Optimality: A Fool’s Errand?

Well, it would not have been in the Paleolithic

…And, I’ll get to that later…

Lots of paleo shit brewing now. I’m not going to name or link any of it. It really doesn’t matter and if people want to allude in comments…well, I don’t moderate those unless someone has the audacity to write "fuck," or something. 🙂

To roughly summarize, we are getting beyond the low-carb emphasis, and bizzarely enough, there’s fat phobia encroaching on heels. But as I said, I’m not referencing any of it; and because, I actually have something more important to highlight: my post here.

What has happened, as alluded to above, is the result of the same fool’s errand: "The Search for the Wholly Optimal." You see, we’re all human animals. … But never mind that we have scoured the entire habitable portion of the globe from equator to arctic circle and sea level to 16K, and everything in-between, for the last 50-60K years Out of Africa…and that’s not even considering the vast ecological differences on that continent from rain forrest to dessert — and that would be over millions of years of natural selection (a term I far prefer to "evolution").

And yet we’re still infatuated with the bizarre notion that there is one specific dietary regime that works for everyone and us Paleos — always on the job — have a serious task ahead of us, and that is to "optimize." It’s probably nobody’s fault. After all, we’ve grown up in an increasingly obese culture with an increasingly voluminous library of dietary prescriptions intended for everyone. After all, who doesn’t want to write a diet book and sell a million copies? Nobody wants to write a million diet books. Hint.

And since you can’t write a million diet books, diet books are essentially crap — unless, of course, there are implicit or explicit principles one can extrapolate and apply to their own self-experimentation. And that’s why I’m "Paleo" -ish. Of anything out there, it’s the paleo books that truly have the principles, even if implying or explicating that this should work for everyone or is approaching some notion of optimality. And in many cases, the principles far outweigh any prescriptions — such as macronutrient ratios — so that in essence, the sound principles undercut errors and exuberance. That’s always good. That’s why I always endeavor to be a principled man, above all else. I really do loath the pragmatic paradigm. As well, I loath the word "paradigm." So there you go.

This need not be a long post so I wont make it so. Brevity always scores high on the virtue scale, in my opinion.

Optimality in dietary practice can only apply to an individual (or perhaps small group, to finally reference the subtitle of the post). And that means: all diet books are useless beyond the pure principles, and that’s why we’re "Paleo" in the first place, and…and, we have to finish the job ourselves. It’s not about low carb or high fat; it’s about cutting back or cutting out neolithic foodstuffs; i.e., processed foods and derivatives. But nobody can prescribe for you whether a diet of 40, 50, 70 or 80% natural fats work best for you, or, 40, 50, 70 or 80% STARCH. There, I said it.

For me, high starch is not going to work, but a decent amount does well, even damn white rice (hypoallergenic, BTW, for those who have problems with tubers and potatoes). But I have no idea what’s best for you, and the idea that I could write a book to tell you so, strikes me as absurd. I won’t go there. I will have a book. It will be 100% principle based. Working on it.

Individual optimality is not the best thing. Individual optimality is the only thing, in the context of your very one and only life. How do you know you’ve gotten there? You never get there. That’s just life. "Optimal," while possibly illusory, is not a bad thing to shoot for individually. The best benefit to that might be the simple exercise of discounting everything you’re told and actually working individually.

Update: I neglected to mention that this thinking is in part a result of a number of emails and phone conversations with kurt harris, MD.

Hopefully, we get a good comment thread going. If you’d like to see that action, then help out by sharing this on Twitter and Facebook, using the buttons up top.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Joseph Dantes on May 20, 2011 at 16:34

    Yes! Great post.

    I think we should look at the paleolithic diets, the science of nutritional pathways, disease and epidemiology, scientific studies, AND self-experimentation, both by ourselves and others, then apply general intelligence to achieve the desired result.

    80% starch appears a little on the high side to me… eating ad libitum on a high exercise regimen puts me around 50%.

    Folks with IBS or fructose malabsorption, I highly recommend you use white rice instead of potatoes or tubers. Rice’s only fault is a lack of nutrients other than starch… it’s not toxic like the other grains.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 18:30


      I have your email about rice. I’ll get back to you.

  2. Joseph Dantes on May 20, 2011 at 16:38

    That’s another thing… you tell a person with IBS-D that they should get most of their calories from fat, and you’re very likely dooming that person to some serious gut cramps, confusion and frustration.

    Be kind! Endorse starch validity! And hypoallergenic rice.

    • Melissa McEwen on May 20, 2011 at 18:55

      I disagree. I’ve had good success with high fat, but then again I was IBS-CD(FUN TIMES).

      • Joseph Dantes on May 20, 2011 at 19:03

        I assume that means constipation AND diarrhea?

        I agree that fat definitely helps with constipation, and diarrhea can be caused by many things, not necessarily fat or oil sensitivity.

        Believe me, I gave the high fat model every possible attempt, as either all-meat or all-meat plus tubers et al. I could probably get enough calories from fat with a sedentary lifestyle on an all meat diet, but add in athletics and it becomes impossible.

      • rob on May 21, 2011 at 02:03

        “but add in athletics and it becomes impossible”

        That was my experience, I lost a bunch of weight eating nothing but animal flesh, but once I was in good shape again I found it was holding me back, after some self-experimentation I found rice worked well for me.

        What was Optimal when I was 50 pounds overweight was no longer Optimal once I got lean and mean.

        I still avoid sugar like the plague and don’t eat wheat or corn products.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 02:24

        Yeah, I can’t eat corn either. That’s why it irritates me that Archevore puts corn and rice together in the same category of “non-gluten grains.” Cmon, guys! Not the same at ALL.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 02:31

        Here’s another question: are sweet potatoes and white potatoes even really paleo at all?

        I mean the ones we grow today have gotta be enhanced for size etc just like fruit has been, right?

        If you really wanted to eat paleo starch, you’d be eating “cassava, taro, true yam, and sago palm,” wouldn’t you?

        And I see precious few people doing that.

        So what’s wrong with going for a pure starch source like rice, and what makes sweet potato et al inherently superior? Both could be considered products of the neolithic agricultural revolution.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 09:44

        This looks like a good one, and keeps it warm for 24 hours.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 10:04

        Thanks that bone broth + rice suggestion sounds brilliant.

        The logic wasn’t that anti-nutrients make something un-paleo, but that significant changes from original nutritional composition by agricultural modification might make something un-paleo.

        Anyway, I don’t view paleo as a synonym for “good,” I am just poking at boundaries.

      • John on May 21, 2011 at 10:40

        I got a zojirushi rice cooker about 2 months ago, its been awesome. Perfect every time, keeps rice perfect all day long. I’d recommend it, and they’ve got a very popular model for not much more than the cuisinart you linked. From the research I’ve done, Zojirushi and Tiger are the most respected brands among serious rice consumers.. The one I picked up was $240, 5.5 cup induction model (NP-HBC10) mostly because I love awesome kitchen appliances. Fuzzy logic = badass = perfect rice. Also, using the cook timer, it finishes cooking at the time you set. Works perfect for IF or workout meal timing.

        (Last one is what I went with)

      • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 08:49

        Joseph, all those varieties have been selected for size/lack of poisonousness. I cook with cassava sometimes, but I would not be very happy to cook with the ancient cassava varieties, as they require several days of processing to remove the cyanide. This was a boon to early peoples as they didn’t have to compete much with other animals for the cassava.

        But either way, by the logic that antinutrients make something unpaleo (which is idiotic since paleolithic foods were chock full of such crap) none of them are OK. By the logic that something being “New World” makes it unpaleo than cassava, sweet potato, and normal potato are out.

        For someone with a delicate stomach, I’ve definitely had more success with rich, which lacks most antinutrients. If I have diarrhea, I merely boil the white rice in bone broth and eat it. It normalizes my stomach within hours. Nutritionally, white rice is pretty similar to sago starch.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 09:40


        About how much white rice in terms of carb grams would you say you eat on a day you eat it? And I assume you make that your primary carb source for the day?

        Also, and preferences on rice, i.e., Japanese, basmati, jasmine, etc?

        Finally, what do you use for a cooker? I’m going to do some self experimentation eating white rice every day (cooked in stock) and was thinking of getting ne of those rice cookers that keeps it warm and moist for some period, until consumed.

      • gallier2 on May 21, 2011 at 13:01

        For good rice there are 3 points that must be followed. I learnt it from the Africans in my life (I’m married with a Gabonese Lady).
        1. choose a high quality rice, thai or basmati, the American rices are not the best (and often GMO btw).
        2. wash the rice before cooking, this is essential, you pour the rice in a plate put cold water on it, rince. The water you pour down the drain is milky. Repeat until the water is clear. This has eliminated all the dust and loose starches. The rice tastes much better this way and also gets a bettre consistence.
        3. cook the rice in water but just the quantity necessary, meaning just one thinger thick more water than rice in the cooker. Never cook rice like pasta in huge quantities of water. You don’t need a sieve to cook rice, never. Put some good fat in the water before cooking, a spoon of lard, coconut oil or my favorite rendered duck fat. It doesn’t need to be much, as I said, 1 spoon is enough. It gives smoothness to the end result.

      • gallier2 on May 21, 2011 at 13:02

        replace thinger with finger .

      • Dr.BG on May 21, 2011 at 14:07

        I’m lookin for a stainless steel container??? no teflon…

      • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 14:21

        I got my rice cooker on Amazon. If I could redo I’d pick up a stainless steel one. They are all the same pretty much, except I always want one with a steamer so I can make complete meals (fish, shrimp, and veggies steam really well). If you have some money to blow, the fuzzy logic ones do some cool things, like sprout brown rice and do risotto (a great way to fix stomach issues).

        My roommate is Thai and we usually buy different types of thai rice. We have regular jasmine and sweet sticky (which is harder to cook) right now. We make rice with coconut milk a lot, that’s really good and filling for the menfolk.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 15:07

        Pretty much how I’ve always done it and I agree rinsing is essential, and yea, usually Thai or basmati. Making it with chicken stock is also good. Another is tossing in a cinnamon stick or two.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 15:31

        After having gone out to several retailers and checked out the Japanese models, seen the big difference in prices — nobody had the Cuisinart, probably too new — I went ahead and ordered the Cuisinart. I looks exactly like the zojirushi and is likely manufactured under license, it has the fuzzy logic, and we’ll see. I have always been happy with the quality and durability of Cuisinart products.

      • Dino Babe on May 21, 2011 at 15:33

        I find reheating rice to be perfectly acceptable. In a bowl at the bottom of the oven covered in foil. It’s very forgiving, but if you are worried you can add a little stock and stir it around to make sure it’s moist. I have an asian cook book that lists a different rice cooking method for each cuisine. There must be at least 10 methods, all using a trusty saucepan. I find the best leftover rice to be the kind where the grains are separate, avoiding over cooked mush. My favourite recipe at the moment is white rice (rinsed and dried), fat (butter is good), red onion (roughly diced), lemon juice, stock (usually chicken/duck, but I can’t see why beef wouldn’t work), and blanched almonds. In a heavy bottomed pot, over a medium heat, melt fat (1-3 tblsp), saute onion (1/2-1 onion) for a minute or two, then add rice (1 cup) and saute for a few minutes until most of it has started to become opaque. Add stock (1.5 cups), the juice of 1/2 lemon (or more), almonds (small handful, or more), salt and pepper, stir. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to lowest setting. Cook for 10-12 minutes, then stand covered off the heat for 5 minutes. Fluff up with a fork. Eat with a fork. Reheats perfectly, no gluggy starchy mass to be found here.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 15:38

        Since my wife is Mexican descent I often get awesome rice with the tomato sauce, bit of green pepper and such at various family functions. I believe the rice is sauteed first as well. Well, I have lard, which should definitely be the traditional way. Gonna give it a try.

        Here’s a factoid for you, as I was researching my self experiment today: 3 cups of cooked white rice is only 130g of carbohydrate. You could have a cup with breakfast, lunch & dinner and if you only got maybe 20g from veggies fruit during the day, you’re still at the very respectable 150g moderate carb.

      • Dr.BG on May 21, 2011 at 15:41

        Thanks M! My friend told me she has an OYAMA which also has a stainless steel steamer. We love Thai black sticky rice made with coconut milk + white sticky rice!! My kids go nuts over the raisins chopped into it… Unfortunately I eat too much and my brain gets FUZZY (and fat)…

        Risotto (esp w/ghee) and sprouted brown rice are awesome!

        I’ve got some gaba nongmo organic rice some northern cal — gonna soak 1-2 days then give it a test run!

        Richard — MMMMMMMMMMMMMHHHHHHHHhhhhmmmm…. sounds aromatic and YMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

      • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 15:41

        In other words, it is an error to assume that someone who consumes rice regularly is maintaining a high carb diet. Having lived in Japan for five years, portions were always modest, like a cup, maybe cup & a half.

      • Dr.BG on May 21, 2011 at 15:42

        omg god i’m salivating…

      • John on May 21, 2011 at 16:08

        The ability to easily quantify intake is something I love about rice too, now that you mention it. If you’re shooting for a certain amount of starch per day, its awesome to measure it out once, and have it waiting for you throughout the day.

      • J. Stanton on May 21, 2011 at 19:44

        That’s a great point about rice not being “high-carb”, Richard.

