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When The Conclusions Don't Match The Data: Even Loren Cordain Whiffs It Sometimes, Because Saturated Fat Is Most Definitely Paleo (Updated)

(Note: This article has been revised, extended, and greatly improved as a result of an error caught by an alert commenter.)

Caution: contains SCIENCE

Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century
Loren Cordain, S Boyd Eaton, Anthony Sebastian, Neil Mann, Staffan Lindeberg, Bruce A Watkins, James H O’Keefe and Janette Brand-Miller.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 81, No. 2, 341-354, February 2005

This paper is basically all you need to know about why paleo diets work, and why they are the most healthy diet possible…

…with one exception. The authors make a giant mistake by regurgitating the “saturated fat is bad” dogma, even though their own data refutes it.

First example: in the subsection “Fatty domestic meats”, they claim that wild game is much leaner than feedlot cattle (this is true)—and then claim it is much lower in SFAs (saturated fatty acids), which is false according to their own data!

Click to zoom. Image ©2005 AJCN.

In Fig. 6, showing seasonal variation in caribou body fat, caribou at their leanest (in April) contain 9% saturated, 8% monounsaturated, and 2% polyunsaturated fats—a fat profile of 47% SFA, 42% MUFA, and 11% PUFA. At their fattest (in October), they contain 33% SFA, 29% MUFA, and 5% PUFA, or a fat profile of 49% SFA, 43% MUFA, and 8% PUFA.

Here are their claims:

“Because subcutaneous and abdominal body fat stores are depleted during most of the year in wild animals, PUFAs and MUFAs ordinarily constitute most of the total carcass fat (11). [False: half the carcass is SFA. 47%/53% and 49%/51% equal 1/2 within the precision of their data set.] MUFAs and PUFAs are the dominant fats in the edible carcass of caribou for all 12 mo of the year, as illustrated in Figure 6 (11, 60-65). [False again: as shown above, there is as much SFA as MUFA and PUFA combined.] Because of the seasonal cyclic depletion of SFAs and enrichment of PUFAs and MUFAs, [What seasonal depletion? 49% to 47% is insignificant, being well within the rounding error of the percentages they use in the table] a year-round dietary intake of high amounts of SFAs would have not been possible for preagricultural hominins preying on wild mammals. [False again! The table of fat content Cordain uses assumes that hunters selected an animal purely at random from the herd, which is nonsensical.]

In other words, every claim in this paragraph is factually false according to the authors’ own data!

Hunters Didn’t Choose Random Animals

My last statement clearly requires justification. Let’s look at hunting strategies used by actual Late Pleistocene caribou hunters, to whom Cordain presumably refers. (Hat tip to Peter at Hyperlipid for the reference.)

Subsistence strategies and economy in the Magdalenian of the Paris Basin.
In: R.N.E. Barton, A.J. Roberts and D.A. Roe, eds., The Late Glacial of Northwest Europe: Human Adaptation and Environmental Change at the End of the Pleistocene, pp. 63-71.
Council for British Archaeology Research Reports 77, London.
(alternate location, easier to read but in two parts: part 1, part 2)

The age distribution is dominated by prime adults, suggesting selection of individuals to be killed. At Le Flageolet although males are present, females appear to be more numerous, which is consistent with individual encounter hunting in the winter, due to their superior nutritional state after the rut.

“[At Pincevent and Verberie,] The toothwear for the one and two year old individuals indicates that the kill took place during the autumn at both sites … The large size of the kill and the season point towards a hunt related to the autumn migration (at least at Verberie).”

“The primary use made of reindeer [note: reindeer = caribou] was, of course, nutritional. The autumn hunts indicated by the dental eruption sequences at Pincevent and Verberie would be designed to exploit the prey in its best condition of the entire year. The summer forage would have fattened up the herd to its maximum annual weight, and even more importantly, to its highest fat content. Both meat and marrow are important for the diets of reindeer hunters. Speth and Spielmann’s arguments (1983) about the desirability of fat in the diet are particularly pertinent for cold climate hunter/gatherers in the winter. The fat in marrow can supply twice as many calories per gram as protein can, and can allow efficient metabolism of the protein from meat. There are no whole bones in the faunal assemblages from Pincevent or Verberie. There are abundant impact fractures, systematically placed to open the medullary cavities for the extraction of marrow.” [Note: marrow is very high in fat.]

