Caveman diet fad sending consumers to the red meat counter

Jul 27, 2012

Just when the all protein diet fad has faded, a new meat crazed diet is on the run. The Paleo diet, like most diet plans, requires a big change in eating habits, a lot of dedication, and more effort than most are willing to give. Sometimes called the “caveman diet,” it also calls for a major shift in the traditional nutrition education taught to most Americans.

This new trend follows the lines of “if your ancestors didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either.”

The Paleo diet dates back to 1975 when gastroenterologist Dr Walter L. Voegtlin argued that humans were no different from carnivorous animals. Many of the Paleo followers credit the rise in diabetes, obesity and heart ailments to a sedentary lifestyle and modern foods.

This new diet plan cuts out refined sugars and processed foods. All grains and dairy products are strictly forbidden for the diehard Paleo enthusiast. No beans, soy, tofu, quinoa, or goat cheese, which have commonly been considered health foods. It’s similar to eating a vegan diet in the sense of eating lots of raw, natural foods, but Paleos add a twist, with lots of lean meat.

The diet focuses on hunter-gatherer foods, much like cavemen would have eaten during the Paleolithic era. The philosophy is centered on the theory that our bodies respond best to food that is, and has been for thousands of years, naturally available to us. The basis of the diet is if it wasn’t around 10,000 years ago, before the dawn of modern civilization, you can’t eat it.

Unlike fad diets like Atkins or Slim-Fast, proponents of the Paleo diet point to the 2.5-3 million years of data to back up the nutrition behind Paleo. The diet is simple: no more counting calories, timing when you should consume your big meal of the day, or drinking chalky, powder drinks.

Paleo followers typically get 20-35 percent of their nutrition from protein, 22-40 percent from carbohydrates and 28-58 percent from fat. The main source of carbohydrates for Paleo dieters are through fruits. Fats typically come from the meat, with oils like coconut and avocado used instead of vegetable and canola.

USDA’s recommended dietary guide divides a regular meal into 30 percent grains, 30 percent vegetables, 20 percent fruits and 20 percent protein with a small helping of dairy.

High carbohydrate intake is known to increase the likelihood of type II diabetes and obesity. A recent study by the University of California showed that a 10-day switch to the Paleo diet improved glucose tolerance and decreased insulin secretion.

The caveman diet is popular in CrossFit circles, a relatively new exercise regime sweeping the nation. Earlier this month, Reebok CrossFit Games held their sixth annual fitness competition created and operated by CrossFit, Inc. where athletes compete at the CrossFit Games for the crown of the Fittest on Earth and a piece of the $1 million purse. The games were broadcast worldwide on ESPN. The Cross- Fit Games was named “one of the fastest growing sports in America,” by Forbes.

Whether Paleo is the diet that will take society back to the future or another in a long line of fads remains to be seen. But in the meantime, with everyone from the American Cancer Society to the American Heart Association and popular food writers telling consumers to eat less red meat, these protein lovers are bypassing the pastas on their way to the red-meat section in the grocery store. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor