Professor of Epidemiology argues Paleo is exclusionary and based on out-of-date science.
Today’s headline from Fortune, (The Paleo diet is absurd, science says), a reprint originally found in The Conversation is another in a series of straw-men arguments against Paleo style diets, this time from Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kin’s College London and author of The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat. Matching prior attempts from Marlene Zuk, and a popular paleo-is-all-about-RED-MEAT TED talk from Christina Warinner (aptly addressed by Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution), essentially missing the point behind the “let’s eat natural, real foods to which our bodies will respond well”
movement, and trying to spoil the improved health experienced by millions.
“The belief is that human evolution via survival of the fittest and natural selection is a very slow process and our genes classically take tens of thousands of years to change”, cites Spector, who goes on to quote a Nature Study, concluding that “major changes to our genes can occur in just a thousand years or a few hundred generations”. Zuk makes a similar argument against evolution-is-slow.
The only problem is, this is a complete misunderstanding about what the ancestral health movement is and isn’t about. There is no one model, as Spector opines, to “follow our Palaeolithic ancestors we are told, cut out these [modern ]foods – and your problems are over”. As Mark Sisson notes in his review of Zuk on Mark’s Daily Apple, “Humans have spanned the globe for millennia, surviving and even thriving in environments ranging from tropical to temperate, from arctic to near-aquatic, all the while subsisting on the wild foods available to those regions. Same basic diet of animals and plants, different configurations.” He goes on to say, ” It’s not like I’m sitting here typing away, conjuring up fantastical stories about the past and making big lifestyle proscriptions based on said stories. Those success stories are actual success stories from actual people.”
Wolf says similar things. “I think Prof. Warinner seems to have focused on the popular media interpretations of paleo. It’s painful she did not reference original work by folks like Loren Cordain, Boyd Eaton, Staffan Lindeberg, etc”. Wolf wants to talk about the how our hunter-gather ancestors, as well as how comtemporarily studied hunter gatherers, “appear to be largely free from the disease of modernity, and that PERHAPS eating more in this fashion might confer health benefits”.
And while Spector to his credit has much good things to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the microbiome, and how much gut mirobes hate fast food, he should see the Paleo movement as more than just an argument about how fast genes change.