This behavior is shared by all other known hunting cultures:

Jack Brink, Northern Plains archeologist, from his masterwork “Imagining Head Smashed In”:

“Fat, not meat, was the food source most sought after by all Plains Aboriginal hunting cultures…”

“Assuming that bigger was better, he [George Carlin] aimed at a massive bull and suffered ridicule and laughter from the rest of his party ‘for having aimed at an old bull, whose flesh was not suitable for food.’

“My people killed three bulls … which served for our dogs.”

Click to zoom. Image ©2005 AJCN.

So it is abundantly clear that not only were the healthiest and fattest animals selected by Paleolithic hunters—the hunters also orchestrated mass kills during the season they were fattest in regions where winter cold made meat preservation practical. Yet this behavior is not reflected in Figure 6, which assumes hunters selected randomly each time by using an average value.

Fortunately Figure 5 shows average fat concentrations for mature bulls, young bulls, and mature females. Using the figure of 25% bodyfat (from a mature bull in October) with the cubic regressions Cordain uses, taken from this figure in this paper, yields…

…90% of calories from fat, not 67% as listed in Fig. 6! So if we choose an animal of the healthiest of the three types in Fig. 5, as caribou hunters clearly did, we get the following percentages:

Month % calories from fat,
Fig. 6 claimed
% calories from fat, calculated from
actual bodyfat in Fig. 5 and cubic regression
Jan* 29% 54%
Feb 25% 48%
Mar 22% 44%
Apr 19% 36%
May 22% 42%
Jun 22% 45%
Jul 28% 54%
Aug 41% 64%
Sep 58% 75%
Oct 67% 90%
Nov* 55% 66%
Dec* 49% 59%
Average 36% 56%

(* Most likely animals eaten in these months were from October mass kills, so these percentages are conservative)

Finally, note that caribou hunters didn’t kill an average animal of each type, either: they selected the fattest…usually females who had not borne a fawn that year, a category not shown in the table. And this further assumes that they never threw away lean muscle meat, or gave it to their dogs, as Plains Indians were well-known to do. So these figures are most likely lower bounds of fat consumption.

Thus, we can easily see that fat provides the majority of calories for caribou hunters, even under pessimistic assumptions.

This argument is reinforced by the fact that humans can only metabolize a limited amount of protein each day…approximately 200-250 grams. But an active hunter burning 4000 calories per day, if eating only the claimed 36% of their calories from fat, would average 1260 calories a day of lean protein—or approximately 360 grams! This is nonsensical.

Finally, I note that caribou hunting is a recent adaptation: Homo sapiens didn’t reach Europe or East Asia at all until perhaps 40,000 years ago. Quoting the original paper again, “Larger mammals generally maintain greater body fat percentages by weight than do smaller animals.” Recall that preagricultural hominins preferentially hunted megafauna: mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, giant tortoises, gomphotheres, chalicotheres, giant hartebeest, giant bison, woolly rhinoceri, and the myriad other megafaunal species that our ancestors drove extinct during the Quaternary period. Even modern American bison (let alone ancestral bison) are many times larger than caribou.

Such animals would have contained a much greater percentage of carcass fat, which would therefore have comprised a much greater percentage of the human diet. Taking caribou as typical representatives of the hunter-gatherer diet is somewhat disingenuous, as humans didn’t even reach the area where caribou lived until perhaps 40,000 years ago. (Compare this to our 2.6 million year history of butchering animal carcasses with stone tools, and the fact that meat-eating most likely dates from before our split with chimpanzees 6-7 million years ago.)

Is Modern Red Meat Higher In Saturated Fat? No.

Now let’s compare the fatty acid profile of…modern feedlot beef.

According to the USDA’s food information database, the fat profile of grain-fed beef is approximately 46% SFA, 50% MUFA, and 4% PUFA.* In other words, grain-fed beef has a slightly lower percentage of saturated fat than wild caribou—and we have disproven another of the authors’ key claims about saturated fat. (“Marbled meat results from excessive triacylglycerol accumulation in muscle interfascicular adipocytes. Such meat has a greatly increased SFA content…” [which we've just proven false])

In fact, based on Table 5 of this Cordain paper, the fat of wild game averages approximately 45% SFA (saturated fat).

