Tag Archives: nutrition

Chopping Block | The Paleo Diet

Scientific Veracity and Documentation > Snake Oil Salesmen

To put it bluntly, in the words of a well-known author “money can make whores of us all.” It can destroy partnerships, marriages, families, friends and lives. This concept is nothing new and has been known to humanity since we left our egalitarian roles as hunter gatherers and became agriculturalists with stratified societies separated by haves-and-have-nots dating to at least 10,000 years ago. The modern Paleo Diet concept, despite its ancient origins, represents a mere drop in the bucket from an evolutionary standpoint when contrasted to other present-day diets. For contemporary people, the Paleo Diet idea began in 1985 with Boyd Eaton’s seminal publication in the New England Journal of Medicine.1 It gained a bit of traction in the non-scientific community with the publication of my book, The Paleo Diet, in 2002,2 but really became viral, starting in about 2009, with its recognition across the web and the subsequent  publication of hundreds of cookbooks and diet books on the topic.  As with any new concept or idea embraced by vast numbers of people worldwide, it was inevitable that money would raise its ugly head and become part of the Paleo Diet equation.

My original impetus to study the Paleo Diet concept had little to do with money, but rather to do with improving my own fitness and health. As a young man in my 30s I simply wanted to find a lifelong way of eating that would maximize my health and complement my daily exercise program. After reading Dr. Eaton’s revolutionary article1 in 1987, a light went off in my head that has only glowed stronger throughout my life. I have dedicated my life’s work and academic career to this concept and have tried to do it justice via the scientific method with which I was trained as a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. student, and finally as a University Professor (Assistant, Associate and Full).  Accordingly, my original goals, as improbable as they may seem, were not to become  a widely known nutritional scientist, a bestselling author or a public speaker but rather only to discover a universal program of lifelong eating that could improve my personal health.

As I ventured forth in the world with this almost simplistic objective in mind, I met many scientists and lay people who shared my vision that evolution via natural selection was the driving force behind human diet. As I became more well versed in this powerful Darwinian concept, I soon realized these ideas were collectively important for improving the health and well being of all people on the planet. From that point on, I dedicated myself and my career to this Paleo Diet notion and began to publish scientific articles in peer review journals to substantiate this perspective. Eventually, my wife, Lorrie convinced me to write a popular book2 on the topic – Paleo went viral, and the rest is very recent history.

Unfortunately, money and greed have tarnished the simplicity and unadulterated vision of the Paleo Diet concept.

Conmen, Crooks, and Just Simple People

Before the Paleo Diet became a household name, less than a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand people worldwide were even aware of the idea. We used to correspond with one another via primitive “Listserves,” and got to know one another with our posts and ideas. The Paleo world was small then, and our concerns and worries revolved about scientific considerations; did pre-agricultural people eat cereal grains?  How much long chain omega 3 fatty acids did they consume, and what were the health effects? At the time, none of us could even imagine the vast network of Paleo Diet websites, blogs and even scientific articles that exist today.

My old friend, Robert Crayhon, a well-known and now deceased, popular health writer, said, “Always, let the data speak for itself.” I completely agree with Robert as his axiom is consistent with my lifelong academic and scientific training. I offer a second phrase for my friend Robert, “Charismatic individuals relying upon personal ideas should always be suspect.”

Herein lies some of the problems with the contemporary Paleo Diet movement. It has become a Medusa head of ideas spawned by just about anybody who can write a blog, a popular diet book or appear at a Paleo Diet conference. Although the medical and scientific literature is clearly imperfect, it still maintains a powerful modulating factor via peer review – meaning you just can’t say anything you want without input from your scientific peers and the editors of the journal wherein the manuscript was published.  The internet holds no such constraint; anybody can say anything without direct references to support their contentions – much less a critical review of both sides of any issue utilizing legitimate scientific references.

Specific Items

Mainstream Paleo Diet books are rife with nutritional myths their authors consider to be Paleo. Here’s a short list: salt, sea salt, honey, legumes, beans, nut flours, ghee, milk, goat milk, cheese, yogurt, kumis, coconut sugars, date and raisin sugars and molasses to name a few. Our writers and I have addressed many of these issues in prior blogs:

Sea Salt: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Dairy: Milking It for All It’s Worth

Beans and Legumes: Are They Paleo?

What’s the Skinny on Ghee?

