Thursday, December 31, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 31 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A. On behalf of the Paleo Diet Team we wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous new year.

Q: Dear Dr. Cordain,

I've been researching diet and its role in male pattern baldness for about a year and a half now. There is a website that lists studies showing positive hair loss benefits from various phytochemicals in different foods. Essentially, a Mediterranean diet with some aspects drawn from other diets seems to be the most optimal bet. I put to you that it's no coincidence the Japanese population traditionally has no male pattern baldness. Anyhow, one such study involves the legume soy. There is an isoflavone, a specific term for the more general term phytoestrogen in soy that is known to metabolize in the gut to a compound called equol which is a potent male pattern baldness fighter. Studies show only 30-50% of humans produce equol, and other components of the diet play the part in determining who is a strong equol producer. Seaweed or sea vegetables, for example, has a strong correlation with equol producers, and consumption of dairy has a strong negative correlation to being a strong equol producer.

The reason I came across your website is simple: I've been on a diet for the last year and a half that is aimed at fighting male pattern baldness. When I switched from dairy milk to soy milk, 99% of the acne on my back went away. However, I still get some acne, and I've had a dandruff problem for a few months now. Now some Google searches have indicated that dandruff is potentially caused by not shampooing enough -- especially with relatively long hair like myself, not getting enough sunlight or Vitamin D, or showering with too hot water. However, I feel like my problem may be inflammation, since dandruff's real name is seborrheic dermatitis. A video by a guy who in my opinion is very knowledgeable about health on YouTube named lorax2013 brought the Paleo Diet to my attention. He gives studies where subjects were put on the Paleo Diet and their respective ailment--whether multiple sclerosis, lupus, or acne--were remedied almost all the time, if not all the time. However, I don't see any mention of the Paleo Diet's role in male pattern baldness. Were any hunter gatherers of the past or present bald? I've read that chronic inflammation plays a negative role in male pattern baldness, and studies from that site indicate that inflammation is the reason that the hair follicle eventually shrinks and dies.

My question: I don't want to start the Paleo Diet and give up soy only to realize a year or three later that my hair is starting to thin. What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks so much for your time!

A: Hi Tony,

Thanks for your question. A scientific paper our group has written (Hyperinsulinemic Diseases of Civilization: More than Syndrome X) in part addresses male pattern baldness and how a number of studies indicate that high glycemic load diets may set off a hormonal cascade that is characteristic of men with male pattern baldness. To date, no randomized controlled interventions of low glycemic load diets (basically Paleo Diets) have yet been conducted, so we have no human on whether or not a Paleo Diet may be effective in combating male pattern baldness. However, having said this, numerous historical photographs of hunter gatherers rarely if ever depict young or middle age men with male pattern baldness. I have read anecdotal accounts of hunter gatherers who were described in 19th century writings suggesting that premature graying also rarely occurred. I had not heard about the equol story -- thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Best wishes,
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

Q: Dr. Cordain,

I am an undergraduate student that's dabbled with both the Paleo Diet and vegetarianism for several months now. I hope you can answer a question that's troubled me greatly.

I'm having trouble coming to terms with what I see as contradictory data on diet. I read the Paleo Diet almost a year ago as it came recommended to me from a fitness website I was browsing. The site raved about how healthy the Paleo Diet was, and how it could work well for an athletic lifestyle. That winter I began to eat much more in the way you described. I came into conflict last summer, working at an environmental nonprofit. My employer has been vegan for a while now and recommended I read another diet/health book called The China Study. Touted as the largest epidemiological study ever performed by man, the study reported that across the board vegan diets proved to be the healthiest among living human populations. My initial reaction that my protein intake would be too low if I pursued such a diet was alleviated by the research provided by the book.

I'm having trouble reconciling these views. Both you and the author of The China Study (Dr. Colin Campbell) provide compelling research to back up your points, and I can't see where to draw the line. The logic behind the Paleo Diet makes more sense to me than the logic of a vegan diet, but I can't argue with the enormous amount of data Dr. Campbell has on current living populations and the health they enjoy. Can you shed some light on this for me?

Thank you for your time,

A: Hi Ryan,

We have a PDF that's available for download on our web site that includes two papers: Dr. Cordain's The Evolutionary Basis for the Therapeutic Effects of High Protein Diets and Dr. T. Colin Campbell's paper entitled How Much Protein Is Needed? Dr. Cordain's online "debate" with Dr. Campbell was originally commissioned by Robb Wolf, a strength & conditioning coach, formerly a research biochemist, who hosts a blog discussing intermittent fasting, fitness, and paleolithic nutrition (

We hope you find this information useful.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 30 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.

Q: I happen to be Hyperthyroidic patient with plenty of Methimazole to take. My T4 is 15.5 and TSH .006 currently. I do kind of enjoy dairy foods like pot cheese/farmer's cheese, Raisin Bran with organic milk and some shredded wheat cereal. I can give that up. It tastes like horse food hay. My mom loves the Shoprite supermarket baguette Italian bread with plenty of artificial substances in it. I am trying to eat less and less of that. I have given up chocolate and I don't eat green tomatoes generally but the milk has vitamin D and I don't want to overindulge in supplements. My weight has been stable at around 188. I am 6 ft 3in. I weighed 147 early in 2009. I am 38 tomorrow. Now I can't substitute milk/vitamin D or can I? I do enjoy Soy. What else should I take or eat?


A: Dear Lon,

Hyperthyroidism could be the initial step in Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Disease. This happens to be an autoimmune disease where immune cells, namely T-Lymphocytes) attack cells of the thyroid gland, although a more comprehensive analysis is needed in order to do a diagnosis in your case. Another autoimmune disease called Celiac Disease carries an increased risk for other autoimmune diseases including HT. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mounts an attack against the epithelial cells lining the gut, triggered by gluten containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Hence, we believe that gluten containing grains may increase the risk for thyroiditis (remember that sometimes starts with hyperthyroidism and them moves to hypothyroidism). All grains and legumes (including soya and peanuts) contain harmful substances namely Lectins which increase intestinal permeability and this is associated to an increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases.

