Did Paleolithic Cavemen Die at a Young Age?

This is one of the arguments against eating a paleo-style diet. “Cavemen died very young, so why should I try to eat like them?” I don’t know, and I’m too busy sharpening my spear and gathering roots to think about it. I think this argument is silly, obviously, but I still thought I would explore it to see what the real life expectancy of people living in the paleolithic era was. According to this article (1), the life expectancy then was 33 years old at birth. So this included babies and children. If the person made it to age 15, the life expectancy increased to 54 years. This article is peer reviewed I believe, but it is still more anthropology and is considered “soft science.” Now some would say that babies and children should be included in the measurement, but think about this. Babies then were not born in sterile hospitals, there was no medical care, and starving was common. Infectious diseases are now well-controlled in developed countries, and so are wild animals that could eat you. It seems that agriculture was not the miracle we all thought it was. It makes sense to be able to conveniently produce more food, but not if that food is unhealthy. The following article is not peer reviewed, it’s merely an opinion of a researcher, but he makes some good points. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. One interesting point that is made is that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle means fewer people living in one place. They also moved around more to follow food. This spreading out kept diseases from killing huge amounts of people. A disease may be airborne, but it’s not going to travel 20 miles without a body. Agriculture allowed people to gather in larger groups and not move often. There was no tuberculosis and no diarrheal disease before the beginning of farming, and measles and bubonic plague were not around until cities began to develop. Yes, the crowding caused this, not necessarily the agriculture, but one encourages the other.


I am not the only blogger interested in this. Check out this post by Turning the Tide. There is no good way to conduct any hard science in this area as the subjects of interest are long dead. I encourage all readers to consider the information presented and make a logical decision on what they think happened, but don’t just assume that agriculture is the best thing ever. Do some research, and consider what the effects of agriculture have been on our society. I’ve posted a few more articles in the sources that are considered reliable. There are also plenty of articles out there that tell a different story. This has been debated for a long time, mostly because no one can really prove anything. I encourage you to read both sides and make a logical decision.


1. http://www.unm.edu/~hkaplan/KaplanHillLancasterHurtado_2000_LHEvolution.pdf

2. Tellier, Luc-Normand (2009). Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective. PUQ. p. 26.

3. Jared Diamond (2012). The World Until Yesterday. Viking. p. 353.


The Nutrition Community’s Pitfall – Group Thinking

I just read a well-cited article by a fellow blogger. He is not a paleo advocate per say, but more like a low-carb, low-crap diet advocate. Group thinking is almost always a bad thing, and it runs rampant in nutrition communities. The purpose of my blog is not to start any sort of thread that is based solely on what a group thinks, but on what science has discovered. Group thinking is not just a general term. It’s considered an actual psychological phenomenon. Wikipedia says the following without specifying sources:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.”


I highly suggest you read the article I posted above for more information. If I were to continue writing this blog post, I would pretty much just copy and paste what my fellow blogger says. I’m sure it could spark a great discussion. Here is the link again


Feel free to challenge and consider everything fully. Even me!


Food and Metabolism

There have been studies up studies on how eating various foods can affect how fast we burn up calories. Basically, can eating certain types of calories help you burn calories faster? I’m sure you’ve heard of “negative calorie foods.” If you google that, you will find lists and charts and articles describing this magic list of fruits and veggies. Sounds like hokum to me, but I figured I would do some investigating.


When we consume food, energy (calories) is used to break down and digest the food and store it, absorb its nutrients, and send what’s left off for other purposes. This small allotment of energy we use to do this is called the “thermic effect of food” or TEF. We all burn a certain amount of calories while we are at rest just to keep up bodily processes and functions. This is called the resting metabolic rate and is subtracted from total energy burned to come up with TEF (1, 2). The TEF magnitude depends on the food content and quantity (3, 4).

Carbs: 5-15% of intake is burned by TEF

Fats: 5-15%

Proteins: 20-35%

Get that protein.

For example, the most commonly claimed negative calorie food is celery. Celery only has an 8% TEF. A single stalk contains about 6 calories and only half a calorie is burned in the digestion process (5). The only truly negative calorie food is ice water which contained no calories and burns only a small amount to regulate the temperature (6). Other foods touted for their negative calorie nature include grapefruit, lemon, apple, lettuce, lime, broccoli, and cabbage. People who make these foods staples tend to lose weight, but not because these foods are negative calorie. It’s because they are low calorie and healthy whole foods (5).

Calories may not be created equal, however. The calories in , calories out mantra that has been preached may be wrong in one respect. Whole food sources create a larger TEF. In a 2010 study, 17 healthy male subjects were given either a processed lunch of white bread and cheese product, or whole grain sprouted bread and sharp cheddar. Both lunches had the same calorie count, and the subjects were monitored for the 6 hours following lunch consumption. For the processed food group, TEF was measured to be 10% of the energy per calories consumed, while the non-processed group burned 20% (7) I don’t approve of any of the food given to the study subjects, but it’s not my study.

