Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farewell To "Paleo"

I have experimented with eating a so-called “paleo” diet for at least 14 years.  Although I had confidence enough in the concept to invest in self-publishing a book on putting it into practice, over this time I have endured increasing cognitive dissonance because the currently popular concept of paleo diet—animal-based, relatively high in protein and fat and relatively low in carbohydrate—conflicts with empirical nutrition knowledge accumulated over the course of 5 thousand years in both Asian and Western medicine, including a rather large body of clinical and laboratory data accumulated since the 19th century, all pointing toward humans being more adapted to a plant-dominated, high-carbohydrate diet supplying significantly less than 30% of energy from fat. 

In addition, over this time period I have experienced myself, and seen in others, mostly gradual and sometimes sudden development of disorders that seem to occur regularly in people attempting to consume a high fat, excessive protein diet.   I have made this connection because of my previous nutrition and health history combined with my formal training in both Western nutrition and Oriental medicine.  To summarize, these unwanted changes have occurred:

1)  General dry skin, and return of inflamed skin lesions in locations previously healed during my years eating a low-fat, plant-based diet, plus emergence of lesions in new locations.  When I restrict total dietary fat to no more than 20% of energy and avoid red meat and  saturated fats, I watch my skin heal, and conversely, when I eat more fat, saturated fats, poultry, and red meat I watch it worsen.  By elimination and reintroduction, I have found that eating 6-8 ounces of grass-finished beef will within 24 hours noticeably increase skin itching.

[Update 3/20/12:  For references, see my post on arachidonic acid provided by all types of meat, discussing the evidence that excess dietary AA promotes inflammation including skin inflammation found in typical skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis, here.  Also my post discussing the evidence that heme iron found only in meat promotes inflammation, here.]

In general, it is standard practice in Chinese medicine to recommend elimination of red meat and poultry from the diet of people with inflammatory skin conditions because long empirical experience as well as Chinese theory indicate that these foods create inflammation (we say that they create heat).  Despite my training in both Chinese medicine and Western nutrition, I tested the paleo hypothesis that these problems are caused by grains.  My experience confirms the Chinese medical view that inflammatory skin conditions arise, not from eating benign gluten-free grains and starches, but from general blood inflammation, toxicity, and stagnation, promoted by heating, congesting, i.e. inflammatory foods such as meat and fats rich in arachidonic acid (for references see here). 

[Update 4/8/15:  In May of 2014 I published on our Plant Based Solution YT channel the following video showing a reversal of an inflammatory skin issue that I developed during my paleo daze, but forgot to add it to this post. ]

From a Western nutrition perspective, excess dietary protein loads the blood with unnecessary acid, ammonia, and urea, and increased dietary fat causes increased coagulability of the blood, which reduces the rate of blood flow, particularly through the fine capillaries, impairing delivery of nutrients and oxygen to and removal of wastes from the skin cells as well as reducing the rate of blood filtration by the liver and kidneys; resulting in chronic low level toxemia.  (3/20/12 Update: For references documenting the effects of fats on blood coagulation and flow, see this , and this.)

2) Gradual return of disabling seasonal allergies and sinus congestion and inflammation, along with chronic congestion of ear canals.  Reduction of dietary fat and protein quickly reduced the symptoms and thinned the secretions.  Prolonged high fat and protein intake appears to increase the thickness and hence stickiness of mucous in the respiratory tract, trapping dust, pollen, and other irritants that stimulate immune and inflammatory responses.

3)  Intermittent bouts of severe abdominal distress clearly caused by high fat intake, from which I could get relief only by fasting followed by reduced fat intake for several days.

4) Irregular bowel movement and, when eating very low fiber, constipation with small, dry, difficult to eliminate stools.  Tracy had the most problem with this.  High fat intake slows intestinal peristalsis, reducing the reliability and frequency of elimination.  (By the way, I have eaten 1.5 to 2.0 pounds of fruits and vegetables daily, providing 50 to 100 grams of fiber,  most of the time I have eaten 'paleo,' which I reported in detail in my book, The Garden of Eating.  Tracy ate similar or greater volumes of plants, so her severe irregularity was NOT caused by too little fiber.  Tracy only got relief by cutting the fat.)

[Update 3/20/12:  I neglected to provide the reference:  Whitney and Rolfes, Understanding Nutrition, 10th Edition, p. 91:  "When fat is present, intestinal motility slows to allow time for its digestion."]

5) [Update 3/20/12] Small yellowish lipomas, also called xanthomas, which have arisen twice during the 14 year paleo stint. Xanthomas occur particularly in people with high blood lipids, which I had for years while eating paleo (total cholesterol of well over 200).
Xanthoma:  Source: Medline Plus.
 The first time they appeared, I eliminated them by eating a very low fat grain-based diet for one period of about 6 months, then returned to eating a 40-60% fat diet rich in red meat.  After another five years or so they returned again.  Xanthomas include xanthelasmas, an accumulation of cholesterol under the skin of the eyelids.  Oriental medicine considers these xanthomas external signs of internal lipid accumulation (e.g. in the arteries), and research confirms that xanthelasmas are indicative of increased risk of cardiovascular disease.  

Xanthelasmas.  Source: TheHeart.org
6) Increasing muscular stiffness in mornings after sleep, along with severe cramps in lower legs occurring regularly at night, especially with very low carbohydrate intake.  The chronic morning stiffness quickly markedly reduced (about 3-4 weeks) after adopting a low fat intake.  I attribute the stiffness to sluggish blood circulation due to increased blood coagulability impairing nutrient and oxygen delivery and waste removal from tissues at night. 

7) Anxiety attacks, which I never experienced before, when eating low (20-25% energy) carbohydrate and high (50-60%) fat.  The attacks occurred consistently after large fatty meals. I attribute this to poor circulation to the brain along with neurotransmitter imbalance caused by inadequate intake of dietary carbohydrate.[Update 3/21/12:  This study found that people on a low carbohydrate diet for 52 weeks scored higher on scales of anger-hostility, confusion-bewilderment, and depression-dejection than people on a low fat diet for the same length of time.]

8) Chronic tension in the shoulders and neck, which decreases when eating less fat and more carbohydrate.  Oriental medicine explains this as an effect of excess dietary fat on liver and gallbladder functions, affecting the circulation in the gallbladder channel which traverses the neck and shoulders.

[Update 3/20/12:  I guess I should have documented that excess dietary fat can impair liver and gallbladder function.  Try searching PubMed with "high fat diet and NAFLD" or "high fat diet and NASH"and you will find plenty of evidence that high fat diets can induce fatty liver disease, like this, and this, or this, and fatty liver disease promotes gallbladder disease

I will give more details about my more than 30 years search for health through nutrition and natural medicine in another blog.

My wife Tracy, who now blogs at The Food Way, had the following distressing developments over the course of just 12 months eating in a low- to moderate-carbohydrate, grain-free paleo/primal fashion:

1) Progressive gain of body fat, due to a positive fat/calorie balance.  Simply, it was easy for her to overconsume calories when eating high fat foods. 

2) Headaches and tension that increased in intensity over the 12 months.

3)  Increasingly persistent right hypochondrial discomfort (discomfort under the ribs), a clinical indicator of stress to the liver.

4) Constipation of increasing severity over the course of the 12 months, due to dietary fat impairing intestinal peristalsis. (Reference given above.)

5) General and increasing sense of fatigue and morning sluggishness with increasing craving for morning coffee, an effect predictable from Chinese yin-yang theory applied to food.  Briefly, a high-fat diet contributes to congestion and stagnation, and coffee's bitter constituents break up the congestion and drain out the stagnation, so people eating high fat diets can find the effects of coffee very attractive or even essential to get things opened up and moving. 

6) Gradually increasing premenstrual breast tenderness and fibrocystic changes.  This was the most alarming symptom to me, because it indicates increasing endocrine imbalance and is unacceptable within Chinese medical gynecology, which recognizes it as an early warning sign for potential breast tumors.

[Update 3/20/12:  This study showed that women with cystic breast disease and breast pain have abnormally elevated levels of prolactin when on a high fat diet, but when they switch to a low (20%) fat diet this abnormality disappears.]

7)  Persistent muscular and joint aches and pains, due to impaired blood flow.

8)  Increasing vasomotor disturbances resulting in hot flashes and night sweats, another sign of endocrine imbalance.  This disorder is also unacceptable to Chinese gynecology and Western scientific research has found that the occurrence of vasomotor disturbance in perimenopausal women is related to fat content of the diet, with high fat diets promoting and low fat diets reducing the occurrence.

9)  Towards the end of the 12 months, she developed regular bloating after our high fat, meat-based meals, a sign of growing fat intolerance.

Since greatly reducing the fat and protein content of her diet, Tracy has had significant amelioration of all of the above symptoms.  You can read more of her account on her blog, The Food Way.

As a result of these experiences I have abandoned meat-based “paleo” dieting as popularly conceived, and realized that all my difficulties were predicted by Chinese medical nutrition theory, which has a few thousand years head start on recent "paleo" diet theory.  I have returned to eating a whole food, high-starch, gluten-free, low-fat (≤20% energy as fat) plant-based diet with much smaller amounts of animal products, primarily fish and shellfish.   Although this accords with both traditional Chinese medical knowledge and modern Western nutrition research, it does not fit with the claim that “paleo diet” consists of a meat-dominated, low-to-moderate carbohydrate, grain-free diet.

[Update 3/20/12:  So many people attack me for my supposedly stupid belief that a paleo diet is meat-based and low in carbohydrates.  I don't get it.  Loren Cordain has gone to great pains to provide evidence that both recent hunter-gatherer and ancient paleolithic era diets were low in carbohydrates.  His books and those of Art DeVany and Robb Wolf all present paleo diet as reduced carbohydrate diets with limited starches.

The folks at the Journal of Evolution and Health recently got all excited by this 2011 paper by Ben-Dor et al which argues that man is an evolved fat hunter and includes the following claims

"modern hunter-gatherer (HG) groups, despite having access to fire and metal tools, also seem to have a strong preference for carnivorous foods over vegetal foods ([53]:682), a notion also supported by a recent study [75] that emphasizes limited consumption of carbohydrates by present day HG groups."
"an analysis of nine HG groups for which detailed dietary information exists ([76]:166) shows that five groups, located in an area abundant in vegetation, consumed only a meager amount of plant foods (17% of calories on average)."  

I see no indication that scientists promoting paleo diet are endorsing high carb, low fat, low meat diets.  I don't base my idea of paleo diet on what bloggers write, I base it on what the advocates of it have written in peer-reviewed science journals.]

Although I now believe that reverse engineering from presently observable human biochemistry and physiology suggests that modern humans are adapted to a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet with relatively low or intermittent intake of animal foods (by current Western and especially "paleo diet" standards), mostly of fish and shellfish,  I doubt that my input will change the now entrenched idea that human evolutionary “paleo” diets were meat- and fat- rich and plant-food poor.   Therefore, I will not even attempt to call what I do or advocate a “paleo” or “primal” diet, although I think it appropriate to do so.  

But for now I won’t be changing the name of my blog. From the beginning I defined “Primal Wisdom” as the innate intelligence of the bodymind, written in its various nutritional and other requirements, as well as in all the movements of Nature, which inform the Chinese scientific principle of yin-yang complementary opposition.  Apparently the Nobel Prize winning physicist Niels Bohr understood the importance of this scientific principle, since he chose the yin-yang symbol for the his coat of arms. 
Coat-of-arms of Niels Bohr.  Source: Wikipedia

In future posts,  I think I will further discuss how we apply this and other Chinese medical principles to nutrition in such a way that makes sense out of the confusing mass of nutrition information available both within scientific research and in practical experience. 

 Hence, my farewell to popularized paleo.   I hope all “paleo,” “primal,” and “hunter-gatherer” dieters fare well in their quest for health.    So long as what you do continues to work for you, keep doing it.  I hope that you have the knowledge, clarity of mind, and subtlety of awareness to notice the early signs of malfunction before you succumb to something serious and beyond repair.  I have a series of blogs forthcoming on this topic, outlining the Oriental medical understanding of the progression of disease from minor to major, which Chinese physicians have used for millenia to help people reverse and prevent diet-related diseases.


theshmaltz said...

Don, absolutely fascinating...and timely! I have also recently grown tired of the carb-phobic paleo/primal movement. I have recently read the Perfect Health Diet (by Paul Jaminet) and subsequently upped by starch and reduced my protein intake - and feel better for it!

I look forward to reading your new thoughts on health and nutrition. I think the ancient Chinese teachings are way under-rated.

Anonymous said...

Good job Don. Can't wait to see what you post next. I wish you would do an updated "primal on a shoestring" with your "new" direction.

Thomas said...

Congratulations, Don, on having the guts to make this change. I admire someone who, when faced with ample evidence (personal or otherwise), is able to publicly do a 180 and change. Although I still like "paleo" as a diet philosophy, I am increasingly unsure just what paleo is. It seems to be very different depending on who you ask.

Get ready for the venom. Many people eat paleo because they think it's the fountain of youth. Claiming that it's not will likely offend some people-just like telling them their religion is wrong.

Eric Wilson said...

You make a TON of statements that sound less like N=1 observations and more like statements of fact. I half expect to see a reference after some of these things you're saying.

Has it occurred to you that you might be different? That you might have food allergies that the rest of us don't? Have you been thorough in your self diagnosis and at least gotten a full allergy panel, and tried the auto-immune version of paleo? Do you know ANYONE ELSE in the paleo community that has the same reactions to these foods as you?

I just want to pull a few of your statements as an example of what I mean (MY RESPONSES IN CAPS):

"eating 6-8 ounces of grass-finished beef will within 24 hours noticeably increase skin itching"


"congesting foods such as meat and fats"


"increased dietary fat causes increased coagulability of the blood"


"Prolonged high fat and protein intake appears to increase the thickness and hence stickiness of mucous in the respiratory tract"


"The first time they appeared, I eliminated them by eating a very low fat grain-based diet for one period of about 6 months, then returned to eating a 40-60% fat diet rich in red meat. After another five years or so they returned again. These are simply accumulations of excess fat."


"I attribute the stiffness to sluggish blood circulation due to increased blood coagulability impairing nutrient and oxygen delivery and waste removal from tissues at night."


"Chronic tension"


I would go on but it would take awhile... Looking forward to your responses, and I hope we get a lively discussion going here.

Lord Grimmak said...

Good to hear a dissenting voice, but as far as I understand, a lot of paleo folks, including Loren Cordain, do not advocate for high fat intake. Also, many paleo folks do moderate and even high carbs. I personally find a low-carb approach, regardless of my fat and protein intake, works well. I also find that the most important factor is the quality of the food. I'm just asking if you can really so easily dismiss "paleo" when the only overarching theme in paleo is that it focuses on fresh food rather than bulk filler items. Perhaps the high-fat, mostly meat people are too loud.

cwaiand said...

i think this sounds like a sound strategy.i also will watch for your next change of outlook as i,m su7re at some point you will consider this wrong.trying to eat well in this age is impossible as there are way too many conflicting ideas.i realize you have to find what works for you but in the mean time ,time marches on and you could also be harming yourself.

i am lost.a lost cause obese person with no answers.i give up.

Torgeir said...

Don, you should try earthing! It might be the missing pice of the puzzle? Earthing has done amazing things for me, most of all improved my sleep. Try walking barefoot outside atleast 40 minutes of the day, or better yet. Buy some earthing equipment and sleep grounded. I am not in any way commercialy driven. This is a personal message :)

Mercola about earthing:

Connecting to the ground, total primal wisdom:)


julianne said...

I've been teaching the zone diet and now paleo principles for nearly 10 years. Personally the zone ratio has always worked incredibly well for me. It's now been 15 years. 2 years ago I added paleo food choices. I.e. I eliminated grains (except a little rice) and legumes and minimal dairy. I feel sluggish when I eat too much fat and too little carbs. I have NEVER seen paleo (at least for me) as being very low carb - paleo is food quality and lest we forget some of the paleo studies were carried out on the Kitavans - a high carb paleo diet. I think first and foremost "paleo" signified a diet that lacks toxic neolithic food. The carb fat and protein amount is what works for this individual. Personally my fibrocystic breasts and menstrual pain and perimenopausal symptoms were completely eliminated on a diet the took out these foods. (2 years and counting) I do not do high protein, high fat or high carb. I do what feels right for my body. But the grains and legumes and sugars will stay away - as these are the problem for me.

Manveru Alma said...

For me, seeing proper references would have been the difference between enjoying this article and unsubscribing from your blog. Nothing you stated had a proper explanation to understand it's mechanism, and many of them could have different causes, none of which are accounted or tested for. I am very disappointed.

None the less, I wish you luck and success in your new dietary goals. I do hope they work out for you.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Don.

I am a health & fitness blogger (Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger @ www.rajganpath.com) and practice and preach a real food diet that is rich in nutrients and devoid of toxins (gluten, vegetable oils, sugars etc.).

While I agree with the concept of paleo, I refuse to believe that there is an optimal macronutrient ratio that will work for everyone. Irrespective of what n=1 or epidemiological studies say, there cannot be one magic diet that will work for every person considering the grossly varied lifestyles we lead.

Would it be possible to share a sample of your ideal day of eating? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

I simply don't think that you are isolating your variables well enough. Indeed a "plant-based" diet with moderate animal foods tends to be more nutritious as a whole, although it doesn't have to be like that. Spinach 8s da bomb. Why fat or protein and not a potassium deficiency?

Miki said...

Your health history since conception and genetic setup are what they are. You will never know what would have been your health status had you continued with low fat, plant based diet during the last 15 years. We will have to wait another 15 years to see if the alternative works for you and even then it may be of little relevance to us. our thoughts are interesting and it is important to stay open to other views so I for one do not intend to strike Primal Wisdom from my follow up list.
Good luck in your new way.

Miki said...

Sorry missed the "y" in "Your thoghts are interesting"

Anya said...

You (and most people with you) seem to forget the concept with which most Europeans and (thus) Americans have matured into the current form of humans : variability and seasonality.

There IS NO ONE diet. In fact if you stick to a micronutrient ratio/calorie count/food content for years you will ALWAYS get into trouble (and we will read the same thing again on your other blog in a few years)...

I realize this will not sell any books but there are those that have mastered it : e.g. Art De Vany

Your body is an adaptable machine, let it do it's thing (adapt) or it will find itself useless.

This is the exactly opposite of what Jimmy Moore is saying : find a diet that works for you and stick to it forever.

My take away messages from paleo are these :
* food quality matters (allot)
* excess calories are a stressor, but it is difficult to ignore their call. Be sparingly with added salts, sugars and fats as this will unnaturally drive up your calorie consumption.
* live and eat within the season
* introduce something very different randomly

oliverh said...

it's good to be big enough to leave something.

miro said...

I've tried both, high carbs for long period and long term high fat with mostly paleo food. Long term high carb just don't feel natural.
Read some Vince Gironda bodybuilding stuff, this guy was genious. Best body composition/mental results are achieved with CKD principles where you go high animal protein/fat and almost zero carb for few days and then high paleo carbs but low animal protein/fat for 1-2 days. This also works perfect for me (of course with some lifting and cardio activities) and I think this is the most natural way of eating, closest to HG societies.

Jay said...

A comment on some of the symptoms:

Muscular stiffness/Leg cramps - magnesium and/or potassium deficiency?

Itching after eating mince (ground beef)/Anxiety attacks after high fat meals - psychosomatic - this doesn't mean it's being imagined - it means the brain conjures up a real bodily (somatic) symptom in response to emotional concerns - which clearly are present as the preceding series of posts documents

Right side hypochondrial discomfort after meals indicating stress to the liver - we can't actually 'feel' stress to our internal organs - liver or pancreas - if we could it wouldn't be the case that the first time most pancreatic/liver cancer victims find out they are ill is with an attack of jaundice. What causes pain in those areas is physical distension e.g. a seriously enlarged liver, a tumour on a pancreas. Right hypochondrial distress or left hypochondrial distress is probably just caused by gas or overeating or bending forward/exercising immediately after eating.

Hot flashes and night sweats are caused by relative estrogen deficiency and a study recently found that experiencing them before and during menopause is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

Also there are two types of premenstrual breast tenderness: one is a 'good' type - associated with too much progesterone (it's often the first symptom of pregnancy) - all over tenderness; the other is the fibrocystic ('bad') type - associated with painful lumpiness and sometimes aching.

1leone said...

Could intermittent fasting play a role with your ailments? Increased cortisol level and so forth or is it purely a nutrition issue? Any consideration on possible nutrient deficiencies due to lack of some minerals? My 2 cents? carb cycling is the way to go for the best of both worlds and forget IF if you are not excercising regularly.

praguestepchild said...

Heh, heh, Don, you are really stirring the pot here. I don't necessarily agree but I do like to see things mixed up. You are obviously quite serious about this and I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

Right on Don! I experienced many of the things you did inside of a year. Plant based cleared it up in no time. You're critics won't understand until they travel the road. Best wishes, and I for sure will continue to frequent your site.

Anonymous said...

The disappointment is not that you are stepping away from Paleo. It is that I can't actually see any hard scientific facts behind that transition. I have read all your recent posts and cautiously followed the new direction you were taking. The arguments were a little unconvincing but you indicated that more references were to come. So far we have seen your own n=2 experience, a statue of a fat Venus and references to chinese medicine.
I don't know the answers. Maybe you are right. But I used to come to your blog to help me understand the confusing the world of health and nutrition.
You have the knowledge, the logic and the research skills. I hope you will use them on your new path. Good luck.

Evgeny said...

"the currently popular concept of paleo diet—animal-based, relatively high in protein and fat and relatively low in carbohydrate"

Well, that's the one I don't understand. For me paleo is "eliminate foods that did not exist 20K years ago". That can be high in fat and/or protein, but it also can be high in fruit and veggies with moderate meat and eggs and other animal foods.

Would one say that a paleolithic man stopped being paleolithic if there was a season when game was scarce?

Jimmy Moore said...

Don, I'd love to have you on my podcast to discuss this change. Email me at livinlowcarbman@charter.net.

Tony Mach said...

2) Headaches and tension that increased in intensity over the 12 months.
5) General and increasing sense of fatigue and morning sluggishness
7) Persistent muscular and joint aches and pains

These are ME/CFS symptoms. From what I have gathered so far, I would say that ME/CFS is probably caused by an Enterovirus, probably a close relative of the Coxsackie B virus.

Currently I know only of Dr. John Chia who does work regarding the enterovirus connection:

Otherwise, I would recommend the books "Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Postviral Fatigue States: The saga of Royal Free disease" by A. Melvin Ramsay and "Osler's Web: Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic" by Hillary Johnson.

Maybe a change of diet will help, if it doesn't (or it doesn't last), you should look into the enterovirus connection. Nutrition is not the only environmental influence that can cause disease. And the concept of something being "hypochondrial" (or psychosomatic or neuritic or whatever) is IMHO at odds with an evolutionary understanding of biology.

(BTW: John Chia has developed a traditional Chinese medicaction which I started to try out myself, but I wont post the name here. If you are really interested, you can find out yourself what he does)

And one more thing, it was the other way round with anxiety attacks for me: They are gone since I went Lutz/Atkins/Paleo...

praguestepchild said...

Stoppit Jimmy, we hate people who don't exactly conform to our worldview! Wait, sorry, I was channeling veganism for a second.

miro said...


Do you see any potatoes and rice noodles?

nothing91 said...

Great responses by Eric Wilson and Jay.

Don's writing style consistently has a very "Here are the facts" sound to it. He seems to lack the ability to differentiate between his opinions/observations and facts. This makes it all the more fascinating when he does 180's like he's doing here. I guess his "facts" a few years ago were all wrong, but now his new "facts" are correct.

All these bad things supposedly happened while he and his wife ate Paleo, and it took them 14 years to put 2-and-2 together? But now, after 14 years, Don can suddenly "confidently make this connection" due to his "formal training"? Is this some kind of joke?

Malena said...

Hi Don,
I really look forward to read you coming posts! I can recognize many of your and Tracy's problems with a HF HP diet. As a teenager and young adult I was following the "fat-fobia trend" of the time, eating approx 70% carbs. I had excellent health. Then, suddenly fat-fobia turned to carb-fobia and although I never bought into it totally, my diet gradually changed to include more of these "paleo", "nutritious" foods. What also changed was my health. Unfortunately it has taken some time to realize what was the cause as you are constantly indoctrinated that saturated fats and protein is good. Now I'm back to high carb again, my body feels lighter and flexible again, I am happy, PMS and tender breasts no more, my skin looks greater than great and the food is satiating, no swollen fingers and water retention. So, I wish you good luck and I'm curious to know the new blog name!

Thomas said...

Some observations:

Many people who try a specific diet, whatever diet, tend to feel the way they are told they are supposed to feel, at least for a time. I think Don has stopped kidding himself-this is a good thing. I don't think anyone in their right mind claims that one form of diet is good for everyone.

A common countering tactic by the offended is to say the claims are bogus because there are no references. I'm not sure Don needs any for his personal experiences. His strong style tends to get under people's skin, but if one person is having these experiences then other people, who tend not to talk about their negative experiences with paleo or low carb on a pro paleo or low carb blog, re likely having them too.

A continuously high fat diet, while sustainable (which doesn't mean people feel or perform well on it), does not fit in the definition of a paleo diet. I highly doubt paleolithic/primal humans were constantly and consistently adding fat to their diet to replace carb calories.

A varied, seasonal approach should be considered (vegetarian-like in the spring and summer, higher protein and fat in the winter). In this day and age, this would be difficult to do without significant effort, but it's worth a try.

@cwaiand-don't get caught up in all this minutia. Start by doing the most basic, tried and true thing for weight/fat loss-cut your intake. Yes, eat less calories (gasp!) It actually works! The reason most people can't sustain their weight loss is more mental-the same reason most people cant sustain a low carb or paleo diet. Try reading "the End of Overeating" by David Kessler, MD. It goes along with what Stephen Guynet is saying. It's a real eye opener and at least gives some explanation as to why we tend eat the way we eat in this modern world.

Maybe those who enjoy and feel good on paleo should go back to Art DeVaney's form of it-it is more congruent with what Don is saying (or just try what Don is preaching)

Many of the leaders in the paleo world are moving away from the word paleo to describe their diet-interesting. Maybe Rob Wolf will be the last one standing ,using the word paleo, in the end.

Bodhi said...

congratulations on finding the Paleo Diet that works for you and coming forth with it on your blog. I agree with Anya and Julianne, there are many versions of the Paleo/Primal diet. They are seasonal and your body is a moving target.

RAWR said...

LMAO! Excellent way to stir the errr....pot. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, theories and your wife's.
The biggest thing to take away here is to be open to experimentation, thinking for yourself and changing your mind.

Thomas said...


"the body is a moving target."

I like that very much, although I'm not sure I understand all of the implications of that statement. It inherently seems correct, however.

Gretchen said...

Don, Interesting that Paleo didn't work for you. I think what this shows is that not every diet works for everyone, that everyone has to try different approaches and find what works for them.

Also, different people can interpret different diets differently. You can have healthy low-fat with whole foods and some unsaturated fats and you can have unhealthy low-fat with lots of processed low-fat foods and almost no fat at all.

So too, you can have healthy and unhealthy low-carb/Paleo diets.

I found your skin problems especially interesting. Ann Louise Gittleman, who once worked at Pritikin and bought into that diet, found that many of her clients developed dry skin that cleared up when they added more essential fatty acids. So she too recanted and moved on to promote a different diet, a lower-carb one. She claimed there were slow and fast metabolizers, and one type did best on low fat and the other on low carb. I haven't kept up with her and her theories. But I also think that some people do better on low-fat diets.

Constipation is a common side effect of LC diets that don't add some fiber.

Your menus struck me as excessively high in saturated fat. You might have done better on Goldberg and O'Mara's GO diet, which morphed into Four Corners Diet. It was LC but limited sat fat, emphasized mono fat, and also emphasized fiber and yogurt, both of which help with constipation.

Re allergies: I had hay fever all my life but haven't had any since I became diabetic and started limiting carbs.

Re stiffness: This might be excessive fat or it might simply be aging. Most people get stiff as they get older, although you look pretty young. My joint pains disappeared when I gave up wheat.

But, we're all different, and a low -fat diet may be better for you. Let us know.

I think one problem with *any* diet is that some people approach a new diet like they approach a new religion. They carry it to extremes. I'm not proposing a "balanced diet," which doesn't mean much, but perhaps a little less zeal in trying any new diet might make sense.

I frankly think individual responses are more important than what some hunter/gatherer ate 10,000 years ago. That person probably died at the age of 30. And evolution only cared if you were able to reproduce and get the offspring old enough to care for themselves. Longevity wasn't too important.

All best wishes with your new endeaver. I won't be joining you, because diabetes adds another factor, and high blood sugar levels predict heart disease.

sukava said...

Interesting debate here! I am amused at times when I see the notion that paleo = high fat and a lot of flesh-based protein, plus few carbs. I came across this topic last year due to work, needing to find ways to promote cancer and chronic disease prevention. I decided that since my own weight loss attempts over the years always left me feeling ravenous and irritated and food-focused, even though 80% of my family's food is organic and local, that I would try paleo.
Cordein's suggestions to eat LEAN meat, HIGH QUALITY fats, and as much as needed for satiation of vegetables and fruits, and the elimination of grains, legumes, salt and sugars, made and makes total sense to me. So I tried it out. Well, for the first time in my life, I do not have uncontrollable urges to eat carbs; I enjoy preparing small amounts of lean protein in mostly low-glycemic veg. dishes, using small amounts of high quality fats.
I have lost inches from my body. I sleep very well and wake up rested and energetic to get on with my work day and other responsibilities.
When I read about people who eat bacon and other high fat (not to mention salty) foods in the name of paleo, I am distressed. Anyone who has eaten wild meat from larger animals knows that the meat IS LEAN, and like grass fed, naturally raised animals, the fat is healthier than the regular meats from animals knee-deep in manure, crowded into pens in factory farms.
Food is personal, and as such is different for all; however, moderate intake of the most natural foods available, and being extra careful of those foods that wreak havoc, for me starchy carbs, is needed. I wish I could be free of this reaction to foods that I have craved in the past and be able to eat only moderate amounts, but it won't happen.

I enjoy these posts!

Daddy said...

Just some quick comments -

1. "conflicts with empirical nutrition knowledge accumulated over the course of 5 thousand years in both Asian and Western medicine" - I haven't seen many studies citing empirical knowledge from 5000 years ago.

2. "...because long empirical experience as well as Chinese theory indicate that these foods create inflammation." - How is long empirical experience documented? Is that a study or legend? Similarly, what is Chinese theory? Sounds as if Confucianism has somehow entered the science world. What about all the studies that show that inflammation is caused by a high consumption of grains?

3. "Prolonged high fat and protein intake appears to increase the thickness and hence stickiness of mucous in the respiratory tract..." - Appears to? Hopefully we will get a scientific explanation on that one. Doesn't seem to be the case for Mark Cisson and those guys.

4. "After another five years or so they (lipomas)returned again..." - Wait, so you ate Paleo for 14 years, had lipomas twice during that time with a 5 year reprieve, while on the same died, and yet you can still correlate the diet with the lipomas? What happened during those 5 years and the other lipoma-free years? And if they are simply "excess fat" deposits, aren't there many other things that lead to fat build-up such as excess glucose?

5. "Progressive gain of body fat, due to a positive fat balance..." - Is that all there is to fat build-up, a positive/negative fat balance, like a savings account?

6. "an effect predictable from Chinese yin-yang theory applied to food..." - More evidence of a Confucianism/science intermingling. How can philosophy justify scientific conclusions (I'm fully convinced however that science can justify philosophical conclusions - see Fides et Ratio.), but I'm not sure the reverse is true?

7. Regarding The Food Way, it's not very convincing when foods/science are defined in ways such as Yin/Yang and Cold/Hot-damp, especially when there is a lot of empirical, scientific evidence to show the contrary (e.g. "Meats, rich fried foods, salt and salty dry foods, and fats including dairy are at the extreme yang end. Consuming a lot of these foods can lead to an accumulation of damp-heat in the body. This will show up as sinus congestion with sticky phlegm that is green or yellow, body odors, inflammation, red coloring, skin eruptions, and weight gain, especially seen in the stomach area..." - I mean has anyone seen Mark Cisson's abs lately?)

I appreciate you speaking your mind but I'm gonna need a little more to go on than Chinese experience and Yin/Yang to give it any real consideration.

Matt Stone said...

Welcome back from the dark side Anakin.

For fun I will list my health problems as well as that of my ex-girlfriend on a prolonged diet high in meat and fat - that neither of us have after switching to a high-carbohydrate diet....

1) Autoimmune iritis
2) Abdominal pain
3) Pain in the spleen and gallbladder
4) Irritability
5) Hyopnatremia from long duration exercise
6) Muscle cramps
7) Amenhorrea
8) Mood disorders
9) Low sex drive
10) Mediocre sexual function
11) Bad breath
12) Foul body odor (mmm, ammonia)
13) Occasional constipation
14) Chronic heartburn
15) Food allergies
16) Shakiness during exercise
17) Loss of lean mass
18) Fat gain eating to appetite on a mixed diet - particularly abdominal fat and love handles
19) Poor exercise performance
20) Poor exercise recovery
21) Insomnia
22) Tooth pain

That's a short list. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things.

There are hundreds of species of primates. The typical primate gets 70-90% of its energy from carbohydrates. To think that it causes every health problem on earth in humans but none of those problems in every other species of primate is ridiculous.

Enjoy the mo-carb diet. I do.

And no, the brownies, cookies, pizza, extra value meals, french fries, and concentrated liquid sugars and flavor enhanced junk food that people do get fat and sick from eating are not "carbs." A common mistake that low-carbers commit when they declare war on rice, fruit, and taters.

rogsayers said...

What a timely post.
This is my first visit to this site.

I feel compelled to comment.
After eating a low fat,high carb, grain based diet for decades,I became enamored with the Paleo approach.
After about a year and a half of this approach this is what I personally noticed.
An increase in body fat,morning stiffness, periods of exreme fatigue and lack of mental vigor.
I found that I could go about 3 or 4 days and then would succumb to the desire to cure my bone crushing fatigue by eating ice cream and would to excess.

I have a personal exercise business so staying lean has a special priority and found that I have been able to do that for decades except for the last year and a half.

I long ago stopped giving my clients detailed advice on nutrition beyond 'if you want to lose body fat, you have to reduce your calories' but I have found that attempting to follow a Paleo diet I have had a hard time following my own advice.

Chris Kresser said...

I'm not even sure where to start. But how about this:

1) Paleo is not necessarily low-carb. How many times does this have to be covered? It's entirely possible to eat 150-200g of carbs per day from fruit and starchy tubers. Just ask the Kitavans.

2) Paleo need not be excessively high in protein. I recommend a protein intake of about 15% of calories. This is a moderate level of protein, and easy to do when eating 50-60% of calories as fat an 20-25% of calories as carbohydrate.

3) The fact that you experienced health problems on the Paleo diet does not in any way prove that it's a suboptimal diet. That's a preposterous, unscientific statement. All we know is that Paleo didn't work for you in the specific way that you implemented it (low-carb, high-protein).

4) For the record, I myself follow and advocate something closer to the Perfect Health Diet, which is basically Paleo plus raw dairy and white rice. I also think buckwheat is well tolerated. But I have plenty of patients that can't tolerate dairy or any grains whatsoever. I have patients that do much better on low-carb. I have patients that do better with more carbs. I have patients that can't eat muscle meat at all. The point? Everyone has to find their own way, but that doesn't mean that Paleo is a suboptimal approach. It just means people need to THINK for themselves, and experiment to see what works.

All of this nonsense bickering about what Paleo is, low-carb vs. moderate carb, etc. etc. could all be avoided by simply THINKING for ourselves and advising others to THINK for themselves.

Good Samaritan said...

My guess is don keeps eating COOKED food. And condiments his food. And regimented his portions like a soldier. Real paleo diet in my book is Un-condimented RAW PALEO DIET and listening to INSTINCTS. Eat what your body is looking for at the moment. Check out instincto therapy by GC Burger. To Don: Stop eating cooked and condimented food... it's gross and un-natural.

MM said...


I am coming to the same conclusion you are, that the high fat/low carb diet is not a good idea long term. However, one of my concerns with switching to a very high carb diet is tooth decay. I used to eat a semi-vegan diet, partly because I used to be Eastern Orthodox and they require avoiding animal products for half the year (except shell fish which I'm allergic to), and partly from reading books like Healing with Whole Foods, and Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Those books seem to only recommend eating animal products in the case of sickness or weakness, and then only in very small amounts. My whole family ended up with tooth decay eating this way. Tooth decay does not seem to be an issue addressed by Chinese Medicine -- at least not in any of the books I've read. I have gotten a great deal of help from acupuncture, and I think Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer people. However, it wasn't until discovering Nutrition and Physical Degeneration than we were able to start feeling better, and eliminate tooth decay among other problems. I know you are not recommending a vegan diet, and it is possible that just eating meat regularly would have prevented cavities. I'm just not sure what to think based on my past experience. Do you have any experience with tooth decay or any advice on this issue? Thanks.

Matt Stone said...

Not to be a spaminator, but anyone reading this post and commenting should read the article I put out Monday - complete with that puffy long-term fat gain Anakin was talking about...


Melissa said...

The whole thing is kind of a straw man since there is very little evidence paleolithic man ate a low-carb diet and plenty of evidence that they ground seeds for "flour" and ate starches. Also, people with food sensitivities seem to think they have something to do with the paleolithic. SOrry, there are plenty of paleo foods that MANY people are sensitive to and plenty of nearly hypoallergenic non "paleo" foods.

I do cyclical low-protein low-fat fasts and I think they are beneficial, though I have the opposite problem in that my skin gets worse, I think because I am bad at making retinol from beta carotene.

It is a little amusing when people who basically look like decaying corpses tell me that their diet is so superior to mine. "Oh I eat only raw meat!" "Oh, I eat a bowl of coconut oil for breakfast!"

I wish I had never googled Lipoma...ughgugd

nothing91 said...

LOL @ Matt Stone

You are the most psychosomatic, delicate flower on the planet. Every time you switch diets you crow about how the new diet has eliminated every health problem you've ever had. Then a year later you're on another diet making the same claims.

paleo said...

Paleo is not necessarily low/zero carb and high protein. I preach for some carbs of rice and tubers and moderate to low protein, as raw as you can get them.

Why did you preach Paleo nutrition for 14 years ?!?! having issues all along. I dont quite get it

Farewell and good luck. See you in another 14 years?

Don said...

As Thomas said, I don't need "references" for my own experience.

