Dear Dr. Cordain,
I have a couple questions about things that we put in our mouths and how they compare to the things our Paleo ancestors put in their mouths.
First is the question of liquid vs. solid: fruit juice vs. fruit. Other than mother’s milk for infants, I can’t think of anything other than water that our Paleo ancestors drank. To my knowledge, they even chewed honey or rather chewed the honeycomb to extract the honey. It’s well known that the act of chewing stimulates the digestive system, so I’m thinking that as modern humans, we are getting less of this stimulation of digestion since we get so many calories by drinking juice, soda, milkshakes, milk, etc.
Next is the issue of toothpaste. Most brands contain saccharin, and we put this “sweet stuff” in our mouths. The brain senses the sweet taste in our mouths and responds by getting the digestive system going, in anticipation of the sugars that should be coming into the digestive system. But the sugars don’t come. We spit the toothpaste out. Even if we did swallow it, saccharin is not digestible. That would seem like no big deal, except that I think the brain is not just passively responding to the sweet taste. I think it “learns.” Specifically, in this case, it learns that sweet taste did not lead to sugars in the stomach, and so the brain mutes its response to sweet taste. This is called the derangement of the sweetness response, and some nutritionists think that consumption of diet sodas does this, and may be a cause of diabetes. However, I have not yet seen any discussion of the “toothpaste effect” that I have just described.
Dr. Cordain’s Response:
Thank you for your inquiry.
Millions of Americans drink beverages that are packed with sugar, preservatives, aspartame, caramel color, and Stevia, among others. Many people following a Standard American Diet (SAD) tend to incorporate a significant amount of their daily calories in the form of liquid beverages. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t have had access to the thousands of drinks that are available in supermarkets and liquor stores across the world today. Pure water was the drink of choice for our Paleo ancestors.
Below is a list of drinks that should rarely or preferably never be consumed on The Paleo Diet:
Soda: Diet & Regular
- Diet and regular sodas contain preservatives and/or large amounts of corn syrup, sugar and other toxins that will only degrade your health. Not to mention, the excessive levels of carbon dioxide in soda can lead to osteoporosis and other undesirable health conditions.
Coffee & Caffeine
- Coffee and other caffeinated beverages, as mentioned in my recent blog post “Coffee: Is It Paleo?” exhausts the adrenal glands and has an overall negative impact on insulin levels in the human body, which can lead to fatigue and drowsiness.
- Alcohol is a questionable and touchy subject for many Paleo enthusiasts. It can be difficult for people to completely forego alcohol while following The Paleo Diet. Research has shown that many organisms including humans have indulged on alcohol containing fermented food, and drinks for a number of generations. That being said, excessive alcohol consumption can have negative impacts on the brain, liver, cholesterol levels, and many other health conditions. Moderation is the best solution when it comes to alcohol. Don’t stress yourself out over a glass of red wine at dinner.
- As you know, dairy products should be completely avoided on The Paleo Diet. Milk typically contains extraneous hormones and has the potential to spike insulin levels leading to acne, cancers, and other health-related problems. It is highly unlikely that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were able to milk a wild mastodon.
- Learn more about the adverse effects of hormones in milk
- Most conventional fruit juices available in the supermarket are loaded with extra sugar, preservatives, and artificial flavorings making them far different nutritionally from fruit in its natural form. When exposed to oxygen, most fruit juices begins to lose their nutritional quality hours after production. As a result, juices are fortified with vitamins, and minerals, stripping the starches, fibers and other vital components that allow for humans to consume fruit without spiking insulin or blood sugar levels. The verdict: Consume fruit in its natural, whole form. If you can’t quench your thirst with water, limit your consumption to the occasional glass of fresh squeezed juice.
- Some studies have shown that the typical tube of store-bought toothpaste contains artificial sweeteners and other compounds that may induce cancer in some individuals. As long as you are not swallowing your toothpaste, you should not have to worry about long-term health effects. If you are still concerned about the ingredients found in toothpaste, I recommend you switch to saccharin-free or natural toothpaste available for purchase from a number of natural product manufacturers.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus