Paleo Diet: Fraud, Fad or The Real Deal?

Why is Paleo even a trend? Who makes money from Paleo? I tried Paleo and hated it – M. A.

By Judith Kingsbury

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Dear Savvy Vegetarian,

I’m in Canada, so we’re a little “behind the times” with the latest trends.

We’re getting inundated with the paleo diet and supposed research about fat and meat and wheat. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a lot of quoting from two doctors, Perlmutter and Davis.

Having both parents who were diabetic and reading about low carbs aiding diabetics, I’m kind of ashamed to say, I gave it a try…for three weeks.

Yes, I lost some weight before I plateaued 8 days in.

Yes, food cravings went away.

Yes, “regularity” went away and I felt gross, conflicted and poorer.

Yes, I ate a lot of fresh low carb veg on the paleo thing, but then I always eat lots of fresh veg.

Although they recommend only eating organically grown animals, I think that most people would not be able to afford that.

The sound bite on this is I tried Paleo and hated it.

So here is my question:

Why is Paleo even a trend? I always think “Follow the money” when new trends come out and I can’t help but wonder if the beef industry is financing this? Do you have any insights into this issue?

Oh, and the one thing I really, really missed during those three weeks?

OATMEAL! – M.A.

Dear M.A., I’ve been wondering about Paleo too.

I don’t know about insights, but I do have theories and opinions.

First, why IS the Paleo Diet a trend? It’s a bit of a mystery, but some think that Paleo is a replacement for the Atkins diet, which has been thoroughly discredited.

Some people still believe in Atkins, but since they can’t admit it without looking foolish, the eat-tons-of-bacon-and-butter diet has to have a different rationale.

I think it goes deeper than that. With its emphasis on local, organic, grass fed, unprocessed, home made food, the Paleo diet harks back to what many see as a simpler, better time in our evolution, when man lived in harmony with nature, and ate directly from the land.

The theory behind Paleo is that this is how our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago: lots of meat, low starch veggies and no grains, even though it’s anybody’s guess what people in general actually ate back then.

That of course would vary with geography, climate, tools, skills, and circumstances – which are mostly lost in the mists of time.

It’s human nature to simplify or just make up whatever suits our purposes, and ignore any contrary evidence such as that people farmed in the Paleolithic era or lived mainly on nuts, berries, starchy roots and bugs.

But we aren’t quite the same as our 10,000 year old ancestors. We don’t have the same foods, and we don’t live the same way. Call me skeptical, but I doubt that Paleolithic cooks baked sweet bread with four cups of almond meal, a big glob of coconut oil, and coconut sugar. That’s OUR idea of Paleo!

A more sinister aspect of the Paleo diet is the emphasis on meat. Somehow saying that it’s what our ancestors ate sanctifies meat eating, and gives an excuse to continue.

In my vegan opinion, it’s not O.K. to eat lots of meat if it’s organic and grass fed. That still contributes to animal cruelty, environmental destruction and global warming, and it’s still bad for your health.

But hey, faith trumps science these days, right?

Low Carb Diets and Diabetics:


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Low carb diets do aid diabetics – and help high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, cancer etc. That’s partly true. Refined or processed carbs like sugar and flour (even whole grain flour) are not good to eat.

But even diabetics can eat some whole unprocessed grains or pseudo grains because there’s plenty of fiber, and the grains digest slowly and release sugars slowly.

But most doctors don’t seem to know this, so why should the average Joe believe it? Why not just believe that the Paleo diet cures everything?

Follow the Money:

I wonder too – who’s making money from the Paleo Diet? It makes people eat more meat, but emphasizes pasture raised local organic meat and perhaps even wild game meat (hunted barefoot with a spear?), which doesn’t really benefit the industrial meat industry.


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Maybe the meat industry is hoping you’ll start off trying to eat organic pasture fed meat, then go broke and go back to the meat counter at your local grocery store. A plausible scenario.

I googled “who makes money from the Paleo diet?”, and found many articles about how expensive it is, and how to spend less money on a Paleo diet.

It looks like the “healthy fat” sellers (coconut oil, olive oil, butter, lard …) could be making money from the Paleo diet, and people writing Paleo books and articles, giving Paleo lectures and seminars.

