Dear Dr. Cordain,
Should The Paleo Diet produce the same results across different races and populations?
I am curious as to how different groups of people react and are expected to react to The Paleo Diet. For instance, since Central Asian people followed a nomadic lifestyle for centuries past. Over time, their diets changed to include milk and meat, but few vegetables and fruit. Consequently, these peoples’ digestive systems adapted in such a way to better digest these foods and extract the nutrients from them. While these people could more efficiently digest milk, other people, like those in East Asia, are often lactose intolerant since their diets were not heavily dairy-based.
The logic behind The Paleo Diet is very convincing. Yet, I am always wary when I hear there’s a diet that is universally beneficial-that is, all groups of people will benefit. Perhaps, there need to be variations within The Paleo Diet to target specific populations by taking into account the nutritional history of each populations’ ancestors. Could you comment on this thought and does any existing literature address this question?
Dr. Cordain’s Response:
Good question. Unfortunately, there is currently no hard data (randomized controlled trials) or even epidemiological data to support or deny these conjectures. However, there is some theoretical evidence to suggest that various HLA (human leukocyte antigen) sub-populations across the planet possess immune system characteristics that may interact with diet. Moreover, some worldwide populations maintain gut enzymes like lactase and sucrose, which seem to have evolved specific to diet, primarily post-agriculture. I have written extensively on this concept in the scientific paper “Malaria and Rickets Represent Selective Forces for the Convergent Evolution of Adult Lactase Persistence.”
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus