I'm a big supporter of the Paleo diet concept and the idea that we need to eat the traditional foods our genes need to be healthy.
This book claims to be the last word in explaining what our ancestors ate, and to not be just another book full of fads, but it is seriously flawed. The author seems to be trying to merge information on what the caveman diet consisted of with as many modern food fads as possible. He is particularly ignorant about healthy fats and oils.
The book is also not very convincing in the way it explains the scientific basis for the Paleo diet.
I disagree with the authors very-low salt stance and would advise them to read about unrefined sea salt and the work of Dr Brownstein on the many myths about salt and low-salt diet scaremongering, and the cholesterol scaremongering as well. The author has also been grossly misinformed about saturated fats. You should probably ignore what the author says about fats and oils in this book, as most of it is just plain wrong.
Liquid vegetable oils did not exist in paleolithic times and cooking with flax oil is very unhealthy! Saturated fats are also an important part of a healthy diet, and eating eggs does NOT raise your cholesterol levels. The 'very high' cholesterol levels mentioned in the book of 208 are also not high at all, and well within the healthy range of 200 - 240 according to lipid expert Mary Enig PhD.
The healthiest oils to cook with are ghee (unless you're 100% dairy free), lard, tallow, coconut and palm oils and olive oil. Oils should never be heated to very high temperatures such as in deep frying. These are the traditional fats to cook with, not flax oil!
The book is also very inconsistent and vague when it comes to talking about supplements. The recommendation given for vitamin C is very low and only the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E is recommended rather than a supplement containing all 8 forms. It is also not a good idea to take only a few supplements in larger doses as this creates imbalances, and a general basic supplementation regime is a much healthier option.
The book also claims 'protein can't be overeaten' which is just not true as excessive protein intake stresses the liver. Far healthier than a very high protein eating plan is a high fat, moderate protein and low carb eating plan as described in the books on traditional eating listed below. Our ancestors ate a lot of fat and a lot of it was saturated. Saturated fat offers many benefits to the body.
The author is also wrong about the 'calories in, calories out' theory of weight loss. The book 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' by Gary Taubes explains that:
1. The 'calories in, calories out' mantra is a myth
2. 'A calorie is a calorie is a calorie' is a myth
3. The 'just eat less and do more exercise to lose weight' message seems to be logical but is actually wrong and unhelpful
4. Overweight and obese people often eat no more calories, or even less, than their thinner counterparts
5. Low calorie diets also reduce the amount of nutrients in the diet
6. Dietary fat, including saturated fat, is not a cause of obesity. Refined and easily digestible carbs causing high insulin levels cause obesity.
The book 'Know Your Fats' by lipid expert Mary Enig PhD explains the facts about fats and oils and why the saturated fat = heart disease hypothesis is wrong. See also books such as Ignore the awkward! How the cholesterol myths are kept alive.
The book 'The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy (Primal Blueprint Series) is a far better book on the Paleolithic diet.
The book 'Deep Nutrition' offers a far more well researched and credible discussion of traditional foods and how they affect our genes. This book provides a wealth of fascinating and compelling information that is not available for free online. This book and 'Know Your Fats' and 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' are essential reading.
The Paleo approach generally is very solid, but not as it is interpreted in this book. This book contains an okay quality 3 star version of the diet - far better than the standard diet full of refined foods and grains but missing out lots of good information as well. This is not the last word on diet, but a book which is quite faddish in its approach overall.
on September 30, 2002
When I first heard Loren Cordain was finally authoring a book on paleo nutrition I was quite excited, for Cordain has conducted a lot of very insightful research into the eating patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. When I finally got to examine the book though, I was sorely disappointed.
Cordain evidently seems to have ignored much of his own research. The most alarming error is his frequent recommendation to use flax oil when cooking meat dishes. Recipe after recipe calls for marinating cuts of meat in flax oil before cooking - a very bad idea! For those who don't already know, you should NEVER cook with any type of polyunsaturated oil. Their high degree of unsaturation makes them extremely prone to oxidative damage, and this process is greatly multiplied by exposure to high temperatures (e.g cooking temeratures). Omega-3 fats, like those found in flax oil, are the most vulnerable polyunsaturates of all. When eaten, these 'healthy' fats trigger a chain-reaction of nasty free-radical activity in the body, leaving one open to the development of all sorts of degenerative ailments. Cordain should be well aware that liquid vegetable oils simply did not exist back in paleotlithic times.
