Tag Archives: research

Red Meat Healthy


“The potentially unhealthful effects of eating red meat are so small that they may be of little clinical significance for many people.”

That quote from a recent New York Times article1, and attributed to a recent dietary guideline published in the Annals of Internal Medicine2 certainly will get some attention.

While followers of The Paleo Diet® have known for a long time that “There’s beef, and then there’s beef,”—meaning lean, grass-fed, unprocessed beef is good for you, and fatty, unprocessed or processed beef certainly is not—this new story about beef is quite a revelation for many readers in the general public. No doubt, there will continue to be controversy and confusion.

Unfortunately, we do not often see distinctions in the media, or for that matter in the scientific literature, between the various kinds of beef that people consume. As Paleo followers understand, the differences can be enormous.

In fairness to the Johnston team of researchers, they did make distinctions between unprocessed and processed beef, and summarized and analyzed the existing data for both. However, the frequent primary focus on the content of potentially harmful palmitic acid (a saturated fat, 16:0) or adulterants (i.e., antibiotics, other additives) in many cases seems to lack evidence.

Here at The Paleo Diet®, we continue to encourage you to be smart about your consumption of beef. Lean, grass-fed, unprocessed beef is loaded with wonderful nutrients, and avoids the adulterants and excess palmitic acid that turn what would otherwise be a great meal into a really bad idea.

We will continue to follow this story, and offer updates as they are warranted.

If you’re still interested, here is another article we wrote about red meat and The Paleo Diet!



1Carroll, A.E. 2019. The real problem with beef. New York Times, 1 October 2019, updated 2 October 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/upshot/beef-health-climate-impact.html

2Johnston, B.C. et al. 2019. Unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption: dietary guideline recommendations from the NutriRECS Consortium. Annals of Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.7326/M19-1621 https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2752328/unprocessed-red-meat-processed-meat-consumption-dietary-guideline-recommendations-from

Bill Manci is president of Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc., a Fort Collins, Colorado-based aquaculture, aquaponics, and fisheries consulting firm.


Tufts University | The Paleo Diet

The scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University are launching a new research survey examining various kinds of popular dietary patterns in adults ages 18+.

The project is called ADAPT, for Adhering to Dietary Approaches for Personal Taste.

They are currently recruiting with a brief (10-15 min) survey to assess interest and demonstrate the feasibility of this project and of a potential larger study. They need your help!

Please visit //ow.ly/OsdOn to complete the survey.

For more information, please email adaptinfo@tufts.edu.

Over 11,000 Participants – You Could Be One!

Tufts University | ADAPT

Fire Production | The Paleo Diet
In our world, fire is such a basic element that we almost never give it a second thought. You click upon your gas powered kitchen range and instantly a circular blue flame emerges to fry your eggs, boil your water or steam your veggies. Your summertime barbecue or campfire is lit without a second thought from the cheap butane lighter you bought from the convenience store. If you happen to be a cigarette or pot smoker – who amongst you worries about ignition for your habit – the problem is not fire starting itself, but rather paying for or obtaining tobacco or marijuana. Such is the way of the western world – virtually all of us do not give a second thought about creating fire. We can all do it at anytime we want with no worry whatsoever.

But what if in our contemporary world we didn’t have a butane lighter, matches or other modern procedures to produce fire? How could it be done? Do you know how to start a simple fire without modern technology? Could you create a simple flame to cook, to smoke or for warmth? I am not a betting man, but I can almost guarantee you that for even a hundred or a thousand dollars, none of you could start a fire without modern technology, even if your life depended upon it. The very first friction matches were only invented in 1827 by John Walker2 and the invention of simple butane lighters are even more recent still in the early part of the 20th century. How did humanity create fire before these inventions?

Let’s eventually travel backwards in time and see how fire was created without modern technology, but more importantly, for the Paleo Diet community, let’s examine how the control and production of fire defines the food groups that our ancestors could not have consumed – food groups that have now become arbitrary staples of civilization and which are ironically recommended by governmental and institutional organizations as promoters of good health and well being.

