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The nutritional pioneer Weston Price studied native diets among tribal populations and found that they had better teeth and better facial bone structure than westerners.
In 1863 a London undertaker named William Banting popularised a diet recommended to him by the famous physician Dr William Harvey.
From 1865 to 1965 the standard hospital treatment for obesity was to decrease carbohydrate intake.
The Paleo Diet theory is based on the fact that the Paleolithic era is much, much longer than the Neolithic era and it’s during the Paleolithic that modern humans evolved.
Interesting though the documentary was, it didn’t give a full list of foods to eat and avoid, so I had a look on Wikipedia.
Although the arguments in favour of the Paleo diet are compelling, I’m not entirely convinced.
I agree that variety is key to a balanced diet and the Paleo diet does put forth a solid case for eating meat…or against vegetarianism and veganism.
Visit the Start Here and Primal Blueprint 101 pages to learn more about the Primal Lifestyle. That said, let’s talk a bit about the contents of the film and why I liked it so much. I am by no means certain that my train of thought is going in the right direction, and would be happy if someone would derail it.
I suppose you could also argue that improved medical knowledge and technology has helped to offset some of the selection pressures brought about by detrimental dietary changes. I think a far more balanced approach would be to posit that dietary optimization may resemble a bell curve, with the mean being the paleo diet and the standard deviation being unknown. The paleo lifestyle is a scientifically backed movement, but sometimes these sites tend to be dogmatic or products of group think.
This comment is more for Jimmy but there wasn’t a reply link under his comment, for some reason.
This blog post is going out on my newsletter and I’ll purchase the movie and review it, as well.
Some good points, and I wont pretend to be an expert on human evolution, but I think your analysis is a tad oversimplified. The week before, the doctor at the VA Hospital said that I weighed 298 lbs and was pre-diabetic. Evolution can be very rapid when assisted by culture – the human characteristic par excellence. As a side note, if we consider what metabolic effects would be most beneficial in times of famine, its probably not ability to survive on minimal food, but rather the propensity to gain fat prior to the time of famine. Also speaking as a retired research scientist and a historian of science – who, while certainly no expert on evolution, has more than a passing familiarity with the theory and its various and changing hypotheses. Likewise, studies of humans show how anatomy and physiology adapt to environmental pressure on an ongoing basis. Critical reasoning does not take away from any real results and benefits of eating a natural diet designed to maintain beneficial levels of insulin. I’ve been excited about In Search of the Perfect Human Diet since I contributed to the project last year.
The film sets up the problem quite well: Americans are fat and are too confused to know what to do about it. At the beginning of his search for the Perfect Human Diet, Hunt discusses the work of Weston A. One of the more interesting parts of the film was a visit to Mike Richards of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology where his group is looking at what the composition of our ancestors diet was, including vegetables and protein.
Overall, the film still emphasizes a low-carb Paleo diet, which we’re starting to realize may not be the right prescription for everyone, especially hard-charging athletes and people with thyroid conditions.
While the film showcases a ton of really interesting evolutionary anthropology work, I view mostly as a prequel to a larger story.
More recently, Kerin O’Dea from the University of Southern Australia conducted an experiment with a group of overweight Aboriginals living in cities. At the time Banting was 65 years old, overweight, had poor eyesight, poor hearing and joint pains. In the 1950s В the idea that fat causes heart disease, by it’s effect on cholesterol, began to spread. In order to understand the Paleo Diet we need to go back in time…2 million years back in time! Therefore, we have evolved to eat the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors which is why we struggle and have become unhealthy on modern diets. The Paleo diets advocates: fish, meat (grass-fed), vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots and nuts.
That said, we should bear in mind that the meat our Paleolithic ancestors ate is very different to the meat we eat today.
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CJ was a seemingly healthy, lean 23-year old doing the right exercises and eating the right food when he had a heart attack. I talk about this stuff all the time, and I and many others write about how meat eating shaped our evolution, but there’s always a sense of distance and abstraction. The more copies they sell and the more people watch it, the larger our community will grow. The reasoning is that the intervening 10,000 years may seem like a long time but is only a genetic blink of an eye; far too short to allow widespread adaptation.
I think the mainstream would be much more receptive if paleo advocates acknowledged the limitation of nutritional research. Although it does make sense that those who are better at digesting grains would potentially thrive in a grain based society, the agricultural age’s relative period of time on the human timeline is very small, so it is unlikely that any substantive changes would have had time to occur.
The important piece is that the time leading up to the agricultural revolution was what primarily formed our genetic nutrition requirements.
There’s good evidence that people at Ohalo II were eating wild grains as a staple 23,000 years ago, and that people in Mozambique were eating hefty quantities of grass seeds 100,000 years ago. Grains are persona non grata because they deliver an enormous wallop of starch, which spikes insulin and is easily stored as body fat. I do think that they are more advocating for the idea that we were meant to eat food, in it’s natural state, that has not been chemically or genetically modified. And I also agree that there is definitely a lot of variability, but I think it mostly deals with levels of carb tolerance. I would emphasize again that the real competition would be getting the food, and not the ability to better utilize the food. Study the history of state endorsed evolutionary theory in Russia if you want to get a glimpse into what fad and dogma exist in this domain. Scientists learn more all the time about evolution – which encompasses much more than Darwin, natural selection, and survival of the fittest. This study also provides physiological data on how domestication alters the basic metabolic physiology in only a few generations. I recently received my DVD copy, and while the film fell a little but short of my high standards for Paleo instruction, it was pretty darn good overall. The impetus for the film was his own struggles with health as he literally died while running on a track at age 24. Using some pretty advanced lab techniques, the group has been able to superimpose the diet data from other carnivores and herbivores to show that Neanderthals in Europe were getting all their protein from animal foods (not from dairy or legumes) and fish, and weren’t eating too much plant food overall. Hunt had serious health problems from an early age and experimented extensively with diets.
She sent them for seven weeks in the outback where they lived a hunter-gather lifestyle with a diet that was 50% to 60% animal based. Theirs came from wild, lean animals whereas today’s commercial meat comes from sedentary fattened stock! It doesn’t tug at heartstrings, nor does it present a harrowing, gripping narrative full of conflicts and conflict resolutions that rival the best feature films. When there are sufficient resources for everyone to reach the age of reproduction, natural selection breaks down, and by extension evolutionary change. The 333 generations since simply have not been long enough to cause significant adaptations to the human genotype. There’s a rule of thumb that it takes 400 generations of 20 years each to fix a gene in a whole population, so 8,000 years would do the trick in a smallish group.
As their populations grew and forced them into sedentism, and they over-exploited the game near home, their meat intake decreased. The evidence for this stands with the proliferation of diseases like diabetes and syndrome-x in modern society. He was found to carry the genetic markers for atherosclerosis which came from his ancestors. The group got healthier of course, and the macronutrient ratios that naturally resulted were 54-80% animal protein, 13-40% fat, and from 5-33% wild, fibrous carbohydrates. My perfect sequel to this film would be a look at the biochemistry of how these foods make us sick, the power of real food to make us better, and some real studies, testimonials, and empowerment talk.
I believe that after CJ shows the film around to all the festivals, he’ll re-release the DVD with a little more content.
They were anatomically similar to us and evidence of hunting tools suggests that they consumed a lot of meat.
In my opinion there are 2 influential factors that have driven the obesity and diet-related illness epidemic. Michael Richards discuss how his team has yet to find evidence of a vegan human via isotope analysis. Time is the critical factor here, not the number of humans before or after the agriculture revolution.
We develop cultural norms that drive us to eat this instead of that, although they may be nutritionally very similar, or to abstain from perfectly good foods in favour of something less nutritious and harder to source.
These were diseases that did not plague earlier man, and their advent can be traced quite clearly to the rise of grain consumption.

