The Past, Present, & Future of the Human Diet With Dr. Loren Cordain, Father of the Paleo Movement
Greetings, SuperFriends, and welcome to Part 2 of our 3 (or 4) part series on Paleolithic nutrition!
In our last episode of the series, we interviewed one of the main superstars responsible for popularizing this massive dietary trend – Robb Wolf. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, we highly recommend it – but it’s definitely not necessary before listening to this one.
In any case, today, we have the distinct privilege of interviewing the man behind it all – who introduced Robb Wolf to the Paleo diet, and literally wrote the book introducing it in the first place. He also runs one of the most successful – and in my opinion – informative paleo blogs on the web right now, and has become an outspoken advocate on both paleo nutrition and movement patterns. That’s right, you guys, – I’m talking about the founder of the Paleo movement – Dr. Loren Cordain.
Just a quick note on audio quality. Due to some technical difficulties, we had to record using a land line, but that doesn’t make the information any less valuable, so I thank you guys in advance for bearing with us.
In this episode, we discuss all the questions you’re dying to hear answered… we talk about the origins of the paleo diet. We talk about what the data has to say. We discuss evolution at length, and what foods we should and should not avoid. It’s a fascinating episode with one of the world’s most respected health experts, and I know you’re going to LOVE it. In fact, Dr. Cordain generously compliments me at the end of the interview – a compliment that I personally will cherish for a long, long time.
Please remember to share, review, comment, and all that good stuff!
In this episode with Dr. Loren Cordain, we discuss:
- How Dr. Cordain went from athletics to health sciences to becoming the foremost authority on paleolithic nutrition
- Which one mentor changed Dr. Loren Cordain’s life forever, how, and when?
- When did Dr. Cordain realize that everything we knew about nutrition was wrong?
- Were our ancestors actually less healthy than we are? And why are we misinformed on their reality?
- A discussion of the USDA, the NIH, and their recommendations for proper nutrition
- How the scientific community has responded to the paleo diet over time
- How does paleo stack up against the mediterranean diet and other popular diets?
- What are Dr. Cordain’s thoughts on The China Study, and why might it be flawed?
- How does dairy protein stack up against animal protein?
- Concerns on sustainability, scalability, and the environmental impact of the paleo diet
- What percentage of most westerner’s calories come from just 4 unhealthy foods
- Comparing the social revolution against smoking and the current trend against sugar or cereal grains
- How important is it that our produce today is different from that of our paleolithic ancestors?
- How topsoil depletion works and how it impacts our food quality
- Dr. Loren Cordain’s thoughts on the various nutrition regimens, such as running and CrossFit
- How have Dr. Cordain’s thoughts or opinions changed or evolved over the last 20 years?
- Some very scary health issues that can be caused by dairy, legumes, and salt
- Thoughts on supplements, and which ones modern humans should be taking
- The importance of getting outside and getting some sunshine!
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Boyd Eaton and his work
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harrari (highly recommended)
- A recently published meta-analysis on the paleo diet in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
- The online debate between T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Loren Cordain
- Cereal Grains: Humanity’s double-edged sword
- Jennie Brand-Miller’s study at the University of Sydney
- Vitamin D Supplements
- Fish Oil Supplements
- Dr. Loren Cordain’s website
Favorite Quotes from Dr. Loren Cordain:
and perhaps my favorite…
Introduction: Welcome to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. Where we interview extraordinary people to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible at math. Here's your host, Jonathan Levi.
Jonathan Levi: Before we get started, I just want to let you guys know that this episode is brought to you by my Best-Selling online course Become A Speed Demon: Productivity Tricks To Have More Time. The course is the culmination of over a decade of my own experience and research into productivity, theory, strategies, tips, and tricks from how to prioritize and structure your life to computer hacks and tips to automate your daily work and even ways to shave time off the basic tasks we all do every day, the course is guaranteed to save you at least three hours a week or your money back. So for a 90% off coupon, check it out at jle.vi/productivity. That's http://jle.vi/productivity.
Greetings, SuperFriends and welcome to part two of our three to maybe four series on paleolithic nutrition. In our last episode, we interviewed one of the main superstars responsible for popularizing this massive dietary trend, Rob Wolf.
Now, if you haven't listened to that episode yet, We do highly recommend it, but you don't necessarily have to listen to it before listening to this one. In any case today, we have the distinct privilege of interviewing the man behind it all, who introduced Rob Wolf to the paleo diet in the first place who literally wrote the book, introducing it to the world.
He runs one of the most successful and in my opinion, informative blogs on the web right now. And he's become an outspoken advocate on both paleo nutrition and movement patterns. That's right. You guys, I'm talking about the founder of the paleo movement, Dr. Loren Cordain. Just a quick note on audio quality, due to some technical difficulties we, did have to record using a landline. So I apologize for that, but it doesn't make the information any less valuable or entertaining.
In fact, in this episode, we discuss all the questions you guys are dying to hear answered. We talk about the origins of the paleo diet. We talk about what the data has to say.
We discuss evolution at length, and we even go into what foods you should and should not avoid. It's a fascinating episode with one of the world's most respected health experts. And I just know you guys are going to love it. In fact, at the end of the episode, Dr. Cordain generously compliments me at the end of the interview.
On how well it went and how much knowledge we were able to uncover. And that is a compliment, my friends that I will cherish for a long, long time. And so now I am pleased to introduce you all to Dr. Loren Cordain.
Dr. Cordain, welcome to the show. We are so, so happy to have you today.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Hey, Jonathan, it's my pleasure. It's really good to be able to talk to you and your audience.
Jonathan Levi: I have to admit I'm a huge, huge fan of both yours and of Rob Wolf's. Who's been on the show previously, so I'm trying my best not to be a giddy fan.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Let's let the data speak for itself. Try to minimize charismatic people. I let your audience here's the data and make the decisions is a learned audience they are.
Jonathan Levi: I love that. I love that idea. And you know, I actually learned something while researching about you. I did not realize that you actually started out your career in health sciences and move towards exercise physiology.
I guess I'd always assumed that. You were either an anthropologist or a nutritional scientist. So walk me through a little bit about that journey and how you got to being the authority of paleo.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Like anybody, else's a young man in life. Whereas you go from being a teenager to a young adult and you move into a career.
Everybody has lots of interests and clearly, yeah, we are all interested in eating because we all have to do it on a daily basis. And some of us think about it and some of us don't, I was the intercollegiate athlete at the University of Nevada Reno in the late sixties and early seventies. And before that, I was involved in high school athletics.
And so. You know, as an athlete, you're always kind of looking for an edge, something to help you with performance. And even back in the day in the sixties and seventies, people thought about that clearly diet impacted performance and health. And what have you said? That was kind of my mindset was that yes, diet certainly was involved in this whole thing.
And so back in the day, not only did I. Participate in intercollegiate athletics. I also in the summertime was a lifeguard at a major beach in California, Nevada on like Tahoe. And my birds are just like athletes. They were also interested in fitness and health and wellbeing. And so it kind of worked with me for most of my young adult life, actually, even into my thirties and forties, because I ended up staying on the beach in the summertime. Cause I was a professor at the University, so I missed summers off and I kept going back and working out and training with the other lifeguards. And so all of these concepts that we were involved in now, diet health, fitness, sunshine, outdoor exercise, uh, were part of my life.
And we were always examining what is the best way to eat? Because in 1987, after I've been a Professor at CSU Colorado State University for five or six years, I read this paper by my mentor, Boyd Eaton in the New England Journal of Medicine. And that paper changed my life forever. And that paper was called paleolithic nutrition, a consideration of its effects and so forth.
And so I read the paper and back in the day in 1987, we didn't have the internet and we just didn't have computers. And so you had to go to the library and look up all of these cross-references to that paper. And indeed I did look at the cross-references and every one of those papers had cross-references and with my anal personality, Thought I could somehow maybe read all of these papers.
And so I started reading these papers and classify them and put them into piles. Is it stone age? Humans didn't eat grains. They didn't eat dairy. They didn't have processed food, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I started putting them into file folders and file folders became enormous and one file folder B got another.
And then the topics within the file folders became other file folders. And before I knew it, I had 10,000 papers on file cabinets. That's kind of where it started. And then finally, and then I'll stop because it was kind of a long-drawn-out diatribe. Is that, uh, finally in about 1990, I got up enough courage to call Boyd Eaton.
The guy that had written the original paper in the New England journal. And in those days nobody used the internet cause we didn't have it. And so I called them up on the telephone. We talked for over an hour. And at the end of the telephone conversation, he goes, wow, this sounds to me like, you know, more about this than I do.
So it was wonderful confidence from a true gentleman and a true scholar. We eventually connected. We started writing papers together, speaking internationally, and that's really how it all started.
Jonathan Levi: Incredible. And I love the point that every guru has a guru and I'm such a huge fan of your work and Rob Wolf's work and you give credit to someone who kind of led the path for you.
I think that's an awesome point in and of itself.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Newton said we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Absolutely.
