Neanderthin (Paleo) life style

I haven't updated this page for a long time, but this time I have to. Gary Taubes have written a new book, "The Diet Delusion", that provides the last piece of the puzzle of obesity that Atkins and others have needed to construct a complete and cohesive theory. Taubes' book signals a shift i paradigm. Please watch this video: Big Fat Lies speech at Stevens Institute of Technology, 2008 as it supplements the stuff here. Make no mistake, people like Audette, Atkins and the Eades' have been so friggin close. Taubes just provides the last piece of the puzzle and in doing so completely flips over the paradigm.

The Paleolithic Diet a.k.a. Neanderthin is the diet that we humans are genetically adapted to eat. The paleolithic age is the same as the Stone Age - so this is a stone age diet or life style. This has been humanity's preferred diet for something like 2.5 million years, and humans have only genetically changed 0.005% since the introduction of agriculture (the Neolithic). As a rule, agricultural (and technological) products are not healthy to eat, and we should predominantly try to eat only those whole foods that are healthy in their raw state (though almost all humans, including hunter-gatherers cook their food). (Check out the Paleolithic links)

This is not a quick-fix diet but a way of life. You're not supposed to starve when you eat only paleo foods. Eat when you're hungry!

Disclaimer: the below are the bare essentials with no particular attempt at being in-depth, and they're to an extent my personal notes (and may change as my opinion does). Read the books in the Paleolithic links section if you need specifics.

[What to eat] [Menu examples] [Weight loss] [Fat] [Cholesterol] [Meat and Protein] [Carbohydrate] [Paleo vs. other (low-carb) diets] [FAQ - Q&A]

What to eat?

Do eat:

Do not eat:

Go easy on:

(*) Read on for more about my stance on dairy

Basically: if our ancestors could pick it from a bush or catch it with a spear, you can eat it. The rule is that a food is healthy, if you could have eaten it in its raw state. This is a naturally occurring "low to medium carbohydrate" way of eating.

If you have to "cheat" the most forgiveable cheat is butter, full cream and cheese, and fermented milk products like yoghurt (as long as you're not lactose intolerant, which incidentally a large percentage of the world's population are). The Maasai, who are traditional hunter-gatherers, are reknowned for their vast consumption of milk and meat and preferably little else - they're obviously not allergic to milk. Ray Audette doesn't recommend eating dairy products, and he cured himself of some very severe arthritis by cutting this food out - the point is that you may be allergic to milk and not actually know it. So experiment! I can guarantee that you can live easily without dairy as I did for 7-8 months before trying out dairy again. In my case I've experienced no ill effects from this re-introduction of dairy - but that's just my genes; your's may differ. My stance on dairy is that obviously a lot of people DOES tolerate it quite well, but MOST do not (if you count the Chinese). So speaking in evolutionary terms the adaption to eating dairy may be relatively recent. Dairy can make a lot of meals easier to prepare and it extends the range of recipies you can use.

The big killers of modern civilization, cancer and cardiovascular disease, are not nearly as prevalent among hunter-gatherers. Also, another big problem is diabetes and other insulin-related illnesses - what used to be called "adult onset diabetes", the disease striking older people at 50 or 60, is now rampant among young people too as lots of kids age 9 exhibit the very first signs of diabetes 2.

Consider something: the low-fat hysteria is at an all-time high, yet more and more people are getting fat. Something just doesn't FIT. Generally speaking, foods high on carbohydrate will help make you fat, simply because high-carb foods doesn't sate you before you've eaten more calories than you need and because high-carb foods make satiety last shorter than if you eat meat and veggies. Also, as Gary Taubes has pointed out recently, insulin seems to be driving obesity along with the break-down product alpha-glycerol-phosphate that comes from metabolized sugar. Stored fat are triglycerides, ie. three fats held together by an alpha-glycerol-phosphate molecule. Eating a diet that doesn't provide tons of sugar/carb will reduce a-g-p, and since fat is actually metabolically active it frequently needs a-g-p to reintegrate dissolved triglycerides into the fat storage (using lipogenesis). Less a-g-p means easier access to fat and makes it harder for the body to store excess energy. Insulin gone and you body can enter ketosis, meaning you burn fat. If insulin is there your fat storage is locked down. This means you cannot burn fat and you cannot get to the energy, which is turn seems to increase appetive because the body thinks it's hungry.

