Dr. Mark Smith was an integral part of the original research conducted by Dr. Loren Cordain, the creator and author of “The Paleo Diet.” During this interview Dr. Smith and I discuss what the Paleo diet truly consist of, and answer a lot of questions regarding the confusion of what the Paleo Diet represents in today’s health world.
Gary Collins: Hi, this is Gary Collins, best selling author and creator of www.thesimplelifenow.com. I’m here with Dr. Mark Smith. He did some early research with Dr. Lauren Cordain (creator of “The Paleo Diet”), so I thought it would be interesting to have him on, and discuss a few things. For those unfamiliar with you, Dr. Smith, would you explain your background in how you worked with Dr. Lauren Cordain in the beginning?
Dr. Mark Smith: Sure. I actually was originally from the UK. I might sound a little Australian.
Mark: That’s because I lived in Australia while I was in Colorado State University with Lauren. But I was in the UK. I went to a big sports college called Loughborough University, doing an undergrad in sports science.
I did a teaching certificate after that, and a lot of the professors there had come from the States and done Masters’ Degrees in universities out here. A lot of us were very keen to follow that route, and that’s indeed what happened.
I came out to Colorado State University and studied for a Master’s Degree. Lauren was actually my adviser for my Master’s Degree. It’s funny, I look back on that and boy, how many research projects I’d love to do now on Paleolithic nutrition.
Mark: But at that time, it was very early days for Lauren in researching Paleolithic nutrition. It was just a sort of brief part of some of our discussions. It wasn’t until I finished my Doctorate and at the end of my Doctorate, that I really started working with Dr. Cordain on the Paleolithic nutrition.
Basically what happened was my Doctorate was after the sports science degree. I transferred over to the physiology department. My Doctorate was on cardiovascular disease, with an emphasis on atherosclerosis. I did a lot of animal research on it. Obviously, dietary related ‑‑ we were working with atherogenic diets, and looking at intervention of trying to improve it.
The pivotal moment was, when I was giving my presentation. Everyone was like, “What are going to do after this?” The postdoc didn’t interest me that much. My first paper published in the journal of essential fatty acid, leukotrienes and essential fatty acid leukotrienes and prostaglandin was a best seller [laughs] .
Gary: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
Mark: How many people are going to read that? I just felt my niche was going to be getting into the real world and educating people. The biggest thing that I learned from the research with the swine was to not eat a bad diet in the first place, rather than later on trying to work on intervention.
But it was a fantastic experience, going through the research process. I then ended up doing an effective postdoc with Lauren. I became an Affiliate Faculty in the department of what then was exercise and sports science. It’s been renamed since. Having Lauren as my advisor, through my master’s, I was always interested in where he was at with the balance of nutrition.
It was funny. In those days, he was like the mad professor in his office. I’d go in to see him, and we’d just chat. He’d be like, “Gosh, I’ve just seen this new paper.” As he’s alluded to at different times, the dairy file was one filing cabinet. Now, he could probably fill a room, just on diary alone. I saw the progression of all of this.
It just made perfect sense to me from the get‑go. I became a part of the team. I started doing lectures, almost on his behalf, to different organizations. At one of the lectures, there was another gal, Lynn Toohey, who was interested. We ended up forming a team. We published a few papers together. We used to meet, I’d say maybe once a week. We’d have an hour to two hours, sit down, and talk about different papers.
What we had really done is go, “We think this is a good template. It makes sense. There’s nothing, necessarily, at this point, supporting it.” There were a few things, and we were just trying to play the mad scientist and take a jigsaw piece and put it onto this puzzle and go, “This piece of research over here fits this model that we have.”
I, myself, am very interested in more of the clinical application. I was always keen, when we started doing these lectures, we’d get calls from people going, “I’m interested in this study that you’re talking about,” particularly with autoimmune patients. That was where our initial research was going. The thought process was, “Was it the newer foods, from a genetic perspective ‑‑ the grains, the dairy, and the legumes ‑‑ causing autoimmune disease.
I was the volunteer to go, “Hey, I’ll go talk to them.” I remember one ‑‑ we’ll talk about the case study of this ‑‑ lady with multiple sclerosis. I sat in there and said, “Look. Here’s this diet that we think is going to be really good. I can’t guarantee it’s going to work for your MS. I have no idea, really, but there’s this hypothesis.”
This is where I can to so many people, “Here’s what I can guarantee. It’s a really healthy diet. If we analyze this diet, there are no deficiencies. You’ve got everything you need. There are just no negatives. As long as you don’t do any harm, it may help your MS.” Guess what? It did help her MS, and it helped people with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Then, of course, it starts the floodgates. People hear this, and they tell someone else. Then, of course, at some point it reached critical mass, and we are where we are today. I feel very privileged. I’m pre‑Robb Wolf, in terms of knowing Lauren.
On the other hand, I look at and wonder how many people I’ve actually influenced. I’m on the Titleist Performance Institute Nutritional Advisory Board. I’m often teaching within the classes. I’ve also done the World Gov Fitness Summit. Hundreds and hundreds of healthcare professionals come to that.
At the last one I did a Paleolithic lecture. I don’t know how many people I’ve told this way, or healthcare professionals that I’ve told to go and investigate it. Again, I’ve never had anyone come back to me and go, “It doesn’t work.”
At least at the time, it’s always positive, and sometimes with autoimmune patients where lives are completely changed, I’ve got loads of cases of that, as have many other people now who have adopted this approach.
