Debunking the Paleo Diet – Episode 178

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Robb Wolf addresses the “Debunking the Paleo Diet” Ted Talk

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Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. says

    I am in awe of your organized and well spoken commentary on this GIG! A few times I thought you were going to explode, ( and I would have! ) but you kept it together and it was a great show.

  2. James says

    Thanks for this podcast Robb.

    When i watched this ted talk, the further it went on the more i thought it was backing up paleo lifestyle, twas a little confused when i watched it (must of been the gulten free brownie that dumbed me down a shade)
    It would be cool if you could have a podcast with these people. i know you might bust a main blood vessel and lose a few years off your life, but it would be worth it.

    Every time someone puts down a lifestyle of eating that’s not to their liking it’s always on their own or with people with the same head space, plus only finding research that suites their point of view, listening to these talks is as much fun as watching a stupid kid on a see-saw by it’s self complaining why the see-saw won’t work…. o_O Most of the time kids like this need special care.

    I would be great to have a panel of specialist from more than one lifestyle of eating that won’t act like fucking school kids when discussing all the pro and cons of there choices. A man can only dream :’)

    (out of all the talks/books i have read/listen to you seem to have a very open mind on all “lifestyle diets” more than most, and its a treat to hear)keep up the solid effort/work/passion


  3. Joe Mason says

    So what does Dr. Warinner want? All the paleo acolytes to shut up and go away? Where does that leave an anthropologically informed human diet perspective? Does Dr. Warinner have a blog, podcast or popular book with her pearls of wisdom? No. How many thousands of people has she helped become healthier from her pulpit? Next to zero. Talk is cheap, real results are priceless.

  4. sonny says

    I just realized something. Your points about expecting someone who tries to debunk an evolution-based diet to present a logical argument and citing primary sources will never really happen bc all the logic and evidence are on our side! The best they would be able to do is finagle over the minutiae ie: carb content, seasonality, etc. Same goes for vegetarians- you’ll never get a logical sound debate bc they will lose, therefore they resort to all their dirty underhanded tactics. I’m also really surprised the TED people wont give you a talk, esp in light of Dr. T Wahls’ outstanding presentation. I referred one gentleman who has early MS to watch that video, and he has had an amazing turnaround. I dont think I would have gotten anywhere if i had cited “paleo diet” – ppl automatically associate that w just another fad diet. A TED talk seems to lend greater credibility.

      • says

        Bring on the Robb Wolf TED Talk!

        Christina Warinner’s talk oozed of jealously at the start as if she is wishing she had the idea first. Also the way she drew a line between red meat and club wielding cavemen was simply her way of connecting with the crowd through humour but it was at the cost of her own credibility.

        She says she is an expert and interested in this stuff because it links her field with the general public. So instead of getting an audience with TED and proclaiming that her expert is better than our expert, how about she comes onto a Paleo Solution Podcast and talks about this stuff and builds her profile with the community rather than ‘debunking’ them.

        Also you don’t call something a FAD and then in the next sentence say ‘this started in the 1970s’. 1. Slap Bands and Tazo’s are fads
        2. ‘Fad’ is used best in a business sense for something that quickly becomes popular, saturates the marketplace then disappears only to be a fading memory of some silly notion. The fact she was able to do a scientific talk on a fad means its not a fad.
        3. People label complex things with simple terms because they are lazy and don’t care to put in the ‘brain sweat’ to understand this stuff.

        Oh one more thing. Robb, can you do what Chris Kresser does on his site and give us ‘tweet this’ links so we can get the message you want out real easy. ie. Click this to tweet “@twarinner you need to get on the Paleo Solution Podcast and throw down” :) Like on this page

  5. Bogdan Mitic says

    Hi Robb,

    I follow a paleo diet generally, don’t really see any difference in terms of the way i feel, sleep, perform etc but just find it easier to control calories when I’m not eating 3 whole loaves of bread etc a day. So in this regard I don’t know about others in terms of health benefits, and maybe I do get health benefits just don’t notice them (i.e. better bloodwork etc).

