Edmund speaks with Dr. Loren Cordain, paleo pioneer and author of The Paleo Diet, plus more than 100 articles on his research into the healthy Stone Age diet. He is considered to be one of the originators of the paleo diet.
In This Episode:
Learning about nutrition and exercise was a gradual process; reading Boyd Eaton’s foundational paper “Paleolithic Nutrition" in the New England Journal in the '80s changed everything. Eaton brought the paleo concept to the modern age, even writing a book in 1988 that didn’t sell well because it wasn’t an idea for popular consumption. The idea has been refined since then, through connecting with Dr. Loren Cordain around this time and collaborating on research papers together. Many other scientists who were becoming interested would write to one another via listservs throughout the ‘90s to discuss their research, which is how the biggest names in paleo met.
Dr. Cordain coined the term "The Paleo Diet" with his book in 2002.
It wasn’t until 2010 that the book became a New York Times bestseller; the idea took time to get public recognition.
How much do you think it had to do with CrossFit?
Quite a bit. Paleo and crossfit came of age together; I didn't know Greg Glassman at the time but was familiar with the crossfit community.
Both of you guys have changed the workout and diet in the last 10 years.
There hadn't been anything new in 30 or 40 years. You had the Mediterranean and Japanese diets, but paleo isn't based on a single person.
We didn't invent the paleo diet, it was just uncovered by the scientific community. It was preexisting as it was the diet people had eaten a million or so years ago, we just uncovered it. There're characteristics to our ancestral diet that paleo mimics, which is the beauty of it. It wasn't invented by a single human being, it was uncovered by hundreds of thousands of scientists ultimately coming to this conclusion.
It seems like many general practitioners are still a step behind. The food pyramid has stayed the same for at least 50 years. Why is that? How long does it take for that change to happen?
Change is slow, nutrition is something we have to deal with everyday and we all have our own ideas on what we should and shouldn’t eat, but for a paradigm shift to occur comes down to governmental recommendations on what we should eat. Many scientists predicted the paleo diet would fail because it eliminates certain food groups, but those worries fall along the wayside. It’s going to take a generation. We may not be around for that but that’s the beauty of science: continuing to improve and use new ideas.
I read you had your own 85/15 rule.
I try and make paleo livable in the 21st century, but if you tell someone they can never have pizza or beer, that’s not going to fly with people. The diet tends to work if you are 85% compliant or more. 85/15 is intended to give people a little behavioral flexibility to occasionally let people eat what they want but still enjoy the benefits of the diet.
When I put people on the paleo diet, they drop weight naturally. CrossFitters, for example, want to get even leaner though. They want to get to 12%-15% body fat. Is that reasonable?
Don’t have any absolutes, but when I fall back on the template of how our species ate originally and look at the basics, most Stone Age people weren’t super skinny people. People tended to be more muscular than very very lean.