Category Archives: Paleo Movement

History of the “Modern” Paleo Diet Movement

Here’s a timeline, certainly not comprehensive, but probably more than enough to bore you. I’m trying to hit the major developments.

  • 1939 – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price’s is published.
  • 1973 – Stephen Boyden’s “Evolution and Health” is published in The Ecologist.
  • 1975 – The Stone Age Diet: Based On In-Depth Studies of Human ecology and the Diet of Man is self-published by Walter L. Voegtlin, M.D.
  • January 1985 – “Paleolithic Nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications” by S. Boyd Eaton and M. Konner in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • 1987 – Stone Age Diet by Leon Chaitow (London: Optima).
  • 1988 – The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet and Exercise and a Design for Living by S. Boyd Eaton, M. Shostak, and M. Konner.
  • January 1997 – established by Don Wiss.
  • March 1997 – The Paleodiet listserv established by Dean Esmay and Donn Wiss.
  • April 1997 – The Evolutionary Fitness online discussion list is created. Art DeVany is its anchor and Tamir Katz is a regular participant.
  • April 1997 – Jack Challem published the article “Paleolithic Nutrition: Your Future Is In Your Dietary Past.”
  • 1999 – Neanderthin by Ray Audette is published.
  • November 2001 – established by Keith Thomas (“Health and Fitness in an Evolutionary Context”).
  • December 2001 – The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., is published.
  • April 2001 – Wikipedia’s page on Palaeolithic diet is created.
  • 2005 – Art DeVany’s first paleo blog.
  • 2006 – Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich is published.
  • 2008 – Art DeVany’s Las Vegas seminar.
  • 2009 – The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson is published. Art DeVany announces ‘The New Evolution Diet’.
  • 8 January 2010 – The New York Times features the paleo lifestyle in its ‘fashion’ pages.
  • 26 February 2010 – McLean’s (Canada) publishes a general audience review of the paleo movement.
  • February 2010 – Food and Western Disease by Staffan Lindeberg is published.
  • March 2010 – Paleolithic lifestyle page is created on Wikipedia.
  • September 2010 – The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf is published.

Contributors to this timeline include Keith Thomas, Paul Jaminet, and Ray Audette (the latter two via blog comments). Any errors are mine.

Of the folks above, my major influences have been Cordain, Eaton, and Konner.

What would you add? I’m tempted to include the Jaminet’s book (Perfect Health Diet) and Dr. Emily Deans’ blog. Paul Jaminet mentioned Jan Kwasniewski’s Optimal Diet of 1990 (or was it Optimal Nutrition?), but is that just “the Polish Atkins,” as some say? Very high fat.


“NeanderThin” Now Available As E-Book on Kindle

I just learned that Ray Audette’s NeanderThin is available as a Kindle edition. Ray is one of the godfathers of the modern paleo diet movement. His book was first published in 1995. Here’s the book’s description at Amazon:

In a revolutionary approach to weight loss and improved health, author Ray Audette presents his groundbreaking “caveman” diet–an eating program that stems from the notion that what we ate before agriculture and technology evolved is still what our bodies need to function effectively, stave off disease, and stay lean and healthy.

Read NeaderThin and you’ll discover:

How to become a modern-day Hunter-Gatherer and give up the addictive foods and habits that have kept you unhealthy and overweight
How a high-calorie, high-fat diet can actually make you leaner.
Tips for getting started on the NeanderThin Diet, sticking with it, keeping a food diary, and more.
Becoming Neander-Fit, a five-week exercise plan to complement your new diet.
Dozens of delicious, easy-to-prepare NeanderThin recipes, including Chili, Cold Shrimp-Stuff Avocados, Lemon Thyme Pesto Chicken, and Coconut Ice Cream.

I’ve written about Ray before (here and here). Rather than this being a new edition, I think the Kindle version is simply a digitalization of his original book.

Check it out.

Paleo Pioneer S. Boyd Eaton’s Personal Lifestyle

African Savanna

African Savanna

Dr. Eaton (M.D.) spoke at the last Ancestral Health Symposium about his own diet and exercise program.  He’s 74-years-old and has been following his paleo lifestyle for 30 years.  In this video, Dr. Eaton looks quite fit and is obviously mentally sharp.

