By Matthew Sun
The Paleo Diet is a new fad that had been gaining popularity, purported to assist with weight loss and a whole host of modern diseases, but is it really as healthy as it claims to be? The diet attempts to mimic the diet of our stone age (Paleolithic) ancestors, and recommends that people eat lots of fish, free range meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, roots and nuts, yet exclude grains, dairy, legumes, potatoes, salt, sugar and oil.
So to analyze the diet in a fair way, we can take a look at several basic facts. The general health and life expectancy of the stone age people, the general anatomy of different animals compared to us as humans, and also investigate the diet of the healthiest and longest living humans currently existing on the planet.
Life as a stone age person was not necessarily a fun experience. It has been estimated by several anthropologists that only about 40-50% of them made it past the age of 15, and of the ones that made it past this young age, only about 10% made it to 70. The average life expectancy because of all this was around 20 years. That's a far cry from what one would call a healthy happy life.
So why would we want to mimic this kind of diet, and who is to say that cave men had knowledge into the perfect diet for humans? These people lived in a terrible situation and their diet was no doubt one of emergency survival, as was their whole lives. There is no answer to this question, but if we look at it logically, the Paleo Diet indeed does look healthier than the standard American diet, because at least a person on this diet has cut out half of the unhealthy foods, namely dairy, salt, sugar and refined flour, but could it be improved further?
If we look at our animal friends, we can see distinct differences between carnivores, omnivores, frugivores and herbivores. So which of the four is the human anatomy the closest to? Without a doubt humans resemble frugivores and herbivores. So lets lay it out in simple terms:
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Claws - Yes
Herbivores (vegans): Claws - No
Humans: Claws – No
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Flat molars for grinding – No. Sharp front teeth for tearing flesh – Yes.
Herbivores (vegans): Flat molars for grinding – Yes. Sharp front teeth for tearing flesh – No.
Humans: Flat molars for grinding – Yes. Sharp front teeth for tearing flesh – No.
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Perspire through the tongue
Herbivores (vegans): Perspire through the skin
Humans: Perspire through the skin
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Intestinal tract - 3 times their body length (so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly)
Herbivores (vegans): Intestinal tract: 10-12 times their body length.
Humans: Intestinal tract: 10-12 times their body length.
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Saliva PH - Acid (with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains)
Herbivores (vegans): Saliva PH – Alkaline (with ptyalin to pre-digest grains)
Humans: Saliva PH – Alkaline (with ptyalin to pre-digest grains)
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Stomach Acid – Strong (to digest meat)
Herbivores (vegans): Stomach acid - 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Humans: Stomach acid - 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Carnivores (Meat-eaters): Saliva can digest grains and fruits - No
Herbivores (vegans): Saliva can digest grains and fruits - Yes
Humans: Saliva can digest grains and fruits - Yes
So from the above facts we can see that humans are very close to herbivore (vegan) animals in their physiological makeup.
But looking theoretically at our body and it's functions is not enough. We also need to check this theory in practice.
A man named Dr T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II (a physician), in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, Cornell University and Oxford University conducted the most comprehensive study ever on human nutrition. The study spanned 30 years and thousands of people. The results of the study were indisputable, "The authors conclude that people who eat a plant-based/vegan diet—avoiding animal products such as beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk, and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates—will escape, reduce or reverse the development of chronic diseases." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study_(book)
So the people who live the longest amount of disease free years on the planet are indeed vegans. The point about disease free years is an important one to consider also, because although people in the Western world regularly live over 70, many of those final years are spent suffering with health problems and being kept alive by extremely invasive surgery and medication with terrible side effects.
From the above evidence it seem conclusive that the healthiest diet for humans is indeed a vegan diet, or a diet that does not include any animals products. The Paleo diet is halfway there, in the way that it recommends we eat more whole foods, and cut out dairy products, refined flour, salt and sugar, but it doesn't quite go far enough. If we want to be healthy, why not do it as best we can, and with all the supporting evidence and science that we have, because surely as far as we have advanced since the stone age, we should be able to figure out what is the healthiest way to eat. Luckily we have. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes, the recipe choices are endless.