The grain growers and sellers are not making money from the Paleo diet, because we’re supposed to get our energy from “healthy fats” like the cave people theoretically did.

Probably the veggie growers are doing O.K. since Paleo is big on veggies, but not high starch veggies. Those are Evil Carbs!

Paleo Vegans?

I found an article by John McDougall M.D. on Forks Over Knives: The Paleo Diet is Uncivilized (And Unhealthy and Untrue), with good documentation.

Not that the Paleo People will believe a word of it or even read it.

Paleo Diet has such a grip on our imaginations, that even the vegans want in, as shown by the recently published Paleo Vegan: Plant-Based Primal Recipes by Ellen Jaffe Jones with recipes by Chef Alan Roettinger.

Ellen says that Paleo Diets are flexible, and that “the paleo tolerance for cheating is precisely what opens the door to vegans”. Mind. Blown.

I must say, the recipes in Paleo Vegan are amazing! I’m pretty sure that cave people didn’t eat tofu, but you never know. It’s also likely that they didn’t eat figs with chocolate balsamic vinegar. I might, but I wouldn’t call it Paleo. I’d just call it delicious.

In my opinion, the Paleo Diet has no logical or scientific basis, and is mostly wishful thinking. People believe (fervently) that they are doing something right and good, but it’s actually harmful on many levels.

Thankfully, the Paleo Diet is not mandatory. You can safely ignore it until it goes away, in favor of whatever diet YOU are happy to follow.

Canadians can continue to eat oatmeal! Yay!

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5 Responses to “Paleo Diet: Fraud, Fad or The Real Deal?”

  1. Berylvt says:

    This video from nutritionfacts.org just about answers the question for me!
    http://nutritionfacts.org/vide.....lood-flow/

    Low carb, high protein, high fat diets lead to reduced coronary blood flow, and increased all-cause mortality!

  2. Alex Newell says:

    I go along with you on this. Paleo is a joke and I guess might just be called Atkins 2.0

    They are still trading on the fear of carbs and quite a few raise a host of overblown fears of natural plant chemicals such as lectins, saponins, gliadins – blah blah blah.

    As for giving up oats – my Mum was Scottish and I was raised on it, and on Barley soup.

    That is what my ancestors eat!

  3. Alexa the Vibrant Foodie says:

    First off, whole grains are not off the plate for diabetics. In fact, according to Dr Neal Barnard, they are a good part of a whole food, plant based cure for diabetes!

    So dear reader, eat oatmeal, just make sure it’s steel cut or rolled oats.:)

    Paleo is a joke. Just another money making trend ‘diet’. Want to get healthy and lost weight and control your cholesterol and manage high blood pressure and prevent cancer and…geez! the list is exhausting! Yeah. A whole foods, plant based lifestyle change will do that for you. And it’s not vegan, because vegans can and will eat junk food, just as long it it doesn’t have animal products in it. Not that there’s anything wrong with a delicious vegan cupcake, but it’s not on the menu if you want to take responsibility for your health. ;-)

  4. Savvy Veg says:

    Thank you Laura Beth! That was in the back of my mind as I was writing this, and you put it so well. It’s such an unacknowledged fear though, isn’t it? We have to invent absurd rationalizations to glorify something ugly.

  5. Laura Beth Slitt says:

    Regarding the Paleo Prowess, I think that is what it is. Giving up eating animals appears to be perceived as somehow weakening the human position as, “top of the food chain,” which, of course, looking at the number of people in hospitals with preventable diseases, we are not… While man and womankind are not running around in the forests, using force to overtake wild animals, giving them a sense of domination, they are using external “co-factors,” to fill some internal void that appears to come from our tragic disconnect from the natural world so that we can, as ego craves, feel all powerful and mighty… Who’d have thought that the very things, fake things, that make us feel strong and powerful, are the very things, meat, weapons and war, that in reality, make us weak, vulnerable, forever living in fear….Vegans who made the ethical choice to stop the holocaust on animals and nature, require so much strength and stamina to have peeled off the layers of pretense and manipulation being so adeptly used today, to continue using human beings as vectors, as we use animals, for profit driven economics that have no ethic for the common good. The Paleo thing is a chest thumping, I’m King, illusion that much industry spending is behind… People want to cling to their status as top of the food chain, even though it puts their organs at risk…and so sadly, their children’s.

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