Since we have discussed all of the physiological changes in our bodies that exercise brings, let’s go over how exercise can help to increase TEF. There are two components that contribute to the energy consumed in TEF. One is the obligatory component that we have already discussed. Food energy is used up by digestion and nutrient absorption. The other component is the faculative component which is determined by sensitivity to glucose (8) and activity of the sympathetic nervous system (9). The energy intake induces the sympathetic nervous system. This system up-regulates what is called the beta- adrenergic receptor (BAR). This receptor is responsible for stimulation of cellular energy metabolism, therefore, larger TEF (10, 11). In a 2007 study comparing frequent exercisers to more sedentary individuals, TEF and responsiveness of the BAR were measured. Four hours after energy intake, responsiveness and TEF were measured with the following results. (Isoproterenol activates BAR. Responsiveness was dependent on treatment.)

Increase (Δ) in energy expenditure above resting energy expenditure during β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) stimulation (intravenous isoproterenol) was greater in habitual exercisers than in sedentary adults. Values are means ± SE. FFM, fat-free mass. *Main effect of activity status (P = 0.01) and interaction (dose × activity status) (P = 0.25).

Increase (Δ) in energy expenditure above resting energy expenditure during β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) stimulation (intravenous isoproterenol) was greater in habitual exercisers than in sedentary adults. Values are means ± SE. FFM, fat-free mass. *Main effect of activity status (P = 0.01) and interaction (dose × activity status) (P = 0.25).

 This study has shown that increased TEF in habitual exercisers causes a higher responsiveness of BAR to the nervous system leading to a higher rate of cellular energy burn (12).

Exercise and eat right and your body will reward you.


1. Denzer, CM; JC Young (2003 September). “The effect of resistance exercise on the thermic effect of food.”International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 13 (3): 396–402.

2. Edward F. Goljan (2013). Rapid Review Pathology. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 174

3.  Christensen, Peter. “What is the thermic effect of food?”. Retrieved March 28, 2005.

4. http://www.jacn.org/content/23/5/373.long

5. Marion Nestle; Malden Nesheim (18 April 2012). Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics. University of California Press. pp. 189–190.

6. De Nileon, Gay Porter (2009). Plain Talk About Drinking Water: Answers to Your Questions About the Water You Drink. American Water Works Association. p. 4.

7.  Camastra, S.; Bonora, E.; Del Prato, S.; Rett, K.; Weck, M.; Ferrannini, E. (1999). “Effect of obesity and insulin resistance on resting and glucose-induced thermogenesis in man. EGIR (European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance)”. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 23 (12): 1307–1313.

8. Laville M, Cornu C, Normand S, Mithieux G, Beylot M, Riou JP.Decreased glucose-induced thermogenesis at the onset of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 57: 851–856, 1993.

9. Deriaz O, Nacht CA, Chiolero R, Jequier E, Acheson KJ. The parasympathetic nervous system and the thermic effect of glucose/insulin infusions in humans. Metabolism 38: 1082–1088, 1989.

10. Acheson K, Jequier E, Wahren J. Influence of β-adrenergic blockade on glucose-induced thermogenesis in man. J Clin Invest 72: 981–986,1983.

11. Acheson KJ, Ravussin E, Wahren J, Jequier E. Thermic effect of glucose in man. Obligatory and facultative thermogenesis. J Clin Invest 74:1572–1580, 1984.

12. Stob NRBell Cvan Baak MASeals DR.  Thermic effect of food and beta-adrenergic thermogenic responsiveness in habitually exercising and sedentary healthy adult humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2007 Aug;103(2):616-22

What’s so bad about dairy?

I’m a big fan of most paleo rules, but I’m also a scientist. Scientists are natural skeptics. If someone tells me not to eat something, I want to know why. I have never followed a diet (even a fad diet) without finding out exactly how it works first.

Here is why the strict paleo community outlaws dairy.


1. It contains gluten. A lot of gluten-containing additives are added to dairy products (1). Not to mention, dairy products come from cows, most cows eat grains. This is also why paleo advocates recommend grass-fed meats. Remember the no cheating post? Even the smallest amount of gluten can dull the benefits of the clean paleo diet. Think of gluten as something which you are allergic to. Do you ever see people with a peanut allergy have “just a taste” of peanut butter? No, because it still causes damage.

2. Dairy contains casein. Casein is a common allergen, and has a chemical structure similar to gluten, even though the incidence of casien intolerance is nowhere near as high as the incidence of gluten intolerance in the population of the US (2). It also reduces absorption of some medications (3). There is some sketchy evidence suggesting that eliminating casein and gluten can reduce autism symptoms, but I’m not sure how I feel about that, and scientists agree with me (4). (I think when people start proclaiming a diet as a miracle worker, they start losing credibility. Better to wait til there is real evidence.)

3. Dairy almost always contains additives. Preservatives, thickeners (carrageenan), and permeate: a nasty by-product that dairy farmers used to just throw away. Today, permeate is added back into milk. It is not a government-regulated ingredient, so there are no label requirements. Permeate is not necessarily harmful, but it is made up mostly of lactose, a milk sugar. So basically, the milk has more sugar than it is supposed to, and the healthful vitamins, minerals, and proteins are watered down (5).

