Tag Archives: children

Where Does the Vaccination Debate Leave Paleo Followers? | The Paleo Diet

If you thought religion and politics were the most taboo topics at the dinner table, there is now definitely a third hot button topic to add to the list. The vaccine debate has become such a contentious issue that even many leading functional doctors and researchers with expertise on the subject prefer not to speak out. Regardless of what they may say, someone will likely be offended. And, knowing the answers are not black and white, there doesn’t seem to be enough room in print to truly delve deep into the topic.

Recently, pro-vaccination groups have become so frustrated with the layperson dispensing medical advice that their new mantra seems to be “just do it.” Yet anti-vaccine voices continue to fear the conflict of interest between pharmaceutical companies and doctors, and highlight a list of potential risks of vaccinating, which they believe can compromise long-term immune function and health.

How can the average person wade through these murky waters (that sometimes feel shark-infested!) and get sound advice for their children without offending their doctor or peers, but also avoiding being swept away by all the pseudo-science online?

Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the debate.


Most traditional medical doctors would say this is not even a debate. For them, the research is clear that vaccines save million of lives every year, therefore everyone should vaccinate their children. Most physicians will concede, and rightly so, that there are side-effects to vaccinations but state these negative reactions are very few and far between. For the overwhelming majority of physicians, protecting your child from preventable deadly diseases is an easy choice, especially for infant immune systems that have not yet matured to protect themselves fully from pathogens.

Overall, the research supports that vaccines are very safe and provide necessary and life saving protection to infants. The recent outbreak of measles in Disneyland this year is evidence that if too many people “opt out” of vaccinations, it compromises the health of other children. Herd immunity is a reality and you must have upward of 80-90% of the community vaccinated to provide protection to all. 1

Of course, the trump card for the pro-vaccination camp is the impressive list of deadly diseases that have been eradicated (or almost eradicated) since the use of vaccines. This includes diphtheria, influenza, hepatits A and B, measles, mumps, pertussis, pneumococcal disease, polio, rubella, congenital rubella, smallpox, tetanus and varicella. This great medical achievement has required years of research and dedication of generations of talented scientists and physicians and has saved millions of lives in the process. However, they argue that if a just 10% of the population is not fully vaccinated, these modern advances begin to lose their effectiveness.


The anti-vaccine debate seems to stem around a couple of key areas, neither of which is the heavily rumored link between the MMR vaccine and autism, which has been strongly refuted in the clinical literature.2

First, there is a concern that vaccines can cause harm and alter immune function in the long-term, leading to a greater risk of autoimmune conditions as we age. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) all vaccines do carry the risk of life-threatening allergic reaction, however this occurs in one child per million.3 Although the likelihood of these reactions is extremely small, for any parent of a child who has had a reaction to a vaccine, they would argue not small enough.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) states that certain vaccines may be linked to asthma, diabetes, chronic inflammation, autism, learning disabilities and other disorders.4 Of course, from a scientific perspective, the difficulty is that association is not proof of causation and, therefore, any number of other factors may have also contributed to these adverse reactions.

Those opposed to vaccinations also fear the adjuvants added to vaccines that are required to trigger the immune reaction that ultimately facilitates acquired immunity. Some researchers and physicians believe common adjuvants like thimerosal, aluminum, mercury, and formaldehyde possess potentially significant negative risks to children, even at the levels classified as acceptable and safe by the CDC.

On top of that there is concern about the sheer number of vaccines given today. In 1980, the CDC recommended 23 doses of 7 vaccines, whereas by 2013 the recommendations had dramatically increased to 49 doses of 14 vaccines between birth and 6 months. Can a newly forming immune system cope with this high burden of adjuvants? The pro-vaccine group believes it poses no threat; the anti-vaccine group believes this may predispose the population to increased risk of autoimmune conditions later in life.

From 2001 to 2009 rates of autoimmune diseases – like lupus, celiac disease, and type-1 diabetes – have increased dramatically and the CDC is unsure why this is happening.5

Environmental factors have been suggested as the most likely cause, however the rise in number of vaccinations does parallel the rise in autoimmune conditions over the past few decades. It has been suggested that vaccine use (or excessive use of vaccines and accompanying adjuvants) may negatively impact newly forming immune systems in infants and young children, scrambling the body’s immune response mechanism and leading to a greater likelihood of autoimmune type reactions. While there are some plausible biochemical pathways to support this, it would be virtually impossible to prove in a double-blinded placebo controlled study.

Perhaps the major hurdle that many patients have is the intimate connection between the pharmaceutical companies and the CDC, in what is a hugely profitable industry. With former employees of the CDC transitioning to the big pharmaceutical companies, how can the average person have 100% trust in a watchdog that is closely tied to the industry they regulate? While the majority of these fears may be unfounded, this type of relationship represents a clear conflict of interest, in particular in light of the rapid rise in number of vaccinations over the past 30 years.

Lastly, the right to “informed consent” is an ethical principle in medicine. It is the process of getting permission before conducting any healthcare intervention on a person. The fact that some states are now wanting to implement a 100% mandatory vaccination schedule goes against this medical principle and seems to add fuel to the fire for the anti-vaccine camp.

So, where does that leave us?

Today, there is so much rhetoric on either side of the debate it’s no wonder the average parent is confused and frustrated. For a parent whose child has suffered serious negative consequences from a vaccination, they will likely always regret allowing their child to be exposed, no matter if they are the one in a million affected. For the doctor, seeing a parent choose to not vaccinate and watch that child contract a completely preventable disease and risk spreading illness to others leaves a similar scar and frustration around fears of vaccination.

No one will argue against Mary Glodé, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado in Denver who states “immunizations are simply one of the greatest public-health achievements.” However, expert immunology researchers also admit “for the immune molecules that we know are important, almost nothing is understood about their mechanism,” highlighting there is much more to immunity than merely the antibody response of vaccines.6

For Paleo followers, an ancestral approach to life means honoring the wisdom of our evolution to build robust bodies and immune systems that can fight off disease. But with our modern day urban lifestyle, isn’t vaccination an opportunity to take the best of modern medicine and combine it with Paleo principles? I believe an open discussion with your family and doctor will lead to the best plan for you.



[1]Hyong Kim T, Johnstone J, Loeb M. Vaccine herd effect. Scand J Infect Dis. 2011 Sep; 43(9): 683–689.

[2]Demicheli V et al. Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children. Cochraine Database Syt Rev. 2012 Feb 15;2:CD004407.

[3]CDC, “Possible Side-Effects from Vaccines,” www.cdc.gov, Feb. 4, 2014.

[4]National Vaccine Information Center, “Autism,” nvic.org

[5]//www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/246960.php. Viewed Aug 10th, 2015.

[6]Garay, P. and McAllister K. Novel Roles for Immune Molecules in Neural Development: Implications for Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Front Synaptic Neurosci. 2010; 2: 136.

Paleo Parenting | The Paleo Diet

If you read enough books on the topic of Paleo parenting, information starts to contradict itself. Many Paleo parents, myself included, find the abundance of opinions and theories overwhelming, leading to more confusion than assistance. Quantitative studies suggest present-day child rearing methods are opposed to our genetic wiring, and could be responsible for affecting a child’s development.1

For these reasons, instead of relying on the latest Paleo parenting bestseller, I chose to tap into my own primal intuition as the main driver to figure out the best way to parent my child. At times, I even imagined how would I handle this situation if I lived in a cave. For example, I wouldn’t need to let my child “cry it out” at night because I wouldn’t want to attract predators to the cave. I discovered that I innately have all the tools necessary to help her survive, I am in fact the best expert on my own child, as most likely you are on your own child too.


The intensity of the mother-child relationship seen among the !Kung and other hunter-gatherer societies support the role of attachment in parenting.2 Attachment can be easily fostered during infancy, with long periods of skin-to-skin contact, which also encourages the mother’s body to respond with an increased production of breast milk. It also extends to keeping the child feeling safe, which translates into responding to his requests for food, dry diapers, and physical comfort creates security and strengthens the bond between child and caregiver.3


It truly does take a village to raise children. Fewer people choose to stay in their hometowns, compared to generations past.  Therefore, the innate structure of the family network isn’t available to help with nurturing young families. Seek out a strong community of support, through parenting groups and community organizations. Even modern Listservs operate as a means to connect parents in order to share resources and offer reinforcement that you aren’t alone in your parenting journey. This means can be especially reassuring if you are looking to connect with families choosing to follow the Paleo diet.


The next time you dine out at a family-friendly restaurant, take a look around and you’ll notice very few children (or parents for that matter) aren’t using technology instead of being present at the table. Not only is it important to create time to connect face to face with one another,4 but also it’s ok to be bored.5 Boredom inspires creativity,6 and provides for much needed sensory deprivation in our modern, technology driven society.7

Even if you children are past infancy, it’s never to late to become a Paleo minded parent. There are numerous ways to return to a simpler, more focused relationship with your child, such as going for a walk together, working collaboratively to make a Paleo dinner, or sitting outside in front of a fire watching the stars. Each stage of development offers a new set of challenges, however you have all the tools you need to be an effective Paleo parent.


[1] Konner, Melvin. “Hunter-gatherer infancy and childhood.” Hunter-gatherer childhoods: Evolutionary, developmental and cultural perspectives (2005).

[2] Bowlby, John. A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. Vol. 393. Taylor & Francis, 2005.

[3] Hewlett, BARRY S., and SHANE J. MacFarlan. “Fathers’ roles in hunter-gatherer and other small-scale cultures.” The role of the father in child development (2010): 413-434.

[4] Mestdag, Inge, and Jessie Vandeweyer. “Where has family time gone? In search of joint family activities and the role of the family meal in 1966 and 1999.” Journal of Family History 30.3 (2005): 304-323.

[5] Conrad, Peter. “It’s boring: notes on the meanings of boredom in everyday life.”Qualitative Sociology 20.4 (1997): 465-475.

[6] Schubert, Daniel S. “Creativity and coping with boredom.” Psychiatric Annals(1978).

[7] Suedfeld, Peter. “The Benefits of Boredom: Sensory Deprivation Reconsidered: The effects of a monotonous environment are not always negative; sometimes sensory deprivation has high utility.” American Scientist (1975): 60-69.

Predicting Childhood Cognitive Performance

How important are socioeconomic factors when it comes to your child’s future academic success? According to a recent report by Child Care Aware America, annual preschool education costs range from $4,500-$12,000 in the US, depending on the state.1 Although President Obama has proposed a program to improve quality and expand access to preschool for lower- and moderate-income families, Parents assume 60% of these costs.2

While preschool education may set the stage for future academic success, are there far less expensive and more effective measures? According to new research published by William Lassek, M.D. and Steven Gaulin, M.D., diet better predicts infants’ future cognitive performance than economics. Specifically, the omega-3 and omega-6 levels of their mothers’ breast milk.3So, where does prenatal and neonatal nutrition come into play?

By comparing the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women from 28 countries with math, science, and reading ability test results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Lassek and Gaulin determined that increased omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and decreased omega-6 linoleic acid levels most strongly predict higher test scores, with no improvements in predictive power when socioeconomic variables were considered. The Paleo Diet is low in omega-6 while featuring the richest dietary sources of DHA—cold-water, fatty fish, particularly salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and tuna.

