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The Paleo Identity Crisis: What Is The Paleo Diet, Anyway?
sp_BlogLink Read the original blog post
June 22, 2011
10:13 pm

no, yes, yes and yes!
Now go whine somewhere else.

you're getting better and better! I really enjoyed this essay.
About nutrition cycling:
I follow closely the PHD but don't stress macro-ratios anymore. There are days I'm very LC and others more LF. Protein doesn't varry so much but with frequent IF that should take care of itself.
Btw, regarding fruits, do you have problems with all fruits, JS? Because all fruits aren't created equal! I have no problems with bananas, pineapples, cherries, grapes but apples(especially!), strawbeeries(other berries not so much) and watermelon gives me stomacch problems.

June 23, 2011
12:10 am

Nice post. The word Paleo is bound to see a raft of definitions develop as more people jump on the train to see for themselves what it can do for them. These greater numbers will have a push/pull effect that stimulates discussions like this. For me, biochemistry is the datum form where we start and also the point we go back towards.
Generally the science is not challenged, so measuring any diet, eating plan, lifstyle influenced food choice should start from that place and over time, any modifications to that should go back there. I enjoy as a reference for exactly this. The Blogger is a medical student who openly questions conventional wisdom and uses her strong knowledge of biochemistry as a measuring tool for most that she posts. I enjoyed reading this post and having it start and finish in a similar way. Well done.

June 23, 2011
1:33 am

@ Eric - Sure. I've also considered the naive notion encouraging humans to attempt step outside the milieu in which they evolved and exist (the cycle of life and death). I've realised it's a fools errand and ultimately ideological claptrap. My health is the sine qua non of my morality, not the other way around. You think your soul will get dirty or that the Great Life Force will be harmed by causing death. I think that's religion.

June 23, 2011
2:08 am
What Is The Paleo Di

[...] Paleo Identity Crisis: What Is The Paleo Diet, Anyway? We call it “paleo” for the same reason that we call it “Latin”, even though we have [...]

June 23, 2011
2:22 am
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I know what you mean: the info is there, but you have to dig around a lot to find it.  It's quite simple, though, once you do.


Yes, I frequently do 16-20 hour fasts.  Today I did about 22 hours because I was busy, and I did over 40 hours a few weeks ago.  I've never needed the coconut oil to get me through it, but some might.

"Metabolic flexibility" has a very specific meaning in the literature, so be careful using that term.  But I know what you mean.


You didn't miss it: I edited the post to add it.


Animals were most likely domesticated before agriculture, so it's likely that we've been drinking milk longer than we've been eating wheat or corn.  Eating grains is no more "normal" than eating dairy products.

As far as death, we have to kill animals to eat anything at all.  The entire Midwest used to be a forest.  Bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, rabbits, gophers, opossums, hawks, doves, and thousands of other animals die when the land is cleared for your rice cakes, corn muffins, and glutenburgers.  

All that vegetarianism does is push the death to where we can't see it.  But it's there.


Rosedale misunderstands how evolution works: nature doesn't have any "intent".  That's just religion in scientific guise.

Also keep in mind that since hunter-foragers reproduced slowly (as I mentioned in the article), there was indeed incentive for them to live a long life.  Just to replace the population requires 2 children, which would have been born ~4 years apart, plus the time to raise the youngest until she was a young adult...and what with infant mortality, the average had to have been more like three children, so you're talking a minimum of 16-18 years of adulthood just to maintain the population, let alone grow it.

Rosedale has it exactly backwards.  Reproducing quickly was the advantage of farmers, whose wives could stay at home and pop out babies one after the other.


Thank you!  As far as fruits, I haven't eaten enough to notice.  It's not a digestive disturbance, they just mess with my energy levels.

And I don't watch macronutrient ratios that closely, fact, sometimes I have to force myself to eat carbs because I'm aerobically active and can run low on glycogen.