Honey: The Sticky Truth

With Paleo Diet enthusiasts growing exponentially over the last few years, and manufacturers and vendors catering to this new market niche, the Paleo Diet community has experienced a huge upswing in the dietary supplement market. While a large percentage of the Western population takes supplements, there is little to no need to supplement while following a Paleo Diet as I have previously pointed out in “Vitamin and Nutritional Supplements Increase Chronic Disease Morbidity (Incidence) and Mortality (Death).” Diets consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, grass produced meats and poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, shellfish and nuts provide our species with all known nutritional requirements.

So Paleo Dieters, I would urge you caution when considering all supplement pushers, and always let the data speak for itself. Don’t necessarily believe charismatic Paleo Diet figures on the web or anywhere else, rather examine the science for yourself. Many claims of supplement necessity are nothing more than opinions which are pushed on us without the rigorous scientific backing needed to make nutritional and health judgments one way or another. These charismatic, non-scientific authors tell us this is how it is – believe me because I tell you it is so. Unfortunately, no randomized controlled trials of these authors’ sponsored products and their respective claims exist, much less meta analyses. I’ll ask you, could it be that your trusted Paleo author has succumbed to money, or do they just not know better?  Let the data speak for itself.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Empty Nesters | The Paleo Diet

One of the most profound moments in the parenting adventure is the day the last child moves out of the family home and into a life of new-found independence and adventure. So many emotions will be running through your minds and hearts as you and your partner fondly bid farewell and find yourselves with a brand new life as empty nesters. While this can be a difficult adjustment, it is also a time when you can rediscover your own independence and freedom from the responsibilities that were a part of your daily living for so many years while raising your family. One of the biggest benefits for many is the opportunity to take back complete control of the kitchen! During the teenage years, kids tend to bring in all kinds of non-Paleo snack foods. While our children were all still home, we welcomed their friends and the neighborhood kids to hang out at our house. Along with the kids came the occasional pizzas, chips, and cookies. Teenage boys especially seem to show up with appetites and can’t seem to socialize without simultaneously foraging for anything that appears to be edible. We rarely bought non-Paleo foods for our kids, but when the friends came over, often some mysterious food items would appear as well. During this busy and joyful period you may have found it difficult to stay true to your Paleo lifestyle and sometimes found yourself making some less than great food choices.

Good news! The kids are on their own now and you and your partner have regained complete control. Paleo eating has now become simple, with your cupboards and fridge stocked with only the freshest meats, fish, fruits and veggies. Every time you venture out to the grocery store, you will come back with only those life-giving foods that you have longed to make a part of your daily routine. Hopefully, you and your partner are committed to eating Paleo for the rest of your years. This is an especially important time of your life as we all know that the diseases of our modern civilization become more prevalent after the age of 50. Now is the time to focus on your health and fitness. Adopting a pure Paleo lifestyle is your key to longevity and will increase your odds for missing out on all the ailments that plague so many seniors in their later years.

Empty nesters make many adjustments once their children are on their own. If one of you has been responsible for all of the cooking, make plans to share the fun. Plan a night or two when both of you cook a delicious Paleo meal together. Try some new recipes that you didn’t have time for when your family life was so busy. Make extra and enjoy the leftovers the next day. Create a new way to prepare fruits or veggies. The possibilities are endless and you will find that the time together is well spent and the benefits of renewed energy and vitality essential to living your life to the fullest.

All the Best,

Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed., Co-Author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook

Kefir Consumption Ill Founded at Best | The Paleo Dit
Hi Dr. Cordain,

Just finished The Paleo Diet for Athletes; I have found it extremely useful so thank you! In the meantime, I noted Chris Kresser has recently been promoting the consumption of Kefir: //chriskresser.com/kefir-the-not-quite-paleo-superfood

If you are able to comment I would be very interested in your views! I entirely understand if you are unable or unwilling to comment. Suspect you probably get a few emails like this!

Keep up the good work!


Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Michael,

Good to hear from you and many thanks for your kind words about The Paleo Diet for Athletes.  I note that Chris Kresser has recently become quite a spokesperson for contemporary Paleo Diets, as he recently appeared on the Dr. Oz TV program, espousing the dietary benefits of both dairy products and legumes in contemporary Paleo diets.  A brief check of Chris’s scientific publication record on PubMed for “Paleo Diets,” or any other topic for that matter, comes up with absolutely zilch — zero ! — nothing !  — no publications whatsoever!  This evidence (or lack thereof) lends little credibility to Chris’s claims as an expert in diet, nutrition or anthropology — much less Paleo Diets.  He has simply never put forth his ideas in peer review, scientific journals.  Nevertheless, the presence of scientific publications or advanced degrees don’t always guarantee expert advice; rather good ideas and rationale thought, supported by solid data frequently do.  Chris’s advice that legumes and dairy are indeed “Paleo” foods that should be regularly consumed in contemporary diets mimicking the nutritional characteristics of our pre-agricultural, hunter gatherer ancestors is ill founded at best.