Jonathan Levi: Let me ask this at what point this journey and what was it that made you realize that most of what we know about exercise and diet, in fact, stuff that you might've been studying in your undergraduate career was wrong or misinformed.
Dr. Loren Cordain: I think you have to appreciate the idea. That we live a single lifetime. We only have 70 years from the time of our birth to the time of her death. We only experienced one generation. And of course in our reality, that single generation is the most important generation of all. And we think we've got it all.
But what we fail to realize is that there was a generation that came before us. There's a generation that came before them and before them and before them and before them. And once you go back four or five generations, it's like, you don't even know who your great, great, great, great, great grandparents are, but five generations is absolutely nothing.
You know, it's a drop in the bucket in the evolutionary timescale. Let's go back 300 generations. And if you go back 300 generations, then not a single person on the planet ate anything other than wild unprocessed foods. And they'd been doing that, not for just 300 generations. But for 10,000, a hundred thousand generations.
And so the wisdom of evolution through natural selection through all of these generations that we can't even comprehend or what shaped our genome. And our genes shape, what are the necessary nutrients that we have to have in our diet. And so that notion sunk into me is like, wow, that is an incredibly powerful idea.
Of course, that's Darwin's idea. And it just had never been applied to nutrition generally until Boyd Eaton's paper. Yeah. And I think that that's really, um, the impact is that once again, standing on the shoulders of giants, I didn't invent any of this. I just was kind of the guy that was in the middle of it that, uh, applied evolutionary theory to nutrition.
So there you have it.
Jonathan Levi: Have you happened to have read the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari by any chance?
Dr. Loren Cordain: Uh, that's one I haven't, but I'm going to write that down. Jonathan, that sounds like a good one.
Jonathan Levi: Fascinating, it's basically a brief history of the entire human species. And he goes into this essentially Faustian bargain that we had with agriculture, where, you know, it made our food supply more stable and it.
Allowed us to settle in communities and grow communities and things like that, but it made us work more and it made us less healthy. Very interesting book in that regard.
Dr. Loren Cordain: That's the argument. This idea has come of age in the 21st century and it doesn't just involve me or Boyd Eaton or anyone else or Rob Wolf involves.
Hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, and scientists worldwide. And it's a very good idea. And in this day and age of the internet, where we all can talk to one another instantaneously and check everything out, the facts, the credibility, it's amazing that it took this long, and now it's just like a snowball running downhill.
It's just, wow. What a great idea. Right. So whatever things that a brand new idea about how humans should eat would come together in the last 30 years and literally blow the world away. So, and it's not just anecdotally, it's not just on the internet. It's in the scientific literature now, and it's being tested with randomized controlled trials.
And that really is the, to me, that's the icing on the cake is to see the scientific community and the nutritional community taking it seriously.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. To come back to your point about evolution and thousands of generations. One of the biggest eye-opening realizations for me was that. Our ancestors did not live these short, awful disease-ridden lives.
Their life span was short because of violent death or because of infection or because of broken foot generally meant you were done. But in fact, they were healthier than we are. So I'm wondering how did we, as a society start thinking that somehow our diet is better and we're more evolved or you know, that we're evolved to eat grains or that we're better off.
I mean, how did all this misconception come about?
Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, first off, let's talk about the lifespan issue. I think that's, uh, having been involved in this idea for close to 30 years now, that's one of the conundrums that I thought about. As a matter of fact, the questions come up so many times Boyd Eaton, and I, and others actually written a scientific paper too, on the idea.
And the first thing is, is that, uh, The notion of an average lifespan, having anything to do with long-term health is ridiculous because let me give you a perfect example. Let's say you've got four people. You've got two adults that make it until they're 80. Okay. So their combined age is 160. They had two miscarriages, two children who died at birth.
So the age of that cohort of four people is 160 divided by four or 40 years. So the average age is really not the average. Age of life. It's the average age at death, isn't it? And so that doesn't really tell us anything about who's living. And what we're really interested in is the average age of the people that are alive, not the average age of people that have died in a population.
And so what we call that as a life table and insurance companies have been calculating these things for decades, and we actually do have some data on life tables and Hunter-gatherers, and exactly. As you said is that Hunter-gatherers you're right. They may die of snakebite they'd practice infanticide.
If he had twins, one twin was killed. They were at warfare for most of their life, but they were at the mercy of the environment because it thinks about camping out the rest of your life with no modern medicine. So they had all these things going on. Yeah, surprisingly, what we find is life table show that a significant number of the population made it into their sixth, seventh, and eighth decade.