Regarding dairy, they have several immunogenic (activate the immune system) proteins that may pass through the intestinal barrier if intestinal permeability is increased. Therefore, dairy are not the best choice to eat calcium, but rather green vegetables, such as kale, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.

Vitamin D is a crucial substance in terms of immune regulation. We suggest to measure blood levels of vitamin D and ensure they are in the 50-70ng/ml range.

The bottom line is to eat a diet based on lean meats, seafood, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and olive oil. This will also provide you with big amounts of nutrients and antioxidants which may help to your overall health.

We hope this helps.

Q: From the reading your studies in The Paleo Diet Update, Volume 2 Issue 2, it appears that the investigators failed as do many others to consider that when the consumption of fruits and vegetables increased, that something else had to have been omitted--or else calorie intake would have increased. Hence, just as well have the omission rather than the inclusion that effected the outcome. Please pass along to Loren for his consideration.

Thanks, Van

A: Thank you for your comment. Indeed, when we add something to a diet in order to maintain a stable caloric intake something has to be removed. As you said, we can't be 100% sure that the positive effect was due to increasing fruits and vegetables. In one of the studies Dr. Cordain mentioned, they didn’t just reduce or increase fruit and vegetables, they also manipulated the variable cereal grains. This would not only have a net acid load and displaced net base yielding fruits & vegetables, but may also adversely affect bone health and calcium balance through other mechanisms.

In science, isolating variables is a frequent practice and this is one of the reasons why the evolutionary template can shed light into difficult nutrition questions. Instead of focusing on only one specific variable, we defend that optimal health can only be achieved if we mimic most of the ancient lifestyle (sun exposure, exercise, sleep, avoiding chronic stress and pollutants) and a pre-agricultural diet (not just a net base yielding diet), which is what we propose with The Paleo Diet.

Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that more and more evidence suggests that the diet’s acid load is important in terms of optimal health.


Suggested Resources for Buying Paleo-Friendly Food

Dear Readers,

The mainstay of the Paleo Diet is lean animal food. For your information, and to assist you in obtaining Paleo Diet-friendly food, we have provided the following list of suppliers reproduced and updated from The Paleo Diet. This includes suppliers of free-range and natural meats, game meats, and omega-3 enriched eggs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dr. Cordain Comments on New Evidence of Early Human Grain Consumption

Dear Readers,

Dr. Cordain was recently asked by a reporter from the journal Nature to comment on an article entitled "Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During the Middle Stone Age" by Julio Mercader in the journal Science, citing evidence that humans consumed grain much earlier than was previously thought. In addition, one of our readers asked Dr. Cordain to comment on an article in Scientific American entitled "Humans feasting on grains for at least 100,000 years," by Katherine Harmon.

Dear Dr. Cordain,

I am a huge fan of your books and have been eating a paleo diet for years. I've had your graph of the land/water meat/fish, and fruit, nut, seed % breakdown taped to my fridge for years, although I'm so familiar with it that i no longer need to look at it for reference.

The Paleo Diet is predicated upon the fact that humans did not have grain cultivation and consumption until 5,000-8,000 years ago, which coincides with the advent of 'modern' civilization diseases. Up until now, this hypothesis have not been challenged as the archival evidence of grain agriculture matches it.

However, the current issue of Scientific American has an article stating archaeological evidence that humans were eating lots of grains 100,000 years ago.

I am most curious about your opinion about this and how it effects the paleo dietary theory.


Dr. Cordain's response:

This is an interesting paper ( Mercader J. Mozambican grass seed consumption during the middle stone age. Science 2009;326:1680-83) as it may push probable (but clearly not definite) cereal grain consumption by hominins back to at least 105,000 years ago. Prior to this evidence, the earliest exploitation of wild cereal grains was reported by Piperno and colleagues at Ohalo II in Israel and dating to ~23,500 years ago (Nature 2004;430:670-73). As opposed to the Ohalo II data in which a large saddle stone was discovered with obvious repetitive grinding marks and embedded starch granules attributed to a variety of grains and seeds that were concurrently present with the artifact , the data from Ngalue is less convincing for the use of cereal grains as seasonal food. No associated intact grass seeds have been discovered in the cave at Ngalue, nor were anvil stones with repetitive grinding marks found. Hence, at best, the data suggests sporadic use (and not necessarily consumption) of grains at this early date. Clearly, large scale processing of sorghum for consumption for extended periods seems unlikely.

Further, It should be pointed out that consumption of wild grass seeds of any kind requires extensive technology and processing to yield a digestible and edible food that likely did not exist 105,000 years ago. Harvesting of wild grass seeds without some kind of technology (e.g. sickles and scythes [not present at this time]) is tedious and difficult at best. Additionally, containers of some sort (baskets [not present at this time], pottery [not present] or animal skin containers are needed to collect the tiny grains. Many grain species require flailing to separate the seed from the chaff and then further winnowing ([baskets not present]), or animal skins] to separate the seeds from the chaff. Intact grains are not digestible by humans unless they are first ground into a flour (which breaks down the cell walls), and then cooked (typically in water – e.g. boiling [technology not present]) or parched in a fire which gelatinizes the starch granules, and thereby makes them available for digestion and absorption. Because each and every one of these processing steps requires additional energy on the part of the gatherer, most contemporary hunter gatherers did not exploit grains except as starvation foods because they yielded such little energy relative to the energy obtained (optimal foraging theory).

If indeed the grinder/core axes with telltale starch granules were used to make flour from sorghum seeds, then the flour still had to be cooked to gelatinize the starch granules to make it digestible. In Neolithic peoples, grass seed flour most typically is mixed with water to make a paste (dough) that is then cooked into flat breads. It is highly unlikely that the technology or the behavioral sophistication existed 105,000 years ago to make flat breads. Whole grains can be parched intact in fires, but this process is less effective than making flour into a paste and cooking it to gelatinize the starch granules. Hence, it is difficult to reconcile the chain of events proposed by the authors (appearance of sorghum starch granules on cobbles or grinders = pounding or grinding of sorghum grains = consumption of sorghum). I wouldn’t hang my hat on this evidence indicating grains were necessarily consumed by hominins at this early date. To my mind, the Ohalo II data still represents the best earliest evidence for grain consumption by hominins.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

New Products in Web Store!

Dear Readers,

We're pleased to announce that Dr. Cordain's DVDs Acne Vulgaris: A Disease of Western Civilization and How to Treat Multiple Sclerosis with Diet are now available for purchase as stand-alone products for $19.95. Please visit our web store for more information.

In addition, we are now selling copies of Dr. Cordain's previously unpublished papers on Paleo Diet-related topics. The first paper to be offered is Nutritional Differences between Grass and Grain Fed Beef: Health Implication. The paper is available for $19.95. Please visit our web store for more information.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Dinner


I am fairly new to the Paleo diet. I want to stick with it through Christmas. Any suggestions?

Thank you,

Dear Randi,

If you've read The Paleo Diet book there are more than 100 recipes in the book and on our web site ( However, you can skip several meals if you wish, maybe the ones where you’ll find more problems to change due to social issues. We believe that doing The Paleo Diet 85% is still a healthy diet.

I hope this helps.

Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Beef

Dr. Cordain,

I attended a lecture you gave at CrossfitRoots in Boulder and have also read your book The Paleo Diet.

My wife and I have been trying to purchase a quarter cow and have been researching farms in the area. I know '100% Grass Fed' is better, but they are not as easy to find so I have a few questions:

1. Do you have any recommended resources for 100% Grass Fed beef in Colorado?

2. Have you done any studies on the fat profile difference between 100% grass fed beef and Grass Fed Beef that is Corn Finished? I'm curious on whether its 20% worse, 50% worse, etc.. It must be better than most grocery store beef, but if its not that much better, then I'll continue trying to find a 100% grass fed cow.

3. I know you are updating your books, but it would be great if the sources of natural 'paleo' food you have listed were on your web-site and more up to date. I think it could drive a lot of business to vetted paleo approved providers. It would certainly make it easier for us to find them.

Thanks for your time,

Hi Scott,

My friend Jo Robinson operates this website: which lists grass fed beef producers, not only in Colorado, but also all over the U.S. I have written an extensive paper contrasting grass vs. grain produced beef and their potential effects upon human health and well being. This previously unpublished paper has recently been made available for $19.95 as a PDF file at our website. The paper is 39 pages long contains over 7,700 words, 92 references, 7 tables and 10 figures. My manuscript represents the single most comprehensive review to date comparing the potential health effects of grass and grain produced beef. We plan to update all of our recommended sources for Paleo "friendly" food and include them in a new page at our website.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 23 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.

Q: I like drinking protein shakes in the morning, but I noticed some of the protein sources in my protein is made from milk or dairy products. Is there an alternative that is available in the market place?


A: Dear John-Michael,

Yes, egg white protein powder is a better option than whey protein. Whey is a good source of casein and IGF-1, two insulinogenic (they increase pancreas insulin release) peptides that may lead to hyperinsulinemia which is at the root of many chronic degenerative diseases as shown in Dr. Cordain's scientific paper: "Hyperinsulinemic diseases: more than just syndrome X"
However, if you suffer from an autoimmune disease you may want to reduce egg whites until your symptoms improve. Lean meats and fish are good sources of proteins and particularly of branched chain amino acids which increase muscle growth.

I hope this helps.

Q: I'm a male senior citizen (aged 60+) who is on the Paleo Diet and experiencing unwanted weight loss. What can you suggest to curb my unwanted weight loss?

A: Start a weight Training Program (3 times a week is enough) and pay attention to the post workout period:

After high intensity exercise there is a window of opportunity (that peaks in the first 30 minutes) where it appears that increasing blood levels of insulin, along with amino acids, is beneficial. This facilitates recovery and increases protein synthesis without (theoretically) inducing insulin resistance.

I would use a post-workout shake, composed of water, and liquid essential amino acids, along with net base yielding high glycemic carbohydrates (such as Bananas or grape juice). This has been shown to increase protein synthesis.

The ingestion of an amino acids/high glycemic carbohydrate drink may trigger a very high insulin release that could be followed by Hypoglycemia, which would lead to loss of muscle mass. Moreover, depending on training intensity and duration, it appears that the presence of amino acids (especially leucine) and carbohydrates stimulates protein synthesis for up to 3 hours after a workout (although its peak is reached in the first 30 minutes after training), so it could be useful to eat a solid meal 30 to 60 minutes after the post workout shake, composed of lean meat or fish or egg whites (good source of leucine), and a net base yielding carbohydrate, such as cassava and sweet potatoes. And if this isn’t enough, a second meal (identical to the first one, but with a lower glycemic load) within a 3 hour time frame could be a good idea (lean meat or fish or egg whites and a net base yielding carbohydrate with a lower glycemic load, such as yams).

I hope this helps.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Testimonial: Cholesterol, Weight Management

After 6 months on the Paleo Diet, I'm teary eyed (and that doesn't happen often for an old Marine), I'm so thankful.

My cholesterol was at 250. Being a life-long fitness nut, everyone assumed my high cholesterol had to be genetic. After going on medication, it went down to 213, but I experienced joint pain as a side effect, so I stopped taking it. I went on the Paleo Diet and, with no medication, my cholesterol was at 184 after 3 months. Amazing!

