Against the grain,‘caveman’
diet theory gains traction

Agrowing number of adherents to the so-called ‘caveman’ diet contend that a return to the hunter-gatherer foods of the Stone Age — heavy on meats, devoid of most grains — could alleviate problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes and many coronary problems.



By (AFP)

Published: Sat 17 Sep 2011, 11:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:55 AM

The Paleo diet movement is backed by some academics and fitness gurus, and has gained some praise in medical research in the US and elsewhere even though it goes against recommendations of most mainstream nutritionists and government guidelines.

Loren Cordain, a professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University, said he believes millions in the United States and elsewhere are following the Paleo diet movement, based on sales of books such as his own and Internet trends.

“It was an obscure idea 10 years ago, and in the last two to three years it has become known worldwide,” Cordain, the leading academics backing the Paleo diet, told AFP.

“There are at least a half-dozen books on the best seller list that are promoting this,” he added. The underlying basis for the Stone Age diet is a belief that homo sapiens evolved into modern humans with a hunter-gatherer diet that promoted brain function and overall health. Backers say the human genome is essentially unchanged from the end of the Paleolithic era 10,000 years ago after evolving over millions of years.

“It’s intuitive,” Cordain said. “Obviously you can’t feed meat to a horse, you can’t feed hay to a cat. The reason for that is that their genes were shaped in different ecological niches.”

He said peer-reviewed research has shown the Paleo diet better than the Mediterranean diet, US government recommendations and diets aimed at controlling adult diabetes.

One study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology showed a Paleolithic diet “improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a diabetes diet.”

A Swedish study published in the Journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that a Stone Age diet is “more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet,” making it something to be considered in fighting obesity.

Some aspects of the Paleo diet are widely accepted, such as shunning many refined and processed starches and sugars in favour of fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables. But the controversy stems from its elimination of most cereals, legumes and dairy products, relying instead on high-protein meats, fish and eggs.

The Paleo diet has a devoted following, some who link it to improved fitness and longevity, including Arthur De Vany, a 74-year-old former economics professor who promotes vigorous workouts and wrote a 2010 book, “The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging.”

“Our forager ancestors sought out high-energy (meaning high-calorie, high-fat) foods that could be obtained at the lowest energy cost,” De Vany says in his book.

“We began getting heavier and developing new diseases once we ceased to be hunter-gatherers and instead became farmers — or more specifically once we started eating the food we grow rather than gathering food.”

But a US News survey of nutritionists ranked the Paleo diet last among 20 possible options, far below the Mediterranean, vegan or Weight Watchers diets. It noted that the Paleo diet gets 23 per cent of calories from carbohydrates compared to 45 to 65 per cent in US government recommendations, and that the Stone Age regime is higher than recommended for protein and fat.


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