So I'm sure at least some of the people who stop by my blog read the article in the New York Times that referenced the Paleo diet, among other things
The article implied that following the Paleo diet was part of a 'paleofantasy' us modern humans cling to that doesn't reflect the modern society we live in today and further, is built on a shakey and fragmented understanding of how our ancestors lived. I think the author makes a valid scientific point that correlation is not causality, and there may be more than our modern diets to blame for our modern illnesses. The author also agrees that eating a less processed food based diet would probably be better for us.
The author does make many at least seemingly counter Paleo points. For example, the article argues that evolution does not stop, and cites lactose tolerance among modern humans of European dissent, a genetic mutation borne of the evolutionary environment. If I follow correctly, the implication is that we are also now, thanks to evolution, grain tolerant and legume tolerant and generally well adapted now to survive on carbohydrates. Other bloggers have taken up the points made in the NYT piece with vociferous enthusiasm and somewhat expanded and distorted the author's argument to generally attack the Paleo philosophy. Interestingly, at least to my mind, there is genuine nastiness in the dialogue between some of the Paleo camp and some of Paleofantasy camp, mostly arising from the Paleofantasy end.
I'm pretty much a live and let live type. I don't tell other people how and what they should eat, and I don't bash other people's food choices. I'm actually surprised people care enough to really get into it. But now that I've seen some of the points made, I do feel the urge to respond to some of them, if only for my own edification.
1) We don't know what our ancesters ate: True. We can only make educated guesses. And we can back up these guesses with scientific studies that show the efficacy of different ways of eating. And pretty much all the studies I have read that are halfway decently done tend to support the hypothesis that moderating carbohydrates, upping protein, getting good amounts of healthy fats,and eating whole natural minimally processed foods (not whole grains, which are by definition highly processed) is good for us.
2) It is a fallacious assumption that the point to which we evolved 50K years ago is the ideal: Maybe. But isn't it equally fallacious to assume either that we have evolved significantly from that point and that it WASN'T the ideal? I'll take my chances, as you will take yours, with our different approaches. But I don't see how my view can be categorically knocked out.
3) Sugar, high fructose syrup, heck, grains generally aren't bad for us since we make them/grow them ourselves: I respectfully disagree. They are very dense sources of calories with few or no nutrients, especially compared on a calorie for calorie basis with other foods. Just because we have created them doesn't mean they're good for us. Please note I'm evaluating these foods on their NUTRITIVE value. Animals are adapted to consume that which is optimally nutritive for them. On this basis, grains simply cannot match meat, vegetables, fruits, and naturally occuring fats.
4) Different groups of humans have evolved to eat different things, so what works for an African will not necessarily work for an Inuit: again, respectful and qualified disagreement. Masai eat cows and cow blood, Inuits eat whale meat and blubber. But it's all animal protein and fat. And I believe I just named two of the healthiest ethnic groups on the planet when they stick to their customary diets, which are heavily weighted in favour of animal protein and fat. Of course, you can cite the Chinese or the Japanese with higher carbohydrate intake, and I will concede that it is possible that some ethnic groups are more carb tolerant. But even in those groups the carbohydrates are not heavily processed and/or treated in such a way as to minimize their negative effects (e.g. fermenting soy products).
These are only a few points of rebuttal, and they likely won't change anyone's mind. I know that I eat the way I eat for the simple reason that it makes me feel good. I just don't get the anger associated with what people choose to eat and why. In the end, so long as everyone is happy, does it matter? And when did we all become so intolerant of dietary dissent? I generally find that those who react negatively to my food choices tend to take my choices as a repudiation of their own, which is an inaccurate personalization of my diet. Perhaps those who are unhappy with the way I eat are perhaps instead really expressing an unhappiness with themselves.