    I think your two best points were in regards to not addressing whether paleo impacts health and if we didn’t eat meat (as evidenced by the lack of physiological adaptation) and couldn’t eat veg and fruit because of the toxins etc, what did we eat. Those two were very interesting. The rest came out as a bit too rage heavy, but it’s understandable given that her talk was much the same for large parts.

    Also I did google paleo diet and most of the images were of men. Dunno if that varies depending on past search history as being a man I was probably more interested in the results in men.

    I would have liked to have heard your response to the whole Alan Aragon thing. I’m assuming this would be in regards to where he argues you have assumed inflammation to be a cause of chronic disease when it could simply be a symptom.

    Shoot me an email if you haven’t read the piece and would like to.



    • says

      Thanks man, good feedback.

      The frustration here is folks like prof warinner (IMO/soapbox piece) could/should be transforming medicine via this evolution perspective. That we now seem to be in a tussle about all this instead of collaborating and making change that really helps people.

      I’ve not been able to track down much of arogons critique on paleo so if you have some material I’d certainly appreciate it. I’ve heard some people say he “shreds” paleo, but many people thought the same of prof warinner, but clearly there were some gaps in game.

      Systemic inflammation IS typically a symptom of other factors…iron overload leading to oxidative stress, gi permeability leading to LPS induced hepatotoxixity…so I’d be interested how he is portraying all that. Chris at Robb wolf dot com is a good place to send that.

      Thanks again for the thoughtful comment.

  6. Butch P. says

    I would have love to hear you and the Krakken for this episode. I’m sure that would have been one epic podcast :)

  7. says

    Good podcast and great discussion here. I especially appreciated Sonny’s comments on the inability of someone trying to debunk a paleo diet with logical arguments. It’s hard to argue against pretty obvious principles.

    In any case, the proof is in the results. A paleo diet works even if you don’t take the evolutionary approach. My Lord, any diet that eliminated or even just reduced all the highly processed, empty calories in the typical American’s diet would be a huge improvement.

    Thanks for all the great information.

    • says

      Our daily diet consist of too much simple carbs. No doubt a paleo diet is not perfect, but it is definitely much better than pizza and cheeseburger diet.

  8. Alexandra says

    Made me laugh… my parents say the words “meat” and “fat” with the same venom that one might reserve for the word “pedophile.”

    See you soon!

  9. Steve Molnar says

    Hi Rob,
    My wife and I went Paleo about a month ago after tons of research including ” The Paleo Solution “….excellent book btw ! I first became interested in Paleo because the owner of my gym here in Willows lives by it, and quite frankly, the dude is in phenomenal shape. Since starting, the biggest change I have noticed is that I no longer have the insulin spikes and crazy crashes I had before after eating processed carbs..nice even energy through the day…love it !!! Also,my abs have returned…..bonus !! I know there are critics out there, but quite frankly the science backs Paleo up. More importantly, I FEEL better….no amount of argument can rob me of that. Thank you for fighting the good fight !! I have become a huge advocate of Paleo and actively share it with people who ask. I am a Firefighter/Paramedic as well as an ACE certified personal trainer. This has given me the opportunity to share what I have learned, and most people have actually been very receptive to the science. Ironically, the most eye rolling was from an ER MD when I was complimented by his RN about my improving fitness progress…..haha….some people are so set in their roles,they refuse to step out of their tiny boxes and look around. Thank you for your efforts and this informational website….keep it up !!

  10. Vlad Averbukh says

    Robb, I believe the pics of me that you’re referring to came from an interview I did with Agence France-Presse (AFP) three years ago. They contacted me right after the NYT piece came out, and I was foolish enough to believe that the reporter was actually interested in informing their readers about paleo/primal lifestyle. I should’ve known better, especially after seeing how the NYT sensationalized some stuff in their story. But I proceeded with the interview for the same reason I agreed to talk to NYT, I wanted to spread the word about the benefits of paleo, evolutionary approach to health and organic farming. At the time, Paleo wasn’t big like it is now and I thought giving it more media exposure would help, I wasn’t seeking notoriety or have any financial motives. And while I did work as a personal trainer on the side, I wasn’t using this as an opportunity to find clients as training was never anything that I wanted to pursue full time.

    Much of what I discussed in my meetings with the media had little to do with raw paleo diet, or even paleo in general. I spoke a lot about exercise as I’ve seen the positive benefits of paleo combined with proper exercise in the clients that I trained. I also spent time volunteering at organic farms, so I spoke a lot about the benefits of local and sustainable farming practices. I took some of the reporters to the farms and the farmers markets so they could also hear from the farmers themselves.

    When the AFP reporter asked me during the interview if I could eat a raw steak on camera, I didn’t think much of it. Most of my friends and co-workers knew that I was raw paleo, so I was used to eating raw meat without others reacting in disgust. The photographer also didn’t show me just how grotesque some of the pics came out. Unbeknownst to me at the time, because AFP is a news agency, they can distribute images to other news outlets. Seeing how these images were being spread around to bash paleo, I asked AFP to stop their distribution, the response was some legal mumbo jumbo about how it’s within their rights. I’ve not tried contacting all the websites and the news organization that have re-printed those images as I haven’t kept track of all this stuff. Although I really don’t know if anything can be done at this point since these pics are so old. But if you see photos of me used by paleo critics, and you think me contacting them to remove the images would be of any use, I’d certainly be willing to do it.

    In addition to AFP and NYT, I’ve given interviews to other media outlets, and some did a much better job at conveying what I actually said. Eventually I got tired of the media stuff and once I saw the feedback to AFP story, I stopped giving interviews. I’ve continued to be approached, some have even offered money. When I turn them down, I always offer to get them in contact with a non-raw paleo person who may be willing to talk to them, but the media don’t seem to be interested in plain old paleo. I also suspect that if I hadn’t talked to AFP, they would’ve found someone else from NYC Paleo meetup group that they could ridicule. We had members with varying interpretations of paleo, some were even followers of Aajonus Vonderplanitz’s Primal Diet, they guys ate rotten raw meat and dairy.

    While I regret posing for those AFP photos, I’d like to think my involvement in the NYT story and some other ones that followed did some good. I’m convinced that NYT would not have published that piece, or at the very least not featured it as prominently, had I not been in that group. While John Durant did a great job with that, without other unusual things like me eating raw and Sonacki brothers practicing intermittent fasting, there wouldn’t have been a story. Interest in paleo spiked right after that piece came out, it seemed like everyone in NYC had read it and many went on to buy paleo books. And for me, that’s what it was all about. Even if it meant that finding grass-fed meat in NYC suddenly became more of a challenge.

    • says

      Sorry to kick you in the balls on that man…it’s just been this thing that pops up EVERY time we get a negative news piece. I funneled my frustrations at you personally and that was bad of me.

    • says

      Just wanted to give Vlad some compliments on his response here. It seems his intentions were pure enough. I say it takes some stones to go and defend himself in the troll filled comments sections of websites. Kudos to you bro. Good luck in the future.

      And Robb, great job as usual. Keep it up, the step by step rebuttal is good to pass around.

  11. says

    You are spot on about the anthropological community take on Paleo. The name, an unfortunate consequence of the first pass round of publications in the 90’s, certainly has a way of riling up the community and instigating some territorial pissings on what is deemed in some sense esoteric subject matter. I’m in the thick of this community and I use whatever chance I can get to try and clarify the paleo movement and openness to collaborative and cooperative efforts, but it’s a touchy subject, and almost like the new aquatic ape cultish spinoff theory that automatically brands you a loon.

    What I can say to you is continue doing what you’re doing. Continue these sorts of discussions. It will get out, and you have allies in there (the AHS speaks to that already). But for the exact reason you suspect – that the majority of the anthros are fearful that their subject is running away from them out from under their noses – is the exact reason that some are reticent to come out and openly praise the grass roots efforts in the paleo community to understand human evolution and what it teaches us about modern health. Because then suddenly it’s acknowledging that an untrained community or body of work is teaching a “trained” community (yes I know the ridiculousness of that, you don’t have to tell me how mind numbingly frustrating that egotistical perspective is). I can’t understand why, at this point when the public community is practically begging for input and guidance from anthropology, now that we’ve discovered something useful for it to do that captures public interest, that they’re so resistant to taking the lead or at least opening lines of communication with people like you working their tails off to just fucking improve quality of life and understanding of our place in the whole organic network.

    Also one more thing… this Dr. Warinner is an archaeological scientist… which is not quite an anthropologist, and it typically means she is someone who employs geological science, chemical science, and molecular science to help answer questions about the past… and it doesn’t actually mean or necessitate that she have any formal training in anthropology, human origins, or human evolution (though from her CV I think she does, but not through a BA/BS program, so she didn’t get trained on the basic and primary literature).

    Keep up the great work and I hope I get to meet you again sometime soon.

  12. says

    Robb, you made some interesting observations about the anthropology discipline. Check out this short piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education I came across today–it’s not related to the paleo diet but it’s about anthro departments:

    You might look to the work that Native Studies departments and tribal colleges are doing. Here in the Pacific Northwest, Northwest Indian College has amazing programming that would look really familiar to the paleo community. My department at the University of Washington is holding an indigenous foods and ecological knowledge symposium in a few weeks–we had to close registration within 3 days of opening it. There are details on my blog.

  13. np0x says

    That ted talk was really strange…she claims the title of scientist? If this is the rigor in her day job, she might need to go into a more opinion based field…i find people who abuse their title(phd, teacher, doctor) and then present their personal bias’s as if they are somehow backed by the title they use in real life disturbing.

    I found it so odd I gave the talk a little feedback on the ted talk website:

    “The science and critical thinking in this video coupled with the reputation of Ted is a classic and disappointing misuse of academic titles and an abuse of the Ted talk platform. ”

    At a certain point it doesn’t even matter if she is right or wrong, she never did any research, the extent of the research was seeming little more than to seemingly imagine the diet was what she imagines cavemen ate and then map it to the book covers of some popular Paleo books and called that “good enough”. Then start rambling. And eventually suggest that we eat a diet that is very paleo-ish in composition.

    So what exactly was her point? Lost on me. But it’s always fun to call people stupid, so Hanlon’s Razor comes to mind.

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    In the spirit of doing some research on her and trying to figure out what/where she was perhaps trying to go I find this quote on her website ( ) that links to the Ted talk video.

    “I’ve recently weighed in on what I see as the ways in which proponents of the Paleodiet fundamentally fail to understand Paleolithic, Neolithic, and modern diets. The trademarked “Paleo Diet” is much closer to an early 20th century affluent farmer’s diet than anything our Paleolithic ancestors would have ever eaten. I explain what we actually know about Paleolithic diets, how we know it, and what I believe are the real lessons we can learn from the past.”

    If forced to guess and based on my understanding of the natural sciences and how that community thinks and works by the use of the word “Paleo” without the explicit permission of the Paleolithic scientific community or maybe she just didn’t have anything interesting to share.

    Her talk would have been more accurate and made sense had she gone with a message of: “The usage of the word in the name of the ‘Paleo Diet’ is not 100% scientifically correct.”


  14. Ben says

    It seems like she was criticising the paleo diet in the context of “purity” as though the paleo communities motive is convergence towards perfect emulation. For one thing that’s not the goal of most of the people who prescribe to the paleo ideology. The goal is to use evolutionary principles, anthropological facts, and, frankly, common fucking sense to generate hypotheses for optimizing health. It’s a blend of science and intuition.
    The fact that agriculture has changed food and that we’re not eating exactly what our ancestors ate does not imply that there are no benefits to emulating what we have defined as reasonable set for what people ate.

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