Carbohydrate is just a techical or generic word for what lay men call "sugar" or "starch", nothing more, nothing less. It isn't strictly necessary for humans, and it should only be eaten in the amounts present in vegetables and fruit. Protein can be converted to carbohydrate by the body on a need-to-have basis, but it doesn't cause blood sugar spikes.

Eating the Paleo way doesn't require you to buy all sorts of fancy get-slim-fast products or powerbars. You can get your food easily at the local super market. To explore the details of the diet, try browsing the Paleolithic links provided.


Menu examples (no dairy)





Some examples with dairy added:






Weight loss

You can lose weight on the paleo diet. Expect a steady pace, faster initially and then slowing a little as you get nearer to your optimal weight. Here's something about why. Calories probably do matter, it's just not something you have to count. The trick is that when you've eaten a paleo meal you'll feel as satisfied as before, but on less calories. Also, on the paleo diet you'll be cutting down on the recreational eating - you primarily eat to stave off hunger, not for fun. Snacks aren't for fun, but to kill hunger. Just as important, as the new stuff from Taubes says, when you eat like this you do not upset your body's ability to metabolize the food it's getting. Obesity, in Taubes' words, is a metabolic disease where those with the genes for it will see obesity manifest itself if sugar is added to the environment.

When you're trying to lose weight eat only when you're hungry - don't eat for fun (except occasionally). Don't stuff yourself like there was no tomorrow:. Remember that your next meal is never further away than the snacks (real foods) you always keep with you. Try to eat just the right amount to make the hunger go away - with the knowledge that you can always snack between meals. This should help making your stomach shrink. Feeling full and satisfied is the key to success on this diet, and you have to teach your body that paleo foods are what makes it feel good (because that's what they do!). Strictly speaking this isn't particularly paleolithic as such, it's just good advice for anyone trying to lose weight.

Always eat mixed meals with lots of vegetables. Eating "only" meat is likely to get you killed in the long run unless you possess the specific knowledge of what to eat on such a diet. The traditional winter diet of the Inuit isn't made up of skinless chicked breast morning, lunch and dinner - it's far more sophisticated than that. Eat mixed and you don't have to worry about getting sufficient nutrients. Personally? Well, I am not a big fan of vegetables, but the meat and fat sorta makes up for it, complements it.

Remember that after a week on strict paleo foods everything will change. You will feel very different and the way you experience hunger and eating will be different - it will be better and more manageable.

You'll be eating very different foods than you're used to. Start out conservatively and see how much you need to feel full. E.g. don't panic and make 6 eggs and 12 slices of bacon, even if you can stuff it all down. Make 3 eggs and 3 slices of bacon for breakfast and see how far it'll carry you. You can always supplement with snacks (fruit, meat, nuts, carrots) if you happen to get hungry soon after breakfast.

Various notes:

