The Real Inuit Diet, All-Meat Diets and Paleo Plants

I suspected my post about the real Inuit diet would draw a few howls online, and I was right. There are people in the low-carb world I think of as vegans-in-reverse: instead of insisting that humans aren’t designed to eat meat, nobody actually needs meat, and eating any kind of meat is bad for you, they insist that humans aren’t designed to eat plants, nobody actually needs any plant foods, and eating any kind of plant food is bad for you.

Sheesh.

If you’re on all-meat diet and it’s working for you, great. But it’s one thing to say an all-meat diet works for you and quite another to insist that our paleo ancestors didn’t eat plants and therefore nobody – absolutely NOBODY, you understand – needs any plant foods to be healthy. When I commented on Facebook that many plants provide micronutrients we need to be healthy, someone even labeled it as an excuse to eat carbs.

An excuse to eat carbs? Seriously? We don’t need an “excuse” to eat whole, unprocessed plant foods that contain carbohydrates any more than we need an “excuse” to eat meat. That’s what I mean by the vegan-in-reverse mentality:  in the eyes of some people, eating any plant foods at all is apparently a moral failure.  Give me a break.

Short of building a time machine and zipping on back to paleo times, I don’t suppose we can prove what paleo humans ate or didn’t eat. But I’m convinced Paleo Man included plants in his diet. Here are a few reasons:

Our nearest relatives

Humans share about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. We’re not directly descended from them, but according to the genome project, we almost certainly split off from a common ancestor. Vegans like to insist that chimps are vegetarians, and therefore we should be vegetarians too. That’s wrong, of course. Chimps hunt and eat meat. But they’re still omnivores who get most of their calories from plant foods.

Eating meat allowed us to develop bigger brains and become human. But I find it difficult to believe that after evolving from plant-eating apes, we rejected plant foods entirely once we became proficient hunters, and then suddenly started eating plants again 15,000 years ago. It seems a wee bit more logical to assume we added meat to a diet that continued to include plants.

Hunter-gatherers

More than 200 hunter-gatherer societies were discovered and studied in relatively modern times. These were people who hadn’t previously been exposed to civilization and were living a stone-age lifestyle. They all ate meat or fish or both. They also gathered and ate plants – even the Inuit ate certain plants when they could find them.

According to Loren Cordain’s studies, carbohydrates made up 20% to 40% of the diet in most hunter-gatherer societies. Good luck doing that eating nothing but meat. So once again, I find it more than a little difficult to believe that Paleo Man ate no plants whatsoever, but people living essentially a paleo lifestyle in modern times did.

Yes, yes, yes, I can hear the reply in cyberspace already: yeah, but humans only ate plants when they hunted the big game to extinction and ran short of meat!

Sorry, but that is simply not true.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was fascinated with Native Americans for years and read a ton of books about them. I still read one now and then. A book I read a couple of years ago described how the buffalo-hunting Sioux would get together with their Eastern cousins and trade buffalo meat and hides for foods like pumpkins and squash.

If you’re trading away meat for squash, it means you want the squash.  It’s not a meat-shortage survival strategy.  Until the “civilized” buffalo-hunters came along and nearly wiped out the herds, there were a shootload of buffalo living on the Great Plains. I doubt the Sioux ever ran short of meat. I’ve also read that the buffalo-hunting Sioux ate wild berries, spinach, turnips and potatoes. No meat shortage, and yet they ate plant foods.

One reader on Facebook suggested I watch a speech by Dr. Mike Eades, claiming it provides slam-dunk evidence that early humans lived on an all-meat diet. So I watched the speech, which was excellent, of course. But the evidence Dr. Eades presented (much of which focused on analysis of stable isotopes) only proves that early humans ate a heck of a lot of meat, both from herbivores and carnivores. It proves they were top-level hunters. It doesn’t prove – and wasn’t intended to prove – that they stopped eating plants.

In fact, in one section of the speech, Dr. Eades talked about a study of Native American skeletons found in Kentucky. One group of skeletons came from hunters who lived nearly 3,500 years ago – 3,000 years before Europeans showed up. Another group of skeletons came from agriculturalists who lived 1,500 years ago and ate a lot of maize. The hunters were healthier in all kinds of ways – watch the speech if you’re interested. But what struck me was this slide:

The hunters ate a variety of meats, but also gathered and ate grapes, acorns, blackberries, sunflowers and hickory nuts. Again, I sincerely doubt they only gathered those foods when they ran short of meat, because I doubt they ever ran out of meat.

Kentucky and Tennessee have similar weather and terrain. Even with the encroachment of civilization, we have plenty of deer and other animals tromping around our area year-round. Heck, we hit a deer recently while driving home. Lots of people around here end up with damaged vehicles because of deer collisions. Just this week, Chareva spotted three deer carcasses along the highway near our home. And as you know if you read my farm-report posts, there’s no shortage of raccoons around here.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes describes how early European explorers described much of the planet as a “paradise for hunting,” with large and small game present in almost unimaginable numbers. I’m pretty sure that applied to the dense forest that’s now Kentucky. The Native American hunters in that area didn’t eat grapes and blackberries because they ran out of meat. They ate them because of …

Our taste buds

If you’ve seen Fat Head, you may remember this line: Mother Nature isn’t stupid. She didn’t make human beings the only species on earth who prefers foods that will kill us.