The Paleolithic period or Old Stone Age is generally defined as the time span in which human ancestors first began to manufacture stone tools (about 2.5 million years ago to 3.2 million years ago) until the beginnings of agriculture in the Middle East about 10,000 years.  During this period all humans and our hominid ancestors lived as hunter gatherers and only consumed wild plant and animal foods available in their environments.

Because it is difficult or impossible to milk wild mammals, humans couldn’t have consumed the milk of another species until they were domesticated, beginning about 10,000 years ago.  Even though 10,000 years ago seems to be incredibly distant from a historical perspective; on an evolutionary time scale it only represents about 330 human generations.1 Hence, dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, kefir etc.) are very recent introductions into the human diet and never were components of Paleolithic diets.1 In support of this notion is the very recent evolutionary appearance of genes which allow certain human populations on the planet to digest milk without gastro-intestinal upset.2 In fact, about 65 % of the world’s people are lactose intolerant and cannot drink milk without digestive discomfort.  By fermenting dairy products, it is possible to reduce their lactose content, but not all fermented dairy products (yogurt, kumiss, sour milk etc) are completely lactose free.  So the question comes up, should people consuming contemporary Paleo Diets be regularly consuming a food (kefir or for that matter any dairy product) for which our species has scant evolutionary experience? I have fully addressed this issue in an entire chapter in my most recent book, The Paleo Answer.3

It is not the lactose in milk that is the sole reason to avoid dairy.  Except for calcium, milk and dairy products are relative nutritional lightweights in the 13 nutrients most lacking in the U.S. diet.1, 3 Of seven food groups (seafood, meats, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, milk, whole grains and nuts), milk ranked 5th for the 13 nutrients most deficient in the U.S. diet.  Seafood, meat, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and nuts provide humans with all known nutritional requirements4 and represent the major food groups that conditioned the human genome for more than 2.5 million years of evolutionary experience.3 No mammal on earth has a nutritional requirement for the milk of another species, nor do we.

Besides its poor nutritional value and indigestibility for 65% of the world’s people, milk and other dairy products may produce a variety of adverse health effects including: 1) a high insulin response and insulin resistance, 2) an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, 3) an increased risk for acne, 4) an increased risk for many autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, 5) an increased risk for food allergies,  6) an increased risk for breast, ovarian, prostate and testicular cancers, 7) an increased risk for senile cataracts 8) dairy products’ high calcium content impairs zinc and iron absorption, and finally 9) increased dairy consumption doesn’t reduce the risk for bone fractures – so why consume them?. The mechanisms underlying these adverse health effects are fully outlined in my chapter on the topic, including more than 100 references to support this information.3

If you think milk is just a healthy white liquid that is “Good for Every Body,” think again! The following non-comprehensive list contains hormones and bioactive substances found in cow’s milk which are either known to, or suspected of causing a number of the deleterious health effects associated with milk and dairy consumption.3

Growth Hormones

  • Insulin, Insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), Insulin like growth factor 2 (IGF-2)
  • Insulin like growth factor binding proteins, 1 to 6 (IGFBP-1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6),
  • Betacellulin (BTC), Growth hormone (GH), Growth hormone releasing factor (GHRF), Transforming growth factor alpha (TGF α), Transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1), (TGF-β2), Platelet derived growth factor (PDGF)

Steroid Hormones

  • Estrogens (Estrone, Estradiol-17β, Estriol and Estrone sulfate), Progesterone, 20 alpha-dihydropregnenolone, 5α androstanedione, 5 α pregnanedione, 20α- and 20β-dihydroprogesterone, 5α-pregnan-3β-ol-20-one,  5α-androstene-3β17β-diol, 5α-androstan-3β-ol-17-one, androstenedione, testosterone, and DHEA acyl ester

Bioactive Proteins and Peptides

  • Relaxin, Thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH), Luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH), Somatostatin (SIH), Gastrin releasing peptide (GRP), Calcitonin, Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), Prolactin, Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), Lysozyme, Lactoperoxidase, Lactoferrin, Transferrin, Immunoglobulins (IgA, IgM, IgG), Proteose-peptone, Glycomacropeptide, Plasmin, α Casein, β Casein, κ Casein, α Lactoglobulin, β Lactoglobulin, Bovine serum albumen (BSA), Gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), Antitrypsin, Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, α(2) antiplasmin , Butyrophilin, Xanthine oxidase, Mucin-1, Mucin-15, Adipohilin, Fatty acid binding protein, CD36, Periodic acid Schiff 6/7

Bioactive Peptides formed in gut from Milk Proteins

  • Casomorphins, α Lactorphin, β Lactorphin, Lactoferroxins, Casoxins, Casokinins, Casoplatelins, Immunopeptides, Phosphopeptides.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


1. 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;81:341-54.