I have been providing the scientific evidence for the effects of excess fat (e.g. increased blood coagulability, congestion of capillaries, etc) in several posts.

The popular conception of Paleo, following Cordain, is MEAT-BASED. Read books by Cordain, Wolfe, DeVany, Audette, etc., all advocate relatively large amounts of meat, and meat always comes with fat, even if lean. Even Perfect Health Diet includes as a minimum 8 ounces of meat daily--a relatively large amount. The idea that there are "many" paleo diets is a minority view. I know of only one popular book advocating a low-meat diet as paleo. Most are promoting the "magic" of eating high protein and restricting carbohydrate, including potatoes and sweet potatoes, and demonizing all grains, with very little or no evidence.

So funny when people tell me how I live my life when they don't even know me.

Somehow someone thinks I wasn't thinking for myself or I'm not getting people to think for themselves?

Chinese yin-yang theory is not just "philosophy." Using yin-yang theory and direct observation (empricism) Chinese discovered blood circulation, endocrine hormones, and many aspects of physiology as well as mathematical, nautical, and many other facts long before Western science. But if you want to think that the only way to understand things is by reductionist thinking (Western science) go for it. Western civilization is definitely in crisis (health and ecological) and this crisis has arisen from its world view. Philosophy is the underpinning of all science. Aristotle, Descartes, Liebniz, etc. all were philosophers that molded the Western world view. Science is philosophy put in practice.

Why 14 years? I put things to the test, with dedication, and try every variation.

Finally, if you do one thing and it causes recurrent problems, then do another and it resolves them, and you test it several times, I call that science and learning what works. If changing what I eat resolves the problem, then its good indication of what causes the problem. From there we go to discover the underlying mechanisms.

Chelsea said...

Daddy whined:
3. "Prolonged high fat and protein intake appears to increase the thickness and hence stickiness of mucous in the respiratory tract..." - Appears to? Hopefully we will get a scientific explanation on that one. Doesn't seem to be the case for Mark Cisson and those guys."

Hey "Daddy", actually, how would you know how much mucus Mark Sisson has, or his general health for that matter? Considering you don't know his last name's spelling, you don't seem to know much about him at all.

It's not uncommon for the high fat and animal product lovers to have noticeable mucus. In fact, during the Richard Nikoley and Durianrider debate, the comments in the chat room frequently referred to Richard's coughing and apparent phlegm in the throat.

From the chat transcript during the paleo vs vegan debate:

Nic: why does animal man keep coughing

Chris Crisology: rich has been clearing his throat off and on starting from the beginning

Julie: sounds like richard has some dairy in his throat

Chris Crisology: Rich has had phlegm in his throat

Siovahn: richard has puss in his throat

Chris Crisology: When rich wasn't clearing his throat of phlegm and coughing he was complaining about his religious background/baggage and perception of vegans being religious (parataxic distortion).

So what I read in the above blog post about mucous in the respiratory tract makes perfect sense.

Fat and greasy vs sweet and juicy? I know which I'm picking!

Kristin said...

Many of the symptoms you describe sound like iodine deficiency. For some reason, you seem to equate "Paleo" with grass-fed beef, and a low-protein diet with consuming seafood. I do not understand this, but it could explain why your iodine deficiency symptoms dissipate when you go back to your high-carb, seafood inclusive diet.
Iodine deficiency can cause a decrease in stomach acid production, leading to bloating, discomfort, and digest problems. Many skin lesions can be successfully treated by applying iodine to the affected skin, indicating iodine deficiency as a cause. Iodine deficiency can also disrupt thyroid function, and the hot flashes, breast issues, etc experienced by your wife could be caused by a combination of the iodine deficiency combined with a misbehaving thyroid.
I would highly suggest researching iodine deficiency symptoms and getting yourself tested. I personally use the 24-hour iodine loading and bromide tests from hakalalabs.com

Don said...

If a problem like lipomas develops on one type of diet, then resolves on another, it is NOT genetic.

Why does it take 5-10 years to see a lipoma manifest? All tumors grow slowly. Cells are very small. A breast cancer grows for as long as ~20 years before it becomes detectible by current methods. The diet encouraging the abnormal growth must continue for a long time before the abnormal growth appears large enough to detect by naked eye. Reversion typically takes less time because the body is constantly striving for health, once you give it the right conditions it correct the disorder quickly.

If diet change corrects the imbalance, I see no need to go fishing for vague diagnoses.

john said...

It's a little odd to write multiple posts about "paleo" being low fat, followed by a post that condemns fat and is called "farewell to 'paleo.'"

I'm so sick of empty arguments about what paleolithic people ate, as if that is the only way to determine a food's health impact. General statements about "low carb" and "low fat" are equally annoying and stupid. I eat a high fat diet--I can also design one that doesn't work.

nothing91 said...

Chelsea whined:
It's not uncommon for the high fat and animal product lovers to have noticeable mucus.

LOL. Sure didn't take long for the vegans to make their way here.

So far we've heard "It appears that" and "It's no uncommon for" from you and Don on this issue. Some actual evidence would be nice if you can find it. :-)

Daddy said...

Chelsea - I take him for his word. From MDA - "Last, my own nearly debilitating seasonal allergies literally disappeared when I got rid of grains (and cut the chronic cardio). It may have been related to the autoimmune connection between anti-nutrients/leaky-gut and hypersensitivity to proteins in grass seeds and pollen (grains are grass seeds). Many MDA readers report a dramatic reduction in hay fever or allergy symptoms when cutting grains." That's a little more convincing that a generic transcript of someone's conversation.

Don - I agree that philosophy has influenced the fundamental principles of science (objective truths, rational thought, etc.) but it appears that the yin/yang theory is putting general, arbitrary philosophical terms/concepts (hot, cold, neutral, damp) on things such as food based on - well, I'm not sure. We could get real deep on philosophy and it's influence if we wanted to. I'll agree that a holistic approach seems to be vital and is missing from much of Western practice but I don't believe that eliminates the paleo diet per se or "proves" Chinese medicine. In fact, many of the paleo bloggers, Mark Sissson (thanks Chelsea) and Evolutionary Psychiatry (forget her name) and Chris Kresser promote the mind-body axis.

Thomas said...

@Chris Kresser
I basically agree with you, but don’t forget that most people do not have the same nutrition background that you do and most have little time to do any meaningful research. Telling them to just think for themselves isn’t really fair (It’s kinda like telling the obese to just stop eating so much).

Depending on who you go to for information, paleo has definitely been defined as high fat eating, especially high saturated fat. Plenty of paleo blogs advocate drinking cream, eating lots of bacon, making “meatza” etc. Replacing carbs with fat has been advocated by many in the paleosphere. And the average person is supposed to understand that paleo isn’t necessarily high fat?

Malena said...

My experience is that there are different factors at play here that everyone seems to mix up.

I grow up on a high carb grain and milk based diet. I had perfect health and was very lean. Then my body started to react to specific foods; grains containing gluten, milk products, soy, yeast and glutamate. When I finally realized the cause of my recent unexplainable health problems and excluded those foods from my diet I got rid of:

skin irritation
dark under eye circles
water retention
joint pain

However, as I changed my diet, I happened to eat less carbs. So I went from approximately 65-70% carbs to perhaps 40-50% carbs.This was partly due to the propaganda for HFLC.

Over the years, however, I got the same problems back as I had got from the allergens. All of them! But in addition I also got PMS and I got fatter. I am still lean, with a low BMI, but yet my body composition worsened.

Now I am back to high carb and the problems are subsiding. Everything is getting better and I expect I will have the same health soon, now that I am 38, that I had at 22.

There is a particular reason not to eat wheat, milk, soy, glutamate and yeast. Those foods are forced into our bodies at a very early stage, as infant formulas, when we are babies and our immune system is far from developed, at a time when we are only supposed to eat mother's milk. If introduced at too an early stage, those foods will get a "false passport" into our bodies. When we ingest them at a later stage, our bodies will think they are human, "body-own" substances, when in fact they are foreign substances. The foods will thus not be fully digested and foreign proteins etc will go into our systems causing all kinds of havoc to our bodies.

According to conventional theories for autoimmune diseases, the body is somehow stupid and attacks its own tissues. I think the it is the conventional theories that are stupid coming up with this sort of explanation. What the immune system actually attacks is foreign substances that have invaded our bodies and being built into our tissues. Thus, autoimmune diseases are not some sort of hocus pocus, coming from outer space. Nor is it our bodies or our genes doing stupid things. Foreign susbstances can of course also be toxins from e.g. vaccines, medication and amalgam.

So whatever diet you are following your body will thank you for excluding specific food items totally. After that it will be easier to find out the exact mix that suits you. For me it is definitely not a HFLC diet.

Don said...

So, looking at the comments as a whole, on the one hand some people seem to think everyone needs to think for him/her self, which I thought I modeled in this post, yet on the other hand, some seem to think I can't trust my own experience, so I should trust Wikipedia or some other medical source, and my experience is not trustworthy unless I can document it with references.

If you want to make all your dietary decisions waiting for double-blind placebo controlled studies to tell you what to do, go for it. But you might wait for years to get an answer from science of that type on which to base a decision, if the powers that be ever decide to investigate the question you have in that fashion.

Empirical knowledge has been the basis of the advance of human civilization for millenia. From my perspective, if you'd rather wait for 'the authorities' to produce the 'true knowledge' you are simply giving your own power away to those authorities.

A significant proportion of people who have heart disease progressing don't know it until they have an often fatal heart attack. Why? Because they don't know or they ignore the early warning signs of the progression of this disease. Western medicine has no systematic understanding of how disease progresses from minor to major in a logical evolutionary fashion, or how to see it coming without doing blood tests. Oriental medicine on the other hand has for millennia been focused on prevention of catastrophe by looking for early warning signs that can be corrected by dietary intervention.

Those who think it will take another 15 years for me to come to another conclusion don't have a clue about my history. I've already done vegan and vegetarian diets for ~15 years previous to paleo experiments. From the mistakes I made there I was led into paleo and meat-based dieting. Now, having spent similar periods of time experimenting with both sides of this coin (meat-free and meat-dominated) I have a perspective unavailable unless you have done both experiments for long periods of time.

Funny how some people will criticize me for not changing sooner, while others would have criticized me if I had only done either approach for only a year. I am thoroughly familiar with people telling me I just didn't do it "right." That in part is why I stick with things for a long time, trying to find the "right" way to do it, if any exists. But apparently that makes me stupid.

One person thinks I should eat all raw paleo, unaware that I already tried that. Again, so funny that so many people who I have never met seem to know so much about me and my history, what I did and did not do.

Malena said...

Obviously you don't know anything about TCM or for example auyur veda. I suggest you talk to people who have experience of it before discussing it.

Western medicine is good at treating acute problems. However, 80-90% of all health care is chronic disease. Despite the increasing investments and costs, people are just getting sicker. I don't know of any other business than allopathic medicine that can keep going when failing 80% of the time. I don't know any other scientific theory that is still sort of valid when failing 80% of the time.

What Western medicine is doing is giving the same sort of treatment in acute and chronic conditions. Its like putting your leg in plaster and then keep the plaster for the rest of your life. For example, people with ulcerative colitis get cortisone for acute problems. Then they are supposed to continue with cortisone for the rest of their lives. Just google and find out what the long term effects are of cortisone treatment. Not a funny read.

TCM, Auyur veda, homeopathy etc will solve, or improve, chronic conditions and are therefore a superb compliment to the Wester medicine that (only) works for acute conditions.

pablo DLS said...

so basically you are fucked? im so sorry. maybe stop drinking dat coffe, eating rancid nuts, and eating shitty food? also give DIF a go, digesting all that shitty food is dat not easy. im felling great, btw, my skin is flawless, my shit dsnt stink, 75% of my diet is saturated fat, yet im frigging muscular and handsome.

Don said...


My experience is the evidence. If I get more sticky mucus when I eat a diet high in fat and protein, and it thins out and inflammation recedes when I cut the fat and protein, that is evidence. Try it yourself. But to you, my experience and apparently your own as well is not evidence unless I or you can provide some double-blind clinical study to back it. Good luck waiting for that. I venture to speculate that no one will ever fund a study to find out the answer because it has no potential monetary profit. What, just cut your meat and fat intake to reduce your allergic symptoms? How can I sell that? I don't need to wait for the 'authorities' to endorse or validate my experience.

Daddy said...

Malena - I agree with you completely. Western medicine is treating the problem instead of attempting to prevent it. I think many of the paleo/primal bloggers agree with you. I think everyone, including Don, is looking for a way to avoid chronic disease or at least shorten it's timespan. You're right. I absolutely know nothing about TCM. I, like everyone else, am simply attempting to apply rational thought and a scientific basis for a way to optimal health. I plan on keeping Don's blog a part of the things I read. Based on this first post, I question the logic and scientific basis utilized. At first glance, TCM seems a bit "hokey" (not to be offensive). Ultimately, I think Don will feel the need to back up his scientific claims with a "Western-style" scientific approach, or not. Maybe he'll just say "this" is what works for him. To me, that line of thinking is a lot less likely to get me to change my dietary habits than a scientific explanation of how certain foods/vitamins/minerals react in the majority of human bodies. That type of "general" scientific explanation combined with my personal physiological reaction to foods and test results/markers seem a much more rational and verifiable approach.

Malena said...


I must also confess that I don't know much about TCM and have limited (but successful) experience of homeopathy. However, regarding TCM, I actually find it extremely difficult to grasp and very scientific, however, the scientific language differs completely from what you are used to as a Westerner. Actually, Don wrote an excellent post on epistemology that covers this problem (thank you Don :)).

HealthyCoach said...

Hi Don,
I've been following your blog for a couple months & I wanted to say thank you for providing such insightful posts. I'm more of a Mediterranean diet follower myself (based on taste preference) but I'm always interested in learning about the pros and cons of other eating patterns. I look forward to what the new blog brings :-)

jaime said...

I totally support Don for being honest to himself, healing starts from there.
What I dont understand is why I used to get hard mucousy pebble stools on a vegetarian diet based on brown rice & legumes. I went paleo for healing this & other issues and it work out nicely, but I think I reach a point were my body already obtain the nutrients it needed from a high fat paleo & now it just wants to go back to a more high carb vegetarian type diet, Im eating a lot of white rice,plantains,taters,white fish & shellfish with some red meat on occasions ..I must say it has work wonders. The body is a wonderfull machine, it just need an awake driver.

Angelo said...

Great article, Don. I look forward to seeing what you end up experimenting with.

My Paleo approach has always been carb-neutral. I've managed not to develop a fruit-phobia, and I've always included some white rice (via almost-weekly sushi rolls) in my diet. I've recently begun eating more white potatoes, too.

I still avoid sugar, seed oils, and gluten-containing grains -- which I consider the big 3 for the Paleo approach. But pretending high-fat, low-carb, mostly meat is "Paleo" just ain't so.

Your farewell doesn't surprise me. If you decided to switched to a processed-foods-only diet: THAT would surprise me. The diet you describe: fish, plants, non-gluten carbs...to me, is still a Paleo variant, wouldn't you say? And I'm also guessing the occasional bone-marrow-broth soup and small amounts of organ meats would still work well.

In any case, thank you for sharing this and continuing to share your own nutritional journey...it's helpful to us all.

Don said...

From the post above:

"Therefore, I will not even attempt to call what I do or advocate a “paleo” or “primal” diet, although I think it appropriate to do so."

yes, I think I can call what I do "paleo" or "primal." In scientific circles, "paleo diet" refers to any ancient diet, for example in this article:


The authors use the term "paleo diet" to refer to both the ancient Egyptian diet and the grain-based largely vegan diet of the Alpine Ice Man (isotopic analysis of his hair indicates he was largely vegan...in ancient Europe 5200 ybp). So I suppose vegan has a claim to paleo too.

Don said...


Yin-yang applied to food is far from arbitrary, it is based on whether the food has more of a supplementary or a more draining effect on physiology, and on water content, and it predicts nutrient distributions and other features. For example red meat is more yang than watermelon for many objective reasons, including lower water content, obvious texture differences (meat harder, melon softer), immediate sensation of thermal and moistening effect (when you are really hot and thirsty, would you prefer melon or grilled steak?), and what will happen if you try to live exclusively on either (on melon alone you will likely lose weight and on meat alone you can easily gain or maintain), and other effects easily discovered by direct experience.

Further, these determinations predict objective differences, like macronutrient differences i.e. mostly protein and fat (meat) versus mostly sugar and water (melon), high iron meat vs low iron melon, high sodium/potassium ratio meat vs. low ratio in melon, high B12 content vs low, and others.

nothing91 said...


"My experience is the evidence. If I get more sticky mucus when I eat a diet high in fat and protein, and it thins out and inflammation recedes when I cut the fat and protein, that is evidence."

This is evidence *for your individual case only*. This is what you're missing. You cannot, based on your experience, extrapolate to baseless generalizations such as:

"Prolonged high fat and protein intake appears to increase the thickness and hence stickiness of mucous in the respiratory tract, trapping dust, pollen, and other irritants that stimulate immune and inflammatory responses."

You have to provide more evidence for such generalizations than "Well it happened to me!". Otherwise you can expect to hear from folks like myself who eat a high-fat diet and don't have the above problem -- because based on the way you worded the statement, a single outlier (me) disproves it.

I've read your blog for years and have learned a lot. But this is a problem in general with your know-it-all writing style.

Daddy said...

"Further, these determinations predict objective differences, like macronutrient differences i.e. mostly protein and fat (meat) versus mostly sugar and water (melon), high iron meat vs low iron melon, high sodium/potassium ratio meat vs. low ratio in melon, high B12 content vs low, and others."

I imagine that you considered sodium/potassium ratios, proteins, fats, water content, effects on nutrient distributions, etc. in all your previous research and writings regarding the paleo/primal lifestyle and you found those determinations to be sufficient at the time. Now, you're essentially saying is "despite my prior research/writings that I felt to be sound at the time and overwhelmingly demonstrated that the paleo/primal diet had proven itself on many levels, the diet just hassn't worked for me personally, and therefore should be denounced."

It will be hard for you to now say, "based on my current research/writings that I feel are also sound, the ying-yang theory of diet has proven itself on many levels, and works for me personally, and therefore should be promoted."

See the inherent fallacy. It's not as if one can't change their mind based on new evidence even if it just your personal experience, but I can't see how that would un-do your previous "sound" stance unless you are willing to outright say "I was completely wrong - my research/writings were completely false and based on false/misleading evidence." In that case, your credibility is damaged and we can't be sure if what your saying now is not flawed as well. It's not hard to imagine someone saying, "yeah, well he said the same thing about the paleo diet for years - how do i know what to believe?" That's the risk of heavily promoting a diet or lifestyle - if you're wrong, then you've called into question everything you've said or will say.

If you were out with the intention to actively promote a lifestyle, then there's the question of whether you have the ethical obligation to stop promoting any lifestyle whatsoever. Think of how many people may have adapted the primal/paleo lifestyle, which you seem to now claim is unhealthy, based on everything you've written. I know I think about this question a lot when people ask me about it.

tiburon said...

I've watched Don prep us for this for the past few months. I've also been deviating from "paleo" myself for about that long. I've eaten beef four nights out of the past week, and I've been itching like a maniac only to do the math last night. I was vegan for nearly nine years prior to 2007, when I began reintroducing meat into my diet. For the past year, I've been about 95% paleo. While I do not plan to make as dramatic a change now as I have in the past, I do plan to return the scales to a more balanced distribution with a little less meat.

On another note: It's especially hilarious to see some of the folks commenting here, who've clearly taken Don't departure/about-face personally (somehow), and lashing out like unloved teenagers. For example, Don is actually qualified to evaluate the application of Chinese Medicine and any relationship it may have with the modern "paleo" dietary movement. None of you are. You look incredibly stupid saying things like "I don't see much empirical research coming out of China from 5,000 years ago..." Right -- because you don't a) read Chinese, b) know anything about the history of Chinese medicine and how heavily it was integrated with their dietary culture, and c) etc., etc.

Thanks, Don. It's a pleasure to see someone making rational rather than ideological decisions. Please continue publishing your always cohesive thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Don, for me paleo is not a synonym for (very) low carb. Dependent of your load, a fair amount of starch (e.g. sweet potatoes, yams, manioc and white rice) should be part of a paleo diet. I will read your follow-up posts with interest.

Jim said...

Itching from eating meat? That's bizarre, I'd get checked for a food allergy. Aren't lipomas caused by a genetic predisposition? And stress caused by meat and fat? That's a totally new one.

" I have returned to eating a whole food, high-starch, gluten-free, low-fat (≤20% energy as fat) plant-based diet with much smaller amounts of animal products, primarily fish and shellfish."

That still sounds pretty healthy to me... and I'd still put it in the realm of "Paleo" but whatever. Removing seed oils, sugar and cutting wheat, corn and soy (or at least limiting them to insignificant amounts) then focusing on quality of ingredients seems to be the most important aspect to health if you ask me. Just so happens that Paleo or HG diets focus on those same things.

Do you really have to eat high fat to eat a Paleo diet? Hmmm...

Yuneek said...

A few summary statements, if I may.

People's bodies are different. What's right for one person is not necessarily right for someone else.

People's bodies change over time. What was right for you before isn't necessarily right for you now.

The body exists in a larger continuum than exclusive physical causes and effects. Your beliefs can and do have physical consequences.


Individual foods aren't necessarily "good" or "bad" per se but can have mixed health effects. Eating in a narrow range can make foods appear to be problematic when if they were consumed as a part of a wider variety they would be fine.

The term "Paleo" would be best represented when defined as the absence of modern foods (processed foods, feed lot animals, dairy, agricultural grains, modern vegetable oils, etc.) rather than by some macro-nutrient profile.

In indigenous populations the entire animal is consumed rendering the construct of "lean meat" inaccurate and meaningless.

Discussions are facilitated when personal anecdotal experiences are clearly represented as such and not generalized as objective facts unless references are given. Even "objective facts" are often created from questionable studies or incorrect conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Hey miro,

Ooooh cave paintings. How many pictures of potatoes and rice do you see these days? They're not very interesting to draw/photograph ;) Justifying your diet based cave paintings? LMFAO! Let me guess... you're a zero-carber. See you back here in a few months when that retarded diet doesn't work for you.


Some of these people just need to eat a f'in carb or two so they're not so emotionally butt hurt by you not wanting to call your higher-carb diet "paleo" anymore. I will continue to call my very-low animal diet paleo, just to piss people off and hopefully save someone from agony blindly following low-carb/high-fat sensationalism. As you've shown us before, we didn't evolve from the poles down, we evolved from the equator up.

Chelsea said...

I have seen comment after comment here of people trying to say Paleo hasn't been about low carb. Well maybe in their heads, but the "mainstream" Paleo diet has been understood to be VERY high fat and low carb to the point of demonizing carbs.

Take this quote from "Livin La Slow Death Low Carb" promoter Jimmy Moore. He describes the community of Paleo as BEING low carb. Not everyone may agree with him, but he is extremely vocal and well connectd with the well known Paleo bloggers, and if his mix of the terms had been problematic, he would have been chastised by now to not do so.

This is a quote from today, June 15, 2011:
Jimmy Moore:
Oh I’m sure. But a few of those topics sounded pretty exciting, right? Weeeellllll, not exactly. My reader who is well-versed in the low-carb/Paleo message said Dr. Ratliff only spent “maybe one minute” on what their definition of a Paleo diet is…and it’s not even close to how most of the low-carb/Paleo community would describe their diet.

The 'message', he refers to is singular, not 2 different messages.

The 'community' he refers to is singular, not 2 different communities.

He sees Paleo as low-carb. Even if others want to argue semantics, this is how Paleo has been touted to others AND how it has been followed by others.

People can backpedal all they want now, and they should for their health, but Paleo has been viewed by most as high fat and low in the evil carbs.

nothing91 said...

Chelsea whined:
"He sees Paleo as low-carb."

Boy, you're some genius. :-) To "prove" that Paleo is seen as low-carb, you quote a low-carber? You quote probably the most prominent low-carber on the Internet to "prove" your point about Paleo?

Teehee. I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that you're not a rocket scientist.

Chelsea said...

nothing91, reread what I wrote.

Why don't you stop letting your ramblings be an example of what happens when an individual forgoes common sense.

Jimmy Moore's advice, and representation of Paleo and low carb as being the same, is received with nods and applause by a large number of people, rather than harsh criticism and correction by prominent Paleo bloggers. He is vocal enough that Paleo bloggers are not ignorant of his claims.

Are you denying that a newbie to Paleo is going to hear much else rather than "eat the fat, and if you don't feel good, eat more fat"?

nothing91 said...

Chelsea whined:
"Jimmy Moore's advice, and representation of Paleo and low carb as being the same, is received with nods and applause by a large number of people, rather than harsh criticism and correction by prominent Paleo bloggers."

Please show prominent Paleo bloggers nodding & applauding Jimmy Moore's representation of Paleo. Thanks!

Now, let's address the lack of "harsh criticism and correction" by these bloggers. It's very simple. Paleo bloggers in general aren't confrontational like you (and so many other vegans) are. :-) Today's prominent Paleo bloggers are mature -- they generally don't spend their time starting arguments with other bloggers.

I know this is hard for you to underestand since you clearly spend hours a day on the Internet starting arguments with people. So I won't be surprised when you don't get it. :-)

Shel said...

Don, don't forget that the actual researchers, the real "fathers" of "paleo", like Cordain etc., though they have no fear of sat fat, don't advocate high fat intake...

...this high fat stuff came from so-called paleo bloggers, most of whom sift through their papers of choice, but have never done a primary study.

i tend to agree with you though. i consider my way of eating paleoesque (whatever that means).

i dealt with many of the same problems as you, so macronutrient levels be damned.

and this might seem radical but you might find it interesting: now i eat my plants AND animals raw, with some cooked tubers squash cruciferous etc. i've been doing this for a while now and can say, cautiously, that it seems to be working better than anything i have done in the past...

...its interesting how one's body changes its cravings when it's forced to eat mostly raw with some cooked starch (there is almost no feeling of reward, except satiation). one's craving for flesh, though still there, is much less when its raw.

...i don't eat or crave much; i eat mostly fruit, cooked tubers/roots and greens in that order, and a daily binge on raw meat and raw fish/seafood.

i know it seems radical and bland but (knock on wood) its working.

...and good on you for sounding an alarm for folks with potential future high-fat problems.

Anonymous said...

No Don- I refuse to accept your farewell.

Paleo is neither a specific diet, nor low carb. It's an online community of intelligent critical thinkers trying to understand and solve medical problems by throwing out mainstream unsupported dogma. We have very limited data to work with so our leading opinions will continue to evolve with new data, and new ideas. The low carb concept is rapidly disappearing from paleo thought. In the "Perfect Health Diet" Shou-Ching and Paul Jaminet make a convincing argument that fat to carbohydrate ratios are largely irrelevant in the context of a healthy metabolism.

To me the most striking thing about hunter-gatherer data isn't their specific macro-nutrient ratios, but the fact that their ratios are all over the map and yet remain almost universally free of "diseases of civilization." This alone proves that (1) starch carbohydrates do not by themselves cause metabolic syndrome and (2) low carb isn't essential for avoiding diseases of civilization. However, I argue that low carb is critical for people managing existing insulin resistance.

As long as you're thinking critically about health and considering the evolutionary context you're still a member of the paleo community in my book!

Anonymous said...

I argue that western science isn't inherently reductionist. In bioengineering and systems biology, the leading paradigm is to consider the dynamic behavior of biological systems using things such as control theory.

This involves looking at biological processes as a large complex system involving many feedback loops and homeostatic mechanisms mediated by external factors rather than direct cause and effect.

Don said...

Empirical research in ancient China: If you think it didn't happen, you don't know anything about the history of science and technology in China.

Regarding nutrition, by the third century Chinese physicians had discovered that eating liver could reverse night blindness. They discovered it by empirical investigation...hypothesizing and testing... and came up with valuable medical theory as a result. Vitamin A was not identified until the 20th century. But to say Chinese weren't doing science i.e. accumulating valid knowledge because they didn't discover vitamin A (retinol) is pure chauvanism.

Plus, this illustrates how long laboratory science lags behind practical empirical science.

Chinese also correctly identified and discovered how to cure beri beri with foods long before European physicians.

I would agree that Western science is not 'intrinsically' reductionist. It is gradually becoming holistic (e.g. systems theory) simply because the reductionist approach has proven incapable of handling nature successfully. But Chinese elected systems theory several thousand years ago. They didn't find all the microscopic trees (bits of things, like macronutrients, etc.) identified by Western science because they never thought that one could understand a thing best by taking it apart into smaller and smaller bits. Instead, they thought the best way to understand a thing is to study how it interacts with other things; they studied relationships of wholes, and the relation of an organism and its environment.

Sifter said...

Well, interesting.... but consider the following: the Annals of Internal Medicine completed a recent study. One group of participants went low carb, straight out of Atkins playbook...no more than 20 grams of carbs a day from fibrous, low glycemic veggies, no other restrictions, they were encouraged to eat all the protein and fat they wanted to eat.

Second group went on a standard low fat 12-1500 calories/day for women, 15-1800 calories/day for men. ONLY restriction was to keep fat at 30% or less of calories.Study was for two years.

Researchers were interested primarily in weight loss. But six months into the study, they discovered that the LOW CARB group had a significatnly greater reduction in diastolic BP, and in triglycerides, AND V LDL cholesterol... PLUS an astounding increase in HDL of 23%, better than any drug can induce. Interstingly, the weight loss was small for both groups, about 20 lbs the first year with some regain the second year, so average weight loss was 15 lbs or so. But how do you explain the marked cardiovascular improvements from the low-carb diets if not for the fact that they are low carb?

Anonymous said...


Consider the confounding effects that low carb diets also eliminate toxic grain proteins, fructose, and often high omega-6 vegetable oil among other things.

Don said...

I haven't read that study to know enough to critique it. But I will say this: 1) The changes in blood lipids you mentioned don't necessarily herald a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Did any group get total cholesterol below 150, the standard among hunter-gatherers and in agricultural populations with very low heart disease risk? 2) How well did the so-called 'low fat' group comply with the low fat Rx? (I guess not well since the change in body fat content was so poor.) 4) Who funded this study? 5) Low fat in medical studies doesn't necessarily mean whole foods. 6) One year is not 10 years or 15 years.

Actually I find it quite interesting, and will chastise my former self for this as well: When we look at the closest analogues we have for 'paleolithic' diets, the hunter-gatherers, we find average total cholesterols under 150, and this associated with high immunity to cardiovascular disease or mortality from the same. But among the 'paleo' community, people accept much higher cholesterol levels as 'healthy' basing their rationalizations on juggling HDL, etc. But if we're serious about using H-Gs as standards, then we shouldn't accept total cholesterol much above 150 as normal, we should wonder why we aren't having cholesterol levels like H-Gs despite our so-called H-G diets.

As for me, my total cholesterol was well over 200 when eating high fat, and well under when eating low fat high carb.

Anonymous said...

Don, could you please describe your paleo diet, mostly in terms of most-common foods/meals eaten?

I'm not trying to nitpick or anything, I would just like a record for my own sake, what sort of diet seemingly did not work for this person.

Don said...


For particulars you can see many variations over the 16 or so months in the section here labeled "my meals". During that time I experimented with a range of macronutrients: carbs from "0" to 30%, protein from 20-30%, fat from 50-70%.

My book outlines in detail the way I ate for most of my paleo years--just as recommended by Cordain, high in protein (25-30%), moderately low in carbohydrate (30-40%), and moderate in fat 30-40%.

Since the first variation didn't work well, I tried lowering protein and carbs and increasing fat for the latter period of experimentation, following the idea that paleo diets were lower in carb and higher in fat. More than 5 years of experimentation with that convinced me that the high fat approach didn't work any better than the moderate fat, that cutting carbs was not the route to nutritional nirvana.

Dr. Gee said...

but paleo != low carb.

indeed Chinese diet (or philosophy) prefers moderation.

your past diet, is probably heating.

your current diet sounds quite "ying" & cooling.


miro said...

Hi Grok,
Good picture says more than thousand words. The point was that animals were all season HG staple food. That doesn't mean they didnt eat plants at all. When they couldnt catch animal they ate everything available to avoid starvation.
I dont buy all this paleo stuff and I think there is no universal paleo diet. Au contraire, I eat plenty of 'non paleo' high fat cheese, fatty meat, dozen eggs, white potatoes ets.
But, human bodies developed inline with our dietary past and some principles work for all of us.
I'm not fan of any kind of scientific studies re. human diet, I like practice and experiences more.
I'm no zero carb fanatic neither I advice that to anyone but from my experience and experience of my friends (mostly athletes), if you want to loose fat or maintain good body composition long term, higher protein/fat and low carb is superior to anything else.
Also, calories count and you should be aware of your eating vs. expenditure. If you constantly overeat with high fat other high carbs your body will find way to store it. I experienced both on my own.
To maintain low body fat or efficiently loose you want your body to be fat burner,not glucose burner. Pair that with some aerobic exercise and lifting and bingo! you're burning even more fat and spare muscles. Then once a week you eat high carb to refill your glycogen but keep your metabolism in fat burning state. I do this for almost 2 years (DiPasquale anabolic diet) and it got me to 9% BF without feeling hungry ever. Obviously there is some evolutionary groung behind this, otherwise it wouldnt work for goood body composition.
My experience and some other people experience tell me that preaching high carb diets and claiming that high carb meals are more satiating than high protein/fat meals is completly wrong approach for average Joes!
Health wise, I think macros aren't important that much. As long as you eat natural whole food without much toxins and you meet you micronutrient needs you will be ok. But that won't make you look good naked :).

Martin said...

Hi Don, could you provide more information (or a link) regarding fat intake and intestinal peristalsis. I suffer constipation under a low carb diet and I would love to know the mechanism. A (quick) search of your site and google returned nothing. Very grateful. Thanks.

FeelGoodEating said...

Two quick things;

1. How much meat? For hunter gatherer societies food was scarce. We all eat to much (meat)food in my humble opinion.

2. Don, low carb?? I always enjoyed the pics of your meals and saw plenty of sweet potato and fruits. So a little confused.

Good for you Don to change things up though.
If something doesn't work, change it!
But I would leave it simply to that, change it for yourself.
No need to try to convince anyone...and eventhough I feel your heart is in the right place, your post does come off a little bit as "I'm right".

Always enjoyed your writing snd will continue to check back here.


Jaana said...

Don, I just wanted to stop by and give my support to you. There are plenty of us who do not do well with paleo/LC diets.

I ended up having serious health problems after following LC diet for 6 years.

I am quite well now, but it took over 2 years to recover the damage done. I follow Schwarzbein Principle, but also use recommendations from TCM. TCM recognizes this type of problems, whereas western medicine does not.

Wish you all the best!

Break Up Expert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tiburon said...

Break Up Expert: ...probably best to sniff around before exercising your poor judgment.

MGS Fan said...

It's so weird of Don to attribute all of his ailments to a paleo diet. I'm not emotionally invested in defending paleo - I'm glad to see material that tries to debunk it. But this is far from a balanced critique. It's actually quite baseless and purely anecdotal.

This is one individual stating that his conception of "paleo" didn't work for him. If only he would have put his faith in Chinese medicine, which would have predicted all of these outcomes [rolls eyes].

I'm sorry, but a teaching post at some school of "Healing Arts" doesn't allow you to adequately discredit the existing research and case studies on "paleo" style eating.

Yes, even an authority on Chinese medicine like Don needs to back up his statements with some kind of evidence. Otherwise, he just looks like an easily duped flake.

Zusa said...

We won't get anywhere in our quest for health without taking metabolic typing and bioindividuality into consideration. And it certainly does us no good to have one more person writing one more book based on their own experience with a certain diet.

Anonymous said...

Don, So glad to hear you're doing what is working for you! As someone that knows you, it doesn't surprise me at all that you've changed the way you're eating, based upon your years of trial and error. It's refreshing to know that there are people like yourself who dedicate their lives to experimenting with what works, what doesn't, and formulating a plan for health based upon observation.

Julie W. :)

Fenris said...

Hey Don. Good job for experimenting with yourself. I think the idea that "one diet fits all" is absurd.

Personally, I thrive on dairy, meat, and a higher fat intake. I've dropped bodyfat, gained muscle, and lost a whole host of health issues (many of which were the same as you were experiencing on the exact same diet). This is why it's good for us to experiment. Different people will have different needs. If veganism works for someone, great. For me, cutting meat from my diet and eating grain induces horrible health problems and make me gain fat like crazy. Veganism tends to turn into a religion and that's always dangerous with dieting.

The Paleo movement can do the same thing, unfortunately. That's why I tend toward folks like Mark Sisson and Tom Naughton who advocate an approach and offer the tools and knowledge necessary to navigate your own way through that approach rather than some who take it all as dogma.

That being said, I really cannot get behind using Chinese medicine as a guide. While Western medicine is horribly flawed (all one has to do is look at how often statins are prescribed to see that), Chinese medicine is pretty backwards on quite a few things. The tiger is being driven extinct in the wild because Chinese medical "empiricism" tell us that ground tiger bones are good for male fertility.

Which, on a side note, if vegans REALLY want to do some good, why don't they fight to save species like the tiger or the black rhino that are on the verge of extinction while leaving me alone to promote humane farming methods that still get quality meat into my mouth? The mind boggles...

AliB said...

The problem with Paleo is that no one really knows who ate what and where, or how - they may have ideas, but no one was alive back then so they don't actually KNOW.

By far the best way of looking at food is to analyse the food that was eaten in more recent history and is eaten now amongst those who do not eat a Western diet - focusing particularly on those cultures that keep very good health. What do they do? How do they prepare their food? What wisdoms have been passed down by their ancient forebears that have stood the test of time?

Many healthy cultures DO eat grains - but - they prepare them properly before eating them to not only destroy anti-nutrients like phytic acid, but also to change the proteins, like gluten, into digestible and usable substances. Grains are usually pre-soaked for several hours - or even days, the resulting bread is made using natural yeasts (sourdough) and is also left to ferment for many hours before baking.

Each healthy indigenous group had/has 'sacred' foods - foods that are highly nutritious. Most have some kind of lacto-fermented food or foods. Most groups will favour cooked food over raw food. Many only use vegetables for medicinal purposes. Cruciferous vegetables for instance need to be well cooked to destroy anti-nutrients - acids that block the body's uptake of nutrition.

Often these people followed these ways without any real understanding of why - except that they knew they were healthier when they did...

These ancient ways have been forgotten or dimissed in the quest for speed and higher profits, but what marks healthy natural diets is time. Time for preparation, time for soaking, time for cooking. Time to let the processes do their job.