The whole idea behind paleo diets is that we have to eat the kinds of foods that Nature, through evolution, designed us to eat. We put it this way in the Fat Head Kids book:

The Nautilus was programmed to choose the right fuels and building materials automatically. Inside the FUD hatch, special sensors send messages to The Brain that say This is what the ship needs. You experience those messages as This Tastes Good.

When humans hunted and gathered their food, this app worked perfectly. Our taste for sweets told us to eat fruits and sweet-tasting vegetables like carrots and squashes. Our taste for fats told us to eat olives, nuts, eggs and meats. Our taste for salts told us to eat meats and seafood. Our taste for spices told us to eat plants that were full of vitamins and minerals.

Those are the flavors we naturally seek: sweet, fatty, salty and spicy. Good luck finding sweet and spicy flavors in an all-animal-foods diet. We like sweet and spicy foods because in a natural environment (not a processed-food environment), those tastes lead to us foods that provide micronutrients.

Here’s a slide from a lecture by Chris Kresser on the nutrient density of foods:

Yup, meats – especially organ meats – are nutrient-dense, which is why we should eat them. But please notice that herbs, spices, nuts and seeds are more nutrient-dense than beef, seafood and wild game. Many vegetables are more nutrient-dense than pork, eggs and poultry.

When I mentioned our natural desire for sweet and spicy foods, a reader on Facebook retorted with something along the lines of, Well, we only like fruits and other sweet foods now because we bred them over the centuries to be bigger and sweeter than they were in paleo times.

So let’s think about this …. you’re Paleo Man, supposedly a pure carnivore with no inborn desire for sweet foods. And yet you decide to breed fruit to contain even more of a flavor you don’t naturally like. How does that make any sense?

Humans don’t eat tree bark because it’s not a natural food for us and therefore doesn’t have a flavor we naturally enjoy. Would we start eating (and perhaps over-eating) tree bark if someone bred trees that grew really, really big and chewy bark? I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t. We bred animals to be fatter because we naturally love the taste of fat, and we bred fruit to be sweeter because we naturally like sweet foods.

Yes, the makers of processed foods have hijacked our taste for sweet foods to sell us donuts, candies, sodas, Pop-Tarts, Frosted Flakes, Twizzlers, gummy bears and countless other junk. But you can’t hijack a desire that doesn’t already exist.

My cat is an actual carnivore. He wouldn’t touch a donut if I offered it to him. Heck, even though he loves meat, he won’t touch spicy meats like pepperoni. Why? BECAUSE HE’S AN ACTUAL CARNIVORE. His brain tells him not to bother with sweet or spicy flavors, which come from plants.

Someone pointed out that his cat will eat dry cat food made from grains. Yup, so will mine. But only because the food-taste scientists managed make grain-based cat food appeal to a carnivore’s taste buds. If you don’t believe me, take a bite of some dry cat food. I promise it won’t taste sweet or spicy. You could fill my cat’s plate with bananas, berries, potatoes, bread sticks, tomatoes and broccoli drizzled with butter and he wouldn’t eat any of it. He wouldn’t eat gummy bears either, even though they’re super-sweet. Once again, you can’t hijack a desire that doesn’t already exist.

If Nature designed humans to be pure carnivores, we wouldn’t like sweet and spicy foods. And yet we do. And therefore it makes no sense to insist that paleo humans wouldn’t have gathered and eaten plant foods that were available, tasted good, and provided nutrients.

The AMY1 gene

All humans carry the AMY1 gene, which enables our bodies to digest starch. Some people have just one copy of the gene, while others carry up to 15 copies. The average among humans is six copies, whereas the average among chimpanzees is two. If we share a common ancestor with chimps, but then evolved into our human form on plant-free diets, why the heck would most humans carry more copies of the starch-eating gene than chimps, who live mostly on plant foods? That makes no sense.

Research strongly suggests that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene are more likely to have blood-sugar problems and gain weight on a starchy diet. Fair enough. That’s evidence that some of us have to limit our intake of starches. But if we’re all descended from paleo ancestors who lived on meat-only diets, there’s no logical reason we’d carry the AMY1 gene at all – and certainly no reason for some people to carry 15 copies.

If the reply is something like Well, humans probably only started carrying more copies of the AMY1 gene after we started farming, then it means our bodies were reprogrammed rather dramatically in the past 15,000 years. The whole idea behind paleo, of course, is that we’re virtually the same as our paleo ancestors and therefore need to eat like them.

Can’t have it both ways. Biologically, we’re either nearly identical to our paleo ancestors, or we’re not. If we are, then Paleo Man carried the genes to digest starch. If we’re not, then what Paleo Man did or didn’t eat doesn’t matter all that much.

The effects of zero-carb diets

Some people do well on zero-carb diets. But other people don’t. They get the symptoms Paul Jaminet described in his Perfect Health Diet book. They get dry eyes. Their thyroids slow down. Their cortisol levels go up. Their production of sex hormones declines.

I didn’t read the back-and-forth debate between Jaminet and Dr. Ron Rosedale on safe starches until a few years ago, but when I did read it, I found Jaminet’s arguments more convincing.

Rosedale, for example, doesn’t deny that a glucose deficiency can slow down the thyroid, but offered this explanation:

Glucose scarcity (deficiency may be a misnomer) elicits an evolutionary response to perceived low fuel availability. This results in a shift in genetic expression to allow that organism to better survive the perceived famine…. As part of this genetic expression, and as part and parcel of nature’s mechanism to allow the maintenance of health and actually reduce the rate of aging, certain events will take place as seen in caloric restricted animals. These include a reduction in serum glucose, insulin, leptin, and free T3. The reduction in free T3 is of great benefit, reducing temperature, metabolic damage and decreasing catabolism.

So yes, your thyroid may slow down, but Rosedale insists that’s good for longevity. Hmmm. If you’re struggling to lose that last 50 pounds, a “healthy” slower thyroid isn’t going to help. Neither is the reduction in leptin. Losing weight requires being in a catabolic state, so you can guess what “decreasing catabolism” means as far as weight loss.

As for the reduction in sex hormones, Rosedale replied with this:

If we evolved in a certain way and with certain physiologic responses to the way we eat, it was not for a long, healthy, post-reproductive lifespan. It was for reproductive success. The two are not at all synonymous, in fact often antagonistic.

Just roll that one around in your brain for a minute. Rosedale doesn’t deny that your sex hormones will decline, but insists it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for longevity. Jaminet does a good job of disputing that lower-is-always-better when it comes to glucose and longevity, but that’s not the point. If long-term, drastic restriction of glucose doesn’t support “reproductive success,” it can’t be the diet that allowed us to win the game called Survival of The Fittest.

If we’re all descended from and virtually identical to paleo ancestors who lived on all-meat diets, then almost nobody would suffer ill effects from a zero-carb diet – which, of course, is what an all-meat diet is. And yet many people don’t do well at all on a diet that includes no plants and no carbohydrates.

That’s because their paleo ancestors ate plants and at least some carbohydrates. Jumping up and down and insisting that anyone who doesn’t feel awesome and healthy on all-meat diet just isn’t doing it right! is thinking and acting like a vegan-in-reverse.  That doesn’t help the cause.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go enjoy a dinner of beef, broccoli and roasted squash with onions … but if you happen to have any buffalo meat, I’ll trade you some squash for it.

 

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94 thoughts on “The Real Inuit Diet, All-Meat Diets and Paleo Plants

  1. Xtrocious

    Thanks for the post Tom.

    I think humans are very adaptable and when times are lean, we can and will eat anything and everything to survive. Of course, whether it’s good for us in the long run doesn’t quite matter (yet).

    So I guess what our ancestors ate really depended on what was available – it’s not like they had the luxury of running down to the supermarket haha

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Sure, but I doubt those hunters in Kentucky ran out of meat. I think they gathered grapes, berries and acorns because they liked the taste and the variety. I think our gut bugs like the variety as well.

      Reply
  2. Teco Mendes

    Hi Tom! Great article as always.
    I’m going to try the all meat diet but I’m not planning on advertising it. I started with Paleo, Lowcarb, keto and continued to feel better and better as the carbs went down. So, i will try it. If i feel great, good. If not, i will add carbs back. No reverse vegan here at all. But I remember the struggle in the beginning of the Lowcarb movement with skepticism. Remember your doctor reacting to your weight loss in fat head? So we must keep an open mind.
    People who weight problem have a bad relationship with catbs. I know it is sugar and ultra high processed but even fruit can trigger a eating binge and several cheat days in consequence..And there are also a lot of discussion on the harm of those nutritious plants, toxins and even fiber. Keeping it simple for me as water and meer my be very helpful if I can thrive. As you said, there were different Paleo eating pattern. So far the least carb the better, so far! Regards from Brazil

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I fully understand that some people have problems with almost any carb consumption, but I think that’s the result of a metabolism damaged by years of bad diets. Paleo Man, of course, didn’t have access to junk-food carbs.

      I’m not against meat-only diets for people who find them beneficial — I’ve done them short-term myself to jump-start some weight loss. The post was more of a commentary on people who insist that Paleo Man lived exclusively on meat and therefore we should as well.

      Reply
  3. Firebird7478

    I believe Phinney and Volek have done research on cortisol and thyroid and have come to the conclusion that those issues are a result of low calorie consumption.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Perhaps, but again, even a keto proponent like Rosedale doesn’t deny that thyroid functioning will slow down with long-term glucose restriction. Chris Kresser mentioned in one of his many great articles that he’s had clients stall on zero-carb diets, then lose weight again when they upped the carbs to around 75 grams per day because their thyroids went back to normal function.

      Reply
      1. Firebird7478

        For me to get back to 75 gms/day would require some starchy carb because the veggies that I consume over the course of a day do not come close. And I’ve tracked my caloric intake and I fall around 1500-1700/day. That comes from the low calorie weight loss era of the 80s/90s and my body has adapted. They say we need appx. 10 calories per pound of bodyweight just to maintain our body’s normal functions THEN the extra is for our other activities (work, sports, etc.) At a BW of 185, I should be taking in at 1850 just for maintenance. Ballpark for me should be 2200-2500 and I come nowhere close to that.

        Reply
          1. Firebird7478

            The Zone Diet — 1200 – 1500 Calories/day, weight training 3X week, cardio 6x week. Looking back that was insane.