That he had a diet including grain carbs may have interacted with that genetic predisposition – but the genes pre-dated the agriculture.
That data right there should be enough to tell us that a low-carb approach isn’t necessarily the most optimal, but unfortunately, Hunt misses the mark on explaining this. Maybe after CJ gets done taking the film around the world he could get cracking on this next project. Jay Wortman has studied Inuit populations and found that today a lot of them suffer from obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Today the US Diet Guidelines are to decrease portion size, decrease sugar, decrease salt, and decrease saturated fats.
The period before 10,000 years ago is known as the Paleolithic era and the period after is known as the Neolithic era. Robb Wolf’s been championing the cause since way back in 2010, when CJ was trying to raise funds for production. Best of all, the film’s science is extremely approachable, made all the more so thanks to CJ.
These are the people who actually do the hard labor, write the papers, and run tests talking directly about the implications of their work.
If the group is small with low gene flow, I think an allele shift could be completed in a lot less than 8,000 years. Depending on your personal genome (how many copies of the gene salivary amylase 1 you have), you may well be able to incorporate grains into your diet – but you still have your ancestral ability to digest meat and fat. It’s a good film overall, and the story is told well without hyperbole or editorializing, and is definitely worth a watch. Traditionally they lived on low carbohydrate diets and so it’s hypothesised that the disease is linked to the modern high carbohydrate diets. Their diet contained a huge diversity of food which differed from their predecessors’ diet which was mainly plant-based. In the 18th and 19th centuries the industrial revolution led to the refinement of sugars, grains and other foods. Mechanisation and lately the widespread use of computers has meant that most of us spend our working days sitting and a lot of us spend our leisure time sitting as well.
When an expert on neanderthal and early human genetics at the Max Planck Institute throws around talk about isotopic dietary analyses that might confuse some folks, CJ asks the right questions to get at the real-world dietary implications of these findings. Rather than me or Robb or whoever else writing blogs or books about our interpretations of the work, the people who produce the work are stepping out from academia and giving their honest summation of the evidence for ancestral eating. It’s clear from archaeological evidence from bones and teeth that, as meat intake decreased, human health plummeted. It’s a fascinating journey into history looking at what our ancestors ate and how they lived as a template for how we should be eating and living in modern-day society.
The increased amounts of omega 3 fatty acids are thought to have been a precursor for brain growth and behavioural sophistication. More recently processed foods have flooded the market and can constitute up to 70% of modern human diets. During the same period our diets have changed drastically and now include a lot more refined and processed foods. So instead of jumping out with standard Primal eating prescriptions or suggestions from the start, the film is a gradual exploration of human evolution, including the dietary pressures that shaped and informed that evolution. Then, 230,000 years ago, Neanderthals appeared in Europe and 192,000 years ago modern humans appeared in Africa. These convenience foods as they are also known are high in sugars, salts and saturated fats. The most susceptible died, and those with the lowest needs for animal protein, and the luckiest genome for, say, converting essential amino acids to nonessential, or betacarotenes into vitamin A, survived, thrived, and bred. The paleo diet does advocate that people with very active lifestyles may benefit from a more carb heavy diet, but this comes in the form of starchy fruits and vegetables.
CJ makes no prescriptions, instead letting the evidence and the experts speak for themselves. While grain-eaters thrived, their adaptation was a plug-in to their old software, if I may put that way. And check it out–the trailer for THE PERFECT HUMAN DIET shows up amongst the biggest blockbuster Hollywood movies in the most popular trailers on Hulu right now:KEWL! Bone analysis suggests that the diet of Neanderthals and the first modern human was very similar to that of Homo Erectus. But because the ancestral health community, while growing, is still relatively small, the film had to funded almost entirely by donations from individual humans who love this way of life and believe in it, have garnered benefits from it, and who want it available on a larger, different stage for all to see.
If you were among the donators, I thank you, because you made this very important documentary possible.

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