Gary: Yeah. I think that’s really interesting. That’s why I tell people, “It’s not going to harm you. It can, depending…” I’ve had people who have been unsuccessful on the Paleo diet, to be honest with you, but it wasn’t catastrophic.
Mark: When you say unsuccessful, what was their lack of success?
Gary: For people who had thyroid issues, they weren’t getting enough fat. It was just tweaking. The diet worked. They just had to tweak it.
You never have this where someone goes off the rails. Actually, I’ve found out someone recently who said they weren’t successful. Well, the person teaching them the diet was teaching it wrong, so you can’t blame the diet. They were just teaching the wrong template.
Mark: A lot of the criticism out there sometimes is they love to create their own version of it or put words in people’s mouths. If they’re going to some Internet site with someone that doesn’t really have credentials to be talking about it, that’s just bad behavior. That’s cherry‑picking something they can slap down. If they truly go to those that are in the know and know what’s going on.
It varies all the way from very heavy plant based, but for the majority it would be more meat based. There is recognition that there is a spectrum of animal protein versus plant protein in the populations during that time.
To me, it’s just that template. I always encourage people to listen to their bodies and go, “Look. If you’re sitting at dinner having salmon and a salad, and you finish and you’re craving more salmon, have more salmon.” I’ve never restricted any calories. I tell people to listen to what their bodies are wanting them to do.
Gary: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I actually gave a lecture at a college today. It was based on the Paleo diet and some of the major principles. I got into that. Actually a couple of people asked me.
They go, “Does this diet work for everyone?” I went, “Well, yes, to a point. It’s a template.” I had to explain that we all come with genetic differences. We come from different ethnic backgrounds in US states we’re a big‑time melting pot.
It’s hard to even come to the point of what was your diet ancestrally for your family, because we don’t know anymore, because we’ve, for a simpler term, interbred. We have a lot of crossing of people who had lived in a different part of the world with another part. Now, you can’t truly figure out what your true diet is, or was.
It’s a big experiment. I do the same thing. I say, “Listen to your body.” Some people thrive on more carbs, but usually in the form of not‑starchy carbs, in the form of more vegetables, not legumes and grains.
Mark: I’ve yet to see anyone not succeed with a version of a Paleo diet.
Gary: Yeah, me either.
Mark: Meaning, I haven’t seen anyone not survive without grains, legumes or dairy. It’s more the macronutrient tweaking.
Obviously, there’s an interesting one when you start to look at the allergies to the Paleo foods. There are some of the nightshade ones, which are obviously talked about in autoimmune diseases. Even for some people, shellfish could be would be a great Paleo food.
I think a lot of those allergies are developed over time. I don’t think they are the initial cause of it. I think those are more gut permeability intolerances versus perhaps a receptor‑driven electing through the epidermal growth factor in the stomach getting into the systemic system. I think some of those can be…
In other words, I’ve seen people that have allergies to, say, shellfish. Once we’ve cleaned their gut up and they get healthier, they go back and reintroduce some foods that are Paleo, that were causing the problems, and they no longer causing the problems.
Gary: I find that as well. I tell people like that, “Your sensitivity is going to change. There are going to be foods that you thought you were tolerant to, that you are no longer tolerant to, and foods that you thought you could never eat again that you can eat again with no problem.” Probably the simplest one is always cheese. That’s always a big one.
People always go, “I’m lactose intolerant, and I can’t eat that.” I go, “Yes and no.” I know cheese is a big no‑no in Paleo, but I’m a primal guy. I always say, “A little dairy is fine here and there. It’s not going to kill you,” but I don’t tell them to eat it two times a day like Chris Kresser did. It’s more if you were to go out in nature and we would slaughter a pregnant animal and they would have milk in their mammillary glands.
I’m sure we didn’t just let the milk go to waste. I’m sure if it was there, we used it. But it wouldn’t be all the time. It would be on occasion, not every day.
Mark: In my lecture I’ve got a picture of a woman sucking on the teat of a cow. I should pull it up for you or send it. You could maybe have it as the….
Mark: …picture for it. It did at the Waldorf Fitness Center, and I totally forgot. I had this slide on behind me for a good two or three minutes as I’m talking about dairy consumption. I suddenly looked at some people, they’re sort of going, “Could you change the slide?” [laughs] I realize that’s a bit of an offensive slide. But it’s to make a point, how natural is that?
I think going to what you just said, you said I’m a primal guy, right? Is that the term used? It’s interesting for me to recently see Paleo versus primal and the 80/20 and all the rest of it. I’ve seen the criticism of some to Lauren like, “He’s too strict. He’s too this, or too extreme,” or whatever. I’m like, “OK, so if this 80/20 is OK, you’ll realize in his very first book he talks about level one, 85/15, level two, 90/10; level three, 95/10.
If you’re seeing success on 85/15, great. To me the way that I’ve always looked at this from day one when it made sense was like, “You’ve got to live.” I remember a friend of mine when I was really into this and I was playing rugby and he was a kid from Oklahoma. He was, “Put your best seven draw on it, or Oklahoma draw.” He was just like, “Maybe I’m damaged, but I don’t want to eat a bunch of food I don’t like, just to live a few more years to eat that same food I don’t like.”
Mark: I laughed and it was funny, and you might say that in your 20’s later on, or your might not. But the point of that is, I don’t want people if it’s just horrible for them and they just can’t overcome certain cravings, or they don’t enjoy it and they’re miserable, frankly we’re very complex creatures. You could maybe argue the endorphin released from eating foods that they like could override the benefit.