So the take-home point is, is that those elderly individuals were not obese. They didn't have type two diabetes. They do not have high blood pressure. They didn't have high cholesterol, all the signs, and symptoms of ill health that. Present themselves in the Western world. We're not part of their world. So I think that that's the issue is that they were a heck of a lot healthier as they went into old age.
Jonathan Levi: And it seems to be such a well-kept secret. I mean, the USDA and the AMA have pushed a grain-heavy diet. Since the seventies, really. And I have to wonder why. I mean, it makes no sense.
Dr. Loren Cordain: I said from the very beginning of this interview, let's let the data speak for itself and don't listen to Loren Cordain do the analysis on your own.
And that's what I have proposed in my scientific papers that I published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and other high impact factor nutrition journals across the world. I said anybody can do this analysis. Let's take out the various food groups. We've got dairy, grain, fruits, veggies, meat, and the USDA, lumps beans.
And what have you entered the meat group eggs so forth? And so wall we did is we simply analyzed the 13 nutrients most lacking in the US diet. And we analyzed them in all of these seven or eight different food groups, legumes, and grains, and the ones we've just enumerated. And lo and behold, what I found out is that if you tabulate those 13 nutrients and give them a one to a seven or eight, depending upon how many food groups you're looking at, then you can do what's called a rank-sum score.
And when I did that analysis, we found out. Good God grains are at the very bottom of the heap. And so it's like if you were a basketball coach or a track coach, you wanted to know who should be running the mile and who should be running a hundred meters, you would find that out because that's crucial information.
Well, lo and behold, the USDA, nor any nutritional group had never done that analysis until we did in 2005 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And it's like, okay, well, why would you put. The least nutrient-dense food at the base of your pyramid. If what you're trying to do is create a nutrient-dense, healthy diet.
Jonathan Levi: That's the question? Yeah.
Dr. Loren Cordain: So my point is that that message is eventually getting through. Now I speak all over the world and I think we're starting to have influence NIH and, uh, in many scientific and nutritional groups, Duh grains really are not that healthy.
Jonathan Levi: And yet we're still subsidizing them when we're subsidizing soy and we're subsidizing corn. So my next question, which you started to touch on was have they shown any signs of remorse? I mean, since the seventies, when the McGovern commission decided this is what we're going to recommend. People heard less and less and less healthy than they've ever been. Is there any sign of pullback or turnaround from kind of government bodies?
Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, actually government bodies are made up of people and typically government bodies that make up nutritional guidelines is like USDA my food plate. I know most of the people on those boards and panels, the people that make up the guidelines for the American Heart Association. The people they're not government they're people.
And so you get to know these people at conventions and you talk to them and they listened to you and they hear what you're saying. And so I come at it as an academician and so they listen to me. It's like, I've got the credentials, I've got the peer-review publications. You unfortunately are Robb Wolf types.
They're speaking the same message, but they can't get in front of those scientists because quote-unquote, they're not credible because I spent 32 years in academia. He hasn't. So they listened to me. And what I can tell you is that, um, when I speak at the National Institute of Health, NIH, when I speak in front of groups in which these people on these quote-unquote government boards, some of them are assembled. Some of them are not there, but they're going. Wow. Lauren, you've done your homework.
Jonathan Levi: Right? Actually, your assistant was telling me that just recently, the first very full systematic review of the paleo diet. Was just published and it was wondering, she didn't give me much information beyond that. So tell us what they found and what it means for the future of the nutritional field.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah, it was a group in Germany, Eric, he and his colleagues did what is called a meta-analysis and ETA and meta-analysis. And what that means is that you put together, you combine all of the previous studies.
So you can find a study that says eggs are good for you. You can find a study that says eggs are bad for you. There you can go out and you get 75 different studies. Eggs are good, eggs are bad. And in the last 15 to 20 years, scientists have come up with this statistical procedure for combining all studies and evaluating the sample sizes and what we call statistical power and alpha and beta errors and come up with a conclusion.
And so what. Eric did. And his group from Germany is that they combined this paper was published just, I don't know, a month or two ago actually was published this month and where the print version is only going to come out in October and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the highest impact factor nutritional journal in the world.
And the meta-analysis showed that a paleo diet was superior to Mediterranean diet, to type two diabetic diets into other diets. So. That is a very, very powerful piece of evidence that the scientific community just can't turn it. Its nose away from this is an idea whose time has come and glad I've lived long enough to see it.
And there are other, I know, cause I'm in the middle of this movement, but there are other randomized controlled trials. That are long-term trials. That's one of the things that people criticized. Well, you only did it for three months or you only had it for six months only then for two years, there are other trials that are now going on for two to five years with not just 20 or 30 people, but hundreds of people in contrast in them.
To other diets that are thought to be helpful. So, you know, like I said, let's let the data speak for itself, and let's let the chips fall where they will. But in the last decade, the chips seem to be falling on the side of Charles Darwin. Imagine it, you got it.
Jonathan Levi: Right, right. Dr. Cordain's other study that a lot of people like to site against paleo is the idea of the China Study, which for those who aren't familiar kind of purports that excess protein may cause cancer.
I know that you've actually openly wanted to debate T. Colin Campbell and Rob actually tried to set that up. I know there was kind of an online, not in real-time debate, but I didn't get a chance to see it. So I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the China study and why it might be flawed.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Um, actually I have debated T. Colin Campbell's live dating back.
I don't know, 10 or 15 years. I debated him at one of Robert Crayons, nutritional conferences in Boulder years ago, neither T Colin Campbell nor myself were very well known. I debated him on Larry King a couple of years back, and I debated at another conference in Las Vegas. Before that so I've actually debated Campbell two or three times.
Jonathan Levi: I'm out of date.
Dr. Loren Cordain: As well as the online debate and the online debate. I think anybody can pick it up except my website. It's at Rob's website and you can really get a feel for what the arguments were that went four and a half. I may say right off the bat, I think T Colin Campbell, was it charming gentleman.
He's an older guy and, uh, I can sit down with him and his wife at lunch and we would just have a great afternoon. Obviously, we were at polar ends of the spectrum and, you know, without getting into the details of it, uh, experimentally, what he did is he used two techniques. He used an animal model of cancer in which she fed rodents, very high levels of a protein that is found in milk.
And then he used some epidemiologic data from China and that's how it got to be known as the China study. And so, you know, for an hour. Interview like this. I could spend the next half hour talking to you about the technical problems scientifically that, you know, nonscientists wouldn't understand, but I brought them out in the debate that you can read online.
And one of the things that Mike and Mary Dan might eat this guy that wrote protein powder is a friend of mine. He commented upon that debate years ago, after it came out and this was like 2010 or nine or whenever. And he goes, okay, Well, Campbell provided four references had over 300.
Jonathan Levi: And it was from milk protein already throws up a red flag for me because you yourself say that dairy is not the ideal food for us.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Listen, dairy proteins are not whey, and casein and others are not what shaped the human genome. We didn't drink dairy. That was after the weaning humans never consumed dairy that the major protein source in our diet came from vertebrate muscle and Virta muscle contains two proteins, basically actin and myosin and actin-myosin.
So those are the issues and there is no credible evidence to even support Campbell says that again, that argument takes a long time to develop and you have to prep people with a little bit of biochemistry and nutrition. And so I would just encourage your listeners. To go to my website and on my blogs, I think that's one of the more popular blogs we have on our blogs, on our website. We have new blogs on the right. They come up every single day, my writings and other people's writings. And then on the left, we have the most popular writings. And so that's one of the blogs that I wrote that has.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah, I'm a huge fan of the blog and we're definitely going to be linking not just to the blog itself, but we'll also link to that debate in the show notes @becomingasuperhuman.com.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, it's a great honor to be interviewed by you, cause I know that you and your superhuman blog carries a lot of weight. And so it's, it's great to get the message out.
Jonathan Levi: Well, I thank you. That's a huge compliment, a huge, huge compliment. I wanted to ask you, Dr. Cordain. What about environmental concerns or the idea that if everyone ate the amount of animal protein, that the paleo diet suggests that we could never support the entire world population?
Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, I agree with that. And I've said, so over the course of my career and my scientific publications, we've walked down a path of absolute dependence as a species upon serial brains to allow us to achieve what are we at now? 7 billion.
Jonathan Levi: I think we're close to eight at this point.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Close to 8 billion now. Okay. So there's no way on God's green earth. Could we have 8 billion people without cereal grain? So cereal grains and legumes are cheap sources of calories. And it's kinda like that old, uh, fairytale the King doesn't wear any clothes, is that you point out the obvious and that's all I did is that I pointed out the obvious with cereal grains in a number of papers on a website, you can download a paper called cereal, grains, humanities, double-edged sword, and I bring up all of these ideas.
And so you're absolutely right, is that, uh, it's ironic that the diet. That shapes the human genome is the diet that the majority of the planet can no longer afford to eat. Right. However, the flip side of that equation is, is that in the Western world and in Europe and elsewhere, people that are middle class can afford anything they want.