            Reply
  4. Mike

    It seems reasonable to suppose that humans wouldn’t have developed agriculture if we weren’t inclined to eat some plants unless we are expected to believe that it was all invented to feed livestock. I’ve certainly seen video of african tribesmen gathering mellons; no doubt it was a scam of some kind. Heck bears eat berries.

    On the other hand I wonder a bit about the notion that we wouldn’t seek sweet if it didn’t lead us to plants with micronutrients. Didn’t Dr. Lustig mention that fructose metabolism is something we inherit from a previous time. Fruit is one of the few foods that wants to be eaten. Maybe the plants that produce them are the ultimate drug pushers. We don’t normally argue that humans wouldn’t seek heroin if it didn’t contain micronutrients.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Well of course, heroin requires a wee bit of processing, as does Coca Cola (which contained cocaine back in the day). In a natural environment, I think our taste buds lead us to what we’re designed to eat.

      I’m not suggesting we all stuff ourselves with today’s extra-sweet, extra-large fruit. But I believe the wild berries and such that appealed to Paleo Man were indeed nutritious.

      Lustig believes fruits appealed to us so we’d eat the fiber they contained. Makes sense, since gut bugs want the fiber and can influence our decisions enough to be known as “the second brain.”

      Reply
      1. Walter

        That fact that original Coca Cola contained cocaine makes all those claims of “orginal formula” fraudulent. Bring back the original formula!

        Reply
          1. Walter

            Ar you suggesting that regular coke with cocaine is less dangerous than diet coke with cocaine? Hey diet coke is definitively not the original formula so no need to include the cocaine.

            Reply
            1. Walter

              I happen to know of someone with a ten diet coke a day habit. Given his position adding cocaine to his diet coke would not be advisable.

            2. Tom Naughton Post author

              If he added cocaine on top of that much aspartame, he might hallucinate and see some fake gnus on the White House lawn.

  5. Bret

    Good wrap-up, Tom. Tooth shape/pattern is another defining characteristic. We don’t have the long canines and sharp molars of straight carnivores, nor flat molars of herbivores.

    You can also compare the digestive tract length and structure of various mammals and see that here too humans fall in between the long and complex tracts of ruminant herbivores (sheep, cattle) and the shorter, simpler tracts of carnivores (cats, wolves).

    Reply
    1. Bret

      My link didn’t translate for some reason. Was a nice pictoral comparison of the teeth of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Oh well. Google images has some good stuff to that effect.

      Reply
    2. Walter

      But we have had tools from long before our ancestors were “sapiens” and probably cooking too. Cooking may have changed our anatomy.

      Some low technology people have or had (The may have been exterminated inclusive or assimilated by higher tech societies.) the ritual of extinguishing all fires and restating them to establish they were still human.

      Reply
  6. Emily

    I had a cat who would steal watermelon. Nothing else — she’d hang around hoping for fish and bacon, but she wouldn’t actually steal it off the fork. One of our cats does the same with bread. (Or did, while there was still bread in the house.) She also shows a lot of interest in chocolate, which is more worrisome because chocolate is poisonous to cats. Yet another of our cats tries to get rice and anything spicy. So the cat argument might not be a great one 🙂

    I do think we’re not the same as our Paleo ancestors. Sickle cell anemia in Mediterranean populations, different lactose tolerances in different populations, the amylase genes you mentioned, different average fat distribution, different average heights, etc. Genetic population differences in humans don’t go so far as the really important stuff like intelligence, but when it comes to what food we can best use, I think it does matter. I know I need both dairy and plants — without dairy fat, I get anxiety, and without plants, my imagination and emotional life go kaput.

    Overall, I don’t think it really matters what we’re “supposed” to eat, because I don’t think there’s any “supposed to” about it. What matters is what works best for each person in practice.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s an interesting cat.

      I don’t think we’re exactly the same as our paleo ancestors either. Mostly, but not exactly, because some mutations have obviously occurred … which torpedoes the argument that Paleo Man lived on nothing but meat (he didn’t) so you should too.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I’m starting to think I have the last pure-carnivore cat in the world.

        Although it kind of underscores my point: if supposed carnivores like cats will eat avocados, why the heck wouldn’t a paleo human?

        Reply
        1. Esther

          Growing up, our cats loved cantaloupe and would haul the rinds out of the scrap bucket for composting that my mom kept in the kitchen sink. I had a cat who also loved cantaloupe, but the biggest treat of all to him was carrot peels. As soon as he heard the scraper hit a carrot, he was right there at my feet.

          Cats don’t have sweet taste receptors, though, so I figure something else must be at play regarding their attraction to offbeat foods that aren’t meat. They do eat grass, so maybe these foods are taking the place of that?

          Apparently, there is such a thing as vegan cat food. As far as I’m concerned, feeding crap like that to a cat constitutes animal abuse. If vegans love animals so much that they won’t eat them, they need to accept cats for what they are (obligate carnivores), not how they’d like them to be.

          Reply
          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            What is it with cats and cantaloupe? Seems to be a recurring theme.

            As far as I’m concerned, if you’re a vegan and can’t stomach the idea of feeding a cat meat, then don’t get a cat.

            Reply
            1. Walter

              Cats get along fine on vegan feeding, as long as they have good access to mice. (Actually, I’ve heard they have to be shown how, but they never forget.)