As simple as it seems; knowing, using and producing fire from an evolutionary perspective requires a number of fundamental steps:

  1. Logical identification of the event (fire itself)
  2. Recognition of fire’s benefits
  3. Controlling fire
  4. Producing fire at will4, 15

Virtually all mammals and primates are aware of fire’s dangers and logically flee from it, but none other than our own species identify its potential benefits. The majority of the anthropological community now recognize that fire use by hominids did not appear habitually anywhere in the world except in Europe, sporadically and opportunistically until about 300,000 to 400,000 years ago.9, 11, 14 I quote the most comprehensive recent review of ancient fire use:

“However, surprisingly, evidence for use of fire in the Early and early Middle Pleistocene of Europe is extremely weak. Or, more exactly, it is nonexistent, until ∼300–400 ka.”11

What does this statement mean? It means that Neanderthals living in Europe 300,000 to 400,000 years ago were the first hominids to:

  1. Logically identify fire
  2. Recognize its benefits
  3. Control it

However, the huge caveat here is that they almost certainly did not have the ability to produce fire at will.12, 13 How do we know this? Archaeological excavations of Neanderthal caves during extended cold periods in Europe show a virtual lack of fire use when the climate worsened and became quite frigid.12, 13 Accordingly, Neanderthals were at the mercy of collecting naturally occurring fire and keeping it alive for extended periods. Clearly, this approach was a “hit and miss” venture at best, as Neanderthals frequently suffered in the bitter cold of their winter caves without fire.12, 13

Controlling Fire vs. Producing Fire

The archaeological record from Europe shows evidence for fire control by about 300,000 to 400,000 years ago, but remember that the ability to control fire is far different than the ability to produce it.9, 11, 14 Naturally occurring fire results from lightening strikes, volcanic eruptions and spontaneous combustion via decaying plant material. Far and away, lightening is responsible for almost all naturally occurring fires. Hence, before humanity had the ability to produce fire, we were generally limited to collecting and preserving lightening caused fires. Apparently, this strategy was opportunistic and occasional at best, based upon the scarcity of fire in the early fossil record.9, 11, 12-14, 18 Because humanity lacked the knowledge and capacity to produce fire wherever and whenever we desired, then this limitation clearly prevented us from regularly consuming entire categories of plant foods (cereal grains, almost all legumes and most tubers and roots) which are normally inedible without cooking. The inability of humanity to produce fire therefore represents a crucial “line drawn in the sand” for defining foods and food groups that should or should not be included in contemporary Paleo Diets.

Producing Fire

As simple as it seems, fire production without modern technology is complicated, requires practice, instruction and dedicated skills.2 Alfred Kroeber, a world famous anthropologist from the University of California at Berkeley who studied the last wild Indian (Ishi) in North America in the early 1900s, simply could not light a fire in front of his University anthropology class when attempting to use Ishi’s hand held fire drill.20

Our genus (Homo) first appeared on earth about 2 million years ago. The most current data suggests that the ability to habitually produce fire by our species occurred only as, “a very late phenomenon restricted to the archaeological record of modern humans at the end of the Pleistocene.”14 This evidence based conclusion12-14 is consistent with the sum of the most recent archaeological data and does not support prior propositions of earlier habitual fire production, but rather opportunistic gathering of naturally occurring fire.1, 3, 18, 19 If we look at the emergence of habitual fire production as an exclusive innovation of modern humans, then you can appreciate how recent this technology really is, particularly from an evolutionary time scale. To put things into a perspective that we can all understand, fire production likely first came into regular play on a 24 hour time clock for all of humanity somewhere between 36 to 48 minutes (75,000 to 100,00 years ago) to midnight. Think about it – our genus (Homo) has existed for more than 2 million years, yet except for the final throes of our evolutionary period on earth did we ever consume any plant foods (cereal grains, legumes and most tuber and roots) that required cooking to make them edible.

