Cavemen who walk among us

From their workouts to their parenting styles, these modern men are fanatical in their devotion to Stone Age life

by Katie Engelhart

Cavemen who walk among usWe’re used to seeing the potato as a focal point of conflict and discord, the clichéd casualty of the carbohydrate wars. But hoopla over green beans, that healthiest of vegetables? There are lots of reasons why Loren Cordain wouldn’t touch a green bean. If you ask him, he might talk about how legumes can render a healthy gut “leaky.” Or he might rant about their “anti-nutrient” properties. But it would come down to this: green beans weren’t around tens of thousands of years ago, when our prehistoric ancestors ushered in the Paleolithic era with the first tools made of stone. And so we shouldn’t eat them today.

“It’s not rocket science,” Cordain insists. His book, The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, now a bible to a small but growing subculture, is built around a simple premise: humans evolved over millions of years. Modern agriculture has been around for just 10,000, a blip on the evolutionary timeline. Because of this, humans are healthiest when eating as they did before agriculture came along—in other words, like cavemen.

The diet boils down to meat (lots of it), seafood, eggs, vegetables and fruits: anything you could hunt or forage for in the wild bush, and wouldn’t need to cook. All of which sounds generally inoffensive. “Nobody’s going to argue with fruits and veggies,” says Cordain. But the repertoire excludes so-called super-foods: green beans (and other legumes, like lentils), tomatoes (and other nightshades), dairy products and whole grains. Most oils are also out; today’s cavemen opt for lard.

Real zealots will shy away from the d-word. Their objection: “It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle.” It’s true that paleo living increasingly goes beyond food—it’s less dietary prescription than cultural phenomenon. In cities across the globe, groups of men (they are mostly men) are abandoning Stairmasters in favour of sprinting and climbing—caveman exercise. They donate blood to mimic the injury-induced blood loss our early ancestors endured. They mirror a hunter-gatherer schedule: gorging on heaps of meat (to approximate feasts that followed successful hunts) and then following up with long fasts (to mimic stretches of scarcity). The literature, too, is piling up, with books like Neanderthin, The Evolution Diet and The Protein Power Plan.

“I got really radical with it,” says Richard Nikoley of San Jose, Calif. “I thought: animals don’t hunt on full bellies.” The five-foot-ten former U.S. Navy man stumbled on the diet in 2007, when trying to lose weight and lower his blood pressure. (His effort to walk himself into health had failed. He walked an hour a day for six years, but “ended up putting on 30 lb.”) When he finally hit 225 lb., he got serious. He began reading about fat and cholesterol. “I also dabbled in studying primitive diets.” Eventually, he was thinking like a caveman. (He’d say he learned to “Free the Animal,” the name of his blog.) Soon he banished “killer ‘healthy’ whole grains” and “low fat ignorance,” turning to a coconut-oil-heavy diet in which “60 per cent of my calories come from fat.” A few months later, he incorporated intermittent fasting. He even got his two rat terriers going paleo, and claims that, as a result, “they’re just ripped.” Now 60 lb. lighter and with a normal blood pressure, he’s become a paleo proselytizer.

I know something about that kind of evangelism. Though a modern-day woman myself, I was raised, so to speak, by a caveman: my father is a guy who carries T-bone steaks in Ziploc bags for breakfast, who donates blood religiously to prevent iron buildup, and who throws back pro-biotic bacteria cocktails daily in an effort to counter the effects of our hygiene-obsessed world. My dad made the transition eight years ago, after Dr. Atkins blazed the anti-carb trail—but before eating organic and local became trends du jour, laying the groundwork for the paleo diet’s adoption by health nuts, bodybuilders and urban hipsters. Long before “trans fats” was a buzz phrase, I was banned from eating them. And for as long as I can recall, whenever it was sunny, my father would put on shorts and lie outside to “make vitamin D,” another paleo preoccupation.

Today, the ranks of the paleo evangelists are expanding. There is Art De Vany, for instance, who is leading the campaign against “dreadmills.” “I exercise for pleasure,” he tells Maclean’s. The fitness guru exudes confidence: “I’m never sick. And I can do anything I want,” he has been quoted as boasting. As a 72-year-old with eight per cent body fat—he looks a lot younger than his 72 years—he has perhaps earned the right to boast. De Vany believes agricultural life corrupted our physiques: “If you look at the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, what do you see? Diminished stature, less muscle.” His antidote is to ditch the treadmill and do “random activities modelled on activities of hunter-gatherers.” For him, that means short, intense sprints and lots of “playing”—frolicking on rocks or doing tugs of war with his grandson. Once a week, he ties a rope to his 6,000-lb. Range Rover and pulls and pushes it up his driveway four or five times. “That’s an exercise I liken to our ancestors carrying logs.”