        To put it another way: 1 cup of cooked rice = same carbs as 1 12oz. can of soda. Except it’s basically 100% glucose instead of 60% fructose, and the average soda these days is more like 20-24 oz.


      • Dino Babe on May 21, 2011 at 22:50

        “Here’s a factoid for you, as I was researching my self experiment today: 3 cups of cooked white rice is only 130g of carbohydrate.”

        This is part of the reason why I felt so comfortably with adding rice back into my diet (after a few months of avoidance, you know, to be a good little paleo eater). The other reason is that cooking is my hobby, and I gotta get my kicks!

      • Sue on May 22, 2011 at 01:23

        Rice cookers are brilliant, never fail. When I cooked it in pot on stove top it was always such a hassle. I like basmati. Wonder what Melissa uses.

      • CG on May 22, 2011 at 22:12

        Personally, I think these are better:

        And they’re pretty cheap at Fry’s or Amazon too. When I did the body builder thing they were awesome for rice, oatmeal. quinoa, etc.

      • Emily Deans on May 22, 2011 at 12:35

        We have a rice cooker my husband picked up at the dump. All the instructions and buttons are in Japanese (I assume?), but there’s only one button so pretty simple. Works great. Today used coconut milk, cinnamon stick, and a bit of Celtic salt, and it was unbelievable. Kids went crazy for it. I like rice for the kids as you can load them up with good fats melted over it, or bone broth, or whatever – they never seem to turn up their noses when rice is along for the ride.

      • Cathy on May 22, 2011 at 16:10

        Chicken stock and a BIG pat of butter … makes it unbelievable!

        I think Don has been struck by lightning, btw ….

      • Don Wiss on May 22, 2011 at 16:42

        Yes. Very fortuitous lighting. I had every intention of keeping my spat with Melissa private. Being kicked out of the meetup I had accepted my defeat. For example, I can’t sign up for the Mark Sisson talk this week. I accepted it and told no one. But apparently that wasn’t enough for her. Hence her going public by posting a negative comment about me here. Anonymously! If she has something to say about me, she should have the courage to attach her own name. Or not say it.

      • CG on May 22, 2011 at 22:40

        I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve heard that some form of white rice is somehow better than brown or wild rice. Am I going crazy?

        My curiosity is piqued though. Are there any specific brands that I can find to try this out? I saw basmati, maybe jasmine? Most stuff I’ve ever bought (and gotten bored with) has been from California growers. But now I’m curious how it would be with some of the methods you guys talked about by adding lard, broth, coconut milk, etc…

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 12:18

        not sure about wild rice but for brown rice that nasty phytic acid is in the bran, which inhibits mineral absorption. I believe you can get white rice with the germ intact, and it has beneficial nutrients.

      • becky yo on May 23, 2011 at 17:48

        seconding Zojirushi! We have an induction model with timer. The timer is the best part (especially if you want rice at breakfast!)

      • Victoria on May 24, 2011 at 18:05

        I inherited a rice cooker from my brother (despite our british heritage, he is Japanese for most intents and purposes). Alas, it has 3 buttons (all in japanese), but I just push things until it seems to be doing what I want!

      • Keith Thomas on May 26, 2011 at 16:53

        I spent a couple of years in Papua New Guinea in the early 1970s. They have been eating sweet potato for millennia and they look no different from those available retail here. That doesn’t mean they are identical, but at a glance they are similar. No selected varieties up in the PNG highlands back then!

      • Joseph Dantes on May 20, 2011 at 19:19

        I shouldn’t say impossible.

        I should say, improbable that resultant cravings would be successfully resisted, on a small budget, with limited kitchen equipment, and a in high temptation environment.

  3. Brett Legree on May 20, 2011 at 16:16

    Right on. Take from the experience of others, make it your own, listen to your gut, adjust as necessary.

    That seems to work for most things in life, I find…

  4. Sean on May 20, 2011 at 16:26

    I’ve thought that the idea behind paleo is to free oneself of obsession with food the way CW is. With ratios and details and what not. People need to fucking relax and step back, and enjoy themselves. Homo ludens ftw

    • Be on May 21, 2011 at 14:18

      For shame – second post and you dropped the “F” bomb! ..Actually, I am proud of you Sean!

  5. RobA on May 20, 2011 at 16:29

    I appreciate your take on this, Richard. I also like your practice and suggestion to incorporate variability. I think in the search for ‘optimal,’ there may be a tendency against that, and that may ironically undermine ‘optimality.’

  6. Stabby on May 20, 2011 at 16:34

    This is a very sub-optimal blog, Richard. You could do better if you just blogged 30 articles a day.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 18:31

      Stabby: YFCMU

      • MarkD on May 24, 2011 at 14:58


        WTF does YFCMU mean?

      • Richard Nikoley on May 24, 2011 at 15:03

        You Fucking Crack Me Up

  7. Tim Huntley on May 20, 2011 at 17:17


    You have certainly shown a lot of primal wisdom in this post.

    Richard Nikoley – the Anthony Bourdain of the Paleo world, always tellin’ it like it is!


  8. Martin Berkhan on May 20, 2011 at 17:22

    Good post, Richard.

    The pursuit of an optimal macronutrient-split in the Paleo community has had the unfortunate effect of

    1) Raising the bullshit:fact-ratio quite high. Example: fat vs carbs, insulin and fat loss, etc.

    2) Confining individual choice re: macronutrient and food selection. Example: generally speaking, a paleo diet “should” always be low carb, etc. There is rarely any regard for individual preference. The fact that some indigenous populations ate high-carb diets (and still do) are conveniently ignored.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 22:10

      Thanks, Martin. Good points. And for evryone else: Martin is very Paleo friendly in terms of Kurt”s NAD and can easily work with any clients in that regard. He has it all dialed in already, even before he and I met up.

    • David on May 21, 2011 at 03:30

      Martin/Richard…hallaluja!! Some fucking sanity…finally! (oops, I hope you don’t moderate that ! 🙂 ). Ever since Don Matesz’s series on primal potatoes, I’ve been growing more and more tired of the paleo/primal community’s intolerance toward starch and their insulin-phobic stance on carbs. I’m completely on the paleo bandwagon with grains – especially wheat – food quality and fats, but I now have a problem that the default paleo stance is low-carb. Given that there are a ton of ancient civilizations that thrive on high carb diets (e.g Kitavans, Hadza etc…), it doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately it feels like this is becoming the new CW 🙁 (EVERYONE knows carbs are bad and should be avoided – substitute “carbs” for “fats” for the original CW version).

      • ekono on May 23, 2011 at 05:03

        I´d say Don has been going way off in the wrong direction overall, with his series on fat just being plain bad (culminating in the removed “melting points” post). I assume this is what RN is referring to in the post above.

        As for carbohydrate and insulin, my overall impression is that a lower-carb, low-dairy (and hence less insulogenic) approach might be warranted in cases where chronic hyperinsulinemia is present (I.e. fatty liver, beer belly, etc. etc.). But no, the rest of us probably won´t be harmed in any way by a post-potato insulin spike. On the contrary even, when we want to lift heavy stuff and build some muscle…

    • Robin Huber on November 12, 2011 at 14:48

      I think the reason for the low carb emphasis is that so many people in modernized countries (especially here in the U.S.) are obese and pre-diabetic. Low carb may be the best bridge back to health for these people. That doesn’t mean it’s the optimal diet long-term. I think this is the missing piece in low-carb strategies. At a certain point many people get sick of eating low carb/high fat, and they don’t necessarily feel that great either, even though they’ve lost all the weight and are a million times healthier. But they think the only alternative is going back to a low fat, high fiber (aka grainy) diet, or even lapsing back into SAD. I’ve been there myself many times, and if I knew that there was a step beyond the low-carb stage (after I was thin and healthy, which I am) where high glycemic starches might be carefully reintroduced, then it would have just been a matter of tinkering.

  9. keithallenlaw on May 20, 2011 at 17:42

    Thumbs way up!

  10. Jim on May 20, 2011 at 17:42

    Sign me up I’d buy that book! Say hi to Dr Harris and tell him we are missing his writing as well!


  11. Jamie on May 20, 2011 at 17:48

    Nice summary of what I have been thinking reading around the interwebs of late. We don’t eat ratios… or high fat… or low carb… we eat food. I can send someone to the supermarket to buy low fructose or high saturated fat, but I can tell them to buy sweet potato and lamb. In the work I do, I spend a bit of time tiki-touring around the different cultures in their different geographical locations, highlighting not what they eat, or what the differences are or whether one is more optimal than another, but rather showing the commonality of what they didn’t eat. And it is at this point that we just can’t go much past Kurt Harris’ neolithic agents of disease. Hold the grains, vegetable fats, sugars, and soy, if you want to focus on optimality, and the rest is up for n=1 testing and seasonal variation.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 22:13

      No wonder I follow every word you say on Twitter, Jaimie.

  12. Jamie on May 20, 2011 at 17:50

    Typo – that should read “I can’t send someone to the supermarket to buy low fructose….”

  13. Josh on May 20, 2011 at 18:04

    There is not one size fits all paleo diet. I was low carb paleo at first. Now a bit of starch/fat in the morning.. then protein and fat in the afternoon is working great. Feel good. look good. you’re always going to have to make some changes, but as long at you keep the grains out of the mix you’re headed in the right direction.

  14. Nico on May 20, 2011 at 18:29

    I would add that it’s not even clear that ‘optimal’ makes any sense without specifying what outputs you want. There are probably some trade-offs when it comes to diet and health, such as (my guess) strength vs. endurance. There are likely to by many of these. So it may depend, to some extent, on what you want out of life.

  15. Mallory on May 20, 2011 at 19:20

    finally….someone spoke with a voice of reason. i wish i had read this earlier!

  16. Alan Aragon on May 20, 2011 at 19:41

    I bet Don Wiss is gonna love this post 🙂

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 22:21

      Ha, so you read the thread, eh, Alan? We’ve come a long way, baby!

    • Don Wiss on May 21, 2011 at 02:32

      Yep. Some of the commentators are making a simple diet awfully complicated. For those that haven’t read my definition, it is real simple. Foods are either in or out and you don’t measure or count anything. If it is an ‘in’ food and you find it tastes good enjoy it in whatever quantity.

      The core of my views are based on Neolithic foods having toxic proteins, especially gluten and casein. My objective is to avoid the diseases of civilization.

      Now that I am only employed by myself I can more completely control my diet. Hence my diet is evolving towards more grass-fed meat and wild fish. And very little chicken, which invariably is fed grains.

      If I had an unlimited food budget the next level would be to increase the variety of meat. For example, from Exotic Meats USA one can buy meats (antelope, alligator, grass-fed beef, grass-fed buffalo, black bear, crocodile, elk, frogs legs, iguana, kangaroo, kobe beef, ostrich, lamb, llama, pork, rabbit, rattlesnake, turtle, venison, wa-gyu, and yak) and poultry (duck, free range chicken, goose, guinea, pheasant, quail, squab, and wild turkey). Though some of these would be grain-fed.

      • Anon on May 21, 2011 at 08:51

        Maybe if you weren’t so skinny and weak you could hunt them yourself. If anyone wants to see the long-term consequences of an orthorexic paleo diet, just Google this dude’s name.

      • Don Wiss on May 21, 2011 at 11:04

        Hi Melissa,

        I see you are still pissed at me for rudely correctly you when you misspoke about gluten labeling regulations.

        But thanks for the plug to search on me. People will find information on celiac disease, and the more publicity the better. Even with greater knowledge these days, most celiacs are still undiagnosed. Symptoms like delicate stomach could be celiac.

        And people searching on me will learn about gluten and casein and its connection to the autism spectrum. This is an area that I don’t see much discussion in the paleo blogosphere. But your suggesting people search on me is a great help.

        Thanks again Melissa.

        Don, a proud celiac.

      • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 14:23

        What, that’s not me????

      • Don Wiss on May 21, 2011 at 14:27

        Uh Melissa. The IP numbers on the Anon matched yours exactly. Why lie?

      • J4RESTER on May 22, 2011 at 11:33

        Don, How would you know this?

      • Don Wiss on May 22, 2011 at 14:44

        I first suspected it was Melissa based on it being posted a matter of minutes after her other post. Plus she is the only person I know in the paleo community that hates me. Plus I already knew she was vindictive. She kicked me out of the NYC Paleo Meetup group. Though part of that was to make sure I wouldn’t be around to correct and embarrass her again.

        So I asked the webmaster to confirm if the IP numbers matched. And they did. Hence my confidence in replying and exposing her.


      • J4rester on May 22, 2011 at 14:59

        By webmaster you mean Richard, correct? I assume he is kind of a one man shop.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 22, 2011 at 16:23

        Don emailed and asked if the IP address of the anonymous comment matched an IP address of any of the non-anonymous comments in the vicinity. I considered it a reasonable request, so checked it out and things are indeed as Don says.

      • Keith Thomas on May 26, 2011 at 17:00

        Which “dude”?

      • Keith Thomas on May 26, 2011 at 16:59


        I’m taking delivery of a couple of biopods shortly:

        These should enable me to feed my hens fewer grains. As it is, I give them chopped meat for breakfast, grass/greens during the day, a little grain in the evening. And I have pellets on demand in hoppers.

    • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 08:44

      Ah the two Dons. I’m about to publish a study showing the name Don is associated with inability to grasp basic scientific concepts.

      • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 14:24

        This is definitely me 🙂

      • Monte Diaz on May 21, 2011 at 22:36

        If this study is anywhere near as good as your “colon series” then I can’t wait!

        I’ve always had to explain stuff twice to every Don I’ve ever met. I hope you can shed some light onto why this is so.

  17. pfw on May 20, 2011 at 20:13

    Awesome, thank you for posting this! KGH is the only person I’ve seen consistently talk in terms of what to avoid doing rather than what to do, and while you’ve been pretty good about that too, this post really puts it out front.

    Very well done.

  18. Jessica K on May 20, 2011 at 20:31

    What is going on with Dr Harris? I miss his voice lately.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 22:24

      He’ll be baaaack.

      • Cathy on May 22, 2011 at 16:13

        Can’t wait!

  19. Bill Strahan on May 20, 2011 at 21:00

    Well, if it’s not optimal you could always just remove the particular blog post and it’s like it never happened. I mean, in theory, right?

    • MountainDew on May 21, 2011 at 09:33


      I wonder what the hell happened.

      • Cathy on May 22, 2011 at 16:14

        Lightning, I say.
        Although I did like the theory that he married a vegan ….

  20. Dave on May 20, 2011 at 21:26

    We are unique snowflakes, to an extent. What route (diet, exercise, supplementation, etc.) that works for me, made not be the right choice for you, for a variety of reasons (existing health conditions, location, budget, etc.). The only way to find out to self-experimentation and becoming observers of the results. We can still see the trailers that others have forged (so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; and the internet is wonderful in how much exposure an idea can receive), but we don’t have to follow exactly in their footsteps either (and do x,y and z to get a; maybe it is x,y, and w that works for you).

    Granted, there will be people that say that they don’t want to do that, because it is too hard, or that they just want to follow a leader/guru without thinking too hard about what they are doing (and instead just want a black box that works). But, they are the ones that are responsible for themselves, not anyone else (ultimately, even though one can have negative and positive influences on others).

    On a tangent, if you are interested in more customization of your exercise routine, check out Adam T Glass’ Gym Movement system. And no, I’m not affiliated with it in any way, other than making some gains using it.

  21. Jake on May 20, 2011 at 22:53

    I’ll have the audacity to say fuck 🙂

    And yeah, stop worrying about it. It’s food. As long as it includes bacon, I’m happy!

    • Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2011 at 23:14

      (not deleted)

    • Don Wiss on May 21, 2011 at 02:38

      In my definition bacon is a processed meat and is not an ‘in’ food. The supposed connection between colon cancer and meat is actually a connection only between cancer and processed meats. Better would be to cook up a hunk of ground grass-fed meat (press flatter with a spatula to speed up cooking) and sprinkled with a homemade spice mix to turn into sausage. As pork does taste good, I buy feral pork on the Internet.

      Or if ambitious, get a patty press and make your own sausage and freeze. The flat patties are easier than stuffing into casings and cook faster and more efficiently.

      • Matthew on May 21, 2011 at 15:21

        Depends on your bacon, and the processing.

      • Keith Thomas on May 26, 2011 at 17:03

        Correct. My butcher smokes his own bacon and uses salt as the only additive.

      • Kurt G Harris MD on May 21, 2011 at 21:54

        The whole “processed food is bad” meme deserves its own analysis soon as well.

        Processing is only an issue if you are processing something BAD to make it more bioavailable or palatable or to be able to eat more of it – all essentially the same thing.

        Processing per se does not introduce bad qualities into food.

        Rendered animal fat and protein have probably been” processsed” and preserved and eaten later for tens of thousands of years. Animal fats keep a long time and can be preserved in skins or added to pemmican. Unfortunately, archeology cannot tell us how long easily biodegradeable storage technology has been used. They certainly were used before pottery, which is pretty old as well.

        Process wheat and you get more gluten and WGA than you could otherwise eat at once.

        Process sugar cane or beets and you get more fructose than you could otherwise eat at once.

        Process and refine soybean oil and you get orders of magnitude more soybean oil than you could ever get eating cooked soybeans.

        Process coconuts and you get coconut fat. Process milk and you can make butter.

        These last two are both processed foods. If you think they are not to be consumed because they are “processed” and therefore not “paleo” you are not just a nutritional luddite, you are ignorant of the fact that man is a technological animal and processing technology has co-evolved along with us. The neolithic agents of disease happened not because archaic people were smarter than us, they happened by accident. Our processing technology outstripped our ability to adapt to SOME foods that the technology was applied to.

        When industrial technology is applied to SOME foods, the effect is to amplify the bad things in SOME foods.

        Rendered beef fat is tallow. No problem.

        Rendered soybean oil is soy oil in your mayonnaise. Problem

        Archaic peoples were not WISE, they were spared negative health effects from NADs by being technologically incompetent.

        They were wise about not eating corn oil they same way they were wise about not riding Ducatis.

        It is simply an accident that elements of their diets were healthier than ours.

        “Processing is bad” is just another brick in the flawed logic of “paleo” that needs to be removed so the whole wall can fall down.

        Don Matesz’ recent posts actually do more to show how bankrupt paleo logic has become than Lyle McDonald calling people paleotards.

        Start with totally unfalsifiable flawed premises ( paleo man would have…) add unacknowledged biases that were found nowhere in the culture before ancel keys ( somethere there is something that is a fat, kind of like a fat, or reminds me of a fat, and it is doing something bad!…) don’t read actual paleoanthropology literature carefully ( take Crawford seriously when you might better read John Hawks) and you get absurd stuff like:

        30% of calories as fat is good. 50% is bad and will kill you.


        animal fats are thicker at room temperature so “simple physics” dictates that blood viscosity is affected by eating these thick fats. Jesus, isn’t this just the fat-clogging-your-drain metaphor in disguise? Eating broccoli will make you green?

        Here is a clue to anyone/ no one in particular: If no one ever thought of your idea before, you could be brilliant, or you could just have no fucking idea what you are talking about.

        PS: There are not even any good theoretical reasons to condemn bacon.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 02:58

        Yeah, true that. I’ve been inside a corn processing plant in China and can see where the anti-processing phobia comes from. At the same time, my guess is that white rice can be processed into rice noodles industrially without losing much, if anything.

        My guess is that normal industrial processing almost always involves some loss of nutrient quality, unless they’re specifically trying to avoid that.

      • Dino Babe on May 21, 2011 at 22:59

        Mmmmmm bacon……….

        It seems the processed foods that should be avoided are the ones you can’t make at home with simple tools and time…….

      • Angelo on May 21, 2011 at 23:50

        I’ve never featured a blog comment on my podcast before, but I will have to make an exception. I hope you will turn this into an article on your site soon, because this is must-read content.

        If you do expand on this, I hope you’ll talk about how some processing can make a good thing less good. For example, pasteurizing dairy. Also, liquifying foods is a way of bypassing some stages of digestion, allowing people to consume much larger quantities more quickly, which then changes things like insulin reactions — not necessarily for the better.

      • J. Stanton on May 22, 2011 at 03:41

        The NAD is a subset of the problem that memetic evolution (culture, science) is much faster than genetic evolution. We’re changing our environment more quickly than we can possibly adapt to living in it.


      • Daniel on May 22, 2011 at 08:06

        Hey Kurt,

        It’s interesting that you list ‘wheat’ among the NAD, and not ‘gluten’. I am curious as to your rationale for this. Similarly, do you feel it’s worth considering that modern wheat is much more detrimental (the “dwarf mutant”) than some more heirloom varieties, hence the evidence (albeit largely anecdotal) for certain people tolerating spelt, kamut, einkorn etc (not that gluten in any form is doing anyone any favors) ? Or is the main issue just how large a part of our diet it’s become? Thanks.

      • Kurt G Harris MD on May 22, 2011 at 15:40

        wheat germ agglutinin is a lectin found in the germ. gluten is a group of proteins found in the endosperm. Hence the whole wheat seed has bad things. When you eat white flour you get concentrated gluten.

      • Daniel on May 25, 2011 at 07:16

        So whole wheat is perhaps worse than just white flour? Do rye/barley etc not have an analogous compound to WGA? Which is the larger detriment, the WGA or the gluten?

      • Jo Mama on May 23, 2011 at 08:50

        “Here is a clue to anyone/ no one in particular: If no one ever thought of your idea before, you could be brilliant, or you could just have no fucking idea what you are talking about.”

        Truly coffee-spewing-out-of-nose worthy…

      • The Lazy Caveman on May 23, 2011 at 17:56

        Well said, sir. Well said.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2011 at 08:40

        This comment of Kurt’s is getting good play on Twitter, and is also linked to in the Latest in Paleo podcast I did with Anthony. We talked a lot about Kurt’s paleo sanity, in fact. I suppose we ought to have just had in on the show with us.

        At one point in the show I brought up that even the manner in which we cook stuff and create a meal of various thing is “processing,” so what’s called for is to get away from the term processing and draw distinctions between Archevore processing and industrial processing of NAD.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 25, 2011 at 09:03

        Amen on processing. I find it hard to imagine how paleo people might have accomplished the type of frying I can do with a metal pan over a gas stove using rendered animal oil. Which might explain why excessive amounts of that stuff can put me down.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 25, 2011 at 09:09

        What, Al-Clad wasn’t around in the Paleolithic?

  22. David brown on May 20, 2011 at 22:53

    Any of you folks read “Biochemical Individuality” by Roger J. Williams, PhD? To my knowledge, there’s no other book like it. Of course, if someone knows of a better book on the subject, I’d appreciate knowing about it.

  23. CavemanGreg on May 20, 2011 at 22:55

    This is something I’ve been coming to terms with lately, and I would have to agree that there is more than one way to skin a cat and no one way is optimal. It just depends ono what kind of cat is available, what tools you have, and how you go about it. Having a framework like the Paleo diet is still a great starting point though, and better than 90%+ of all the other diets out there. You might never reach perfection, but at the same time, I don’t see how you can go wrong with it.

  24. Sharan Virk on May 20, 2011 at 23:17

    Hey Richard,

    I found u while I was spending a year or so in India. I am from a India background, basically in Canada since I was 2 years old. Between spending my learning years listening to my parents and teachers, I evolved from a healthy kid to a self obsessed compulsive person who did not know how or when to eat. And I always felt guilty about it. I was normal weight until my twenties when after two babies I was more than what I considered average. I know that when I was born, 1972, that the low fat dogma was just beginning and would be influential in my life. I believed doctors and teachers were “GOD”. Guess What? All bullshit!!! Not a lack of will power on my part, but a total misrepresentation is what kept me fat! How is it that I can now control my blood sugar and my food
    cravings when once upon a time it was just my weak “willpower”. The funny thing is how so many people refuse to listen, including family members, like mom & dad, that have had heart disease but so believe in the dogma of conventional of medicine instead of a daughter who had a life long battle with weight and self worth who now knows it is only a matter of what you eat (no wheat and sugar) versus how much you eat. The internet phenomenal for the information that is available for the right person to hear at the right time. I have been freed. Thanks Richard! And no I am not skinny but feeling more in control of my life since I found out about dieting in the 5th grade. Thanks for reinforcing the right beliefs. N=1. You have freed me.

    Yours truly,

  25. Steve on May 20, 2011 at 23:17

    I think what happens to many of us is … We discover a diet that works really well for us and it’s such a profound life changing event, that it’s easy to become an evangelist for what worked. If you go from being weak and tired and fat to lean and healthy and strong, I think it’s not only natural to try and share what worked, but also to assume that if others aren’t doing what worked for you, then they must be doing it wrong. You get so wrapped up in your success that it hardens your opinions. Likewise if someone lost weight by taking up running, for whatever reason, I think it would be natural for them to assume that people who are overweight should run, regardless of whether their approach would work for others, or is healthy or optimal. It’s difficult to really put yourself in someone else’s place and realize their body may not act the same way as yours. And it’s not only genetics. It’s past behavior, activity level, health, etc… Someone who’s 100 lbs overweight and has a serious case of fatty liver disease and hyperinsulinemia due to a very poor diet high in sugar, is going to need a different approach than a body builder who’s 20 lbs overweight from a summer of bulking and who now wants to cut some body fat for a contest.

    • julianne on May 20, 2011 at 23:58

      Steve, from my perspective what you say hits the nail on the head. This is exactly my own experience, and I get very ‘religious’ when I’ve got something that works for me. (After all when I first changed found a diet that worked for me – it was like a religious experience like you say). I found my self as entrenched in my point of view as the dietitians I argued with. (But didn’t see that at the time) Time and life has made me more open. (Thankfully).

      Now when I hear someone raving about a diet that works for them, I tend to look at it from the question “Why is this working for them, what does this have in common with other diets that people have ‘religious’ experiences with?” and “what is the mechanism (biochemical, physiological etc) that would explain this success?”
      If it disagrees with what I think is correct or what works – I ask myself – why? and is there some aspect of why this works, is it valid, is it explainable? is there something I don’t know that I need to investigate?

      • Steve on May 21, 2011 at 01:11

        Yeah. I too have become more open from an initial pretty hard stance. These days I frame diet and exercise around the individual. Where are they? What are they trying to achieve? What are the problems preventing them from achieving that? And, given all those elements, what might work best for *them*? Ultimately I think people are going to have to experiment and see for themselves, but I do think there are broad frameworks that apply generally well to certain groups of people. Chances are if someone is displaying all the characteristics of metabolic syndrome and they’re eating a diet that’s very high in sugar and carbohydrate, then a low carb approach will be helpful etc… On the other side of the coin I find people who are struggling with weight or other problems, are not very open to considering alternate approaches. I know I wasn’t. I actually had to tell myself, in a sherlock holmes-esque fasion, that if everything I believed wasn’t working what was left must be the answer. And then I had to start listening to the kooks. Lucky for me I did. Turns out they weren’t so kooky after all. But it took a leap of “faith” to find that out.

      • Sean on May 21, 2011 at 11:11

        Steve, great stuff, you make some really excellent points.

        I especially like this:

        it’s easy to become an evangelist for what worked. If you go from being weak and tired and fat to lean and healthy and strong, I think it’s not only natural to try and share what worked, but also to assume that if others aren’t doing what worked for you, then they must be doing it wrong

    • Adria on May 21, 2011 at 04:57

      This is so true. This is so very true that I need to save it offline to remind myself that a) evangelizing what has worked for me is encouraging people to err through selection bias (i.e. assuming because a person is healthy and fit that what they’re doing must be The Way, and thanks to McGuff and Little for explaining how selection bias leads physical culture in the wrong directions), and b) leads to me forgetting to look critically at my ongoing changing health; it’s too easy for me to be come complacent.

  26. Sharan Virk on May 20, 2011 at 23:21

    sorry, i meant, “internet phenomenon”. just got emotional!

  27. Sharan Virk on May 20, 2011 at 23:51

    I think Steve and I posted about the same time. So I ended up typing up a big long response that got deleted. But I think he wrote his reply around and not in direct comment to me. I shall wait and see. But yes, i definitiely feel I have seen the “light” and everyone else is just committing suicide. Including my vegetarian siblings who feel morally superior but I refrain from preaching to. But, big question… what about their kids, who are my nieces and nephews? I feel like I am committing a fraud against them when my one brother is a pure vegan and refuses them any animal products except milk and the kids come to my house willing and wanting to eat everything, especially “bacon”. HELP????!!!!

  28. Hugh Jorgan on May 20, 2011 at 23:58

    If I ate the exact same things my sister did, I would die. How can it be that I’m deathly allergic to shellfish and she isn’t? How can it be that I am gluten intolerant and she isn’t? We’re sisters after all, pretty close to the same DNA. If sisters can’t eat the same foods, how are strangers supposed to eat the same food and have the same body reactions?

    I have a tall slender daughter and a tall overweight son. They grew up eating the exact same food, at the exact same time of day. Both swam, played hockey and other organized sports. My daughter could eat potatoes until they were coming out of her ears and won’t gain an ounce. My son simply looks at carbs and bam, there they are on his gut. Some low-carb diet gurus would have my daughter ban potatoes, peas and carrots from her diet for, what is to her, no reason whatsoever. Some low-fat diet gurus would have my son be starving all the time to lose weight, for no reason whatsoever.

    Diets are liken to religion. When man moves in, God (nature) moves out.

  29. Sean on May 21, 2011 at 03:42

    Damn, I’m all about the pragmatic paradigm, in politics (pragmatic libertarian) and health (try to avoid neolithic crap but don’t make it an obsession).

    I’m also wary of relativism. A paleolithic type diet is healthier than a vegan diet, full stop. There’s plenty of wiggle room there and different people might flourish on different macronutrient ratios. But I’m convinced that the peak of the the diet bell curve consists of mostly meat and (saturated) fat. I don’t care what these Young Turks have been saying (OK, I do, but I’m skeptical as hell).

    • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 04:02

      I agree that high meat, high fat is almost certainly a higher-octane diet. Maybe zero carb isn’t optimal, but limited carbs probably are.


      If you have a damaged or unsettled gut, I think it’s much easier to start the repair process with starches rather than heavy fats. And then to expand the diet and identify your specific intolerances and allergens.

      • Christ on May 21, 2011 at 06:19

        That wasn’t my experience at all with IBS,quite the opposite and my wife followed this advice with UC and it nearly landed her in surgery before Breaking The Viscous Cycle starch free high fat diet 100% cured her.Thousands of people have been helped by this book with a starch free diet to heal the gut before going back to a more balanced diet.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 09:48

        I’m open to the possibility that I’m wrong. But I know from reading a lot of IBS books that fat is a and oils are well-known triggers.

        What starches were you two eating? White rice only or something else?

      • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 14:26

        I also couldn’t do starch for a long time. Any starch. I guess I had too much bacterial overgrowth. I did zero carb for some time until the gas/bloating went away and then added starch back in. Starch can provide important food for good bacteria, but it can also feed bad bacteria too.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 17:47

        If you tried rice specifically, alone, and it didn’t work for you, then I guess there are two routes to gut healing:

        1. Hypoallergenic rice to stabilize mechanical IBS triggers
        2. Zero carb to starve gut bacteria problems

        I wonder if there’s a way for people to easily determine which method is best for them. Hm.

      • Dr.BG on May 21, 2011 at 15:45

        Me too. I have f*ckin metals and doing chelation now. somehow I let an urgent care doc give me a tetanus/mercury shot (after my fun little athletic injuries) and a trusted dentist put in a titanium dental implant. The gut does NOT like metals… You should do part VI Melissa.

      • ekono on May 23, 2011 at 04:53

        I have seen enough anecdotal internet reports of high-fat diets leading to improvements in IBS that it seems worth a go.

        It´s important to note that even if fats can be a trigger of IBS (or other gut problems) while on the standard American diet, that does not mean that fats trigger IBS in a paleo-ish setting.

      • ekono on May 23, 2011 at 05:14

        Of course, one reason that high-fat diets work for many is probably just the lack of wheat / gluten in the high-fat approach, I.e. the fat plays no part one way or the other in itself.

      • jenny on May 21, 2011 at 08:59

        starches were nearly impossible for me with IBS, too. fats much easier in my experience.

      • Melissa McEwen on May 21, 2011 at 14:23

        Yeah, I had to go without starch for quite some time to “break the viscous cycle.”

      • J. Stanton - on May 21, 2011 at 13:26

        I think a lot more people have SIBO than bile production problems. But I’m open to correction here.

        Keep in mind that meat stimulates stomach acid production, which will help fix SIBO issues.


  30. J. Stanton - on May 21, 2011 at 03:43

    Re: The Great Paleo Carb Wars

    The more prescriptive you get, the more you need to justify that prescriptiveness. And if people want to make specific dietary recommendations, they should also make sure that their reasons aren’t baloney.

    I see a justification for something like leangains, which makes some very specific recommendations in order to achieve a very specific goal that goes far beyond “general health”. It’s much harder to justify a blanket set of macronutrient recommendations for everyone.

    In my mind, it comes down to “Eat more nutrient-dense food, eat less nutrient-poor food, and don’t eat toxins.” My aim in the articles I write for is to explain enough of the science that you’re empowered to make informed decisions for yourself.

    Anyone advocating (say) a 50%+ carbohydrate diet has to answer the question “Where are you getting that carbohydrate from, and isn’t that starting to displace some nutrient-rich foods?” And perhaps the answer is “I do many hours of aerobic exercise, I need the glycogen, and my total calorie intake is such that I’m getting plenty of nutrients.” But perhaps the answer is “Maybe I should be eating less starch, and more meat and eggs.”


    • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 04:05

      Yeah… about those supposedly toxin-free eggs:

      “the evolutionary strategy eggs have taken to protect themselves from microbial invaders is to select for toxic substances in the egg white; mainly in the form of antimicrobial proteins.”

      Like plants, eggs can’t move…

      • Adria on May 21, 2011 at 05:00

        Yes, but plants don’t grow legs or wings or fins. The evolutionary strategy around eggs involves either the parents protecting them physically, or hiding them, or laying so damned many of them that some survive.

      • Don Wiss on May 21, 2011 at 05:13

        Yep. That is why the survivors of the dinosaur era stick them up in trees. An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. What is missing is just what happened? It didn’t break up and hit them all on their heads. What happened is at a time of nutritional stress, and with their voracious appetites, the dinosaurs could no longer protect their eggs. And the small mammals came along and ate them.

      • Sean on May 21, 2011 at 10:56

        Oh, is that what happened? Thanks for conclusively solving that whole dinosaur extinction thing.

      • J. Stanton - on May 21, 2011 at 13:34

        There is a large and important gap between “plausible” and “proven”.


      • Matthew on May 21, 2011 at 15:33


      • Dr.BG on May 21, 2011 at 15:46


      • Walter on May 21, 2011 at 22:18

        Per Nixon, all we need is plausible deniability 🙂

      • Jennifer on May 21, 2011 at 06:51

        But in nature, eggs are only available for a limited time of the year in most climates. And most larger birds (the ones that have real food value–not much in four robin’s egg, for example) only lay a clutch of a dozen eggs, anyway. Plus, by the time our ancestors found a nest the embryos would probably already have been developed to some extent, thereby changing the composition of the egg.

        When we think of eggs today it’s as different as how we think of milk today, next to what early man would have had access to.

      • Sean on May 21, 2011 at 10:53

        I was just reading your blog about having problems with eggs. Interesting. I would think that the main difference between anti-nutrients in plants and those in eggs is that one is aimed towards animals and the other is anti-microbial. But the anti-microbial stuff could also effect animals such as humans as in your case.

        Eggs can’t move but they usually come with some other defense mechanisms, hiding, accessibility, fighting off the parents. There’s currently some falcons nesting on a drainpipe outside our kitchen window and I’m hard-pressed to think of a more difficult to obtain source of protein than snagging their eggs. Ok, birds-of-prey are on the extreme edge of the egg spectrum, but it is pretty amazing how aggressively they defend their territory, I’m afraid to even stick my head out the window.

      • J. Stanton - on May 21, 2011 at 12:11

        Egg allergy almost exclusively affects children…and 70-80% of children with egg allergy outgrow it by age sixteen. (Some studies show an even greater rate, like over 80% outgrowing it in one year.)

        As far as “toxic substances in the egg white”, if you mean avidin, it binds biotin but is neutralized by cooking. Ovotransferrin binds metal ions. Lysozyme is a bacteriolytic, part of the human innate immune system – and children fed infant formula lacking lysozyme are three times more likely to get diarrhea! So lysozyme actually counts as a nutrient, not a toxin…

        I’m sorry you’ve got an allergy…but we’re not talking about lectins here. Frankly, if you eliminate eggs, I think you also have to eliminate meat because of all the HORRIBLE ANTI-BACTERIAL TOXINS found in the immune system of all animals.

        Oh, and vegetables too, which are full of plant toxins – especially those available before thousands of years of careful breeding for less toxins and better taste. Paleolithic man wasn’t wandering about picking Paleolithic broccoli.


      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 17:39

        It would seem that you and Loren Cordain are in disagreement on certain points regarding eggs. His thoughts are here:

        Specifically, he addresses the commonness of egg allergy (Egg white allergy in the general population varies between 1.6 – 3.2 % ), lysozyme’s toxicity, and lists the various other anti-microbial egg white proteins.

        “Frankly, if you eliminate eggs, I think you also have to eliminate meat ”

        This is just unhinged emoting. There’s a large difference between avoiding unfertilized bird eggs and going vegetarian.

        “Oh, and vegetables too, which are full of plant toxins”

        Everyone already knows that plants contain toxins. This awareness helps people customize their diets to only eat the toxins they can tolerate, by learning through trial and error.

        I never tested eggs for inherent toxicity because it simply didn’t occur to me; I grouped them in the safe “animal” category.

      • J. Stanton on May 21, 2011 at 18:22

        Loren Cordain and I disagree on several points, which I am unafraid to state when I find his conclusions are unsupported by the data.

        As far as the commonality of egg allergy among young adults 20-45:

        “The prevalence of probable IgE food allergy was: <0.27% for wheat, 0.09% (95% confidence interval = 0.0 to 0.49%) each for cow's milk and egg, 0.53% (0.21 to 1.09%) for shrimp, and 0.61% (0.25 to 1.26%) for peanut." (source).

        0.09% is a long way from Cordain’s claim that “Egg white allergy in the general population varies between 1.6 – 3.2 %”

        As far as his contention regarding lysozyme transporting other proteins through the gut in significant amounts, he himself admits in a comment that this isn’t actually a proven connection, and that more research is necessary (which the article promised would appear in 2010).

        Like I said elsewhere, there’s an important difference between “plausible” and “proven”.


      • Joseph Dantes on May 21, 2011 at 18:41

        Yes, and the same study cites a 0.27% allergy rate for wheat.

        Which obviously does not mean that over 99% of the population can safely eat wheat.

        I don’t know much about allergies and allergen testing. Perhaps intolerance would be a better word. They’re doing pinprick testing for histimine reactions, which isn’t the same as actually eating something.

        1.6-3.2% seems a reasonable figure to me for % of people who can’t eat eggs.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 03:24

        Here’s the citation:

        Mine Y, Yang M. Recent advances in the understanding of egg allergens: basic, industrial and clinical perspectives. J Agric Food Chem 2008;56:4874-4900.

        Here’s the link:

        I think he must have been referring to children only, since one of the papers cited in the Mine et al gives the total figure for food allergies as 4%. It’s either poorly written or wrong.

        I’m almost certain that I have an inflammatory reaction, but the important question to me is what percentage of people can safely eat eggs. Which includes intolerance. The presence of anti-microbial toxic proteins in eggs, sufficient to cause allergies in a significant percentage of children, is heavily under-advertised.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 03:29

        “Other intolerances, including egg, aren’t statistically significant in comparison.”

        Got a citation on that?

        I’d be very interested to know why we can eat meat ad libitum, but are supposed to limit egg intake.

      • J. Stanton on May 21, 2011 at 22:21

        I’m well aware of the differences between intolerance and allergy.

        Gluten intolerance, in its many forms, is much more prevalent than gluten allergy. In fact, intolerance is much more common than allergy in general – and the most common intolerances are gluten grains and milk, by a huge margin. Other intolerances, including egg, aren’t statistically significant in comparison.

        I’d be interested to see where the 1.6-3.2% numbers come from. I doubt they were just pulled out of the air, but a difference of more than an order of magnitude needs an explanation.


      • Kurt G Harris MD on May 21, 2011 at 22:05

        Just one more thing he is totally wrong about. No way in hell egg allergy is that common.

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 06:41

        Whole food non grain source carbohydrates have more nutrition then whole food animal products on average. It would take precise planning to make a diet not deficient relying on primarily animal products, not so with the carb sources. Your logic is faulty at best.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 06:45

        You can eat just about any animal monotonically and be healthy, as long as it carries sufficient fat. Doesn’t sound like precision planning to me.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 07:37

        No, you can eat any grocery store cut of meat that’s sufficiently fatty monotonically and be healthy. No need for organ meat. If it’s not grain-fed, even better. And you’ll be doing much better than the guy on 95% potato.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 08:05

        See the Stefansson 1 year meat trial. He wasn’t eating any offal or organs, IIRC. The chemists were confounded, but the men remained robust. I put little stock in your daily values and chemical compositions.

        Inuits age fast because their elderly stop doing anything. Resistance builds muscle and bone. And the Inuit disease profile is very good compared to the SAD.

        I said you could be healthy, I didn’t say it would be optimal.

        Largely potatoes != “solely potatoes with very small amounts…”

      • Joseph Dantes on May 22, 2011 at 08:37

        Ok, what’s the link for the 1 year potato only diet.

        And list three indigenous cultures “who thrive on almost nothing but tubers.”

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 07:56

        No you can’t because it is deficient in very key nutrients, have you ever even looked at a program like cronometer or fitday? You would realize your a moron.
        there is no evidence that eating nothing but fatty store bought meat is healthy long term and there will probably never be because it isn’t.

        You definetly won’t be doing better then the guy eating potatoes, peruvians, kitavans and other cultures have thrived on all largely tuber/potato based diets.
        Inuits age rapidly and fall pray to wierd diseases eating nothing but meat. Every real life example we have contradicts what you just stated.

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 08:01

        a 3000 calorie diet of 80/20 ground beef has only 20% folate, 42% b1, 0% vit C, 32% vit E, 18% vit K, 21% calcium, 80% copper, 50% magneisum, 5% maganese and 68% potassium.
        Explain to us how that is optimal long term?

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 08:02

        I see now why you think lots of starch is evol because you think it causes you to passs out all day? LOL thats not eh starch that’s your screwed up body.

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 08:15

        A 1 year trial isn’t long term. I know about the steffanson study thats why I explicited stated long term. People can live for short periods(1 year is a short period) on almost any diet and be somehwhat healthy as long as it doesn’t have a shitload of toxins. You said you would be healthier on the nothing but muscle meat diet over the potato diet, what is that based on? We have similar studys from the 1930s showing the same thing with potatoes(search around mcdougalls site and you’ll find it) but we also have many indigenious cultures who thrive on almost nothing but tubers, the same can;t be said for muscle meat.

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 08:19

        By the way your cognitive dissoance really shines through with these posts.

        Do you think carbs cals replace animal products to the point where they can cause harm due to nutritional deficiencies? If so then why do you think a all muscle meat diet is ok?

      • Alex Thorn on May 22, 2011 at 09:17

        But you would need to eat over 3 kilos of potatoes a day to meet that calorific requirement whereas you would only need less than 2 kilos of beef. An all-potato diet is only possible due to modern agricultural practice and the availability of potatoes in kilo bags at your local supermarket – harder to do outside of modern civilisation, where you would have to find and dig up over three kilos of edible wild tubers.

        While that quantity of potato may contain a higher concentration of some of the nutrients you mention, that does not guarantee they are in an optimally bioavailable form. It may be that you would metabolically extract less than would be available in the meat.

      • J. Stanton on May 22, 2011 at 13:46


        There is an extremely important difference between “largely tuber/potato based diets” and “100.0% tuber/potato based diets.”

        “Not only were no individuals or groups found, even in the interior, who were not frequently receiving shell fish from the sea, but I was informed that they recognized that they could not live over three months in good health without getting something from the sea. A native interpreter informed me that this had been one of the principal causes of bitter warfare between the hill tribes and coast tribes of that and all of the Pacific Islands, since the hill people could not exist without some sea foods to supplement their abundant and rich vegetable diet of the mountain country.”

        “This guide and many others explained to me that cannibalism had its origin in the recognition by the hill people that the livers and other organs of their enemies from the coast provided the much needed chemicals which were requisite to supplement the plant foods. Several highly informed sons of cannibals and a few who acknowledged that they had eaten “long pig” advised me that it was common knowledge that the people who had lived by the sea and who had been able to obtain lots of sea foods, particularly the fishermen, were especially sought for staying a famine.”

        Price, WA. Studies of Relationships Between Nutritional Deficiencies and (a) Facial and Dental Arch Deformities and (b) Loss of Immunity to Dental Caries Among South Sea Islanders and Florida Indians. Dental Cosmos. 1935;77(11):1033-45. (hat tip to Chris Masterjohn)

        Inuit living their entire lives without eating any vegetable products — or cannibal raids every three months in order to get seafood or the livers of people who ate it. Owsley Stanley died in his 70s from a car wreck, Charles Washington and a raft of pure carnivores are still alive…

        Your argument fails trivially.

        “have you ever even looked at a program like cronometer or fitday? You would realize your a moron.”

        The reason the RDA is so high is because of the anti-nutrients in grains that make vitamins and minerals not bioavailable. But feel free to keep believing fitday over reality if it makes you feel better.


        PS: I am in no way a carnivore or VLC/ZC eater. I’m just pointing out that your “argument” is based on emotion and misrepresentation, not facts.

      • Monte Diaz on May 23, 2011 at 04:49

        Store bought tubers have much less vitamins and minerals than a wild tuber grown in optimal soil. Much less of them would be required.

        An exclusively tuber based diet would suck though….a few ounces of fatty organ meat with those tubers and you’ve likely covered all your nutritional bases and then some.

        I’m beginning to like the 50/30/20 ratio….

      • Paul Verizzo on May 23, 2011 at 20:04

        All due respect, you are the moron. Don’t tell the zero carbers or Bear Owslery prior to his recent accident that they can’t get great health from grocery store meats.

      • cliff on May 22, 2011 at 07:21

        You can eat the whole animal and get all nutrients but who does that? That falls under the carefully planning criteria/

        You clearly misunderstood me, I never said you couldn’t eat the whole animal and be healthy I just stated its harder to create a nutrient sufficient diet based on animal foods. This was in response to JS who thinks carbs are nutritionally devoid and displace animal nutrients which are the ones that really matter.

        I can eat a diet of solely potatoes with very small amlounts of liver and other animal super foods and get every known nutrient in sufficient quantity. If you ate nothing but muscle meat with some liver and a tiny bit of potatoes you would be deficient in a couple key nutrients.

  31. Marc on May 21, 2011 at 05:05

    I think most, make this simple issue way to complicated an waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy to big a component of their life.

    Go fucking live a little. Enjoy your life and your loved ones and friends.

    Eat real food…that’s not too hard to figure out is it? If something gives you the shits or discomfort on a regular basis (tubers, bacon coconut milk ,etc) then cut it out.
    Move your body regularly in a fashion that YOU enjoy.
    That’s all!!! There’s nothing more.

    GREAT post Richard…..GREAT!

  32. Nutritionizt on May 21, 2011 at 05:29

    Awesome, timely post.

    I think a reason some paleo-type bloggers diverge from the strict low carb protocol is to shake things up a bit. After all, it does spark controversy and increased hits compared to posts that spew their same view point over and over.

    That said, I believe that just because a food wasn’t discovered, nor utilized often in paleo times, doesn’t mean it can’t work wonders for the body today. For example, there isn’t a lot of talk amongst paleo bloggers on herbal healing. There are a few herbs in Chinese medicine, with over 2,000 years of implementation (I know, too recent to be considered a paleo food) that have been studied extensively and shown through research to be extremely powerful (anti-cancer, anti-tumor, immune system modulating) … herbs like the reishi mushroom, astragalus, and ginseng.

    Lack of access and availability shouldn’t rule out a food as optimal for the body.

    • Matthew on May 21, 2011 at 15:36

      I did a report on the reishi mushroom once… pretty crazy shit.

      • Monte Diaz on May 21, 2011 at 22:46

        I lol’d.

  33. Michal on May 21, 2011 at 06:59

    Most of the discussions about food are too abstract to contain valid information. For example there are debates about high-fat/low-carb vs. high-carb/low-fat where sides tell sentences like “Fat does this” or “Carbs do that” that completly miss the facts that:

    – fructose, staches, fibers – all chemically carbs – have totally different effects on human body
    – same with short & medium chain fatty acids vs. long-chain fatty acids
    – preparation is important eg. oxidized PUFAs eaten with carbs affect humans differently than fresh PUFAS combined with proteins,

    In abstract debates such crucial information is missing, despite being MORE important than the conents of abstract debate.

    This is known as “Leaky Abstractions”.

    “All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky.

    Abstractions fail. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. There’s leakage. Things go wrong. It happens all over the place when you have abstractions.”

    So perhaps the proper way to write about health is bottom-up approach, starting from details and real, physical stuff, with reviews of particular products. Eg. “This is a virgin coconut oil. It provides X, lacks Y, advantages are Z, you have to be careful about V”. Same with food combinations/recipes. Then if a person reads enough concrete information about real products (not categories!) then he can discover the rules for himself. And even if he won’t he just can use this particular products he knows about – that’s practical.

  34. jenny on May 21, 2011 at 07:42

    i’m so glad you posted this richard. facebook has made we way lazy and i just wanted to click “like” on about a dozen of these comments. i have seen the progression of paleo moving towards all the horrors of dogmatic diet that is the opposite of what drew me to it in the first place. Homo ludens is a dying breed it feels: ideas that can be played with, kept malleable seem to frighten the “washed masses” (i know it’s supposed to be unwashed by with the modern obsession with antibacterial soaps, those who are truly “enlightened” just don’t wash). this was my fear as paleo moved more and more mainstream. we live in a dumbed down world of soundbites and factoids and zero personal responsibility, so as this way of life becomes more and more accessible to the washed masses, i am afraid it will move into the direction of dogmatic rules. damn, fuck, shit, i feel a ranting post coming on.

    THAT said: (sorry, getting wordy), this uniquely american obsession with individuality and uniqueness is the reason that vegans and vegetarians still exist. “sure, paleo works for you, but my body just works better on an all fruit diet.” no fucker, it doesn’t.

    • Dino Babe on May 21, 2011 at 15:51

      ‘with the modern obsession with antibacterial soaps, those who are truly “enlightened” just don’t wash.’

      Love it!

  35. Jesse on May 21, 2011 at 08:59

    What has been sorely lacking in all of the Paleo/Primal/caveman/etc blogging going on is one simple thing…a bottom line.

    If it’s food, eat it. If it’s a food-like substance, don’t eat it.

    The definition I’m using here is if it has an ingredient list or a package you need scissors to open, it’s a food-like substance and I don’t eat it. Beyond that all I can add when people ask about diet is to say what I don’t eat: cereal grains, processed anythings, and sugar. There are more nuances as time goes by and I try this and that and have good or not-so-good results, but for conversing with the masses who are still reeling from drinking the CW kool-aid, that’s about as far as I go. And it works. The more conversations I have with people, using this simplified explanation, the more I’m finding they want more information and I can direct them to FTA if I think they’re ready for it, or MDA if not.

    If I can honestly say I’ve learned anything in in my 30+ years, it’s that the KISS principle is the way to go.

  36. Skinny Lesley on May 21, 2011 at 09:00

    I’m personally a big experimenter – or “optimizer to quote you – on myself, and have found that a really, really low carb/starch, high fat approach works best in my case – primarily because the fats I consume come attached to the animal they developed on. I remember Gary Taubes remarking in an exchange with Robert Lustig (the anti-fructose viral video doctor) that there is evidence that if you don’t eat sugar, you can consume high levels of a starch – ie. it’s the sugar that makes the complexes starches (those potatoes you do so enjoy in your recipes & this talk of rice) fattening; however, eaten Paleo-style & sugar free, they’re problem free.

