Science and the Paleolithic Diet

Posted: 25/05/2013 in Big Food, Finance, Health
Tags: , ,

Recently on Facebook – macrobiotic questions, a question was raised concerning figures that peoples’ health was improving. I commented to the effect that the figures were doctored, and someone wrote that the figures were true and that it is the interpretation that presents lies. To me this is far from the truth. When I read in the media about all the social security scroungers from their own country and from abroad, I see a partial truth. There are people receiving money from the state. It then angers me when acquaintances post on facebook some kind of stereotype connected to this indoctrination. How much money do all of these so-called scroungers get paid? 50 bankers’ bonuses? Whether we like it on a personal level the fact is these people (scroungers as they are called) do not damage the economy but our financial elite have millions stashed away in tax havens whilst their puppet governments are forcing ordinary people into austerity programmes. Where are the figures that justify such a programme? The real problem that the statisticians create is not in the figures they get from experiments that are then intentionally misinterpreted, the problem is that we don’t have the figures we need in the first place. How does that happen?

To understand the science of figures we need to understand that science has to be financed – research grants. Despite the meaning of science as knowledge, it is not the search for knowledge that now directs but those that finance the experiments. Research money is offered for those who will prove the conclusions that are wanted by the sponsors. This means that we don’t get the raw data to be interpreted because that data is not found. Once money is on offer scientists design their experiments to provide the conclusions that are wanted by the research sponsors. And if perchance such experiments provide data the sponsors don’t want the data is interpreted in light of the sponsor’s desires or the experiment is shelved as a “failure” leaving the scientists out of a job. Yes, out of a job. It is necessary to see how universities function. I was a part-time member of staff at a Polytechnic, and a job came up. I was advised that the criteria for interview was how much research money I could bring in. None. At the same time I was teaching some Electrical engineers – not well as I made too many mistakes in lectures, but there was a positive result from this. These students paid attention in the lectures looking for the mistakes. In their exams at the end of the year their results were significantly higher than in previous years, so much so that there was an investigation as to whether I had collaborated with the students. Students’ folders were collected to check my notes, as well my exam-marking was checked. There was nothing, despite my mistakes the students and I had worked successfully together. Was a job forthcoming? No way – probably didn’t deserve it – level too high for me, there was no research money in teaching the students successfully to pass their exams. If a researcher loses sponsorship for the institute then their job is on the line; it is simple. It is essential to be clear that science is not neutral, it is not interpretation that is the problem with data, it is the systemic paradigm of research funding that creates a bank of data appropriate only for the wishes of the funders.

Given the power of BigFood I do not expect to see scientific evidence that promotes a plant-based diet. Whilst at TED and elsewhere there are plenty of people offering opinions concerning the positive effects of diet, energy work and meditation there is little actual evidence because who funds the truth? And what little there is is far outweighed by the funded evidence in favour of BigFood. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see this TED talk by Dr Christina Warinner:-

To begin with the data is presented in dry academic fashion, and clearly belies any truth in the paleolithic diet myth that “man” was fashioned by nature to eat meat. But the situation is nowhere near as simple as that, as any good science will always indicate. The conclusion I would want to draw is that our foods should be back to nature, eat what comes out of the ground as Nature intended. But what is very clear is that even the organic veg I would like to eat has been cross-bred by science. Whilst the organic carrots that we eat might not have any pesticides they are still not as Nature originally intended. I accept that the use of man’s mind has improved the carrot for consumption, so the problem is not man’s intervention alone.

Christina drew 3 lessons:-

1) No one “correct” diet, diversity is the key, and then she said “”depending on where you live”. My conclusion, eat local. Species diversity.

2) Evolved to eat fresh foods, in season when they are ripe.

3) Evolved to eat whole foods, “food is not just the sum of calories and vitamins”.

One bottle of soda contains the same amount of sugar as 8.5 feet of sugar cane, could paleo man ever have eaten that?

She discussed methods of food preservation including artificial preservatives, as methods that limit bacteria. But this limits some bacteria we need – good bacteria. She suggested this was something we are only just beginning to investigate. Who is that we? Good fermentation has been practised a long time, and has been recognised by nutrition as probiotics being needed. Every tradition has these foods, sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha tea, kvas, kefir and so many more. What science does not know is the effect of artificial preservatives on the good bacteria, for me there is no doubt – if it is artificial it is not healthy … but proof? Mind you my argument about BigFood deflecting science does not apply here. Naturally fermented foods do not need preservatives, why isn’t there more research being done into those foods? Our diets could improve just by eating more pickles – images of Liz Smith’s concoctions in Vicar of Dibley.

The plant-based diet I follow is supported by the science of this presentation. Plant-based food as whole foods not processed, bought at the local market preferably organic. I avoid veg from the big supermarkets because I don’t know how they have been treated to transport the veg. I can do this more easily – in the country with a community who are used to village markets, but western urban changes have included farmers’ markets. Paleo man was not eating Brontosaurus burgers a la Fred Flintstone, but he might well have caught a rabbit. B12. Vegetarians have problems in their diets because of the lack of B12 which can only be guaranteed from animal or fish sources. Rabbit would not be daily diet but maybe a delicacy caught on Sundays? Mb says eat fish once a week – that fits.

I think there is more to consider on cross-fertilisation, but science can contribute positively to our health. The question is what has changed with science that it now usually supports the corporations. Ah yes, the corporate paradigm.

  1. […] provided a balance between free range and the need to eat meat, this paleo balance I have discussed here. What was discussed here as a scientific rationale can also be the basis of a position of unity for […]

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