De Vany’s ideas have found an eager audience, as seen in the growing number of “CrossFit” gyms that use his Evolutionary Fitness model. Craig Patterson, who quit his job as an engineer to open a CrossFit in Vancouver, is a follower, though he’s the first to admit his facility isn’t much of a gym. “It’s a big open box. And there are rings hanging down from the ceiling.” Patterson says they’re forced to segregate themselves: “We get kicked out of most gyms for doing what we do.” At any given time, his 450 pupils can be found hanging from ropes, doing “high velocity” sprints, jumping on boxes, or practising handstand push-ups. They focus on movements you could find “on a children’s playground, a battlefield, in a sport,” he says. “You don’t see kids doing bicep curls on a playground.” Patterson works to inject risk and competition into the exercise routine, through fitness battles; his pupils also compete in the kitchen, through CrossFit’s global paleo-eating challenge.

Cavemen who walk among usThen there are those who are raising the next generation of cavemen. S. Boyd Eaton, a paleo pioneer and professor at Emory University, thinks our “ancestral existence” can lend itself to better parenting, showing us how to socialize tots, for instance. Caveman kids played in multi-age groups, he says. “The older children took care of the younger ones. They developed responsibility. There was less competition.” Blogs like High Intensity Mama remind us “hunter-gatherers have nothing like school,” and that children must have time to play. Sharing a family bed is another nascent trend. As my dad, who agrees in theory with co-sleeping, puts it: “A cavebaby sleeping alone was a dead cavebaby.”

When Eaton and Melvin Konnor published their landmark paper on the paleo diet in 1985, their thoughts were far from fasting and exercise. Konnor, an anthropologist and doctor, became interested in diets while studying child development in Botswana in the 1960s. Eaton, a doctor, was interested in improving his health. Their report—which Eaton dubs a “paradigm shift” akin to Copernicus’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun—gave birth to the paleo diet. But their prescription was more tolerant. It simply focused on approximating the proportion of carbs, protein and fat that our ancestors consumed.

Today, there’s more science showing that the approach they set out is not an entirely batty one. More and more, doctors are entertaining ideas about “diseases of civilization,” as paleo folks term ailments ranging from acne to MS to Alzheimer’s to heart disease. The paleo view is that a lot of the illnesses and conditions we see as “natural” are, in fact, lifestyle-induced. Our environment has changed drastically over the last 10,000 years, stresses Konnor. “The human genome hasn’t been able to evolve fast enough.”

Our best proof of that may lie on the island of Kitava, Papua New Guinea. Kitavans are not the perfect paleo representatives, Staffan Lindeberg, professor of medicine at the University of Lund, concedes. They’re “primitive horticulturalists,” who use sticks to push roots into the ground. Still, they are about as close to hunter-gatherers as we can now get. So Lindeberg has, on three occasions, lived among them. His findings are now paleo folklore. “The Kitavans don’t have Western diseases,” he explains: no heart attack, stroke, obesity, dementia, acne, or diabetes. And it isn’t because they don’t live to old age; many do. It’s their diet. So how do Kitavans die? Some fall from coconut trees or succumb to infection. But many go quickly and quietly. Writes Lindeberg, “The elderly residents of Kitava generally remain quite active up until the end, when they begin to suffer fatigue for a few days and then die.” Lindeberg once met a healthy 78-year-old who, sitting calmly on a rock, warned that his death was imminent; two weeks later, he was dead.

For Gary Rea of Seattle, it’s not necessary to look all the way to Kitava. A few years ago, Rea was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He says his doctor told him he’d be on insulin for life. Weeks earlier, Rea had picked up a paleo dieting book. Barely a few chapters in, he was convinced “the paleo diet could cure diabetes.” So he ripped up the prescription from his doctor and dove in. Within weeks, he’d dropped 27 lb. “Five months later, the diabetes was gone.” That wouldn’t surprise Dr. Lynda Frassetto. In an ongoing study, the University of California doctor is looking at how diabetics respond to paleo eating. Three quarters of the way through, she already sees “people on the diet get better in a really short amount of time,” even without losing weight.

Of course, not everyone is taken with caveman ways. Katharine Milton, a dietary ecology professor at Berkeley, accepts that, in terms of major evolutionary change, “there hasn’t been zip-a-dee-doo-dah in the last 10,000 years.” But she takes issue with the “hunter-gatherer model.” She notes that while the Tanzanian Hazda eat mostly wild plants, the !Kung of the Kalahari rely on the mongongo nut, and Alaskan Inuit favour meat and fish. Which model, she wonders, is right? Julia Mercader, a University of Calgary archaeologist, likewise argues cavemen were eating cereals tens of thousands of years ago.

Meanwhile, paleo eating continues to evolve. In 1985, Eaton and Konnor allowed foods like skim milk and whole-wheat bread. Konnor still thinks that was the right call, and believes his original concerns about fat were prudent. “You can’t just go to the supermarket and buy meat loaded with fat and say you’re doing the Paleolithic diet. You’re not.” Animals of 10,000 ago, Konnor says, were less fatty—so we must compensate by eating leaner meats, and less. Eaton has gone the other way. He says he had failed to consider the contribution of non-muscle meat like brain and fat depots, and thus underestimated the amount of fat we need. “It makes me feel stupid!”

All this uncertainty gives rise to some convenient variations. Nikoley identifies as “lacto-paleo” (he consumes dairy, insisting that cavemen got some milk when they ate nursing animals). Rea is moving to “vegetarian paleo.” And with the jury still out, my dad is staying on the high-fat bandwagon. But that is not enough to dull fanatical commitment to the cause. “I can guarantee that after I’m long dead, this won’t go away,” proclaims Cordain. “Just like Darwin’s evolution through natural selection is the most powerful idea in modern science and it won’t go away.”

Cavemen who walk among us

  1. There's an interesting post over at the Health Journal Club that makes the case that people should just not eat anything that wasn't a food 100 years ago. Gets rid of the aspartame, bleached GM flour, high fructose corn syrup garbage they try to pass off as food these days. If interested you can read on it here,
    http://healthjournalclub.blogspot.com/

  2. So what exactly is a vegetarian paleo? Isn't that a contradiction based on the rest of the article.

    • vegetarian is a paleo word for "bad hunter" :)

    • This article and comments have raised some very interesting points. It's some pretty great info, I appreciate the information you provided is excellent post. I appreciate your work, the post is really helpful. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Thank you. http://www.optimedlabs.com/

  3. eating paleo helped me lose 15 pounds. i finally lost my pregnancy weight 12 years after the pregnancy! my mother is dying of cancer/diabetes/heart disease, so i was very motivated cuz i saw what was in store for me. my mother has never smoked, drunk alcohol, or eaten lots of junk food. she has just eaten a lot of microwave dinners and a lot of cheap restaurant food. she also eats salads and sandwiches, but the bulk of her diet was processed food. i was like her. now i cook all my own food, i don't spend a lot of time or money, i'm teaching my daughters good eating habits (they help me cook), and i look and feel much better. if you want to start, start cooking your own food number 1. 2. stop eating sugar and 3. stop eating products made of wheat. that's not all of paleo, but those 3 things will get you far.

  4. Thanks for the good writeup, Katie and for including me. I particularly like how you included a good amount of science and also your personal experiences with your dad. That really set this effort apart in comparison to some of the other recent pieces in various publications like the NYT and Der Spiegel.

  5. I think Katharine Milton is missing the point. Which one of those diets are best? All of them! I have to refer to Dr. Kurt Harris, its not about replicating what we ate exactly, its about replicating the evolutionary metabolic milieu. The reason all of those diets work is because they are devoid of gluten grains, lots of fructose & too much linoleic acid. Ask yourself what foods are native to where you live, and eat them.

    Nice job on the write up Katie!

  6. I've had a good experience with adopting a pretty strict Paleo diet for the last several months. I did so recently as part of a fitness challenge at my CrossFit gym, and was very surprised to lose 7 pounds by accident. I wasn't even trying to lose any body fat, but it basically just "evaporated" after a couple of weeks eating quality meat, vegetables, nuts, and a little fruit. I got a physical exam from my doctor just to keep tabs on everything, and he basically told me I was one of the healthiest people he had in his office in months. The only real thing sticking out was lower vitamin D levels, but that was cured with a supplement rather quickly. That's pretty much the only major hold in my diet, and it's because I sit in a cubicle for 8-9 hours a day. heh

  7. How exciting! The word is spreading like wildfire. Paleo, in all of it's many iterations, is the way to go. Down with processed foods, grains and sugar :)

    • You all need to understand this: doctors are not scientists. They memorize some symptoms and the "standard of care" drug used to treat them and beyond that they can't tell you any more than you can read in the paper. Causation is not their forte. They just repreat what the researchers tell them, and sadly most researchers work for corporations or grant money and thus always have a secondary agenda. This diet works because it is based on FACTS. This IS our evolution, and undeniably more relevant than whatever corporate-sponsored correlative study is in the news this week, that your doctor is regurgitating when he gives you advice. These facts don't play well for Frito-Lay, M&M Mars, and whatever other interests have the FDA and AMA in their back pockets, but thankfully people are doing the diet, seeing the results, and escaping the death sentence being imposed on them by the so-called experts. The only thing I love more than the health and energy this diet affords, is seeing "conventional wisdom" annihilated by the honest truth.