        2. Bonnie

          And some cats may eat strange foods to get some nutrient that isn’t in cat food. We used to have a cat that loved cantaloupe – he’d eat the seeds out of the compost & then throw them up. Another cat – a starving stray – ate the stale bread I put out for the birds. Once he was eating regularly, he never again ate bread.

          So, Tom, you may be the only person feeding your cat exactly what it needs!

          Reply
        3. Smgj

          I’ve had cats that have eaten
          – raw potato peel
          – peel of swede
          – chocolate
          – sweet pepper

          But lately I’ve come to believe that this mostly was due to poor cat food and probably deficiency in certain nutrients.
          We now have a trio of cats where one is born and bred on cat junk food (cheapo stuff), the one that once stole a cream cheese stuffed sweet pepper (and ate all) won’t touch the stuff now, but eat mostly everything meat/fish and the last one is picky, but prefers meat/fish.

          Thus, for cat’s I believe it comes down to a combination of personal taste/what they’re used to and to what their physiology need. Perhaps once the sweet pepper was more beneficial to what that cat really needed than more of the cheap brand dry cat food…. Now it isn’t and the cat “knows” it.

          Regarding humans I’m sure that our success in spreading to all corners of the world is because of genetic adaptability. We can live successfully on a lot of different foods, but not all of us on the same. (An Inuit will probably not be genetically adapted to living in Australia in the climate of aboriginals, on those foodstuffs. And vice versa.)
          It makes sense that the further north we came, we’d be purer carnivores than compared to climates where you can find vegetables year-round.
          And the evidence for a hybrid diet lies in the digestive system and our teeth.

          Reply
          1. Smgj

            “And the evidence for that we are adapted to utilizing a hybrid (as at least a possibility) diet lies in the digestive system and our teeth. “

            Reply
          2. Tom Naughton Post author

            I agree completely. Put humans in a new area of the world for a long enough time, and the winners of the game known as “Survival of The Fittest” would be those who adapted to thrive on the local foods.

            Reply
        4. Kish

          I’m Emily’s husband.

          It’s also possible you just haven’t found the type of non-meat food your cat likes yet; we thought Reyna was an almost pure carnivore, until we discovered how much she likes spices.

          (But all three of them like(d) meat a great deal, so yes, I totally agree with your overall point.)

          Reply
    2. Walter

      Some cats tastes, like some human’s, are likely corrupted.

      Some humans are addicted to Little Debbie Snack cakes (ugh), for example. It usually doesn’t end well.

      Reply
  7. Eddie Jakes

    Seems silly, I know from my own perspective that if I don’t eat a good serving of leafy greens with meat I have digestive issues. And I haven’t read it in a long time but Wheat Belly actually suggested that greens balance ph levels in red meat.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I suppose the pH levels in the animals Paleo Man hunted could have been quite different. But yes, eating those greens seems like a good idea either way.

      Reply
  8. Justin

    I’ve experimented back and forth between all the different forms of LCHF, and one consistent thing that happens is that I retain less weight doing something like 80% keto and 20% LC with potatoes and/or sweet potatoes. Maybe it’s resistant starch. Maybe it’s that my ancestors ate more of this stuff than some others. All I know for sure is that it seems to work best for me.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      My guess is that your thyroid and your gut bugs are happier with the 20% carbs … which happens to be about what Paul Jaminet recommends, and is also at the low end of the macronutrient ratios Cordain found among hunter-gatherers.

      Reply
  9. Orvan Taurus

    Gee, no fruits? No grains at all? Then there’s a peculiar bottleneck, so to speak, as without those… how did those folks not bothering with such wind up with wine and beer?

    Reply
  10. Glenn

    Thank you, Tom, for being a voice of reason. Once again, I’m reminded that so often someone puts forth an interesting and useful idea, and then people take it to extremes, and it begins to take on the aspect of “gospel truth”, and everything else is heresy. I see it in religion, ecology, economy, diet, as well as other areas. I believe in moderation in all things. Personally, I do much better on a diet of low carbs, but I still eat them, except much grains. They give me terrific (and not the good terrific) heartburn… I eat very much like my mother taught me, the way they ate before the government and big ag/pharma got involved, although my parents did fall into the government’s “healthy eating” trap a little later in life. I’m sure between that and the statins my dad was prescribed have contributed to his dementia. My mother developed a fear of fats and is starting to suffer from dementia, as well. I try to encourage her to eat more fat, but it’s deeply ingrained. Both sides are long lived, dad is 90 and mom is 86, and we expect them to live for some time to come, but their quality of life is diminished. I lift weights and participate in other physical activity, try to eat wisely, and encourage my wife kids to do the same. Hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

    Reply
  11. Justin M.

    Hi Tom,

    Speaking of Keto, what are your thoughts and Jimmy Moore’s failed Keto Clarity Academy and his split with Dr. Jason Fung?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I haven’t followed the Keto Clarity Academy story. I spoke with Jimmy about the split with Dr. Fung, but that’s not for public consumption.

      Reply
  12. T O Guy

    Arg. I’ve always found arguments by anti-meat and anti-vegetable people annoying and stupid. I believe our ancestors, wandering around the country, ate whatever was available that didn’t make them sick, whether it was meat or vegetation. If meat was not immediately available, they would dig up a tuber, eat a grape, collect a handful of nuts, whatever. “Hunter-gatherer” is all well and good but “opportunistic” is a better description.