  37. Phocion Timon on May 21, 2011 at 09:02

    I have indeed noticed an “optimal” path being taken by some in the Paleo/Primal world. It works for them therefore it will work for everyone. Sounds like vegans.

    Most if not all Paleo/Primal sites say one should eat veggies with their meat and fat but I have discovered, after almost two years of jacking around with this low to no-carb diet is that I do far better when I limit my menu to meat and fat. If I add vegetables to a meal I can almost count on a bout of diarrhea a few hours later. I have been unable to tell any difference in the way I feel or my athletic performance whether or not vegetables are included.

    One notices an infinite variety of differences in the human animal in all aspects of life to expect a carved-in-stone rule to work. My diet is “optimal” for me but not for others. I don’t advocate my brand of Paleo and I sure as hell ignore others.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2011 at 09:47

      I’ve had the same thing happen, especially with a big salad. But it does not seem to with either potato or rice, or, of course, just the meat, which I do often enough.

      • Johnnyv on May 22, 2011 at 18:16

        The starch from the potato and white rice should not ever make it to the large intestine to cause a gas problem. I love onion but can’t eat too much at a time else I would have problems, well more likely my wife will have problems haha.

  38. fredt on May 21, 2011 at 09:29

    Early man were lucky if they got enough food all year. At time there was excess in some cultures at times: natives here made pemmican or smoked fish. They ate what there was, nothing like optimal. Here (Northern Alberta) the natives had a spring food – cattail roots, which were only eaten if there was nothing else. In the winter they made a spruce or birch tee that should be high in vitamin C. The organ meat was eaten first, then fattier portions of the big animals. Rabbits were snared in the winter. Fish in the summer and fall for those close to a good lake or river. After the axe, fish in the winter at some lakes became the staple.

  39. […] an online encyclopedia: the top 120 Paleo blog posts. Richard Nikoley asks: is optimality in diet a fool’s errand? He takes the view that individuals have an optimum, but not humanity. Via Seth Roberts, a […]

  40. George on May 21, 2011 at 12:05

    Ya’ll are fools. Clearly since an accurate artistic representation of an obese women from a pre-agricultural society exists we should all be adopting a high carbohydrate diet. You’re just kidding yourself if you believe otherwise.

  41. Dr.BG on May 21, 2011 at 14:16

    *haa ah! George.

    TOO FUNNY. We make pagan figurines of those that are coveted… hence Angelina Jolie — mythological waist-hip ratios and big lippos… the ultimate HG grrrrrrl who cannabalizes men and women around her. *ha* in paleo times it was the (nonexistent/mythological) PHAT fertile child bearing women…

  42. […] an aside, can I say how much I enjoyed this blog post about the optimal human diet and individuality and this comment on the […]

  43. Hans Keer on May 21, 2011 at 22:54

    Well said Richard. For me it’s a matter of moving insight. I changed from very low carb to just ditching neolithic foods. Just get rid of seed oils, fructose overload, grains, legumes, most dairy and most nightshades. Starch no longer is a problem. I’ll have to change the name of my blog (cutthecarb) one of these days.

  44. Monte Diaz on May 21, 2011 at 23:11

    Eating whole, real, unprocessed food instead of industrialized, over-processed garbage has been the predominant mantra in health food circles for…well forever. Take note that the unprocessed part takes care of almost *all* “neolithic agents of disease”. We are hardly the vanguards bringing this up now. Seems like the “paleo” community has lived up to its namesake.

    And what is still missing from the discussions? How about the 10s of thousands of beneficial phytochemicals found in plants? How about the anemic soils that feed modern animals and that we use to feed ourselves? Trace minerals anyone?

    For every macro nutrient ratio imaginable, someone, somewhere, has or will thrive on it. Nobody can thrive with a deficiency. Anyone find it unsettling the amount of supplements recommended on certain “paleo” blogs….. Why is such an optimal diet lacking in nutrients?

    • Josh on May 22, 2011 at 07:46

      The “predominant mantra in health food circles ” is heart healthy whole grains, soysoysoy!, and avoiding meat like it will leak directly into your arteries and clog up your heart.

      Hardly any paleo blogs/books/what have you recommend avoiding plant foods entirely… most say to eat your veggies as the bulk of your diet.

      And there is only one blog I can think of that pushes for supplementation, and that’s because the guy who runs the site is a supplement developer by trade.

      Most paleo blogs recommend to avoid supplementation and attain your micronutrients from diet.

      Your entire comment has been nothing but strawmen…

      • Monte Diaz on May 22, 2011 at 20:32

        Most recommend to avoid supplementation? Magnesium, k2, potassium, cod liver oil? You haven’t seen those recommended on *most* blogs? If they don’t they should, a lot of paleo low carbers can run into these deficiencies. Where the hell have you been?

        Wait, that was a trick question. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been because just because you can’t think of anymore than one blog (lol) doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

        Most recommend veggies as the bulk of your diet? You mean those toxin laden greens or little poisonous candy bars hanging from trees? Gee, I wonder where I’ve read all of the above.

        I may have built a great stawman but its a lot less stinky than all the hot air your blowing…..

    • Karen P. on May 22, 2011 at 11:15

      Phytochemicals? Trace minerals? Macronutrients?

      Why is it so hard for people to grasp that we know very little about any of this stuff. It’s all speculative Nutritionism.

  45. TJ on May 21, 2011 at 23:46

    Another outstanding post by Richard, interrupting paleo/primal’s slide into dogmatism.

    The “one size fits all” mentality that we so often hear from paleo “gurus” and uber enthusiasts is definitely at odds with the very cornerstone of paleo nutrition – that we are genetically adapted to certain types of food. We don’t have a single, shared genetic makeup; therefore, we can’t have a single, shared optimal diet.

    Certainly there are things for which most of us are not genetically adapted. The newer the food “invention,” the less of us (the human race as a whole-which is what generalizations are all about) are genetically adapted to it. Conversely, the older the food, the more people (albeit culturally-influenced) are genetically adapted to it, and thus the weaker the generalization.

    Sweeping generalizations such as “potatoes are bad for us” are, generally speaking, less reliable advice for humanity as a whole than saying grains are bad for us, which in turn is less reliable than saying seed oil or gargantuan amounts of fructose are bad for us.

    Additionally, the 80/20 rule -the real Pareto Principle, not the “stick to the diet/lifestyle 80% of the time” -plays into all of this. Basically, 20% of causes produce 80% of effects. In this 20% change in causes, generalized statements about diet can be more feasible, if they are focused on newer problematic foods that most people haven’t genetically adapted to.

    If you are a 50 year-old guy who weighs 300lbs, minimal changes will cause a large weight loss and a significant improvement in health. For most people such as this (I was close to being one, as a 42 year-old 275lb man) simply cutting out seed oil and sugars and getting off your ass works magic. For many, cutting out grains adds to the magic.

    The problem is in effecting the remaining 20% of change. Here, general recommendations don’t work for everybody. Here, n=1 is the only way that a person can discover the diet that is optimal for him/her. Which leads to the second problem: many people are to intellectually lazy or afraid to take on this responsibility, so they look for a guru to hold their hand.

    FTA should be a prerequisite for all aspiring cave people.

    • Karen P. on May 22, 2011 at 14:11

      Time of exposure has nothing to do with digestibility by humans. We might be able to continue eating grains for millions of years and never develop the ability to properly digest them for optimal nutrition. Conversely, we only began eating dairy about 5,000 years ago in any organized fashion and yet large portions of the population have lactase persistence. I’d been trying to figure out the difference here with these examples, and it finally dawned on me—all Stephen Jay Gould styles—that the reason is because we are all born with the ability to digest lactose, and some of us maintain that ability while others lose it. Therefore, to me anyway, it makes sense that our bodies can maintain something already there far better than it can develop an ability (like digesting grains) out of thin air.

      Anyway, just making that point. Harris talks about it too. Just because something is “newer” to our diet does not rule it out as “optimal.”

      • TJ on May 22, 2011 at 20:36

        I was referring to the “no-nos,” which are central to paleo dogmatism, and I wasn’t talking about digestibility; I was talking about optimality, which is the point of Richard’s post.

        Your example of lactose overlooks the fact that lactose (in)tolerance is racially dependent:

        (sorry about the Wiki source, but it’s a blog comment, not a dissertation)

        In 50,000 years, if all we have are Big Macs, fries and Cokes as our food options then over time genetic mutations will occur and the people who are healthiest on this diet will flourish. At such time maybe there will be an iconoclastic blogger who rants, “fuck Soylent Green; we need to supersize our meals.”

        My point is that the older the “bad” foods, the more likely we are to find exceptions to their “badness,” as certain groups, out of necessity will have started to adapt to them. Consequently, the less the seeping generalization holds.

        It wasn’t too long ago that Paleo dogmatists (and some still do) thought rice, potatoes, and fruit were one notch below a two-pack-a-day Camel habit.

      • TJ on May 22, 2011 at 20:37

        Of course, I meant “sweeping.”

      • Paul C on May 24, 2011 at 07:23

        What do Big Macs have to do with successfully passing on your genes? Nobody dies before having kids because they didn’t eat enough Big Macs.

        Surely even if Big Macs affect fertility is some way, other factors in modern society affect it far more, making it irrelevant.

        Unless you know of a way to instantly mutate via McD’s, then use a supernatural force to transmit the mutation to others, I don’t think your vision is going to become reality.

      • TJ on May 22, 2011 at 21:03

        And as far as Lactose goes, I would contend that, historically, we are born with the ability to digest lactose (for obvious reasons) and then (after weaning) we are programmed to lose this ability, as it is no longer needed.

        NOT losing this ability is a genetic evolution (creating something “out of thin air,” as you say), a genetic evolution that occurred in populations where dairy became a central source of nutrition. And all of this in only 5,000 years.

        This brings me back (again, sorry) to my point: when some paleo-fascist displays his or her caveman-purity credentials, s/he is on far shakier ground knocking dairy than corn oil.

      • Karen P. on May 23, 2011 at 21:29

        If I may politely correct you, I wasn’t saying that lactose tolerance was out of thin air, but that if we, as a species, suddenly began developing a tolerance for grains, that would be out of thin air. Lactose tolerance is not out of thin air because we are born with the ability to digest it, which is why, I imagine, they call it a “persistence”. From my understanding, nobody is actually tolerant of grains in such a way that we could call them “optimal”.

        But we are in absolute agreement that paleo-fascism sucks. Although I’m mildly uncomfortable with opening the gates to other substances being okay if we tolerate them well. MSG bothers some, but not all, but that doesn’t mean I want it added to my food. I fall thoroughly within eating real food boundaries, but my definition of that is undoubtedly more liberal than some, like dairy for example, seeing as how I am lactase persistent. 🙂

      • Karen P. on May 23, 2011 at 21:38

        Oh, and I wouldn’t draw those “racial” lines very hard in the lactose intolerant sand. The Masai drink milk and many nomadic cultures drink milk. But yes, the majority happen to be Caucasian. An example along these lines that cracks me up is in the 60s, bleeding heart liberal types noticed that poor, African-American inner city children didn’t drink milk. They immediately assumed it was because they were too poor and uneducated. So they launched a massive drink-milk-in-school initiative that failed miserably due to the population’s lactose intolerance. Gotta love it.

        But I’m not sure exactly why that’s relevant to my point. I was just saying that a good number of humans have developed lactase persistence in only 5,000 years and it appears that no one has developed grain tolerance in over 10,000. Bombarding our systems with it does not by any means guarantee that our bodies will decide to optimize it as a food source.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 22:33

        Karen, makes we wanna wish ther was a get knocked up, welfare mom intolerance. Genetic would be fine. Race, not important.

      • Alex Thorn on May 24, 2011 at 08:35

        I agree with you Karen – people who continue to consume dairy produce but especially milk – will be far less likely to become lactose intolerant. We all posses the gene to express the proteins required to synthesise the lactase enzyme as we are all exposed to lactose via mother’s milk.

        As to lactose intolerance being ‘racially’ dependant – is it really? The Wiki citation is interesting when you cross-check against statistics for dairy consumption (particularly milk) in those countries listed. For example, it says that the frequency for decreased lactase activity in Sicily is up to 71% compared to just 5% for some other Northern European countries. However this has nothing to do with Sicilian genes but with the fact that they consume far less milk:

        The lowest consumption of ‘milk’ was reported in the Sicilian centre of. Ragusa.

        – Consumption of dairy products in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort: data from 35 955 24-hour dietary recalls in 10 European countries.

        Also, the Best of Sicily website states that:
        “Sicily’s milk-producing livestock production consists of sheep, goats and cows, in that order.”
        And is quoted in the context of cheese-making.

        So from these two sources we can infer that milk consumption is minimal and while cheese consumption may be higher, the lactose in most cheeses is fairly minimal due to the fermentation process that is a necessary part of cheese-making. The longer the cheese is aged the lower the lactose content becomes sometimes down to zero.

        While the lactose content of sheep milk is a little higher than in cow’s milk while goat’s milk is a little lower in lactose than cow’s milk. However, it is more likely that the sheep milk is reserved mainly for cheese-making than drinking.

