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Friday, October 28, 2011

An Anthropologist Discounts the Paleo Diet

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 8:16 AM

Sure, it looks tasty, but it wasn't all our Paleolithic ancestors ate.
  • Sure, it looks tasty, but it wasn't all our Paleolithic ancestors ate.

You've read about them: The dudes who eat raw meat just like the cavemen, the women who claim their genes clamor only for turkey, kale chips, and sugar-free soda. There's even a magazine devoted to "modern day primal living." On NPR's food blog, anthropologist Barbara King says, uh, how much do the paleo dieters know about paleolithic diets?

Not only were many hunter-forager diets almost entirely vegetarian, she argues, the idea that our bodies are programmed to thrive on lean meat and no sugar is kind of silly:

...Ancient hunter-gatherer groups adapted to local environments that were regionally and seasonally variable -- for instance, coastal or inland, game-saturated or grain-abundant (eating grains was not necessarily incompatible with hunter-gatherer living). Second, genes were not in control. People learned what worked in local context for survival and reproduction, and surely, just as in other primates, cultural traditions began to play a role in who ate what.

Just as importantly, King writes, a high-meat diet in the age of factory farming and thinning resources doesn't bode well for the planet. You can look at the past for lessons, but you have to be thinking of the future, too.

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