The Paleo Diet

Friday, November 08, 2013

John Durant, a proponent of the Paleo Diet, argues for an evolutionary approach to health. His new book The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health looks at the health secrets of our ancient ancestors. He address what we eat and why we eat it, the purpose of exercise and functional movement, and how to lead a healthy, purposeful life.


John Durant

Comments [43]

M. David from USA

Hey! i have got idea about paleo diet.
Thanks for your blog

Jan. 02 2014 10:21 AM
dave K from Manhattan

If the following quote from above is true:
"The original edition endorses unlimited amounts of margarine (pg. 137), diet soda (p. 136), artificial sweeteners (p. 136), and artificially-sweetened gelatin dessert (p. 136), and has diet soda listed as a suggested beverage at nearly every meal."; I wish I had read the Atkins diet long ago and been satisfied that Americans are the dumbest population of pathetic consumers the earth may ever know.
The level of retardation inflicted by Madison Avenue is unforgivable.

Nov. 15 2013 03:29 AM
A. Scientist

@ Paleohuman
Clearly, YOU are not a biochemist (or any other sort of chemist). Do you have any idea what a ketone is (or are you throwing around big words to sound impressive)? An organic chemistry class would be good for you, but failing that why don’t you read the Wikipedia article on ketones…? What on earth do you mean about people not needing metal tools back when times were simpler? If that is true why did the stone-age American Indians so eagerly adopt metal cutting tools and metal pots? How about a bit of critical thinking once and a while…? Also, to which modern hunter-gathers from “African jungles” are you referring? I agree with you last point “…just because it's natural doesn't make it good and just because it's good doesn't make it natural,” but understand how that supports the philosophy of the paleodiet.

PS No, I could go on about this idiocy. I am for health eating but against feeding people BS.

Nov. 14 2013 06:41 PM

@illfg: whatever Atkins (or his ghostwriter) may *later* have said in "Atkins for Life," the original Atkins diet (as promulgated in the 1972 first edition of "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution") has everything to do with limiting carbs (first eliminating them, and then reintroducing them in very limited quantities), and nothing at all to do with eliminating processed foods or eating real, high-quality food. The original edition endorses unlimited amounts of margarine (pg. 137), diet soda (p. 136), artificial sweeteners (p. 136), and artificially-sweetened gelatin dessert (p. 136), and has diet soda listed as a suggested beverage at nearly every meal. He weighed in against some processed meats, but only because many of them contained carbohydrates as fillers (remember, the Nutrition Facts label would not exist for another 20 years, so consumers couldn't tell whether they had such fillers or not just from looking at the package). And are pork rinds not processed foods? And what about all the highly-processed Atkins brand meal replacement bars, frozen entrees, etc that he was selling in the last few years of his life at the height of the Atkins craze?

Nov. 12 2013 11:39 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

tom LI , guess the Paleo-diet is a slob diet.

Nov. 08 2013 05:56 PM

To: A Scientist- Are you done?
Lets get one thing strait, if you were a biochemist, you would understand how the body process all the different macronutrients, and even further how our bodies process each different type of these macronutrients. It is pretty conclusive when you look how our cells react to running on mostly (obviously not only, because we are constantly burning a mix of all three fuel sources, and those vary depending on the type of activity or lack there of we are doing) ketones for energy, and how our bodies react when we do not eat enough fat. If fact- you cannot live without fat or protein, yet for a period (much longer than most would think) you can live very healthfully on nothing but fat and protein. If one looks at modern hunter-gatheres some eat a very high carbohydrate diet (45% or more), but these people are most commonly live in places where plant life persists through out the year, like say the African jungles. No one in the paleo community is saying we can replicate what ancient humans ate, but like John points out in his book, mimicking it the best we can seems to help a lot of people with chronic illness. "A piece of romaine lettuce looks a lot more like an African plant than a gorilla biscuit." You would know this if you were not so busy ranting and actually read the book.
Also, No one is saying that everything from the past is great, but there are indeed things we can look at to better our health in modern times. Why did we use stone tools for so long? Simply put all life needs to do is reproduce and carry on. If there is no pressure (since there were so few humans and competing species) there was simply no need. Why is anything invented- it has a purpose. It doesn't have to be intentional (teflon was a total mistake) but it has a purpose (lots actually). Anthropologist would agree on something you are missing technological determinism. You're being judgmental about a culture based on there technological "advancement", since your bringing up fallacies and all. The road goes both ways, just because it's natural doesn't make it good and just because it's good doesn't make it natural.
I digress life calls, but I had to vent at your venting.

Nov. 08 2013 04:54 PM
Milos from Queens

Dear A Scientist,

There's so much hard science being done in this field that it would be impossible to describe it all here. Instead, to begin to answer your questions regarding the "toxins" (more accurately called anti-nutrients) found in grains, such as alkylresorcinols, alpha-amylase inhibitors, protease Inhibitors and lectins, I'm providing herein a link to Dr. Loren Cordain's research paper entitled "Cereal Grains: Humanity's Double-Edged Sword," published in 1999:

Nov. 08 2013 04:30 PM
A. Scientist

Part II (since my comment was too long)

Why does Mr. Durant focus on the diet (not that there was just one) of Paleolithic humans. Why not the Mesolithic as well? What is the difference? Isn’t he just concerned with the pre-agricultural diet? I’m going to guess it’s because he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about there, but perhaps I’m selling him short.
What plants does Mr. Durant suggest we eat? Obviously, we cannot eat any domesticated plants since they simply did not exist during the Paleolithic. We would then be restricted to only wild species? Is it lost on Mr. Durant that our domesticated fruits have, in general, higher concentrations of sugar than the wild forms? Does he realize that many of our domesticated plants have had their toxicity bred out? For example, you cannot eat wild squashes because of the presence of the extremely bitter and poisonous compound cucurbitacin?
Sugar exists in our food. When people talk about refined sugar, they are talking sugars that have been extracted from a plant, concentrated, and purified. Refined sugar is not made in a lab. It is the same sugar that you would get from a plant! The difference is the concentration and purity not the compound.
Hunter-gathers have and those few that still exist do rely heavily on seeds. Why Mr. Durant discounts that lines of evidence while promoting others I have no idea. He simply states that seeds have toxins…. Is there any reason to believe that all seeds of the ca. 300,000 named species of extant seed plants are the same? I love it when people throw out the word "toxins." What toxins? What are the actual compounds? I am suspicious that people who have a loose (or no) grasp on science but don’t want you to eat something immediately turn to the “toxins” boogieman when they have no evidence to support their beliefs. Sure many seeds do contain toxic compounds, cyanide being a great example, but others simply do not. We know because we can analyze the chemicals in the seeds!
Yes we have diet related health problems in the US today, but they are not a result of the fact that we don’t eat like hunter-gathers. I think it’s because many people eat a calorie-rich nutrient-poor diet, that they consume more calories than they need, and they do not exercise to offset their gluttony.

Nov. 08 2013 03:21 PM
A. Scientist

I don’t really have time to put together a coherent critique of this silliness, so here are a smattering of my thoughts.
I have never understood why your average (or even educated as Mr. Durant claims to be with his reference to his time in college) American has no or very little understanding of science. How many of the audience of this show can really explain the process of evolution? I can, but of course I am a college professor with a PhD in evolutionary biology!
My major problem with these types of crazy diets (no, it wasn’t lost on me that Mr. Durant decried other diets as crazy but his own of course isn’t…) is that they are based on logical fallacies. It is, of course, ludicrous to think that just because something was done in the past, it was better than what is done now or that it is even efficacious. Think of all the myths and folklore that we immediately discount. Does anyone still believe that you will die from the scream of mandrake if you pull it from the ground? Why then would the diet of ancient people be better just because it is old? As a scientist I would venture to suggest that we should base our judgment of the quality of a diet on how well it meets our nutritionally needs. This can, in fact, be measured (giant shocker to people who don’t understand science). I am suspicious that Mr. Durant has simply picked the Paleolithic diet because he has a feeling that what the ancient and wise people of our grand past did was better simply because they did it and we don’t. But, how about we answer some real questions about the Paleolithic? How long did your average Paleolithic human live. From what did s/he die? How enjoyable was Paleolithic life? If they were so wise and smart, why did they use stone tools? The thing about science is that we can’t just make statements because the information would support our ideas. We can only form our ideas based on the data we have. How does Mr. Durant know the we lost four or five inches of height and that our dentition go worse when we switched from being hunter-gathers to being herders and farmers? Where does that data come from? Also, contrary to what Mr. Durant implied, we didn’t immediately build cities when we made that switch. Has he ever thought about nomadic herders? They don’t have cities….