        So I would say the degree of lactose intolerance is inversely related to the local custom of milk/dairy consumption into adulthood rather than any unique ‘racial’ or genetic trait. Basically you use it or lose it!

  46. Karen P. on May 22, 2011 at 11:13

    Fine and dandy, I’m in agreement.

    BUT. We can’t veer into dietary relativism either. As Taubes says, it’s like saying that a German Shepherd and a Chihuahua have different dietary needs.

    So yes, everyone is different. And yet, in general, we’re all the same.

    • rob on May 22, 2011 at 11:21

      We can’t veer into dietary relativism either.


      Why not? Will something terrible happen?

      • Karen P. on May 22, 2011 at 20:35

        Technically, no. We survived The Rapture so I’m sure we’ll survive dietary relativism. But it sure is annoying when people think that “everyone is different” and “there’s no one right way for everybody”. Those are all true, and yet, not. In general it’s not, in specific, possibly, but not as much as everyone likes to think.

  47. Russell on May 22, 2011 at 12:14

    Nutrigenomics, if it ever gets off the ground and beyond rudimentary biomarkers may offer some hope for the ‘individual diet’. Who could argue with a diet customized to one’s genome? The entirety of the Diet Wars would go up in one big giant mushroom ragout cloud if the counter argument is ‘my diet is based on my DNA and it’s interaction with certain nutrients so F OFF and leave me alone’.

    • Monte Diaz on May 22, 2011 at 20:38

      We may benefit greatly from Nutrigenomics, but until then we got something that just may be even better. Our brains.

      Check my review…

    • TJ on May 22, 2011 at 21:23

      Absolutely. Most of us (at least those of us who visit blogs such as FTA as a sympathetic audience) accept the premise that we are genetically (and therefore, genetic mutations aside, racially) predisposed to find certain foods/ macro ratios as optimal.

      This is all well and good if we are racially “pure.” But if, say, one has an Irish grandfather, a Spanish grandfather, an English grandmother, and a Mexican grandmother (such as myself) it becomes more difficult. My nephews and nieces have it even harder (add Lebanese and Syrian into the mix).

      The more global we become (and in such a short period of time), the more unique our optimal nutrition situation becomes.

      At some point an Inuit will marry a Kitivan, have children, and then all hell will break loose in Paleo circles…

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 01:13

        Race is a social/political/cultural distinction – it has no basis in genetics.

        Humans are the most homogeneous species on the planet. On a genetic level, there can be greater differences between any two people living in a small village in Southern England than between either of those people and someone living in a village in Central Africa or Central/South America. Even then, the differences would constitute a fraction of one percent of the genome.

        So the more cross-cultural breeding there is the more homogeneous the human genome becomes and the more likely we are to find one diet optimal rather than many different ones.

        I think people are making a mistake by considering food at all. Take diet out of the equation for what is optimal and look at how the body survives when there is NO food to be had.

        When on an extended fast or during starvation, the body can survive a surprisingly long time. It does this by tapping into its body fat stores (it is no accident that fat has the most energy per gram and that the body has almost limitless fat storage ability – unlike protein and carbohydrates) it also reduces its reliance on glucose – using fatty acids and ketone bodies instead. The brain (the hungriest of the major organs) will reduce its need for glucose to at least a third while ketones more than effectively stand in for the other two thirds. This spares glucose, which in turn spares protein. Glycerol, a by-product from lipolysis, will furnish almost all of the substrate needed for gluconeogenesis preventing lean mass from wasting away to fatal levels.

        Essentially, the body runs on what is a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate ketogenic ‘endogenous diet’ when no food is available to it. And this is true for every human no matter what his race, country of origin or cultural customs are.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 01:54

        “Humans are the most homogeneous species on the planet.”

        Cheetas are more homogeneous.

        “Race is a social/political/cultural distinction – it has no basis in genetics.”

        Here’s your basis, from geneticist Cavalli-Sforza:

        “On a genetic level, there can be greater differences between any two people living in a small village in Southern England than between either of those people and someone living in a village in Central Africa or Central/South America.”

        Since you used “can” instead of assigning a probability, it’s trivial and doesn’t support your thesis.

        A thesis that, as it happens, is incorrect:

        “Cavalli-Sforza’s team compiled extraordinary tables depicting the “genetic distances” separating 2,000 different racial groups from each other. For example, assume the genetic distance between the English and the Danes is equal to 1.0. Then, Cavalli-Sforza has found, the separation between the English and the Italians would be about 2.5 times as large as the English-Danish difference. On this scale, the Iranians would be 9 times more distant genetically from the English than the Danish, and the Japanese 59 times greater. Finally, the gap between the English and the Bantus (the main group of sub-Saharan blacks) is 109 times as large as the distance between the English and the Danish. (The genetic distance between Japanese and Bantus is even greater.)

        From these kind of tables, Cavalli-Sforza reached this general conclusion: “The most important difference in the human gene pool is clearly that between Africans and non-Africans …””

        By picking England and central Africa, you seem to be asserting the precise inverse of Cavalli’s research.

        ” the differences would constitute a fraction of one percent of the genome.”

        Implied fallacy: % difference of genome != % difference of organism.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 06:57

        I fail to see how you are citing Cavalli-Sforza as support for the idea that racial differences are genetic – and significantly so, as the link you supplied gives these references:

        The New York Times has hailed Genes, Peoples, and Languages, the new book by Professor Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, the dean of population geneticists, for “dismantling the idea of race.” In the New York Review of Books, Jared Diamond salutes Cavalli-Sforza for “demolishing scientists’ attempts to classify human populations into races in the same way that they classify birds and other species into races”

        Cavalli-Sforza himself has written, “The classification into races has proved to be a futile exercise”; that his research is “expected to undermine the popular belief that there are clearly defined races, [and] to contribute to the elimination of racism”; and that “The idea of race in the human species serves no purpose.”

        It appears that is the author of the author of the article containing these quotes – not necessarily Cavalli-Sforza himself – who is stating the opposite:

        “Don’t believe any of this. This is merely a politically correct smoke screen that Cavalli-Sforza regularly pumps out to keep his life’s work — distinguishing the races of mankind and compiling their genealogies — from being defunded by the commissars of acceptable thinking at Stanford.”

        This smacks somewhat of ‘racism’. Indeed, the site that that article appears on is featured on the ‘Hatewatch’ website.

        Yes, cheetahs are more genetically homogeneous that humans but humans follow close behind.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 07:17

        So you’ve already backed off your “most homogeneous species” assertion… your credibility is dropping.

        Cavalli did not say, “Race … has no basis in genetics.” You said that.

        In the quotes you cite, Cavalli points out the fuzzy boundaries of race, and the impossibility of strict racial classifications. He is correct.

        But guess what? Fuzzy boundaries and classificational ambiguity do not equal homogeneity. You completely ignore Cavalli’s tables about the vast difference between English or Japanese and Bantu genetics, because you have no answer.

        Cavalli’s hope that his research will end racism, and his opinion that race is a useless concept, go beyond the scope of the scientific data. I’m uninterested in engaging either idea. Just as I’m uninterested in engaging Einstein’s opinion that “God does not play dice with the universe.” The moral and philosophical opinions of a scientist do not suddenly become correct simply because he has done some science related to the subject.

        The relevant point is that you can look at the colored heat map of genetic differences linked above and see clear boundaries between major races. Which is plain evidence that race does have a basis in genetics.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 07:44

        Well, then I suppose we can say that the concept of species has no basis in genetics, either.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 09:41

        You’re piling up more fallacies than I care to count, and ignoring prior evidence, some of which you presented.

        I particularly liked the part about “I think 1.5% difference is significant but .15% isn’t.” Anyone familiar with computer programming or statistics can see through that argument.

        So what qualifies as a different race? Is race the same as species?

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 11:10

        It is mathematically impossible to determine whether there is a “significant difference between 1.6% and 0.16%” without additional information. Hence my questions to you, which you still haven’t answered: “So what qualifies as a different race? Is race the same as species?”

        On chimps, you’re comparing % differences calculated by different methods, and arguing against a number you previously introduced.

        I’m quoting this sentence again because I don’t think you understood the math in it: “the gap between the English and the Bantus (the main group of sub-Saharan blacks) is 109 times as large as the distance between the English and the Danish.”

        I did find it amusing that you’re capable of seeing the physically obvious when comparing chimps to people, but not people to people.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 11:21

        “There is NO relationship between the terms ‘race’ and species. Species is a scientific term with a very specific meaning; ‘race’ is a socio-economic term with no specific scientific meaning.”

        If that is your personal definition of the word “race,” then your argument is tautological, and you didn’t need to say anything about genetics to prove it. Race has no basis in genetics by definition because it has no basis in science.

        Merriam Webster provides several relevant alternate definitions, for those who subscribe to a more canonical version of the English language:

        1 : a breeding stock of animals
        a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock
        a : an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also : a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group
        b : breed
        c : a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 20:56

        “the labels Englishman and Dane or Finn and Bantu are meaningless from the point of view of genetics”

        A single glance at the table of genetic differences you provided suffices to refute this assertion.

        From the point of view of Dawkin’s selfish gene concept, it is more in the self-interest of an Englishman to stop a Bantu from immigrating to England (if that Bantu will reproduce in England) than to save his own child from drowning.

        “Kinship within an ethny thus varies in proportion to the genetic variation between it and competing ethnies. ”

        “immigration is more harmful to the receiving population’s genetic interests the more genetically distant the immigrants.”

        “the loss to a random Englishman’s genetic interests of replacement of 10,000 English is 10,854 children (or siblings).4 Bantu suffer the same loss from 10,000 English immigrants to a Bantu territory.”

        That is the scientific significance of race, or genetic distance, or breed, or whatever you want to call it. This becomes sociologically relevant because humans are indeed programmed to favor their own genes in various ways.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 07:00


        The fourth paragraph above should have read “It appears that it is the author of the article containing these quotes…”

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 07:29

        Absolute tosh! This is a much more representative appraisal of the genetic differences between human races (no coloured maps just hard numbers):
        As I originally said – differences are less than 1% – even the genetic difference between humans and chimps is only 1.6%.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 08:15

        “Race,” like “species,” are simply human abstractions, wherein _non-essential differences_ are omitted.

        It’s like the various abstractions for kinds of tables: coffee table, end table, dining table, etc. The measurements are left off so that the essential defining characteristics shine through. Nonetheless, important differences do exist.

        This is merely how we access and conceptualize and categorize the data provided by our sense. And it’s useful. We’d be helpless without it.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 23, 2011 at 22:21

        Absolutely Richard. Because kinship is relative, competition dictates that we create tribes even where no racial boundaries exist. This goes a long way towards excusing all the brother vs. brother and cousin vs. cousin combat we find in the ancient texts… there was nobody else around to fight.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 09:02

        Duh! That’s the point; significant genetic differences – as between a human and a chimp or a human and a gazelle or a chimp and a gazelle – denote a difference in species. Tiny genetic variations – as between one human and another (even when separated by a continent) – do not amount to either a different species or race. We are termed ‘the human race’ for that reason, there is insufficient genetic variation to sub-class us into different species or ‘races’ of human.

        For instance having ‘black’ skin or ‘white’ skin (neither of which are descriptively accurate) is merely a difference of expression of the genes that code for the skin pigment melanin – the same is true for hair colour and eye colour. There is no significant difference whatsoever in the genes that code for these human physical characteristics, only the degree by which they are expressed or not. In this case, the environmental conditions (lengthy periods of direct, intense sunlight) have stimulated a particular set of genes to express more forcefully and increase the pigment supplied to the skin and hair in order to offer additional protection from the prevailing elements. Someone living in extreme northern latitudes, where days are short and sunlight is less intense will not express those same genes as forcefully and will have less pigment in their skin in order to take the best advantage of the available UV light to synthesis vitamin D.

        These superficial phenotypical variations are what we latch on to when we label people as being of a different ‘race’. The fact is that on a purely genetic level, there is no variation that leads to these differences in appearance.

        The same is true of diet – different foods may lead to differences in gene expression but the genes themselves are still pretty much homogeneous from one human to another. Now the phenotypical expression of these genes may mean we can survive on a particular diet in a particular environment but it does not necessarily equate to an optimal diet even for that one isolated group of humans – it just means that the rather ‘elastic nature’ of human tolerance has stretched that far without breaking.

        Another example is the ability to express the proteins for the enzyme lactase. People who are lactose intolerant will say they do not have the gene to express lactase (or it is mutated – possibly passed along familiarly or ‘racially’) but all humans can digest the lactose in mother’s milk and any intolerance does not show up until after weaning. Part of this may be that culturally/environmentally they do not have regular access to dairy produce once weaned and so the gene that expresses lactase is ‘switched off’ through a lack of exposure to the correct stimulus for long periods. There are rarer instances where even babies cannot digest their mother’s milk and this is usually due to fault in the lactase coding gene.

        While on average, statistically, peoples of northern European countries have less lactose intolerance (due to their traditional use of dairy products) and people in, say, Africa, have higher numbers of lactose-intolerant people this has less to do with inherited genetic traits than it does with phenotypical expression of genes due to environmental conditions. When you get down to individual cases, a northern European is just as likely to be lactose-intolerant than an African in the Masai Mara, who do habitually drink milk from cattle after weaning.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 10:31

        I am afraid you are the one resorting to fallacious arguments. If your mathematical skills (or lack thereof) cannot discern there is a significant difference between 1.6% and 0.16%. In actuality the difference between humans and chimps has been recently revised upwards to around 4% since the 1.6% usually given only takes account of single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs and not other differences between the genomes. This is sufficient to classify chimps as a different species to humans and it is pretty self-evident just by physically comparing the two.

