THE PALEO DIET, by Loren Cordain, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, N.J., 2002. $14.95

We all know that agriculture began only about 10,000 years ago. Prior to that humans ate wild game, fish and wild fruits and vegetables. There were virtually no grains. Cordain strongly suggests that we revert to the diet of primitive people—BUT he is certainly inconsistent with that premise when he suggests Diet Soda as a beverage!! And several more of his suggestions are incongruent. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how does his play stack up?

He recommends lean meat, seafood and fruits and veggies. NO cereals, legumes, dairy, starchy tubers, processed foods (what about diet pop (???). It seems to be more process than food! No doubt about it, Cordain’s is correct that we eat too much sugar, high fructose corn syrup, starch, unhealthy fat, salt and fake food, and too little fiber.

Actually Price and Pottinger in the 1940’s (”Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,” WA Price, DDS, Price-Pottinger. Nutrition Foundation Publisher, La Mesa, Ca., Eleventh Printing 1982), demonstrated well that degenerative diseases became rampant when white flour and white sugar were introduced. Later processing further damaged our food supply, with the ”fast” food industry providing the final blow. Denis Burkitt (Western Diseases, Their Emergence and Prevention – H. C. Trowell & Denis P. Burkitt. Harvard Univ Pr, 1981.) further demonstrated much the same about ”refined” food.

Yes, Cordain is correct that a huge variety of diseases are at least significantly related to our crummy nutrition. McDonalds and its clones, General Mills, and most big food corporations provide little REAL food. Acne, allergies, anger, appendicitis, arteriosclerosis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, Crohn’s disease, constipation, dental decay, depression, diabetes, diverticulitis, duodenal ulcers, gallstones, heartburn, hemorrhoids, hiatal hernia, hostility, indigestion, irritable bowel disease, osteoporosis, polycystic ovaries, schizophrenia, ulcerative colitis, and varicose veins are all significantly related to poor nutrition! Throw in psychological and environmental stress and you can add cancer and every other disease.

I think Cordain’s and The Barnes diet protocol recommendations are too extreme and simplistic. ”The only good nuts are walnuts.” ”Flaxseed oil is the best oil.” I doubt the Paleos had much flaxseed, let alone the oil. And he recommends many salt substitutes—lemon and limejuice, cloves, organic allspice, celery seed, cardamom, black pepper, etc. Virtually all of these are agricultural products, hardly the primitive diet he recommends.

For the vast majority of people eating SMALL amounts of whole grain bread or cereals, some dairy such as cheese, yogurt or buttermilk, olive oil, fish oils, butter, wine, cooked legumes and peanut butter adds pleasure and no provable risk. Unless you are truly obese and/or have significant cardiovascular disease, I recommend you enjoy some of these foods. Keeping your weight within a Body Mass Index of 19 to 24, adequate physical exercise, relaxation, and a happy, healthy attitude are far more important than an extreme diet. Price, Pottinger and Burkitt all did a better job!

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