Dr. Cordain's Response to ABC News' "Caveman Diet… | The Paleo Diet®
noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.

Try The Paleo Diet®!

Learn more. Get recipes & meal plans. See the science.

Dr. Cordain's Response to ABC News' "Caveman Diet Gets Online Support"

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Founder of The Paleo Diet
June 23, 2011
Dr. Cordain's Response to ABC News'

Click the link below to view the ABC News article:


Dr. Cordain's Response:

Hi David,

I noticed that you are quoted on ABC news today as saying that, "our Stone Age ancestors gathered more than hunted by most accounts, and had a mostly plant-based diet". Our group has compiled contemporary hunter gatherer plant to animal subsistence ratios in all 229 hunter gatherer societies available in the literature. We published our findings in 2000 in AJCN and actually demonstrated precisely the opposite conclusion of your statement (1). We followed this study up with a paper in the Eur J Clin Nutr evaluating the 13 known analytical studies of hunter gatherer diets and found a similar outcome (2). Our work with historically studied hunter gatherers has been corroborated in Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and Stoneage Homo sapiens living in Europe 13,000 years ago using isotopic analyses of fossilized collagen delta carbon 13 and delta nitrogen 15 data (3, 4).

We partially agree with your statement, "The meat our Stone Age ancestors ate is nothing like the meat we eat today," said Katz. "When's the last time you saw a mammoth? I rest my case." We have actually contrasted the lipid composition of wild game to grass produced meats and to feedlot produced meat (2, 5). Clearly game meat is superior in all nutritional aspects to feedlot produced meat, however grass fed meats come in a close second. There is no reason to believe that the nutritional content of mammoth meat varies much from that of wild elephant meat, except that it was probably fattier, as more northern latitude mammals maintain higher body fat percentages throughout the year (6). Hence, it is entirely possible to emulate the nutritional characteristics of our ancestral diet with commercially produced grass fed meat (2,5). The exclusion of dairy products, grains and processed foods (sugar, vegetable oil and refined grain and salt containing foods) actually increases the the trace (vitamin, mineral, phytochemical) nutrient density of contemporary diets because refined grains, whole grains, dairy products, and processed foods are inferior sources of the 13 nutrients most commonly lacking in the US diet (1 ,7, 8).

I bring this information to the surface, not to necessarily cross swords with you, but to make you aware that modern empirically driven scientific studies of hunter gatherer diets are inconsistent with your contention that contemporary diets based upon Stone Age food groups are unhealthful. I guess it is a bit late for you to withdraw your statement, but read these papers (attached) to update your knowledge base. I will distribute your comments and the data driven science behind them to a much wider online audience than ABC news, and would be happy to debate these issues with you in the scientific literature.


1. Cordain L, Miller JB, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SH, Speth JD. Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;71(3):682-92

2. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Miller JB, Mann N, Hill K. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Mar;56 Suppl 1:S42-52

3. M. P. Richards, R. E. M. Hedges, R. Jacobi, A. Current and C. Stringer. Gough's Cave and Sun Hole Cave Human Stable Isotope Values Indicate a High Animal Protein Diet in the British Upper Palaeolithic. Journal of Archaeological Science; Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2000, Pages 1-3

4. Richards MP, Pettitt PB, Trinkaus E, Smith FH, Paunovi? M, Karavani? I. Neanderthal diet at Vindija and Neanderthal predation: the evidence from stable isotopes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jun 20;97(13):7663-6

5. Cordain L, Watkins BA, Florant GL, Kelher M, Rogers L, Li Y. Fatty acid analysis of wild ruminant tissues: evolutionary implications for reducing diet-related chronic disease. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Mar;56(3):181-91

6. Katzmaryk PT et al. Climatic influences on human body size and proportions: Ecological adaptations and secular trends. Am J Phys Anthropol 1998;106:483-503

7. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O'Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):341-54.

8. Cordain L. The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. J Am Nutraceut Assoc 2002; 5:15-24.



Even More Articles For You

Recipes: Lemon Herb Lamb Chops over Spaghetti Squash
These seasoned and seared lamb chops pair perfectly with easy-to-cook spaghetti squash for a warm and comforting meal on cold winter evenings.
Offal – Not So Awful: Organ Meats and The Paleo Diet
Organ meats, or offal, carry a unique flavor profile that may take some time for your taste buds to appreciate, but are extremely nutrient-dense.
By Stephanie Vuolo
Natural cleaning alternatives: Can they disinfect and sanitize effectively?
Find out which cleaners are best for safely removing the germs, bacteria, and viruses, like covid-19, that could be lurking in your home.
By Jessica Resendez
Paleo Leadership
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.