      To Cavemen!

  8. Hi,

    I am also a Paleo enthusiast and a frequent reader of Richard's fantastic blog. Eating Paleo has largely made my lifelong migraines disappear, not to mention weight loss, better sleep etc etc

    I maintain a site called http://www.PaleoHacks.com that offers crowdsourced question-and-answer about Paleo. I encourage all those interested in Paleo to check it out (also don't forget Free The Animal either).

  9. I've been following a paleo diet for a year and having wonderful results. I feel younger, look younger and more fit, and have energy to spare. I'm even going to start a challenge on Monday, where I have to live off the land – actually hunt and gather my own food – for three months, a bet made with a vegan friend of mine. I follow most of the blogs you've listed and found them to be full of great information and some fascinating stories.

    Lucky
    http://paleoprincess.com

  10. For my wife and myself, going Paleo meant bettering our health in ways you can't put a price on. My health changes were immediate and obvious. In a matter of months, I went from a pudgy 218 lbs, to a very fit 180 lbs (I'm 6', 25yrs old). What's more, I used to get sick all the time – bronchitis/flu several times each year since I was a boy. I haven't been even remotely sick in over a year and a half! I can't tell you how liberating that is.

    The changes my wife experienced were more subtle, but equally invaluable. Always a petite and thin woman, she suffered from sugar crashes, migraines, and terrible hunger if she ever went more than two hours without eating. This irregular blood sugar issue is completely gone, and she feels great, even if she doesn't have time to eat breakfast or lunch.

    I eat animal as often as possible. This is a shock for most people, but it's how we were meant to be. I avoid modern foods, eat some starch, some fruit, and some nuts, some veggies, and mostly wholesome pastured animal products. I feel amazing always, easily maintain an appearance I am very proud of, and never have to worry about eating things I don't want to (everything I eat is delicious), nor about being hungry (I always eat till I'm good and full). Eat real food. It's literally as simple as that. Twinkies are not real food. Neither are weight watchers microwaveable pizzas, in my opinion.

    I blog about this at http://www.studentoffitness.blogspot.com/. Feel free to drop by to find out more about what is involved in living a paleo lifestyle!

    • Thanks for mentioning your wife. I'm like her. Not everyone eating Paleo wants to lose weight! BTW, in the Yin/Yang of things, your wife and I, would be considered Yin. Heavier set people are often more Yang. Meat is Yang. Most vegetables are Yin. So to be balanced, the Yang person would need to eat more veggies and the Yin person would do well with some Yang meat. I used to be a vegetarian, but now eat meat (free-range, grass fed) and I do feel better. But I absolutely have to keep away from gluten grains and sugar – even most fruit.

  11. When I was seventeen years old I hated myself. I was 250 lbs, covered in acne, and weaker than anyone in my class. I strove to educate myself after a particularly difficult day at school. I learned to cut out junk food and in the next couple of years I saw my weight drop down to 195 lbs.
    I frustratingly stayed at 195 for 2 years until I stumbled upon the paleo diet after becoming interested in MovNat and Erwan Le Corre. I also increased my amount of play time by running around with the dog and climbing trees. After 2 years of a weight plateau, I've dropped down to 180 lbs in less than 2 months. I can see abdominal muscles that had always been covered by a layer of fat and my energy has completely sky rocketed.

    It is literally the best decision Ive ever made in regards to my fitness and health. Both of my parents are diabetics, along with many of my aunts and uncles. I now have no fear of becoming diabetic and can't wait to start my amature MMA career.

    Thank you Erwan Le Corre, Dr. Cordain, Richard Nikoley, Mark Sissoon, John Durant, and Art De Vaney. You've all brought me more than I could have asked for and I am deeply appreciative.

  12. The paleo diet does have health benefits besides the weight loss.
    I have had high blood pressure for 10 years and now (after only 3 months following the paelo diet) my blood pressure dropped to a point where on half the medication I have a BP around 120/72.
    It looks like soon I will be hypertensive-medication free.

