The Caveman Diet

By Matthew Yglesias

The latest weird trend to read about in the newspaper is the caveman diet, which apparently involves “eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times . . . [v]egetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture.”

This all seems dubious. For one thing, the idea that pre-agricultural humans mostly ate meat strikes me as unsupported by the research. But the general premise that because contemporary people descend from pre-agricultural people, we’re best suited for a pre-agricultural diet seems obviously wrong. We ultimately descend from lemurs or some such, but nobody thinks we should eat like lemurs. Agriculture has been with us for 10,000 years—surviving people are probably well-adapted to it. What’s more, the question of what a “caveman” would and would not have ate is really far from obvious. There were no cows, grass fed or otherwise, in pre-agricultural times and there are no aurochs around today. Contemporary hunter-gathers live in ecologically unusual isolated places and you’d have a hard time getting the stuff they eat.

5 responses to “The Caveman Diet

  1. Like most health food fads, the caveman plan is pseudoscience spiced up with a dash of real science. There are lots of sound nutritional reasons to limit your intake of flour and other refined foods.

    Just because we evolved in a particular environment (and these cavemen are the last people I’d trust to know what it was like) it doesn’t follow that deviations from that way of life are necessarily bad for us.

  2. Contemporary hunter-gatherer societies eat a lot of things (insects, etc.) that cavemen probably ate too. I don’t see any of that sort of protein mentioned in the caveman diet.

  3. Like most health food fads, the caveman plan is pseudoscience spiced up with a dash of real science.

    I think this unnecessarily disparages pseudoscience — even Social Darwinism or Intelligent Design has more intellectual heft than the caveman diet. And I must’ve missed the dash of real science.

    peej — also, snakes. But the most dumba

  4. Alrighty then . . . to finish — the most dumbass thing about the caveman diet is that it seems to assume that all the protein sources were high-fat mastodons or somesuch. Birds (caught with nets), eggs, fish (nets again), snakes, lizards, rats, amphibians, and insects don’t have much fat. Well, other than the eggs, but whatever.

  5. 10,000 years is the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms; the metabolic equipment we possess (with some limited diffs e.g. lactose tolerance) is roughly equal to that of those ancestors.

    Highly-refined carbohydrates and the ever-increasing proportion of carbohydrates in our diets seem clearly linked to negative consequences.

    While these paleo/caveman folks focus on protein, I’d be happy with a re-acceptance of fat as a delicious, high-quality source of energy.

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