Second, I've cut my inflammation medication regimen from daily doses to once every 3 days, and hope to eliminate that medication also.

Third, I lost the tire around my mid-section that I never had until my mid-40's, and I have more energy in the gym.

Finally, my wife lost 18 lbs and is actually a couple pounds below her college weight. She looks great!

We just rave to everyone about this diet. It will be a life-long change for us.

I can't thank you enough! God bless!

Wake Forest, NC

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 17 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.

Q: I can’t seem to find a scientific answer with research to support why you do not recommend saturated fat and dairy in the diet. Can you please explain the mechanism by which saturated fat clogs arteries? And can you explain why you do not recommend dairy with biochemical explanations?

A: Saturated fatty acid intake and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a topic with a lot of controversy. In recent years a wide body of research has suggested that increased consumption of certain saturated fatty acids (Lauric acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid) down-regulate LDL receptor and thereby increase LDL plasma levels, which has been associated to increased risk of CVD. On the other hand, stearic acid (a 18 carbon saturated fatty acid) has been shown to decrease LDL plasma levels. However, this view is too simplistic as there are several other factors contributing to CVD, such as smoking, exercise, trans-fatty acids, increased omega-6/omega-3 ratio, free-radicals, nutrient deficiency, homocysteine, alcohol intake and low-grade chronic inflammation among others.

Moreover, some studies have suggested that there’s not enough scientific data to support the view that increased total or LDL cholesterol is an independent risk factor for CVD, but rather oxidized LDL. Plaque production is mediated by oxidized LDL, not LDL. Oxidized LDL can produce shedding of the inner layer of the artery namely glycocalix. Oxidized LDL then infiltrates the intima of the artery. Oxidized LDL is eaten by macrophages, a process known as phagocytosis, causing macrophages to be transformed into foam cells which produce the fibrous cap.

Once the fibrous cap has been produced we need to break it down in order to produce an ischemic event. Lectins and low-grade chronic inflammation are involved in the activation of matrix metalloproteinases which break down the fibrous cap.

In summary, high total cholesterol or LDL levels do not increase CVD risk--rather oxidized LDL increases risk of CVD. To produce oxidized LDL requires the factors mentioned above. Hence, consumption of saturated fatty acids is not an issue if we control several other factors such as those mentioned.

Dr. Cordain wrote a book chapter and published a paper (with our team member Pedro Bastos) where he shows that saturated fat consumption in ancient hunter-gatherer populations were usually 10-15% above the recommended 10% of energy from saturated fats, yet they were non-atherogenic.

The bottom line is that we do not recommend cutting down saturated fatty acid intake, but decreasing high-glycemic load foods, vegetable oils, refined sugars, grains, legumes and dairy.

Regarding why we do not recommend dairy products: please refer to the following papers (12 MB zip file) supporting this recommendation.

Other recommended reading is Dr. Cordain and Pedro Bastos' last paper entitled "Dietary fat quality and coronary heart disease prevention: a unified theory based on evolutionary, historical, global and modern perspectives."

Q: I have read your book and gotten on your blog just today. What I would love help with is any information on rheumatoid arthritis which I could email on to a 70 year old female friend who is suffering terribly. I couldn't find a specific article I could forward on to her.

Thanks for any help you can give,

A: Deanna,

Please refer to Dr. Cordain's article on rheumatoid arthritis entitled "Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis."

Testimonial: Breast Cancer Survivor

Dear Readers,

Here's a testimonial from a member of the Paleo Diet community regarding her use of the Paleo Diet to beat breast cancer. Her story was originally published in the November 1, 2005 edition of our newsletter. We recently began reissuing archived editions of the newsletter, and Debbie contacted us and graciously provided an update.

Debbie's Story

Dear Dr. Cordain,

I am a breast cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on May 25, 2001: T1, Node Negative, Her2 positive and nuclear grade 3. I had a lumpectomy, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. On March 26, 2004 my breast cancer returned to my L-1 disk in my spine. I had 6 months of weekly chemotherapy and radiation. By December 15, 2004 I was declared in remission.

Herceptin was part of the chemo protocol that I had received in 2004 and have been receiving it every three weeks since the beginning of January 2005. Tumor marker tests are also conducted every other month. Unfortunately, my tumor markers started rising and by the end of May tests the upward trend was disturbing.

I share this news with my pharmacist who is also a certified nutritionist on May 28th. He recommended that I immediately eliminate sugar and grains from my diet. I found your book, The Paleo Diet, and started to eliminate sugar, grains and dairy from my diet that day.

The results have been astonishing to say the least. On May 24, 2005 my CA 27 29 marker was 43 and as of October 24, 2005 is 24. My CA 15 3 marker was 28.6 on May 24, 2005 and is now 22.9. I am 100% convinced that it is a result of being a very compliant follower of the Paleo Diet. Cancer likes sugar. Sugar is not my friend and is an enemy to my health.

I am very thankful to a very astute and pharmacist/certified nutritionist who is on top of the current diets and the effects on one's health. We are what we eat. I do not miss any of the sweets that I craved so and love the fact that I have finally lost the 25 chemo/radiation weight that I could not lose no matter how much exercise or dieting I did since 2002. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and lean meats and fish are the mainstay of my current good health.

I continue to emphasize to my incredible team of physicians at Duke that the wonderful lower tumor marker results are a result of my new diet. Thank you for your book and I will continue to spread the message to my support group and other women I meet who have breast cancer. Mind, body and soul-keeping each healthy is essential to survive this terrible disease. The diet recommended to me on May 28, 2005 empowered me to continue doing everything possible to win this battle.


