Two weeks ago, media outlets around the world published articles strongly questioning the Paleo Diet based on a single high-fat study on mice. We always enjoy seeing articles about the diet, whether it’s a testimonial, a new discovery, or even criticisms about the science because it’s only through scientific debate that we arrive at better answers. But we draw our line at unfounded claims and poor research. This week thepaleodiet.com contacted many of these media outlets asking for a correction to their unfounded claims. A sample of our letter (sent to Medical News Today) is published below:
I am writing to you about your article published two weeks ago titled “How safe is the Paleo Diet”. The article raises troubling concerns about the Paleo Diet based on a recent study on mice. Your publication maintains a reputation as a reliable source for scientific journalism and I am sure you would like that reputation to continue. So I bring to your attention serious concerns with Yvette Brazier’s article.
While the study identifies potential trends with an extremely high-fat diet, the diet consumed by the mice consisted of 400 g/kg cocoa butter, 200 g/kg casein, 106 g/kg sucrose, 100 g/kg canola oil, 100 g/kg clarified butter fat and 50 g/kg cellulose. The rest of the diet was primarily mineral supplements. Almost none of these foods are part of a Paleo Diet and most have been addressed specifically by Dr. Loren Cordain, Dr Boyd Eaton, and other founders of the diet, as foods that should not be consumed.
In other words, your author has used this study to make claims about the Paleo Diet when the mice did not in fact consume anything even closely resembling a Paleo Diet. The information about the breakdown of the diet fed to the mice was readily available on the Nutrition and Diabetes website as a free supplement (//www.nature.com/nutd/journal/v6/n2/full/nutd20162a.html.) As a minimum standard for scientific journalistic integrity, your author should have looked over that supplement and confirmed that the study was in fact, not addressing a Paleo-style diet.
Further, it’s important to point out that even the trends the study shows regarding a very high fat diet may have limited value. The study’s author used a breed of mice that has already been demonstrated to respond differently to a high-fat diet than humans. This has led some in the scientific community to call for a retraction of the study (https://www.facebook.com/richard.feinman.7/posts/959579280793676).
To maintain your reputation for scientific journalism, we ask that you publish a correction to your article, recognizing that the study, in no way, examined the effects of a Paleo diet.
Dr. Loren Cordain
Dr. Mark Smith
ThePaleoDiet.com editorial board.