I’m all for going, “Look. Here’s a template. See how you do on this template. If you’re not getting healthier, I’d suggest you go stricter. If you’re still fine, you may even try being more lenient.” You can play around with that sliding scale. But the diet forms a template to what I believe ‑‑ and I think there really is some support ‑‑ is optimal nutrition.
Here’s a very simple to do, I think. If were to say ‑‑ so we can all talk on the same page ‑‑ let’s take Lauren’s book, his diet book, the recipe book. If you’re critical of the Paleo diet, go in and take any of those diets and show me how you can improve them by adding in grains, dairy or legumes.
What I mean by that is, we’ll go in there and do a dietary analysis all the way down to the minerals, vitamins, the Omega 6 and [indecipherable 13:56] free ratio, every little bit. Your CDTD alkalines, see all the rest of it. How do you lose by doing that? I don’t think you do. I think it’s easy to demonstrate that.
The question is; if you enjoy those other foods, do you need to be that strict? It’s the million dollar question. I think that can be self‑determined. That’s what I encourage my clients to do. I do it slightly differently. I actually have an 80/15/5, because I actually think there are three groups. There’s Paleo, there is non‑Paleo unprocessed, and then there’s processed.
To me, I say to people, their chips, pizza, that’s your five percent. Now we’re a little lower. Brown rice and potatoes, potentially; some cheese. We’re being there, back to stuff in the pre‑Industrial Revolution. Foods that weren’t really messed around with too much, but they’re not Paleo. It fits the kind of 15 percent category. I think they’re better than a lot of the processed foods.
They don’t have the artificial sweeteners in them. Heaven knows, they hopefully don’t have GMO in them and things like that. That’s the one I’ve done with a lot of people, and it allows them a little bit of cheating outside of Paleo, but still stay a little bit healthier and then, “Hey, enjoy yourself. Be sane.”
Gary: That’s what I tell people, too. They always go, “That Paleo diet, it’s so strict.” I go, “Yeah and no. You have to be strict in the beginning because we’ve got to clean everything up. We’ve got to get you past that hump and get you through the detox.” I always tell them, “Give me 30 days.”
Mark: Do you have to be strict, or is it better to be strict? I would it’s better to be strict.
Gary: Better to be strict, exactly.
Mark: I’ve had people, it still takes them longer but even going kind of an 80/20 when they’re very unhealthy…I say, when I look at that, Paleo, non‑Paleo, unprocessed and processed, if I say someone’s goal is 80/15/5, right now they might be 5/15/80. There are those people out there.
Gary: Oh yes.
Mark: If we move them to 50/25/25, we’re going to see a huge change in their health. That’s one of the big issues about sometimes picking research studies showing that grain consumption can help health. If you introduce steel cut oats ahead of the latest fruit loops for breakfast, I would expect to see an improvement in health. Duh.
Gary: Exactly. It always depends what that base line is. You know, you’ve been in it. You’ve done research. You can tweak research any way you want. You can cherry pick it any way you want to prove a point. I think it’s more, I always tell people I go by experience and feel. There’s great research out there, but the way to justify the research is show it works in everyday people.
That pretty much solidifies the theory. With that, there have been a lot of people who recently are jumping in, because they see an opportunity in the Paleo world. They’re calling themselves “experts.” They’re tweaking the template, adding in starchy carbs, everything’s got honey in it. Legumes are back in. Now they’re throwing in dairy. I think it’s caused a lot of confusion. What are your thoughts on some of that?
Mark: At the end of the day, the diets that they are probably working with are a hell of a lot better than people are eating now. They just need to call it…
Gary: Something else.
Mark: “John’s Diet,” or “Mary’s Diet,” and a tag line based off the initial Paleo diet. Something like that, but just don’t call it the “Paleo diet,” so that it creates that confusion. That’s annoying to me a little bit.
Gary: It’s funny, we’ve come to the same point. People think I’m hard core. I got called a couple of names, that I was just like a cult leader and all this, because I just said, “No. What I’m arguing for is the term they are using.” I went, “I have no problem with what they’re teaching.” Some of it I don’t agree with, but that’s fine. They don’t agree with everything I say, either. That’s how the world works.
But they were mis-defining the term and changing the term. I don’t think they had the credibility and background to change the term.
Mark: At the end of the day, why are we all doing this? I’m doing this.
Listen, I love living. I love life, and I want to live a long, happy life, disease free hopefully.
I enjoy it. I don’t really buy cheese in my house, but if I go to party, and I’m having a glass of red wine, and there’s some cheese there, I’ll probably have some cheese. I’ll probably indulge, but it’s not a staple of my diet.
I can’t remember the last time I went to a doctor. I’m disease‑free. I have no issues.
I can assure you if I suddenly had something happen to me, and I go to the doctors, and I’m diagnosed with MS, you bet your bottom dollar I’m going on a strict Paleo for a while to see if that’s going to be the solution. That would be my go‑to solution for any disease state, pretty much.
Gary: I agree with you. Any time I’ve run into snags in my life as far as things don’t seem right, I just make my diet a lot more strict, and go back to the really strict Paleo template and see if that solves it first, and then go from there.
Because it does, it cures a lot of issues. A lot of what they call disease.
It’s funny, they define it as disease, but I don’t know if I would it call it a disease because it’s actually a self‑perpetuated sickness, is what I call it, through poor diet. Disease would be technically something you’re born with in a gene, or gene expression, or in your genetics, as opposed to…
Mark: Or I suppose you could say the disease is a manifestation of the illness progressing to a disease, perhaps, that was caused by the bad nutrition in the first place.
Yeah, one of the things that really made me sort of just go, “Wow,” about the human body was a case study with MS that I had mentioned earlier. She was pretty bad and wheelchair‑bound.
She was about to go on an experimental drug. It’s interesting, if you look at the methodology of the experimental drug, basically they’re trying to get proteins into the system that would basically get those antibodies to not attack the self but to attach to the drug.
Really and truly the concept of the Paleolithic diet would be to go, “Well, let’s not put the stimulating foods in the diet in the first place,” because it really is like a three‑way mimicry.
There’s usually, what we typically have seen, a three‑way mimicry where there’s perhaps been a viral attack at some point that would have stimulated the immune system.
Then you’ve really got to have a constant stimulus, which isn’t necessarily a virus. The virus may not even be with them anymore. Then there’s mimicry between those three.
The haplotype is where the genetic factor comes in, where one person it would affect and another person it wouldn’t, is how that immune system grabs that protein to present it to the immune system. Based on the haplotype it can grab it in different places.
Then, all of a sudden, in some people it’ll look the same, and the body starts attacking itself. In other people it won’t.
It’s a hugely complex thing, but in this particular case, with this lady, one time I met with her.
It was interesting, actually, because the lady she was, the reason we had this meeting, she had a friend with fibromyalgia. There were, obviously, many thought processes of that being autoimmune.
I was explaining the concept of the diet. “You’re basically going to eliminate processed foods, grains, dairy, and legumes.” As soon as she heard dairy she’s like, “Oh, Mike, there’s no way I can do that.”
I’m like, “OK. That’s fine. You can try eliminating just the grains and the legumes.”
“If that’s the offending thing you might get lucky. But we won’t know unless you get better, so my advice would be to eliminate all three.”
In that meeting the other lady with MS had mentioned something about, “You can’t eat green beans.” I mistakenly at that time said, “No, hang on. Green beans, I think you’re fine with green beans.”
It was a stupid error on my part because the genus of it’s a legume, but I was thinking more plant‑based. It’s certainly not as acidic as a normal hard bean but it’s still, genetically, the same genes.
She goes home and eats green beans because she loved them, and had big, big, spiraling out of control tingling in her joints. She couldn’t walk. Her gait was affected.
We’re like, “Sorry.” She cleans herself up, and she’s fine. We’re like, “OK, no legumes for her.”
We were then looking at MS, trying to help regenerate the myelin sheath. There had been some research in the UK looking at high DHA levels helping with myelin sheath regenerations.
At that time I was not really up on working with reputable companies for supplementation. This would be kind of where now you get functional medicine coming in post that. Paleo on its own isn’t going to be able to do that regeneration necessarily, so that’s where supplementation might be very good.
She goes off to the health food store, gets some DHA, takes two pills, and has this same reaction as when she ate the legumes. The initial comment Lauren was saying, “What if it can affect the fatty acid ratio?”
We’re like, “Wait a minute. Two pills. That’s not going to affect the fatty acid ratio.”
I’m like, “Hang on a minute. Let’s get those pills. Let’s see what else might have been in them.” Of course, lipids.
They darken the gelatin for oxidative purposes. The company had said that they darken the gelatin capsule with an herbal extract, carob.
Carob is a bean extract. Two little pills. Again, I’m telling you, if it’s not that…
We understand kids have peanut allergies. It’s short‑term affect. Then, a different effect, I think, can cause longer‑term, lower level, not an anaphylactic‑type shock that you would get, but potentially just as debilitating in a long‑term setting.
That’s what we found with her. She cleaned that back out.
This is lady who would get up out of bed, put a load of laundry in, and that was it for the day. Her energy level was low.
She chose not to go on that experimental drug, and went with the Paleo. It made sense to her, and she did it.
She referred back to us that she was able to…She’d go to the movies. She’d want to have popcorn. She knew she shouldn’t.
She would almost find tolerance levels. She said, “I could have three pieces of popcorn, but if I had five I was in trouble,” which I thought was kind of interesting.
She said, “If I have a piece of toast, I’m done. I’ve got tingling in my thing.”
There’d be some people saying, “Oh, it’s psychosomatic,” but we did enough work with her long‑term that, to me, it was very real.
She improved tremendously, where she was walking on her treadmill five miles a day. She was able to drive across country to take her son to the swim meets. Her life changed dramatically.
Gary: Yeah, that’s incredible story. I think we’ve all had these people who didn’t believe. Once they got on the diet, and really stuck to it, and made the changes, the profound changes in their life, they’re blown away. They can’t believe it.
It happens fairly quickly. It takes time for you body to adapt. I always tell people it’s at least 12 to 18 months to get a good adaptation and where you’re kind of at a good point, and then another year or so for everything to kind of settle in, and your immune system to catch up.
With that, I noticed a guy named Alan Aragon at the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He went on kind of a rant, and basically gave a whole presentation about debunking the validity of the Paleo diet. What is your response to that?
Mark: Yeah, we had talked briefly that you wanted my thoughts on that. I had said to you I had seen it.
First off, I’ll say that I’m gong to do a thorough analysis of that, so I don’t want to throw him under the bus completely just yet. I’ll point out a couple of things that I might challenge him on in my first glance.
Actually, to all of the Paleo critics I think that this is what I would ask. Again, I’m out here trying to make people healthy. I work clinically.
If we can improve it, I’m all ears. I’ve got no skin in this that I couldn’t turn around one day, and go, “Wow, I can’t believe we were wrong on that.”
I’m open, but I’ve yet to see anyone with a really good debunking. The first thing that they tend to do is create their own version of what Paleo is, or create their own things. I would say to the listeners…
I’ll talk about Alan in a second on a couple of points, but it’s a similar‑looking argument to the Christina Warinner TED lecture. I did a very, very in‑depth…
I know Robb Wolf did one. Lauren did one, I think, a little bit. Actually, no, I don’t think Lauren did one, but rob did.
Other people did, but I think I perhaps put a little bit more time into it because I was so incensed by it. I literally went line by line on this thing, and I picked it apart.
I’m going to go the same with Alan. I’ll give him what it deserves, a thorough look at to see some of his claims. I’ll research them properly.
I’ll say today what I think I will probably find. But I would encourage people to go listen to that Christina Warinner lecture on TED.
This is one of the projects that I’m working on right now. That was the first real piece that I did for this “Off the Mark.” I’m Mark. It’s Off the Mark.
Listen, it’s not a journalistic, “I’m right down the middle.” I’m going to have an opinion, but it’s also, “Persuade me I’m wrong.”
I’m open to be shown I’m wrong, but I want to really go thorough and analyze in great detail each point by point. That’s what I did with her.
Obviously what she did in that was build up a complete fabrication of what I see as the Paleo diet. I just went through.
What I did in a circumstance there, she started talking about the archeological records. That what her background is.
I reached out to someone with far more experience than her to get this experience. It turns out he completely slammed her for what she had said.
I think her whole thing was just, “Pick up what I want and make an entertaining lecture.” I think that just does a disservice when I have seen this diet help so many people.
Let’s have some honest, intellectual debate. Don’t put a picture up of a caveman and big, fatty meat when that doesn’t represent necessarily what the Paleo diet is. That was annoying to me.
If you want to see that go to offthemark.org. That’s kind of a website in creation, so right now it just goes to a Facebook page, but you can see that post there on that.
You can look at it. You can listen to her lecture first, which I would encourage you to do, and then you can see my rebuttal.
Coming back to Alan, the first thing, he did an interview with Paleomovement.com, Karen Pendergrass. She asked something about, “What annoys you about the Paleo movement?” or whatever.
He made a point. I think it was something to the effect of extreme points, like even, “Cordain, I found that he’d put potatoes on this list.” He’s like, “Are you kidding me? A nutrient dense, whole food off the table?”
“Don’t you have any sense? A whole potato?” He just had some funny, sarcastic comment.
I just sort of go, “OK, he tries to put himself out there as this big research‑based guy, and everything.” You know what, rather than just have a flippant comment like that, why don’t you go to chapter eight of Dr. Cordain’s latest book, “The Paleo Answer,” which, to me, is his best work by far.
Go through that chapter and explain to us where he’s wrong on that. As opposed to this sarcastic…Because your average person reading that might just go, “Yeah.”
The average person looking at Christina Warinner’s lecture, without the knowledge you or I might have, will get swayed by that because they’re creating their own arguments to critique something that we’re not saying. That was the comment I’d make.
If Alan wants to first gain credibility in the scientific community about ancestral eating he needs to step his game up and not just pick what he wants to knock down. Go to the top guy. Go to Lauren, and knock down bit by bit his thing.
Let’s say he might say, “Well, I did that in this lecture with the NSCA.” He’s got claims versus evidence on his title one.
He’s got cherry‑picking, the culprit. In one of the slides, he mentions that since the advent of the industrial and digital revolution, activity levels have gone down considerably.
That can play a major part in it, what does he say? It’s odd that these important periods of history are ignored by Paleo diet components. I don’t think they’ve been ignored at all.
Alan even wrote a paper on Paleolithic exercise, and looking at the comparisons in modern day, and of course, that plays a part in it. He’s saying that as opposed to blaming the 10,000 year, and that’s not what we’ve said. It’s all part of the equation.
It’s ironic that his title was “Cherry‑Picking,” when that’s exactly what he does. He then goes on, he says “Grains and legumes are unhealthy, and should be avoided,” and that’s “A claim.” He’s then got a convergence of evidence from observational research 8 to 14, and experimental research 15 to 24.
I first looked at, I need to go into this with more detail, but 15 to 24. Here’s what my first thought was, and you alluded to it earlier. I can find in the big scheme of things you’ve got to [indecipherable 31:52] that. There are so many papers out on it.
When to find 15 or 24, so you’re looking at 9 references there that have shown a positive, as he said, “Shown multiple therapeutic and protective health benefits of heart. Whole grain and legume consumption will give you improved blood lipid profile, glucose control, reduction of inflammation, reduced risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.”
I probably don’t doubt that those papers exist, but it still doesn’t change what would be optimal, and whether or not Paleo would get those results even better. I’m sure all those studies are doing is taking the typical American diet, and we’re basically improving it.
Let’s say you did the Mediterranean Diet, that’s going to have grains and legumes in it. Obviously, I’m going to be the first to go, the Mediterranean Diet compared to the standard American diet is a good diet. I would argue the Paleo diet is better, even though he wants to criticize it, of course.
The Lindeberg Study did show that, when they compared it. He’s got a reason why he wants to critique that, and I’ll get into that in a bit more detail when I write my rebuttal on that. That was add‑on.
The one thing that did really strike me as odd though, something he said was within the dairy claims. He’s got, “Who gets to decide which parts of the cow we should consume? It’s perfectly Paleo to eat the cows muscle, but not the milk that laid the foundation for the growth of those same muscles? Illogic abounds in this claim.” I’m actually scratching my head and then going, “No.”
That’s the illogical part. That’s the whole point, Alan. Did we consume the milk in primitive times? I don’t think the evidence is there that we did. If you were out in the wild, what would you eat? Would you be going and sucking on a cow’s teat? I doubt that, so I don’t think that’s illogical at all. We can argue all of this stuff until we’re blue in the face, about archeological record and all this stuff.
I’ve done Paleo lectures at Evangelical churches a number of times. I don’t talk about the evolutionary part. I briefly mention the term Paleolithic, and I kind of smile and go, “I understand that’s probably not something you guys are interested in listening to.
Let’s say we got lucky with this template. Let’s examine the template as it sits today with modern research, and modern research supports it’s pretty damn healthy. Tell me what’s wrong with lean protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. The best Alan came up with…
I will give him credit though, that is ironic when we’re making whey protein, I won’t concur with him on that. He had a thing, what was his point here? One of the things, achieving a healthy diet, ignoring the rules of fad diets, and let’s stop calling the Paleo diet a fad diet. I’ve been eating this way or having it as my template since 1988 when I met Lauren. It’s not a fad diet. It’s here to stay.
There are millions of people benefiting from it. It’s going to be here. Let’s stop using the term fad. There’s nothing fad about it at all. “Ignoring the rules of fad diets, and sticking with foods that fit your personal preference and tolerance,” I would question that.
First of all preference and tolerance, I’ve got lots of clients whose personal preference is fruit loops. I’m sorry, are you going to agree with that? Tolerance, yes, to a certain extent, but personal preference, I get what he’s saying, but a lot of what he’s done in here…
The studies I didn’t really talk about that. The grain studies, he’s saying there’s no evidence that grains are bad for us or causes inflammation, and cites those experiment studies showing benefits, and what I failed to mention, which we mentioned earlier ‑‑ all we’re seeing there is the improvement, or did I already say this, it’s an improvement on that bad diet, right? We would see its benefits. I did say that. Now I remember.
Here’s the point, he’s got to be aware of Lauren’s paper, “Humanity’s Double‑edged Sword,” explaining, “Hey, we’ve gone down a path with reliance on grains, so we should really understand the health implications of that.”
There are 342 references in that paper talking about negative consequences in grains. There’s a recent one in the Journal of Nutrients. Don’t think they’re Paleo guys, they just have done a paper, “The Dietary Intake of Wheat, and Other Cereal Grains, and Their Role in Inflammation.”
We’ve got 78 references in this one. That’s what he needs to do. He needs to go in and do a review paper, because these are review papers, and review papers are just that. They look at everything.
He’s cherry‑picked some to show a benefit to his argument. That’s my first feel of it. You talked about his success with his high client base, I’m not doubting, he’s obviously been very successful with his athletic base.
We saw what Michael Phelps was eating. He looks pretty lean and strong, and yet he was eating a diet the average American would die of a heart attack from. That would be really hard to show that sometimes working with athletes would a Paleo diet make it better.
A lot of athletes started doing it now, but they’re so good, and there are so much based on the skill level. It would be hard to show how a diet, that would be Alan’s diet versus a Paleo diet, would be very different.
To just show a bunch of pictures of great looking athletes, “Hey, well done,” it doesn’t mean anything in terms of the bunch on the Paleo diet.
Gary: There are so many other factors when it comes to athletes. Especially that most athletes tend to be young. Their bodies are much more resilient, and can take a heck of a lot more punishment. You could also do a study on what the detrimental effects of what those diets were once they got older.
Once they hit their 30s, most of them start to fall apart. Football players die of heart attacks in their early 50s, late 40s. He’s taken a microcosm of something that is, there’s a much broader picture when you look at the totality of everything, looking at the athletes from that end. Michael Phelps was burning thousands and thousands of calories in a day.
Mark: He’s obviously a clever guy. I would throw out a challenge to Alan Aragon, look there are a lot of people eating this right now. It almost seems like his main gripe is he’s created the most people that are Paleo extreme or, which maybe there are people that are out there that are that way, but that’s their right to be that way.
There are plenty of us that aren’t extreme. I consider myself Paleo, but I’ve always been this 80/15/5 approach, so apparently I’m Prime and not Paleo. [laughs]
Gary: It’s all the terms.
Mark: It’s all semantics to me. The template is what I work off. I would challenge someone like Alan. We’ve got to have a starting point, and why not Lauren? He’s the movement founder here. Go to that latest book, because it’s his best work.
That’s easier to do than go buy all the papers, because it’s referenced in that, where if Alan’s more of a research guy, go through all of his papers. Critique the papers line by line, tell us what’s wrong. Do it in a much more scientific approach.
When he got very proud of himself, and he finally go published, his first paper in the journal, and he made a big deal out of it. If you’re a bright guy and you start doing this, maybe you’ve got some peer reviewed stuff on Paleo work. That’s when you get a little bit more listened to by the actual scientists in this field.