Update on Debbie

Dear Dr. Cordain,

My pharmacist emailed me your latest newsletter update and there was my story. Now to add to the story: I will be celebrating my fifth year of being in remission on December 15th—for the second time. I have continued The Paleo Diet and weigh my 2001 pre-cancer weight of 155. I am 5’10” and feel this is my ideal weight. My husband is also on the diet, since he eats what I eat.

I also started working for this pharmacist, Bob Barbrey, in April 2009. His pharmacy, Medicap Pharmacy is just a pharmacy that encourages good diet, nutrition, exercise and sleep as part of the complete picture of being proactive about one’s health. Prescribed drugs are a part of the process, but many of our customers are stepping up to owning their health and want to make changes to ensure they are in control of it. The Paleo Diet guidelines are shared as encouragement to pursue that ideal state of health and weight.

I continue to have excellent tumor markers and I have continue to share my story with my doctors and friends and anyone who cares to listen. I was at a party last Saturday with my husband and saw friends we have not seen in years. Everyone could not believe how healthy I looked and how fabulous I looked! They all were so happy I was still in remission. As a cancer survivor, we can be healthy and look fabulous! It was with great joy I donated my size 16 and 18 clothing to Goodwill as I now wear size 10’s and 12’s. I have lost a total of 45 pounds since May 28, 2005. I have reached my ideal weight naturally through this diet and that is 155.

I am very thankful to Bob Barbrey and his excellent advice on May 28, 2005!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 16 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A:

Q: Is almond milk an acceptable drink for the paleo diet?

A: Yes, almond milk is a Paleo friendly food. You can also use hazelnut and coconut milk.

Q: Dear Loren Cordain/Paleo Diet Team,

I can't thank you enough for your research. I have been living the Paleo Diet for nearly a year now, and it has completely transformed my life. I had been suffering from Sjogrens syndrome for years, but after starting this diet my symptoms disappeared almost instantly! I will never eat any other way again.

I also have a question. A friend of mine is suffering from ichthyosis. It is a rare disease where skin dries out. It has a genetic cause. Can the Paleo Diet bring relief to people with these type of diseases as well?

A: Ichthyosis Vulgaris has a genetic background. However, our colleague Pedro provided us some information regarding this rare disease. There's some scant evidence that a gluten-free diet might alleviate symptoms of Ichthyosis, and there appears to be an association with coeliac disease (a gluten-triggered disease).

Folic acid and vitamin D supplementation seems to improve this condition.

There's a case report of a patient suffering from ichthyosis whose symptoms improved within 6 months of treatment.

Please keep us posted.

Q: In your book, you said not to consume fermented foods. However, in the new Paleo Diet blog (which is great, by the way), I've seen probiotics recommended a couple times.

So I'm wondering ... did Paleolithic man consume fermented foods?

A: Yogurt, leavened bread, alcohol, pickled foods and other fermented foods clearly require technology to produce and consume. However, pre-agricultural humans ate plenty of fruits and vegetables (good sources of soluble fiber), which encourage growth of gram positive gut bacteria. For most people, after years on a low-fiber high-glycemic load diet, probiotics have been demonstrated to have many therapeutic effects, perhaps because they restore the gut flora that likely would have been present had they been consuming large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout their life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 15 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.

Q: I was reading around on a few different websites and I found some things that you can have in "moderation". What exactly does this mean? For example it says you can have one 8 oz. glass of wine or one 12 oz. beer, but use in moderation. Does this mean once a day?

A: Fermented foods are not part of The Paleo Diet. However, a little amount of red wine shouldn't be an issue, lets say a glass of wine at lunch. Red wine has a lot of antioxidants that could overcome the negative effects of alcohol. Red wine may also improve insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, beer is not so good as demonstrated in a study conducted in the Czech Republic where the author showed considerable amounts of gluten in beer.

Q: Losing weight the Paleo way while on the pill - is it still possible?

I've combed through The Paleo Diet book several times on how it could be possible I'm not losing weight or at least I'm losing and gaining the same several pounds over and over again for several months now. The only thing I can think of that is stopping me is the pill - have you heard of any other cases similar to this?

I know the diet works, because my boyfriend--who started this lifestyle change 5months ago due to his sleep apnea--has lost 25lbs! He not only looks better, and feels better, but most importantly he no longer has sleep apnea. He no longer uses his very expensive CPAP machine. And he did it all on Paleo--no exercise. I on the other hand, have been exercising like a mad women, and I have lost 0 lbs. I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear about it.

A: The pill induces insulin resistance, which makes your pancreas produce high amounts of insulin, namely hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia stops fat beta-oxidation, which means you're not burning fats. Maybe if you stop the pill you'll start to loose weight.

On the other hand, you should pay attention to fruits with high amounts of fructose and totals sugars. We suggest reducing consumption of those kinds of fruits until you normalize your body weight. More info:

Also, you have to be careful with the amount of calories you eat. Nuts, avocado, olive oil are calorie-dense foods that you should use in moderation.

Another way to optimize your exercise is to avoid eating one and a half hours after exercise. This will make your body crave storage energy. Your muscles and liver must replenish their "tanks" from storage fats.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dr. Cordain Quoted in December Issue of Science

Dr. Cordain attended and addressed the conference Evolution and Diseases of Modern Environments, at Charité University Medicine Berlin, Humboldt University, 12–14 October 2009. He's quoted in the latest issue of the magazine Science, 11 December 2009,, in the article "What’s for Dinner? Researchers Seek Our Ancestors’ Answers."

Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE)

Dear Readers,

This post is a discussion on Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE) between Dr. Betty Wedman, a Licensed Nutritionist & Environmental Health Specialist. In his response, Dr. Cordain refers to the paper "A model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in C57BL/6 mice for the characterisation of intervention therapies," which is available for download from our web site.

Dr. Cordain,

As a nutrition instructor at 2 Tampa Bay universities, I include the Paleo Diet in my lesson plans frequently and even considering a Nutrition & Anthropology class option. I would like to have more information about the EAE disease study you mentioned at the American Nutraceutical Association Conference 2009.