One of the questions you certainly must ask, as have numerous people and professional anthropologists have posed before you is this: why did it take so long and why was it so difficult for humanity to produce fire? One of Charles Dickens’ most famous quotes, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” sticks in my mind. Good ideas become the “best of times” but only until they surface – before their appearance we must endure the prior status quo with the “worst of times.” Over the course of our species evolution, human technological innovation has moved at a dreadfully slow pace, primarily because prior accomplishments could not be documented or widely distributed until the advent of writing, the printing press and most recently computers and the internet. Nevertheless, the invention of fire production was an innovation that seems to have taken the entire world by storm sometime after modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and then began to colonize the planet about 60,000 years ago.2, 5-9

So just how did our ancestors do it? How did they invent the ability to produce fire whenever and wherever they wanted? The ethnographic literature of hunter gatherer societies universally shows that they utilized two basic means to generate fire:

  1. Wood on wood friction2, 4, 6-8
  2. Stone on stone percussion or friction using flint and iron bearing stones (pyrite or marcasite)10, 14, 15-17

Archaeological evidence from Europe indicates that production of fire via flint and iron stone percussion was rare or virtually absent in pre-agricultural people throughout Europe.14 Hence, it seems likely that the first Europeans to produce fire may have utilized wood on wood friction techniques to start fires.14 This fire starting procedure (wood on wood friction) likely spread rapidly worldwide, and evidence for fire production via this method appears in Australian2, 4 and North American hunter gatherer societies2, 6-8 as humans colonized these continents and elsewhere.2

Fire starting by wood on wood friction can be accomplished by a number of procedures. The most common method by worldwide hunter gatherers is the fire or hand drill (Figure 1 below).2, 4, 6 Other methods include the bow drill, the pump drill, the fire plow, the fire saw and the spear thrower over shield.2 Although the fire drill appears to be an easy and straightforward technique to produce fire, a number of crucial technological nuances virtually prevent unskilled operators from successfully producing fire,2 as was similarly experienced by Professor Kroeber in front of his anthropology class.20 Skilled hunter gatherers under good conditions can ignite fire in less than a minute with a fire drill, whereas the best modern survivalists can do it in 28 seconds.2

Logic dictates that the very first humans to start a fire via the hand drill method certainly did not preconceive this method in its entirety with the intent of producing fire. Rather fire must have accidentally resulted from an entirely separate operation – drilling to produce holes in objects.

Fire Production Figure 1

Figure 1. Fire production by the Giwi Hunter Gatherers using fire drills.

Since the appearance of modern humans in Europe more than 40,000 years ago, the fossil record is replete with drilled items – bone and stone necklaces, bone flutes, wooden grommets, and other items which are perforated with holes either drilled or punched into them. Accordingly, the very first fire ever created by any human from the hand drill method must have unexpectedly occurred with the original goal of drilling a hole into a wooden object with a wooden drilling stick. I bring this concept up to provide corroborative evidence that Neanderthals nor any other earlier hominid had the ability to habitually produce fire. Until modern humans arrived on the scene, the fossil record is almost completely devoid of drilled objects. Hence, the technology (drilling) that allowed modern humans to accidentally discover a universal procedure to ignite fire was not part of the technological repertoire of any hominids that came before us.

Nutritional and Dietary Implications of Fire Production

Before I leave this discussion, the most important consequence of when fire production first occurred in our ancestral past is the nutritional “line in the sand” that I alluded to earlier. As the Paleo Diet becomes more and more popular, its original message has become weakened by so-called experts whose Paleo food recommendations now include legumes, beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, lima beans, green beans, peas, quinoa, chia seeds, amaranth and other foods which are either toxic, indigestible or minimally digestible without cooking.21, 22 Further, these foods contain a variety of antinutrients (phytate, lectins, saponins, protease inhibitors, thaumatin-like proteins, tannins, isoflavones, raffinose oligosaccharides, cyanogenetic glycosides, favism glycosides and others), which in both their uncooked and cooked states impair gut health, immune and hormonal function while impairing nutrient absorption.21, 22

Our species has no nutritional requirement for cereal grains, legumes or tubers. We can obtain all required human vitamins and minerals from fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, shellfish, seafood, eggs and nuts. The archaeological evidence produces a clear factual mandate that no hominids had the ability to habitually produce fire until very recent evolutionary times.11-14 Accordingly, plant foods that required the production of fire and cooking for their digestion and assimilation were not part of our original menu. Incorporation of these foods into contemporary diets is now known to reduce the nutrient density (vitamins and minerals of the 13 nutrients most lacking in the US diet)23, 24 while simultaneously promoting chronic diseases of western civilization.24, 25

The invention of fire was a very good thing. It changed our lives forever. The important message here for the 21st century Paleo Diet movement is to leave the worst of our ancestral world behind us (living in cold caves, etc.) and to adopt the best of their world (fresh living foods, regular exercise and sunlight exposure).