Thank you!  Science has the last word...but we need to start somewhere, and we need to double-check results against evolutionary common sense.  When someone purports to say that palmitic acid causes heart disease, we have to ask "Then why do we store surplus energy as palmitic acid?"


Yes.  Vegetarianism and veganism are religious in origin: no known pre-agricultural culture is vegetarian.  For that matter, no ancestral agricultural culture is vegetarian.  The concept first shows up around 2000 BC.


June 23, 2011
3:21 am

love the post, was not expecting there to be a new one when i clicked on last night, very happy to be surprised though 😀

as for the killing animals and such forth, i think most people do care. however we are not going to stop the killing of animals, if we all turned vegetarian/vegan we'd have to kill all those cattle pigs and sheep that are currently reared by farmers as there'll be no further use for them. these species will then become extinct as we've removed their abilities to defend themselves too.

ethically reared animals is the way forward and to apply pressure to the foodchain providers you have to refuse to buy non-ethically reared animals and be willing to pay more for the ethically reared animals that are available.
in time this will lead to more ethically reared animals and, in time, an end to the battery farming methods utilised by some farmers.
(as an aside i live in UK where animals are typically reared in pasture and only fattened up on grains for 1-2 months)
this will take time, but it's better than attempting something that will simply fail and would in fact cause massive harm to the very animals you are alleged to care about. (i count extinction as massive harm)

worth noting that this is where egg rearing is heading now, free range eggs used to be expensive and rarely reared, now they are the norm and as a result prices have come down.

June 23, 2011
6:51 am
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June 14, 2011
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"All that vegetarianism does is push the death to where we can't see it. But it's there."

Yes it does. And it pushes the killing to an indiscriminate level. Pesticides and herbicides can be blown on the wind far beyond their intended 'ground zero'. Those that do hit their targetted location can further wash in to the water system. The very ploughing of soils kills life. The consequently exposed topsoils are washed off in run-off to the streams killing further...

Arable farming kills at the very base of the food chain; the point where any sustainable complex system can least support it. Much better to eat from the top down!

June 23, 2011
4:05 pm

Thanks for the feedback, by the way. Your insights are always thought-provoking, and I'm glad you write only once a week because I like to ponder them at length.

I certainly agree with your approach. For low-protein days, I've just been fasting, because I was utterly convinced by JS' article on how snacking makes you fat and weak (i.e., an insulin spike from carbs in the absence of complete protein tears down lean mass). But using coconut oil is a very interesting idea, because it wouldn't affect insulin. I wonder if having some coconut oil during a 36-hour fast, rather than just eating nothing, would bring on ketosis faster... I'm going to give it a try.

As for the alcohol idea, it's really Martin Berkhan's insight over at, and if you want the full scoop you should check out his article. But the basic idea is that you eat a full course of protein (1g per pound of lean body mass) and lots of vegetables, while keeping fat extremely low (about 1.5g per pound of lean mass). Then you hit the booze. For me, this means fasting until 2pm, and then:

Three cans of tuna, one can of clams, one large prepacked salad (mostly kale with shredded carrots)

50g whey protein, two raw pastured eggs, 1/4 cup raw cow milk kefir, 1/2 cup almond milk

Smirnoff triple-filtered vodka

As a non-drinker, I learned the hard way that you should 1) drink gradually, because all that protein slows the alcohol absorption, making it easy to overdo it, and 2) stop drinking when you feel impaired. It's also good to have someone as your spotter. Fortunately my wife is extremely patient and understanding. 🙂

June 23, 2011
4:06 pm

Correction above: fat should be about 0.15g per pound of lean mass. Oops!

June 23, 2011
5:30 pm

Thanks. (I'll have to read up on exactly what metabolic flexibility means, then...)
Yeah, I find fasting is definitely a whole lot easier than most people imagine. It's quite a liberating experience. I find although I enjoy food more after, food seems to loose its power over me.

I'll have to check out the artile at leangains. Never been much of a drinker other than a glass of wnie in the evening, but sounds interesing.

