The so-called palaeodiet, and now even the palaeo-epigenetic diet, has come under a lot of scrutiny of late for making wild and unsubstantiated claims and for being downright dangerous to our health.
I think its fair to ask if we’re serious about the palaeolifestyle, then just how far are we prepared to take this obsession with our Stone Age heritage and its claimed benefits?
If it really offers a panacea for good health, shouldn’t we all become cave dwellers again and consume the full variety of foods our ancestors actually ate?
Are we really willing to eat the ‘real’ palaeodiet, even if it means munching on grandma when she passes away?
Being Preyed Upon By Palaeodieters
Palaeodiet advocates prey on the deep-seated anxieties we all share about health and longevity, as well as our cultural fixation with body image, and the idea of naturalness and a sentimental connection to our past.
Its highly selective and unscientific interpretations of human biology should be a massive pause for thought.
But, of course, this is a naïve view of the real world: the fad diet industry makes its money from sales fuelled by ill-informed celebrity endorsements and publishing companies that fail to give health claims proper scrutiny.
And, importantly, making cash from diets that by their very nature cannot work is what the fad diet industry is ultimately all about.
If these diets did work then there’d be no industry because we’d all be following the successful one, instead of shifting diets every year or so to follow the latest fad, forking out large sums of cash as we do.
And let’s not be under any illusions here, the palaeodiet segment of the fad diet industry is worth a lot of money: according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the on-line book shop Amazon has holdings of around 5,000 titles on the palaeodiet alone.
Where’s The Science
I’ve written previously about some of the problems with the palaeodiet and palaeolifestyle fad from a human evolutionary and anthropological viewpoint.
It’s also the subject of one of the episodes of my UNSWTV YouTube series, How did we get here?
How did we get here? The Palaeodiet fad.
Last year the Dieticians Association of Australia criticised the palaeodiet for being unhealthy and going against best nutritional science, opening themselves up to an angry tirade on social media.
Earlier this year, the Association of UK Dieticians didn’t pull any punches in its assessment of the palaeodiet either, describing it as, “An unbalanced, time consuming, socially isolating diet, which this could easily be, is a sure-fire way to develop nutrient deficiencies, which can compromise health and your relationship with food.”
A common criticism I have received in the comments left after my article and film is that I’m missing the point about the palaeodiet, that its apparently about eating ‘real food’ and rejecting government guidelines like the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, which apparently haven’t worked.
Putting aside the fact that most people don’t or have never properly followed government guidelines anyway, the palaeodiet is not unique in suggesting that people ‘just eat food’.
The journalist and author Michael Pollan, among others, has been saying this for almost a decade, nothing palaeo about his ideas though; and neither did his nor my grandmother live in a cave.
The ‘Real’ Palaeodiet?