Discover: Even Our Ancestors Never Really Ate the Paleo Diet

Sad news for the Paleo Diet theory:

Even Our Ancestors Never Really Ate the “Paleo Diet”


“Essentially all of the great apes and their ancestors appeared to have eaten a C3-based diet, consuming fruits, leaves and other plants. Modern humans, on the other hand, rely much more on C4 plants, which include grains like wheat and corn.”

23 Responses to “Discover: Even Our Ancestors Never Really Ate the Paleo Diet”

  1. Dan Says:

    Given how many different sites human evolution has and continues to occur in, is it really surprising that there is no such thing as a single paleolithic diet? We ate what was available locally, as dictated by such factors as climate, soil acidity, flora and fauna. Now what is locally available is junk food, fast food and processed food!

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    And a million years from now, humans will point back to this time as proof that they should be eating junk food!

  3. Dan Says:

    If we are even alive as a species then. With global warming and deforestation, this is most doubtful. But I take your point which is most humorous.

    On a personal note, I used to be one of those paleo types (for about 6 months). Quoted the research and promulgated the gospel. The pendulum of nutrition research seems to swing back and forth like a weathervane. I’m no longer certain what is good to eat, or what to believe. I do know I have an underlying predisposition to metabolic syndrome and cholesterol overabsorption. To me this demands some combination of vegetarianism and carb restriction. I’ve started easing up a little on the latter (my brother called me a “Mormon” the other day). I’m adding blueberries to my morning yogurt, which would have been unthinkable to me even a month ago! Thanks.

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:

    I recommend apples and oatmeal for cholesterol lowering. Check this out: and:–lowering-bad-cholesterol.html

  5. Dan Says:

    According to Self Nutrition Data (, one cup (86 g) of dried, sulfured, uncooked apples provides 57 grams of carbohydrates, of which 7 grams are fiber (so non-absorbed), leaving a net effective carb count of 50 grams (of which 49 g are sugars).

    That is a pretty big carb load, and if any of the women in the trial were (pre)diabetic, their sugars would have been worsened by it — although one might not realize this, as the control group also got a control fruit.

    Where does one purchase dried apples? I imagine the non-dry apples would be the same.

    I think the full report is now online somewhere – I’ll check.

  6. Dan Says:

    Full report is now online at J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112:1158-1168.

    They looked at weight in follow-up but not hemoglobin A1c, insulin or fasting/postprandial glucose.

    From Table 1. Actual carb load per 75 g dried apple was 70.5 grams (wow). I’m trying to keep under 100 g per day, with much success.

    On the bright side, trigs did go down from 115 to 104 (p=0.31), rather than going up, although I question whether this is due a Hawthorne effect (people in diet trials watch their diet!).

  7. Jack Norris RD Says:


    If you can’t eat an apple because it has too much sugar, I’d be pretty interested to see what you actually eat.

  8. Dan Says:

    Hi Jack, I provided this the other day (reiterated below). But I don’t expect you to read everything people post here.

    Interestingly, in the trial in JAND, these patients were already consuming 200-300 g of carbohydrates per day, so 71 g on top of that represents a pretty big increase.

    For breakfast – 2 avocados, 250 mL yogurt, 7 types of nuts and seeds mixed into the yogurt, blueberries (NEW), 20 lupin beans

    For lunch – 5-vegetable ‘Israeli’ salad (finely chopped small tomato plus green pepper, radishes, green onions, small ‘dill type’ cucumber drenched in tahini and lemon juice) plus either a veggie burger (no bun) or 2 tofurkey sausages with honey-mustard aioli (olive oil and egg-based); 2 medium carrots (NEW)

    For dinner – 2 tortillas (low carb wraps) with seasoned, sauteed tofu, orange pepper, broccoli, high-protein greek yogurt, couple drops of hot sauce; occasionally with a ramikin of the nuts/seeds mix on the side

    Both yogurts are very low carb. Net 5 g of carbs per 175 mL portion.

    I doubt I eat much more than 60 g of carbs per day. This has done wonders for my BP, triglycerides, HDL, waist circumference, hsCRP, fasting insulin, A1c, etc.

  9. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Thanks, Dan. Very interesting. I do read everything that people post as I have to approve it, but I guess I glanced over your diet pretty quickly and then forgot. Sorry!

  10. Dan Says:

    Jack, you may be interested in the following site:
    This was an eye-opener to me.
    By the way, 75 g of dried apple is far more than a single non-dried apple, since so much net weight of an apple is water (I think). I imagine it’s like eating a couple apples at a single sitting (but much easier to do so, since it’s been dehydrated/desicated).

  11. Jack Norris RD Says:


    Good point. I clearly need to read your posts more closely before I open my mouth. I feel safe that I haven’t missed anything in making this comment. 🙂

  12. Dan Says:

    Just trying to avoid insulin surges, which some literature suggests may be carcinogenic (in particular for epithelial malignancies). Avoiding fructose, dextrose, and not snacking between meals are good ways of avoiding the glucose-insulin rollercoaster…

  13. kate scott Says:

    I was quite excited when I read this article – but then I read the original research reports that the article is based on. I think the article writer has taken some liberties with her interpretation (much as I would like to agree with it). The carbon isotope method of distinguishing the C3 vs C4 fraction of the diet (with C3 foods being mostly leaves, fruit and herbaceous plants and C4 foods being grasses, their seeds and sedges) shows that the diet of early humans consisted of large proportions of C4 derived foods. The article author has concluded from this that we have been eating grains for millions of years (contrary to the assertions of the ‘paleo diet’). But the isotope analysis is not capable of determining whether those C4 foods came directly from plants, or from consuming the meat of animals that ate those plants (ie herbivores). All the research papers emphasise that. So although the article writer suggests that early humans branched out into the savannah to take advantage of grains and grasses, the evidence is just as consistent with the possibility that they branched out into the savannah to take advantage of game or scavenging opportunities.

  14. Arcadio Says:

    “Rice, wheat, and soybeans are C3 plants that are important in agriculture” [Campbell Biology, 9th edition, page 200]

  15. Dan Says:

    Dear Jack,

    I wonder if it would be worthwhile profiling this article: “Fat Intake After Diagnosis and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer and All-Cause Mortality.” And of course, it’s observational and non-randomized. (

    Erin L. Richman, ScD; Stacey A. Kenfield, ScD; Jorge E. Chavarro, MD, ScD; Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH; Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; June M. Chan, ScD

    JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6536.

    On the other hand, it would only apply to half the population (men). I’ve cut-and-pasted the abstract below.

    Original Investigation | ONLINE FIRST

    Fat Intake After Diagnosis and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer and All-Cause Mortality ONLINE FIRST

    Erin L. Richman, ScD; Stacey A. Kenfield, ScD; Jorge E. Chavarro, MD, ScD; Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH; Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; June M. Chan, ScD

    JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6536.

    Published online June 10, 2013

    Importance Nearly 2.5 million men currently live with prostate cancer in the United States, yet little is known about the association between diet after diagnosis and prostate cancer progression and overall mortality.

    Objective To examine postdiagnostic fat intake in relation to lethal prostate cancer and all-cause mortality.

    Design, Setting, and Participants Prospective study of 4577 men with nonmetastatic prostate cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010).

    Exposures Postdiagnostic intake of saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans, animal, and vegetable fat.

    Main Outcomes and Measures Lethal prostate cancer (distant metastases or prostate cancer–specific death) and all-cause mortality.

    Results We observed 315 events of lethal prostate cancer and 1064 deaths (median follow-up, 8.4 years). Crude rates per 1000 person-years for lethal prostate cancer were as follows (highest vs lowest quintile of fat intake): 7.6 vs 7.3 for saturated, 6.4 vs 7.2 for monounsaturated, 5.8 vs 8.2 for polyunsaturated, 8.7 vs 6.1 for trans, 8.3 vs 5.7 for animal, and 4.7 vs 8.7 for vegetable fat. For all-cause mortality, the rates were 28.4 vs 21.4 for saturated, 20.0 vs 23.7 for monounsaturated, 17.1 vs 29.4 for polyunsaturated, 32.4 vs 17.1 for trans, 32.0 vs 17.2 for animal, and 15.4 vs 32.7 for vegetable fat. Replacing 10% of energy intake from carbohydrate with vegetable fat was associated with a lower risk of lethal prostate cancer (hazard ratio [HR], 0.71; 95% CI, 0.51-0.98; P = .04) and all-cause mortality (HR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.61-0.88; P = .001). No other fats were associated with lethal prostate cancer. Saturated and trans fats after diagnosis (replacing 5% and 1% of energy from carbohydrate, respectively) were associated with higher all-cause mortality (HR, 1.30 [95% CI, 1.05-1.60; P = .02] and 1.25 [95% CI, 1.05-1.49; P = .01], respectively).

    Conclusions and Relevance Among men with nonmetastatic prostate cancer, replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetable fat may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality. The potential benefit of vegetable fat for prostate cancer–specific outcomes merits further research

  16. Andreas Says:

    You’ll have to read this..
    And this…
    To understand this…
    And this…

    The neuroscience simply indicates that high intake of Omega 6 fatty acids are required in high amounts to produce enough series 2 prostaglandins, which are required to increase neurotrophin levels, which eventually increase the number of neurons. Omega 3 fatty acids have a boosting effect on neurotrophins.


    Prostaglandins are required to remoldel the skull and the series 2 prostaglandins are more effective at bone resorption/remoldelling than the series 3 prostaglandins.


    Vitamin D3 inhibits the production of series 2 prostaglandins. Those living further away from the equator have bigger skulls because they have lower levels of Vitamin D3 compared to those living closer to the equator. Less Vitamin D, less inhibition on neurogenesis however skull bone will not form without sufficient Vitamin D.

    Intake of nuts and seeds high in Omega 6 fatty acids with culture/survival is the most plausible explanation as the main drive behind why we have big cranials. I don’t doubt we ate animals for survival purposes but animal fat is very low in Omega 6 fatty acids unless animals are force fed nuts and seeds high in omega 6 fatty acids.

    I seriously doubt the savannah was always a desert. Looking back at our history, we see every fallen civilizatio built structures that were found in deserts. Egyptian pyramids are an example. Here is another:

    There is a lot more to think about.

  17. Dan Says:

    Now I’m totally confused. Thanks for the above perspective, Andreas, but most seem to think that omega-6 is “bad” for us. There are 3 lines of “proof”:

    1) generation of inflammatory meditators like arachidonic acid

    2) inhibition of conversion of ALA to EPA (and DHA)

    3) This study in the BMJ:

    There are probably even more than these three lines of evidence, and there was an interesting review in Advances in Nutrition which also suggested high intake of omega-6 fatty acids is deleterious for health. Lawrence GD. Dietary fats and health: Dietary recommendations in the context of scientific evidence. Adv Nutr 2013; 4:294-302. For example, omega-6 promote tumor progression while omega-3 promote tumor regression, etc.

    I don’t know what to believe anymore when it comes to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. I think eating fish, especially oily fish, is very healthy but I wouldn’t do it for ethical reasons (not to mention environmental ones) – non-harming of sentient beings.

  18. Andreas Says:


    You can thank loren cordain for spreading misinformation.

    Addressing your points:

    1) Not all mediators(eicosanoids) produced by cells from arachidonic acid cause inflammatory reactions to alert the immune system(

    — Prostacyclin is a anti-inflammatory eicosanoid that is produced from arachidonic acid by endothelial cells, mainly when we exercise in a non-polluted environment. (I have personal experience with my endothelial cells producing prostacyclin when I exercise and it is a very good feeling in the heart).

    — Inflammatory eicosanoids are only produced by cells from arachidonic acid when we inhale air pollution, smoke, second-hand smoke and other toxins. (I have personal experience with producing Thromboxane A2 while walking through a polluted city during the winter and it is a very painful feeling in the heart.)

    2) There is no inhibition because biochemistry doesn’t work like this. Enzymes have an “affinity” for certain molecules. If there is more Linoleic Acid; LA takes precedence over ALA for the conversion to its longer chain metabolite, AA. If there is more ALA, ALA takes precedence over LA for the conversion to its longer chain metabolite, EPA.

    We require retinoic acid(Vitamin A) to produce sufficient DHA from ALA.

    3) Body mass index in the study in both groups is above 25; this indicates overweight sick people that eat processed foods and have slow metabolisms. 1/3 are smokers(?); as I stated above, smoke increases the production of inflammatory eicosanoids because smoke causes damage to the endothelial cells. How many live in polluted cities or inhale polluted toxins at their job? There is a lot of factors to take into account.

    This study might explain why refined oils are harmful.

    I agree with the comment on this page that you linked.

    Regarding Omega 6 eicosanoids and tumor growth: PGE2 promotes growth of “healthy” and mutated(cancer) cells. So.. its irrelevant because the initial cause of cancer is carcinogens, not PGE2 or other growth factors, like IGF-1.

    PGE2 increases muscle protein synthesis after exercise.

    Both Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are required because both have their own important functions in the body. Like the comment on the study that you linked said, we need to focus on whole plant foods rich in antioxidants and do our best to avoid toxins.

  19. Jack Norris RD Says:


    Can you tell us what your background is? I’m just curious to know.

    And how do you know you are producing a specific eicosanoid at different times?

  20. Andreas Says:

    “Can you tell us what your background is? I’m just curious to know.”

    As in education? I’m just a renaissance man in search for the truth.

    “And how do you know you are producing a specific eicosanoid at different times?”

    I know since I can feel the effect of each specific eicosanoid because they exert distinguishable actions that are noticeable. Either good or bad.

    I know Prostacyclin is being produced when I run because I feel the blood vessels of my heart vasodilate(widen and relax). My heart takes less pumps to accomplish the same amount of work. Its an overall amazing feeling in the heart that is very distinguishable from not producing it. I only started feeling it in my heart during exercise when I upped my intake of Omega 6’s.

    Role of nitric oxide and prostacyclin as vasoactive hormones released by the endothelium –

    More info to clarify the misunderstandings:

    Eicosanoids are lipid messengers:
    — One consequence of this is that lipid messengers cannot be stored in vesicles prior to release and so are often biosynthesized “on demand” at their intended site of action.

    Prostaglandins (PG) are products of arachidonic acid metabolic pathway and synthesized by many tissues including vascular endothelial cells. The role of prostaglandins and their receptors in inflammation and regulation of vascular permeability is complicated. Although prostaglandins may be involved in the generation of acute lung inflammation in part via vasodilatory effects, PGI2 and PGF2α exhibited protective effects in the resolution phase of inflammation

  21. Dan Says:

    It is amazing to think that you can detect PGI2 or TxA2 in your vasculature at different times. I have never thought of it that way – on a “molecular” level. True I get an endorphin rush after intensive exercise (usually following a game of squash). It is very hard to feel any pain in the immediate hours following a game of squash, if it has been intense. I had not realized omega-6 fatty acids could be good for you. Everything I had read suggested the opposite, even though they are well known to reduce total and LDL cholesterol concentrations.

    If you take aspirin, you will reduce your thromboxane A2 production, as measured by urinary TxA2 spillover. But at low doses of aspirin, prostacyclin is preserved. Therefore you get the benefit of vasodilatation and reduced platelet aggregation. That, at least, is the theory, and resulted in a Nobel Prize for John Vane (am I right?).

    Personally speaking, coming from both a scientific and medical background, I no longer know what to believe about this weathervane we call nutrition. The low carb guys say cholesterol and saturated fat are GOOD for you. The high carb guys say cholesterol and saturated fat are BAD for you. The low carb/paleo guys further say that omega-6 are dangerous, and a high omega-3:omega-6 ratio is essential. The high carb guys say omega-6 are beneficial. Speak with one fatty acid chemist and you will get one story. Speak with another and you’ll get an entirely different story. Some say cholesterol-heart disease link is a myth. Others say it is a reality, and a bad one. Same thing with SFA, PUFA, MUFA and TFA; carbs; fiber; protein; micronutrients (especially B, C, D and E). Every expert has a diametrically different opinion and can cite reams of evidence to back them up. Low carb guys say protein is ketogenic, so bad for you. Protein diet guys say no, protein is the central facet of the diet and is good for you. What about a bit of everything in moderation?

    Of course, if you are a vegan, you will not have much SFA or cholesterol in your diet. Nor will you have, potentially, much vitamin D, choline, vitamin A, B12, EPA, DHA or iodine. Some of these you may have to go to certain lengths to get from your diet (eating nori/seaweed, red colored vegetables, walnuts, quinoa, or finally, taking supplements).

    Proof positive of benefit from randomized trials in the field of nutrition is scarce and lacking. So much evidence is based on tiny mechanistic studies in animals or lab studies in humans (largely cross-sectional or with brief follow-up) or heavily confounded cohort and case-control studies which are prone to healthy user bias. It is possible that the field, at least at the research level, has been corrupted by vested interests (industrial and the “a priori” beliefs from two generations of scientists starting with Ansel Keys). Some are even saying that NOT eating may be good for you – intermittent fasting – or calorie restriction to keep your telomeres as lengthy as possible, for as long as possible. We may never know the answers to any of these questions. We should be willing to admit there is great uncertainty. I like this site a lot because I do not find there is a lot of promulgation of false certainty, false hope, or bias here.

  22. Andreas Says:

    Yes he did but I don’t agree with John Vane’s solution. Manipulation never gets to the root of the problem.

    High intake of Omega 6’s may be bad in our modern world because new research is indicating that technology causes dopamine dysregulation to our brains and dopamine is needed to stimulate prostaglandin production. I’ve noticed since I upped my intake of Omega 6’s, that I can’t use technology because I get a very painful headache’s right away.

    A high omega-3:omega-6 ratio may lead to small penis size through generations of males.

    Arachidonic Acid is required to produce endocannabinoids.

    I don’t believe cholesterol and saturated fat or any other type of nutrient our own body produces is bad unless its processed. The notion from paleo is that If a person has a hole in their intestine because of gluten, they will absorb cholesterol and saturated fat in the blood stream instead of being transported in lipoproteins, I agree with their notion however meat can still be harmful for numerous reasons.

    Cholesterol and other Lipids in Your Blood

    Some reasons why meat may be bad…

    “What about a bit of everything in moderation?”

    Exactly with activity though. A person can eat a clean diet but without sufficient activity, their body will deteriorate.

    “Proof positive of benefit from randomized trials in the field of nutrition is scarce and lacking.”

    It is lacking on paper. People want to hear good things about their bad habits. We know that disease is caused by over consumption of garbage food that contains no nutrients and inactivity. While people wait for a magic pill, china is exporting nutritious pecans out of America…

  23. Scott Says:

    And… wheat is a C3 plant.

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