    I’ve been hunting for sixty years and even with my scoped rifle and high-quality binoculars there have been days when there just wasn’t anything to shoot. Tracks everywhere; one knows the game is in the area but for whatever reason nothing presents itself. And that is with modern equipment that will reach out and touch something. Imagine running around the countryside with only a rock or a club or a bow-and-arrow. Man, there are just days when meat ain’t available so a guy would have to chow down on rabbit food to quell his peckishness, maybe for several days.

    Sheesh; get real, people.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The arguments between anti-meat and anti-vegetable people are almost as ridiculous as the arguments between Apple and PC aficionados. I happen to use both.

      Reply
  13. Brad

    Well written Mr Naughton…

    I agree with you 98%… But even my cat ate carbs in every tender rodent it consumes. I always find what appears to be a mouse gall, but never a stomach or intestine. Feet and tail of a squirrel and so on. I had a cat, he past at 16 years of age this summer, who LOVED carbs… Well, he loved breads of all type. He even shared raw broccoli with the dogs from time to time. So… As it seems. We humans are all the same yet different, so seems the animals as well.

    I just had to toss that in there, that’s my 2%. Love your article and look forward to more…

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Jeez, my cat must be more carnivorous than the cats other people commenting have. Other than the dry food that’s processed to taste like meat, he won’t touch plant foods.

      Reply
  14. Tom Welsh

    Having spent literally decades struggling to lose weight and get healthier, reading dozens of books and articles, and experimenting with many diets and exercise regimes, I have recently felt like a prospector who has struck gold. The astonishing thing is that the following data is often anecdotal or from single individuals – nevertheless it serves as an existence proof.

    1. A young Scotsman fasted completely, eating nothing and drinking only water, for 382 days. He lost a huge amount of weight and afterwards was assessed by doctors as completely healthy, with no deficiencies. Originally he intended to fast for a month or two, but said he decided to continue because it made him feel better than he ever had in his life. http://cristivlad.com/total-starvation-382-days-without-food-study/

    2. Drs Stefansson and Anderson went for a whole year eating nothing but meat, under medical supervision. When they began, experts told them they would die or become very ill. However they remained perfectly healthy, if not healthier than before. They were found to have developed no deficiencies of vitamins or minerals, and felt very good. Dt Stefansson wrote books and articles about his experiences, including “The Fat of the Land”.

    3. Owsley Stanley (aka “Bear”) corresponded with Dr Stefansson and adopted the all-meat diet. Apparently he followed it the rest of his life (about 50 years) until he died in a car accident. Bear gave a talk shortly before he died, and it’s eye-opening. (He did insist that very few people, given their early diet and social training, would be able to go over to all-meat). https://zerocarbzen.com/the-bear/

    4. Dr Weston A. Price investigated ten “primitive” cultures in the 1930s, and documented the results and his conclusions in his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” (1939). He found that, whenever primitive peoples ate their traditional diets, they remained outstandingly healthy. As a dentist he was particularly interested in the superb state of their jaws and teeth, and he noted that most of them had virtually no trace of dental caries or gum infections. This was most pronounced in those who ate the least carbohydrate.

    Only four data points – and all of them from a long time ago. Drs Price and Stefansson made their findings known before WW2! Stefansson wrote that he expected his revelations to turn the science of nutrition on its head; in fact his work was completely ignored.

    Nevertheless, as I find those sources reliable, what I get from is this:

    1. Human beings can live healthily, happily, and with enjoyment on a diet of nothing but meat, plus (optionally) fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy and any other animal products. Many have done this all their lives and have been far healthier than almost any “civilised” person.

    2. The body’s fat stores are there to provide nourishment in lean times, and when fat is accumulated it should be consumed in due course. Only by eating a most unnatural diet is it even possible to become and remain fat.

    3. Consequently it is also possible to live healthily, happily and with enjoyment while eating nothing at all and drinking only water, as long as the body’s fat stores hold out.

    4. Remarkably enough, this implies that all the elaborate structure of modern nutrition science – as seen, for example, in “The Perfect Health Diet” – is entirely redundant and unnecessary. If, like the Inuit, the Masai, Bear and many others, you eat virtually nothing but animal foods, you can forget about vitamins, minerals, and all the rest of that crap. For good. Vitamin C, which many of us are careful to obtain, is apparently quite unnecessary unless you eat carbs. Likewise the whole range of “micronutrients”. If you need them, you can get them from the amount of meat you need to eat to get enough calories.

    Now of course none of this implies that anyone should do anything in particular. But doesn’t it sound quite attractive? And just think of the almost total destruction it would wreak on the medical, pharmaceutical, insurance and “food” industries!

    On the other hand, it’s utterly impossible for any but a small minority, as we have allowed our numbers to grow so immensely that only by eating grains in huge quantities can mass starvation – and probably wars – be avoided.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Sure, I don’t deny that some people seem perfectly happy and healthy on all-meat diets (although I’d add organ meats to the mix, as Stefansson did). My beef (pun intended) is with those who extend that experience to mean that Paleo Man never ate plants and no modern humans need them either.

