The Paleo Diet or Paleolithic Diet is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. This controversial diet regimen advocates eating only foods that would have been available before the advent of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago or so.
The Problems Paleo Diet with A Pre-agricultural Diet
While many agree that there is some valid science behind the claims made by the advocates of the Paleo Diet, a variety of current issues such as economics, culturally traditional diets, available food sources, population growth, and environmental impact seem to be ignored.
Proponents of the Paleo Diet claim that a variety of “civilization diseases” would be eliminated through the reversion to a pre-agricultural diet. These include, among others, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Voices in opposition to the claims made for the diet often cite short life spans as evidence refuting claims for the positive aspects of the diet. Both groups base their arguments on carefully selected and opposing work by archaeologists.
Current medical and social science indicates that a wide variety of factors have impact on these diseases. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as well as many of the other health issues, result from the limited choices available to families with low incomes in industrialized countries, notably the United States.
With fast food the most affordable and most accessible source of calories, eating habits centered around unhealthy foods are understandable. The socio-economic impact of poverty is not apparent in the discussion by Paleo Diet proponents regarding “civilization diseases”.
The Civilization Diseases
The ability of the planet to sustain a ready and affordable supply of healthy meat and fish to the world’s population is extremely unlikely. The conversion of plant matter to beef is generally agreed to be 100 lbs. (about 45.4 kg) of plant mass for every 10 lbs. (about 4.5 kg) of beef.
When the population of the planet was measured in the hundreds of thousands or even a few millions, widespread consumption of meat might have been reasonable. As we wend our way toward the nine billion mark, a diet consisting of 50% animal protein is not going to work.
For those who choose a diet including a large percentage of meat, it might be important to consider the methods of raising the animals. For those that can afford the cost, range-fed animals can be a great source of protein.
The reliance on factory-farm animals and poultry which often are injected or fed various antibiotics, hormones, and unnatural foods makes including these as a large part of one’s diet something of a risk. Sadly, even fish and shellfish are occasionally a risk as they can absorb mercury and other toxics caused by industrial pollution.
The claims of the Paleo Diet
The claims of the Paleo Diet advocates that a post agricultural diet is unhealthy choose to ignore such traditional cuisines as might be found in Japan, India, Greece, and Italy. Their claims ignore the excellent health and longevity of cultures that have adapted a diet of legumes and grains as staples. Statistics that seem to support the Paleo Diet may be derived from Western culture where the preponderance of processed food and fast food precludes a healthy diet.
A broad view of diet is important for healthy and enjoyable eating. Concerns in addition to eating might include affordability, environmental impact, and quality.
To many, the Paleo Diet may seem an elitist diet accessible only to those wealthy enough to buy quantities of range-fed, organic meat.
To others, current science appears to demonstrate that a diet heavily dependent on grains and legumes is both healthy and affordable.
Whatever your choice, it is important to enjoy good food and eat a balanced diet of wholesome food.