    Also, I used to have heartburns – well they are a thing of the past.
    I used to take some acid-reducers – Zantac, but there is no need for them any longer.

    I started being treated for gingivitis and periodontal disease 2 years ago. Last week when I went for a cleanup, the dental hygienist was surprised at how little new deposits (plaque) there were on my teeth.
    It looks like paleo is the best "home treatment" for this, as well.

    Eating real food – organic is even better – is the way to go!

  13. So uh… how long did the average caveman live?

    • After passing infant mortality? Probably as long as we do.

    • hosertohoosier:

      Average caveman lived about 30 years. It's the same as that the average person wearing diapers is about 35 years.

    • They lived a long life (80+) if they survived infancy, infectious disease and hunting accidents.

      The article suggests that we adopt the "good" parts of a paleo lifestyle – not abandoning all aspects of modern society…jackass

  14. The average life expectancy of the cave man was about 16 years

    • The 'average' life expectancy is misleading. If one takes out the mortality rate of infants which, no doubt, was high for obvious reasons, it would give a more realistic age. From what I recall, it seems the average life expectancy of the so-called cave man would approach 40 when not including infant death. Once the child survived past his 5th birthday, it was smoother sailing. Also to consider that death of the mother during child birth was also a significant factor in lowering life expectancy. So if a male child survived his childhood, avoided sabre tooth tigers and did not get his head bashed in by enemy tribes, he would perhaps make it to a grand old age of 60+

      • ha ha, and when I spend an hour a day driving 60 miles an hour, my average speed for the day is 2.5 mph. unless data points are normally distributed (which is almost never) the average tells you absolutely nothing relevant.

    • I see that every comment section must have its quota of idiots. Oh well …

  15. I’m a former Army guy, a few years ago at 32 my weight was 20% over “ideal” and at 200 lb I learned the truth: modern “food” is poison. eliminated wheat, sugar and vegetable oils and replaced the empty calories with lots of animal fat (about 70% of total calories). the result? I am stronger and faster than I was as a 25 year old paratrooper, and for the past two years have maintained the same 180lb weight I was at 17 years old. deliberate exercise with heavy weights maybe once a week, but I have boundless energy to climb, jump and run up stairs at every opportunity. I dont do “cardio” but last week joined my sister in a 9 mile run, and ran it barefoot without worrying about whether I was prepared.

    the fact is that this works, people. details and labels like paleo, whole food and whatever else are all secondary. It’s such a tragedy that Americans expect and allow their health to go downhill at 30, 40, 50 years old, when the solution is so easy.

  16. Consistently removing crap (donuts, soda, etc.) from your diet is the reason for success… not the adoption of any one particular diet, I mean lifestyle.

    • Articles like this are good and bad – they point out the paleo principle but then usually fail to make the obvious point you just did.

      Paleo is not about doing something or living some way. It’s about NOT doing something – eating crap food. When you boil it down, paleo is a simple food selection heuristic that works by excluding most of the stuff that makes us unhealthy. And it works, just like anything that excludes crap food from your diet.

    • Clearly. All this nonsense about 'paleo' eating is ridiculous. Removing grains and dairy isn't part of the answer. Neither is removing 'vegetable oils' as someone mentioned. Olive oils have been proven to be very healthy, so have whole grains.

      Eat fresh food, avoid processed foods, stay active. It's simple.

  17. The real test is how you feel – most people feel so much better on a paleo lifestyle….I know I do. I'm not 100% strict, but I usually regret eating sugar/dairy/grains. The key is figuring out what works for you – adopting some paleolithic principles is better than nothing. Keep in mind that it does take time for your body, mind and habits to adapt.

  18. I too disagree with the article – it's one thing to say people should eat better and avoid processed rubbish, it another to say humans are getter shorter and unhealthier. Truth is people are getting taller and living longer (if life expectancy was going downwards then there be no 'ageing population problem'). Nowadays a man being 6 feet is average – that's almost a foot taller than the average Western male a century. Futhermore a man being six feet tall isn't really that tall at all – it's easy to find men who are more in the 6'3' – 6'6' range. Oh yeah, plenty of women are 6 feet tall too and they're not considered 'giants' either.