      Reply
    2. bill

      1. A young Scotsman fasted completely, eating nothing and drinking only water, for 382 days. He lost a huge amount of weight and afterwards was assessed by doctors as completely healthy, with no deficiencies. Originally he intended to fast for a month or two, but said he decided to continue because it made him feel better than he ever had in his life. http://cristivlad.com/total-starvation-382-days-without-food-study/

      The fast and his weight probably did not do
      his health any favors. He died in 1990 at
      the ripe young age of 52 years old.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Although you have to wonder how much damage was done in the years before the fast, when he weighed 450 pounds.

        Reply
  15. Geoff

    I don’t remember the exact quote by Dr. Doug McGuff but it went something like, “If you can pick it, pull it, hook it, or beat it to death with a stick, you can eat it.”

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Pretty sure that’s it. We explained in the book that the natural foods for humans were the ones you could just clean, cook (for some foods) and eat.

      Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I would of course expect keto enthusiasts to claim the change in thyroid is healthy. I remain dubious. If our ancestors didn’t live on zero-carb diets (and most of our ancestors didn’t), I don’t see why we’d all be geared to be at our healthiest on a zero-carb diet.

      And of course, it’s not just thyroid function that changes. Many people experience a rise in cortisol and a drop in sex hormones as well. Rosedale doesn’t deny that sex hormones (that would be testosterone if you’re a guy) will drop, but says it’s good for longevity.

      No thanks. As a guy pushing 60, I don’t want my testosterone to decline any more than aging itself will dictate. I believe I’ll live to a ripe old age anyway, and I’d prefer to keep the man hormones as high as I can for as long as I’m above ground.

      Reply
      1. Smgj

        I’d see the drop in hormones (both sex and thyroid) it as a possible adaptation to starving (well known) and/or cold climates. Like – “stay in the cave, and don’t even think about reproduction until this long winter is over”…

        But I’m not sure we can call it a desirable or practical adaptation under other conditions. Since bears have really lowered thyroid hormones while hibernating it seem to me that this probably is an adaptation to survive harsh conditions, and that it is doubtful that we can utilize it under severely different conditions.
        I believe that it should be treated rather as a survival method than something to strive for regarding longevity and/or life quality under the conditions we face now (heated houses, 24/7 light and access to food all the time etc. all what also influence our hormones).

        (I have a thyroid problem that requires medication and are unable to believe that lowering hormones until you’re cold, dry-skinned, sleep all the time, and loose the hair while still adding weight is something to desire. That may be a slight influence on my take on this. 😉 )

        Reply
  16. Susan Rice

    First off, I agree with your arguments…but have to tell you funny cat story. We have 3 cats. Two-thirds are normal, but our big yellow tabby loves to get into crackers (my husband isn’t low carb so we have them around) if he has the chance. He acts more like a golden retriever than a Tom cat. He’s a sweet big old guy though.

    Reply
  17. Nathan

    The vegan-in-reverse term is spot on, Tom. I suspect that much of this syndrome is caused by the disdain for vegans (and all the political leanings that usually accompany them), and thus not wanting to agree with them at all, in any respect. And thus the sliding into the exact reverse position. I think this same phenomenon manifests in many vegans as well.

    I know that I have fought off that kind of thinking myself. It’s quite common, and we see it all the time in politics in general.

    “No way am I going to agree with anything that Nazi/Commie thinks”, no matter how reasonable or supported by evidence, data, etc.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s what Eric Hoffer called the True Believer personality. They are attracted to extreme positions and are hostile to anyone who disagrees on any point. Interestingly, Hoffer claims True Believers can jump from one extreme belief system to another, even when the two belief systems are in opposition. I suspect some of the vegans-in-reverse are former vegans.

      Reply
  18. boris gomes

    Tom you make great points. You mentioned that “According to Loren Cordain’s studies, carbohydrates made up 20% to 40% of the diet in most hunter-gatherer societies.”

    My question:Why would it matter if the carbs came from wild vegetation v. processed food as long as you ate them at the aforementioned ratio since the body convert each to the same substance, glucose?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I think it would make a huge difference. Processed carbs are generally what’s called acellular, which means the fibers are gone and the cells have been smashed. They spike blood sugar much more dramatically (in general) and promote the growth of the wrong kind of gut bacteria. Whole-food carbs from vegetables, roots, tubers, etc., tend to feed the right kind of gut bugs.

      Reply
    2. Nathan

      Because it’s not that simple, despite what the theoretical organic chemistry would imply. There’s still a lot we don’t understand about how our bodies work. Not to mention how our interaction with our gut biotics affects things all this.

      Reply
      1. Bret

        +1 and +1.

        People need to get away from thinking of glucose as a toxin (whether they call it that or not). There’s little reason to fear glucose and its antecedents in their natural context and packaging, and at an appropriate quantity.

        Any refined and/or concentrated substance is going to provide diminishing returns for health past a small quantity, negative returns past another, and has a high potential to contribute to weight gain proportional to its caloric dose. And, I’m sorry, but this applies to butter and other fats too, not just the carbs.

        I wouldn’t eat a candy bar, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to down a cup of blueberries. I’d eat a potato over a couple slices of bread any day of the week. And, I get my fat from a few eggs (with the yolks) or a modest sized steak…not from spooning on coconut oil or bacon drippings.