Mothers who consume these fish while pregnant and breastfeeding have higher amounts of DHA in their milk. This was demonstrated in a previous study published by the same authors, among others, comparing the DHA breast milk levels of Tsimane women from Amazonian Bolivia with those of women from Cincinnati. The Tsimane women eat traditional diets consisting primarily of locally grown crops, wild game, and freshwater fish. The Cincinnati women, on the other hand, had typical US diets, including high amounts of trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids (abundant in industrial seed oils, including corn oil and soybean oil).

The Tsimane women’s milk was 400% higher in DHA, 260% lower in trans fats, and 84% lower in omega-6 linoleic acid.4 Lead author Melanie Martin said, “Despite living in economically impoverished conditions, Tsimane mothers produce breast milk that has more balanced and potentially beneficial fatty acid composition as compared to milk from U.S. mothers.”5 High levels of omega-6 are just as disconcerting as low levels of omega-3 because increased omega-6 consistently predicts lower test scores, according to the Lassek and Gaulin study.

This is not surprising, considering that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids both compete for the same rate-limiting enzymes. In other words, the ratio of dietary omega-6 to omega-3 is vitally important. Eating fatty fish several times per week is ideal, but if you’re not concurrently limiting your omega-6 consumption, especially by eliminating seed oils from your diet, you won’t be absorbing enough of that omega-3 from the fish. From an evolutionary perspective, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be roughly 1:1.6 Modern Western diets, however, typically yield ratios ranging from 10:1 to 30:1.7

According to the latest PISA results, US students lag behind students from 29 other nations in math and 22 in science, respectively.8 Is this the result of consuming too little DHA and far too much omega-6? Of the 300-million-plus acres planted with food in the US, half are devoted to soy and corn. Another 50 million go to wheat, with only 14 million acres reserved for fruits and vegetables.9 While these numbers are sobering and perhaps disempowering, change starts with the individual.

So if motherhood is on the horizon, now is the time to start eating a healthy Paleo Diet. Of particular importance to your child’s future cognitive performance is the elimination of all industrial seed oils from your diet, particularly corn, soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, and grapeseed oils. At the same time, be sure to consume DHA-rich fish from the cleanest sources possible several times per week. Education is important, but clearly so are prenatal and neonatal nutrition.

Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.


1. Childcare Aware of America (March 2014). Child Care in America: 2014 State Fact Sheets. Retrieved September 28, 2014 from //usa.childcareaware.org/sites/default/files/19000000_state_fact_sheets_2014_v04.pdf

2. Mitchell, A., Stoney, L., & Dichter, H. (2001). Financing child care in the United States: An expanded catalog of current strategies. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Retrieved September 28, 2014 from //files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED458932.pdf

3. Lassek, WD., and Gaulin, SJC. (August 2014). Linoleic and docosahexaenoic acids in human milk have opposite relationships with cognitive test performance in a sample of 28 countries. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids. Retrieved September 24, 2014 from //www.plefa.com/article/S0952-3278%2814%2900127-6/abstract

4. Martin, MA., et al., (July 2012). Fatty acid composition in the mature milk of Bolivian forager-horticulturalists: controlled comparisons with a US sample. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 8(3). Retrieved September 24, 2014 from //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22624983

5. University of California at Santa Barbara. (June 9, 2012). Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women. Press release published by Science Daily. Retrieved September 24, 2014 from //www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120609152436.htm

6. Simopoulos, AP. (October 2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 56(8). Retrieved September 24, 2014 from //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

7. Ibid, Simopoulos.

8. Layton, L. (December 3, 2013). U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2014 from //www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/us-students-lag-around-average-on-international-science-math-and-reading-test/2013/12/02/2e510f26-5b92-11e3-a49b-90a0e156254b_story.html

9. Haspel, T. (February 18, 2014). Farm bill: Why don’t taxpayers subsidize the foods that are better for us? The Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2014 from //www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/farm-bill-why-dont-taxpayers-subsidize-the-foods-that-are-better-for-us/2014/02/14/d7642a3c-9434-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html

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