    • The avarage British soldier in the 1780s was 5'4", the American rebel was 5'7", the Frenchman was 5'3", Napoleon 5'2". The problem is the term average, George Washington was 6'2" and most of the officers in all armies were above the average. Food played a big part in the smaller size of European soldiers at the time.
      At 6'2" I'm taller than most people I know, at times I look around and see very few men above 6 feet. I think I read 5'10' is considered average in the US, with Holland being the tallest country now and orientals still being shorter, but I've seen many over 6 feet and most of them were of mixed heritage with western soldiers. With better medical and food at a young age people tend to be taller than in the past all over the world. WWR http://wwrutland.wordpress.com

    • You are confused but make a relevant point. People are getting taller. Girls are also developing breasts at 8 years old too. We have rampant influenza year after year. And life expectancy, while much better than it was a century ago, is on the decline. But the reasons are the same: Growth hormones and antibiotics. Your meat is full of them as are your vegetables that are fertilized with the excrement of your meat animals. While it may sound extreme, should you choose to try it, you'll find that the paleo diet is exactly as advertized. In short it will make you feel more alive than you've ever felt. However it cannot be ignored that unless it is followed with organic meats and vegetables, you will be increasing your intake of the growth hormones and antibiotics given to "factory" livestock, which can negatively impact your health.
      Your point is well taken, and valid, but not reason enough to negate the basic premise that primitive eating is far superior to the average developed-world diet. Try it for ONE WEEK and you will swear by it for eternity.

  19. Re the shorter and unhealthier argument, one of the ways anthropologists can determine when a society moves from hunter-gatherer to agricultural is by looking at skeletons. Suddenly the teeth go bad, the posture gets worse and people get shorter. So there is evidence behind the claim.
    Personally, after 18 months of semi-paleo, I have lost 60 lbs, my gout and allergies have disappeared and I haven't had a cold in the last 12 months. Also, fatigue has disappeared. There is definitely something to this.

    • yeah, it's called the placebo/idiot effect. your argument failed when you claimed, erroneiously that "one of the ways anthropologists can determine when a society moves from hunter-gatherer to agricultural is by looking at skeletons. Suddenly the teeth go bad, the posture gets worse and people get shorter."

      all three "points" are false. You probably lost weight and feel better due to eating less, exercising, reducing calories, and replacing empty calorie meals with nutritionally dense calories. All of this can be done by limiting not fat or carbs or getting rid of legumes or severely limiting any particular part of your diet but rather reducing overall calorie intake and avoiding empty calories.

  20. This is the first article I've ever read about eating as a "caveman". I found it interesting. It fits in with Peter Gray's blog "Freedom to Learn", which is not about eating, but about how hunter-gathers raised their kids compared to how we do now and how the compulsory schools hurt our children. In the December 2009 issue of National Geographic there was a write up about the Hadza band of hunter-gathers. What they eat and how they hunt was described in the magazine. For me this article adds more knowledge and understanding of who we really are.

  21. This "lifestyle" is retarded and devoid of any nutritional sense. If you want to be healthy and/or lose weight, eat a nutritionally dense diet. There is no need to fast. Today we have science that can explain the complex chemical reactions that take place inside our body when we eat and eating nutritiously is what your body wants. Your body is like a machine, it needs energy to keep moving, feeding this machine nutrients keeps your body efficient. Being healthy is about eating nutrients not like caveman did thousands of years ago, we have evolved.

    • Every word of your post is uninformed, and clearly is stuff you editorialized without any source for your assertions. What do you call "nutritionally dense" when it changes week to week or when foods universally agreed to be "good" are full of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives or pesticides? And if we have the "science" where is it and what is it doing for us when Obesity is up, Diabetes is up, cancer is up and life expectancy is declining? It is well documented from studying avalance and other disaster survivors that your body runs more efficiently when it is starved, which has led to the international Calorie Restriction Society. It is also well documented that our food today doesn't have the level of nutrients that the same food had in caveman days. Anything else you want to be wrong about?
      Please do not present your inane view of the world as scientific truth. Its so obvious that its the furthest thing from it…

  22. While I generally sympathize with this approach, I find it interesting that nobody seems to be eating a lot of insects and rodents–two of the food sources most prevalent in most h/g diets. High nutrition, low fat, easily accessed (very cheap). What gives, guys?

    • Uh, shrimp, lobster, crab… that takes care of your insects, you purist little devil. And if you want rodents, feel free to come to my place and shoot some of the tree rats.

  23. This sounds like a typical high protein, low carb diet dressed up with some Michael Pollan-esque ideas about cutting out the processed garbage that too many of us rely on to get through the day. I'm a big fan of Pollan's theories on sensible eating, but anything that severely limits your bread and pasta intake is never going to fly higher than a trendy fad diet.