Cordain also denigrates saturated fat in his book, which once again is rather pitiful considering his background. The anti-saturated fat doctrine is a product of agenda-driven 20th century researchers and beaureaucrats, eagerly supported by commercial interests and their cheerleading squad of ignorant nutritionists, health authorities, and authors. Cordain claims that a single experiment where saturated fat raised cholesterol levels in young men is proof that this fat is bad. Big deal! Such an assertion assumes that the cholesterol theory of heart disease is a valid one. Considering the numerous absurdities inherent in the cholesterol theory, that is a rather risky leap of faith. Hunter-gatherers ate lots of animal fat, which is around 50% saturated. And no, just because an animal is wild does not mean it is low in fat - I had the pleasure of sampling some camel steak last week, and you can be sure I enjoyed every bit of the backstrap fat covering the steak! Even the leanest animals have fatty portions of meat, and if observations of recent hunter-gatherer societies are anything to go by, these would have been the most valued and preferentially eaten cuts.
Cordain also jumps on the anti-low carb bandwagon, even though his own research shows hunter-gatherers were far more likely to consume a low carb diet than a high carb diet. In fact paleo nutrition, with its emphasis on animal foods and starch poor plant foods, and low carb nutrition are a perfect match.
The whole book reeks of an attempt to squeeze paleolithic nutrition into currently fashionable and politically correct guidelines. Only problem is, back in the stone-age there weren't any pompous cholesterol researchers who thought they knew better than mother nature, and there were no advertising campaigns to let people know of the 'heinous' health effects of saturated fat - so people ate it, and lots of it!
Paleo eating is still the ultimate nutrition in my opinion. It is the only eating plan that cannot even begin to be accused of being a 'fad'. Subsistence patterns that dominated for over two million years can hardly be considered a fad. Cordain's book does contain some useful info, but Neanderthin by Ray Audette is a far better, and cheaper, book on paleolithic nutrition. Buy that instead.
on March 16, 2002
The Paleo dietary theory is looking better and better as time passes. I've been successfully losing weight by following principles similar to Cordain's, even before I read his book. Cordain should be commended for defending a thesis that is politically incorrect on many levels.
The Paleo theory offends Creationists, because it assumes an evolutionary explanation for human origins and why our bodies seem to thrive better on hunter-gatherer foods than on "our daily bread."
It offends free-market zealots, because it implies a criticism of the way American capitalism produces the toxic waste it calls "food."
It offends the charlatans in the weight-loss industry, who offer the simplistic explanation that Americans are getting obese because they are "eating too much," instead of scientifically looking at the consequences of WHAT they are eating.
It offends the American medical and pharmaceutical industries, because it argues that a proper diet to prevent cancer, "Syndrome X," and other degenerative diseases makes more sense than developing exorbitantly expensive (i.e., profitable) therapies and drugs to treat them after the fact.
It offends the social-engineering goody-goods (mostly on the Left) who had the government dictate carbohydrate-heavy nutritional guidelines to us which have proved disastrous in practice.
It offends vegans, because it argues that humans need to eat animals for optimum health.
It offends technological cornucopians of the Julian L. Simon school, because it challenges common beliefs about "progress," and whether our planet can produce enough of the proper sorts of foods for human well-being. Cordain points out that with current technology, only about ten percent of the world's population could be adequately sustained on a Paleo-compatible diet. Unfortunately, the world's impoverished billions have to take their chances with their suboptimal grain-based diet.
In light of this, about the only ideologues this theory doesn't offend are the neo-Malthusians who have been arguing all along that the world is way over-populated. It's not often that a diet book presents a worldview radically at odds with the usual range of beliefs in our society. Cordain's message deserves a wide and thoughtful hearing, for what is more important than our health and the food we eat?
on September 7, 2002
In watching my sister endure the merry-go-round of Atkins, I think Cordain's 'Paleo Diet' makes a lot more sense.
His proposal of fresh, natural foods and omitting grains, sugars and salt makes much more sense than consuming heinous quantities of saturated fatty meats and expecting pounds to shed without consequences. I am much more intrigued by this book than the ramrod approach of gurus like Atkins and, I think, this is the ONE diet plan I will be very happy to try out for real.
