There’s a video that has been floating around the interwebs recently. Christina Warinner, an anthropologist at the University of Oklahoma, gave a Tedx talk on “Debunking the Paleo Diet”that had me yelling out-loud as I listened to it during the 12 hour drive to Iowa last weekend.
I was annoyed, then angry then downright confused at the point she was trying to make. So I thought I would Debunk this Debunking, while also showing that what she ends up describing as an ideal diet, from an anthropological sense, IS the Paleo Diet.
First Problem: Warinner seemed to get hung up on the idea that people who eat Paleo think they are literally eating the exact food that people in the paleolithic era ate. She completely misses the point that the Paleo Diet is a logical framework, not a historical reenactment. (Thanks Rob Wolf)
Second Problem: Warinner refers to Paleo as a diet fad. Paleo is, in fact, considered a life style. The main purpose is not to loose weight, as is pretty much the definition of a diet fad, but in fact a way to regulate digestion and maximize nutrient absorption. She also claims it has been around since the 70’s. While a version of the Paleo diet has been, the most recent contemporary version, made famous by Dr. Loren Cordain/CrossFit increased the recommended carb ration to 30%, not 20% as was originally claimed. She also claims that there is no scientific proof that the Paleo diet is beneficial. That is simply not true.
Third Problem: Warinner seems to have a personal problem with meat being eaten. She makes it seem as if all Paleo people eat is red meat, without discussing the balance between red meat and lean meat, as well as getting at least 30% of your diet from vegetables/fruits. She then talks about how Paleolithic people would have consumed meat, and the whole animal, because it is ao nutrient rich. Paleolithic people would have gotten more nutrients from a handful of meat (including vitamin C) than a hand full of barely. Even after that contradictory statement she tries to justify the difference by saying that the meat eaten is not true to Paleo as Paleolithic people would have eaten the bone marrow as well. Obviously she has never opened a Paleo cookbook, as there are always recipes for bone marrow.
Fourth Problem: Warinner claims it is impossible to eat Paleo as the plants have evolved/been breed out since then. Therefore, eating broccoli today isn’t the exact same as eating Paleolithic broccoli. Well, no shit, Sherlock. I don’t expect to be eating the exact same plant as someone who lived 10,000 years ago. The point is to try to get the most natural vegetables and fruits that you can, free of pesticides.
Fifth “Problem”: At the end of the talk, Warinner describes what she believes to be an ideal diet, oh, wait it’s a Paleo Diet. She talks about how modern diets contain high levels of soy and wheat and are highly processed and harmful to one’s health. She then recommends eating a diet rich in natural fruits, vegetables, and meats. A diet rich in variety, with limited processed foods. DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR? Oh, maybe because it’s the basis of the Paleo Diet. She uses examples of modern processed foods and how unnatural they are. For instance, to consume the same amount of sugar in one coke you would have to eat 8 feet of sugar cane.
No. Overall, Warinner’s talk does not make sense, is poorley researched, and seems to be constructed solely based on her distaste for the name “Paleo” as the idea behind it. I know that there are plenty of people who have issues with Paleo, and I respect that. There are people who have “scientific evidence” against any way of eating, from vegetarian to Atkins to Gluten Free to the normal American Diet. I am pro Paleo solely based on my own experiments with different types of eating and how they have made me feel.
I also can understand an anthropologist not liking the term Paleo, and having issue with the idea that people during the Paleolithic period had various diets depending on where they lived. That’s the truth. However, that doesn’t mean you are “debunking” the Paleo Diet, the reasoning behind it or the benefits of an unprocessed diet, by telling me that no northern paleolithic people would have eaten Avocado and therefore the whole Paleo Diet is debunked. Homie don’t play that. Next time, do proper research first, Dr. Christina Warinner.