Debunking the paleo diet?!

Debunking the paleo diet: Christina Warinner at TEDxOU. Christina Warinner is a researcher at the University of Zurich, where she studies how humans have co-evolved with environments, diets and disease.

This is a very interesting video, not even as much from a perspective of debunking the paleo diet, but from the points she does make about our ancestors.

What I took from the video:

  • we are not meant to eat too much meat, yes we can survive by consuming primarily meat, but not intended to base our diet on it
  • our primary diet was and supposed to be plant-based
  • cavemen did in fact eat grain

Nothing new to me, but just another piece of research that supports my experience. I love that Warinner stresses out local, seasonal and fresh! That is what I believe as well.

And I was always wondering, why eat like a caveman? Were they healthier than us, had longer life expectancy? I do not know, but I do  try to listen to my own body, work with it and take clues it gives me to craft my own individual diet, the same thing I do with my clients. I personally have noticed that grains do not make me feel great. I soak, I ferment – and still and up bloated, heavy and the same goes for my husband. So lately I have been noticing that no matter what I try, I have to limit my grain intake to a minimum. I also want to limit nuts as much as possible, I eat very little soy, and so that leaves me with vegetables, GOOD animal protein and fruits.

I do have to say that if this pyramid on the right is correct and paleo diet’s primary foods are meat and fish –  that just does not feel right to me, and Warinner’s research seems to support my experience. I am completely open minded and yet can not imagine that animal proteins are more important to our nutrition then vegetables. I stress that I am not an expert, just someone with an open mind, and eager to learn. With some common sense, I look into the research and like to summarize and share it. So my diet will have to be plant-based with GOOG animal protein and fruit.

As I was planning to post this article, a friend mentioned a new study he came across. Apparently, a little known chemical called TMAO, a byproduct of a bacteria produced in our gut after eating red meat, is actually responsible for increased risk of heart disease. The study was conducted by Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic:

 The researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steakes, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the intestines after people eat red meat. It is quickly converted by the liver into yet another little-studied chemical called TMAO that gets into the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.

That, at least, was the theory. So the question that morning was: Would a burst of TMAO show up in people’s blood after they ate steak? And would the same thing happen to a vegan who had not eaten meat for at least a year and who consumed the same meal?

The answers were: yes, there was a TMAO burst in the five meat eaters; and no, the vegan did not have it. And TMAO levels turned out to predict heart attack risk in humans, the researchers found. The researchers also found that TMAO actually caused heart disease in mice. Additional studies with 23 vegetarians and vegans and 51 meat eaters showed that meat eaters normally had more TMAO in their blood and that they, unlike those who spurned meat, readily made TMAO after swallowing pills with carnitine.

After learning of the research findings:

Lora Hooper, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who follows the Paleo diet, heavy on meat, exclaimed, “Yikes!”

I guess she may be reevaluating her diet too  😉

So a substance in red meat, called carnitine — seemed to be a culprit. The problem arose when it was metabolized by bacteria in the intestines and ended up as TMAO in the blood.

Another problem is that besides it’s presence in red meat, carnitine often is added to the energy drinks on the assumption that is will speed fat metabolism and increase a person’s energy level.

Dr. Robert H. Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and a past president of the American Heart Association, worried about how carnitine might be affecting body builders and athletes who often take it because they believe it builds muscle.

Those supplements, Dr. Hazen said, “are scary, especially for our kids.”

Back to paleo – I know people have benefited from paleo and it is does in fact promote some very beneficial dieting principles, and yet again I have to go back to bio-individuality. We are all different and what works for one will not work for the other. Listen to your body, see how eating makes you feel, watch what you eat, reflect, and make necessary adjustments. I do think we consume way too many grains, too much flour, sugar, dairy and processed foods and not enough vegetables, greens, and fruits.

To summarize:  to meat or not to meat? I get asked that a lot. While I am all about an individual approach to a diet, and I do believe that there are some basic rules everyone should apply I do have some thoughts. Meat vs. no meat – I have to say that I am not planning to be exclusively a vegan or a carnivore, my family eats seasonally and part of that, in my opinion, is eating more animal protein in a colder months and eating a more plant-based diet in the summer months. I am not ready to make a choice as far as a solid commitment to a vegan lifestyle for instance, but I am also not comfortable consuming large quantities of meat/dairy/poultry or fish either.

In closing, I have to say that I have seen numerous studies about negative effects of meat consumption on our bodies, but I have yet to see a study about negative effects of consuming too many vegetables.