Nov. 08 2013 03:20 PM
Kate from New York

My husband and I did the Paleo diet for 4 months and tried to really monitor our health and how we felt. We lost flab easily and had much more energy, clearer skin, and little to no cravings. This diet makes sense. Do what you can: eat a lot of fresh, local, healthy fruits and vegetables, some nuts and seeds, and a some meat. We weren't meat obsessed and made the switch to purchasing humanely-raised meat.

One great thing about Paleo is that is does open you up to new food sources and forces some creativity in the kitchen if you're a foodie like me. Also, being on paleo made it clear that I have some serious food allergies including gluten and lactose. Without paleo, I would have a much harder time diagnosing these two allergies.

There's no reason to "disprove" this diet. It's pretty logical: eat fresh, eat natural, and eat as little processed food as possible. That's just common sense. I don't understand why people get up-in-arms about paleo or any diet. It's up to you and you alone how you eat and how you educate yourself what to eat.

Nov. 08 2013 01:48 PM
Zack from nj

@Truth & Beauty

You're talking semantics. Human ancestors is more accurate.

Nov. 08 2013 01:12 PM
Zack from nj


You are confused. You are talking about social and psychological evolution. John Durant and the Paleo diet relies on physiological evolution. You can't will that stuff to happen. You can't tell your body it can process something millions of years of adaptation says it can't and vice versa.

Nov. 08 2013 01:10 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ Zack from nj: We evolved, but before we were human beings - homo sapiens - we were another species. Homo sapiens have not been around for over 2 million years, which is what the guest claimed.

Nov. 08 2013 01:09 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ illfg: They didn't write it; they lived it.

Nov. 08 2013 01:06 PM

@ Zack. i disagree with you. and no one said anything about "will" but you.

i believe our job as higher, more developed animals is to evolve, as we have been -- and that means socially, psychologically, and in every other way. unevolved cultures say that a girl is ready to be taken by a man for child-bearing sex as soon as she menstruates. but i don't believe we look towards backwards cultures to go forward.

each to his own.

Nov. 08 2013 01:06 PM
tom LI

Taher - those studies are using forced protein intakes. Not from normal eating regimines. No one - but slobs - can take in that much protein.

Nov. 08 2013 01:05 PM
Zack from nj

@Truth & Beauty-

"Mr. Lopate: Your guest just claimed that human beings have been eating meat for a considerably longer time than human beings have actually inhabited this planet. Aren't you supposed to fact check him on this stuff?"

Humans didn't just magically appear. We evolved from other primates. The ones that began eating meat eventually became homo sapiens. Please understand the concepts of evolution to understand how it fits into this conversation.

Nov. 08 2013 01:01 PM
tom LI

illfg - wrong again. There were the hippies of the 60s who dropped out...there was many subculture groups LONG before them and Atkins - who were promoting "real" foods over industrialized foods. Farmers, people who live away from the rest of us who still eat only what they can take from the land. Or trade with others....

You're simply wrong, illfg!

One need not write a book to claim invention, which in itself is a goofy idea, that Atkins invented/discovered a normal-natural way for humans to eat! He was simply one among many over the last 4+ decades pointing to the atrocity that is industrialized food products.

Nov. 08 2013 01:00 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Paleolithic diet is a fantasy. The heavy reliance on meat is false according Paleoarchaeology.
Hunting for meat was not an easy task and hence the heavy eating of meat was not as frequent as it this diet makes it. There is also evidence that ancient humans were aware that an overload of more then 50% protein can be damaging. Indeed to the kidneys.

Nov. 08 2013 01:00 PM
DuchessofNYC from alphabet city

Pls ask Paleo guy how eating this diet is in ANY way sustainable for the planet?? Ok, for some people with diseases who can't handle grains and legumes or starches, but to advocate this diet as "enlightened" strikes me as the height of privilege. Meat eating requires far more resources than other food sources, even locally sourced pasture raised boutique meat.

Nov. 08 2013 12:59 PM
Zack from nj

@ illfg

He did, but so did Weston A Price before him. I'm not knocking Dr. Atkins, but he wasn't first

Nov. 08 2013 12:59 PM
Ana from UWS

Nonsense about veganism and deficiencies. I'm all for eliminating bread d but what about the environmental impact of eating meat, even if non-industrially produced?

Nov. 08 2013 12:58 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Mr. Lopate: Your guest just claimed that human beings have been eating meat for a considerably longer time than human beings have actually inhabited this planet. Aren't you supposed to fact check him on this stuff?

