Some Paleo Diets Are Better Than Others

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Photo: Corbis

A big story in Scientific American today explains why the so-called Paleo or caveman diet is silly — in case the meat lockers full of deer ribs didn’t convince you. According to Sci Am, humans have evolved significantly since the Paleolithic era (acquiring lactose tolerance, for example), as have the bacteria living in our intestines. The unprocessed plants and animals available in the grocery store — even Whole Foods — would also be unrecognizable to hunter-gatherers, owing to humans' artificial selection.

More interesting, Paleolithic man's diet varied wildly by continent. So while some adhere to Inuit-ish definition of hunter-gatherer, restricted to meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables, they might have more fun following the diet of Africa’s !Kung, who got milk, corn meal, nuts, seeds and roots — basically breakfast cereal. Modern, South American hunter-gatherers, the Hiwi, eat capybara, roots, and palm nuts, but are hardly the picture of man-nature harmony the Paleo diet romanticizes. According to Sci Am, the Hiwi are lethargic and complain constantly of hunger. Just like us, a couple of hours after eating a muffin.