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Old 03-11-2008, 09:17 AM   #1
Tim Comer
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Paleo Diet????

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As an Anthropologist, I find a couple of the claims about the PaleoDiet grossly erroneous.
I hope that i can make this quick, and i think that this topic might even deserve a thread to itself.

According to Dr. Ben Balzer, "There are races of people who are all slim, who are stronger and faster than us. They all have straight teeth and perfect eyesight. Arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, schizophrenia and cancer are absolute rarities for them. These people are the last 84 tribes of hunter-gatherers in the world. They share a secret that is over 2 million years old. Their secret is their diet- a diet that has changed little from that of the first humans 2 million years ago, and their predecessors up to 7 million years ago. Theirs is the diet that man evolved on, the diet that is coded for in our genes."

First, there are no "races of people". Secondly, the last 84 tribes that he speaks of (contemporary hunters and gatherer's) in no way represent analogs of our former human existence, and in fact have been economically, socially and environmentally marginalized or forced to assimilate and represent tremendous public health concern with respect to social health disparates. I am also unaware of any performance testing that defends the claim that they are in any way stronger and faster than people who have a contemporary diet.

He then goes on to discuss the breakthrough of cooking grains as a dietary innovation; which completely negates the claim that this diet is based on 7 million years of evolution; and in fact while cooking may serve as a cultural adaptation to decrease infectious disease and increase caloric intake (which is assumed to be limited but cannot be substantiated w/o a time machine) cooking food (in most cases) actually decreases it's nutritional value.
I can go on and on.
I just want to say that I agree that the modern diet is less than excellent for ourselves and the environment. And i also agree that any diet high in fiber low in saturated fat (etc.) with sufficient calories to meet your energy expenditure (depending on your goals) is probably healthy. If you are on this board and reading this, you are already healthier than the average person (maybe even more so than me) so don't let sway your nutritional choices.

I am just skeptical of any diet that evokes an evolutionary paradigm.

One diet that really goes nuts (pun intended) with the "Paleo" inspired diet is LifeFood. I am no expert on it but it inspired me to do more research on the whole Paleo food thing, and i have grown convinced that LifeFood makes the most whole hearted effort to mimic it.
For more information check out UFC fighter and Lifefood enthusiast Luke Cummo's website http://forum.lukecummo.com/index.php
(I am not suggesting that drinking Urine or harvesting gallstones is all that great either, just the evolutionary perspective is well applied)

(procrastinating from real anthropology)

Timmycomer
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Old 03-11-2008, 09:32 AM   #2
Scott Allen Hanson
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Re: Paleo Diet????

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Originally Posted by Tim Comer View Post
MOVED from the AlbanyCrossfit Logs... (self moderating)

One diet that really goes nuts (pun intended) with the "Paleo" inspired diet is LifeFood. I am no expert on it but it inspired me to do more research on the whole Paleo food thing, and i have grown convinced that LifeFood makes the most whole hearted effort to mimic it.
For more information check out UFC fighter and Lifefood enthusiast Luke Cummo's website http://forum.lukecummo.com/index.php
(I am not suggesting that drinking Urine or harvesting gallstones is all that great either, just the evolutionary perspective is well applied)

(procrastinating from real anthropology)

Timmycomer
I really don't see that this LifeFood diet is paleo at all. Meat ("flesh" in LifeFood lingo) is a primary, nutrient-dense food in virtually all hunter-gatherer societies. This looks more like a hybrid vegan-paleo-raw food diet.

Dr. Loren Cordain is considered by many to be the foremost authority on paleo diets. I encourage you to research his web-site here (WFS):

http://www.thepaleodiet.com/
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Old 03-11-2008, 09:39 AM   #3
Steven Quadros
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Re: Paleo Diet????

I have a vague interest in Anthropology, though I'm quite far from any level of expertise you might claim.

I also question the claims of many of these diets, especially when they devalue grains and the agricultural lifestyle and put on a pedestal the life of the Hunter Gatherer. One thing that is often not mentioned is the fact that with agriculture came the ability to support more people, and, just as, if not more importantly, people who could specialize. With this, conversely, came plenty of infectious desease, which was often more the result of great concentrations of people living together than of a change in diet. Of course people exposed to less disease, less frequently will probably be healthier, regardless of diet; their health does fade quite quickly once exposed, as evidenced by reoccuring incidences throughout history of foreign invaders from a populous society wiping out groups of native hunter gatherers with disease. More important than some other features of the Hunter Gatherer diet is its variety, which, because of availability and seasonal changes, is extremely varied.

I just finished reading "In defense of Food," by the same author who wrote "The Omnivore's Dilemma." His guidelines were quite simple; eat food, meaning eat things that one's great great grandmother would recognize as food; try to avoid things with huge lists of ingredients or with ingredients you can't pronounce or recognize; along with some others. It was a very interesting read if anyone cares to purchase it. There is quite a bit more in there, as well as some other equally important guidelines to eating, all of which were quite simple.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the Paleo diet, but to assume its superiority because someone claims, without knowing, that this is the diet primitive man strived on early in, and throughout- up until the adoption of agriculture- his evolution, is less than ideal.

Just food for thought, plenty scattered too, as well as influenced by Jared Diamond.

Last edited by Steven Quadros : 03-11-2008 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 03-11-2008, 10:08 AM   #4
Tim Donahey
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Re: Paleo Diet????

