Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Paleolithic Diet, 5 - A Diet for the Planet?

If it's true that the Paleolithic Diet describes the best way for modern man to eat, a plan that would reduce human suffering caused by cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, dermatitis, autism, celiac disease and other gastrointestinal diseases and autoimmune disorders - then how can it not be unethical to send disease-inducing grain to the billions starving in drought-afflicted, war-torn, and economically disadvantaged countries? Not to mention those without sufficient food in this country?

There's little question, at least in Cordain's mind, that the Paleolithic Diet is meat-based:
"The fossil evidence as well as the ethnographic evidence from groups of hunter-gatherers studied in historical times suggests that the diet of pre-agricultural humans was derived primarily from animal based foods."
- The Paleolithic Diet and Its Modern Implications: An Interview with Loren Cordain, PhD
Shall we replace our shipments of grain to these countries with lean meat and seafood? Is that a realistic prescription?

Let's look at the planet as a whole. Is this diet a reasonable approach for feeding the bulk of the world's 6.6 billion inhabitants? Cordain: "Without cereal grains, there would be massive starvation of unprecedented proportion on the planet." And a Cordain-approved reader review: "... only about ten percent of the world's population could be adequately sustained on a Paleo-compatible diet."

Which 10% does he suggest we spare? I found his answer chilling:
" ... in most western countries, cereals are not a necessity, particularly in many segments of the population that suffer most from Syndrome X and other chronic diseases of civilization. In this population, a return to a Stone Age Diet is not only possible, but highly practical in terms of long-term healthcare costs."1
He suggests we spare those people in western countries whose economic resources allow them to arrive at middle age with chronic diseases, but sacrifice those whose journey beyond youth may be cut off by hunger and malnutrition? Ouch.

I can't say I always make my food choices based on how they affect the rest of the world's population. But I'm not writing a book recommending how people should eat. If I was, I might have researched this aspect a smidgen more.
1 All quotes via The Paleo Diet.
Cartoon by Clay Bennett.

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