It does sound to me as though your diet was lacking. Fats yes, but what kind? Celtic Sea salt for its plethora of minerals and trace elements? Too many raw vegetables?

As we heal we can sometimes 'revisit' or 'retrace' old illnesses or health issues, and some foods are very detoxing, triggering sometimes strange reactions.

Perhaps looking at indigenous groups - after all, we in the Western diet have no Ancestral Dietary Wisdom handed down from previous generations to use as a benchmark - may be a good place to start.

My personal journey has taken me around the whole gamut, but every time I come back to what is the most nutritious, and the work done by people like Weston Price et al is such a good place to start - and finish.....

AMS said...

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say "farewell to low high fat"? For people who follow the "paleo" way of eating, I figured it was understood that eliminating processed grains, sugars, and vegetable oils was the measure of a healthy diet. Within this basic framework it is up to each individual to determine what the proper intake is. For some eating an ocean of fish and some coconuts is the path to optimal health, while others work better on beef and yams, or whatever.
To me this post feeds the common misconception that paleo eating is somehow inextricably tied to low carb eating.
Looking at eating from the perspective of what makes me feel good, and what makes me perform the best is a good indicator of what makes the best fuel for me. That's obviously going to be different from what makes anybody else work well.
It seems the only conclusion you can come to here is Don is finding what works best for him, and he doesn't seem to pull any punches on what he thinks and says. My personal opinion is that this particular post comes across as "my way or the highway" but that may just be his style.
We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that each persons experiences are uniquely their own, and trying to prescribe a course of action for others based solely on our experiences is usually going to fail miserably.
WIth that said, good luck to all on their personal journeys.

AMS said...

Maybe my comment should have started out with high fat instead of low high fat.
I should proofread before posting.

Mercury said...

Nice ignorant caricature of Matt, nothing91. He has tried many diets and reported some problems are fixed others remain, and sometimes new ones are created. That is typical o anyone who experiments with an open mind and minimal bias. But to dolts like you, that makes his problems psychosomatic & him a delicate flower. LoL at you, nothing

Michelle said...

China has had a long time to adjust to a HC grain based diet. LC paleo improved my health drastically, but my ancestors also ate a meat heavy diet, and mostly didn't farm.

Adam Panetta said...

Yes we all different and need an individualized approach, but this concept has been taken way too far! We, as humans, are a species, therefore sharing many MANY more similarities than differences! I think it's more beneficial to consider which food groups predominate the diet and are congruent with human health. Meat/eggs? Dairy? Fruits and vegetables? Nuts and seeds? Grains etc? If we use the common household dog as an example, we will see some slight perculiarities of food preferences. To my surprise, my dog has eaten some banana and other pieces of fruit that I have offered, but has turned her nose up to most other plant based foods. But, each and every single day, she intuitively chows down on raw meat from all sorts of animals, chickens, turkeys, cows, rabbit, kangaroo etc. Dogs are carnivorus by nature, so instinctively, meat and animal products are the optimal and desired food group. What about humans? Due to our intelligence, we rely on our instincts less. We are also the only species that cooks food, flavors, enhances, salts, refines, dehydrated etc and in doing do, rendering our natural sensors almost useless. My point is, I believe that as a species, humans are designed to thrive on a diet predominated by whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic fruits and vegetables. Every species has a species-specific diet regardless of geographical location.  Sure, if in starvation mode, one would eat nearly anything to stay alive and yes, someone might have an allergy to mangoes etc. But as a whole, humans are more alike and therefore would all benefit from eating more from the food groups we are physiologically designed for. 

Adam Panetta said...

Yes we all different and need an individualized approach, but this concept has been taken way too far! We, as humans, are a species, therefore sharing many MANY more similarities than differences! I think it's more beneficial to consider which food groups predominate the diet and are congruent with human health. Meat/eggs? Dairy? Fruits and vegetables? Nuts and seeds? Grains etc? If we use the common household dog as an example, we will see some slight perculiarities of food preferences. To my surprise, my dog has eaten some banana and other pieces of fruit that I have offered, but has turned her nose up to most other plant based foods. But, each and every single day, she intuitively chows down on raw meat from all sorts of animals, chickens, turkeys, cows, rabbit, kangaroo etc. Dogs are carnivorus by nature, so instinctively, meat and animal products are the optimal and desired food group. What about humans? Due to our intelligence, we rely on our instincts less. We are also the only species that cooks food, flavors, enhances, salts, refines, dehydrated etc and in doing do, rendering our natural sensors almost useless. My point is, I believe that as a species, humans are designed to thrive on a diet predominated by whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic fruits and vegetables. Every species has a species-specific diet regardless of geographical location.  Sure, if in starvation mode, one would eat nearly anything to stay alive and yes, someone might have an allergy to mangoes etc. But as a whole, humans are more alike and therefore would all benefit from eating more from the food groups we are physiologically designed for. 

Jorge said...

Time will tell who the Darwin award goes to...

B said...

Wow. This is... different. Chinese medicine, hey?

Personally I was raised eating in a way that aligns pretty strictly with the diet principles of Chinese medicine as you outline here, and it made me progressively quite ill (my worst issues were the awful condition of my skin [acne, eczema, hives, all sorts of rashes] and IBS - don't have any of the above as long as I avoid grains). High-fat, moderate carbs (grains are an IBS trigger but white rice and potatoes are ace), adequate but not excessive animal protein, and I am in the best health of my life so far. We each have to do what works for us.

FWIW I don't feel well on low-carb, or eating tons of meat/protein (I used to try to force it, but I just don't crave much). But that's certainly not mandatory on 'paleo'. I wouldn't call 50% so high-fat, either - sometimes I get 80%!

Mikko Lahtinen said...

Fenris wrote:

"Which, on a side note, if vegans REALLY want to do some good, why don't they fight to save species like the tiger or the black rhino that are on the verge of extinction while leaving me alone to promote humane farming methods that still get quality meat into my mouth? The mind boggles..."

What makes you think that vegans don't take part in protecting engangered species? One of the main objectives of veganism is to oppose the exploitation of non-human animals. I find it quite difficult to see, how your suggestion would help with that. Protecting endangered species is one thing, and it can be a part of veganism, but focusing solely on that side does very little if any to make things better for farm animals.

Swede said...

Farewell, Paleo, I knew thee well.

Carbs are yummy.

Dan said...

No doubt you're toxic.

Jennifer said...

This was somewhat of a slap in the face after the anti-carb education you taught at SWIHA. Does this mean the USDA has it right after all as long as our grains are gluten free?

Adam Panetta said...

The whole low/ no carb deal makes no sense to to me. Deprive the body of the energy source it prefers (carbs) and force it to run on the inefficient system of metabolizing fat for energy....??? Not to mention the possible issues arrising from consuming far too much protein. Anyway, I think the most important point is grossly overlooked. Carbs need to differentiated into 2 groups. The difference makes ALL the difference! 1) fresh fruits and vegetables 2) processed refined grains and the like. Increase the % of group 1 whilst decreasing group 2 and enjoy the many health benefits. To restrict the two most nutritious food groups fruits and vegetables is borderline nuts IMO.

Wes said...

Lots of comments so it may have been said already, but I just read an article in the newspaper about tick bites and allergies to red meat. I'm not exactly convinced of it, but I guess it's possible your itchiness several hours after eating meat is related.

Here's the articles web address. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/lifestyles/2011/jul/05/tdmain01-tick-bites-appear-to-trigger-allergy-to-r-ar-1151864/

Grady the Good said...

Dude, basing your diet on a guess of what cavemen who had 24 year life span ate is just plain silly. You were paleo longer than almost any caveman was! More correctly is to model your diet from those closest in time and situation to your own that are the healthiest, aka plant based Carb heavy eaters (Blue zoners). Bigger brains, longer lives, agriculture, starches and grains all go hand in hand in hand.

Paula said...

Sounds quite a lot like undiagnosed food allergies/sensitivities (IgG) to me...

I am aware that the Paleo diet is supposed to reduce inflammation from these causes (no doubt because it excludes certain food groups, to which most common allergens belong). The reason I say this is that between my two confirmed food allergies (IgG), I was exhibiting MOST of the symptoms BOTH you and your wife were experiencing. One allergen is eggs (very paleo) and the other is sunflower seeds (kind of paleo), each producing very different physical reactions in me. I have recently started a transition to paleo, and noticed right away that some other minor issues (some excess mucous particularly in the throat, dry itchy skin inside the ear canal, and dry skin on my arms and legs) have all gone away completely - so there may be a few other lesser food sensitivities that didn't show up on my allergy test.

Of course, do what you find works, but I would still consider IgG food allergy testing to pinpoint if a specific mainstream "paleo" food is the culprit. If so, that would suggest that the usual implementation of paleo does not make a person immune to developing food sensitivities over time (despite claims I've read that it helps heal the gut of many - which may or may not be true).

Cheers :)

Burning Ketones said...

Good point Paula, about the food allergies.

Also Don you didn't mention anything about your consumption of gluten and possibility you are gluten sensitive (check out Osbourne), as food allergies and gluten sensitivity, are likely your culprits, not a good natural diet of:
- high saturated fat
- moderate protein (always with saturated fat)
- minimal carbs (sugar), and
- zero commercial pasteurized milk products

And I don't consider my way of eating a "religion", but this carb diet with the dangers of insulin resistance and all that is just too risky: and the general health of societies eating primarily carbs is quite poor.

I suggest anybody interested in this subject to read scientific non-agenda books of:
1) "Life without Bread" (Allan&Lutz),
2)"Vegetarian Myth" (Keith),
3)"The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" (Volek&Phinney)
4) Protein Power (Eades)

And this is not about flaming or attacking anybody, but just sharing ideas and solid information and knowledge for the best health of all mankind! :-)

ally23 said...

Interesting to read your story.

I was a vegetarian for 6 years, low fat, high carb, modern protein from beans and legumes. Felt good but still had acne and now what seem like minor issues.
I then removed grains from my diet and introduced fish and ate mostly veg, fruit and some nuts. I seemed to thrive on this diet.
I then caught a nasty virus and a friend suggested Paleo to me as she was concerned about my lack of meat eating.
After reading Mark Sisson's book I was sold. For about 6 months I felt okayish, my weight increased slightly (I was never over weight anyway) I then became very ill and was diagnosed with various empty maladies. I continued to eat Paleo and condemning myself for thinking about eating high sugary fruits and rice etc. Convincing myself I must IF while being very sick. The Paleo literature is so very convincing you would feel stupid to act in a way that goes against it. I remember paying hefty prices to see various Naturopaths and TCM Doctors and scoffing at their nutrition suggestions, which I now feel ashamed of.
I now feel foolish for taking "Paleo Principals" as gospel and not listening to my own body. I am know eating plenty of sugary fruits like Mango's etc, small amounts of raw soaked oats and avoiding fatty foods and excess meat which I find to be congesting and am making a slow recovery. I don't think I will ever revert back to eating wheat and sugary processed foods, but I am going to let up on the high fat and protein aspect of "Paleo".
I suppose the moral of my story is as others have said, what works for one won't work for another. No diet will ever be perfect, as life happens and sickness can strike us down no matter what we eat. But we can hope to do what is best for our body by really thinking about what works for us. It is not easy as intuition is being lost on us all these days in every aspect of life.
Good luck with your new lifestyle and good health to us all.

Txomin said...

One thing is clear. You are in very poor health. Please take care of yourself.

Regarding your "180" (and completely aside from your medical condition which you should address asap), be prepared to do a few more. You are as certain now as you were then... and equally close to whatever the truth is.

zazendo said...

while i agree with some of the posters, it is obvious that not many(none) really know anything about Daoism or the I Ching. yin and yang are both general and specific, arbitrary and particular. fact is that what Lao Tzu(or whomever wrote the Tao Te Ching) advocates over everything else is a return to nature. Nature is ALWAYS in balance. Nature doesn't count calories or carbs or fat and it doesn't prescribe to the "one way or the other" mentality. perhaps our "pre-civilization" ancestors had it right on basically everything, but you can bet your ass that they ate what was available--determined by seasons and geography. read all the documents you want--they point in all directions. i happen to prefer a high fat, moderate protein, and lowish carbs--no grains, or other neolithic foods. Basically the archevore diet. it works for me. I however, only consume carbs at night, before bed. Been doing this for almost 6 years and ALL of my health issues have been resolved. If your personal issues aren't resolved doing things in a particular way, that means you weren't doing them RIGHT FOR YOU. Remember that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting the same results. At least Don isn't insane.

DancinPete said...

Hi Don,

Do you feel that your mucous problem was caused by too much mucous? or too little? ie: Is mucous inherently thick and goopy, or does it only get this way when there's not enough, and it thickens like soup stock that's boiled down.

I too found that my skin and eyes dry out on low carb. Paul Jaminet, at Perfect Health Diet suggested that this was due to too little mucous production, due to not enough glucous intake, and suggested, like you, that an increase in safe starches would solve the problem.

bettyblue said...

Out of curiosity - Which bloodtype do you have (and your wife?).

And what exactly did you eat? Did you ever eat organic meat?

Anonymous said...

Good luck on the changes you are making. You might want to be mindful of nightshade foods now that you are going to eat more starches and vegetables. The nightshades include tomatoes and potatoes and eggplant and peppers and contain fat soluble neurotoxins like acetylcholesterase inhibitors. I have a problem with these and many people do as well. Google contains a lot of leads if you want to research it further. I'm a high carb plant based person for the most part but I don't find a lack of great foods out there. Only a lack of great restaurants and supermarkets. :)


Reminded of Eileen Caddy, the founder of Findhorn and channeler of God who once extolled the virtues of a diet based entirely on plants but shocked her followers by starting eating red meat and drinking whiskey ...

I made myself sick with Macrobiotics. Juicing and green drinks make me thin, pale and sickly looking. Bread and pasta make me fat. High quality meat and fats seem to do my body good but I have to remind myself it isn't the food I eat that is important.

Sakura said...

I would love to see you test your iodine! we can talk after the test

Heather Mamatey said...


It takes a very brave man to be willing to admit when the paradigm he's fervently promoted (and built his career around) is no longer working. It takes bravery and courage to be willing to chuck out the old, beloved ideas and open the mind to new ones. No doubt this is a scary process, but it is so much smarter than doing what so many others do when confronted with the same challenges:

1) Refuse to change or admit that they may have been wrong in the past, and keep clinging to what used to work for them, while watching their health steadily worsen.


2) This one is most common: Make changes to the diet in secret, but continue to advocate the old diet/old paradigm to followers due to feelings of fear and shame.

Those with true mental strength and backbone reject both 1 and 2, and do what Don has done here: face the music, tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

Don, you are keeping your mind continually open to new ideas and are not afraid to keep learning and evolving. I applaud you. If only there were more like you, sir!


Heather Mamatey

Alex said...

Paul Chek anyone? A genius who has helped thousands of people and know what he is doing. If you are talking nutrition, high or low carbs, high fat or low fat and even want to bring yang/yang in to the subject you should try reading his book "Eat Move And Be Healthy" and stop acting like you understand something you clearly don't. This book has been out for a while now, and if you are looking for some serious info on this topic you better read his book again and again. I know most of you probably read it, but most of you clearly don't remember the message...

gwarm said...

Have you seen http://tinyurl.com/drgregercomplete on what plant foods to eat? Watch for 11.5hrs

Heard about this post from ancestral health lecture, thanks.

cassan said...


Fascinating! Have you heard of the metabolic typing theory? Dr. Mercola proposes that everyone falls into a few categories with regards to ideal macronutrient ratios:

1) low-carb, high-fat
2) high-carb, low-fat
3) mixed

What are your thoughts on this? It would fit the idea that no one macronutrient setup works for everyone.

gwarm said...

"I have returned to eating a whole food, high-starch, gluten-free, low-fat (≤20% energy as fat) plant-based diet with much smaller amounts of animal products, primarily fish and shellfish."

Did you ever watch http://tinyurl.com/drgregercomplete (11.5hrs of line by line food item list -- some plants poisonous) http://tinyurl.com/drgregerPDFs

Posted in comments in earlier blogposts around 1 year ago?
Clinton seems mostly vegan: http://www.facebook.com/NutritionFacts.org/posts/261994230485299
Email I received today: http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/964727/d75f970f23/1788541387/0998b2a456/

Burning Ketones said...

How about we keep the emotional "movement/belief" things out if this for now and just get informed, by starting with these 3:

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Volek and Phinney.

Life Without Bread by Allen and Lutz

The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.

These 3 books are very well researched and are very difficult to argue against, and they blow Don's contentions out of the water.

Also let us remember the profit margins in carb-based foods are HUGE, like 5000-7000% at times. With animal fat and protein the profit margins are much lower, maybe somewhere around 200-400%.

There are huge money-interests pushing carb-based diets and these interests are not concerned about your health.

Burning Ketones said...

Also I would suggest watching the very informative video, "Primal mind: nutrition & mental health—improving the way you feel & function & cultivating an ageless mind" by Nora Gedgaudas



Don said...

Burning Ketones,

There are no huge profit margins on vegetables, fruits, nuts, or for that matter unrefined whole grains or legumes.

I have read both The Vegetarian Myth and Life Without Bread. You'll find my review of the former on this blog. Neither of these books prove that humans are fully adapted to a meat-based diet nor do they "blow my contentions out of the water."

Do you think that the cattle, chicken, or pig industry is concerned about your health?

I'm not advocating a vegetarian diet anyways.

In Nora's slides, she claims that any form of a carbohydrate-rich diet will promote memory loss, mood lability, cognitive decline, and attentional disorders.

I guess she doesn't know that Kitavans eating a 70% carb diet don't experience cognitive decline or memory loss.

Ditto for the Okinawans, eating a 60% carb diet.

Its this kind of complete ignorance of counter-evidence to the low-carb claims that is going to kill 'paleo' theory.

Then, to show the effects of glycation on the brain, she puts up slide 21 comparing the brain of a normal person (not a low carb person) to that of an alcoholic. That certainly shows that alcohol destroys your brain, but it doesn't prove anything about high carb diets. That evidence doesn't support her claim.

On slide 22 she claims high carb diets cause a bunch of disorders, including alcoholism. Where is the fucking evidence?

Slide 24 claims that nothing is more stabilizing to the brain than natural dietary fat. Where is the evidence? The brain prefers glucose, this is so well established with over a century of research supporting it. The brain can't even metabolize dietary fat, not until it is converted to ketones.

Then she picks on gluten...it is a problem for up to 70% of the population, but most dietary carbohydrates don't contain gluten.

Don said...

Then she says high carb consumption causes premature aging. Slide 38. What? Again, Kitavans live 90-100 years with little signs of aging as seen in the U.S., eating 70% carbohydrate from tubers.

Basically, this kind of presentation would be laughed at by any knowledgable nutritionist outside the paleo/primal community because it contains so many unsubstantiated claims or claims clearly disproved by widely available evidence.

Because she makes claims that conflict with readily available evidence her presentation is at least as weak as Gary Taubes's claims that carbs cause insulin release and insulin makes people fat, so elegantly disassembled and debunked by Stephan at Whole Health Source.


Humans have a frugivorous primate ancestry; color vision for identifying ripe plant foods; sweet taste receptors, adapted to detecting dietary carbohydrate to select appropriate food; haustrated intestines; appendix; and abundant amylase production; among many other adaptations to consumption of whole plant foods. On the other hand, we lack special adaptations to meat-based diets as seen for example in cats, like taste receptors for amino acids, shearing molars, very short intestines with rapid intestinal transit on low fiber diets.