Finally, the fact remains that hunter-gatherers ate all portions of the animal. Hunters did not trim their steaks—and they ate the fatty parts of the carcass, such as brains and visceral fat, that modern humans throw away! Therefore, the fact that modern muscle meat is fattier is balanced by the fact that we throw away much of the fat which Paleolithic humans consumed with relish.

The rest of the article is indeed correct, including their subsequent conclusions about the PUFA profiles (n-3 vs. n-6) of wild game vs. feedlot beef—but their conclusions about saturated fat are simply a regurgitation of disproved theories which are contradicted by their own data, as well as recently but clearly established science.

Therefore, though it is an excellent paper overall, we can safely discard all its conclusions relating to relative intake of saturated fats.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS

(* I can’t link directly to results in the USDA online database, so I’m forced to link to pages at nutritiondata.self.com, which crawls it. And the composition varies slightly by cut and by individual animal, but is close to those values for the cuts I’ve looked at.)

For far more detail on the subject, you can read this comment.


Postscript: I don’t have time to list all the research showing that saturated fat is, in fact, good for you, because that’s another article by itself—but you can start here:

Am J Clin Nutr 91: 535-546, 2010. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu and Ronald M Krauss
“A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”

And here’s the formal refutation of The China Study, the last refuge of the “meat and fat is bad, eat grains and go vegetarian/vegan” dogma since Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Study was conclusively refuted (most recently by the tremendously entertaining documentary Fat Head) as misleading trash science.

Finally, my purpose is not to trash Dr. Cordain: he’s done a great deal of good over the years, and “Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet” is a solid summary of the issues, one to which I’ve referred people many times. But that particular section (“Fatty domestic meats”) is simply wrong, and I hate to see people scared away from eating paleo because they can’t get game meats or grass-fed beef at their local supermarket—or because they’re still afraid of saturated fat.

(Did you like this article? Click here for more articles tagged “data != conclusions”, or here for more articles tagged “paleo”.)

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30 comments

Permalink: When The Conclusions Don’t Match The Data: Even Loren Cordain Whiffs It Sometimes, Because Saturated Fat Is Most Definitely Paleo (Updated)
  • anon

    Lately I’ve been eating mostly lean meats and feel horrible. Thanks for this enlightening article. Time for shop for some ground bison!

  • Tim

    Thanks! Found this blog from PaNu blog, looks like lots of good reading here. I have recently read a book called “Imagining Head Smashed In” that chronicles a mass bison kill and the hunting habits of the Native bands dating back 8,500 years. It is clear the fat was what was being hunted, certainly not the lean. You can google up the book and download a free pdf it is a fast and interesting read, well referenced. Fits right into the Paleo way of looking at things.

  • Paula

    Thank you for vindicating my desire to eat fatty meats. If I eat few carbs, then what’s left is protein and fat. Too much protein leads to rabbit starvation, so fair amount of fat is unavoidable. My instinct tells me that eating a fatty piece of meat makes more nutritional sense than drizzling a chicken breast with olive oil. I don’t eat nuts, so other than lightly buttered veggies and olive oil on salad greens, my only source of fat is meat.

  • Aaron Blaisdell

    If you can’t find good cuts of fatty meats, and only have lean meats available, you can always cover it in butter to up the fat content.

  • Sebastien

    Great article. Another nail in the coffin for the lowish fat Paleo side of things. It scares me every time I see lean meat and Paleo in the same sentence.

  • yer damn right! i also think that – for all his good points, Cordain and just about everyone else in the paleo-purist line revolt against the conventional thinking on one hand – and then accept very poor science regarding anthropological assumptions regarding the domestication – or even access to dairy animals, specifically goat -

    The paleo cry “do not eat dairy” is highly suspect – while paleo’s generally have a pretty good f-off attitude towards conventional wisdom, they accept conventional anthropological assumptions that our paleo pals were not smart enough or capable enough to husband animals that provided milk/dairy nutritional adjunct… bbbbzzzzzt! – wrong!- a close examination of the evidence leads to the conclusion that we very well could have and did keep at least goats – if not other mammals long into our paleo past enjoying the delectable white gold…

    Check out the argument here: http://daiasolgaia.com/?p=1302

    and also, J. Stanton, we really like the “edgy-ness” and information of your posts! We would like to invite you to submit your posts to our new ParadigmShift BlogShare at DaiaSolGaia.
    Please check it out @
    http://daiasolgaia.com/?p=2212
    Thank You.

    Ravi Wells
    DaiaSolGaia
    Discoveries for a Full Life

  • David

    I’ve been eating my own version of a Paleo diet for some time now, and it has not failed to help me lose weight, improve my skin tone, and generally feel better. For the most part I will eat any meat, most plants, and limited amounts of fruit. I am primarily concerned with not eating: grain / glutens / flours, corn, soy, dairy, refined sugar, or any types of oil other than extra virgin olive oil.

  • Mark

    This analysis is wrong. Figure 6 of the cited paper, reproduced above, is depicting protein, SFA, MUFA, and PUFA as a percentage of total carcass ENERGY. It’s already broken down by percentage of each. So for April, since you selected that month, the total energy provided by SFA is 9%, while MUFA contributes 8% of energy, and PUFA contributes just 2% of total carcass energy. The vast majority of carcass energy comes from protein, which provides 77%. To the paper’s author’s point, the energy from SFA is 9%, while MUFA/PUFA combined is 10%. For each month of the year, in fact, the energy from MUFA/PUFA combined exceeds that of SFA, which the author stated accurately. Granted it’s not by much, but MUFA/PUFA does provide more energy as a percentage of the total carcass energy than SFA. Therefore, the statement by the paper’s author that MUFA/PUFA is dominant, as a function of energy, is accurate.

    You stated above “…PUFAs and MUFAs ordinarily constitute most of the total carcass fat (11). [False: half the carcass is SFA. 47%/53% and 49%/51% equal 1/2 within the precision of their data set.] ” You’re mixing up your faulty analysis of Figure 6 with the author’s cite from reference (11). Did you read that other paper? In that paper he was talking about fat by weight (mg per 100 gram sample of various tissues), while you apply your analysis of Figure 6 (which is concerned with ENERGY not weight) to a completely different subject matter. I could go on, but basically every statement you inserted into the quote is inaccurate.

    I think what we Paleos really want to know is how much fat, especially SFAs, were actual paleolithic people eating. The only paper I am aware of that actually takes a stab at this in a scientific way is this one: http://thepaleodiet.com/articles/CRC%20Chapter%202006a.pdf. If anyone knows of any others, I’d love to read them.

  • Mark:

    I'm not confusing my citations. Let me explain in more detail.

    Since the measurements given are only accurate to within 1%, proportions of 9%/8%/2% means that a single 1% variation due to rounding, let alone multiple variations, can change the listed proportions by 12% up to 50% — depending on which number you twiddle.

    Furthermore, the question remains: how were these percentages calculated in the first place? From the caption for Fig. 6: “Edible carcass fatty acid composition was calculated by multiplying tissue and organ mass by fatty acid composition (% mass) in these tissues from values for caribou or similar ruminant species.”  So these relative values in Fig. 6 weren't even measured directly…they're imputed from measurements that might not even be from caribou!  

     Claiming 51%/49% and 53%/47% are significantly different than 1/2 (or each other) under these circumstances is strongly disingenuous in my opinion — as is claiming any sort of 'seasonal cyclic depletion'.

    My points stand.

     

    Moving on to the other Cordain et. al. paper you reference (full text here): based on Table 5, the muscle tissue lipids of wild game average 45% SFA, basically identical to feedlot beef…and, as is noted repeatedly, muscle tissue concentrations of SFA are substantially lower than subcutaneous fat concentrations (tissues typically eaten by hunter-gatherers but trimmed and discarded by most modern humans).

    Given the inevitable measurement differences between individual animals (this independent analysis shows muscle tissue concentrations of SFA in grass-fed beef to be 51.5% SFA, 44.7% MUFA, 3.8% PUFA), I think that claiming any decreased relative concentration of SFA in wild game vs. modern feedlot beef is nonsensical.

