Scientists have recently discovered settlements of vegetarian Neanderthals in Europe. It seems that they lived on a plant-based diet and ate no meat at all. This should come as no surprise since everyone from Charles Darwin to Clifford Roberts, the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, to the famous anthropologist Jane Goodall, tells us that we are designed by anatomy and physiology to be vegetarians.
“The human species does not have the physical attributes of a carnivore. If everyone knew and faced up to all the facts, most would either opt for drastically cutting their meat consumption or giving up meat altogether.“
– Jane Goodall, Author of Harvest for Hope
Paleo man didn’t eat as much meat as has been hyped and some ate none at all. Since the mistaken notions and thinking behind the Paleo Diet have continued since our last posting debunking it, we thought we would add a little more refutation to it.
It turns out that Ebola is yet another epidemic disease, along with influenza, and resistant bacteria, which we get by consuming and/or producing meat. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 75 percent of all new and emerging infectious diseases in humans come from animal origins.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and is then spread between humans. WHO states that it is believed that fruit bats are the original Ebola virus hosts, but the virus is introduced to humans through close contact with bodily fluids of infected animals including fruit bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, antelope, and porcupines. These kinds of wild meats are known as bushmeat and are consumed in western Africa – the site of the Ebola outbreak and epidemic which has so far claimed almost 5,000 lives. Read more
Since the mistaken notions and thinking behind the Paleo Diet have continued since our last posting debunking it, we thought we would add a little more refutation to it.
Writing in her new book, the Paleofantasy, anthropologist Professor Marlene Zuk, says that the claim that Paleo Man did not consume grains and grain-like plants has been disproven yet again. Analysis of the living sites and bodily remains of people living 30,000 years ago showed considerable use of starchy grains, and the cooking of a kind of pita bread. According to Professor Zuk, the assertion made in the Caveman Diet by Walter Voegtlin, that Paleo Man had a nearly all-meat diet, is untrue.
Furthermore, she explains that the claim that our entire anatomy and physiology changed in this relatively short time period, by evolutionary standards, and that we had any significant capability of obtaining meat, reflects a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Indeed, she explains that what we are able to eat and thrive on depends more on our 30 million plus years of primate history, than the recent, brief period of time.
Perhaps, most importantly, Professor Zuk points out that Paleo man wasn’t particularly healthy, and that the idea of following a high-meat diet should be judged in light of today’s nutritional knowledge.
The famous biology professor, and author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, has also weighed in on the subject. He explains that Paleo man was a relatively poor hunter, even as recently as 100,000 years ago. Yet, in Robert Ardrey’s book, African Genesis, the author portrays paleo man as a successful big game hunter, and Hollywood has been only too willing to reinforce this mistaken notion. Diamond considers this so far off the mark that he terms it “pure fantasy!” Another erroneous notion is that meat somehow gave rise to our extraordinary intelligence. But Professor Diamond goes on to explain that by the time we attained even a modest amount of meat in the diet, our brains were already well evolved.
He discounts Eskimos as an example of paleo living because humanity only reached the arctic in the last few thousand years. Besides we now know, thanks to better data, that the Eskimos weren’t particularly healthy anyway. According to Diamond, even among most of today’s so called hunter gatherer societies, which are quite advanced compared to paleo societies, there’s much more gathering than hunting. In one group in New Guinea, though they talk a good talk, most of the hunters have only gotten two significant animals in their entire life!
Even though ancient man had the ability to consume larger amounts of meat, we now know that they didn’t always do so. New evidence shows some groups of Roman Gladiators ate a vegetarian diet, and so did the ancient Egyptian peasants. The fish and meat were apparently mostly reserved for the elite and the royal. Yet the Gladiators were known for their great strength and the Egyptians built the pyramids.
Phytate and Phytic acid are naturally occurring substances in many plant foods, such as grains, nuts, seeds and some legumes. There used to be a purely theoretical worry, mostly voiced by some anti-vegetarian dietitians and some proponents of competing diets such as the paleo diet, that these phytates would inhibit the absorption of important minerals, such as zinc and iron and to a lesser extent calcium and magnesium, even though little if any problems were encountered in practice. Well, that worry can finally be laid to rest.
Many of you will be aware that we all have “good bacteria” lining our digestive tracts, performing a variety of beneficial functions. Now medical researchers have determined that the good bacteria, fostered in the intestines of vegetarians, break down virtually 100% of the phytates consumed in a plant-based diet. So, while the concern over phytates was always in question, the beneficial advantages of consuming plenty of grains, legumes, and a handful of nuts now and again, are not.
The latest attempt to rehabilitate meat, and sell it to us as healthy food, is the so-called Paleo diet. Don’t fall for it! As with all the previous attempts, this one falls way short of good health and a sustainable or compassionate diet. Unfortunately many in the public will grasp onto anything that tells them what they want to hear.
This heavily meat-centered diet, which excludes all beans and grains (significant prohibitions), relies upon the excuse that the caveman ate that way, so we should too. For this new diet in particular, the assumptions and the reasoning really need to be questioned. We’ll do just that. Then we’ll review what we really do know and what facts we can count on. But we can tell you right now that the healthy vegetarian diet is still the healthiest diet there is.