Lauren’s probably published 63 peer reviewed papers on Paleolithic nutritional life. In his book, this is what annoys me as well, with Christina Warinner ‑‑ there’s no research.
With all due respect, and that’s one of the things that really attracted me to Lauren from day one, was that nothing ever came out of mouth unless it was backed up by a peer reviewed piece of literature.
It really annoys me when people say there’s no research behind it. There is research behind it. You may disagree with that research, so tell us why. I’m all ears, but don’t just say there’s no research. There is.
This book has 900 peer‑reviewed references as you go through the text. I counted it, because I wanted to end that rebuttal to Christina Warinner when she put his book up on the background sarcastically, it’s all in the popular magazines and whatever. She’s published seven papers, seven. None of them are on Paleolithic nutrition. One has something to do with nutrition, and she’s trying to debunk the likes of Lauren. She then tried to debunk the ecological record.
I called up Dr. Michael Richards who’s got three papers published in Nature. One paper would normally make a career with that. He’s got something like 150 references. I can’t remember the exact number, but unbelievably established and completely disagreed with her.
There she was on her high horse being sarcastic, and I thought it was disgusting to be honest with you. It’s unworthy of someone that has a PHD from Harvard, that’s for sure.
Gary: When I watched it, I thought it was pure theatrics. She was trying to pick low hanging fruit, because at that time it was a little more ‑‑ it’s always been controversial ‑‑ but at that time, it was a hot spot, and she jumped on it. When I watched it, it was like watching bad TV. Honestly, that’s how I looked at it. It was like watching a crappy reality show.
Mark: I’m assuming, she’s in that academic field, I’m assuming she’s wanting to continue in that. I can assure you I had some other comments from people that I shared that with who were, “Wow.” She’s not doing herself a service in the scientific community with something like this.
Gary: No, that’s exactly what I thought too.
Mark: It’s a bit embarrassing. What I ended up doing…I have the respect to go, I’m not going to criticize that area where she certainly would know more about how these isotopic values are determined. Not my area, and I’ve read a lot of it. I essentially have come to the conclusion that the criticisms, they account for the variabilities and these potential variables.
Indeed that’s exactly what Dr. Richards said. He then goes on, he was traveling ironically to one of the top institutes in Switzerland for archeological research, and I was in a hurry to get his viewpoint, so I literally word for word took the transcripts of that one section and sent it to him.
People can read it, but he was basically, “She seems to have failed to understand.” It was almost like the teacher telling the student good effort, but you don’t quite fully understand this topic. It was mind blowing.
Another one that I read one time, some woman, and I’m, “Are you kidding me?” They were criticizing Lauren, because his PhD was in exercise physiology. That means that if you’ve got a PhD in something specific you’re never allowed to further you academic studies?
A PhD’s a research study more than anything is teaching you the method of research. He’s then gone on, and he’s found another niche of what he wanted to go into. More to the point, his peers have allowed him to publish 63 plus pages in the peer review literatures. She comes up with a statement like that. It’s just, “Really? Come on.”
Gary: It is goofy. It’s tough, because we’re an interesting group, and we get punished here and there by people, but I just let it roll off, and I just go, “Results are results.” That’s what I thrive on with the client’s I have and how well they do. How well I’ve done. The proofs in the pudding, that is as simple as it gets.
You’re right it’s not a fad. I tell people if you can do it long term, and you don’t have to starve yourself, or take something in or out, and you can continue to maintain it, and continue to maintain health, that’s not a fad.
A diet is something that you can only do for short term in order to get a certain result, but then you have to back out of it, because actually it’s physically detrimental. You know what I mean? It’s not a long‑term solution, so with that being said there’s some talk, me and you agree on this, we’ve talked about it before, is how certain processed foods fill the gap.
We call them bridge foods, and one that we both fully believe in and use with clients is Julian Bakery’s products and a lot of their Paleo line. I’d like you to talk about how you’ve been using those with clients.
Mark: Let’s see. I don’t know it’s been, not that long. It was probably, I’d seen the Paleo brand on Facebook, I’m like that looks interesting. I went out to a local store here, and bought some Yaman bread.
It’s interesting too how with some clients how that taste affects it. Those of us who have been doing Paleo love every single product right away, because there’s no sugar high needed or anything else. I’m, “This is great.”
Where some of the clients, they’re a little pickier. The one product I haven’t had anyone dislike yet is the Paleo wraps, which is really true Paleo, it’s just coconut meat and coconut water.
I’ve got one client of mine now who is falling in love. I’m literally making him the wraps myself. He’s a very busy client and travels a lot. Where it’s a great asset, he’s been able to stop eating the fast food on the road when he drives from the desert here to LA.
He’s got these wraps he takes them with him. He liked them so much they’ve now often become his breakfast and lunch. I’m making egg wraps for his breakfast and his lunch. He’s not a guy that really cooks at home. He eats out a lot.
It’s easy to eat Paleo when you’re out, just change the menu. Simply substitute anything that’s non‑Paleo for fruits and veg basically. He’s been doing that, and those products have helped him lose 20 odd pounds, improve his blood lipids, everything’s great, he’s loving it. The compliance is easier.
You can certainly do a wrap with a kale leaf, or bok choy, or with many different lettuces. Stomboli people, that doesn’t do it for them. I’ve got to say, the Paleo wraps are delicious.
Gary: I had a couple today.
Mark: That’s what I had for dinner actually, before I came on the air with you. I’m thrilled that there are counters now like that, and Heath is doing a fantastic job. He seems to be doing very well. I wish him all the best.
I love the pizza. The first one we did we didn’t do too well. The second one I made sure I really spread it thin, and that was great. That’s the almond and coconut. It’s a mix of almond and coconut if I remember correctly on the pizza crust.
Gary: It’s arrowroot and I think it is coconut. I can’t remember.
Mark: I’ll have to check that.
Gary: I’ll have to go look.
Mark: The big ones I’ve had are the wheat thins, those are the egg white protein. I’ve enjoyed so all those things. Potentially perhaps one might argue some of them were in the 15 percent, another in the 80 percent, that’s if they want to, if there are a few little things in that that were impure.
Compared to their counterparts I’m going, “Wow what a difference.” I’m a big fan they’re good. My clients have really adapted to them.
Gary: It gives us a really good set of tools, because me and you aren’t in the food business. We’re not going to go out and make Paleo wraps. I don’t have the ability to figure that out.
For me, it definitely makes it a lot easier, because I have some, you get them too, the hard clients that they’ve been eating crap for so long, and really eating crap, every meal is garbage. Trying to coax them over, and get them into the Paleo template.
If you take them from 0 to 60, it just doesn’t work. It’s such a Martian territory for them, and they’re, “I don’t even know where to go with this.” With these foods, I have so much better luck with it, because they taste good and, they’re healthier.
They’re almost all with the Paleo name, they’re all Paleo. They’re based on Paleo principal, so they fit in. It’s a good mix. Do you have anything going on right now you’d like to share or any projects?
Mark: I mentioned the OffTheMark.org is going to be something that could branch out into…I’m on the towns performance advisory board, and they’ve got a TV station that’s still building, and we might do a TV show with that to name to it and interview people.
I’d love to get two people together with Lauren and a guy, Don Tallman, whose one of our advisory board members. Big vegan guy, who interestingly the first time I met him we sat on a panel at a World Golf Fitness Summit, and really this is also something that I’d like to mention.
You see something that’s sort of head‑to‑head stuff with vegans, Paleo, and the irony of it is someone actually wrote a pretty good blog going we need to look at the commonality of ourselves, because we’re all on board for eating fruits and vegetables.
The only disagreement would be the meat. I’m pretty sure most vegans would prefer the sustainable approach of what Paleo advocates would be.
Don, who’s a fantastic speaker, you should look him up, has this, I suppose, religious connotation to food, and it’s only really fruits and vegetables that this happens with, it’s nuts.
He talks about it’s interesting that the walnut has a hard outer shell and you cut it in half, you look inside, and it looks like a brain, and you know that Omega‑3s are good for our brain. You’ve got a tomato, we know the lycopene in tomato is good for the heart, and you cut the tomato in half it’s got four chambers just like the heart.
I assume it’s the carrot you cut it in half, and the iris of the eye, he goes on forever on this. He’s a big food historian, and has three societies in time. My point of bringing that up is when we first met, Don simply said, “I choose not to eat meat, but if you are going to, my suggestion is to make sure it’s clean,” as Mark just said.
We actually bonded big time, and we were more in on attacking big companies putting GMO and artificial sweeteners. That’s where we all need to come together.
If someone’s choosing not to eat meat from a philosophical perspective it doesn’t matter how healthy I might think it would be for the body. But they’re not going to do it. They’re not going to change my opinion at this point, either.
I think we should bond more a little bit on those. In terms of the project, that would be two people I would love to get together. Lauren obviously has an unbelievable mind for so much research, and Don too. He’s very knowledgeable with his research, so take two opposing…
But I wouldn’t let them talk about fruits and vegetables. We all agree that’s good for us.
Gary: [laughs] Yeah.
Mark: They’re heads to heads, there. But that’s part of it. I’m also working with an approach for what we’ve seen with another colleague, a very, very good clinical nutritionist, Dr. [indecipherable 52:06] Kutsia. He’s a brilliant clinical nutritionist. He introduced me into using some medical foods along with Paleo nutrition.
If you have someone with type 2 diabetes and they’ve got an A1C of like 11.3, we’ve found that we can speed up, like an acceleration, put them on a Paleo diet but with the medical foods and we can get down to 6.3 or less much, much quicker using the medical foods.
Some of them are rice based. You’ve got to accept what’s working clinically with that, but it’s along with the Paleolithic diet. That’s mymedicalmeals.com, it’s a project there. There are always about 10 other projects on the plate. Out here in the desert we’re looking to put a new center in with another colleague. There’s a lot going on.
Gary: That’s great. I really enjoyed talking with you and having you on. I’m sure everyone who follows me will really enjoy the conversation too, because it got to the nuts and bolts of where the Paleo diet came from. I interviewed Lauren a couple weeks back.
It’s a great supplement to what he talked about. What you do is different. You were taught by him, but you’re in a different place now, and you do different things. It all goes back to the original research and what we all believe in. That’s the Paleo template. I think it’s a pretty interesting way to fill that circle in. With that being said, thanks again. I hope to have you on again sometime.
Mark: That would be wonderful, Gary. I appreciate you having me on. I think we probably have some other things. I’ve got a list here of about two or three hours’ worth of jack we could talk about.
Gary: [laughs] Excellent. I will talk to you later. You have a good one.
Mark: OK, thanks Gary. I appreciate it.
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