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Podcast: Definitive Evidence The Paleo Diet is Mainstream

By The Paleo Diet Team
February 27, 2014
Podcast: Definitive Evidence The Paleo Diet is Mainstream image

Dr. Loren Cordain: I’m Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo Diet movement.

Shelley Schlender: I’m Shelley Schlender. This is the Paleo Diet Podcast for September 2014. Loren Cordain, Paleo is everywhere now. I’ve got a question for you.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, go ahead.

Shelley Schlender: Which is the more indicative proof that this is a mainstream movement now? The fact that one of the world’s most famous athletes, that basketball player reported over the summer that he was eating a Paleo diet or that you’re not quoted in National Geographic?

Dr. Loren Cordain: I don’t really think that you should use either one of those pieces of evidence as definitive evidence that Paleo is becoming more and more mainstream. I think it’s an idea whose time has come. If we look at the powerful idea in all of biology and medicine, it clearly is Darwin’s idea of evolution through natural selection.

What amazes me is that it’s taken so long to take the most powerful idea in all of biology and medicine and apply it to the discipline in nutrition. That’s really what has happened. Even though I might be referred to as the founder of this, I don’t consider myself that. I consider many scientists and many laypeople and physicians, what have you, experts from around the world that have embraced this concept.

This is a gift by humanity to humanity. It is not a diet, it’s a lifelong way of eating to maximize and optimize health and reduce the risk for disease.

Shelley Schlender: It still is the case that it’s more well known and recognized. The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, a lot of places now are talking about and reporting about Paleo diets and reporting about how great athletes choose to do this, how it’s helping with health conditions. You’ve been interviewed this week by some of these very famous groups, who’s been talking to you?


Dr. Loren Cordain: I don’t really keep track of all this. You can go to my website and you can go online and Google it. I have interviews it seems almost daily. I’m happy to be a spokesperson for this concent.

Shelley Schlender: Let’s turn it around then and think about the difference between when you first started talking about this 15 or 20 years ago and the kind of questions people asked and the kinds of suspicions they had versus the kinds of questions people ask today. Do you see some evolution in people’s understanding about Paleo diets?

Dr. Loren Cordain: It’s variable depending upon the background of the person that does the interview. If the person that is interviewing me has an understanding of biology and medicine and evolution and has read the plethora of scientific papers surrounding this, that ends up being a fairly good interview. If somebody comes into it and they’re completely unaware of the concept, they are much more skeptical.

Shelley Schlender: That hasn’t changed then over 20 years when somebody comes in and is new they still say what are you kidding.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Exactly. It’s like any new concept. If somebody has not been exposed to it, it takes a while to resonate in their mind and in their thought patterns. What we see is regardless of the background, whether it’s a layperson or a scientist, and they haven’t given this any serious thought then they tend to be skeptical. Those kind of interviews are more difficult for me because I have to go back and show the objectivity and the factual basis for this concept.


Once again, I didn’t invent this. This is a concept that we uncovered. This is not the Beverly Hills Grapefruit Diet. This isn’t the South Beach Diet. It wasn’t a diet conceived by a physician or a doctor or a diet doctor. This is a concept that dates all the way back to Charles Darwin.

Multiple scientists from around the world, anthropologists, archeologists, nutritionists, physiologists, biochemists have taken the most powerful idea in all of biology and medicine and applied it to human nutrition. This concept will not go away. After I’m long gone, this concept will not go away.

Shelley Schlender: Let’s talk about some of the things that seem to be evolving in the public awareness of this concept. What seems to have changes to me in the last decade is how many sports stars are saying that they’re choosing a more Paleo Diet. One of the best tennis players in the world says that he avoid eating grains, for instance. Then LeBron James, the basketball player …

Dr. Loren Cordain: I don’t follow that kind of stuff that closely and I’m sure that our listeners and readers can go online and find out the sports stars and the movie stars and …

Shelley Schlender: There are more of them who are saying they’re doing this.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I know that and there are more and more high profile people that claim that they are doing a Paleo type diet, but that’s not surprising. It works. You ask me, it’s like what do you attribute this incredible popularity of the diet to. I attribute it to a couple of things.

One is that we in the last decade the internet age is upon us, social media is upon us. Fifteen years ago, most people didn’t have a computer. Google only started in 1998. We all now correspond and communicate through this medium that I’m old enough to tell you didn’t exist in what I consider to be fairly recent times.


Anybody can talk to anybody now in the world. I can talk to people in the Ukraine or Somalia or any place I want to via the internet, cellphones. People talk to one another and everybody has to eat and so diet is something we all do. The world has rapidly become aware of this concept through the internet.

