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Discovery Health Spreading Misinformation on Paleo

There's an annoying trend going on in regards to the public image that the Paleo lifestyle is receiving recently, and the primary location of it today is the Discovery Health article "10 Diets That Just Don't Work."

That's right, you guessed it:  numero uno was our beloved (and totally effective) Paleo Diet.

This entire article appears to be the opinion of one Kip Hardy, a registered dietician at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta (the title of "registered dietician" should make the hackles stand up on most Paleo devotees right away, naturally).

It's no secret that dieticians don't care for Paleo.  They listed Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint Cookbook as one of the "most irresponsible" cookbooks of 2010, for example, and they frequently take uninformed potshots at Loren Cordain and Wolf and their ilk.  So I suppose it's not a surprise.

Let's take this apart a bit.  One of the criteria statements made here is as follows:
We realize that losing weight may be the only goal of these diets for many people. Nevertheless, many of these diets simply don't work for an extended period of time. When we say "work," we mean losing the pounds slowly and methodically and being able to maintain your ideal weight without relying on excessive calorie restriction, complicated menus, expensive pills or dramatic food limitations. It means finding a lifestyle change that you can embrace. If you're one of the many people in search of more information on the do's and don'ts of dieting, read on to learn about 10 diets that don't work and why.

So let's start with the first point - that losing weight may be the only goal.  The goal may initially be weight loss, but as has been pointed out numerous times by Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, the folks at Whole 9, and other places, the actual benefits of a Paleo/Primal diet are things like remission of MS, better mental functioning, reductions in symptoms of Autism and ADHD, clearing up of skin conditions, remission of cancer, the list goes on and on.

The thing that really has Ms. Hardy up in arms against the Paleo plan, though, is probably what she mentions below (reprinted from the article):
This diet goes by many names: the Paleo Diet, the Caveman Diet, the Stone Age Diet or the hunter-gatherer diet. Whatever your preference, this eating plan is based on the food consumed during the Paleolithic era that ended about 10,000 years ago. This means that the suggested foods can be hunted, fished or gathered. This includes foods such as pork, seafood, eggs, fruits, nuts and vegetables. Foods to avoid include grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils.

The only downfall to this diet, says Hardy, is that once again the food limitations make it difficult to maintain. There may also be problems with receiving all the necessary nutrients derived from legumes, whole grains and reduced-fat dairy products [sources: ZelmanHardy].

I don't think that even diehard Paleoistas are going to argue overwhelmingly with the first "downfall" - that of the limitations making it hard to maintain.  It can be tough to find stuff to eat, especially for those hardcore ones who forgo the 80/20 rule of Mark Sisson.

But the point that one isn't normally nearly as hungry on the Paleo plan is missed entirely (likely because Hardy doesn't understand the role of leptin in the diet and how protein and fat give you more of it, causing satiety).  So the "need" to eat is much less an issue with the Paleo plan.

But the second downfall (even though the writer says there's only one downfall) is the issue of "receiving all the necessary nutrients derived from legumes, whole grains, and ...dairy products."

Exactly what nutrients are derived from those food-like items that you can't get from other foods - and in better quantities.  Well, gluten for one.  Many lectins, for another.

But that point is entirely missed by Discovery Health and Ms. Hardy, of course, who for whatever reason don't want to print the scads of research and study that tells us the importance of fat, the need for fewer carbs, the dangers of grain and legumes, etc.

Perhaps it's time for another rebuttal by some of the bigwigs of the movement...


  1. These sort of articles are quite curious. The main point seems to be that Paleo doesn't work because it requires discipline and planning. Aren't theses admirable traits? And I'm struggling to think of any other diets that don't require them, in at least equal measure, to be successful.

    I'm also perceiving a subtext of of elitism. "The common man couldn't possibly remain committed and discern their nutrient needs."

    I wonder if this dietician has concerns about consuming large amounts of gluten, lectins and phytic acid? Also, is the use of "reduced-fat" just pavlovian for registered dieticians? I'll answer myself, of course it is!

  2. I just commented on a medifast blog that said Paleo eaters miss out on the nutrition of grains and dairy. I almost fell off my chair. I am so tired of these tired lines. Grain is terrible! I'll take raw dairy if I could get to the farm, but they spout the same old false lines about diet and health.

  3. Jamie, I highly recommend reading this post from In it, J.Stanton goes into the very specific reasons why mainstream media, highly dependent on advertising dollars, WILL NOT support the Paleo Diet. If everyone went Paleo, it would cost the big players in agribusiness A LOT of money and they don't like that! ...

  4. J. Stanton is the man, no doubt. I love that article. Yes - we're going to have to do a lot of this on our own. I have faith in the system, though - someone will figure out a way to make some money on Paleo on a big level, and that'll help push it to the mainstream a bit more. Hopefully they'll do it in a way that is actual helpful to people...


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