2. Cordain, L., Hickey, M. , Kim K. Malaria and rickets represent selective forces for the convergent evolution of adult lactase persistence. In: Biodiversity in Agriculture: Domestication, Evolution and Sustainability, Gepts P, Famula T, Bettinger R et al. (Eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2011, pp 299-308.

3. Cordain L. Just say no to the milk mustache.  In: The Paleo Answer, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 2012, pp. 72-103.

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

Food Politics | The Paleo Diet

Dr. Cordain,

About 20 years ago I also read “Are you Confused?” as part of my interest in nutrition health and sports. Today I have a MSc in Nutritional Science and work as a sports dietitian in River Plata soccer club in Argentina. I ended up with your book after delving into my hobby: physical anthropology.

I have recently read your book and tried your diet for four weeks, feeling great and losing three kgs without physical activity, needless to say I’m hooked and will continue. I was very fearful and skeptical at first, imagine that after several years of brainwashing by the ADA and USDA curricula, pyramids and “research,” I thought that cutting out three food groups amounted to outright quackery and faddism. Then I read Food Politics by Marion Nestle. Coupled with the evidence exposed in your book I went for it.

Sorry to derail you from a likely busy schedule, my sincere thanks and congratulations, keep up the good work.


Wild Salmon and Sautéed Spinach | The Paleo Diet

Each year, October 31st seems to mark the start of the junk food season. Most of us have fun childhood memories of dressing up in costume, attending parties, and spending hours Trick-or-Treating in our neighborhoods. Returning home with a bag full of candy and sugary snacks meant an evening spent sampling the hard, soft, or chewy treasures we had collected. Unfortunately, most of us probably went to bed with a tummy ache and awoke within a few days with a sore throat, cold, or flu virus due to the negative impact on our immune systems after overindulging. It occurred to me years ago that the cold and flu season really seems to get ramped up and into high gear beginning around Halloween and continuing well into Spring when the junk food holidays finally end at Easter time.Why not try out a Paleo Halloween this year and see where it can lead?

So, what’s a Paleo parent to do? How do we help our children enjoy the festivities and traditions of our special holidays, while maintaining healthy eating habits? Over the past 10 years or so, there has been more and more awareness regarding these issues. Conscientious parents have tackled this problem in a variety of ways. Some have done away with Halloween altogether, while others have found new and creative ways to celebrate the day and start new, healthy traditions. Fortunately, the internet has become a fantastic place to search for special, healthy treats. Just last week, I found a darling creation making ghosts from ½ banana using small currants or raisins for eyes and mouth. Another site demonstrated making “Jack-o-lanterns” from oranges, carving out the skins to make the face. Check out just a few of the links to help you and your children get started. Be sure to include the kids in the search and make it fun and exciting to plan for your special day.

But, what to do with all that Trick-or-Treat candy? Again, it’s time to get creative and think outside the box. Several approaches to this dilemma should be considered. Some parents allow their children to choose a small amount of candy to enjoy as a special treat over the next few days, throwing the rest in the trash where all the junk belongs. Others, strike a deal with their kids and agree to buy all of the candy from the child. The child is then allowed to spend the money on a toy or other non-food item of their choice. We know of a family who puts on a wonderful, healthy costume party for their children and their friends every year. There is no Trick-or-Treating, just healthy snacks, traditional games like bobbing for apples, and a fun time for all. If you don’t want to throw your own party, many community organizations offer alternatives for kids. As for what to throw in those sacks when the neighborhood goblins come calling?

How about this treat: The Paleo Diet Bar in either Cinnamon Raisin, or Cranberry Almond! This is a special and fun time of year when lasting childhood memories are created. Start your own family traditions and enjoy the celebrations!

All the best,

Lorrie Cordain, M.A.
The Paleo Diet Team

The Paleo Diet

Baked Apple

The aromas of this simple-to-prepare fall treat fills your house with sweetness and will have your kids drooling. Be sure to choose locally grown, organic apples when preparing this sweet treat.


