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Ten Questions about the Paleo Diet with Dr Loren Cordain…

This spring, Dr Cordain did an interview answering ten questions about the basics of the Paleo Diet. To start your New Years out right, we wanted to share his answers with you. We hope you enjoy!
– The Paleo Diet Team

1. The Paleo diet can be traced to a 1975 book by Walter Voegtlin, but, correct me if I’m wrong, you are responsible for bringing this diet to popularity in your 2002 book “The Paleo Diet.” Can you me about your research journey as a professor and what lead you to writing this book?

I have written a blog post at my website (www.thepaleodiet.com) outlining the beginnings of the contemporary Paleo Diet<sup>@</sup> movement and my involvement in it at the early stages before the concept became commonly known.

Although the 1975 book by Walter Voegtlin is frequently claimed by many in the Paleo community to be the seminal book that was the birth of the Paleo Diet idea, a number of important, and more relevant books were written earlier and later to which the Paleo Diet movement can be traced, including:

Books:

  1. Price WA. Nutrition and physical degeneration; a comparison of primitive and modern diets and their effects. P.B. Hoeber, Inc., New York, 1939.
  2. DeVries, A. Primitive Man and His Food. Chicago, Chandler Book Company, 1952.
  3. Eaton SB, Shostak M, Konner M. The Paleolithic Prescription. New York, Harper & Row, 1988.

Additionally, a number of key early scientific papers were responsible for today’s Paleo Diet notoriety, including:

Scientific papers:

  1. Shatin R. The transition from food-gathering to food-production in evolution and disease. Vitalstoffe Zivilisationskrankheitein 1967;12:104-107.
  2. Yudkin, J.  Archaeology and the nutritionist. In: The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals, PJ Ucko, GW Dimbleby (Eds.), Chicago, Aldine Publishing Co, 1969, pp. 547-552.
  3. Truswell AS. Human Nutritional Problems at Four Stages of Technical Development. Reprint. Queen Elizabeth College (University of London), Inaugural Lecture, May, 1972.
  4. Abrams, HL.  The relevance of Paleolithic diet in determining contemporary nutritional needs. J Applied Nutr 1979;31: 43-59.
  5. Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med 1985;312:283-9.

My book “The Paleo Diet” was published in 2002, and I may have coined the term “Paleo Diet”.  However, the concept is certainly not mine, but rather came as a result of numerous scientific writers before me.

2. How would you describe the Paleo Diet to a beginner?

The essence of the idea is to emulate the nutritional characteristics of our hunter gatherer ancestors with contemporary foods and food groups generally found in supermarkets, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.

3. For those unfamiliar with the Paleo Diet, where is the best place to begin?

I suggest visiting my website and read many of the beginner articles, including What To Eat on a Paleo Diet.

4. Some say the Paleo Diet as an ‘extreme’ high-protein, low-carb, fad diet. I know how I would respond to these people. But, I’d like to know how you would respond to these people?

My colleague Boyd Eaton, who generally is considered to be the father of the contemporary Paleo Diet movement, once said, “If this is a fad diet, then it is humanity’s oldest fad diet, because it is about 2 million years old.”

It is true that The Paleo Diet is a high protein diet compared to the standard American diet, but this is not a bad thing, as higher protein diets have been clinically shown to suppress hunger, increase metabolism and be more effective in reducing body weight than low fat, high carb diets. Additionally in randomized controlled human trials, higher protein improves blood lipids, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk for the metabolic syndrome.

5. There are several ‘versions’ of the Paleo Diet. This can be confusing. Which version of the Paleo Diet is the ‘right’ version?

Any contemporary version of The Paleo Diet which discourages salt consumption is probably pretty close to being accurate.  As far as I know, none of the charismatic bloggers or popular Paleo Diet Recipe book authors prohibit added salt. Many advocate regular consumption of honey, dairy, and legumes.  These “versions” of the Paleo Diet drift quite far from the original scientists who analyzed the nutritional characteristics of hunter gatherers and determined the range of foods that they consumed, and those in contemporary societies which mimic these foods.

6. What are the most significant health benefits that may occur with the Paleo Diet?

Improved health in almost every regard.  One of the first parameters people accustomed to eating the typical U.S. diet is improved energy levels throughout the day.  Improved blood lipids can occur with days to a week. Sleep is better, particularly when salt and alcohol are reduced. Over the long haul, weight is normalized, and many illness and disease symptoms are ameliorated or improved.

7. A lot of social media followers wanted me to ask you your thoughts on the ketogenic diet. I know this is a diet that has skyrocketed in popularity. As a research professor who I admire and respect, what are your thoughts on the Ketogenic Diet and the differences between the Paleo Diet and the Ketogenic Diet.

The ketogenic diet has been with us in one form or another since Dr. Atkins first wrote about it in 1972.  For most people to enter a ketogenic metabolic state, they must consistently eat 50 grams of carbohydrate a day.  This diet may be helpful in the short term for losing weight or for certain people with epilepsy. By restricting healthful fruits and vegetables, the primary source of carbohydrates in The Paleo Diet, your diet will become net acid producing, rather than net alkaline producing which promotes bone loss and osteoporosis over extended periods.

8. How can the Paleo diet affect your skin?

For people with acne, diets similar to the Paleo Diet (high protein, low glycemic load, free of dairy) have been clinically proven to improve symptoms.

9. How do you feel about elimination diets such as the Whole30?

I was not familiar with this diet until you mentioned it.  From a brief on-line search, I see that it looks remarkably similar to The Paleo Diet, so my initial response would be to be supportive.

10. More and more research is showing the negative effects of sugar. Some argue that sugar derived from fruit, ‘natural sugar,’ is processed by our bodies and affects us differently than refined sugar. Is this true? I feel that there is a lot of misinformation out there on this topic.

At my website, I have an area showing the sugar concentration of fresh fruits compared to refined sugar products.  As you can see, fresh fruits contain considerably less sugar than sweet, processed foods. Additionally, the glycemic (blood glucose) response to most fruits is generally quite low.   Very obese or diabetic subjects should reduce consumption of high sugar fruits but shouldn’t restrict low sugar fruits.

 

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.


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