  1. You get a metabolic advantage by eating more protein, but there does not exist any other magic metabolic advantage. What you gain on protein here may even out with your slightly increased fat consumption which has a lower thermic effect than carbohydrate. Protein has a thermic effect of 25%, meaning you only get 75 g. of effective energy from 100 g. protein eaten. Carbohydrate has a thermic effect of 15% and fat 0%.
  2. Your body will be more conditioned to burning fat for energy when you stop relying on sugar/starch/complex carbohydrates for energy. This may aid your weight loss as the body will have no resistance to losing your fat stores, but it is not scientifically known - or rather that last part seems to have quite some support now due to Gary Taubes' brilliant work. Most likely, when your body adapts to the new diet you'll just feel better.
  3. The low levels of insulin in your blood opens up for the fat burning process. Again: most likely to make you feel better, but it doesn't change the energy needed and expended. However, what frequently happens is that a person will slowly feel he or she has more energy now that the body can get at those fat stores and burn it becasue there's only little insulin in the body. Sometimes this gives the surplus motivation needed for excercise.
  4. Fat and adequate protein will prevent loss of lean body mass.
  5. The diet does not lower your metabolism because you eat plenty of nutritious food.
  6. (Complex) carbohydrates are just complicated molecular arrays of sugars. When absorbed by the body they are converted to simple sugars. Humans can taste simple sugars as "sweet" on their tongue, whereas a potato doesn't taste sweet despite producing a big sugar load on the body.
  7. You eliminate high-carbohydrate foods that used to provide you with vast amounts of calories. Protein and carbohydrate are 4 calories per g., fat 9 calories per g. Try to do the math yourself, e.g. by entering two sample days on Fitday. One such comparison I did showed I now eat 1000 kcal less per day.
  8. With the paleo diet you will be free of addiction and your appetite will be stabilized. And you will not feel hungry, despite eating less calories.
  9. Insulin is a special player. It's a hormone primarily responsible for eliminating blood sugar from your blood. Its secondary function is to transport amino acids to your muscles, and also to store fat. When you eat bread or a baked potato you cause a sudden, dramatic rise in blood sugar, and your body responds by frantically producing insulin to remove this dangerous substance from your veins.
  10. For some people -- especially those of us who tend to get overweight by overeating -- this insulin surge causes an unnatural lowering of our blood sugar, making us even hungrier than we were before. Which means you eat much more than you actually need, and that you get hungry again too fast (which is why people often drink cola or eat candy to fend off the "sugar cold", yet they only feel good when they're eating/drinking constantly).
  11. These rapid rises and falls in blood sugar cause something akin to an addiction to sugar. You end up chasing that sweet sugar high.
  12. Your body does try to protect itself from obesity by becoming insulin resistant on the sugar pumps. However, this tends to start a dangerous arms race between your insulin producing pancreas and the sugar pumps in your blood veins. In time this often causes diabetes 2 in people, a.k.a. "old man's diabetes". Even young people are today struck by diabetes due to all the cola and complex carbohydrate junk they eat.
  13. Willpower is not needed in the same amuont as with other diets, as your addictions will fade in a few weeks, and you simply do not starve on this diet. (This is NOT the inhuman and degrading Fat Club).
  14. Coffee can disturb your appetite by provoking a noticeable insulin response that eventually lowers blood sugar levels (makes you hungry and moody), although some research shows coffee actually increases insulin sensitivity - but the result may be the same lowering of blood sugar. You should remind yourself that if you get hungry shortly after drinking your morning coffee, it is not because you need food. Coffee is not allowed on the paleo diet, but most people drink it anyway.
  15. Alchohol can have much the same effect as coffee. It gives you the munchies, and often you start craving some of that sweet carbohydrate (pizza anyone?)
  16. Protein and fat make you feel sated quickly and for a long time, but it is important to have both fat and protein in the diet. Lean protein may actually make you feel sated quickly, but without the fat (and the added calories) you won't feel full until your next meal, so take care not to lower calories too much. Neanderthin dieting should not be low fat but medium to high.
  17. Some theorize that your body can sense the extra nutritional value from paleo food, and that this make you feel sated more quickly. I'm not sure that's a true theory.
  18. You generally do not need to put an effort into getting enough fat. With the fat on animal flesh, nuts and the oil on your salads you should be covered adequately, provided you don't restrain yourself excessively due to the old "fear of the fat" attitude.
  19. Calories matter to some degree, just not as much as on a "normal" diet. You'll find that you lose weight on a higher calorie count, and you'll find that you normally won't noticably gain weight if you eat too much, just stall your weight loss. It is possible to eat so little that you lower your basic metabolism, but this should and must not happen. Most of the time people stall in their weight loss it's because they eat sufficient energy from dietary sources.
