The Fred Flintstone Diet

Paleo diet, real men eat meat, CrossFit, red meat, bowel cancer, men's health, medical news commentaryIs your manly diet killing you?

The Paleo Diet, known for its heaping portions of animal flesh, is being blamed again for its resemblance to the diet of one “modern Stone Age” man in particular:

Bringing some scientific rigor to the debate over what Paleolithic people really ate before the invention of brontosaurus burger buns, is TED speaker Christina Warinner. Warinner is an anthropologist of nutrition; she studies the diets of ancient people through the fossil records, including even microfossils on the teeth of people who’ve been dead for tens of thousands of years.

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If you’d like the short version, Warinner says that what passes for Paleo these days is not even slightly Paleolithic. First of all, there were many Paleo diets, for all of the seasons and climates in which people have ever found their daily meal. The fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats that die-hard Paleolithic dieters dine upon are all inventions of human agriculture. Real Paleo peoples ate what was fresh and locally available, in its season, and they had to work damn hard to get it.

Recent news reports that bowel cancer rates are rising worldwide. Young people and men are getting bowel cancer at increased rates. Is it the diet associated with the youthful, masculine lifestyle of the Paleo community: eschewing bread in favor of meat, and preferring CrossFit to cardio machines? Or is the problem slightly older than this new fad? Although Warinner is able to trace the diet trend to a book published in the 1970s, Paleo has only recently taken off, and can still only be realistically described as a new health movement at best, or at worst, a fad.

 

What has changed in the last 35 years is our increased reliance on industrial foodways, due to advances in food transportation, communication, and related technology that enable worldwide manufacture, shipping, and sale of food. This is why, as Warinner points out, most processed food is made of just three ingredients, soy, corn, and wheat—commodities that are energy dense and cheap to store. Conventional feedlot animals, including poultry and fish, are fed on the same three crops. So even if you think you’re eating meat that’s Paleo, it is made of corn, soy, and wheat, too.

And it’s not just the Paleo people eating more meat. Most people eat more meat as it gets cheaper relative to income. This is just one aspect of the Westernization of diet, and meat consumption alone doesn’t explain the incidence of bowel cancer.

Most people still eat plenty of bread and drink soda and sweetened energy drinks, foods you won’t find recommended on any nutritional website.  We now know a few more ways to break the human machine. Jamming it with a monoculture of wheat, soy, and corn is one of them.

There was no one Paleo diet. Compromise and adaptation have always been the keys to our success as a species. Agriculture and other food technologies are the reason there are billions instead of millions of us, yearning for the energy to beat truck tires and climb ropes with the abandon of the well insured. Corporations may seem to rival Mother Nature in the variety of their offerings, but we could use more of the restraint that came with eating only at Her table.

 

Read more: Why Americans Are So Fat

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About Justin Cascio

Justin Cascio is a writer, trans man, and biome. His most recent publication is a short memoir, "Heartbreak and Detox," available on Kindle.
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Comments

  1. Don’t get caught up in names.

    How many people would argue with a diet that limited sugar and processed junk and promoted eating lots of veggies, lean meats, fruits, nuts, and seeds and promoting water as the primary liquid to consume?

    That’s the core of most Paleo/Primal/Real Food diets.

    And CrossFit+Eating Real Food has gotten me in the best shape of my life.

    I don’t eat clean 100% of the time right now. But, I do the best I can.

    I haven’t had candy in around three months. I haven’t had an energy drink in around three months. And I’ve been really good since my Paleo Challenge at my gym ended at eating clean during the week.

    I ate clean for 8 weeks, so I can have a few dirty meals here and there.

    • You could say that’s the core of any sensible diet, but what’s also true is that there are a multitude of healthy, sensible diets. It’s not required, for one example, to remove all whole grains and legumes from your diet to mimic the Paleolithic diet, or to have a healthy diet, either.

  2. In all probability Paleo people didn’t work very hard at eating. Observation of Hunter Gathering peoples in the 20th century was that they only worked a few hours a day on gathering food- and that is within the past 100 years when the amount of biomass on the hoof, in the air and in the waters is a fraction of what it once was.