    • Until the USA tests every child (as they do in Italy where the problem is widespread ) for gluten-intolerance, then feeding them wheat bread and pasta could be causing unseen damage to their intestines and eventually lead to cancer. But of course, the govt. will not test for gluten-intolerance any more than it will test cows for mad cow disease – because protecting the financial interests of certain groups is more important than the welfare of the American people. There is no diet perfect for everyone. Each body is unique and it is up to each of us to learn what suits us best and ignore what doesn't.

      • Please keep on posting such quality articles as this is a rare thing to find these days. I am always searching online for articles that can help me. This have so many valuable things to learn. Thank you.

    • Pasta is disgusting. "Hey lets take some dried up glue and douse it in tomato sauce and call it haute cuisine".

      Who eats pasta plain? Nobody. What do they do? Dress it up with meat and cheese and vegetables, the very thing this diet calls for. I'm fine without the dried up glue. Apparently many others are too. If you never matured past eating Chef Boyardee Ravioli, that's OK, but don't act like you have some refined perspective on taste that holds pasta in high esteem. Its filler food at best. Empty calories with little nutritional value. Sorry if it shatters your world view, but many many of us are fine without it.

      • I'm sorry, but what part of my comment personally offended you? I'm sure there are "many many" people who are fine without carbs. But I am quite certain that many many more people have tried a life without lasagna and found it wanting. If you doubt me, you should look up some statistics about the popularity of low-carb diets 10 years ago compared to their popularity now.

        This diet sounds eminently sellable, especially to men. I can easily see its popularity skyrocketing, but make no mistake: this isn't a revolution; it's a fad.

        • This diet is not "low carb" as you can eat all the fruit and vegetables you want.

    • I agree. High carb diets are here to stay. Who in their right mind wants to give up bread and pasta!

  24. Fascinating article, Katie! I am interested in the parenting and cleaning/housekeeping aspects of this diet. Where can I find out more about them? I've been scrolling through various internet sites on paleo living, but find little on either of these topics. All replies are appreciated. Thanks in advance :-) .

    • Hi foodrules, just kicking off, but check out our site for the parenting aspects. After 4 years of vegetarianism, we shifted our family of 6 to the paleo diet over a year ago and there's no turning back. It's influenced more than our diet, and our website is dedicated to helping grow super-fit families using paleo nutrition, fitness, and parenting.

  25. So Paleo people … you realize that fruits and vegetables and most of the meat you can get (excepting actual wild seafood) have all been bred and altered by the demon modern agriculture, right?

    The meat you are eating is from animals that have been bred to be fat and soft, the fruits have been bred to be seedless and fleshy, the vegetables to be softer and less chewy, the nuts and berries are larger and take no effort to acquire, and little to chew etc. etc.

    You want to go paleo, get our of your Beemers and walk.

    • Thanks for the insight Toby, you realize their is such a thing as grass-fed beef right? Every heard of growing your own produce??

      You are totally missing the forest for the trees. Should we all just pack it in and eat boxed foods and other garbage?

      Right.

    • Ideally you would eat grass fed beef, free range and ecological as much as possible.

  26. I'm doing an extra-credit in my World Cultures class for experiencing the way that other generations have eaten. The choices were pre-1960s, pre-1900s and caveman era. We have to eat that way for a week to get the full effect. I chose the caveman one. He gave us this website to research what we could and could not eat. It sounded really stupid to me at first, although I'm a teenager who loves junk food and fast food, but once I got to thinking, if a person just ate the natural foods that were put here on earth for us then we would, obviously, be healthier people. If you think about it, preservatives are not supposed to be in foods. If they were they would already be in there. I agree and disagree with the article…

  27. This is similar to the blood-group diet: your blood type indicates which foods you/your ancestors ate, and recommends returning to it. It also lists which foods are to be limited & which are best for you, based on your immune system response (lectins). Read "Eating Right 4 Your Type", you'll see the similarities. I am Type O-, and do best with lean meat & vegetables, like my primitive ancestors.

    • I did that, on blood type A, trying to cure anxiety.
      After a few months I was so depressed and had chronic panic attacks
      I became anorexic soon after

      I’m on GAPS today trying to gain weight and heal leaky gut and I’m uncontrollably constantly happy like when I was 5 years old.

      It isn’t technically paleo but traditional eating seems the way to go.

      Anyway yes my heritage is very northern European so a vegetarian diet was definitely destined to fail my body’s needs. I think the science is wrong. I’m glad it’s working for you though

  28. "…these modern men are fanatical in their devotion to Stone Age life…"

    So, no deodorant? Or shaving? Brushing teeth?