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


1. Berna F, Goldberg P, Horwitz LK, Brink J, Holt S, Bamford M, Chazan M. Microstratigraphic evidence of in situ fire in the Acheulean strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 15;109(20):E1215-20

2. Blake S, Welch DM. Making Fire. David M. Welch Publisher, Australian Aboriginal Culture Series, 2006.

3. Brain CK, Sillen A. Evidence from the Swartkrans cave for the earliest use of fire. Nature 1988;336:464-466.

4. Davidson DS. Fire making in Australia. Am Anthropologist 1947; 49:426-437.

5. Frazer, SJ. Myths of the Origin of Fire :An Essay. MacMillan Press, London, 1930.

6. Hough W. Aboriginal fire-making. Am Anthropologist 1890;3(4): 359-372.

7. Hough W. Fire as an Agent in Human Culture. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., 1926.

8. Hough W. Fire making apparatus in the United States National Museum. In: Proc U S Natl Mus, 1928, p. 73.

9. James, SR. Hominid use of fire in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene: a review of the evidence. Curr Anthropol 1989;30: 1-26.

10. Mountford CP, Berndt RM. Making fire by percussion in Australia. Oceania 1941; 11(4): 342-344.

11. Roebroeks W, Villa P. On the earliest evidence for habitual use of fire in Europe. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 29;108(13):5209-14

12. Sandgathe DM, Dibble HL, Goldberg P, McPherron SP, Turq A, Niven L, Hodgkins J. Timing of the appearance of habitual fire use. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 19;108(29):E298.

13. Sandgathe DM, Dibble HL, Goldberg P, McPherron SP, Turq A, Niven L, Hodgkins J. On the role of fire in Neandertal adaptations in western Europe: evidence from Pech de l’Aze IV and Roc de Marsal, France. Paleo Anthropology 2011;216-242.

14. Sorensen A, Roebroeks W, van Gijn A. Fire production in the deep past? The expedient strike-a-light model. J Archaeol Sci 2014; 42:476-486.

15. Stapert D, Johansen L. Flint and pyrite: making fire in the Stone Age. Antiquity 1999; 73:765-777.

16. Weiner J. Pyrite vs. marcasite. Or: is everything that glitters pyrite? with a structured bibliography on firemaking through the ages. Bull Cherch Wallonie 1997;37:51-79.

17. Weiner J. Friction vs. percussion. Some comments on firemaking from Old Europe. Bull Primit Technol 2003; 26:10-16.

18. Wrangham R. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Basic Books, New York, 2009.

19. Wrangham R, Carmody R. Human adaptation to the control of fire. Evol Anthropol 2010;19:187-199.

20. Kroeber T. Ishi in Two Worlds, 50th Anniversary Edition: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2011.

21. Cordain L. (1999). Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, 84: 19-73.

22. Cordain L. (2012). The trouble with beans. In: Cordain L, The Paleo Answer, John Wiley & Sons, NY, NY, pp 130-147.

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

24. 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.

25. Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol 2011; 2: 215-235.

Scientific Verification of Paleolithic Diets

I would like to report some good news for The Paleo Diet community. We now have the first long term, 2 Year Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to show The Paleo Diet to be superior health wise to low fat, high carbohydrate diets.11 This study, “Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial”  adds to the increasing body of scientific literature to substantiate the therapeutic health effects of contemporary Paleo diets tested experimentally in humans.1-10

Past criticism of The Paleo Diet by the U.S. News and World Reports, which rated the Paleo Diet dead last among 32 popular diets, indicated that the Paleo Diet had not been adequately tested in the long term in the scientific and medical literature. This criticism is unfounded given this new study11 which corroborates the numerous experimental studies demonstrating the various therapeutic health effects of The Paleo Diet.1-10 The criticism is also hypocritical given that the majority of the popular diets listed in the USNWR rankings have never been tested in the long term, nor have they even been examined in the medical literature.