I would have to agree that the pre-cultivation diet was likely more healthy than the cereal-based diet that began some 10,000 years ago. This grain-based diet has created [my opinion] havoc and its effects have made itself felt since.
Another reviewer cited that this will likely offend everyone. I know very well that the purveyors of all grain-based items will be screaming at what is proposed in this book. They will have fewer buyers if more will take on this lifetime eating plan and will lose money. Some reviewers have correctly brought up the kinds of meat permitted. Dr. Cordain advocates free-range and grass-fed but a budget like mine won't permit this luxury. I'll have to settle for plain ol' storebought in that department. Any nastiness from chemical buildup I think will pale compare to what would be there if I didn't omit grains, sugars and salt.
If it honestly works [don't see where it cannot] Dr. Cordain will have another very happy convert. Then, my only concern will be in convincing my relations that Atkins is more detrimental in the long-run than going back to paleo-foods.
on March 22, 2002
Dr. Cordain has attempted to jump on the "low-carb" popularity trend but has missed the mark by a mile. I am personally on a truly low-carb diet and eat lots of saturated fats which have given me AWESOME health. My previous high risk cholesterol ratios, blood pressure and weight have returned to PERFECTLY NORMAL. He claims his diet is low-carbohydrate but it certainly is NOT at 30-40% carbs. He also attempts to make a connection between the hunter-gatherer Paleolithic people and his diet, which it is NOT. The hunter-gatherers ate a very high-fat, low-carb diet, and he is proposing a low-fat, high-carb diet. As an example: Dr. Cordain says correctly that wild deer, which he used as an example of Paleo food, is 40% protein and 60% fat. Yet, he suggest people eat a low-fat deer roast cut of 19% fat with all the exposed fat trimmed off. Paleo people ate the high energy fat that threw away the lean meat. His diet is basically the same as the Zone 40-30-30 (c-p-f). It is well known that this diet works for thin, younger people only. Older people or those with a existing over-weight problem will actually get fatter on this diet and develope age-related degenerative diseases. Dr. Cordain says the Paleo people would eat eggs but rarely had the opportunity. Yet, he suggest that eating fruit shipped to your local store from worldwide sources and available 365 days of the year is a Paleo diet. The truth is the Paleo people ate lots of fat and preferred the fat. They wasted the lean meat in times of plenty just as primitive people have done in recent years. The Paleo people had very limited availability of carbohydrate foods, a very limited varity and a very limited season. Some primitive people had NO carbohydrate food available 9 months of the year in northern locations. Dr. Cordain taught in the past that the Paleo people were vegetarian, and he was also a vegetarian at that time. Dr. Cordain's book is full of contradictions which lack logic. He provided a list of reference books but not one reference scientific study to support his assumptions. If you want to read great books about the TRUTH in a healthy diet, healthy fats and primitive peoples, try the following:
Dr. Robert C. Atkins' New Diet Revolution Revised and Updated.
Dr. Mary G. Enig's Know Your Fats.
Dr. Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
on January 12, 2002
This is the best book on paleo nutrition since Ray Audette's Neanderthin. It brings Audette's information up to date with science from this burgeoning area and will serve as an introduction to the only diet that is totally attuned to our physiology. That's what's so neat about it.
But it is also what is so difficult for people to get their minds around. As Robert Ingersoll said: "In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, merely consequences" and we are inclined to regard our dietary preferences as matters of taste (in all senses), or even of ethics - as do vegetarians and those who point out that grain-based diets are far less demanding on the environment than meat-based diets such as those advocated by Dr Cordain.
But this misses the point. Cordain is telling us what is natural, not what is ethical. If a meat-based diet takes more land for each consumer than a grain-based diet, that is a consequence of human population numbers, it is not a reason for dismissing a paleo diet.
It also misses the point to say that, if we are to adopt a paleo diet, we should return to stone tools and a totally paleo life. Cordain's thinking is clearer than this and the book has many stimulating ideas and insights about our evolutionary inheritance.