4. Dairy products, even most organic dairy products contain the preservative thickener, carrageenan. Carrageenan is a large polysaccharide (sugar) that has been correlated to inflammatory conditions and tumor progression (6-8). These studies have been bad-mouthed in the press by industry-funded scientists. What industry? The dairy industry (9).  Go figure. An even larger review in the peer reviewed publication Environmental Health Perspective  of the available science (45 studies combined) urged the FDA to reconsider the use of carrageenan in food products (10).

My take on all of this: the dairy industry is the same as the wheat industry. Advertising their cheap nutrient-poor products as healthy and necessary for a balanced diet. But when I think about organic, grass-fed whole milk right out of the cow, that seems like a superfood to me. I do realize that regulated pasteurization of milk is necessary to avoid dangerous pathogens (11), but all of the additives are not. For the most part, I don’t think that pasteurization destroys a significant amount of the nutrients in milk (12), but watering it down with permeate decreases it’s value, definitely. This is why I think, despite what paleo dogma says, that consuming grass-fed whole milk with no additives is just fine for most people. If you are allergic to casein, that’s a different story. How do you know if you are allergic? Try a Whole30.


After the 30 days, have a little dairy. If you are mildly allergic or sensitive, you will know, trust me. Those who are lactose intolerant, allergic to casein, or even just sensitive to casein experience severe bloating and abdominal discomfort with even a taste of dairy products. If you have no reaction, why eliminate dairy? There is nothing unhealthy about organic grass-fed milk that hasn’t been messed with.



1. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140

2. “Identification of casein as the major allergenic and antigenic protein of cow’s milk – Docena – 2007 – Allergy – Wiley Online Library”. .interscience.wiley.com. 1996-03-04. Retrieved 2011-09-29.

3. Smith OB, Longe RL, Altman RE, Price JC. (February 1988). “Recovery of phenytoin from solutions of caseinate salts and calcium chloride.”. Am J Hosp Pharm 45 (2): 365–8.PMID 3129937.

4. Christison GW, Ivany K (2006). “Elimination diets in autism spectrum disorders: any wheat amidst the chaff?”. J Dev Behav Pediatr 27 (2 Suppl 2): S162–71. doi:10.1097/00004703-200604002-00015PMID 16685183. “Owing to significant methodological flaws, the currently available data are inadequate to guide treatment recommendations.”

5. Locke, Sarina (25 June 2012). “Dairy processors say no to permeate”ABC Rural. Retrieved 18 July 2012.

6. Watanabe, K., Reddy, B. S., Wong, C. Q., & Weisburger, J. H. (1978). Effect of dietary undegraded carrageenan on colon carcinogenesis in F344 rats treated with azoxymethane or methylnitrosourea. Cancer Research, 38(12), 4427-4430.

7. Taché, S, Peiffer, G, Millet, A-S, and Corpet, DE. Carrageenan gel and aberrant crypt foci in the colon of conventional and human flora-associated rats. Nutr Cancer 37:75–80, 2000.

8. Corpet, DE, Taché, S, and Préclaire, M. Carrageenan given as a jelly, does not initiate, but promotes the growth of aberrant crypt foci in the rat colon. Cancer Lett 114:53–55, 1997b.

9. Kanneganti, M., Mino-Kenudson, M., & Mizoguchi, E. (2011). Animal models of colitis-associated carcinogenesis. BioMed Research International, 2011.

10. Tobacman JK (2001) Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments.Environ Health Perspect 109(10):983-984.

11.  http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-index.html

12. Terri Peterson Smith (31 August 2010). “Got E. coli? Raw Milk’s Appeal Grows Despite Health Risks”Scientific American. Retrieved 18 September 2012.

The Definition of the Paleolithic Diet


The Paleolithic or “paleo” diet is not really a diet. It never ends. You are not supposed to do it for a specific period of time or a certain portion of the week. Proper paleo is 24 hours/day every day of the year. Only whole foods are really allowed. Think of it as not eating anything with ingredients. Instead, you are eating a single ingredient. Foods include grass-fed meats, fish and seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Dairy, grains, legumes, and processed foods are not allowed.

Yes, this sounds tricky. Believe me, I know. However, I challenge anyone reading to try this for 30 days with no cheating. When you are done, I dare you to tell me you do not feel amazing. This diet suggestion was originally made by Whole9 Life.


I have tried it, and I still do my best to stick with the rules. I cannot say for others who have tried it, but the benefits I noticed after only a few weeks were: sounder and more restful sleep, more energy during the day, a higher metabolism (I could tell because I was always hungry), less stress since there is no calorie counting, clearer skin, better hair, and an increased desire to exercise. I sometimes exercised twice a day to burn some of the excess energy!

Now are my results typical? Yes and no. I’ve heard people say they had similar things happen. I’ve also heard that this diet can cure things like Type II diabetes and ulcerative colitis. Is this a fact? Absolutely not. Is it a fact in some cases? Definitely yes. Is it worth it for anyone to try it? 100% YES YES YES

In subsequent posts, I will go over each of the food groups that I suggest you leave out and tell you why they should be left out.