And they choose not to eat healthful food, but they choose to eat foods that produce ill health. 70% of the calories in the typical Western diet come from four foods, refined sugars, refined grains, refined vegetable oils, and dairy products. Now we don't think about it. As for food groups, we mix all those together and mix refined sugar, refined grains, vegetable oil, and dairy products.
You can call it a donut. You can call it a cookie. You can call it a pancake, chip. You can call it ice cream. You can call it yogurt. You can call it anything you want, but it's same four ingredients. And from the time that you are weaned, Until you die. If you're an average American 70% of your calories come from those four foods.
And so it's really not earth-shattering to encourage people to eat real living foods, fruits, veggies, meat, fish, eggs, and what have you. And I think that we can probably do that. I don't know if we can support 7 billion of us, but I think sustainability-wise. We can make a lot healthier choices and we can have quality versus quantity.
And so I'm not a social scientist, but it seems to me that, uh, if we can kind of clear up these issues of food and health and wellbeing, we can allocate our resources to other. Elements that the planet needs. So we spend more money on healthcare than we do on all the Wars we're fighting in Iraq or back in elsewhere.
So I think that, uh, you could mitigate a lot of these costs simply by getting people away from these foods. I kind of liken it to the era. Um, my parents and probably your grandparents is that when the attorney general came out with the report in 1961 or two cigarette smoking was not a very good idea.
So we now know we have that knowledge. And when we add down to like 20% of the population smokes and the people that do smoke know that they shouldn't be smoking. And I think we're kind of moving into that era now in the 21st century, is that. Wow. Coca-Cola probably is not a really good thing to do.
Corn syrup is not a good idea. It's a little bit more challenging to tell people that dairy products are not a very good idea nor are whole grain.
Jonathan Levi: Sure. But I mean, I've seen advertisements that, uh, advocate. Cigarette smoke as being healthy and refreshing if it's all in there. Matter of time, I suppose.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah. I don't know. You might've been looking at advertisements from the 1950s. I haven't seen exactly.
Jonathan Levi: Dr. Cordain let me ask this. What about the argument that none of our products today, just because of selective breeding looks, anything like the products that our paleolithic ancestors were eating, does it actually matter, or are the core nutrients still the same, even if strawberries are bigger and watermelons don't have seeds.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, you know, Jonathan, as the opening of this interview went, that's always let the data speak for itself. Anybody can do those analyses. Loren Cordain doesn't have to Rob Wolf doesn't have to any nutritionist at any University can do those comparisons, any layperson that has nutritional software can do it.
And Jennie Brand-Miller, a colleague of mine at the University of Sydney in Australia. She and I have done those well. She has, we've published collective papers together showing that data and she has contracted wild plant foods to the domesticated counterparts. So for instance, she's contrasted nuts that we commonly eat like walnuts and pecans and this and that, and whatever Brazil nuts to a variety of wild, nuts. She's contrasted wild roots to contemporary roots and on and on and on and leaves and so forth.
And she's published those. And this is, it was kind of in an obscure paper. But I've shown in many of my lectures, her data in PowerPoint presentations, that there's really not a whole lot of difference in the vitamin content. The vitamin content wild and domesticated plants are virtually identical. And that's not surprising because vitamins are organic catalysts and either have, or you don't if you don't.
You don't survive. So that's part of the genome. The plant genome has to have these at various concentration. So it's not surprising that the vitamin content is almost identical between wild and domesticated plants. The only thing that's slightly different is the mineral content. There's the mineral content of wild plants are slightly higher.
What I say slightly, what am I talking about? 5% maybe. 7%. Yeah, not much. And the only reason for that is that when we grow domesticated plants, you know, you don't have to be a crop scientist to realize this is I'm sitting here in Colorado. I looked to the East and I can see miles and miles of corn. And so what do they do?
They fertilize these fields and then. They completely take all the at, in the corn grows to be six feet, high, seven feet high. And what do they do with the corn? They chop it all down and put it in the trucks and take it away. Right. And so what are they doing? They're basically taking the minerals out of the soil because the minerals that went into the plants are gone.
And so that's not surprising. Whereas in wild plants, when a plant goes through its life cycle flowers and grows and produces seeds, And then the plant dies and all the plant basically goes back to the soil. So there's this recycling of minerals. And so that makes sense is, but yes, minerals are slightly lower, but how much does it matter?