Cordain also tells us that the human species has barely altered since grains were first cultivated 10,000 years ago. We are hunter-gatherer bodies in a post-industrial world. Much of the book is devoted to explaining how diabetes, cardiovascular disease, food intolerances, osteoporosis, asthma, heartburn, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and many other modern diseases derive from the extent to which we have departed from the evolutionarily-proven lifestyle. For this reason alone, this book deserves to be taken seriously. As Ingersoll implies, there are natural consequences to our behaviour; our cultural preferences are irrelevant to the truth.
The author also contrasts modern activity levels with paleo activity levels and presents an exercise routine to complement his dietary advice.
Dr Cordain devotes a part of the book to pointing out how meat, fish and fresh vegetables can be contaminated and he gives some guidance in avoiding such contaminated foods and whether the contamination levels are serious.
I'm a paleo eater and exerciser myself and I've been looking for a book like this for ages that I can pass to my friends to explain why I eat and exercise the way I do. I bought two copies. Great stuff!
on January 5, 2002
Dr. Cordain has written an excellent book for the general public. I would have like to see the book cover more of the technical aspects of Cordain's work as there is considerable "data" supporting this diet.
This book makes an important distinction between high protein diets vs. high fat diets. Atkins, Protein Power, and Zone can all be paleolithic diets but in practice are probably not. The protein intakes are too low in most cases. They may be too low on Atkins as he recomends fatty meat. Protein Power recommends minimum intakes that would be too low and if someone has free choice of fat intake like on Protein Power that may feel full on lower protein intakes. The Zone would provide sufficient protein if someone were to ignore its 1200-1500 calorie recommendations. The zone usually becomes a high fat diet as protien and carb intakes stay the same if you follow Sears recommendation to use fat as a caloric balast when you don't wish to lose more weight.
In response to the question of protein intakes by another reviewer here. The 55% represents aminal intake, not protein amount. However, protein intake on Cordain's diet is up to 35% of total calorie intake.
Cordain's diet is not a starvation diet like the Zone and the carb intake is much higher than most low carb recommendations This should prevent ongoing ketosis and potassium losses so commonly found on Protein Power and Atkins.
on December 31, 2001
Overall I liked this book. It is easy to read and contains some solid nutritional facts. However, on page 21 and 22 it seems to contradict itself big time. On Page 21 it shows the protein content of the plan to range from 19-35%. However, following this analysis of the diet he says it is not necessary to count calories, but if you did that one would find 55% of the calories on the Paleo diet come from protein. I would dearly love to know if I have misinterpreted something here or that there is a misprint or something. Too much of a discrepancy for me. Maybe the publisher could clear this up. Is the protein 19%, 35% or is it indeed as much as 55%.
In any case the diet itself is simple, easy to follow and well laid out, however, one may just have to calculate the protein content for oneself. Personally I like to know the analysis of any diet that I am trying.
on November 6, 2002
It is a shame that Loren Cordain who has undoubted scientific ability has fallen into the trap of the fat/cholesterol hypothesis. This completely unsupportable hypothesis (and it has never ever been more than an hypothesis) is a poor vehicle to show off his interesting research on the paleolithic diet. The credibility of the book is further compromised by his clear lack of knowledge about edible fat composition and cellular biology and the importance of both saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (together with cholesterol) in the generation and maintenance of cell integrity, not to mention hormone manufacture.
The tables that purport to show relative food values (eg protein and or fat values) are highly suspect and do not match any of the standard references I have consulted. The values are usually wildly astray, some laughably so (if it was'nt so serious). What the source of these tables are is never specified.
As for recommending flax oil for cooking!!!
Reading this book made me feel sad for Cordain and his colleagues who have compromised the value of their research by slipshod thinking and sloppy research outside of their main field of interest.
on January 22, 2002
I found Dr. Cordain's presentation very credible and well done. He presents the basics and then offers a plethora of references to support his claims and for additional reading. I never felt bogged down in detail. The recipes and meal plans are thoughtful and delicious. They have allowed me to stick to this new approach without hunger or "cheating." Best of all, I feel great. In the future, this is how we all will eat.
... after increasing protein consumption and lowering carbohydrate consumption in my diet, my blood lipid analysis improved (i.e., HDL, triglycerides), but my LDL cholesterol remained elevated until I also cut back on saturated fats. Many of my friends had the same experience. I don't speak for everyone. But in my case, Dr. Cordain has it right!