June 23, 2011
11:39 pm
Eric B


Another great stimulating and well written article....while I agree with many concepts like eating eggs and sausages and minimizing sugar and carbs and such, my understanding of the Paleo diet resonate with Sally Fallon's review of the Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain (

Perhaps your could do a review on both of these reports/review?


June 23, 2011
11:39 pm
neal matheson

Hominids are one of the few animals that specializes in grandparental care. It sounds good to say that we are evolved to live long enough to reproduce but it might not be the case, We might be evolved to live long enough to help our children reproduce.
A 2% difference in reproductive success can mean the difference between species survival and extinction.

June 23, 2011
11:39 pm

@Eric... They won't let you eat them alive...

June 23, 2011
11:51 pm

Interesting point: can Dr Harris still call himself "paleo"? I follow similar principles as him and have used this word to describe my diet. Like you, I am not interested in recreating our Paleolithic past. Instead I focus on the basics of human biochemistry and then apply evolutionary reasoning. I called this principle The Framework of Common Sense, mainly to avoid questions like: "is sweet potato Paleo?". Great minds think alike 😉

June 24, 2011
7:47 am
~pjgh » Blog A

[...] I find more common ground with Harris and an affinity with what he writes, not because I am most comfortable with it, but because I am most challenged by his writing; challenged to think it through, fully. It is all very well moving the anchor point that secures paleo, but there is also much merit is taking time to consider why it was placed there initially, and that is the key theme in the following essay from J Stanton: [...]

June 24, 2011
11:56 am
Confused about the P

[...] J. Stanton – The Paleo Identity Crisis: What is the Paleo Diet, Anyway? [...]

June 24, 2011
10:38 pm


I'm with you. There is a tremendous advantage in grandparental care for a slow growing/much learning species like us. And "helping to reproduce" includes "helping to raise" as well. That's why our basic lifespan is 60-75 (roughly 3 generations).
All "bigger" health problems start thereafter if a more traditional/H-G diet is followed.

June 25, 2011
12:08 am
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February 22, 2010
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Exactly.  Grass-finished beef was insignificant in the 1980s in America.  Now it's a thriving industry.  Our choices make a difference.


Also note that Roundup (glyphosate) binds to minerals in the soil, making them not bioavailable...another blow to our already-depleted soil nutrient quality.


AFAIK coconut oil might delay ketosis a bit, because you're giving your body calories to burn that replace some of the glucose you'd otherwise have to make via gluconeogenesis.  But when you wake up you're already probably in mild ketosis, and once you're started it's OK then.  It might let you go longer without eating anything to pull you out of ketosis.


That's part of what I cover in my article.

Eric B:

That's a funny review of Cordain.  I know he's moderated some of those positions since then, but I think the main thrust of the review is correct: it's politically correct, and based on some naivete regarding the diets of actual hunter-gatherers.

We talk about the Jon Barron review in this comment thread.

Neal, Franco:

Good point.  And once there's enough language and cultural transmission of knowledge, grandparents become even more useful as teachers for everyone.


Those are great videos, aren't they?


(Your comment was stuck in the spam filter: I pulled it out.)

Dr. Harris can call himself anything he wants.  I, myself, consider him (and the Jaminets) at the far border of "paleo".  Like the article says, claiming "we're recreating the REAL ancestral diet, you're not paleo" is silly.  And Dr. Cordain doesn't own the term just because he had the chutzpah to misleadingly call his book "THE Paleo Diet" (as if there's only one).

I have no intention of abandoning the term, and I hope you don't either.  Your blog is great and I've linked to it.  Keep writing.


June 26, 2011
5:07 am

Robb Wolf's position is a little more subtle than total elimination - at least at the moment. Check out the transcript to "Paleo Solution" episode 68 for more details (available @ Essentially, it's in a "gray zone" for him, and he seems to be altering his opinions a bit based on arguments made by Kresser and Lalonde. To precis his opinion; "get it out of the diet, get the gut sorted out, then re-introduce and see what's up."

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