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Cordain Answers to Reporter on "Pegan" Diets

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Founder of The Paleo Diet
May 4, 2016
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Elizabeth BizWest asks:

1. Are you following a strictly Paleo or Vegan-Paleo (Pegan?) diet and can you say something about the best way for someone to address the contradictions between the two if they are vegan?

2. What are the primary challenges people face for the combination of these 2 diets?

3. Do you or people in general follow this diet on a temporary or a permanent basis and why?

4. I've read that it's more the modern preparation of foods like legumes and pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa than the foods themselves that puts them off-limits for Paleo dieters -- true?

5. Is going to a Pegan diet becoming more of a trend (as opposed to vegans and vegetarians being very opposed to considering some of the directives of a Paleo diet) and if so, why?


Dr. Mark J. Smith on the "Pegan" Diet


Hi Elizabeth,

I'll do my best to answer your questions.

I wish I knew for sure what kind of diet you follow -- I originally intended for this article to focus on a combined Paleo/Vegan diet but I'm not finding a lot of info on it locally. But here goes anyway:

I suspect that the reason you have not found much on a combined Paleo/Vegan Diet is because it doesn't exist. Our scientific studies of contemporary hunter gatherers showed that there were no vegans amongst the 229 world wide hunter gatherers we tabulated (see my website and read this paper: Cordain L, Brand Miller J, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SHA, Speth JD. Plant to animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in world wide hunter-gatherer diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000, 71:682-92)

1. Are you following a strictly Paleo or Vegan-Paleo (Pegan?) diet and can you say something about the best way for someone to address the contradictions between the two if they are vegan?
I try to follow a contemporary Paleo Diet with about 90 % compliance. As I mentioned above, no pre-agriculture peoples ate vegan diets, in fact whenever and wherever possible they always sought out animal foods, because of a concept called optimal foraging theory in which they attempted to maximize the calories hunted or gathered compared to the calories expended to obtain the food.

2. What are the primary challenges people face for the combination of these 2 diets?

By definition a Paleo diet involves eating animal food (fish, eggs, shellfish, meat, organ meats, poultry, game etc.), whereas people following vegan diets deliberately avoid animal food. Hunter gatherers avoided vegan diets because of optimal foraging theory. However, vegan diets practiced indefinitely, eventually become lethal because of the lack of vitamin B12, long chain omega three fatty acids, iodine, iron, zinc, and other nutrients. If contemporary people attempt a vegan diet, they must supplement their diet with these necessary nutrients. All hominins studied to date were omnivorous -- that is, they ate both plant and animal foods. At my website, I have blogged extensively on this topic:
//thepaleodiet.com/vegetarian-vegan-diets-nutritional-disasters-part-1/
//thepaleodiet.com/vegetarian-vegan-diets-nutritional-disasters-part-2/
//thepaleodiet.com/vegetarian-vegan-diets-nutritional-disasters-part-3/

2. What are the primary challenges people face for the combination of these 2 diets?
I don't believe that such a contemporary combination of these two diets does not exist. If it did, the greatest challenge would be to avoid nutritional deficiencies -- please read my three blogs listed above on vegan diets -- otherwise you will not see the contradiction you are trying to create.

3. Do you or people in general follow this diet on a temporary or a permanent basis and why?
I personally know of no-one trying to follow a Paleo diet with only plant foods. Such a diet without supplementation would rapidly cause nutritional deficiencies.

4. I've read that it's more the modern preparation of foods like legumes and pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa than the foods themselves that puts them off-limits for Paleo dieters -- true?

No, actually its the opposite, greater processing and higher cooking temperatures (eg. pressure cooking reduces the absolute amounts of various anti-nutrients that tend to produce adverse health effects.)

5. Is going to a Pegan diet becoming more of a trend (as opposed to vegans and vegetarians being very opposed to considering some of the directives of a Paleo diet) and if so, why?

Again, I am unfamiliar with this concept or even the word (Pegan) that you propose. I have been involved with the contemporary Paleo Diet movement since its very get-go in the late 80's and early 90s and even coined the term "The Paleo Diet" with my first book in 2002.

Cordially,
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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