  20. Nuts are allowed, and they're vital as snacks for the modern caveman. However, they contain a lot of oil. Eat too many nuts and you'll meet your body's energy needs exclusively through your diet. That way you do not metabolize your own fat for energy. Eat half a handfuld at a time and let 5-10 minutes pass and see if the hunger goes away. One handful of nuts will weigh approx. 30 grams (about an ounce). Calorie-wise a 30 g. handfuld of hazelnut/filberts is the same as 320 g. of apples or 435 g. of carrots. However, the impact of carrots on the body may influence insulin levels if overdone and the (especially raw) fiber may upset the stomach to some degree. Nuts don't.
  21. Bacon can do a bit of the same as nuts. It's very high fat, salty, and you may end up eating many more calories than you expected. Sausages, spare ribs and pork rib roast fall in this category as well. Consider switching to unprocessed bacon (no additives, smoke and you can hold the salt a little).
  22. Fruits are allowed on the paleo diet. Eating too many may slow down your weight loss, and you might wish to opt for a more "winter diet" scheme, ie. eat only meat and vegetables. Fruits may be a big problem if you're very insulin resistant or if you suffer from diabetes. Dried fruit and honey are not recommended, except occasionally, due to their candy-level sugar. Go easy on the bananas and other starchy fruit. Notice how this advice also effectively restricts calories.
  23. The simpler you prepare your food, the better from an overeating point of view. Remember that in nature a starchy food is also never fatty, a sweet (fruit) never also fatty. Processed foods easily violate this principle and disturbs your natural appetite. Danish pastry e.g. is loaded with simple sugar, starch, salt and fat. Potato chips are loaded with both fat, complex carbohydrates and salt.
  24. Excessive use of salt is not only unhealthy, but it screws up your appetite as well. Everyone knows the addictive properties of pistachios. If at all possible, only eat unsalted, natural nuts (or be prepared to muster some of that old will power). Pork rinds are OK too, but go for the least salty and least fatty ones: most do not need pork rinds with 50% fat by volume. (I've noticed that the "fluffy" ones are the least fatty.)
  25. Consider getting a food dehydrator for making your own jerky (dried meat). It's a great hi-protein, low fat, snack that stores conveniently. Jerky can also be used to make pemmican.
  26. Body composition may change during the diet. If you want complete knowledge about these changes, get tested at your local gym or buy one of the cheaper (and more inaccurate) weights that also measure your body fat percentages (they do this by sending an electrical current through your body).
  27. Generally don't use all sorts of Power Bars and other refined low-carb products. The culprit is often the sugar alchohols, aka sorbitol and maltitol. Some people do not digest them, others actually do. For some they cause a blood sugar rise.
  28. Exercise is not necessary to lose weight on this diet. Generally speaking fat people tend to be in such a bad shape that any exercise doesn't really contribute much to weight loss. Actually, if you're very overweight and exercise very hard you may easily end up hurting yourself. Exercise in moderate amounts is of course healthy for a lot of things, and you do not need to work out extremely hard to get good health benefits. Our ancestors tried to relax most of the time, and the exercise they got was mostly walking and the short bursts of explosive energy when trying to kill their prey (or trying to escape from being prey themselves). Weight or resistance training is generally encouraged as an efficient way to get in shape and build muscle.
  29. Social crap is perhaps the worst bane of your diet. Most people are unfortunately very conservative. They like to do things like they've always done things, and they actually experience fear and dislike for different life styles. Many feel genuinely threatened, because if YOU can change your life AND be even happier in doing so, it asks the very frightening question of whether the "normal person" is actually getting the most out of his or her life. So they raise eyebrows, make fun of your eating habits and occasionally yell at you much the same way as many people get terribly agitated over drugs. There is no magic bullet for this, but I really think you need to tell people to shut the fuck up (in a nice way of course) and stop being so horribly prejudicial. The diet gives results and it's healthy and you are in your very best right to do what ever the heck you wanna do with your life - that's what really matters. If someone else can't understand this by all means let them disagree, but stop the COLD in their tracks if they get nasty in their remarks. They have NO right to treat you like that. But ... oh boy ... can people be dense. Sometimes it really helps if you start hanging out with people who are also into the diet. Every human needs his or her social group. That is an evolutionary fact as well.
  30. The hard facts of life like having a job, long transportaion, kids to pick up at kindergarten and so on may steal your time. Low-medium carb diets take a little longer to prepare. The cantina at work may be shitty and provide mostly carby foods. Don't give up. If you must eat one carby meal per day it may as well be lunch. Consider this. After lunch you can snack as usual, and at dinner you can probably manage to get few carbs as well. After a while you'll hit ketosis, sleep during ketosis and when you wake up you can eat a can of tuna (or whatever) and remain in ketosis until the carby lunch. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing.