He talks about a “weak form” of the paleo diet that would include relatively small amounts of whole grains (e.g., shredded wheat) and dairy (e.g., skim milk).  He doesn’t proscribe beans.  He limits saturated fat, but enjoys red wine.

Dr. Eaton also discusses a “strong form” diet that would cut out the dairy, grains, and probably alcohol.  This is for those with certain diseases of modern civilization, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome, adverse blood lipids, etc.  He didn’t mention diabetes specifically, but I bet he would include it in the list.

He has an impressive daily exercise program that probably takes at least an hour, with weight training on machines plus an aerobics (stationary bike and swimming).

Dr. Eaton supplments with a multivitamin/multimineral (showed a picture of Centrum), EPA/DHA, and fiber (especially soluble fiber).

The video is only 20 minutes long and well worth a look.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t Melissa McEwen. (Melissa has the impression the Eaton partakes of whole grains and dairy.  I didn’t hear that in the video but may have missed it.)


Modern Paleo Movement History

Keith Thomas of EvFit has an ongoing “annotated chronology of books, films, websites, research etc. relating human diet and lifestyle to human evolution.”  In other words, a timeline for the modern paleo movement.

Chris Highcock of Conditioning Research did an interview with Keith Thomas (“A Paleo Pioneer”) in 2010.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Chris Highcock’s Interview With Ray Audette

In a recent comment here, Chris Highcock of Conditioning Research mentioned his 2010 interview with Ray Audette.  Audette is the author of 1999s Neanderthin, one of the first popular press books about the Paleolithic diet and lifestyle.  I bring it up here only because I don’t want it lost in the comment section.  Read the brief interview to find Audette’s Bible quote and connection to the Dixie Chicks.  I spent many years in Texas and therefore feel a strange connection to Audette.  And we both like bluegrass music.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Who’s Ray Audette?

Ray Audette hunted with hawks

I ran across a 1995 well-researched online article about Ray Audette, author of NeanderThin and one of the modern paleo movement pioneers.  It’s in Dallas Observer News:

Audette apparently self-published his book in 1995.  (Publishing by a “vanity press” is probably more accurate for the mid-90s.)  The 2000 edition of the book from St. Martin’s Paperbacks has a foreword by Dr. Michael Eades, who is also quoted liberally in the aforementioned article.

Mr. Audette credited his diet for curing both his diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.  I wonder how he’s doing these days.

1995 was only17 years ago.  It seems like ancient history to me.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Consider the Five Failings of Paleo

Darrin Carlson over at Lean, Mean, Virile Machine has a thought-provoking piece entitled The Five Failings of Paleo.  It’s about the history of the modern paleo diet movement.  Despite the title, it’s pro-paleo, even if it’s not your version of paleo.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: When I write “paleo,” you can subsitute Paleolithic, caveman, Stone Age, or Old Stone Age.

All The Big Trends Start in California, Don’t They?

CBS in San Francisco recently featured the paleo diet (aka caveman diet or Stone Age diet). Click to view the 4-minute video.

Update October 18, 2011:

The link above is to part 1 of a five-part series.  Here are the other installments:

  • Part 2 Surprising Results
  • Part 3 Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Benefits
  • Part 4 Home Implementation of the Paleo diet
  • Part 5 Beyond Diet

Steve Parker, M.D.

-h/t to thatpaleoguy, Jamie Scott, for pointing me to part 1.

Dan Pardi Summarizes Five Popular Paleo Diet Versions

Dan Pardi has a recent blog post outlining five popular versions of the paleo diet (aka Stone Age diet, caveman diet, paleolithic diet).  (I don’t like the term “caveman diet.”)  Although it’s a short post, I haven’t read it yet.

Medical and nutrition science researchers need a concensus definition, if possible, before they begin their investigations.  I suspect they’ll end up with several definitions, as we’ve seen with the Mediterranean diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Paleolithic Nutrition: Twenty-Five Years Later

Melvin Konner and S. Boyd Eaton wrote a review article for Nutrition in Clinical Practice that update’s their seminal New England Journal of Medicine  paleo nutrition article of 1985.  They took a fresh look at recent  data on modern hunter-gatherer societies as well as advances in anthropology. 

NEJM likely has much wider circulation, so it’s too bad the update wasn’t published there.

I’ve written previously about the history of the modern paleo movement.  I consider S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner two of the founders. 

