Editor’s Note: Longtime ES reader Thresher was moved to write a response to Amcstang’s recent thoughts on the Paleo Diet. We love us a good controversy.
Paleo Diets are one of my pet peeves. It’s such a brilliant idea at the core, but none of the popular versions of it hit at the nugget of scientific truth that should be emphasized: caloric restriction works pretty well (we evolved being very, very hungry for most of the average year) and probably is one of the few approaches to eating that will demonstrably make the average person live longer. But it’s hard to enjoy, and there aren’t many food blogs that can be built around like 1,000 calories per day.
Let me frame that rant. I had a reaction to a previous Endless Simmer post. It was on the topic of a particular type of the Paleo Diet ethos, and I couldn’t help but grit my teeth while reading it. I thought I’d offer a response, for good measure, from the perspective of the epidemiologists and biologists (etc…) who’ve been seriously studying diet and quality of life for decades.
‘Diet’ strikes many of us as a four-letter word because there are so many of them out there, each hawking a particular (amazing) benefit. “Eat only magic cookies!” “Lose 80 pounds through cheese!” “Live forever young!” As much as we tend to desire these very gratifying claims, we also roll our eyes at the commercials that brag about them because, deep down, they seem at least a little bullshitty.
So, yes, there are a lot of opinions out there on how to eat well, and it’s hard to call any of them flat-out wrong. That’s because faddish diet plans tend to focus on achieving a particular goal, in the short term, and sometimes they can achieve that goal really well. There are fad diets that will make you skinnier, bulkier, leaner, even sexier and more tan. But they’re called fads for a reason: after an initial quick success, they don’t end up doing anything good for your body in the long run (and sometimes they can do some serious damage, or at the very least make you fatter than when you started).
Forget all that. I can summarize in a couple sentences the big picture on diet and health that we pretty much know is true—from science! I swear I’ll be quick with a few facts and then we’ll get to some yummy stuff.