    Jeez I’d be happy just sitting down to eat most meals.

  3. What is the argument you are making here? It is quite unintelligible. I can’t tell whether this article means to indict or advocate for the Paleo diet.

    Surely, the argument is not meant to be–
    “The rise in bowel cancer can be tied to the increased popularity of the Paleo diet: Paleo eating encourages meat consumption and meat contains soy, wheat, and corn which may cause cancer because they are overused in the industrial western diet.”

    Clearly, such an argument makes no sense because:
    (1) The author would have had to invent a causality between eating soy, corn, and wheat and bowel cancer in order for this argument to hold water.

    (2) Were the causality true, consuming these three ingredients via ONLY meat but no other source would, of course, LOWER the possibility of becoming sick by them rather than raise the chances. This is so even if it were true — as the author asserts — that Paleo encourages eating “heaps” of meat, which it absolutely does NOT. (4-8 ounce servings at the most!).

    (3) The argument is dead on arrival as it misses a major tenant of Paleo eating: Paleo adherents eat only grass fed meat and wild fish. This means that Paleo protein is soy, corn, and wheat free. (I don’t know how the author could have missed this cornerstone of the Paleo philosophy.)

    Please do better research on Paleo if you’re going to (vaguely) critique it (or were you complimenting it? Can’t tell): the Paleo philosophy in no way makes the ridiculous claim that we are capable of replicating the Paleolithic diet or that reversing all of agriculture is desirable in any way. The philosophy simply argues that new (in terms of human history) over-processed foods can lead to all kinds of health problems and digestive discomforts. And it recommends we stop eating foods that cause extreme insulin spikes, instead opting for fresh, seasonal produce and lean, grass-fed and or wild proteins.

    • The connection between the industrial diet, which is based on the three commodity crops in question, and disease is well established. Paleo does not call for eating corn-fed beef, though I would reckon that “Faileo” is more common than anything so pure as the orthodox ideal of the Paleo diet.

      • Sure, but the assertion that corn, soy, and wheat consumption are responsible for the rise in bowel cancer isn’t well established.

        Beyond that, what point are you making exactly then? This article asks whether the Paleo diet may be killing you but doesn’t take a point of view on this question. It seems to falsely indict Paleo for encouraging eating soy, wheat, and corn via meat…saying that these foods may kill you. But what this argument actually does is bolster Paleo eating, which eliminates soy, wheat, and corn from the diet…including in meat as Paleo meat is grass fed.

        Is the argument then that it’s a bad idea to eat Paleo style if you don’t stick to it 100% and eat grass-fed meat only? I don’t understand.

        • Help me here what is the difference between grass fed & wheat fed meat?
          Wheat is a grass and the major complaint about it is that it is “western” as opposed to enlightened and “eastern” rice. But wait isn’t tofu made of soy– how could it be bad?
          We have no idea what our Paleo ancestors died of, when they died of nonviolent causes, as they left very little soft tissue samples. I would venture to guess that most of them died very early, by our standards, well before their brujas & shamen were able to diagnose their various cancers.

          • Sure: here is information on what “grass-fed” means. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-differences-between-grass-fed-beef-and-grain-fed-beef/#axzz2PozWapue. And it’s helpful to research your meat sources before purchase to make sure they are truly grass-fed.

            When people call a food “Western” they generally mean that the food in question rose in consumption due to western practices related to the industrialization of food. In other words, they’re talking about processed junk foods which came out of the west. This has nothing to do with praising “eastern” foods.

            Tofu is not part of the Paleo diet.

            Finally, no one argues that the Paleo diet resurrects a true Paleolithic diet — or that such a diet is even desirable. It just advises limiting or excluding some of the more “modern” foods in our diet that can cause inflammation or insulin spikes. Don’t assume that the name “Paleo diet” tells you everything you need to know in order to pass judgement. Do some research to find out what the eating style actually is first.

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