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Originally Posted by Tim Comer View Post
He then goes on to discuss the breakthrough of cooking grains as a dietary innovation; which completely negates the claim that this diet is based on 7 million years of evolution; and in fact while cooking may serve as a cultural adaptation to decrease infectious disease and increase caloric intake (which is assumed to be limited but cannot be substantiated w/o a time machine) cooking food (in most cases) actually decreases it's nutritional value.

Why would the innovation of cooking grains (a practice introduced less than 10,000 years ago) negate the diet practices of the past 7 millions years? On Paleo we don't eat grain... so I'm not sure I follow your argument there... that we shouldn't be cooking anything?

Raw or cooked foods isn't exactly what Paleo is about, it's about only eating foods that can be eaten in their raw state. Though cooking Paleolithic friendly food changes the micronutritional density, it doesn't change the macronutritional makeup (much) and doesn't affect how our body accept those foods... unlike, for example, cooking potatoes or grains, which greatly affects our bodies acceptance of those foods.

When he talks about cooking as an innovation, he isn't talking about killing off bacteria, but as a means of nuetralizing antinutrients, enzyme blockers, and other toxins. The point is that heat processing those foods not only doesn't erradicate the anti-nutrients, but we are exposing ourselves to a litany of side-effects by making them digestible.

I do understand that it is impossible to accuratley reproduce the diet of our ancestors due to regional variation and the extinct species that populated their menu, but we can safely say what we did not, and could not, safely eat; ie. grains, starches, sugar, soy, beans, milk, cheese, etc..., and also that we cannot safely eat them now.

Last edited by Tim Donahey : 03-11-2008 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 03-11-2008, 10:14 AM   #5
Emily Mattes
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Re: Paleo Diet????

I think the majority of the "evolutionary" claims of the Paleo Diet are crap, and based on a poor understanding of evolution and the development of human societies and agriculture. When people start referring to grains and certain foods as poisonous, I kind of stop listening.

BUT--I believe the Paleo Diet as a method to encourage people to eat healthier is fantastic. Like the Zone Diet, I don't think there's anything specifically metabolically or nutritionally magical about it, but it does encourage people to eat more nutrient-rich vegetables, more lean meats and healthy fats, and cut out the high-glycemic sugary crap. The "evolutionary proof" or "metabolic optimization" mishmosh is just background stuff that gets people to adopt a paradigm for reshaping how they think about food and their eating habits.
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:21 AM   #6
Brad Kuper
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Re: Paleo Diet????

Tim,

I appreciate much of what you are saying. The claims of any diet tend to be over-stated and although I follow a paleo diet I don't expect to be disease free for the rest of my life.

I will say that pretty much eliminating starches and grains from my diet and making fuits and veggies the staple of my diet has resulted in great results. I used to eat 8-10 servings of whole grains per day and about 5-6 servings of fruits and veggies per day along with meat sources. I was eating anywhere from 30-50 grams of fiber per day and my saturated fat intake was very low. Once I went paleo and increased fruits and veggies to 10-12 servings per day and eliminated the grains and even increased the saturated fat intake, the fat on my body started to melt and my strength and stamina remained.

I was skeptical of my own paleo experiment when I started ( I mean, how could whole grains be bad for me?) and have been very surprised at how well it has worked.
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:25 AM   #7
Tim Comer
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Re: Paleo Diet????

I got interested in this topic from discussions with my LifeFood friends.
They claim to eat things in their natural state (minimal processing/cooking), and the foods they exploit have been on this planet, virtually untouched for the vast majority of human evolutionary history.
They shy away from foods that have been manipulated by man through massive agricultural endeavors (rice, corn, grains, bananas) . They don't eat "flesh" because they believe that our body lack the apparatus to process it efficiently and on the more holistic side they think that these indigestible foodstuffs are equitable to drugs; rotting in our body and eliciting nasty physiological responses/addiction...

That is where i think they take a better stance on the whole "natural human diet" than what i have read about the PaleoDiet.

I offer this post as a way for us to educate each other and not trying to one up each other's loosely based arguments...

From what I have seen from the PaleoDiet blogs,sites etc. They make some claims/assumptions/generalizations about human history that are just false; and that is what i take issue with.
As this discussion evolves (ha), i hope to learn more and find some better resources; maybe even some tasty recipes.

cheers...
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:29 AM   #8
Tim Comer
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Re: Paleo Diet????

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Originally Posted by Scott Allen Hanson View Post

Dr. Loren Cordain is considered by many to be the foremost authority on paleo diets. I encourage you to research his web-site here (WFS):

http://www.thepaleodiet.com/
Thanks for the site, had some .pdfs that actually help in my (real) research...
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:32 AM   #9
Tim Donahey
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Re: Paleo Diet????

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Originally Posted by Tim Comer View Post
They claim to eat things in their natural state (minimal processing/cooking), and the foods they exploit have been on this planet, virtually untouched for the vast majority of human evolutionary history.
What was that about drinking Urine..?
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Old 03-11-2008, 12:18 PM   #10
Jason Ackerman
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Re: Paleo Diet????

I'm not very scientific (I'm glad we have Tim and Sue at Albany CrossFit). I will say, that how I feel, look, and perform better when I keep a low-carb (processed/grain), higher good Fat diet.

I will easily gain excess weight regardless of my energy output on a higher carb diet (that might be considered normal carb for most). But, I can eat almost as much as I'd like on a lower carb diet.
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