     



     

    Furthermore, the data in Table 5 includes n-6/n-3 ratio. The average of all wild game is 3.8, versus 5.2 for grain-fed beef and 2.2 for grass-fed beef. So according to this data set, wild game muscle tissue has a PUFA ratio closer to feedlot beef than to grass-fed beef! (And, again, Table 5 shows 10.3% PUFA for grain-fed muscle tissue lipids, vs. 3.8% for an independent analysis of the same…so there is substantial variation involved.) 

    Please note that I don't disagree with Cordain's conclusions about n-6/n-3 ratios: I disagree with his conclusion that “Fatty domestic meats” are to blame. Seed oils are to blame, as they rarely contain any n-3 at all, and never contain EPA and DHA.  And the PUFA profile of chickens and pigs is far inferior to grain-fed beef anyway.

     

    I will give you credit for catching one error, though: the percentages in Figure 6 are total energy, not fat percentage, so my last sentence is incorrect. I'll revise to reflect that…as well as the data below.

    However, Cordain's calculations of total energy in Figure 6 are wrong, and do not reflect the animals which are actually hunted and killed.

    From the paper: “Total body fat and total body protein, as a percentage of energy, were calculated from the respective mean values by weight by using the cubic regression equations developed by Cordain et al (20).”  That would be this paper, and this figure contains the cubic regression equations.

    The assumption Cordain makes is that hunters would randomly choose a caribou from the herd: Figure 6 includes “mature male, immature male, and mature female caribou.”  

    Yet the written record of hunting cultures shows this assumption to be nonsense.  [Edit to add: I've added all this, as well as direct evidence from archaeological remains of caribou hunters, to the article.  And all my speculations below turned out to be absolutely correct.] We have direct evidence from observing Native American bison hunters: they preferentially hunted only the fattest animals (usually cows that had not borne a calf that year) and often discarded the lean meat if fattier animals were available. I quote Jack Brink, Northern Plains archeologist, and his masterwork Imagining Head Smashed In:

    “Fat, not meat, was the food source most sought after by all Plains Aboriginal hunting cultures…”

    “Assuming that bigger was better, he [George Carlin] aimed at a massive bull and suffered ridicule and laughter from the rest of his party 'for having aimed at an old bull, whose flesh was not suitable for food.'

    And we see quotes like “My people killed three bulls … which served for our dogs.” from early explorers.

    Furthermore, they killed most animals during the fattest time of the year (late fall), and preserved their flesh for consumption during the leanest times: “The Indians had certain spots where the fixed winter camps were established in the fall of the year. At this season the buffalo were fat and prime and the drives to secure a winter's food supply were usually held immediately after this fixed camp was established.”

    One might argue that this preservation was a more recent adaptational behavior — but so is living in a cold climate at all, as modern humans didn't leave Africa until c. 65,000 years ago, and didn't arrive in Siberia until perhaps 35,000 years ago. Game in sub-Saharan Africa, where hominins evolved, doesn't have nearly the degree of seasonal fat enrichment and depletion that Arctic animals like caribou do (or even North American game animals like deer and elk), so year-round fat content of African game hunters wouldn't have had the same radical seasonal depletion issue.

    Returning to Figure 6: we've established that caribou hunters would preferentially kill the fattest animals, not a random animal. Figure 5 shows average fat concentrations for mature bulls, young bulls, and mature females. (Note that caribou hunters wouldn't kill an average animal of each type, either: they would only select the fattiest.  But let's take those percentages as written for now.) Crossing 25% bodyfat (from a mature bull in October) with the cubic regression equations Cordain uses yields…

    …90% of calories from fat, not 66% as he lists in Fig. 6!

    Similarly, 11% bodyfat (from a bull in July) yields 54% of calories from fat, not 30% as he lists in Fig. 6!

    Crossing 5.5% fat in April (from a mature female) yields 36% of calories from fat, not 23%…and so on throughout the year.

    So it appears that my original misreading of the table roughly cancels out the unrealistic selection of the numbers it contains.  How about that!

     

    There are even more issues.  Quoting the original paper again, “Larger mammals generally maintain greater body fat percentages by weight than do smaller animals.” Recall that preagricultural hominins preferentially hunted megafauna: mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, giant tortoises, gomphotheres, chalicotheres, giant hartebeest, giant bison, woolly rhinoceri, and the myried other megafaunal species that our ancestors drove extinct during the Quaternary period. Even modern American bison (let alone ancestral bison) are many times larger than caribou.  