Probably not a whole lot. So the vitamin-mineral and phytonutrient content of domesticated plants. It's basically the same and you're absolutely right. You said that well, we've chosen for less fiber, bigger and sweeter. So Karen in my little open area next to my yard, there are some crab apples, Kaiser, no more than about an inch in diameter.
And I pluck them out. We'll get into the time of the year when they're starting to get a little bit ripe. They're not very sweet. They're kind of sour and they're tough. And it's like, Hmm. If I was hungry, I would probably eat them, but they can't even hold a candle to a golden delicious. Yeah. So we've selectively gone for that.
Does that have adverse health effects? No. It's like eating fruit, except for people that have the metabolic syndrome or grossly overweight eating fruit. Is much better than eating cereal for most people in the Western world.
Jonathan Levi: Totally. I wanted to ask another question, which I've been very eager and I've been holding off on till the end, because I know one of the biggest communities advocating paleo, and one of the communities that has most picked it up is the CrossFit community.
Because I think there's such a synergy between the idea of paleolithic nutrition and natural movement patterns. So I'm wondering. If the affinity goes both ways. If you're an advocate of a movement pattern and a training methodology, such as CrossFit.
Dr. Loren Cordain: My first training in my life was as an exercise physiologist and I've spent the last 20 to 30 years of my academic career as a kind of an evolutionary biologist and a nutritionist. So I still have a pretty good handle on exercise because I was trained in that realm. And some of our papers that we've published, we've actually looked at the exercise habits of Hunter-gatherers early on. I think that when we can make our modern environment, when we can shape our modern environment, such that it is closer to the environment that shaped our genome, then we tend to maximize and optimize health.
We're all going to die. No one here gets out in the words of Jim Morrison. But I think that our trip, our journey along with this planet, we can ensure better health, better wellbeing. And that goes along with not just physical wellbeing, but mental health wellbeing because our brain is an organ and it is no different than any other organisms that respond.
To the environment that had shaped, its synthesis. So running or lifting weights makes you feel better. And we're now kind of figuring out why that is, you know, there's endorphins that are by producing. So a little bit exercise makes you feel pretty good. A little bit of fresh air makes you feel pretty good.
A little bit of sunshine makes you feel pretty good. And when you eliminate or reduce 70% of your calories from four food groups, what human ever ate, 70% of their calories from four food groups. So when you eliminate those and you replace them with fresh fruits, veggies, grass, produce, meats, eggs, and so forth, we feel good.
And it doesn't guarantee that we're going to live longer, but it certainly enhances that probabilities. And that's why this thing works. You know, Jonathan, that's why this works is like a Boyd Eaton and I, and Charles Darwin and everyone else. Had got this thing wrong. And it was like, Oh my God, I just took grains and processed foods out of my dad.
I feel like shit, my blood cholesterol went through the ceiling. No, it's not that way at all. I'd actually there's I mentioned the meta-analysis and randomized control trials to show otherwise. And I'm a scientist, but the people that are listening to this podcast, what's more, important to them. Then any meta-analysis, randomized controlled trial, what their neighbors felt.
It's like, Jesus Christ. I went on this diet and my blood cholesterol dropped this much. My blood pressure went like this I'm sleeping better. I have better sex. Everything in my life has improved since I've done that.
Jonathan Levi: Yep. You basically just said my line. I love to tell people how much better I feel on the paleo diet.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Yeah. And so that's kind of the whole thing. And you know, when. It improves your mental outlook. And I think a lot of them, the womb in the Western world comes from people's brains. Not just if their skin or their hair or their kidneys and liver or their toenails or anything else. It's like all organs are affected when your brain doesn't feel good.
You don't have a positive outlook. And that influences everything. So, uh, this was a really good idea. It's an idea for humanity. It was created not by me, not by Boyd Eaton, and not by Rob Wolf. This is an idea that was uncovered by humanity for humanity.
Jonathan Levi: Let me ask this, you published a book entitled the Paleo Diet Revised in 2010, which I haven't had a chance to check out, but I am wondering how your thoughts and opinions have changed over the years, both since the original book and even perhaps since 2010, when you publish that book.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Oh boy, I think, and I'm not saying that I'm a good scientist because I'm not, I'm not like any other human being. I have my flow bulls and I have my problems. We all do. None of us are perfect,
but good scientists typically let the data speak for itself. And when more recent, when more credible and when more powerful data emerges.
Then I think it's important to take that information and to incorporate it into your ideas now. Darwin's idea of evolution through natural selection is not going away. That's not a bad idea that will never, ever change. And so what we are finding is that taking that idea and applying it to nutrition was a very good idea.