Burning Ketones said...

Short comment on margins/economic interests: With meat and fat I would only suggest smaller scale operations, localized, using grass-fed animals, therefore the margins are lower, and the food healthy. Very few people support this centralized production of animals like which is happening in the CAFOs in the US, for example.

With local grown veggies, of course the margins are lower, but they still turn to glucose in your body, and with the questionable lectins in them, well, each person is different, but I would eat them in moderation.

The point is that there are huge economics interests that would love to see the majority of people's metabolisms geared towards glucose, not fatty acid (=fat).

The body can produce all the glucose that is necessary itself, without bringing in carbs (carbs=sugar=glucose), so the brain will get what it needs. Interesting that the heart prefers fat but all that fat is supposed to 'gum' it up :-)

And I would politely ask you to take a look at the references of Allen&Lutz, Volek&Phinney, and Keith and you will see their claims are backed up by alot of solid (non-food company sponsored) research.

I am not trying to start an argument, but sharing information to maybe offset some of the misinfo going on. I agree with you totally that individual differ in the amount of for example carbs they can take per day and so forth.

Don said...

Burning Ketones,

I certainly agree with you re small producers vs CAFOs, but when you take a look at research supporting high meat diets, you unfortunately find it is often supported by the CAFO industry.

A recent study showed a high protein diet is not superior to a high-carb diet for management of T2 diabetes.


The body can only "make" glucose from excess protein. If the diet doesn't supply that excess, the body sacrifices lean mass for glucose.

Funny, low carbers are great at telling people that the body can make all the glucose it needs, then make statements suggesting we have to feed the body fat. They forget that the body also makes all the saturated and monounsaturated fats it needs with no dietary source. Making glucose from protein produces toxic waste (ammonia and urea) but making fat as needed from carbs does not. On a rational basis, which would you choose?

The fact that the heart burns fat does not mean that we have to eat a fat-based diet, simply because the body makes fats from carbs as needed.

I have read Volek, Phinney, and many of the references in LWOB and Keith's book. I have been studying and experimenting with low carb diets for more than 14 years. I don't believe humans are adapted to low carb dieting. The Eskimos abundantly prove this.

Paracelsus said...

First of all, this is a single person's account with a remarkable number of variables entirely unaccounted for. Regardless, and in the face of staggering clinical evidence that has been piling up recently with far greater analytical capabilities than your wondrous Chinese medicine men and traditional western nutritionists, you pose your account as proof against the paleo lifestyle. Since the poor level of detail prevents me from determining the true source of your distress, let me alleviate your obvious misconceptions with regards to paleo:

Paleolithic hunter-gatherers would have had sparing access to fruits which were not yet bred by humans for higher levels of fructose. They would have hunted wild animals, rather than sedentary animals bred by humans for higher fat content and more tender musculature. Examining modern day African hunter-gatherer tribes, it seems as though typical dietary intake would be in the area of 50-60% plant material and 40-50% animal material by volume. However, given that there was limited access to fruit, absolutely 0 access to grains and legumes, and limited if any access to tubers for the African hunter gatherer tribes of old, and that leaves were plentiful, there would have been a staggering intake of green leaves, meaning that in terms of calories the carbohydrate content of the hunter-gatherer diet would still be very low. Much lower than you ever ventured, I suspect. Try eating wild game, plenty of leaves, heirloom fruit, eschew starch, and come back and tell me that your silly Chinese medicine and traditional western nutrition is still optimal.

Don said...


Like so many others, you don't read carefully. I did not pose anything as 'proof' against a 'paleo' principle, I disagree with a particular interpretation of that principle that says humans are adapted to a diet which supplies most of its calories from meat and fat.

I am always amazed at how people like you put down Chinese medicine without having a clue about its history or details. You of course wouldn't know that the Chinese understood blood circulation, circadian rhythms, basic endocrinology, nutritional deficiency diseases, diabetes mellitus, adaptive immunity, and, in fact, the paleolithic principle (that man is not adapted to civilized diets and lifestyles) at least 1000 to 1500 years before European physicians.

Your idea that tubers were not available to ancient African hunter-gatherers is probably wrong. Tuber-eating goes way back, way before Homo habilis, and the mastery of fire by some late habilines probably made tubers a staple for those habilines that evolved into erectines. See Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham.

Paleolithic hunter-gatherers would have had little access to fruits? Come on, fruit is 75% of a chimpanzee diet. African woodlands produce a lot of fruits. Has it ever occurred to you that the domesticated fruits came from those wild fruits that had the best flavor, naturally selected by humans for cultivation? Perhaps you would like to do a little reading on wild African fruits:


Humans evolved from a common ancestor with chimps. Chimps are frugivores, not folivores, so most likely the common ancestor was also frugivorous. Regardless, the general structure of the human gut is that of a frugivorous omnivore, although modified, not by meat-eating, but by cooking.

Zero access to legumes is most likely wrong as well. Modern chimps eat fresh legumes


and since modern humans (including H-Gs, take a look at !Kung and Aborigine foods)


also eat legumes, there is no reason to assume differently for human ancestors.

We didn't become human by eating meat...we became human by controlling fire and cooking our food. Again, Chinese physicians knew this long ago, but Wrangham certainly fleshed it out in Catching Fire.

Kitavans eat lots of cultivated fruit and tubers and are healthy and long-lived. Low carb dieting is not the holy grail for health and longevity.

Anonymous said...

Forget Paleo, they are a lost group of people generally. Blood type is still the best system imo based on 20 years of diverse experience with food, diet, healing and nutrition. You and your wife appear to be overthinking the whole thing. I suggest you get genotyped, get your safe food lists, and get on with it. I don't have even a fragment of your educational background and I figured this out on my own over the last 10+ years.

Don said...


I am blood type O. There is NO evidence that blood type determines diet requirements.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Don.

Mark Sisson and Anthony Colpo are the biggest frauds on the face of the earth.

Colpo was flavor of the month. He used to parrot low carb all the time back in 2006. It's funny how he found another scam.

I remember the December 2005 I ran across that Omnivore site of his. My health has taken a BAD turn ever since I listened to that crackpot and ate lots of meat andfat. I wish I never never met BOTH these QUACKS.

Farewell to Paleo for me too. And THEIR version of Paleo is not even what they really ate . They ate INSECTS, scavenged and plant matter, tubers etc. Mark Sisson and his whacked out cultist forum members can go to hell.

Many EDUCATED people warned me about them.

Take care,


Nienna said...

Let me just say, I'm sorry some paleo advocates were so rude! D:

Some of these problems, namely constipation, could be fructose malabsorption. Since low-carb paleo includes a lot of vegetables and some fruit, you are eating more fructose than glucose. That's the most obvious reason I can think of why you would be irregular on a diet that's so high in fiber.

By the way, if it is fructose malabsorption, then you're right to follow your instincts, because the only thing you can do for that is eat more glucose than fructose. But in that case, keep in mind that the problem isn't the meat, it's the vegetables and fruit. Remember to eat rice and potatoes and stay away from things like apples, and you'll do great.

However, your severe abdominal distress relating to fat intake is a completely different matter, and it concerns me that you may have a gall bladder problem. Eating fat doesn't normally cause pain, and when it does, that's a red flag. It's perfectly understandable and acceptable to eat a lower-fat diet to avoid pain, but you might also want to check this out with a doctor.

I'd just like to remind everyone that every individual has different health needs, and there is no one right diet for everyone. Kudos to Don for experimenting and finding what works best for him, and I see no harm in sharing his findings, as they may help others who have similar reactions, as well as serving as a personal record. We're all trying to find out what works best for us. For some that may be high fat, low carb, for others not so much. No one experience invalidates anyone else's.

Drunken Pig Boxer said...

It's all well and good that you now feel better, but kindly stop referencing "ancient Chinese wisdom" when you clearly have no clue about it. For every person that a knowledgeable Chinese doctor advises less red meat and poultry, there's another patient for whom MORE meat, fat and poultry are recommended. To imply that TCM makes a blanket recommendation for less meat consumption or even vegetarianism or veganism is flat out WRONG.

Alex said...

this could easily be retiled , 'A deeper embrace with 'paleo'.you are finding what really works for you not whats in someone else's book. If paleo man was getting sick from eating a certain animal or plant he would find something else .

Red meat doesn't work for you awesome don't eat it but it doesn't validate chinese medicine or invalidate the paleo framework.

you are going to upset some people that identify strongly with "paleo" even if there diet is nothing like yours was.

Don said...

Drunken Pig Boxer,

As a general rule, traditional Chinese dietary guidelines recommend meat intake of 1-2 ounces two to four times weekly. Applied to Americans, that results in a 'blanket' recommendation to eat less meat.

The basic (standard) Chinese medical approach to diet is to use vegetables and grains as the base, and animal products as condiments.

Chinese medicine categorizes foods by their relative contents of wei and qi. Foods rich in wei are very rich and nourishing but difficult to digest and apt to cause stagnation and promote phlegm accumulation; almost all animal products and all fats are relatively rich in wei relative to qi. Foods rich in qi but not wei are light and easy to digest; most grains, vegetables, and fruits are relatively high in qi and low in wei.

To quote Bob Flaws, one of the most highly trained and respected American practitioners of Chinese medicine: "To sum up the traditional wisdom of Chinese dietary theory, humans should mostly eat vegetables and grains with small amounts of everything else." The Tao of Healthy Eating p. 19.

In traditional China, all adjustments to diet were made against a background diet that for most people included very little flesh and no dairy, and in some cases insufficient food overall. In such circumstances, increases in meat consumption might benefit some people. Modern people have a completely different diet and health background consisting primarily of excess nutrition, not deficiency.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've been doing paleo for almost two years, felt great in the beginning, then started gaining fat like there was no tomorrow. Today I find myself at 37% bodyfat. Pre-paleo, I was 23%! I'm a mom of two kids and I have never been this fat! So naturally I found myself questioning the whole paleo thing. I think what turned me off the most was that no matter what forum I posted in asking questions, everyone either implied or downright stated that my weight gain was my own fault, that _I_ had done something wrong and not entirely paleo (I hadn't), that _I_ wasn't trying hard enough (I was). They made me feel like crap, to be honest. And I'm done. This post has really helped me to make that final step. Thank you.

qwerty said...

There are plenty of cases of failures from all types of diets.
The lesson here is if a diet is unsuccesful for you, change it.
I can say that a eat a diet low in animal products and high in starches, grain and vegetables. And feel much better all the times that i eat beef. And there are plenty of plant foods that cause me digestive problems. The only animal that i don't tolerate are tuna.
I may add that i was poor and ate little food. the meat was the thing that allowed me to grow healthy. especially organs like the liver. some days i ate less than 1 000 kcal of awful foods like grains and potatos.
All the fat that i eated was greatly appreciated and improved my mood always.

We are incredibly omnívores. I mean incredible because of the variance in succesful diets among us.

The problem are that you people in developed countries eat twice the food that you need.

Aesir Sports said...


just stumpled upon your article about the negativities you experiences while on paleo. While I agree with you, that nobody should followa diet regimen, which obviously isn't the proper way of feeding the own bodies, I want to ask you, if you've implemented exercise and sports in your daily lifestyle? This question arises because, as you probabaly know, our ancestors lead quite a hard and tiredsome life full of "huntering and gathering", hence they had a lot of movement and weren't sedentary people.

Thats a great deal in my opinion, which is often forgotten by a lot of folks, who try to apply certain nutrition habits, without altering the general lifestyle up to that nutrition habit.

Certainly a case to consider!

Anonymous said...

qwerty, I'd like to respectfully disagree. I eat 1400-1500 calories a day, which is not "more than I need". I have a friend who's Chinese and eats easily THREE times what I eat, and she's tiny tiny TINY. On top of that, she doesn't ever exercise, and I do, and she's half my size.

No matter what people say, no matter what new great studies pop up here and there, I have all the proof I need: it's all about genetics. Some people are built smaller, some larger. Sure anyone will get fat if they eat McDonald's every single day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But some people can stay perfectly slim and healthy eating steak at every meal and taking leisurely walks for exercise while others can barely manage to keep their weight below the unhealthy level with constant salads and 5 days a week cardio. Not genetics? I very much doubt it.

Elizabeth said...

Believe me, I absolutely abhor western medicine but I find it hard to place my trust in a country like China that is serving up dog meat and possibly cat to their people. Maybe they are nutritious meats, I really don't know, but it sickens me all the same. Is dog meat considered red meat or other? Yin or Yang? Anyway, I just started the "Paleo Diet" but then I have always felt my best eating meat and vegetables and less carbs. It just takes one refined carb or sugar food to get me going on a carb binge with uncontrollable cravings. Since I have been on this diet, I no longer crave those sweet and starchy carbs. I am keeping my carbs low in calories and low gycemic as well. Once I lose the excess body fat, I plan to maintain by adding some roots and tubers like sweet pototoes and also fruit more often. But I do like the idea that one of the posters suggested. Eating with the seasons. But wouldn't it have been the opposite than what was stated, which is less meat/fat during fall/winter and more meat/fat during spring/summer. Typically better hunting and fishing as well as more fruits and veggies available during the warmer months. During fall/winter then there would be root veggies and less meat, and generally less calories consumed during the colder months so that might also would mean more carbs. Portion control, a varied diet including organic foods and grass-fed meats, native wild fish and staying away from foods that make you unwell. That's what makes sense to me. Dairy, unhealthy GM oils, legumes (which never really agreed with me anyway), gluten grains, potatoes and sugar (like crack)are to be avoided if you don't want leaky gut. It's been interesting reading this entire thread. And to think, all I Googled was "lipoma".

Boiling Pot said...

It is virtually impossible to eat the same way your whole life no matter who you are. However, earlier generations and societies were stuck living in the same place their whole lives and eating the same basic foods.

However, they did get sick one way or another. So this must be why they developed various sorts of cleanses - NOT to be done neurotically and constantly like some are doing nowadays, but only just enough. This is why over time they developed wonderful things like herbal medicine, liver cleanses, gallbladder flush, deworming, even the coffee enema.

I discharged a whole passel of genuine, semicalcified gallstones with a gallbladder flush. I was told by a Chinese herbalist that I could have accomplished the same thing over one year's time by taking some Chinese herbs, but the flush is faster.

It's not all about diet. You can't stick with the same thing (if you have the choice of course) over a lifetime. I read this in Annemarie Colbin's book and never forgot it. Today, I eat what I like at the moment - period. I just avoid really bad things like aspartame and Coca Cola, etc.

Anyone who's desperately trying to be healthy by diet and "lifestyle" alone, I suggest you try some of the above cures after plenty of research to see if they are right for you.

George Henderson said...

"to think all I googled was lipoma"
- LOL.
Don. I eat higher fat, lower carb, no grain because it fixes my symptoms. If I get a symptom I don't like, I adjust things - including salt (and a few supps, but far less than I needed on carbs) - to avoid it. This works for me. Perhaps it works because I research these changes scientifically and am guided most by what is proven, plus a background of studying physiology and biochemistry.
I don't look up TCM resources unless I am thinking about using a Chinese herb.

One of the oldest - if not the very oldest - of the Chinese Medical texts is on the Health Benefits of Grain Avoidance, circa 3rd Century BC.

MBrando said...

Interesting. Always open for stuff like that.
What's your opinion of MONTIGNAC? Another diet i also fancy and consider doing.
Will definitely try both on me, so that i can se what works the best for me...

George Henderson said...

Perhaps the moral here is

"don't take any crap from your diet"

Regardless of the soundness of the theoretical or ethical basis for the way you eat, troubleshoot any problems as they occur.
Small adjustments in the short term may forestall the need for larger disruptions later.

Don, let me know how your new diet works out for you in 12 years time.

James said...

Though the article is interesting you don't cite any studies backing up your claims. This is largely anecdotal evidence which, from a scientific stand point, means very little. If the point of the article was simply "I'm eating a different way" then that's fine, but it kind of reads as an attack on "the paleo diet" (which it seems a lot of commenters agree cannot be so easily labeled as one thing and one thing only). I'm not a big nutrition follower (my girlfriend led me to this blog) so I'm not a die hard follower of any particular way of eating and you've obviously given many forms of the diet a chance. The article basically concludes, however, that everything you tried wasn't right for you, not that the paleo diet pales in comparison to any Eastern philosophies. I think that the fact that so many people here have conflicting views and are citing multiple books and studies on the subject to back their opinions just illustrates how complex the human body is and the science behind what fuels it. Perhaps, as some of the commenters have suggested, we have to think for ourselves and find what we, personally, need to make our body reach its maximum potential. If this is the case, Don did exactly that. He experimented with many different diets and different variations of the diets to find what his body reacted best to. My only criticism of the article then, is that you make several statements that sound like you're stating them as fact when really they're your experience and can't be taken as a universality. Interesting read, nonetheless.

Don said...


Funny, if you pick up any college nutrition textbook, and follow nutrition science for any length of time, you will find that the science backs eating grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and finds meat, dairy, fats, and excess sugars to be the promoters or causes of degenerative diseases. Chinese medicine has been saying this for literally at least one thousand years.

Paleo diet supporters like to dodge criticisms by saying that there is no one paleo diet. But paleo made its name as a meat-based replication of HUNTER-gatherer diets.

George Henderson said...

You have not tested your new diet for any length of time. This early on in your version of paleo, you were equally sure you had it right.

George Henderson said...

Nutrition textbooks teach the prevailing wisdom, biochemistry textbooks teach irreversible truths. Biochemistry supports the "high fat is safer than high carb" paradigm, and has nothing to say about nuts.

Don said...


By what evidence do you conclude that nutrition textbooks contain "prevailing wisdom" while biochem books contain, as you call it, irreversible truth?

Can you refer me to a nutrition textbook that contains only 'prevailing wisdom' and no biochemistry?

Do you believe that the authors of nutrition textbooks, with PhDs in their field (biology or nutrition, a branch of biology), are ignorant of biochemistry?

Do you realize that to get an advanced degree in nutrition, you have to take general, organic, and biochemistry at advanced levels?

Please give me a reference to a biochem book that expressly teaches high fat is safer than high carb.

I own Bettelheim's Introduction to General, Organic and Biochemistry and it does not endorse a high fat diet.

In fact, it explains for example the biochemistry behind atherosclerosis caused by high cholesterol intake. It also explains that the TCA cycle can't metabolize fat without oxaloacetate derived from carbohydrate, and how ketosis occurs, and why ketosis is undesirable from a biochem standpoint.

The funny thing is, I also own Whitney and Rolfes Understanding Nutrition, and it contains the exact same biochemistry as Bettelheim's chemistry/biochem book. Whitney has a Ph.D. in biology. Do you think she lacks training in biochemistry and physiology? Do you think it is possible to get a PhD in biology, and write peer-reviewed textbooks, while ignoring the biochemistry of nutrition?

You missed that I have used this current way of eating for prolonged periods of time in the past. And you are wrong when you say that I was sure I had it right when I first started paleo. Quite on the contrary, I was not convinced of the 'rightness' of paleo when I first started it. At that time I was very sceptical because I was very aware that a diet with some features of paleo (high in fat) had caused me problems previously, and that scientific consensus pointed toward high carb, low fat, whole foods. In fact, I oscillated a lot in the first 1-2 years of my experimenting with paleo, going in and out of high fat periods, and sometimes adding back large amounts of whole grains because after eating low fat for the previous 12 years or so, I had trouble tolerating high fat meals.

