I’m curious to know what mainstream dietitians think about the Paleolithic diet, so I read an article entitled “Are diets from Paleolithic times relevant today?” This one-page article is in the August, 2012, issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The author is Eleese Cunningham, RD, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Knowledge Center Team.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the new name of the American Dietetics Association, “the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.”
Ms. Cunningham notes that “diet books for modern humans are extremely popular, and the Paleolithic diet, sometimes called the “Caveman Diet” or the “Stone Age Diet,” is one of the latest trends.” You’d think the author would mention one of the popular paleo diet books, such as Loren Cordain’s, Robb Wolf’s, or Mark Sisson’s. Think again. She brings up only another dietitian’s review of Richard Nikoley’s paleo diet book, pointing out his lack of professional health credentials and his advocacy of raw milk consumption. But milk isn’t even considered a component of most paleo diets. Ms. Cunningham justifiably points out the infectious risks, however small, linked to raw milk consumption. (I’ve not read Nikoley’s book, Free the Animal.)
(If you click the link to see the review of Nikoley’s book, scroll to page 30. Sample: “Based more on science fiction than science fact, Nikoley’s recommendations are misguided and reckless…”)
Ms. Cunningham likes the fact that the paleo diet reduces consumption of salt and added sugars, while promoting fruit and vegetables. However, she immediately notes thereafter that, “a striking counter to the meat-based Paleolithic diet is the evidence that supports the healthfulness of a vegetarian diet and the benefits it may have in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Another review of this approach . . . questions the exclusion of nutrient-rich grains, beans, and low-fat dairy and the potential nutrient shortfalls associated with the Paleolithic diet restrictions.”
This article appears to be in a regular feature of the journal called, “From the Academy: Question of the Month.” Are diets from Paleolithic times relevant today? She never answers directly. I suspect the average dietitian reading this article will conclude that Ms. Cunningham and the Academy are not in favor of the paleo diet.
Reference: Cunningham, Eleese. Are diets from Paleolithic times relevant today? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012 (vol. 112, issue 8): p. 1296. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.019
Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009 (109): 1266-1282.