Fad diets are a cutthroat industry of insidious marketing and broken promises. Ephedra promised weight loss, but ultimately killed a bunch of people and became a banned substance. Olestra promised flavor without the fat, calories, and cholesterol, but was ultimately responsible for a toilet abuse epidemic.
In 2015, the ipecac sea of fad diets is dominated by the Paleo diet. According to the website, Paleo “is based upon everyday, modern foods that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors.” Paleo claims that by following “fundamental characteristics of hunter-gatherer diets” the dieter will help optimize their health, minimize their chronic disease risks, and help themselves weight loss.
That mission statement definitely sounds like the mission statements other fad diets have pushed over the years.
Paleo, like the scores of other fad diets that Americans have blindly bought, is a little bit of hokum, a little bit of embellished science, and a little bit of American gullibility, blended into a smoothie.
The thing about the Paleo diet no one seems to consider is that the only way for the Paleo diet to be an actual Paleo diet would be if we all went back in time to the Paleolithic era. The foods that exist today are not the same foods that existed 200,000 years ago. Everything is different.
Another neglected detail about hunter-gatherer health is scarcity. Primitive human didn’t have a Costco or a Safeway. Sometimes they wouldn’t eat for days. Early hominids subsisted primarily on plants and nuts, as meat was hard to come by, and likely got their protein from insects.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure as hell haven’t seen a Paleo recipe that called for a cup of crickets, cockroaches, or dragonflies.
Similarly to many of the fad diets that came before it, there is no science to back up Paleo. It’s successes and relevance are basically composed of first-person accounts and anecdotal testimony.
Furthermore, Paleo is a brand, like Atkins, South Beach, or Weight Watchers. Consider the following items that are “Paleo” in nature and can be picked up at grocery stores around the country:
- Paleo butter
- Paleo chocolate chip cookies
- Paleo syrup
- Paleo turkey jerky
- Paleo protein powder
I don’t seem to recall learning that paleolithic humans had access to protein powder…
Paleo is based on flawed logic. Even though there are many that claim otherwise, it is absolutely ridiculous to assume that modern human anatomy mirrors paleolithic human anatomy. The nutritional aspects of paleolithic man cannot, in all good faith, be considered the cornerstone or apex of human nutrition. The benefits of modern human nutrition cannot, in all good faith, be sacrificed on pseudoscience and miscategorized biological characteristics.
The Paleo diet fails to understand our own species, namely in how our bodies have worked and currently work. Paleo ignores much of the evidence we have about how paleolithic humans lived (for as brief as their lives were). The Paleo diet invokes a stereotypical image of who we would like paleolithic man to have been and not who he really was.
The hunter-gatherer diet was not a single cohesive model, but differed from region to region based on the availability of resources. Early hominids in Asia, for example, would have a significantly different diet than early hominids in central Africa. This variability of available nutrition persists even today, as people in Polynesia have remarkably different diets than those in Nunavut.
In the world of fad diets, anything goes, and Paleo is no exception. It’s a marketing tool, a gimmick, and every time optimistic fad diets creep to the forefront of our “get rich quick” nutritional approach, we shell out countless dollars for brands and promises.
More often than not, we get olestra’d.
After all, weight loss is recognized as one of the top forms of consumer fraud in the United States.