Phases of weight loss

In the beginning

If you're starting and have a bit of weight to lose you'll be able to lose almost no matter how many calories you eat. This is good and it means you will lose weight even if you don't fully master this way of eating at this point.

The problem at this initial stage is that you may have severe cravings, and you may be very insulin resistent. To fix these problems it may be smart to do a "cold turkey" with regard to carbs. I.e. make sure you eat very, very little carb for 1-2 weeks. So don't eat fruit each and every day (reserve this for the weekend and other special treats). No honey! You may even want to mostly eat green, leafy vegetables only (probably only necessary if you have very bad problems).

You don't have to go through such a stage, but if you seem to have problems losing weight try it out. It may simply be insulin resistance that's holding your weight loss back. You can use the model of morphine on insulin. Like any person who's been operated and gone through great pains know once you do a lot of morphine your body builds up a tolerance and you need more and more to keep the pain at bay. Then when you're healed and actually don't have any pains left to medicate most people simply stop cold turkey because the medical profession doesn't like the concept of slowly reducing the dose to avoid abstinence problems. As you full well know virtually everyone gets a short period of discomfort, but the body becomes fully sensitive in a very short time without any further problems. Insulin won't give you abstinense symptoms per se, but you may go through a short period where your body isn't adapted to the new suger and starch free environment. Hang in there and if you don't feel better in a couple of weeks or three you might consider not doing low-carb. Personally I felt good initially, yet in some way slightly worse, but it panned out in about a month and after that it was just even greater on every single aspect.

Steady weight loss period

At this point you will not have many cravings and you will have become more insulin sensitive. This is good. You'll also be more settled into the life style.

Weight loss will probably be totally effortless at this point. You may even think it's almost like magic. Even the occasional cheat may not seem to stall you.

Close to optimal weight

At this point you may experience that your weight loss becomes slower or even stalls. The body may be a bit more reluctant to give up those last stores of fat. At this point it may pay to look more at the calories-in-calories-out. However, do not starve yourself, because you'll just lower base metabolism while losing weight and when you stop starvin the body will keep the metabolism in its lowered state until you've gained what you lost (and then some). In fact, it may be better at this stage to look yourself in the mirror and ask if it's not better to simply accept yourself for what you are.

You've probably experienced how your appetite has diminished a bit along the way, e.g. you need less snacks to keep you going and that sort of thing. However, old habits die hard. So if you've made breakfast with the same 4 slices of bacon and 3 eggs all the time maybe it's time to consider cutting a little down. Also, your hand is probably not 20% smaller even though your body may be, so that same "handful of nuts" may help cover much more of your energy needs than when you started.

So for a short period you may try cutting down on the most fatty meats and nuts. Eat carrots and fruit instead. You can still eat 300 grams of apples for each 30 grams of nuts you eat. Fruit alone, despite being carby, will probably not make you insulin resistant again. Berries are a good alternative to fruit, you can eat 600 g. of strawberries instead of 30 grams of hazelnuts. Physically most people can easily stomach 60 grams of nuts (2 ounces), so it's easy to get too many calories. However, most people can't do the same on veggies and fruit.

There is a catch, however, and that lies in the balance of the diet and how it impacts your sense of appetite. Bottomline is that you pretty much cannot do the low-fat hokey-pokey and feel sated - so you will often experience an empty, hollow feeling in your stomach if you try to eat nothing but apples and carrots. At some level you simply need that fat, but the advice here is simply to moderate fat intake along the lines of "trim your pork chops, but leave a little of the good stuff on it."

If more fruit and veggies aren't your thing, try going for a little more lean meat in this final stage before you reach your goal.


At this point you won't have much body fat to cover your energy needs, so you may have to stop trimming your pork chops in order to get sufficient energy. You may actually have to go back to eating a bit more like you did during your steady weight loss period. Some people chose to "carb up" at this stage. You can also chose to eat more fat.



Roughly speaking these are the "interesting fats":

The ideal paleo composition of fats are according to how they occur naturally in animals (meat, fish, eggs) and the plants eaten (nuts, avocado).

According to Loren Cordain the paleo diet contains moderate amounts of SFA and PUFA, and more MUFA. Also, the paleo dieter tries to get his share of Omega 3 PUFA. He would advice you eat lean meats (go easy on the muscle fat), and get more fat from oils with good Omega6/Omega3 ratios. Eating fat fish is good for your Omega 3 (eat wild fish, not farmed varieties: the Omega 3 comes from seaweed in the fish's diet). Cordain sees no evolutionary evidence (and not much scientific) that humans are fit to eat large quantities of saturated fat: it was never part of our original, pre-agricultural diet. Cordain is a firm believer in the "lipid hypothesis" and therefore prescribes lean meats.

However, I consider this to be a questionable position. For the science view see The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics and The Weston A. Price Foundation that have among them Mary Enig, the fatty acid expert. One of the problems of the theory is that oils like canola (rape seed) and even olive oil weren't available to our ancestors, so they can't have eaten them. They would get their fat from animal sources mostly, and then a few from nuts and other fatty fruit. Another thing is the recurring chorus of everyone saying "balance Omega 6 and Omega 3". Problem is that it's next to impossible to eat a proper Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio by upping the amounts of salmon, sardines and mackerel eaten. The only way to get there is to reduce PUFAs, and that generally means reduce vegetable oils, and it means proportionally eating more SFA and MUFA. Once the vegetable oils are reduced SFA proportionally goes up as well. Lard would generally be a good fat for frying and cooking various things: 39.2% SFA, 45.1% MUFA and 11.2% PUFA (doesn't sum to 100 as there are other lipids not specified in the USDA database). See Stephen Byrnes vs. Cordain's view.

Saturated fat is always singled out as the cholesterol killer, but it is a simple fact that is is the polyunsaturated fat that clogs up the arteries. LDL cholesterol actually has a PUFA as the fatty component of it and it is that part that can be damaged by oxygen or blood sugar, and that's when it becomes clogging. Nor should you listen in particular to the argument that SFA makes the blood greasy, clogging it up. Greasyness in itself doesn't make arteries clog - however if you think the robust, SFA is nasty, then think what sticky sugar would do inside your veins (try pouring either in your computer keyboard and see which one renders the device inoperable).

Trans fatty acids are just bad for you. Some of these are naturally occurring in human breast milk and cow butter, but the amounts are small and of a different configuration that the commercially produced trans fats. The modern produced ones are unnatural, have large traces of nickel (at catalyst used when making the trans fat), and the body simply cannot handle this foreign substance. It causes great damage inside your cells. Avoid at all costs!

