Dr. Cordain’s Response to ABC News’ “Caveman Diet Gets Online Support”

Dr. Cordain's Response to ABC News | The Paleo Diet

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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.



About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“11” Comments

  1. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse
    your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you present here and can’t wait to
    take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your
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    Anyways, superb blog!

  2. Heard of this diet from my nephew. I said it sounds like what I do when I diet to get in shape. I eat venison and wild game with fresh vegetables. In a matter of weeks I feel better and the weight comes off. One thing about lean meats is it travels through the body very fast.
    Glad to see someone getting the facts out. It works for me with little effort other than the harvest and skills involved. Nothing like wild fresh game. It blows away the competition but I am sure is hard to obtain except for the outdoorsmen and women.
    Be curious to read your recipes as we pride ourselves on ours.
    Best wishes sir.

  3. Hi Loren,

    I probably stick to the Paleo about 70% of the time and although originally I saw a transformation, I have stopped seeing a result, which of course is due to a 70% effort rate. However, I do think your texts need updating in accordance with research.

    I also believe that much of the research that talks about low Glycemic Index is still insulin raising. Of course, there is a strong correlation between the glycemix index and insulin rises, but some meat that that you advocate have very low GI because of lack of carbs, but do in fact raise insulin significantly, promoting fat storage.

    As such, I wondered if you have thoughts or palns to integrate teh Insulin Index into future texts about Paleo.


  4. Recently I watch Good Morning America do a segment on The Best Diets and they used Paleo in the promos but actually didn't talk about in the segment.

    Not surprisingly enough the diets they did discuss where the ones that buy time for their commercials on the networks.

    It is funny that they will name drop Paleo to get viewers attention, but much like the nut and shell game, when it came time to actually talking about it big corporate sponsors were the only ones they actually talked about.

    ABC is clearly desperate for revenue and the deliberately cherry picking the science to promote the interests of potential revenue sources.

    Can we believe anything ABC reports on based on this big failure to just report basic diet science? I appreciate that Dr. Cordain calls out and challenges these big media outlets on their poor investigative reporting.

    • I am wondering if I can be invited to your blog. I am new to this site but I am looking for recipes my 5 year old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and I have completely changed our diet and he is not using insulin. I am in need of other food ideas.

      • You can email me here at paleoautoimmunerecipes@gmail.com. I am sorry to say that I had to close down blog due to content thieves. I am just a housewife who collected all of Dr. Cordain's autoimmune recommendations and put it in one place along with other supporting research. When going online there is a lot of sketchy people to deal with and I do not have the skill set to combat all of that. There is so much to all of this. I am still exploring on how to apply what we know so far.

      • To kunza,
        Dr Cordain's book has great recipes, but you may want to check out Arthur DeVany's book The New Evolution Diet as he did lots of research on diabetes since his young son and his wife both had it. The book is his story of how he came to this diet through experimenting with all foods. A very interesting and educational read. Good luck

  5. Pingback: The US News & World Report Saga Continues #paleo « Healthy Meal Plans for Life

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