I wanted to share a few tidbits from the new article:

  • The transition from hunting/gathering to farming (about 10,000 year ago) saw a decrease in body size and robustness, plus evidence of nutritional stress
  • Modern humans migrated away from Africa between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago
  • Levels of muscular and aerobic fitness in ancestral groups are much higher than modern societies, with a concomittant higher level of calorie consumption
  • Average life expectancies in pre-industrial hunter-gatherer (H-G) groups was only 30-35 years, but much of this low number simply reflects high infant and child death rates
  • H-G deaths overwhelmingly reflect infectious diseases
  • H-G groups had a high degree of dependence on plant foods
  • Cooking has been important to humans for at least 230,000 years, if not longer
  • Fish and shellfish are more important food sources than these authors thought 25 years ago
  • Ancestral H-G groups derived 35 to 65% of diet (calories, I guess) from animal flesh
  • Game animals have more mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids than supermarket meat
  • H-G diets are higher in fat than they once thought: the new range is 20 to 35% of calories
  • H-G diet omega-6: omega-3 ratio was 2:1, in contrast to the modern Western ratio of 10:1
  • H-G groups eat more protein than they once thought
  • Carbohydrate consumption of H-G groups varied from about 35 to 65% of calories.  (I’ve written elsewhere about the carb content of paleo diets.)
  • Nearly all H-G carbs are from vegetables and fruits, which have more favorable glycemic responses than grains and concentrated sugars
  • Uncultivated fruits and veggies have much more fiber than commercial ones (13 versus 4 g fiber per 100 g of food)
  • H-G diets have at least 70 g of fiber daily
  • Sodium in H-G diets is very low: 800 mg/day

The Diet-Heart Hypothesis is the idea that dietary total and saturated fat, and cholesterol, cause or contribute to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), leading to heart attacks and strokes.  Konner and Eaton still believe the theory is valid for fats, but not cholesterol.  The latest evidence is that even total and saturated fat are minimally or unrelated to atherosclerosis

They also believe total fat, due to its caloric load, is an important contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes.  (I agree that my be true if you eat a lot of carbs with fat.)

Konner and Eaton review the very few clinical studies—a grand total of four—that apply a paleo diet to modern humans.  Results support their theory that paleo-style eating has healthful metabolic effects.

Their conception of a paleo food pyramid is a base of high-fiber vegetables and fruits, the next tier up being meat/fish/low-fat dairy (!?) (all lean), then a possible tier for whole grain (admittedly very unusual), with a small peak of oils, fats, and refined carbohydrates.

They recommend high activity levels, including resistance exercise, flexibility, and aerobics, burning over 1,000 cals/day exclusive of resting metabolism.

They also seem to favor small amounts of alcohol—not generally considered paleo—to reduce heart disease risk, admitting that “…the HG model cannot answer all questions.”

Eaton and Konner suggest the following as the “estimated ancestral diet“:

  • Carbohydrates, % daily energy                 35-40
  • Protein, % daily energy                                 25-30
  • Fat, % daily energy                                          20-35
  • Added sugar, % daily energy                            2
  • Fiber, g/day                                                        >70
  • EPA and DHA*, g/day                                    0.7-6
  • Cholesterol, mg/day                                       500+
  • Vitamin C, mg/day                                           500
  • Vitamin D, IU/day                                4,000 (sunlight)
  • Calcium, mg/day                                       1,000-1,500
  • Sodium, mg/day                                         under 1,000
  • Potassium, mg/day                                         7,000

*Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid

Konner and Eaton call for more randomized controlled studies of the paleo diet.  These studies will need to define the paleo diet carefully.  Their definition is probably as good as any, if not the best.  Of course, the listed nutrients should come from minimally processed, natural foods.  We just need Loren Cordain‘s and Staffan Lindeberg‘s  input on a concensus definition of the paleo diet, then we’re ready to rock’n’roll.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Konner, Melvin and Eaton, S. Boyd.  Paleolithic Nutrition: Twenty-Five Years LaterNutrition in Clinical Practice, 25 (2010): 594-602.  doi: 10.1177/0884533610385702

Eaton, S.B. and Konner, M.  Paleolithic nutrition: a consideration of its nature and current implicationsNew England Journal of Medicine, 312 (1985): 283-289.