        Humans have around 70% the genetic material of yeast but I think you will agree that the smaller 30% difference is more important than the 70% similarity! It has everything to do with how a percentage relates to absolute numbers when you are dealing with quantities in the tens of thousands; the human genome is currently estimated to have 23,000 protein coding genes – this means a 1.6% difference would amount to 368 genes whereas 0.16% would be just under 37 genes. In fact, if you check the link I provided the figures show differenced between humans can be as low as 0.002% or less than one gene. If you contrast that with the revised percentage difference between chimps and humans (4%) you will see that this equates to 920 genes or over 18 times the difference – much greater than the 9 times you quoted for a Caucasian and an Iranian (or whatever it was you were comparing). Using the table I provided, the greatest variation would be between and Englishman and a Nigerian at 0.133% or just under 31 genes That’s 31 genes between an English man and a Nigerian compared to 920 genes difference between an Englishman (or any human) and a chimp – a whopping 30 times greater difference.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 10:42

        There is NO relationship between the terms ‘race’ and species. Species is a scientific term with a very specific meaning; ‘race’ is a socio-economic term with no specific scientific meaning. All modern humans are classified as species homo sapiens sapiens.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 10:45

        In my previous to last post I should have said that the difference between the number of genes separating one human from another is 920 times the number of genes separating a human from a chimp: 920:1 (best case scenario!).

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 10:48

        Sorry again – the difference between the number of genes separating a human from a chimp is 920 times the number of genes separating a human from another human: 920:1 (best case scenario=Englishman/German!).

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 12:17

        “There is NO relationship between the terms ‘race’ and species.”

        The relationship is analogous. In other words, in the same way that there’s nothing concretely _real_ about species, humans find it useful to classify and categorize. The sam goes for race. It’s unquestionably useful in the same way ethnicity, culture, nationality, etc. are useful.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 13:58

        Where does that figure for the gap between English and Bantus come from? Is it wholly genetic? I doubt it. From the figures I quoted, no ‘race’ has genetic variance greater than under 1%. In that table, which is based on quite recent research, the genetic variation between an Englishman and a Bantu is given as 0.108% and the variation between and Englishman and a Finn (Dane is not listed) is 0.005% so if you are playing your particular brand of statistical game you could say the difference is just over 21x NOT 109x, as you maintain. But even this comparison is meaningless because in absolute terms, you are actually looking at a difference of about 24 genes. That is not going to make any significant or discernible difference to the overall ‘humanness’ of those individuals.

        No two humans are genetically identical. Even monozygotic twins, who develop from one zygote, have infrequent genetic differences due to mutations occurring during development and gene copy number variation has been observed.

        As I said, physical differences, such as skin colour, are merely the effects of how similar genes are expressed due to environmental factors.

        As race has no strict scientific definition, what constitutes a different race is purely a personal subjective matter. All life follows the following scientific hierarchy of classification:

        ‘Race’ does not come into it. All humans, irrespective of what we may define as their ‘race’, falls under the species of homo sapiens sapiens. Until the genetic variation between humans becomes equal to/greater than the variation seen between the human species and, for example, chimps there will be no differentiation.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 14:10

        Incidentally, even the labels Englishman and Dane or Finn and Bantu are meaningless from the point of view of genetics: I am English because I was born in England. I have one parent who was not born in England and could be said to belong to a different European ‘race’. Nationality is a label based on country of birth. ‘Race’ is a label applied to people based on ancestry – but how many people have a pure lineage? Even ‘white’ English people are a mixture of Celt, Saxon, Norman, Roman, Viking and God alone knows how many more.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 14:14

        Hence, theses are all layers of abstract concepts that have various uses, which is why they exist in the first place. And, just like a hammer, can be used for good or bad purposes.

        I’m not a huge fan of neologisms when established concepts work good enough and I’m not a fan either of taboo words.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 14:15

        …which is to say, not in favor of attempts to expunge them from the vocabulary.

      • Joseph Dantes on May 24, 2011 at 08:17

        On the contrary: since race has no basis in genetics, and I am discussing genetic differences, therefore I cannot be discussing race according to your definition. Ergo no racism is occurring. QED.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 23, 2011 at 22:05

        There exists an evem more primitive concept far deeper even than race, Joseph, and apples the Engloshmen as well though they’ll be loath to admit it: tribalism.

      • Alex Thorn on May 24, 2011 at 07:16


        This is disintegrating into a racist rant! You certainly do not understand the concept of genetics and you are not really adding anything to the actual topic at hand: optimality of DIET.

        I stand by my original reply a genetic VARIATION (note: NOT difference) of less than 1% does not a different species, breed or race denote. Our closest cousin in the animal kingdom is the chimpanzee, which has a genetic variation from the human genome of between 1.6 and 4% (depending on which research/revised figures you choose) and they ARE classed as a different species to humans. Until the level of genetic variation between humans reaches that level – there can be no scientifically consistent basis for subdivisions within the human species.

        Certainly their are no genetic differences that would be a determinant of how we metabolise food – these are the oldest genes – carried forward from some of the earliest multicellular lifeforms on earth.

  48. 05/23/2011 » CrossFit Mount Laurel - on May 22, 2011 at 16:50

    […] Optimality: A Fool’s Errand?, Free the Animal […]

  49. Race Is a Construct With No Genetic Basis – A Succinct Refutation | Rough Drafts of a Koanic Soul on May 23, 2011 at 02:02

    […] A refutation of a callow canard presented here: […]

  50. TJ on May 23, 2011 at 02:07

    I am fully aware of Postcolonial Theory and its notion that race is a semiotic construction to reinforce hegemonic ideology. I am also aware that, biologically, there are phenotypical differences between groups originating from different parts of the world. Maybe I should have used the word ethnicity.

    But are you suggesting that Asians (as a group) demonstrate the same lactose tolerance as Finns? That people of African descent have the same vitamin D response to sunlight as a Scot? That all ETHNICITIES respond to SAD with the same rate of “diseases of civilization”? I’m not so sure.

    And thank you for the Ketones 101 explanation, but should we model our diet based on what are body does when in starvation mode? ALL of us? I’m not arguing that ketosis deosn’t work. It does for me. But I know others for whom it does not work. I also know people who can eat junk all day, even in middle age, and not gain weight. I call them “the bastards.”

    I have no quarrel with the universal similarity of the human genome, but it is phenotypes that we are talking about when we talk about our bodies relationship to food. Gene expression as Sisson always says.

    • TJ on May 23, 2011 at 02:08

      That was meant to be a response to Alan Thorn.

      • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 07:15

        It’s ALEX Thorn, actually!

        I mention fasting/starvation as a means of separating the metabolic partitioning of energy/nutritional substrates from diet. Any nutritional research is going to be filtered through the lens of a pre-existing habitual diet. Determining the ‘essentiality’ of certain nutrients on a high carbohydrate diet is not going to be of much use to someone on a low carbohydrate diet and vice versa. Therefore a means of getting a more base-line picture is needed. Fasting/starvation does this.

        Here I am thinking in terms of non-fatal, short-term starvation. When we feed of our own endogenous resources we are technically not starving the cells of energy or even key nutrients because we are living off what has previously been stored within the body’s own tissues. Only when these have been exhausted, which can take many weeks in the case of starvation, does it become counter-productive to health/life.

  51. Monte Diaz on May 23, 2011 at 04:42

    Ketosis isn’t even very efficient. You would think that the so called *optimal* fuel would have a more evolved and efficient pathway by now. Wasting fat in starvation mode doesn’t seem very optimal for anyone. For some reason, processing starchy tubers (carbs) are a bit more efficient.

    • Alex Thorn on May 23, 2011 at 07:05

      I do not follow…

      What you say would be true if ketone bodies were merely a waste-product but since they are indeed a very efficient fuel (more so than fatty acids and glucose – producing far less mitochondrial ROS), I think it is more likely that dietary ketosis is a valid and evolutionarily well-entrenched metabolic energy pathway.

  52. michael on May 23, 2011 at 05:36

    it’s obvious there’s no universal paleo or optimal diet because it’s more than likely that different ethnic groups/races have adapted to their regional food supply over thousands of years + you have individual differences within those groups as well.

    if you accept evolution then you must also accept regional adaption, racial/ethnic differences, etc.

    if you’re a jungle dweller and you can eat many fruits every day without getting fat good for you but I can’t.

  53. Race Is a Construct – Round II | Rough Drafts of a Koanic Soul on May 23, 2011 at 07:21

    […] fellow replies: I fail to see how you are citing Cavalli-Sforza as support for the idea that racial differences […]

  54. Amy on May 23, 2011 at 13:19

    Awesome. Just this morning I wrote a post about this, then I came across your post (got behind in google reader) and I was like, good, it’s not just me. I was stirred to action by a “bacon is bad for you” paleo post. I was aghast – what more will “they” take from us??? I’ve been Paleo for 2 years now, I recently added potatoes back in, and I’m thinking about occasional rice. You have to make it actually work, which means different things for different people. Doggedly following an ever-growing list of rules will only lead to crippling anxiety which, um, doesn’t work so well.

  55. Paul Verizzo on May 23, 2011 at 19:39

    The Perfect Diet is as real as The Seven Cities of Cibola, The Fountain of Youth, and religion’s Heaven.

    I’m immediately reminded of (as myself and others have said here), “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

    After almost two years of (mostly) paleo, I’ve recently added more carbs into my diet. The first and rational reason is that my biking speeds go up with that glycogen in there. The second is emotional, it’s nice to have some food options, just for the flavor fun. I’ve gone from about 75 grams a day of carbs to 150 or a bit more. Not huge compared to SAD, but enough to make a difference.

    I’m now eating plantain, winter squash, white and sweet potatoes, and yuca. And limited amounts of rice and quinoa. Beans when I do Mexican. Very rare, sadly!

    Hey, it’s optimal for me!

  56. MarkD on May 24, 2011 at 15:37

    I read Richard’s post and quite a few of the comments, but only about half way down, so I apologise if I am repeating something that someone else has already written, but:


    Kurt Harris has announced paleo 2.0,
    Keith Norris drinks raw dairy (I think)
    Richard likes real food rather than low carb.

    So, are we going into meltdown and chaos or going to the next level of understanding?

    Best – Mark

    • Richard Nikoley on May 24, 2011 at 15:41

      I think you answered your own question, markd

    • Alex Thorn on May 25, 2011 at 01:16

      The state of knowledge is always in flux and, as new discoveries are made, certain hypotheses or long-cherished beliefs have to fall by the wayside – but I do feel there is an element of meltdown going on too!

      While dairy is often considered a neolithic or agricultural food by militant ‘paleos’, they are also the ones who tend to err on what Dr Harris calls ‘paleo re-enactment’. If they could have their way they would don skins, live in caves and hunt woolly mammoth and rhino! Clearly this is impossible. What I term ‘paleo’ is merely a principle or framework where we use as much evidence as we can find in the archaeological/palaeontological/anthropological record to piece together the type of diet that would have been consumed and, using biology, determine if and why that would have resulted in a greater health/fitness/survival benefit then apply those principles to the modern diet and life-style. Is pork really that different from wild boar? Is beef really that different from auroch? Just because we cannot lay our hands on the same foods does not mean we cannot adopt a primal diet in principle using modern available whole foods.

      If dairy produce fits those criteria, why not avail ourselves of it?

      But yes, I do sometimes wonder if some people too readily latch on to the latest craze or fad and try to incorporate it into their former ‘paleo’ framework in order to fend of the accusations of ‘re-enactment’, etc.

  57. Al on May 25, 2011 at 05:47

    ok whatever. But here’s a claim that we DIDN’T “come out of Africa”

  58. […] am going to address — head on — the issue of "individual optimality." Hopefully, we've dispensed with the notion that there is any such thing as optimal for any large group and certainly not, an entire […]

  59. CrossFit Peachtree | CrossFit in Buckhead | CrossFit in Atlanta | CrossFit in Midtown | Personal Training Atlanta | Atlanta Strength and Conditioning Coach | CrossFit Football in Atlanta | Atlanta Speed and Agility Training on May 31, 2011 at 20:11

    […] — head on — the issue of "individual optimality." Hopefully, we’ve dispensed with the notion that there is any such thing as optimal for any large group and certainly not, an entire […]

  60. Paleo Josh on June 14, 2011 at 23:56

    haha! If one diet worked would all of the fitness magazines talk about?

  61. […] anyway, Melissa is a liar of convenience. Yep. It's all right here in my own comments, damn transparent and amazingly stupid. She had already posted to comments, Don Wiss showed up, and she posted as Anon to diss and insult […]

  62. Paleolito Dieta Mityba Tinklalapis | Anynfo on February 23, 2016 at 09:03

    […] Aš tiesiog apibrėžti dietos, kaip maisto ir išeina. Vienas iš Richard pranešimų: optimalumo: Kvailio pavedimas? parengė ilgą diskusiją šią […]

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