    Such animals would have contained a much greater percentage of carcass fat, which would therefore have comprised a much greater percentage of the human diet.  Taking caribou as a typical representative of the hunter-gatherer diet is somewhat disingenuous, as humans didn't even reach the area where caribou lived until perhaps 35,000 years ago. (Compare this to our 2.6 million year history of butchering animal carcasses with stone tools, and the fact that meat-eating most likely dates from before our split with chimpanzees 6-7 million years ago.)

     

    In conclusion: my points stand.  The reason Cordain harps on the SFA issue is that he apparently still believes (or believed, at the time of these papers) that SFA is bad for humans, despite the fact that neither saturated fat nor modern grain-fed red meat consumption is associated in any way with heart disease…and he seems to be willing to torture the data until it supports this long-disproven hypothesis.

    This turned out to be much longer than I thought, and probably deserves an entire new article!

    JS

  • Zoe

    It’s true, Australian Aborigines use to hunt the fattest kangaroos – they refuse to hunt the skinny adults ones. In fact, one of their favorite bush tucker (food) is witchetty grubs (insect larve) which are full of fat.

    Photographs of Australian aborigines before 1900s when they were still eating their traditional diets, the men were lean, strong and had six packs!

    Fast forward to 2011 and the aboriginal population here have completely embraced white man’s food (alcohol, sugar, wheat, vegetable oil, etc) and you’ll rarely find skinny aboriginals unless you look in the really remote outback areas.

  • Zoe:

    Thanks for the information on Aboriginals!  All the sources I can find show that adult kangaroo meat is ridiculously lean, to the point of “Where do they get any fat in their diet?”

    As far as the six-packs, I believe it.  Pretty much every picture of hunter-gatherers before domestication/enslavement shows people you really wouldn't want to mess around with.  Have you read Weston A. Price's “Nutrition And Physical Degeneration”?  (I suspect you have)

    I appreciate the information and hope you'll stick around.

    JS

  • Peter Ballerstedt

    Thanks for this post. Well done!

    I’m concerned about the “New Conventional Wisdom” that I hear from various diet/lifestyle communities – ‘information’ that “we all know” that isn’t based upon facts. My recent post on the subject – http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-conventional-wisdom.html

    Regards,

    Pete B

  • Saturated fats bad a

    [...] entry pic shows the amount of fat in the stomach cavity of a pastured bison. <edit to add> When The Conclusions Don’t Match The Data: Even Loren Cordain Whiffs It Sometimes, Because Sat… Could it be that the bison/deer have less area to free roam than what they had in the stone age [...]

  • Walter

    Sad, that the author of Imagining Head Smashed In was so anti fat. Shows how obviously very astute people can be hypnotized by society.

    Page 41 and thereabouts even more anti fat statements

    ” Camped in the middle of a barren, demanding landscape, living on a restricted diet and with limited source of heat, we found that in a matter of a few weeks we experienced a craving for fat – devouring chocolate bars, peanut butter, oily sardines, and even eating spoonfuls of margarine right out of the tub. Though I shudder at the thought now, at the time there was nothing I wanted more than fat.”

    [Fixed the HTML -JS]

  • Walter

    Sorry about the bad HTML tag above. The book is “Imagining Head Smashed In_

  • Walter:

    Fortunately he keeps such comments to a minimum, does an excellent job documenting the importance of fat in the diet of meat hunters (even if he doesn't understand exactly why…limited ability to process protein), and doesn't claim that it was somehow unhealthy for them.

    JS

  • Rick

    “Even modern American bison (let alone ancestral bison) are many times larger than caribou.”

    BULLSHIT, bison are big but they’re not multiple a caribou.

  • Rick:

    My facts are straight.

    Adult caribou typically weigh 175# (small females) to 400# (large males) — although bulls of 700# have been recorded.  (Source.)

    Adult bison weigh 1000# (small females) to 2000# (large males).  (Source.)

    JS

  • [...] Always, always, always go for the roast with the most marbling. Forget all the I have to watch my fat/cholesterol intake garbage and eat enjoy your food. Sorry for the hyperlink-intensive sentence – [...]