But I persisted in erroneously thinking that some one had provided good evidence that evolution had adapted me/human physiology to a meat-based high fat diet and that I was having trouble with high fat meals because I had damaged my body with low fat diets, so I needed to just keep retraining it to do what it should do naturally. Both Atkins and Eades have gone in print telling people to ignore their body's reactions to high fat meals and push through the discomfort to achieve the supposedly natural state of ketosis. If so natural, I want to know why so many people react negatively to high fat dieting that these advocates of high fat diets themselves have to encourage people to ignore the body's natural reaction to it.

George Henderson said...

Withdrawals from addictive drugs are obvious examples where comfortable is not healthier; herxheimer reactions; fevers.

The principles in biochem books that matter (and I'm not saying that bad science hasn't crept into them lately) are, that carbohydrate is converted to fat more or less ireversibly, that consumption of cholesterol depresses cholesterol synthesis, that PUFAs oxidise easily wheras SaFAs are resistant to peroxidation, that ketone production is part of normal metabolism, and so on.

There is a procrustean effort to make this fit the Ornish manifesto, but it just doesn't.
If your diet works for you good on you, I have to question why you'd follow a diet that didn't work for so long. In what way does that qualify you as a guide?

Don said...


So constipation (the most common side effect of a low carb diet) ongoing for 12 months is a sign of a healthier diet?

I already explained, ad nauseum, why I followed the diet for so long. Once again, I tweaked and retweaked. Some initial problems subsided, only to be replaced by others. Xanthomas don't pop up overnight.

Why do people keep eating a diet that causes heart disease right up to the day that it causes their heart attack? Because heart attack is often the first symptom they have of atherosclerosis. Not every adverse effect I listed popped up the day after I adopted the diet. ATherosclerosis doesn't occur overnight.

"that carbohydrate is converted to fat more or less ireversibly,"

Uh, fat is already fat, irreversibly. There is only one possible fate for excess dietary fat, i.e. fat storage.

Not so for carbohydrate. It only gets converted to fat if not first used for energy or stored as glycogen; and the body will burn carbohydrate for energy before burning fats. Also, 25% of the caloric value of carbohydrate is lost as heat in the conversion of carbohydrate to fat, making it less fattening than excess fat which does not need conversion to fat.

I have elsewhere cited the multiple experimental studies that have shown that dietary carbohydrate is rarely converted to fat. This is an example of how biochemistry is limited; physiology also affects the fat of ingested nutrients, e.g. we have a way to store carbohydrates (as glycogen) that influences the fate of carbohydrate.



The body can accomodate ~500 g of excess carbohydrate before stimulation of lipogenesis.


Since the human body prefers to burn carbohydrate or store it as glycogen, not fat, the combination of high carb intake with high fat intake leads to dietary fat accumulating in storage.


The solution is to reduce fat intake, not carbohydrate intake, because this creates the greatest negative fat balance.



You would learn these things by studying a nutrition or physiology textbook, not biochemistry. No less scientific.

"that consumption of cholesterol depresses cholesterol synthesis,"

Not enough to prevent a rise in cholesterol. Again, I have elsewhere cited multiple studies have shown that adding cholesterol to a zero cholesterol diet results in a dose-response increase in serum cholesterol. For example:



"that PUFAs oxidise easily wheras SaFAs are resistant to peroxidation,"

So what? Who is saying we should eat lots of unprotected PUFA oils?

There is no essential saturated fat, but there are two essential unsaturated fats, both found in plants: linoleic and linolenic.

SFAs raise serum cholesterol and stimulate the blood clotting cascade. Numerous studies establish this.

"that ketone production is part of normal metabolism, and so on."

Urea is a part of normal metabolism; this doesn't mean that elevation of blood urea (BUN) is a part of normal metabolism. The fact that ketones are a normal part of metabolism does not establish that diet-induced ketosis is a natural or desirable physiological state.

Ketogenesis is an adaptation to starvation, i.e. lack of dietary carbohydrate. Low carb diets attempt to turn this emergency adaptation into a chronic dietary state. You can look up the health of Inuit if you want to find out how this works long term: osteoporosis, extensive atherosclerosis, hypertension, and more fun.

What was the name of the biochem textbook that supported the superiority of a low carb diet?

George Henderson said...

Thanks Don, I will read those references.
If fat needs "a carbohydrate flame to burn", why do low carbohydrate diets consistently outperform low-fat diets in clinical weightloss trials? A thru Z only the latest; and the Atkins dieters also had the best metabolic/lipid profile after a year.
The obvious assumption is that the amounts of carbohydrate required are in the low range, (50-150g) and that in some people alternative pathways are sufficient.
People who couldn't burn fat without taking in carbs would die without food, instead of surviving for months - and losing weight.
If a starving person can burn their bodyfat without intake of sugar, as they do, the oxaloacetate can come from elsewhere.
However, I don't presume that everyone wants to lose weight.
Nor am I myself supporting the notion of a life without carbs, except occasionally for medicinal reasons.
Urea isn't a fuel source. It is a natural and everyday thing to produce and use ketones for fuel.

George Henderson said...

Don, the second reference you gave makes this claim:
"The body's glycogen stores are so small that regulatory mechanisms capable of efficiently adjusting carbohydrate oxidation to carbohydrate intake have developed through evolution. Fat oxidation is regulated primarily by events pertaining to the body's carbohydrate economy, rather than by fat intake."
This sounds like pure Taubesist-Atkinism to me.
A number of the other papers are just reviews of the author's opinions in support of low-fat diets, but they have done no experiments with high-fat diets to test their theories.
So far, the papers that involve experiments are not so favorable to low-fat diets promoting fat loss.

George Henderson said...

BTW, Best and Taylor is the physiology text I use.
I love the cholesterol section which details the many ways in which lipoprotein metabolism in rats and humans differ. Useful for not misinterpreting rat "high-fat diet" results.

You need glucose to burn fat? Gee, that'll be why Atkins re-introduces carbs to maintain weightloss begun in ketotis. Low-carbers and low-carb critics alike really should read the first two Atkins books (Diet Revolution and New Diet Revolution).

However, it does not follow that the more carb you eat, the better you'll burn fat. Because the action of insulin is to inhibit the burning of fat so that disposing of glucose can be prioritised, there is a tipping point of diminishing returns.

Is conversion of carb to fat important?
See this experiment.


To go from zero-carb to an uncritical acceptance of the "healthy low-fat diet" makes it look like you weren't paying attention before.
I accept it's hard to have faith in a science that hasn't worked for you, but you may have jumped too soon to the conclusion that the opposing pseudoscience is therefore credible.

Don said...


Where did I say I ate zero carb?

Sorry to say, Taubes is pseudoscience. He is not even a researcher, has no degree in medicine, nutrition, biochemistry, or related fields. Yet you rate him more authoritative than the references I gave you to papers written by individuals who have done the science. Ornish is a medical doctor with peer-reviewed publications in the field. You are making the appeal to fallacious authority.

Low carb diets are not more effective than low fat diets in the long term.

If low carb is the best for weight management, why do the Japanese have less obesity (~3% of population) than Americans, who eat more animal protein and fat (~30% of population obese).

In starvation, the body reduces ketosis and accesses glucose to burn fat by sacrificing body protein. Yes, you can get glucose from protein, but this is metabolically inefficient and increases the amount of ammonia the body has to process. How is that good?

Again, yes, ketones are part of the everyday fuel mix, this doesn't prove that a ketogenic diet is best.

"The body's glycogen stores are so small that regulatory mechanisms capable of efficiently adjusting carbohydrate oxidation to carbohydrate intake have developed through evolution. Fat oxidation is regulated primarily by events pertaining to the body's carbohydrate economy, rather than by fat intake."

Translated: When glycogen is full, the body burns off extra glucose instead of storing it as fat. This reduces fat oxidation. What's missing here is the fact that there is an obligatory fat oxidation every day, regardless of carbohydrate intake. Flatt and others established that if your fat intake (in grams) is less than your fat oxidation (in grams), you lose fat; conversely, if your fat intake (g) is greater than your oxidation (g), you will add fat mass to your body. This will occur regardless of carb intake. That is, you can gain fat mass on a low carb diet if your fat intake exceeds fat oxidation. No matter what diet ratio you choose, you can only lose body fat if your fat oxidation (g) exceeds your fat intake.

Feinman twists data to fit his preconceptions. This is well documented in the several videos on him in the Primitive Nutrition series.

Good luck to you.

George Henderson said...

"That is, you can gain fat mass on a low carb diet if your fat intake exceeds fat oxidation. No matter what diet ratio you choose, you can only lose body fat if your fat oxidation (g) exceeds your fat intake."
Then why do people gain weight on a low-fat diet?
What about Banting?

I did not cite Taubes as authority, but as in agreement with your authority, who I do not think can be interpreted soley as you do. Taubes is an authority in so much as he correctly reports the results of scientific experiments and understands scientific methodology and the philosophy of science (how we can "know" things).
If you would do the same thing, you would also be an authority.
Your case against Feinman is ad hominem and does not address the experimental results at all.
The A thru Z study tested Ornish against Atkins and Ornish did not do as well as any of the other diets.
Ornish could have done this experiment himself years ago.

Just because you are in a plane that crashes, you needn't become convinced that the laws of aerodynamics do not support the theory of flight, that man was never meant to fly, and that the Wright brothers were frauds.

George Henderson said...

I think there's always the possibility, when low-carbers suddenly rediscover carbohydrate, that twelve years or so of ketosis has fixed their metabolism so that, if they make no more egregious blunders, they can now eat a relatively high-carb diet safely for the rest of their lives.
The regenerative effect of periods of carb restriction is responsible, not some magical health benefit of carbohydrate per se.
This is just a theory, but it is one that could be tested.

Don said...


What evidence do you have that ketosis "fixes" a metabolism, or that carbohydrate-rich diets "break" a metabolism?

Where is the evidence that "people gain weight on a low fat diet"? This sounds like a general statement, as if it applies to everyone. Not me or my wife, both of us lost fat on diets supplying less than 15% of calories as fat.

"Low fat" is a vague term. Many apply this label to diets supplying 30% of energy from fat. On such a diet, many people will fail to produce a negative fat balance.

I was giving you the interpretation of the biochemistry that is given by Flatt himself. After doing a lot of basic research on fat and carbohydrate metabolism, he decided that carbohydrate rarely gets converted to fat. However, he also concluded that if fat intake is high enough and carbohydrate intake is enough to keep glycogen stores above a certain level, this will result in dietary fat being stored as adipose.

I wonder if you have actually read all the studies cited by Taubes to be so sure that he accurately reports on them. If you watch this video you will see that he seems to have neglected to report some very important data in a study he cites. He stated that the South Pacific islanders ate "fish and coconuts" and "no starch" when in fact the study he cites indicates that these people ate significant starch. The evidence is at @2:13.


The A to Z study failed to produce a low-fat intake in any group. The Ornish, Zone, and Traditional groups all had similar macronutrient profiles.


The Atkins group ate 30-35% carbohydrate during most of the study. The Ornish group did not get fat intake below 20% at any time point (Ornish prescribes below 15%) and ate 28-30% fat for the bulk of the study. The so-called Ornish arm does not prove anything about an "Ornish" diet because its not an Ornish diet, and the so-called Atkins arm also doesn't prove anything about an Atkins diet because it didn't accomplish what Atkins prescribes.

But then this exemplifies the low carb community use of 'evidence." If a study (e.g. A TO Z) supports low carb, it was flawless and no need to question the methodology. But if it undermines low carb (e.g. recent Harvard study showing meat consumption correlated with increased risk of mortality) then it is "refuted' by any minor detail or simply say, "correlation is not causation" enough times and the study results will evaporate.

Mercury said...

Don, I don't think George said or suggested that carbohydrate-rich diets all break the metabolism, but "egregious blunders" (like eating refined sugars, vegetable oils, bleached enriched flours, artificial sweeteners, and frankenfoods may indeed "break" one's metabolism. Your contenion that a diet with fat and carbs above a certain level will cause excess fat accumulation or obesity has not been proven scientifically, imo, because most of the studies are observational, epidemological, or based on animals eating processed chow (refined sugar, cornstarch, vegetable oil, and vitamin-mineral supplements). I am unaware of any studies of people only eating whole unrefined foods (the kind of foods that Weston Price and Joel Fuhrman would agree on), and notmodern industrial foods and chemicals.

Don said...


On the principle "the cure is to remove the cause," if someone says that a ketogenic diet 'fixes' metabolism, he is implying that carbohydrates caused the problem. If he means all those other things you listed, then why would ketosis be the fix?

Joel Furhman recommends a plant based diet with no more than 5% animal foods which he discourages. He also recommends avoiding extracted oils of all types. Hence, the foods that Price and Furhman could agree on are all plant foods. I would agree that it would likely be difficult to become obese or overweight on a vegan diet with no extracted oils, but this is because such a diet will be low in fat and protein and high in unrefined carbohydrates and total energy (kcalories). However, it would be possible if someone had the time and inclination to really stuff themselves with the highest energy density foods available on that plan, namely nuts, dried fruits, and whole grain flour products. That is, it would occur by eating enough fat and carbohydrate to give the body no choice but to store the excess dietary fat as body fat.

Mercury said...

"I am unaware of any studies of people only eating whole unrefined foods (the kind of foods that Weston Price and Joel Fuhrman would agree on), and not modern industrial foods and chemicals."

AGREE ON was not exactly the right word, more the foods each man SEES as foods. I think people who go to extremes (low-fat or low-carb or vegan or all-raw) are not standing on the basis of sound evidence, because the evidence is inconclusive and flawed and ambiguous. There are too many variables and studies feeding rats diets of casein, sugar, cornstarch, vegetable oil, and supplements do not really prove that WHOLE FOODS do the same, esp whole food using Fuhrman's definition combined with Prices, where you think about stuff like like unbroken grains being superior to whole grain flours that are not fresh ground. Isolate all the variables. don't just jump to a conclusion that fits your biases to blame fat or carbs or the mix.

Don has talked about traditional Chinese medicine. From what I've heard about it, they don't propose a "one size fits all" diet. Some people thrive with high-carb, others low-carb, some high-fat, others low-fat, some do better with starch and some do better with sugar, some thrive with little or no animal foods, others thrive on all or mostly carnivorous. We also tend to change in time. What works in the short-term may not work over the long-term. There are no absolute rules, like "too much fat combined with carbs makes everyone fat." It depends on the unique genetics (and epigenetics), plus other factors. What foods they eat, and so forth. Don't tell me that a diet of whole foods has the same super-obesity effect as one containing vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup and bleached enriched flour which contains alloxan.

Mercury said...

Fuhrman doesn't advise flour products in his diet. He says to mostly eat unbroken grains, like sprouted flour-less breads, brown rice, steel-cut oats, etc. (I have not read his book exhaustively, just the broad diet outline and theory), but I am familiar with his advice and some of the (false) scientific claims that he makes, like blaming cheese for making folks fat when the average intake is like 30 lbs a year (1.3 oz a day) in the USA. I hardly think that is a convincing theory.

Don said...


I didn't tell you that a diet of whole foods has "the same super-obesity effect as one containing vegetable oil etc." In fact, I said the opposite.

If you eliminate whole grain flour products, you make the diet less energy dense. Whole wheat bread has about 2.5 kcal per gram, while boiled grains (brown rice, etc.) have only about 1 calorie per gram. That means you have to eat 2.5 times more brown rice than whole wheat bread (or sprouted wheat bread, which is about the same energy density as whole grain bread made from flour). This is what makes it difficult to get fat on whole foods, they just have a low energy density.

Oils and fats supply about 9 kcal per gram. Nuts about 6 kcal per gram. Dried fruits about 4 kcal per gram. Sugar about 4 kcal per gram.

Whether refined or not, oils and fats have the highest energy density. Refined sugar has 4 times the energy density of boiled brown rice. It is the high energy density of oils and refined carbohydrates that makes them promoters of overweight, not their toxicity.

So far as I am aware, Furhman doesn't say that cheese consumption is the only cause of overweight in American. I have read several of his books. He makes the conservative claim that people get overweight by eating high energy density foods like cheese, meat, fats, oils, etc.

EB said...

Hi Don,

Thanks so much for this post. I have told 2 NDs, an MD and a DC over the past year that it seems like the edema and achy leg congestion I feel in the morning has something to do with fat consumption, but no-one has had anything useful to say about it. It is helpful/interesting to find that others experience the same thing, and I appreciate your thoughts on mechanisms.

I have contemplated many possible explanations, but no conclusions. (Did you know there is such thing as capillary lipase? One of my hypotheses was maybe I sometimes don't produce enough.)

Nor have I had much luck discerning any pattern to it--sometimes fat A bothers me, sometimes it doesn’t; sometimes fat B bothers me, instead, whereas last week it didn’t; sometimes I can eat all the fat I want with no issue. At the moment I am experimenting with whether supplementing bile salts improves things (I already take lipase pretty regularly)--too early to know yet. (From your list of symptoms, though, they might be something you want to consider--sounds like you don’t digest fats well.)

Like almost all things nutritional, I suspect that it is probably a convergence of factors, not just a straight “fat (even sat fat) = congestion” equation. It seems totally plausible to me that it could cause coagulation problems in some people, but not in others; or at some times but not others, depending on current metabolic capacity; or have something to do with other factors of the fat that no-one thinks to track, like was it raw, cooked or rancid; organic, grass-fed or conventional; short chain or long chain, etc.--not just degree of saturation.

If you ‘re willing, I’d be curious to know your heritage/genetics/metabolic foibles, if you don't mind sharing (or anyone else’s who experiences this and doesn’t mind chiming in). My background is Czech-Germanic-Jewish, with known genetic defects in folic acid conversion (MTHFR gene) and certain liver detoxification pathways, both phase 1 (P450 system) and phase 2 (conjugation). I also have Lyme, which is often said to cause problems with lipid metabolism. Any overlap?

Anyway, thanks again for the post. Though I’m not yet to the point of abandoning a lowish carb diet, I always appreciate thoughtful explorations into nutritional physiology.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing, refreshing post. I am so sick of everyone preaching low carb, low carb. Every single time I have tried low carb I get insomnia, badly constipated, bloated, moody, and generally don't enjoy eating. I don't feel well low carbing. The fat makes me sick to my stomach as well. And trust me, I have tried over and over to do it because it's 'the right way to eat'.

The past few months I have been eating tons of fruit and veg with little bits of quality beef or fish thrown in. I also make my own yogurt, fermented 24hrs to remove most of the lactose. I eat swiss cheese also. Sweet potato, rice, and oats on occasion. I. Feel. Amazing. Like honestly, I didn't know I could feel like this.
My rash-like acne on my face is fading-something I could not get rid of previously for the life of me. I feel satisfied and ... content when I eat now. I sleep through the night. No more insomnia from low carbs!

And I kid you not, my eyes don't look 'old' anymore. I have no clue how that happened but the skin around them is smooth and I don't have these huge fat pockets when I smile. Is it the change in diet? Sleeping? I don't know .. but I'm liking this.

And I feel this is something I can stick with.

While eating low carb/paleo, I always had HORRENDOUS periods every two weeks. I was (and still am) very anemic. This was despite eating meat everyday while on my period and taking iron supps.
I don't advocate women losing a period going raw, BUT eating high carb seems to decrease the amount of blood loss for me. I'm hoping in the long-term I will stop getting periods every 2 weeks. This is not healthy just like losing your period is not healthy. Birth control pills are out of the question as I believe diet plays a HUGE role in hormones and a women's health.

