I’m a graduate student from American University (in DC) doing a paper on food policy, in particular alternative diets such as Paleo. As someone who has watched the Paleo movement closely, I think you’d have some good insights. In particular, I’d like to ask you some questions about the direction and developments of Paleo dieting, where it’s headed and what that might mean for future food politics.
To that end, would you consider answering a few short questions?
Please feel free to answer as briefly or as in depth as you feel is appropriate:
Q 1. Paleo dieting has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. What, in your opinion, are the things that make this new trend strongest (ex. its arguments, its appeal, its staying power, etc.)?
On the other hand, what are its greatest challenges, or weaknesses?
From a philosophical basis (assuming that evolution via natural selection is the primary process that life evolved on earth), then no alternative theory can explain why organisms, including humans have specific nutrient requirements. Further by slowly rewinding human evolution from the present to the past, it becomes apparent that contemporary food staples in the typical western diet rapidly fall by the wayside because they simply did not exist, even as recently as two hundred years ago. All Neolithic foods disappear by 10,000 years ago. Our genome has not changed little since the advent of agriculture, hence our species is best adapted to those foods which conditioned our genome over the millenia prior to the agricultural revolution.
Q 2. Where do you see this movement going in the future? Do you see it gaining steam or reaching a plateau?
I see the concept increasingly becoming mainstream as it becomes tested more and more by randomized controlled dietary trials. To date 7 trials of this mode of eating have been empirically tested, and to date all trials demonstrate therapeutic effects, frequently superior to diabetic dies, the Medditterean Diet and the USDA My Plate Diet.
Q 3. If Paleo dieting were to continue to gain popularity, what might the effects be on United States food politics and food policy (ex. effects on grain consumption or subsidization)?
This question really is out of my comfort zone and area of expertise. Nevertheless governmental subsidies of corn and other grains has far reaching health effects including the cheap production of high fructose corn syrup, feed lot produced beef and cheap high glycemic load junk food — all of which adversely affect human health.
Q 4. Were Paleo to become a more mainstream diet, what are some potential solutions to the issues that come with increased meat consumption such as a rise in CAFOs, grain for cattle feed, and environmental impact?
Again, this quesion really is outside of my realm of expertise. I suggest you read some of Gary Taubes more recent books.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus