Tag Archives: Christina Warinner

Anthropologist Debunks the Paleolithic Diet

paleo diet, paleolithic diet, caveman diet

Not Dr. Warinner

Christina Warinner has a new TEDx talk on the paleo diet.  Dr. Warinner has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard, so I’ll call her an anthropologist. The written TEDx intro mentions she is a paleontologist, and she mentions “archeologist” in her talk.  Anyway, I’m sure she’s very bright and put much thought into her presentation.  She spoke at my old stomping grounds, the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Click to view video.

Dr. Warinner is probably addressing the smarter half of the general population, who holds the idea, at least superficially, that the paleo diet is meat-based.  (The dumber half of the public isn’t watching TEDx videos.)  Dr. Warinner doesn’t define “meat-based.”  Is half the plate filled with meat, fish, or eggs?  75% of the plate?  Half of total calories?

I’m not familiar with all the popular modern versions of the paleo diet.  Perhaps some are in fact meat-centric, whatever that means.  But the ones I’m more familiar with, like Dr. Cordain’s and mine, prominently feature vegetables, fruits, and nuts.  You could easily fashion a plant-based paleo diet, filling 80 or even 90% of your plate with plants.  (A vegan paleo diet isn’t realistic.  Cultures not eating animals would die out from B12 deficiency.)

I’d swear I heard Dr. Warinner say “we’re not adapted to eat meat.”  Surely she mis-spoke.

She mostly debunks popular misconceptions of the paleo diet.  Most of us deeply familiar with the paleo diet would have little to disagree with her about.

Here are some of Dr. Warinner’s major points:

  • It’s nearly impossible for most of us to eat a true Paleolithic diet.  Selective breeding has altered nearly all our foods to the point of unrecognizability by cavemen.  Examples are bananas, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes.
  • There is no single paleo diet.  It depends on regional geographic variations in rainfall, latitude, temperature, etc.  Local populations ate what was available, in season, and often migrated seasonally to find food.

Dr. Warinner suggests we all incorporate three concepts from the paleo diet:

  1. Eat a great variety of foods.
  2. For the highest nutrient content, eat fresh food when ripe, in season.
  3. Eat whole foods.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Miki Ben-Dor, a Ph.D. candidate, had many more objections to Dr. Warinner’s speech.  Paul Jaminet made a few comments about it, too (see middle of his post, after the comments on Marlene Zuk’s PaleoFantasy).  Wendy Schwartz weighs in, too. Angelo Coppola does a good job countering most of Dr. Warriner’s criticisms.