This is a long post to say I am with you on your change in diet %100.

Katherine said...

I haven't read all the comments so someone may have mentioned this already, but I have been struck when reading about the Paleo diet that it seems well-favoured by people who are also 'fitness fanatics' for want of a better phrase.

This makes me wonder whether the diet advocated by Don is much more suitable for 21st century living where we have fewer threats (eg from wild animals) and are less active really than our Paleo ancestors. However, given that athletes and body builders need more protein maybe a Paleo diet could be more suitable for them.

Putting the two ideas together, maybe the diet you need depends on the amount of exercise you do and lifestyle you have?

Also, Don, what about Omega 3? is that why you advocate eating some fish? as plant based sources are less suitable.

Great article and site :-)

surfa01234 said...

Don, I agree, pure paleo is not the answer. I feel seasonality has a lot to do with optimal health. i.e. periods of high meat intake, periods of fasting, periods of high fruit etc due to seasonal variations etc. We must take into account the reduction of organ meats and the difference in meat quality (wild vs domesticated). Also we have to consider the modernization of fruits and other plants; increasing the fructose content. And we cannot deny the extensive research of insulin.
Balance eating and listening to you body is key.
Do you recommend any eastern literature in regards to diet?


beastwork said...

Dietary needs are very personal. One person may be able to tolerate lots of carbs and another person may not. We each have to experiment to find the best balance for OUR bodies. Veganism is not the way for everyone nor is "Paleoism". Many people are obese and suffering from diabetes because of their high carb diets, while others struggle with kidney failure because of their high protein diets.

There is no all encompassing magic bullet. Personally a diet high in carbohydrates causes me to remain hungry through out the day. I suspect that I either have an over active pancreas or I am becoming insulin resistant. Advising me to eat more carbs is probably bad advice for me. Satiety levels or optimal for me when I consume about 150 g of carbs per day. Anything more and I'm in a constant state of hunger.

Frasier Linde said...

Good job ignoring all comments about the variables you didn't seem to account for and about how you form or present your opinions, and only replying when and where you could argue the details of specific opinions...

Anonymous said...

It is truly astonishing to me at just how ignorant some people are. I can't believe you think Paleo is, or could ever be, low carb. I eat Paleo and mostly eat fruit all day every day. I've lost 13 pounds in 90 days, and my severe scoliosis has reversed itself. My body has healed in many, many other ways as well. My friend, Paleo is not your enemy. Your ignorance of Paleo is. Sorry, but just had to say it. I've researched every diet out there, and you are right. Low-carb is just not the way to go. But, please don't trash Paleo because you mis-understand what it is. It can and does increase the quality of life for many people every day. Hope you give it another try, but please, this time.....eat fruit and lots of it. :)

Don said...


If I didn't understand Paleo, why was I one of the presenters at the first ever Ancestral Health Conference? http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-ancestral-health-symposium.html

In fact, I ate a lot of fruit when I was eating "paleo," a lot more than many other advocates of "paleo" diets. In my previous book, The Garden of Eating, I outlined my own diet, which was 65 to 75 percent fruits and vegetables most days, by weight. I generally ate 1.5 to 2.0 pounds of fruit daily, and 1.5 to 2.0 pounds of vegetables as well, for a total of 3.0 to 4.0 pounds of plant foods daily.

Perhaps you missed the main point of my article. According to leading advocates of "paleolithic diets," paleolithic humans obtained 50% or more of their calories from meat and fat, and this is beneficial to human health.

In his description of a paleo diet based on contemporary food groups, found here: http://thepaleodiet.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/The-Nutritional-Characteristics-of-a-Contemporary-Diet-Based-Upon-Paleolithic-Food-Groupsabstract4.pdf

Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, states: "Compiled ethnographic studies
of 229 hunter-gatherer societies,as well as 13 quantitative
studies of hunter-gatherers
have demonstrated that animal
foods contributed slightly more than half (55-65%) of the
daily energy, whereas plant foods would have made up the
remainder (35-45%) of the average daily caloric intake."

Further, in figure 1 (p. 16) he shows fruit contributing only 15 percent of daily energy, whereas meat and seafood provide 55%. In Table 3 he shows a carbohydrate content of only 129 g, only 23% of energy, compared to 38% protein, which is a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

He does not describe or depict the diet as "mostly eat fruit all day every day" nor "eat fruit and lots of it."

Thus the leading advocate of "paleo diet" and author of The Paleo Diet book has clearly stated that the diet is a meat-based, low carbohydrate diet, NOT a fruit-based diet.

Don said...

So, Cindy, since you wrote:

"I can't believe you think Paleo is, or could ever be, low carb."

Which implies that you believe that Paleo could NEVER be "low carb", I wonder if you could specify which advocate of Paleo Diet said that a paleo diet could NEVER be low in carbohydrates?

Brad said...

Outside of getting sufficient vitamin-C, I don't see the benefit of eating large amounts of fruit given they are mostly full of water, sugars, and some fiber. The fiber of course you can get from healthier and less caloric veggies. People who think that fruit is so amazingly healthful usually place the importance of small amounts of micro-nutrients above things like *essential* fatty acids. Large amounts of fructose are horrible for you. Amounts above what can be converted to glycogen to refill liver and muscle stores just gets converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Same with the excess glucose and sucrose in the fruit - goes to fat if not burned of from exercise. So... I would ask, just what is it that is so great about fruit that one should consume a large amount of it?

I personally choose to eat my daily requirement of Vitamin-C in the lowest glycemic load fruits I can find. ie., one good serving of fruit per day, and seek out other foods for other nutrients.

Don said...


Effect of fruit restriction on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes – A randomized trial


"We found a tendency towards reduced body weight and waist circumference in the group that ingested most fruit 0.9 (−0.4 to 2.2) kg and 1.2 (−0.5 to 3.0) cm respectively. This corroborates with a few intervention studies. The study by Rodriguez et al. in which the high-fruit group had a significant reduction in waist circumference compared to low-fruit group (5.5 vs. 2.4 cm; p=0.048) [20]. Weight loss was similar in the two groups (6.1 vs. 6.4 kg; p=0.78). In another intervention study 49 obese women were randomized to add either three apples, three pears or three oat cookies to their usual diet for 10 weeks [24]. The total energy and fiber content of the supplements were matched. The two groups with fruit supplements lost significantly more body weight than the group with oat cookies (−0.9 vs −0.8 vs 0.2 kg). In a third study by Madero et al. the moderate-natural-fructose group reduced body weight more than the low-fructose group (4.1 vs 2.9 kg; p=0.02) [21]. A recent review study concluded that in most studies a higher fruit intake has a beneficial effect on body weight and that no studies have found a negative effect [25]."

Randomized trials show that increasing fruit consumption has a beneficial effect on body weight and no studies have found a negative effect.

So can you provide peer-reviewed evidence of a harmful effect of fruit consumption on body fat levels? Not a theory, but data?

"In women, total fruits and vegetables [HR = 0.35 (95% CI: 0.22, 0.56); highest vs. lowest quartile], total vegetables [HR = 0.49 (95% CI: 0.29, 0.83)], yellow-orange vegetables [HR = 0.48 (95% CI: 0.30, 0.77)], total fruits [HR = 0.54 (95% CI: 0.34, 0.85)], and citrus fruits [HR = 0.56 (95% CI: 0.34, 0.90)] were inversely associated with the risk of invasive bladder cancer in risk factor-adjusted models." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23739308

"Comparing highest to lowest quintiles, we observed significant inverse associations (OR < 0.8) with significant trends (p (trend) < 0.05) for citrus, melon, and berries, other fruits, dark green vegetables, deep yellow vegetables, tomato, other vegetables, dry bean and pea, insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, whole grains, and orange/grapefruit juice, and an increased association with non-whole grains. " http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21915615

Requirements for essential fatty acids according to the Institute of Medicine:

linoleic acid: 12-17 g per day

alpha linolenic acid: 1.1 - 1.6 g per day

humans do not required dietary intake of either EPA nor DHA. Plants are the best sources of both essential fatty acids.


potassium (K) requirement: at least 4700 mg per day

one cup (148 g) blueberries: 114 mg K
one medium banana: 422 mg K
100 g grass fed beef: 299 mg K
1 cup raw kale: 329 mg

4700 mg K requires:

41 cups of blueberries (3500 kcal and 44 g protein)
11 bananas (about 1200 kcal and 14 g protein)
1.6 kg grass fed beef (about 3072 kcal and 310 g protein)
14 cups of kale (about 460 kcal and 40 g protein)

my evaluation:

foods like blueberries and kale are too bulky to serve as main routes to satisfy the K requirement.

beef and other flesh foods are too high in protein and calories to serve as a the principle K source for the average human

Sweet fruits like bananas (as well as potatoes and sweet potatoes) provide the sweet spot for K delivery, not too bulky, not too high in calories or protein for most people

11 bananas would provide only 50% of the energy requirements and about one-third of the protein requirements of an active 25 year old, 54 kg female (she requires about 2500 kcal and 45 g protein per day).

Robert said...


You can always tell when you've been part of a religion, in this case the religion of Paleo. You get the die hard religionists coming after you once you leave. Sounds a bit like Scientology. The healthiest, longest-lived civilizations follow high-carb, lowish fat and protein diets. The Hunza and Okinawans are prime examples.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article with some convincing evidence based on your personal experience. My body enjoys fat and low-carb - I lost 46 pounds, hayfever and other ailments, my child's tooth hypolasia went in remission - but different strokes for different folks, init?

However, I would like to ask you, as an expert in Chinese medicine, what you think about the concept of "bigu" ( 辟穀 ), i.e. "avoiding grains", and how that fits with your model of health and nutrition?

There is some info here for other readers, who might not have intimate knowledge of chinese medicine:



Also, I would like to hear your opinion of the various arguments that grain production is historically associated with central government, slavery and taxation?

Thanks for your reflections.

Don said...


Weight loss on a low-carb diet occurs because of caloric deficit. During such, inflammation will be reduced. I was never in a weight loss phase, I didn't adopt paleo for weight loss. YMMV when your weight stabilizes and you are high-fat, low-carb, but not hypocaloric.

As anyone can see from the quotes from Taoist literature on the wiki page you linked, bigu does not mean just avoiding grains, it means avoiding food, i.e. fasting, including meat. The word "gu" in Chinese means food generally, grains specifically, because for Chinese, grains are the primary foods.

The "sensual animist" you linked did very selective quotation to give the impression that Taoism advocates a low carb paleo diet.

For example, he ended his essay with this quote:

"In the 2nd cent BC Huainanzi quotes a common saying: 'Those who eat cereals are intelligent, but they die early, those who don’t eat them at all are immortal.'(Lévi, Jean. 1982. L’abstinence des céréales chez les Taoïstes. Études chinoises 1: 3–47.)

Here is the full text:

Those that feed on flesh are brave and daring but are cruel. Those that feed on qi [attain] spirit illumination and are long-lived. Those that feed on grain are knowledgeable and clever but short-lived. Those that do not feed on anything do not die and are spirits.”

Cruelty is NOT a Taoist value!

Leaving out the portion that refers to meat-eaters as cruel makes it look like Taoists endorse meat-based diets, when they don't.

Don said...

The Jinjian yuzi jing 金簡玉字經 “Classic of Jade Characters on Slips of Gold” (tr. Maspero 1981:334) specifies, “Those who, in their food, cut off cereals must not take wine, nor meat, nor plants of the five strong flavors; they must bathe, wash their garments, and burn incense.”

The Baopuzi discussion of grain abstention also notes that meat abstention is also part of bigu,

"Should you take to the mountains and forests during political troubles, you will avoid dying of starvation by observing the rule about starches. Otherwise, do not rush into this practice, for rushing cannot be very beneficial. If you dispense with meat while living among others, you will find it impossible not to desire it deep in your heart when you smell its fat or freshness." (15, tr. Ware 1966:244)

He also ignored Ge Hong's criticism of contemporary charlatans who claimed to have duangu “cut off grains”:

“I have also frequently seen ignorant processors who, wishing to boast and amaze and acquire a reputation for not eating when they really knew nothing about such procedures, merely claimed not to eat gruel. Meanwhile, they would drink more than a gallon of wine daily, and dried meats, puddings, jujubes, chestnuts, or eggs were never out of their mouths. Sometimes they would eat large quantities of meat – several dozen pounds daily – swallowing its juices and spitting out anything that was unpleasant. This, however, is actually feasting. Wine drinkers will eat dried meats with their wine but not starches, and they can keep this up for six months to a year without stumbling or falling. Never yet, however, have they claimed that this was “cut off from starches!” (15, tr. Ware 1966:248)

In this passage Ge Hong is talking to all the “paleo” and low carb crew who think that they have adopted a Taoist lifestyle by eating a meat-based, egg-laced diet. Bigu is about cutting down food, starting with grains and meat…paleo and low carb diets are about as far from Taoist bigu as you can get.

Bigu is about fasting, not just cereal abstention, and its goal is to live on qi, i.e. breatharianism. In all of the literature, you can clearly see that it is about pursuing a fantasy of embodied immortality.

Ultimately, this is all nostalgia for the ‘noble, healthy savage’ who never existed.

As for the historical association of agriculture with central government, slavery, and taxation, it is just that, an association. Cultivating crops does not make central government, slavery, or taxation a necessity. In other words, agriculture and the State are two different things. Agriculture just enables common people to be productive; politicians just take advantage of this, and mooch off the productive peasants by forming a protection racket they call 'government'. Blaming agriculture for central government, slavery, and taxation is like saying that agriculture causes the Mafia to exist.

Moreover, Confucians considered agriculture the essence of civilization, and were completely opposed to autocratic central government, slavery, and taxation. The idea that Confucians were anti-human and pro-statist is simple and total bullshit, and anyone who suggests otherwise simply reveals his/her ignorance of Confucian philosophy and ethics. Such people apparently have not read the books of Mencius and other Confucians who were not afraid to talk truth to power to protect the people from abuse.

The Omnivore said...

Really wonderful article! I think there's so much to learn from Eastern medicine, particularly the relationships to food.

We are such a culture of extremes -- fat seems to always be either exalted or condemned.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your informed comments. I greatly appreciate the Chinese references and the debunking of the blog post.

However, I am left with some questions:

Most importantly, which is why I avoided grains, my son: his hypolasia is in remission. Is that a coincidence, have we merely been lucky that it didn't get worse? Should we feed him grains (before his skin falls off, or his body fills up with acid)?

When it comes to weight loss I am a little uneasy about the conviction with which you determine how I lost weight. Is it because you think that all weight loss happens through caloric deficit?

I didn't cut grains and sugar for weight loss, not for me at all, but for my child, but I eat as much as I did before, sometimes it seems I eat more, but I feel a lot better and the weight just disappeared. As did my hayfever. If I feel better, if it has improved *my* life, then it is difficult to accept that it is "dangerous" without some argument, which you do not offer, it seems to me? As such, it is instructive what someone else commented: religion. Paleo religion and anti-paleo religion. Neither of these interest me the slightest, but my own experience does not resonate with yours. Why? Why not? And can anyone speak on behalf of someone else's body/metabolism/digestion in the abstract and in a generalising sense? Isn't that the same thing as a paleo missionary?

Now when it comes to the philosophical-political aspects, you say it is "just an association" and that cultivating crops does not make central government a "necessity", but that was never the question. Quite the contrary: is central storage of grain a necessity for central government/taxation? And while we are at this logical rearrangement of the question: while it has been, to me convincingly (and long before anyone came up with the term "paleo diet"), argued that central storage of grain is a "necessary" condition, that, of course, does not mean that it is a "sufficient" condition.

In this context I wonder if you are familiar with the work of Yale agrarian studies professor James Scott (notably "Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance", "Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts", and "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed"), which in part supports elements of this thinking, as well as David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years. There is extensive scholarship - almost entirely unconcerned with dietary questions or cyberfads - supporting this view.

If you have any arguments to offer, then I would be very grateful for your attention. Thanks a lot.

Don said...


I am not giving you dietary advice for your son. I certainly am not telling you or anyone else to eat grains, as it is not essential to eat grains to have a plant-based diet.

"his hypolasia is in remission. Is that a coincidence, have we merely been lucky that it didn't get worse?"

It just may be a coincidence; after all, you did not do another trial, involving a different dietary intervention. There is no way to run simultaneous trials on one individual. Do you know of controlled trials on multiple individuals producing evidence that an animal-based diet is reliably effective for treating this condition, and better than a plant-based diet? Is hypoplasia more common in populations eating plant-based or grain-rich diets than in those eating animal-based diets? If so, are there confounding factors e.g. starvation? Vitamin D deficiency?

A quick pubmed search turns up this report, which suggests that mineral deficiency may be the underlying cause for hypoplasia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1783694

If so, perhaps the dietary change you made involved improvements in your son's mineral intake, which may have been achieved without eliminating grains. But, as I said, I am not pushing grains, and no one needs to eat grains to have a plant-based diet, and, further, a low-carbohydrate animal-based diet is not necessarily mineral-rich compared to a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Don said...

"Is it because you think that all weight loss happens through caloric deficit?"

If you are losing fat, there absolutely must be less fat coming into your system than is being expended; just as surely as to deplete your bank account, there must be less money going in than coming out.

"the weight just disappeared"

Magic, eh? Just wave the wand and it disappears. I don't believe that 'weight' just 'disappears.' Weight is a measure of some substance, chiefly fat in this case. To lose fat, you must expend it; to expend it, you must have less fat entering your system than you require for support of your metabolism; as I said, a negative fat balance.

"As did my hayfever. If I feel better, if it has improved *my* life, then it is difficult to accept that it is "dangerous" without some argument, which you do not offer, it seems to me? "

Improvements in many minor complaints are typical with weight loss since excess body fat increases inflammation in the body. Such improvements do not prove that the specific dietary approach will best serve you in the long run.

Further, there is no shortage of evidence, accumulated over the past 150 years from around the world, indicating that animal-based diets promote chronic disease in humans. However, offering that body of evidence was not the purpose of this post or any of my comments. However, Healthy Longevity blog reviews the evidence.

"Quite the contrary: is central storage of grain a necessity for central government/taxation?"

Of course control of either food or currency is a necessary condition for central government. Control of the food supply gives "the government" leverage: "Work for the State's aims, or starve." But, how does this "central storage" come about?

The people who store the grain ('the State') and use it to pay their thugs (army) and feed their slaves (to build pyramids, etc.) generally are not the people who cultivated and harvested the grain. So, how does the surplus of grain get transferred from the original producers to the central "government" (protection racket)? Taxation/extortion obviously must occur before there can be central storage of grain.

So how do you get producers to give you part of their crops? I suggest two methods: make (often false) promises of assistance and protection, and the big one: threaten bodily harm to those who refuse to "contribute" to the State.

So, I don't believe that agriculture alone is a sufficient condition for emergence of the central state.

Most people's animal-based diets depend on agriculture, so I find it comical that some think that by eating an animal-based diet they are protesting agriculture.

I have not read any of the literature you mention.

Ela said...

I agree with is post, I was paleo for only 5 months, I started itching from grass fed meat, got heartburn all day daily which I never in my life had, and pain

Amber Ray Overholt said...

Wow. I am floored by the similarities I have experienced with those you have listed! I have been paleo for about a year now since being diagnosed with Lyme disease and I have battled with every symptom you experienced as well as half the symptoms experienced by your wife. I will definitely be reevaluating my dietary needs. Thank you for sharing, this was eye opening for me!