Living Now - - Diet -

A ‘magic bul­let’ diet is an ap­proach to eat­ing with huge herds of fol­low­ers declar­ing that, ‘Ev­ery­one should eat this way to be the health­i­est they can be’. Here’s how to spot them:


En­thu­si­asts of the diet / su­per­food / in­gre­di­ent claim it cures ev­ery­thing – from chronic dis­eases, to skin con­di­tions, and even psy­cho­log­i­cal or stress-re­lated dis­or­ders.

Ac­cord­ing to one top pa­leo diet web­site, “Eat­ing like this is ideal for main­tain­ing a healthy me­tab­o­lism and re­duc­ing in­flam­ma­tion within the body. It’s good for body com­po­si­tion, en­ergy lev­els, sleep qual­ity, men­tal at­ti­tude and qual­ity of life. It helps elim­i­nate su­gar crav­ings and re-es­tab­lishes a healthy re­la­tion­ship with food. It also works to min­imise your risk for a whole host of life­style dis­eases and con­di­tions, like di­a­betes, heart at­tack, stroke and au­toim­mune.” That’s quite an ex­ten­sive list! While it might do some of these for some peo­ple, is it fair to say it has these ef­fects on ev­ery sin­gle per­son who goes on the diet? My pa­tients say oth­er­wise.


There is of­ten sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to back up these di­ets. Some of it is su­per solid, and some of it is any­thing but. Many pa­leo stud­ies are ex­tremely short term,

and while there’s the ar­gu­ment of ‘2 mil­lion years of evo­lu­tion­ary ev­i­dence’ al­ways wait­ing in the shad­ows, the items I see pa­leo-ists eat­ing usu­ally do not re­sem­ble any­thing that I imag­ine a pa­le­olithic per­son in any re­gion of the world would have eaten. At­lantic salmon cou­pled with or­ganic pro­duce from dif­fer­ent parts of the world, with raw pa­leo brown­ies for dessert sounds any­thing but pa­le­olithic to me. There are very few stud­ies done on the ben­e­fits of a 100% raw food diet, and none done on its long-term sus­tain­abil­ity.

The funny thing about sci­en­tific ev­i­dence is that, if you look hard enough, you can find ev­i­dence for which­ever ar­gu­ment you de­cide to take, whether it’s pa­leo or the ex­act op­po­site – a high car­bo­hy­drate, low to no an­i­mal pro­tein, plant-based ve­gan ap­proach.

The work of Colin Camp­bell and Card­well Es­sel­styn ex­em­pli­fies the many ben­e­fits of such a diet. Their stud­ies are prob­a­bly the most com­pre­hen­sive and sci­en­tif­i­cally valid of the lot. It still doesn’t make them per­fect and fail­proof, how­ever. I’ve seen peo­ple on a ve­gan diet suf­fer, the same way I’ve seen pa­leo peo­ple and raw food­ists suf­fer. Not ev­ery­one does well on a 100% ve­gan diet, the same way not ev­ery­one suits a high an­i­mal pro­tein diet.


The flyer at a pa­leo cafe I en­joy at­tend­ing says the pa­leo diet “avoids dairy, grains, legumes, added sug­ars and preser­va­tives, which our bod­ies were not de­signed to di­gest”

Re­ally? What about the tra­di­tional cul­tures who adapted to di­gest­ing lac­tose and have lived for centuries eat­ing cul­tured raw milk prod­ucts, like the Abkhasians of Rus­sia? Or the myr­iad tra­di­tional cul­tures that eat legumes and grains on a daily ba­sis – In­di­ans with rice and dahl, or na­tive Cen­tral Amer­i­cans with maize and beans? You could hardly ar­gue that these guys – when left in their tra­di­tional set­tings – are un­healthy.

The same ap­plies with hard core raw food­ists and ve­g­ans. ‘ We weren’t meant to eat cooked food.’ We don’t have the cor­rect length di­ges­tive tract or teeth to di­gest meat.’ While it’s easy to find some form of ev­i­dence for some of these state­ments, they are still sweep­ing state­ments – they sim­ply don’t work for EV­ERY­ONE.

The pa­leo, i.e., ‘what cave­men ac­tu­ally ate’ as­pect is ar­guably just its hook and un­der­pin­ning prin­ci­ple; a clever mar­ket­ing tool. It’s not a pa­leo la­bel that will make you healthy. Rather, any suc­cess that comes does so be­cause ul­ti­mately it pro­motes eat­ing lots of fresh veg­eta­bles, and avoid­ing pro­cessed food where pos­si­ble.

At­lantic salmon cou­pled with or­ganic pro­duce from dif­fer­ent parts of the world, with raw pa­leo brown­ies for dessert sounds any­thing but pa­le­olithic to me.

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