Thank you.
Betty Wedman

Hi Betty,

Many thanks for your support of my work. I'm sorry that we didn't get to speak to one another directly at the conference. I'm not completely clear on which study I may have mentioned, but I believe it is a study in which EAE (the animal model of MS) was elicited via vaccination with MOG (myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein; a known autoantigen in MS) and Quil A as the adjuvant. Quil A is derived from Quillaja, a saponin derived from the bark of a S. American tree and which is a commonly used additive in root beer and soft drinks to make them foam. My point was that the concentration of Quil A used in the mouse study can be achieved via consumption of root beer and that resident E. Coli contain an epitope similar in structure to MOG. Hence it may be possible to elicit autoimmune diseases via unintentionally mucosal vaccination via certain dietary adjuvants (saponins) in naturally occurring foods along with mimicking epitopes derived from resident gut flora. Attached is the EAE paper.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 8 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A. Thank you for your contributions!

Q: I just listened to an interview of Cordain. He mentions that Huntington Chorea seems to be an autoimmune disease. I have Huntington Chorea in my family. So obviosly I'd like to know more about your or his findings. Could you please explain if there is any study showing this and what foods one should eliminate from the diet? I'd be so grateful.


A: Hi Tim,

Huntington's Chorea or Huntington's Disease (HD) results from lesions (alpha synuclein crosslinks) occurring in the brain which cause the characteristic symptoms (tremors and paralysis) of HD. It is well documented that a genetic basis underlies the development of HD. HD patients inherit a specific gene which causes increased expression of a protein called mutant huntingtin protein (mHTT). Whereas people without HD have inherited a gene which expresses the normal version of this protein, simply called, huntingtin protein (HTT). The over expression of mHTT at the expense of HTT is thought to cause the brain lesions of HD.

So, can diet have anything to do with whether or not a person with the mHTT genetic makeup goes on to develop the disease? Yes, and let me explain the underlying rationale. The imbalance in the mHTT to HTT ratio that occurs in HD patients requires the inheritance of the mHTT gene, however the gene cannot make its product without the presence of an enzyme called transglutaminase (TG). Transglutaminase is a post-translational enzyme (meaning that it is required to produce the gene product after the gene has been translated within a cell's nucleus). TG is a ubiquitous post translational enzyme that is found throughout the body's tissues, particularly in the gut, nervous tissue and brain. Without the presence of adequate concentrations of TG in the brain, mHTT cannot be produced in sufficient quantity to imbalance the mHtt to HHT ratio that results in HD.

So the $64,000 question in HD: what is the environmental trigger that causes over expression of TG in the brain? Plain and simple, it is wheat. More specifically, a storage protein in wheat called Gliadin. Unlike other dietary proteins, Gliadin is an unusual protein because it is resistant to the enzymes in the human gut (proteases) which normally degrade proteins into their constituent amino acids. Consequently, Gliadin arrives in the small intestine intact where it has recently been shown to bind a gut receptor (the CRX2 chemokine receptor). When Gliadin from wheat binds CRX2 it causes the intestinal cells to release a recently discovered enzyme known as zonulin. Zonulin release by gut cells causes the gut to become "leaky" and allow passage of intact proteins across the gut barrier -- including Gliadin itself.

Once Gliadin bypasses the gut barrier, it is immediately catalyzed by transglutaminase (TG) which is expressed by local intestinal cells. When you eat wheat on a daily basis, there is so much dietary Gliadin bypassing the gut barrier that it overwhelms the ability of the intestinal cells to produce the enzyme (TG) to catalyze the substrate (Gliadin). Intestinal cells as well as all other cells in the body react to this overload of circulating Gliadin by up-regulating (increasing) TG production.

The proof of the pudding lies in the experimental evidence. Unfortunately no randomized controlled trials of Gliadin free diets in HD patients have been examined to date. Having said this, I am aware of a single HD patient in S. California who was a member of a local CrossFit Gym, and who had been diagnosed with HD by a group of University neurologists employing MRI technology to detect the characteristic brain lesions. After approximately 8 months following adoption of a Paleo Diet (Gliadin free), this patient experienced a dramatic reduction in disease symptoms and subsequent MRI evaluation indicated a reduction in lesion volume. In addition to HD, numerous ataxia patients respond favorably to Gliadin free diets.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

Q: In response to the idea that high glycemic foods can cause insulin resistance, what would be your response to people like Dr. John McDougall that claim there are plenty or cultures in Asia who live on diets consisting of high glycemic foods such as potatoes and rice but have little to no rates of diabetes or other chronic illnesses?

Here's a link to his article



A: Hi James.

I believe (and we have evidence backing that up - see links below) that not all people will develop insulin resistance on a high glycemic load diet and not all people will see the same improve their body composition and/or insulin sensitivity on a low glycemic load diet. It appears to be dependant on your genotype (links to a few papers below). We have some examples of that: for instance, the aborigines don’t tolerate a high carb diet very well and the Kitava do better. But don’t forget that low glycemic load doesn’t automatically mean very low carb and high carb or normal carb doesn’t necessarily mean high glycemic load, as the glycemic load depends on the amount of carbs on a given serving of a certain food and the Glycemic Index of that food, so saying that the Asians eat a high glycemic load diet may not necessarily be true.

Another possibility that some people will develop insulin resistance on a high glycemic load diet (and some will not) is that a deprived fetal environment (which normally, but not always, leads to an underweight baby) may lead to a specific metabolic programming that has been called the trify phenotype, which means that these babies will develop various diseases of civilization when exposed to the postnatal environment (western diet and sedentary lifestyle) that is characteristic for affluent societies and of rapidly developing countries.

What I mean here is that depending on your genotype and/or epigenotype you may or may be not react adversely to a high carb diet. Moreover, there are also various variables that need to be considered when we want to know why certain populations suffer more from the diseases of insulin resistance, such as (among many other variables):
  • Exercise (it has a huge impact on insulin sensitivity and sarcopenia, a typical consequence of inactivity), leads to insulin resistance and an increased risk of the metabolic syndrome).

  • Vitamin D and/or ultraviolet exposure (for instance, in Kitava they don’t suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, whereas in the western world many of us do and there is evidence linking Vit D deficiency to an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes and the Metabolic Syndrome, among various other diseases).

  • Magnesium deficiency is strongly associated to an increased risk of the Metabolic Syndrome and Cardiovascular diseases. Presumably this wasn’t a problem for our ancestrors and to many non-westernized populations, but it is a huge problem in the US.

  • Fructose intake – although our ancestors and many non-westernized populations around the world eat fruit, which is a source of fructose, fruit also has Vitamin C (which counteracts some of the adverse effects of fructose) and they don’t eat as much fructose as the Americans do, because HFCS has been added to many foods and because of the American eating habits (I’m Portuguese and I always get amazed when I go to the US and see what the people eat and the amount of sodas they drink and the amount of obese people I se there). In Dr. Cordain’s papers and in his lectures (I attended several) he mentions fructose as a cause of elevated uric acid and insulin resistance. And we have a spreadsheet with the fructose content of various foods for those who need to cut back on fructose intake (those who are already insulin resistant or have elevated blood uric acid levels and/or have been eating a very high fructose diet, which upregulates certain enzymes that need to be downregulated in order to reverse the effects of this high fructose intake and the only way to do it is by eating a very low fructose diet for a few weeks, before resuming a normal fructose diet (whose main sources are mainly fruit).

  • Bioactive peptides and antinutrients in Neolithic foods (see Dr. Cordain’s scientific paper on cereal grains here and Dr. Staffan Lindeberg’s research team paper on lectins and leptin resistance (link below).

  • Visceral fat – cytokines derived from visceral adipose tissue will cause insulin resistance.

  • Sleep deprivation – it may set off a hormonal cascade that may ultimately result in insulin resistance and Obesity.

  • Etc, etc…
We have to realize that many Americans have already the signs and symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome and/or Type 2 Diabetes insulin resistance and many more have some degree of insulin resistance and for these people a low glycemic load diet may be very beneficial. But, as you may infer from our newsletters and from Dr. Cordain books and scientific papers, eating a low GL diet it is not enough and it is only a characteristic of the many general universal characteristics of pre-agricultural diets that Dr. Cordain and his research team have been deciphering over the past 15 to 20 years. AS so, if one wants to achieved optimal health, he shouldn’t focus only on one dietary characteristic, but on all of them plus the lifestyle that presumably shaped our genome during the Pliocene and Pleistocene (exercise, sun exposure or vitamin D supplementation + sleep + stress management + avoidance of environmental toxins).

All this sheds light on why some Asian populations live on a high carb diet, but do not develop the Metabolic Syndrome. Perhaps because they don’t overeat (remember that caloric restriction is the only proven way to increased longevity in many animal models and presumably one of the main reasons why you have so many centenarians in Okinawa), they don’t eat much fructose, they exercise, they don’t suffer from Vitamin D deficiency (and perhaps also magnesium deficiency), have “normal” sleeping patterns, etc, etc, etc.

Nevertheless, I would like to mention that apparently healthy people from India (living in India and eating their traditional vegetarian diet) have more visceral fat than healthy Caucasians and are more prone to Type 2 Diabetes and other diseases associated with the Metabolic Syndrome.

Finally, even in healthy people with no signs or genetic predisposition for insulin resistance, a high glycemic load diet may not be ideally, as it will increase glycolysis and it will decrease beta-oxidation (aging is associated with an increased glycolysis and decreased beta-oxidation and one of the mechanisms why caloric restriction increases longevity is believed to be a decrease in glycolysis and in increase in beta-oxidation). Moreover, it may increase inflammation (see link to paper) and, it may also cause several hormonal disturbances (elevated IGF-1 and androgens and decreased Sex Hormone Binding Globulin and IGFBP-3), which then increase our risk for various diseases, as you can see here, here and here.

I hope it helps


Links to additional papers:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paleo Diet Recipes from the Paleo Diet Community

Dear Readers,

This recipe was emailed to us from a reader. If you have your own Paleo recipes you'd like to share with the Paleo Diet community please add a comment to this post.

Banana Pancake
Mash one whole banana. Add an egg, lightly beat together. For extra flavor, add coconut chips, vanilla extract (just a dash) and cinnamon.

Pour this mixture into a frying pan and cook as you would a regular pancake. This is one of my favorite things to eat! You can also do this with a grated apple. Enjoy! I now look forward to breakfast the Paleo way!


Paleo Diet Q & A - 5 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Thank you for continuing to post your comments and questions. Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.

Q: Dear Dr. Cordain,

I am a PhD student, and I am starting to study how our instinct should lead us to enjoy the foods best suited for us, as it seems it does for any known animal.

Some of the first things I have found are your works. The point I am trying to get at is that we should have in us this instinct. So just one question. Do you know about, or have you read works of any authors that have made research on this point?

Best regards and many thanks.

A: Hi Alfis,

Off the top of my head, I can't remember any specific papers on the topic. However, there are thousands of papers on taste & humans have a proclivity towards sweet, salty and fatty. Under stone age conditions in which these tastes were associated with foods that limited and difficult to procure these tastes led us to foods that conferred survival value. In the modern world in which we have completely dissociated energy expenditure from energy intake we can eat anything that our taste guides us to in virtually unlimited quantity. Hence our hard wired tastes which once conferred survival value in a Stone Age environment now represent a liability in our western world of food abundance.

Best wishes,
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

Q: I understand the Paleo Diet to be primarily a removal from the diet of all grains, dairy products, and man-processed sugars. But what about potatoes, corn, and legumes (all of which cannot be digested raw and are high in starch), and natural sugars like maple syrup and honey? Do they fit into the Paleo Diet?

I bought and read the book years ago, but cannot remember the exact teachings on these particular foods, and cannot find clear teachings about them on the website. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong place?

A: Potatoes are not part of The Paleo Diet because they contain some harmful substances, namely saponins (solanine and chaconine) which can't be degraded by digestion or cooking. They can contribute to an increase in intestinal permeability which is associated to many chronic diseases.

Regarding legumes, they are also sources of saponins as well as lectins. Lectins are also toxic substances for the intestinal barrier, and they can adversely stimulate the immune system.

Corn is a cereal grain which is also a source of lectins (see Dr. Cordain paper entitled "Cereal grains: Humanity's double edged sword" in our published research section).

Sugars were part of our Hunter-gatherers ancestors' diet but not year round. So, use them in moderation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Radio Interview with Dr. Cordain - download the podcast!

Dear Readers,

The podcast for the radio interview with Dr. Cordain conducted by Dr. Ron Hoffman at WOR Radio in New York on December 3, 2009 is now available on the WOR Radio web site - - their Podcasts on Demand Section. You may also download the podcast from our web site.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 2 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Here's today's edition of Paleo Diet Q & A.

Q: I'm a beginner with the Paleo Diet. I want to try it out but I'm a vegetarian (I eat tofu, seitan, tempeh, fish, eggs, and cheese as replacements for meat). I understand I have to leave out the beans, but is it ok to use the rest of the replacements ? Thank you for an answer.

A: The Paleo Diet is based on foods similar to what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate during the paleolithic era 2.6 million year to 10,000 years ago. That translates into 99.6 % of our evolution history. Our genome is perfectly adapted to eat foods similar to what we found during that period of time. This means eating lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The agricultural revolution (10,000 years ago) lead to a dramatic change in human nutrition. Cereal grains, legumes, dairy, vegetable oils, salt, alcohol, and refined sugars comprise 72% of the nutrition in the modern western society. These foods contain harmful substances associated to many "diseases of civilization", such as diabetes, celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases, obesity, hypertension, certain cancers, acne, polycistic ovary syndrome, myopia, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Tofu and tempeh are sources of soy bean agglutinin (SBA). SBA has harmful properties because they break cell membranes. This can induce increased intestinal permeability, which is associated to certain autoimmune diseases and low-grade inflammation. SBA has also been shown to stimulate the immune system, something we don't want in an inflammatory disease.

Seitan contains the worst part of wheat namely gluten. Gluten is a prolamine peptide associated to many diseases typical of western civilization, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ataxia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

So, if you want to eat a paleolithic diet without eating meat you should ensure a good protein intake using egg powder protein shakes along with some supplements:
  • Vitamin B12 1 mg per day
  • Taurine 1 gram per day
  • Carnosine 800 mg per day
  • Carnitine 400 mg per day

Q: Hi I'm about to have a child, and I don't want to bring it up on a diet of sugar and wheat. Do you have any research for children and the Paleo Diet?

A: No, there aren't any clinical trials for children and The Paleo Diet. However, the current advice for infant nutrition comes from nutritional boards who base their views on:
  1. Western human diet observations.
  2. Randomized controlled trials with single nutrients in a western setting.
  3. Extrapolation of observation in western adults to infants.
This means these recommendations are not based on the evolutionary template, which dictates our metabolic and physiological needs.

For example, recommendations for formula milk composition are the opposite of what research on hunter-gatherer mothers' milk has found. Current recommendations for formula milk state that Linoleic acid content should be high, and saturated fats such as Lauric and Myristic acid should be low. This is the contrary to what we find in mothers on the island of Chole in Tanzania who eat fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts, and turns out that these people are free of "diseases of civilization".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Paleo Diet Q & A - 1 December 2009

Dear Readers,

Thank you again for your comments and new questions in response to our Q & A. Here's today's edition.

Q: I recognize that I feel much better on small amounts of lean meats with lots of veggies and some fruit, but I become very constipated. How can I correct this and stay on the Paleo Diet?

A: It is unusual to suffer from constipation when eating a lot of veggies, as they are the biggest fiber source. However, you can help your gut health with some supplements until the constipation improves:
  • Probiotics: between 6-9 billion bacteria/day during one month, then cut down to 4-5 billion.
  • Prebiotics: 4-6 grams a day during one month (if you do not improve with 4 grams increase up to 6 grams). Then cut down to 2 grams a day.
  • Coconut oil (a good source of Medium Chain Fatty Acids): a tablespoon per day.
Also, we suggest drinking 1.5 liters of water per day.

Q: I have just had the pleasure of stumbling onto your site and find it very interesting. I would be curious to know of your response to the "thumbs down" your book received by the Weston Price organization. I have found their endorsement of raw milk to also be very logical, but they were none too kind in their review. I look forward to your response, or a link to where you might have already addressed this. Thank You.

A: Here's a reply by Dr. Cordain to this question posted in the FAQ section in our website:

Q: I'm new to the concept of paleolithic diet, although that is what I have been eating due to some digestive issues. My favorite is just some type of meat and veggie soup. However, I'm not sure what to eat in the morning. I read that brown rice cereal is okay (which I have with hemp milk), and an apple. Is brown rice okay even though it is a grain (or so I thought anyway)? Thank you.

A: No, brown rice is not a Paleo-friendly food, as it is a grain. All grains contain substances such as lectins, alkylresorcinols, protease inhibitors and alpha-amylase inhibitors, which are lend themselves to some health problems. However, brown rice is devoid of gluten which is associated with many diseases.