The Next Step for the Paleo Diet
If you haven’t heard about the paleo diet yet then you will probably be hearing more about it soon. The paleo diet has been growing in popularity over the years, and there are many who follow it’s guidelines with unrelenting passion. Indeed, this has become more than just a diet, it is a paleo lifestyle. The core of the paleo diet is built on the belief that our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors were not plagued by many of the medical conditions which have become quite a problem for our modern day society. The notion here is that many of the food items we have been exposed to since the agricultural revolution are to blame for causing obesity and other ailments like diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Our early ancestors were able to avoid these problems by living off a diet that was rich in lean animal protein, fruits, and vegetables.
Many people have become intrigued by what the paleo diet can offer. The rising trend has found popularity through such outlets as CrossFit and other nutrition resources available online. Some people are simply amazed at how someone on the paleo diet can completely give up things like sugar, dairy, beans, and grains. Many of these are long time staples of the American diet (just go check out the current U.S. food pyramid).
One of the original founders of the paleo diet and movement is Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University who obtained his doctorate in exercise science. He wrote what could be referred to as the paleo dieter’s original guide aptly named The Paleo Diet. Now with the formation of the Paleo Physicians Network, he wants to help connect consumers with physicians who practice Evolutionary Medicine. Cordain’s new network has listed hundreds of these evolutionary physicians from all over the country.
This new project has been met with a lot of early enthusiasm, but unfortunately there is one small problem with the design of the Paleo Physicians Network. Evolutionary/Darwinian medicine is not a proven fact; it is still only a theory. So, according to one of the people who originally coined the term “evolutionary medicine”, there isn’t anyone who can actually practice it.
One of the so-called fathers of evolutionary medicine is Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Michigan. He co-wrote what became a very influential paper in 1991 which was called “The Dawn of Darwinian Medicine”. In this paper, Nesse was able to make a very solid case for the need for more research on how evolution by natural selection can help us understand what makes humans ill. However, when asked his opinion on the new Paleo physicians Network, Nesse admitted that he was not a fan.
Nesse has been open about his advocacy for conducting research on the theory of evolutionary medicine, but this research has not been conducted yet. According to him, doctors presently know very little about the role of evolution. Nesse believes that direct application of evolutionary medicine should be avoided until after they have been able to conduct some real clinical trials.
Of course, not everyone shares Nesse’s viewpoint. One of the physicians in the Paleo Physicians Network is Lane Sebring, and he claims to have been using evolutionary medicine for more than a decade. Sebring runs a clinic in Austin, Texas, and he says that evolutionary medicine has allowed him to treat various conditions like depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
During a recent interview, Sebring explained how many of his patients had received little to no benefits from modern medicine. He prefers to talk to his patients about what kind of diet and exercise is best for the human body. In order to do that effectively, one needs to recognize what human genes are capable of. According to both Cordain and Sebring, there have been some early clinical studies with participants on the paleo diet. They have been relatively small in size, but apparently the early results have been quite promising.
Sebring informs his patients that there are certain foods which the human body is genetically programmed for, for instance berries. The paleo diet can help the body to repair itself, and it can help it be better. After eliminating the “bad” food items from your everyday diet, you will feel that difference in your body.
Still, the biggest roadblock for evolutionary medicine and the paleo diet is the level of commitment that it requires. Most people have a hard time making the necessary lifestyle changes. Avoiding those “bad” foods for a few days or even a week or two isn’t too hard; it’s maintaining that dietary course for the long run that proves too difficult for most people.
Growing up in the modern day society, a person’s daily meals will often contain dairy based products, something with whole grains, or something that has sugar in it. After having all of these things all of the time, the paleo diet can seem extremely restrictive to the average person today. Plus, it advocates an elimination of multiple food groups which many nutrition experts would suggest as part of a healthy diet.
However, Nesse has openly claimed that there is an evolutionary flaw present in the structure of the paleo diet. According to Nesse, people have always been trying to develop the normal human diet, but this can’t be done across the board. Each and every diet out there can provide some sort of advantage. In the end, the human race has been evolving for thousands of years, and they have lived in many different places all around the world. At this point, we have already adapted to a wide variety of different diets.