Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Paleo - Questions and Answers

Claude Forthomme, is a writer, an economist, an expert on the United Nations, a Senior Editor of Impakter and a friend of mine.   After reading my Paleo blog yesterday, she raised questions.  Since I'm new to the Paleo Lifestyle, I answered them  with Mark Sisson's 8 Key Concepts (regarding the Paleo/Primal lifestyle) from his  book, 21-Day Total Body Transformation (updated version of the 2011 bestseller).

I sent the reply to Claude and asked if I could use it in a blog if I didn't mention her name.

She said, Of course, Bert, do use my question but why not also use my name? After all, I asked the question publicly on your blog, some people no doubt will have seen it and I have no problem at all if you use that question as best you like! Happy to be of help for your next post!

I shared the 8 Key Concepts (see below) with Claude and she replied:

I'm impressed! But still dubious: exactly what is this Paleo diet? I've heard of it but I don't get it, what's the essence of it? On what evidence is it based? Nutritionists over the past 40 years have gotten it wrong consistently, again and again. I'm old enough to remember that, once upon a time, you had to eat spinach and then you didn't, and then again now you can - or should I say you should? Same with eggs, on and off! Same with meat, fish, tomatoes, cereals, cheese, you name it. Very annoying really. 

And yes, I never use refined sugar (I don't like the taste of it!) and I've tried raw food too but had to give it up on that one: too much adjustment required, my body wouldn't take it and so it was a no-go.

As to sports, running, playing tennis or golf, mountain-climbing etc I couldn't agree more: all very good stuff to do...though exceedingly boring but I suppose one could listen to something while running, plug the music in your ears, or a radio play or something. But alas, I'm addicted to reading and I don't like audio stuff, I'm not an audio person, never was, I just don't get it, I hate to listen to the radio, and even more to a novel being read to me!

So, Bert, enlighten me! 


Mark Sisson has written twenty something books on Paleo (Which he calls Primal).  I thought about answering your question from my rather limited experience and realized it would take a hundred pages, at least, to say what he said in one or two.  So I went to my favorite Sisson book, 21-Day Total Body Transformation, turned to his eight key concepts and realized I could use that to answer your question better than anything I could "freestyle."

Here are the concepts and my highlights under each of them:

1.  Yes, You Really Can Reprogram Your Genes:
Genes turn on or off only in response to signals they receive from the environment surrounding them - signals that you provide based on the foods you eat, the types of exercise you do (or don't do), your sleeping habits, sun exposure and so forth.

2.  The Clues to Optimal Gene Expression Are Found in Evolution:  Our genes expect us to be lean, fit, and healthy by modeling the lifestyle behaviors and diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors - even in the context of hectic modern life.  Plants and animals (meat/fish/fowl/eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds) should comprise the entirety of the human diet, with allowances for the moderate intake of certain modern foods.  As for exercise forms and frequency, less is often more. 

3.  Your Body Prefers Burning Fat over Carbohydrates:  Going primal shifts you into the fat-based, all-day energy metabolism that has supported human survival for two million years.  This shift is the most liberating aspect of primal living.

4.  80 Percent of Your Body Composition Success Is Determined by How You Eat:  Moderating insulin production by ditching grains, sugars, and legumes and lowering inflammation by eliminating harmful man made fats, will promote efficient reduction of excess body fat, effortless maintenance of ideal body composition, increased daily energy levels, decreased risk from illness, and optimal function of various other hormones systems (stress, appetite, immune, metabolic, sleep, thyroid, etc).

5.  Grains Are Totally Unnecessary:  The centerpiece of the Standard American Diet (SAD) offers minimal nutritional value, promotes fat storage by raising insulin, and contains anti-nutrients that promote inflammation, compromise digestion, and often interfere with immune function.  There is no good reason to make grains (or legumes, for that matter) any part of your diet unless you want a cheap source of calories that easily converts to sugar.

6.  Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Are Not Your Enemy:  Cholesterol is one of the body's most vital molecules.  Saturated fat is our preferred fuel.  The true heart disease risk factors - oxidation and inflammation - are driven strongly by polyunsaturated fats, simple sugars, excess insulin production, and stress.

7.  Exercise Is Ineffective for Weight Management:  When you depend on carbohydrate (glucose) as your primary fuel, exercise simply stimulates increased appetite and calorie intake.  Chronic exercise patterns inhibit fat metabolism, break down lean muscle tissue, and lead to fatigue, injury, and burnout. 

8.  Maximum Fitness Can Be Achieved in Minimal Time With High Intensity Workouts:  Regular brief, intense strength training sessions and occasional all-out sprints promote optimal gene expression and broad athletic competency.

I knew when I hit send there would be more questions, and I was right.

Claude said:  Of course, you do realize that I disagree, I consider grains and legumes essential for human health and this, for a very simple reason: the human brain! Yes, that's not a typo, I mean that: The human brain needs an enormous amount of calories/nutritional inputs and if we were cows endowed with a brain as large as ours, such cows wouldn't be able to feed that brain even eating non-stop day and night!

So, I believe that your paleo diet no doubt makes you feel good at first - gives a shock to the organism and gets rid of any excess fat or bad cholesterol etc etc - but over the long run it's likely to be very dangerous. I really mean that! 

Consider this. Agriculture was born approximately 10,000 years ago and it was the key to human development and civilization and the reason for this is very simple: Thanks to agriculture (that provided grains, legumes, vegetables, and some small animals at first, like chicken and eggs), man was able to free himself from the relentless pursuit of food that his huge brain demanded; and from that point on, he had enough time on his hands to start to think - and yes, culture and civilization were born right then, both the daughters of agriculture!

To sum up: I'm totally certain that your bout of paleo dieting is excellent for you and your wife, flushing all the bad stuff we accumulate through the years as a result of our bad eating habits and modern agriculture that has stuck chemicals into everything; good thing to do, no doubt,  provided you don't keep it up indefinitely. Put a stop to it as soon as you see that you are losing too much weight. You can't allow yourself to go down the drain, hey, I'm your friend, I want to see you alive for yet another 2 or 3 decades! 

OK, now you know what I think! And I do worry about your health. Please share this message with your wife. Discuss it. Pursue this concept of the link between the size of the human brain, its nutrition needs and demands and the appropriate diet that is needed to maintain our mental powers.

Thanks Claude, you're making me learn and I love it.  Tomorrow I'll address those questions in my post Paleo - Recent History vs Paleo/Primal History.

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