To your health,




  1. Amen Elena!! You just posted everything that I have been thinking about the Paleo diet. It’s wonderful to see it in writing. I also agree that it has never made sense to me to eat more meat than vegetables and fruits. Animal protein has been shown to produce an acidic environment in our body which supports the development of chronic disease. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, create an alkaline environment in our body which support the PREVENTION of chronic disease. While I eat little or no animal protein for this reason (and my body thanks me for it), I recognize the need for bio-individuality as you mentioned. Still, eating meat and fish in large quantities makes no sense to me for anyone who is focusing on the prevention of disease and embracing total body wellness. Thank you for your post!


    • Thank you Deni! I do try to be open minded, and there are many very compelling and convincing speaker and advocates for a paleo type of diet, but it is hard to ignore the evidence…
      Thank you for stopping by!


  2. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have some friends who have gone paleo and swear by it… but more and more of us are opening our eyes to a more plant-based diet. Honestly, the less animal products in my diet, the better I feel. And it’s got to be so much better for the environment too!


    • Oh I am so happy you have found it helpful! I feel so blessed to be able to share and to have this platform do that! Thank you for stopping by 🙂


  3. Reblogged this on Comeflowers and commented:
    Interesting TED Talk related to the Paleo Diet … bringing to the present the diet of the past … A diet based on vegetables and meat, whenever veggies weren’t available.


  4. Agreed, the healthiest I have ever been was the years I had access to a 2000 square foot vegetable garden. By the end of every summerI was down to 180 lbs. As soon as Chicago’s weather turned South I went back to more unseasonal foods, causing a fairly large weight gain. If the leaf brocolli, kale, chard had made it in the cold frame, and I’d only planted more winter squash! Here you’d need a greenhouse.


    • Oh a garden would be a dream come true! I also would love to set up couple of cold frames or even a green house…
      As far as gaining weight in winter – I think for us in colder climates some extra weight gain is a given, my family eats seasonally (for our location) with more animal protein during colder months and moving toward vegetarian and then vegan closer to summer. That seems to work for us. For cold winters I like some protein, some fat – keeps us warm, gives energy, an opportunity to rebuild, recover and take it slower.
      Thank you so much for visiting Greg!


  5. This was great!

    My family essentially goes by most “paleo” standards but we have modified it to fit our needs. More fruits and veggies before meat and we use other sources of protein. We also incorporate dairy. I can’t give up my cheese. haha!!


    • Hi Beth, that is exactly what we do 🙂 And that is why i think paleo has some great principles at it’s base! good sources of natural/grass-fed/wild meat/fish. We do eat cheese, mostly sheep or goat 🙂 and like you tons of vegetable and fruit – grains do not do much good for me, so I don’t incude too much, but if I do – always gluten free.

      Thank you so much for stopping by! Elena


  6. Thanks for posting this! It’s great food for thought…and always important to never fall too heavily onto a specific “way” for all the answers.


    • That is how I feel. I actually also avoid grains, they just do not make me feel great, but I do have oatmeal on occasion for breakfast and love it. I do like to add good clean animal protein to my diet…we all are so different, with different nutritional needs and so just blindly following a particular diet may not be the best idea.
      Thank you for stopping by!


  7. Absolutely wise to listen to your body. Nuts are harder to digest than meat. Re: the beautiful salad with arugula and ripe mango….most fruit and veggies do not mix well in a meal. The fruit will start fermenting and monopolize digestion. I reserve fruit for separate consumption, esp for my boy. Unless you can enlighten me otherwise….I remain all ears. Xxx Diana


    • Hi Diana! I am not here to enlighten anyone, my goodness, what an undertaking it would be. LOL 🙂 I just like to share and spread the word on benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
      Personally having tried food combining, we have not made it part of our lifestyle. I understand the idea behind it and agree, but it has not made much impact on our digestion. But come to think of it we hardly eat fruit with a meal. In our case we stay away from grains and dairy. I exclude nothing, just eat 90% of the time super healthy and other 10% whatever I feel like. Works for us at this time 🙂 I have never felt healthier, my digestion is great. I also do not like making things too complicated, and just going with what I feel like, especially with food. I make a salad and throw in whatever feel right 🙂


      • I am not here to enlighten anyone, my goodness, what an undertaking it would be.

        Yes, I really like your humble presentation of what is really such a full, wonderful site. You LOOK great, too – in those pix!


      • Diana you are too kind! Thank you so much! You totally made my day, I just had my 40th birthday yesterday 🙂 so you comment is very flattering!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s