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Is Paleo Sustainable for 7 Billion People?

By Stephanie Vuolo, B.A.
February 12, 2015
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Is Paleo Sustainable for 7 Billion People? | The Paleo Diet

Can our planet support 7 billion people following the Paleo Diet? We cannot dispute that there are negative environmental factors, such as excessive water and fossil energy use and large emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting from the standard process of agriculture and livestock farming. These methodologies make it seem unrealistic that even our current food production system can sustain our planet, let alone support the Paleo diet alone.

Obviously, no one wants to contribute to an ecological collapse. If 7 billion people adopted a diet higher in animal meat under the existing methods of production, it would continue to tax our planet. However, the rising numbers of diet related illnesses1 indicate that something has to change when it comes to how we produce food and how we choose to eat. Let’s take a closer look at how we can all participate in following a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to the Paleo diet.

PURCHASE ORGANIC, PASTURED MEATS

We are truly what we eat. Although pastured meats cost more, this money is an investment in both the environment and your future physical well-being. If we suppose there is a greater demand for sustainable animal protein, then agricultural boards and organizations can provide more research and education to ranchers to reduce their use of water, pesticides, and feed grain. In turn, this may bring the price per pound down as it becomes more desired on grocery shelves.

Commercial livestock production stresses the land. However, with proper methodologies, ruminants can actually be benefactors to preserve ecosystems, produce food from inedible sources, restore soil fertility, and recycle plant nutrients. 2

EAT THE WHOLE ANIMAL

Boneless, skinless chicken and tenderloins of beef taste good, but there is more to the animal than muscle to embrace on a regular basis. As previously covered in , our hunter-gatherers ancestors consumed the entire animal from nose-to-tail and recognized the wealth of nutrients obtained from the brains, liver, kidney, heart, blood, lungs, and all other visceral organs. The carcasses and bones can also be used to make rich, nourishing, and the fat can be used to make high-quality cooking oil. The whole animal offers minerals, nutrients, and calories to properly fuel our bodies, while also respects the food source where it came from.

EAT BUGS

Ingesting Insects, or entomophagy, is probably completely off your radar and most likely more repulsive than eating organs. However, insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people in the world, including individuals in Mali who hunt and eat grasshoppers. There also existed a long history of insect eating 25-50% of North American tribes.

Significant environmental benefits exist to support cultivating insects for food. They are highly efficient to produce. For example, crickets require only 2 kg of feed for every 1 kg of body weight gain, compared to the 8 kg a cow needs. Insects produce very little greenhouse gas, and can be cultivated on using very little water or land, such as an organic side-stream, which reduces environmental contamination. Insects are also a great source of fat, protein, vitamin, and minerals. Ease into the idea of eating insects by using cricket flour or cacao covered ants, which can be incorporated into your Paleo cooking.

If we evaluate the current food production system and dietary norms based on the rising levels of , the obesity epidemic, and the negative environmental impacts of farming, we can conclude that the entire system needs to change. has been shown to reduce , improve waistlines, and and insulin response. We cannot afford to not choose the foods that best serve our bodies genetically, while also protect our planet.

References

1. WHO, Joint, and FAO Expert Consultation. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1990.

2. Janzen, H. H. "What place for livestock on a re-greening earth?." Animal Feed Science and Technology 166 (2011): 783-796.

3. Cingolani, Ana M., et. al. "Can livestock grazing maintain landscape diversity and stability in an ecosystem that evolved with wild herbivores?." Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 16.4 (2014): 143-153.

4. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Brand Miller J, Mann N, Hill K. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: Meat based, yet non-atherogenic. Eur J Clin Nutr 2002;56 (suppl 1):S42-S52.

5. Webb, E. C., and H. A. O’Neill. "The animal fat paradox and meat quality." Meat Science 80.1 (2008): 28-36.

6. Available at: https://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf. Accessed on February 4, 2015.

7. ATES, S., et al. "Performance of indigenous and exotic× indigenous sheep breeds fed different diets in spring and the efficiency of feeding system in crop–livestock farming." The Journal of Agricultural Science: 1-16.

8. Paoletti, Maurizio G. Ecological implications of minilivestock: potential of insects, rodents, frogs and snails. Science Publishers, Inc., 2005.

9. Available at: https://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf.. Accessed on February 4, 2015.

10. O'Keefe, James H., Cordain, L. "Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer." Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 79. No. 1. Elsevier, 2004.

11. Ballard, K et al.Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, microvascular function, and cellular adhesion markers in individuals taking statins. Nutr Res.2013 Nov;33(11):905-12.

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