Experimental human studies have shown the Paleo Diet to be superior health-wise to diabetic diets in a randomized crossover trials2, 10 and to Mediterranean diets.4, 5 Further, The Paleo Diet is nutritionally superior to the USDA My Plate (formerly the My Pyramid) diet in the 13 nutrients most lacking in the US diet.12, 13

In this new study11 The Paleo Diet proved superior to a low fat, high carbohydrate diet for weight loss at 6, 12 and 18 months, for body fat, waist circumference and sagittal, abdominal diameter at 6 months. Further, The Paleo Diet caused greater improvements in blood triglycerides after 2 years than the low fat, high carbohydrate diet.

It should be noted that because the sample size in this study at 24 months (27 subjects in the Paleo group, 22 subjects in the low fat, high carbohydrate group) was relatively small, it lacked the statistical power to detect non-significant therapeutic changes that occurred in the Paleo Diet group relative to the low carbohydrate group. Specifically, improvements occurred in the following variables for the Paleo Diet: 1) systolic blood pressure (p=0.29), 2) blood cholesterol (p=0.23), 3) LDL cholesterol (p=0.29).

Finally, it should be noted that consumption of The Paleo Diet resulted in important dietary characteristics which improved significantly (p<0.05) after 2 years: these variables included: increases in dietary protein, reductions in dietary carbohydrate, increases in monounsaturated fat, increases in polyunsaturated fats, increases in omega 3 fatty acids, reductions in omega 6 fatty acids, and reductions in dietary cholesterol. All of these nutritional changes are known to have multiple positive health effects that reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome diseases, cancer and autoimmunity. Future studies12 will help to further establish how contemporary Paleo diets may improve health and well being.


Loren Cordain, Professor Emeritus


1. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009.

2. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström M, Lindeberg S. 3. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35

3. Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7(1):85

4. Lindeberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, Ahren B: A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia 2007, 50(9):1795-1807.

5. O’Dea K: Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes 1984, 33(6):596-603.

6. Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wandell PE: Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008, 62(5):682-685.

7. Ryberg M, Sandberg S, Mellberg C, Stegle O, Lindahl B, Larsson C, Hauksson J, Olsson T. A Palaeolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women. J Intern Med. 2013 Jul;274(1):67-76

8. Frassetto LA, Shi L, Schloetter M, Sebastian A, Remer T. Established dietary estimates of net acid production do not predict measured net acid excretion in patients with Type 2 diabetes on Paleolithic-Hunter-Gatherer-type diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;67(9):899-903.

9. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Lindeberg S, Hallberg AC. Subjective satiety and other experiences of a Paleolithic diet compared to a diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr J. 2013 Jul 29;12:105.

10. Mellberg, C., Sandberg, S., Ryberg, M., Eriksson, M., Brage, S., Larsson, C., et al. (2014). Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.290 //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24473459.

11. 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

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

13. Fontes-Villalba M, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Frassetto LA, Sundquist J, Sundquist K, Carrera-Bastos P, Fika-Hernándo M, Picazo O, Lindeberg S. A healthy diet with and without cereal grains and dairy products in patients with type 2 diabetes: study protocol for a random-order cross-over pilot study – Alimentation and Diabetes in Lanzarote -ADILAN. Trials. 2014 Jan 2;15(1):2

Dr. Pastore's Questions | The Paleo Diet

Dear Robert,

Good to hear from you again, and many thanks for your professional support of my research agenda over the years.  I would be quite happy to answer these questions for your interns.