    I'm guessing this breaks down as soon as one of these gents gets fired.

  29. Hey, that's Calgary's skyline in the accompanying photo.

  30. To all those that doubt this approach, just search the internet looking for people who tried the diet and didn't find it worked for them. Better yet, just try it.
    Preservatives work by killing microorganisms, they are essentially a very weak poison. Engineered foods were made that way for monetary reasons and convenience, not for health reasons.

    Live expectancy in the US has actually dropped, despite us having better medicine than anytime in history(better medicine, but not healthcare system)

  31. I'm a paleolithic kind of guy… from my Flinstone's car, to my stick, stone and skins yurt. Can't wait to add this diet to put my stone utensils to work!

  32. Good coverage Katie, enjoyed the article. What's the best way to follow your writing?

  33. The average life expectancy of the cave man was about 16 years and in 500 BC the average life expectancy was about 20 years. In 400 AD it was 35 years and in 1900 it was 47 years. In 1930 it was 59 years. By 1975 it had advanced to about 71 years, and in 1989 it had advanced to 74 years for men and 78 years for women. Speculatively, by the year 2,010 it might be 100 years. During all of these times the Maximum Potential Lifespan remained at about 120 years, and has not increased.

  34. The overview of the author was amazing.And pleased to see the comment

    The average life expectancy of the cave man was about 16 years and in 500 BC the average life expectancy was about 20 years. In 400 AD it was 35 years and in 1900 it was 47 years. In 1930 it was 59 years. By 1975 it had advanced to about 71 years, and in 1989 it had advanced to 74 years for men and 78 years for women. Speculatively, by the year 2,010 it might be 100 years. During all of these times the Maximum Potential Lifespan remained at about 120 years, and has not increased.

  35. This post is different from what I read on most blog and it have so many valuable things to learn. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you for sharing this article.

  36. I'm a former Army guy, a few years ago at 32 my weight was 20% over "ideal" and at 200 lb I learned the truth: modern "food" is poison. eliminated wheat, sugar and vegetable oils and replaced the empty calories with lots of animal fat (about 70% of total calories). the result? I am stronger and faster than I was as a 25 year old paratrooper, and for the past two years have maintained the same 180lb weight I was at 17 years old. deliberate exercise with heavy weights maybe once a week, but I have boundless energy to climb, jump and run up stairs at every opportunity. I dont do "cardio" but last week joined my sister in a 9 mile run, and ran it barefoot without worrying about whether I was prepared.

    the fact is that this works, people. details and labels like paleo, whole food and whatever else are all secondary. It's such a tragedy that Americans expect and allow their health to go downhill at 30, 40, 50 years old, when the solution is so easy.

    That was great Jon W.

  37. this is really crazy approuch to eating

  38. caveman diet sounds cool Isn't it that they just eat meat the time?

  39. Paleo eating, IF'ing and all the peripheral things associated with living a "caveman" lifestyle are a step in the right direction. As a society, we've been led to believe a way of eating that's been the demise of our health and in doing so has impacted so many other facets of our society.

    It's not hard, but it does require a consciousness that often times is the hardest part of the equation…thinking. By mindful of your health by learning what you can about a paleo and you'd be a healthier and happier person for doing so. My two cents.

  40. theirs average life time very very low, i think

  41. Cordain's Book is a good read – I got it for Christimas and like the tipps in it

  42. I think the average would be 16

  43. Every few years…faithfully… some bizarre new diet comes along. Give up fat, give up sugar, eat oat bran, only eat protein, eat like the French, and now eat like cavemen…and the trendy go for it. Writers make money, sports equipment people make money, even t-shirt companies make money!

    First reports are all excited, with people losing weight and feeling better, and then gradually it disappears as people realize it's no different than any other diet….dull, boring, hard to stick to…and everything returns to normal at the end of the fad….

    Then along comes the NEXT exciting new diet, and we're off again.

    But there's no magic, and no secret formula involved….ever.

    Everything in moderation folks, that's all it takes…..and go for a walk now and then.

  44. Cavemen ate fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and nuts. These are the healthiest foods on earth. Sticking to these foods can help you to lose weight and stay healthy for life.

    Caveman Eating gives you the great health, energy and fitness enjoyed by our slim, tall caveman and cavewoman ancestors. It's a balanced eating lifestyle packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

  45. Its quite exciting to read about the Cavemen and what they already knew. I myself read a book about their way of living a couple of years ago and since the I only stick to healthy and good foods. This has helped me so far a lot (I lost 20 pounds and feel healthier then ever before). Katie from cluburlaub check

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