If it didn’t work, if it caused your blood pressure to go up, your cholesterol to go up. If you felt crappy on it, you didn’t feel good, it cost too much money, it was impractical, it wasn’t sustainable then it would’ve fallen by the wayside as do most “diets” that are created by humans because humans are fallible.

This is not a diet created by humans. This is a way of eating that was selected through eons and eons of natural selection. That is why it’s different. It’s different from anything that ever came before, at least in our human recognition of it. It’s always been there but the human recognition of it has only come in the last 15 to 25 years.

Shelley Schlender: Do you suppose a way to put it is the medical recognition of it?

Dr. Loren Cordain: It’s both anecdotal, it’s medical and it’s scientific. That’s what is the beauty of it is being triangulated through anecdotal human experience. We can talk about famous athletes or movie stars or whatever and they feel better, their blood pressure goes down, their cholesterol.

Shelley Schlender: They win their game.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah and they win their game and they’re doing a lot better. Anecdote is not the currency of science. The currency of science is experimental research. To me, that's what is the information is the most important is that scientific verification of these hypothetical ideas that we had 20 years ago.

We’re seeing that. We’re seeing what are called randomized control trials in which scientists actually test this diet versus the Standard American Diet, versus the Mediterranean Diet, versus the American Heart Association and other diets.


Shelley Schlender: It’s been hard to get funding for that kind of study because there was so much skepticism in the scientific community that Paleo diets could make any difference compared to standard recommendations for how to eat and live. What are some of the recent studies that you’re the most pleased with?

Dr. Loren Cordain: There’ve been about 16 studies that have occurred since 2007. East one of these studies, as do all scientific studies, particularly studies that aren’t funded heavily by the National Institute of Health and Natural Science Foundation and other groups, when there isn’t major governmental funding then there are shortcomings in all of these studies.

Shelley Schlender: That’s the case for these studies because they haven’t hit mainstream enough for the National Institutes of Health to say oh, of course, we’ll do a major study about this. It’s had to be people cobbling together research funds and scraping into their own resources to make a study happen.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I think that’s the case in any young and developing concept. It starts off with a lot of skepticism and there’s a lot of preceding dogma particularly by individuals that think the prior governmental recommendations through the food pyramid or what have you. American diets are high carb, low fat, there’s a lot of skepticism because that was the prevailing wisdom.

What we’re finding with them randomized controlled trials is that of the 16 randomized control trials in all but one 15 out of 16 have shown Paleo to be therapeutic and to outperform other type diets. What we really need Shelley is we need a homerun.
We need the National Institute of Health or other governmental agencies to fund a long term, which means two to three years or long, high number of samples. Two to 300 people [and take a variety of measurements at the endpoint that are relevant.


Shelley Schlender: I think you just put about $6 million of wish lists in there.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I did and actually I’d been serving as a consultant with a major group here in the United States, a major academic group who applied to the National Institute of Health. The major grant at NIH is a grant called an RO1. This is the heavy hitting grant in which the NIH will fund studies, large studies of this nature over millions of dollars over years to do.

To get funding you have to submit a proposal to NIH. This RO1 proposal was submitted by a consortium of half dozen or more scientists that have had prior NIH funding, RO1 funding. Unfortunately, this project was submitted about a year and a half, two years ago and it wasn’t funded by NIH. Didn’t discourage the consortium of scientist who submitted it and they’re going to resubmit.

I personally know NIH has other lesser type funding that aren’t RO1s but they fund what are called pilot or preliminary studies. I know that at least three or four studies that had been written and are going to be submitted here shortly that will go to the NIH.
In the meantime, there are other countries in the world beside the United States and we now have seen at least one very good study come out of the Netherlands. We’ve seen another one come out of the Netherlands a long term two year study and there have been studies that have come from other countries in the world. As you mentioned, these are you cobble together a little bit of money, you get volunteers to help with the study.

What we really need are long-term large studies and those will happen. It’s when humanity comes up with a good idea that humanity’s going to test that idea. If it helps us as a species, as a culture across nations, across societies we’re going to do it.


This isn’t going to go away. The time has come and I think that that’s really what’s fueling the interest is that people are now taking this seriously is that maybe Darwin was right.

That's all for this edition of the Paleo Diet Podcast.

Shelley Schlender: Our theme music is by Chapman stick soloist Bob Culbertson.

Dr. Loren Cordain: Visit my website, for past episodes and for hotlinks to my research studies, books and latest writings. For questions or comments, the place to go is

Shelley Schlender: For the Paleo Diet Podcast, I’m Shelley Schlender.

Dr. Loren Cordain: I’m Loren Cordain.

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