1. What process do you use to start a research project?

Cordain: It usually starts with an unanswered question I have in my mind, or an inconsistentchy between or among scientific papers I have read.  For instance, my paper (Cordain L, Brand Miller J, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SHA, Speth JD.  Plant to animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in world wide hunter-gatherer diets.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  2000, 71:682-92.) arose from a concern I had with Boyd Eaton’s original 1985 NEJM Paleolithic Nutrition paper in which he indicated the normal hunter gatherer plant to animal subsitence ratio was 65 % plant food and 35 % animal food.  The reference he cited was a chapter in a book (Man the Hunter, 1968) by Richard Lee, a Harvard anthropologist who had studied the !Kung hunter gatherers.  In Lee’s chapter, he indicated that the !Kung plant to animal subsistence (65 % plant, 35 % animal) was similar to that reported for most hunter gatherers in Murdock’s Ethnographic Atlas.  So, I went to the original source (the Ethnographic Atlas) and put the data set for 229 hunter gatherers into an Excel spreadsheet, and discovered that in fact the average subsistence was almost entirely the opposite (65 % animal and 35 % plant).  In Lee’s analysis, he failed to include fished animal food along with hunted animal foods.  Hence, Boyd Eaton had simply repeated an earlier assumption/mistake that I uncovered by going to the original source and reanalyzing the data.

2. What specific tools do you use in your work (e.g., databases, forms of measurement, statistics)?

Cordain: About 1/3 of my research is empirically derived via experiments or measurements, whereas 2/3 come from papers in which I review prior data in a novel manner to generate a new perspective/hypothesis upon previous dogma.  For instance, prior to my paper (Cordain L, Lindeberg S, Hurtado M, Hill K, Eaton SB, Brand-Miller J. (2002). Acne vulgaris: A disease of civilization.  Archives of Dermatology,138: 1584-90.) the dogma in the dermatology community was that diet did not cause acne.  Years earlier, I had read an obscure paper by a Canadian physician (Otto Schaefer) who provided medical care to the Inuit between 1950 to 1970 as they made the transition from traditional hunters/fishers to the western world.  In this paper, he said that acne was unknown in the Inuit until they adopted a western diet.  In my Archives of Dermatology paper, I wanted to document if indeed non-westernized peoples had no acne.  I recruited two researchers (Staffan Lindeberg and Kim Hill) who worked directly with the Kitavan islanders and the Ache hunter gatherers respectively.  We reported no acne in either of these populations.  Hence, I had my answer.  What I had to do was go back into the dermatology/medical literature and back engineer the mechanism by which a western diet could elicit acne at the cellular level.  I accomplished this by immersing myself in the salient literature to develop a hypothetical mechanism which was verified  4 years later by my colleague, Neil Mann in a randomized controlled trial of a high protein/low glycemic index diet.

3. How did you gain your expertise with the various tools that you use?

Cordain: I learned most of the tools of the trade (probability, statistics, research design, computer use) in graduate school, but necessarily do a lot of reading in all fields to keep abreast of new ideas and data as it arises.

4. What are some important experiences or suggestions that you’d like to share with a novice researcher?

Cordain: Always go back to the original sources/papers and re-read them.  If you ever catch a splinter of inconsistency, doggedly pursue it to its logical conclusion.

5. What’s the best way for me to learn more about research in Paleolithic Nutrition?

Cordain: Voraciously read everything you can on the topic and devise a logical filing system where you can rapidly access all of the information.

6. What motivates you as a researcher?

Cordain: Curiosity, enthusiasm and excitement about discovering new insights into unknown or poorly understood phenomenon. Currently, my passion is how diet may represent an environmental trigger that may underlie most autoimmune diseases.

7. What experience or life event caused you to research Paleolithic nutrition?

Cordain: In 1987, I read Boyd Eaton’s now classical 1985 NEJM paper on the topic and decided it was about the best idea I had ever read on the underlying rationale for human nutrition and healthful diets.  After reading this paper, I went out and copied and read all of articles Boyd had cited in this paper.  I then read most of the citations in those papers and continued the process.  I then started to organize all of these papers into topics (cereal grains, dairy, legumes, salt etc.) and put them into file folders.  After about 3-5 years of doing this, I found myself with a mountain of information and patterns began to emerge from all of these papers, and these patterns have formed the basis for many of my publications.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

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