Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kresser on the Warinner Critique of "Paleo"

An excerpt from this podcast by Chris Kresser, in which Chris responds to this TED talk by Christina Warinner, who thinks she's "debunking" the paleo diet (BTW, most of her criticisms are why I refer to the "Paleolithic Model of Nutrition" vice "eating paleo", which you and I cannot actually do):  
Chris Kresser:  Yeah.  If we were in a room talking about this stuff, I’d probably agree with her more than I would disagree with her, but there are some key points of disagreement, which I hope I made clear.  I also just want to end this by just shifting gears completely and saying that I think we can justify the paleo nutrition approach without even resorting to the evolutionary argument whatsoever, and I’m going to do this in my book.  You can look at paleo nutrition just strictly using modern research, and you can make an argument for it, and people like Mat Lalonde these days are almost exclusively talking about it in these terms to avoid the kind of misunderstanding that can happen that we’ve just been talking about.  But if you think about maximizing nutrient density, so making your diet focus on the most nutrient-dense foods and eating less of the least nutrient-dense foods, what do we see if we do that?  Well, guess what foods are the most nutrient dense, Steve?
Steve Wright:  Uhhhh, wheat.
Chris Kresser:  Haha, either that or beef liver, organ meats.  I’m referring to this in my book.  It’s a peer-reviewed study using a scale of nutrient density that is actually even stacked against animal products because they penalize foods for saturated fat and cholesterol and salt.  But even considering that, even with the deck stacked against them, animal products are still number one on the list.  So organ meats were number one in terms of nutrient density, and then muscle meats and fish and poultry were number two in terms of nutrient density.  The next category is vegetables.  And then after that, you have fruits and nuts, depending on the fruits and nuts switching places.  And then whole legumes are after that, and then whole grains.  And then you have processed, refined grains and sugar at the bottom of the list and seed oils.  So if you evaluate foods just on the basis of nutrient density using modern, clinical, peer-reviewed research, the paleo diet still looks pretty good.
And then the next thing would be minimizing toxins, and using that same argument, we look at foods that have immunogenic or allergenic proteins.  We look at things like phytic acid, which can inhibit mineral absorption.  Phytic acid is in a lot of foods, including good foods like spinach and greens.  In fact, there’s more phytate in spinach and greens than in some grains and legumes, so it’s not that we need to avoid that entirely, but the reason it’s not as much of a problem in greens is that the greens are just so nutrient dense that we’re going to absorb a lot of other nutrients from the greens that aren’t inhibited by phytate.  So it’s not that phytic acid withdraws any nutrients that are already stored in your body.  It just prevents you from absorbing certain nutrients, primarily minerals, in the foods that you eat.

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