Nov. 08 2013 12:57 PM
Zack from nj

@ gakyi

"personally, i believe our job is to evolve."

Um... no it isn't. Our job is to survive and pass down our genes. You can't just will evolution to happen.

Nov. 08 2013 12:57 PM

Zack from nj - yes but Dr. Atkins brought the concept of eating real foods and lowering our intake of garbage to the masses. Everyone knows Dr. Atkins.

Nov. 08 2013 12:54 PM

um the atkins diet isnt about eliminating carbohydrates. read Atkins for life. Its about elinimating process foods and about eating real, high quality food. your guest isnt familiar with dr atkins research and books.

Nov. 08 2013 12:53 PM
Paulina from south plainfield

My husband and I have been on Paleo for the past 2 months and we have never felt better.

Nov. 08 2013 12:53 PM

Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn - um, unless a caveman wrote the book, you are wrong. the paleo diet is a guestimate. my point is dr. atkins was the first to say only eat REAL food.

Nov. 08 2013 12:51 PM

Durant begins by talking about the insanity of all the different diets he heard about in school -- and yet, the idea that we should look to the habits of ancient cave people to guide us as we evolve forward apparently he believes is quite sane.

should our views of everything, for example, romance and family life, be guided by cave people as well?

personally, i believe our job is to evolve.

glad he sees that the dairy of other animals is a strange thing for humans to be consuming.

Nov. 08 2013 12:51 PM

Hey! I've got an idea. How about whole, unprocessed, non industrial foods instead of fetishized, catch-phrased nonsense??

Nov. 08 2013 12:51 PM
Zack from nj

@ illfg

way before him was weston a price

Nov. 08 2013 12:50 PM
tom LI

I've been slowly incorporating this approach to my own food intake (never say diet!) and my only issue with the premise is the idea that we humans stopped evolving and remained "stuck" in one place millions of years ago.

I never bought into the fat is bad rhetoric. Yummy fat from real sources is manna!
I'm fit, 50, and still improving...

Nov. 08 2013 12:50 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ illfg: "The predecessor for the Paleo diet is the Atkins diet."

I hardly think so. The Paleoliths preceded Dr. Atkins by thousands of years.

Nov. 08 2013 12:48 PM

Can someone please address the fact that the atkins diet IS the same thing, with the exception that dairy is not excluded for the average person. Read his book. Again, vegetables, nuts, meats and seafood, eggs. all in there.

Nov. 08 2013 12:48 PM

A recent report claims that paleostinian diet is high in polonium.

Nov. 08 2013 12:48 PM


Nov. 08 2013 12:47 PM
BD from Manhattan

With diets like these, what do they recommend for people who can't eat seafood?

Nov. 08 2013 12:47 PM

the vegans are gonna love this segment. good luck with your tree bark and tofu.

Nov. 08 2013 12:17 PM

can someone please address the fact that Dr. Atkins led the charge on dietary change for REAL food and diets based on traditional foods. The predecessor for the Paleo diet is the Atkins diet.

Nov. 08 2013 12:16 PM
Milos from Queens

It's fascinating to me that even before the segment has aired, we have a comment from someone telling us that the Paleo diet has no evidence to support it. This would be simply amusing if it weren't so profoundly false.

Anyway, I was writing to concur with MichaelWNYC that the modern "founder" of the Paleo diet is not John Durant, but Dr. Loren Cordain of Colorado State University. Not to disparage Durant, however, who I'm now looking forward to listening to and learning from.

Lastly: thank you for finally discussing the Paleo diet on your show. Enough with the marginalization of this important contribution to health and well being.

Nov. 08 2013 12:14 PM

MichaelWNYC: Thanks for the catch! We realized our error only after the promo was recorded.

Nov. 08 2013 11:07 AM

The promo spots for this intro have said that John Durant was the "founder" or "inventor" of the Paleo diet. Long before him, Loren Cordain at Colorado State was a major promoter of Paleo, and the person responsible for its contemporary revival was Boyd Eaton, via a 1985 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine:

The general Paleo idea had also had its proponents even before then, such as The Stone Age Diet, by Dr. Walter Voegtlin, published in 1975.

Nov. 08 2013 10:28 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says there's little if any evidence to support the claims made for the Paleo diet:

Nov. 08 2013 09:47 AM

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