We don't have all of the ramifications of that idea down because it's such a recent application of Darwinian biology, but we are gradually refining this concept. And as we gradually refine it, I think that our conception of quote-unquote, a contemporary paleo diet is starting to change. And this is where I have a few differences with some of the others.
You know, major bloggers on the internet is that some people call paleo primal and they say, it's okay, the dairy products, but the evolutionary evidence says nada. It says that's not okay. And so I think that. When we come to kind of crossroads and what should we, and should we be not be doing because obviously none of us are gatherers and we're not going to be hunted and gathered, but when we go shopping at Safeway, what should we throw on our shopping cart?
And how about yogurt? How about milk? How about Kiefer and so forth? Well, the evolutionary evidence generally is not. Wrong. Almost always. Correct. So I think as we look to the future, We need not to forget this powerful organizational template. And as I research into my sixth and seventh decade, as I researched this concept, I start to see that there are huge, huge problems with dairy products that some of the popular bloggers say, listen to your body, you get gas, are you okay?
No, there are other problems that you will not. Physiologically sense that over the course of a lifetime will adversely impact your health. If you continue to eat dairy products throughout your life, even if you're thinking you're getting organic rasp produced milk or Keifer, or what have you, same thing is true for legumes and salt, so forth, but what really irks me is that the best money to be made on the internet.
For people that have got some sort of nutritional gig, the best money to be made is by selling supplements, you can buy them cheap, you can sell them expensively. And if you can convince your audience that you absolutely have to have this supplement or that supplement to improve your health. That is not consistent with the evolutionary paradigm, what whitetail deer in upstate New York take supplements, any supplements and nor have they ever, they do just fine when they operate in the environment in which they were selected for.
And the same thing is true for primates. And the same thing is true for our species. We don't need to take any supplements. If we operate in the environment that we operated in selected this now we clearly don't. So there's a couple that you do need is like most of us stay indoors. All day long. If you're a typical westerner United States person, you stay inside and you might go out for lunch for five minutes and you might go out for the weekend.
The most, most of us don't get any sunshine at all. So if you don't get sunshine, you damn well better take vitamin D to the tune of at least 2000 IU a day. A lot of us don't eat fatty fish, right? Most of us don't eat brains. Most of us don't eat liver. Most of us don't eat organ meat. And so if you don't like fish and you don't like brains, which I don't think anybody I'm talking to is ever even tried.
Right. Then you better supplement with fish oil. If you like salmon, which I do. I love salmon and I love pairing and other fish. If you do that two or three times a week, you don't have to worry about taking Omega 3. So get outside, get sunshine. And you've got your vitamin D thing taken care of.
Jonathan Levi: Awesome. That's a great point. I mean, I actually wanted to ask you if you had any homework for our readers. To try out. And that's a good point, right? There is a checkout kind of, if you are in the right conditions with the sunlight and the Omega threes, and if not, then get into those right conditions.
Dr. Cordain, I really do appreciate your time today. If people want to get in touch with you, I mean, I'm a huge, huge fan of your blog. As I've mentioned, where should people be sent? Where should we link them?
Dr. Loren Cordain: Jonathan. It's my honor, to be able to give you and your audience's information and you are such a great interviewer.
I want your audience to know like I rarely am interviewed when somebody is so knowledgeable and indeed you are. My website is paleodiet.com. And if you Google search paleo diet, we come up number one and have been for the last five to six years running, so.
Jonathan Levi: Rightfully so.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Well, thank you. That's so kind.
So a lot of these topics that we've discussed and I'm sure your readers are interested in, they can get much, much more detailed at my website and they can get it all for free. Almost everything that I have said is available for free at my website. So people can gain health and wellbeing and not have to worry about pain.
Damn plug knack for it.
Jonathan Levi: I love it. Dr. Cordain you've been such a pleasure and I really do appreciate your time and your incredible compliment, which I'm going to cherish for the rest of the week. And we will add links to all of that stuff on our website @becomingasuperhuman.com. And with that, uh, thank you once again.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Oh, thank you so much, Jonathan. I hope that one of these days we'll get to meet in person and it's been my pleasure. Have a good afternoon and enjoy the coming to fall.
Jonathan Levi: You too. Take care.
Dr. Loren Cordain: Bye-bye.
Jonathan Levi: All right SuperFriends, that's it for this sweets episode. We hope you really, really enjoyed it and learn a ton of applicable stuff that can help you go out there and overcome the impossible.
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Closing: Thanks for tuning in to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. For more great skills and strategies, or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit www.becomingasuperhuman.com/podcast. We'll see you next time.