  • Christine

    In Loren Cordain’s defense (and I’m greatly indebted to the guy for opening my eyes to this way of eating in the first place), he has come around on the SFA issue and now acknowledges that his original hardline stance was misinformed.

  • Christine:

    I believe you're correct…although I seem to recall an intermediate stage where SFA is bad, but only in the presence of excess carbohydrate (or something like that).  

    Note my closing statement: “My purpose is not to trash Dr. Cordain: he’s done a great deal of good over the years, and “Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet” is a solid summary of the issues, one to which I’ve referred people many times.”  I absolutely credit him with his work over many years, and we wouldn't be where we are if not for his efforts.  However, I believe it's instructive to know exactly how and why this particular stance is incorrect, because “Origins and evolution of the Western diet” is still widely cited.

    JS

  • Katherine

    Even worse, the recommendation in Cordain’s book was to trim every speck of fat from the leanest meat you could buy, and then purchase perilla oil imported from Korea to supplement your diet.

    That totally destroyed his credibility with me. But in reading his book, I got the feeling that his anti-fat stance was some sort of sop to get acceptance from the nutritional establishment, as being pro-sat-fat might have meant the book would end up in literary oblivion.

  • Katherine:

    His academic papers of the time repeat the dogma, and I can't speculate on the reasons.  Fortunately, he's backed off dramatically, and the field has long since moved on.

    JS

  • Nick

    Fat Head actually critiques a 1953 paper of Keys’ called “Atherosclerosis: A Problem In A New Public Health,” not the Seven Countries Study.

  • Nick:

    I might be confusing Fat Head with Tom's “Big Fat Fiasco” series.

    JS

  • Chris

    J-
    If u get this, thanks for posting. I initially followed Cordains first book with catastrophic results six years ago. Why? Low fat ratios. I lost too much weight and gorged on nuts and large quantities of fruit to satisfy my hunger. After spending the next few years researching the holes in his early recommendations, I took a leap down fat avenue and everything changed. Blood sugar stability, no desire to snack, energy for hours with no fluctuations. What kind of fats? Grass fed butter, lard, pork belly, tallow. Did I get fat? No. In fact, most uninformed people assume I’m a vegetarian. I’m actually offended by that. Anyway, I read a book about a year ago(author/title not in front of me) and a chapter touched on this and Cordain was mentioned. He was a friend of the author and he discussed Cordains mistake regarding fat percentages. It should come up in Paleo3, if published. Btw- I did give up butter. In my experience Cordain is correct on the dairy diss. However, I did quite well on butter for a few years and turned around an auto immune condition while consuming around 6 to 8 tbs a day. I think I will be even healthier without it.
    Best Wishes,
    Chris

  • Chris:

    Low-fat “paleo” doesn't work for me, either.  If you restrict carbs, then you restrict fat, you've got nothing left, because one can only process so much protein.  Result: involuntary deep calorie restriction — and all the hunger, chills, low energy, and cravings that you get for free with crash diets. 

    As far as dairy, I think casein is the most problematic part.  Butter has only trace amounts and is fine for me, and even the Whole 30 allows clarified butter now, which removes even those traces…but if I eat too much cheese or drink too much milk I get acne. 

    And while it's fashionable of late to say “Hey, I ate beans for a couple weeks and feel fine,” that's not a useful data point, and I find myself growing more sympathetic to some of Cordain's suspicions of Neolithic foods: see this article

    JS

  • dana pallessen

    great conversation and information above. as someone who ONLY eats wild game. it is the fat we seek. sure the meat is tasty but it is the fat that tastes SO much better. wild pig, deer, elk, fowl:duck, geese, grouse, doves. all taste great with our home grown vegies, eggs and herbs . we also on occasion purchase the fat cut from beef at the butchers to supplement, grass fed butter and of course coconut oil. we have eaten this way all our lives and have never been to an ama doctor. I and my husband are proof that if you EAT REAL FOOD you will stay as healthy as intended.

  • dana:

    Thank you for sharing your experience.  It's easy to talk about what humans “should” or “must have” eaten…but once you try to actually do it yourself, you realize very quickly that fat is the scarcest and most prized resource.

    JS

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