        Reply
  19. Walter

    Grains are seeds, so if grains are more nutrient dense than beef, what is the method of weighing. Perhaps having fat was considered a negative? This would hold for weighing by nutrients per calorie. Fat particularly animal fat would be by nutritionists standards considered extremely negative so may have heavily weighted against.

    I would weigh against carbs in calculating nutrient density.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Later in the lecture, Kresser dealt with grains specifically. Not nutrient-dense, as you might have guessed.

      Reply
      1. Walter

        In that case I find his schema (classifying grains as non seeds) very strange. When people say seeds, grains are what I think of first and without prompting probably what he call seeds not at all.

        Reply
  20. Ulfric Douglas

    Nobody picking up on this? ;

    Tom Welsh says:
    “1. A young Scotsman fasted completely, eating nothing and drinking only water, for 382 days.”

    Reply
  21. Kathy in OK

    Cats! They’re as different as humans. My ex and I picked up a kitten born near the tire bay on a truck yard and made him our truck mascot. He traveled with us across country, was leash trained traveled well. He was weaned on whatever scraps the tire bay workers threw to him and his litter-mates and mother. All he wanted to eat was french fries – thought we’d never get him to eat cat food. I know cats don’t have sweet taste receptors, but we shared many an ice cream cone.

    Reply
      1. James A Simmons

        Time to destroy another idea that is still mainstream. That idea is that carnivores require larger brains than herbivores.

        https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnana.2017.00118/full

        Mind you its looking largely at the neuron count which does give a complete picture of cognitive function. So the summary is that the limitation for carnivores is that due to the lack of a constant supply of food. So their brains have metabolic constraints which limits what they can do. Scaling
        of size of brain also doesn’t relate to intelligence. They found bears and cats have about the neuron count. The animal with a neuron density approach primates was the raccoon. It has the same neural count as a dog in a cat size brain. So what makes primates and raccoons special?
        Well it takes a lot brain power to work hands 🙂

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I can confirm that raccoons are smart. Unfortunately, they use that intelligence to find ways into our chicken yards.

          Reply
          1. Walter

            You expected anything else. They have not yet come to the level of working for money and buying food. I am thinking of them as a possible successor to Homer the sap.

            And they are under pressure from humans to become smarter as they are finding our towns great food sources free of most of their traditional predators. It seems every time we create a defense the raccoons find away around it. They have become very good at picking locks, for example.

            You just have to deal with the rural raccoons.

            Create a concentrated food source and critters will try to eat it.

            The book _The Vegetarian Myth_ tells the story of how Lierre Keith tried to raise plants without killing animals and found it could not be done among other things.

            Reply
            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              Fortunately for me, I have no qualms about killing critters that want to kill my chickens.

  22. Walter

    I won’t believe what’s on that chart at least until I know his rating method. By adjusting the parameters I could make iceberg lettuce look like a superfood.

    Reply
  23. chris c

    I think the zero carbers are interesting, not least because it’s one on the eye for the Dietician Hordes that they continue for so long while avoiding the “inevitable consequences” of not basing every meal on starchy carbohydrates. Like low carbers with a turbocharger.

    Frankly though, you can prise my avocado out of my cold dead hands. And the seasonal greens. And the muticoloured peppers and chillies. And the mushrooms and olives etc. etc. Like Gary Fettke I eat a vegan diet, along with my meat and fish.

    I have this vision of hunter gatherers – the men announce they are going hunting, but actually they sit around boasting and farting, and finally drag home some roadkill. Meanwhile the women, children and old folks collect leafy greens, roots, fruit and berries, nuts, eggs, fish, small mammals, insects etc. They probably also ate grains and seeds when they were available, just not as the basis of every meal every day.

    That rather describes my eating habits, or as some would say my eating disorder – except I don’t eat many grains, or much fruit because of the effects on my blood glucose. Not the insects either, or the eggs – not because they are “chicken abortions” or any other vegan propaganda, just I don’t like the texture or flavour, I wait until they have grown up.

    “Humans don’t eat tree bark because it’s not a natural food for us and therefore doesn’t have a flavor we naturally enjoy. Would we start eating (and perhaps over-eating) tree bark if someone bred trees that grew really, really big and chewy bark?”

    Oh don’t give the Man From The CSPI ideas . . .

    Reply
      1. chris c

        It has been known, if relatively fresh and undamaged – pheasants and rabbits commit suicide by traffic on a regular basis. I know people who have done the same with deer but fortunately I never hit one yet. A trucker friend once had a pigeon fly full tilt into his windscreen, but that one exploded leaving only feathers and a bloodstain, not even enough for soup.

        Cue old joke about the train which suddenly started bouncing about

        A passenger asked the guard what just happened

        “We hit a rabbit”

        “Is it dead?”

        “Oh yes, we had to go over three fields and through a hedge but we got it in the end”

        Reply
  24. Evin

    This is one of those common red herrings put out by the low-fat/vegan crowd, that low-carb folks are pushing for a carnivorous, all-animal diet. But last I checked, they were a fringe group within the low-carb community. Most low-carb diets advocate eating vegetables, especially green vegetables. A diet excluding plant-based foods is not any healthier than a diet excluding animal-based ones. In order to get all the nutrients your body needs, you require a balance of both.

    Reply

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