ones are coming out against Tatum. There seems to be a lot of irrationality on the side of the Paleo believers.

    • Tatum October 20, 2013, 9:56 pm

      Thanks very much for your comment Peter. I appreciate it.

    • PaulL October 21, 2013, 1:45 am

      Fascinating. How exactly do you define “irrationality”? I’ve read the same responses, and on average, they seem pretty rational, fact-based, and several provide references where one can find the source for the commenters position.

      My perspective is the opposite. The irrational ones are in support of Tatum’s posts and are (in fact) resorting to ad hominem attacks on us “nutty, irrational” folks.

  • Cassie October 21, 2013, 10:00 am

    Well, luckily for us, Sweden has taken the lead and done the research. And guess what? They are now recommending a low carb, high fat diet to their people. Why? Because after looking at over 16,000 studies, the science was undeniable. http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/sweden-becomes-first-western-nation-to-reject-low-fat-diet-dogma-in-favor-of-low-carb-high-fat-nutrition/

    • Tatum October 21, 2013, 2:07 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  • R.L. October 21, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I have eaten a paleo diet for over two years and do believe is easily sustainable for life. I agree with the comments made by PaulL and in addition I would say that almost all of the people I have conversed with who eat a paleo or primal diet, eat exclusively grassfed meat. Bacon with lashings of butter is only being consumed by the minority, as most paleo eaters have concerns about nitrates. I would also like to know which source was used to determine whether the majority of paleo eaters do not follow paleo as it was originally intended but take elements of it.

    • Tatum October 21, 2013, 2:07 pm

      Thanks for your comment. The source is my own observation and research both in person and online. I am not citing a study on how many people follow the diet exactly as intended, but rather my personal opinion based on what I’ve seen after years of blogging, personal training, and nutritional counseling. I understand that others disagree and respect their opinion.

  • Sirena October 21, 2013, 1:00 pm

    I really do like that people feel compelled to debate this and are passionate about what they eat!! I obviously hope it stays civil and feel sad that the anonymity of the Internet allows us to type into a comment what we would NEVER say to someone’s face. But overall I think Tatum is doing great work, and also receiving and deflecting criticism in an intelligent and dignified way. I hope this is a good sign that we are all passionate about nutrition, fitness, and remain committed to the quest to find the best diet for each of us as individuals- bacon for one, vegan another, each human animal a distinct and unique being!!

    • Tatum October 21, 2013, 2:00 pm

      Thanks for your feedback. I sincerely appreciate it. And, yes, I think passionate debate is good thing, and is best when it’s civil.

    • PaulL October 22, 2013, 1:14 am

      I agree 100% Sirena! Tatum is doing a fantastic job of remaining calm and responding with dignity and respect! I may not agree with her, but she certainly has earned my respect (for whatever that’s worth 🙂

      Let’s hope others follow our lead and keep it civil, for civil discourse is the only way any of us benefit!

      • Tatum October 22, 2013, 1:31 am

        Thanks Paul 🙂 You’ve added a lot to the conversation and set a positive tone. Thank you.

  • Willie Bee Ravenel October 23, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Well done, Tatum! Thanks for posting this.

    • Tatum October 23, 2013, 2:42 pm

      Thanks Willie!

  • PaulL October 23, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Tatum,

    Thought you might find this interesting in light of the recent conversation:

    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-saturated-fat-20131022,0,2193813.story#axzz2iYlg5r7i

    Also, check your ‘Other’ folder for FB messages 🙂

  • Leja October 24, 2013, 4:32 am

    Wow, while I don’t particularly have a strong opinion of the Paleo diet/lifestyle, I must say that there is some great opposing banter in this post, and (aside from a few comments) it is quite educational and informative on both sides! Great site! =)

    • Tatum October 24, 2013, 10:33 pm

      Thanks Leja!

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