  • 1 large, fresh pie apple
  • 1 medium orange, juiced
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch allspice
  • olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. Core the apple

3. Mix orange juice, raisins, cinnamon, and allspice together in small bowl and fill the cavity of the apple

4. Pour remaining liquid over apple

5. Place apple on a lightly greased pan with olive oil

6. Bake 30-40 minutes or until soft

7. A small paring knife should easily puncture the apple skin to cavity center

8. Better get lots, the little goblins will certainly be begging for more!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

From jack-o-lanterns to pies, pumpkins have become an American tradition during this time of year. But, what to do with all those seeds after carving your spooky creation? This simple recipe has become a favorite of Paleo dieters everywhere.

4-6 Servings


  • 1 large pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. Carve pumpkin, remove seeds

3. Thoroughly rinse pumpkin from seeds and pat dry with paper towels

4. Put seeds in a bowl and mix thoroughly with olive oil and spices

5. Spread seeds evenly on non-stick baking pan

6. Bake for 30 minutes, turning seeds every 10 minutes

Paleo Children | The Paleo Diet

Hello Dr. Cordain and Team,

I am a passionate Paleo follower and advocate this healthy way of eating to anyone who will listen. My question is in regards to my children aged 2 and a half and 3 and a half. Are there any special considerations that need to be made for small children?

My children love to eat meat, chicken, fish, and a large amount of fresh fruit and vegetables which is awesome. They eat small amounts of walnuts and pecans (cut up very small and eaten under supervision), I cook with extra virgin coconut oil, and they have a small cup of coconut water with dinner (only water other than that). We have not had wheat/gluten for 2 years, have stopped using gluten-free grains and use almond meal for special occasions. I have recently weaned my 2 and a half year old and have stopped giving my children organic milk after reading your book, though I occasionally use mozzarella and Parmesan when I make pizza for my husband and children. I want my children to have the best possible nutrition and I am a mum so I worry naturally, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,


Lorrie Cordain’s Response:

Dear Georgia,

Thanks so much for sharing Paleo with your friends and family. We are passionate about the numerous health benefits of The Paleo Diet and believe that it is people like you who are helping to spread the word, which in turn improves the health of so many people worldwide.

Your question is important, and one that we receive often from conscientious parents just like you, who are interested in making sure their children are getting all the nutritional requirements they need to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Our recommendation is that the optimal time to begin introducing children to The Paleo Diet is at the time they are weaned and begin eating solid foods. When our 3 boys entered this stage of development, we used a blender or food processor to make a Paleo version of the organic, grass fed meats, and healthy fruits, and veggies we had cooked for our family meals. We found “baby food” very simple to prepare, and our children enjoyed these foods, developing their own personal tastes for a variety of dishes.

Once children reach the age of 2-3, like your children, they have grown enough teeth to be able to enjoy the same, delicious foods you prepare for the grown-ups in the family. Be sure that foods are well cooked and cut into very small pieces, as children this age can easily choke. Most pediatricians caution parents against feeding their children foods such as grapes and large pieces of meat, so use common sense when presenting foods that could cause problems. Bananas, peaches, mango, and avocado are good fresh foods that can be cut in to small pieces and eaten without cooking.

As children continue to grow, they are able to eat raw fruits, veggies and dense meats. Introduce new Paleo foods gradually and avoid forcing any foods that your child indicates he or she is not ready for. Parental attitudes about food are very important when raising healthy children. Food should never be presented as a reward or punishment and children should not be forced to continue eating when they are feeling full. We have been very mindful of this while raising our children and make consistent efforts to make our family meals a time of coming together to enjoy healthy foods. It is important to make every effort to gather daily as a family to share our lives over a delicious Paleo meal!

Over the years, many friends and family have asked us how to ensure that their children eat Paleo foods at all times, whether they are at school, visiting friends, or attending social functions. It may surprise you that we have never been quite this vigilant and strict with our children’s food choices. We feel that it is our responsibility to continually educate, provide, and model for our children the importance of eating a Paleo Diet. Equally important, we have shared the scientific principles that guide The Paleo Diet concepts and the positive impact this lifestyle will have on their health throughout their lives. We want our kids to make educated decisions and understand the implications for their choices. All of them have enjoyed the occasional pizza birthday party with friends, a fast food hamburger with fries, or a sweet snack. Because they have been given the information they need, each has made the personal decision to choose mainly healthy, Paleo foods as their dietary lifestyle of choice. Too many kids leave home for the first time and go overboard on the choice to eat all the forbidden foods which are suddenly unrestricted and readily available. Hence the infamous “Freshman 15!” With 2 children in college and one in high school, we find that guiding their food choices throughout their growing up years, and allowing the occasional treat has led them to make very healthy choices on their own. This is a gift you can give your children to take with them as they head down the road for a lifetime of health and longevity. Best of luck to you and your children!

All the best,

Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed.
The Paleo Diet Team

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