It is necessary, though, to say something else about fat. Eating like a caveman is NOT a low-fat adventure. One simply has to abandon the fears and hesitations that the massive propaganda of the last 50 years have instilled in us. Psychologically you're just not going to make it if you try to do paleo the low-fat way. You may get ill and not accomplish your goals. But the "fear of the fat" is so widespread and 99% of all people pick the low-fat foods from the counter at the super market, and a lot of people have been conditioned so bad by the hysterical anti-fat hype that they have convinced themselves that "they don't like fat". It is not going to be easy, but those psychological barriers must be reconsidered and re-examined. You may want to limit yourself slightly on the fat during your weight loss phase (calories do count), but at maintenance where you don't want to lose more you have to eat sufficient amounts of fat or you'll waste away. Also, if you're very physically active you'll probably kill yourself if you don't eat enough fat. It's not uncommon to derive your energy percentagewise from 60% fat, 25% protein and 15% carbohydrate; give and take depending on your eating habits..

In reality you probably won't be eating that much more fat in total (by weight) when you cut out the hidden fat sources you used to eat: crackers, candy bars, cake, pastry and god knows how many strange processed foods you were eating. But the fat you'll be eating will be of a so much better quality.



Cholesterols are:

LDL aren't bad as such. However, they are subject to being damaged a lot easier than other cholesterols in the body, and when damaged they "go bad" and can clog your arteries. LDL goes bad from two things: 1) Oxidization and 2) caramelization. In oxidization it is oxygen that damages the LDL, in caramelization it is blood sugar that damages it.

LDLs can also improve their defenses against oxidization on a low-carb diet. They do this by changing appearance from a hard, little ball to a bigger, fluffy one.

Generally speaking a good cholesterol profile is one where the HDL to triglyceride ratio is good, ie. lots of HDL and few triglycerides. It seems to be more important than the absolute level of LDL.

Another thing people tend to forget is that the body produces the vast majority of any cholesterol. Dietary sources only account for at most 15%, but then we're also counting people with genetic flaws who have a cholesterol metabolism error. In normal people dietary intervention tends to be able to only change cholesterol levels with less than 5%. Your own liver makes the rest.

Get tested before going on the diet. And get tested during if you have any doubts. And get a little wiser here: The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics.


Meat and Protein

The advantages of protein are too many to describe here. The important thing is to get an adequate supply of them, and to get all types of protein - or rather all types of amino acids. Meat contains all the possible types of amino acids, though different meats differ. In this regard meat is the absolute king of nutrition. Some amino acids only found in meat (and eggs and dairy in smaller amounts) are e.g. cysteine. This is necessary to synthesize the multi-antioxidant glutathione in the body.

Meat also contains B12 and vitamin A and D in pure form. These are absolutely vital and cannot be obtained so easily elsewhere. B12 must be obtained from meat. Vitamin A and D are found as precursors in beta carotene and the cholesterol of the skin that can be transformed by the sun. However, in children these transforming processes do not work very well and they're dependent on a dietary supply of the real thing.

Be aware that if you suffer from disease, especially that of the bowel, you may experience trouble with digesting meat. In that case it is wise to remove the likely culprits from the menu, namely grains and other high carbohydrate foods. Then live for a while mostly on vegetables and fat, and take a "pre-digested" protein supplement. Ironically you may be severely amino acid deficient due to the disease. When the gut stabilizes itself you can re-introduce meat.



Restricting carbohydrates from the very hi-carb sources is the primary importance of the diet. Carbohydrates are only allowed from natural sources, and they simply tend to be rather low-carb pr. definition.

It would technically be possible to eat low-carb while eating bread, rice and potatoes. However, you'll quickly blow your daily carb allowance with a couple of slices of bread or a small cup of cornflakes. That way you won't even be able to eat broccoli for the rest of the day, and that's when the diet becomes difficult to follow. 30 grams of cornflakes contains 25 grams of carbohydrate, but you could've eaten 500 grams of broccoli instead to get those carbs.

Also, when the body is flooded with insulin, especially in a person that's insulin resistent, that person simply cannot burn fat for fuel. Insulin needs to be low-moderate in order for this to happen.


Paleo vs. other (low-carb) diets

Paleo vs. Atkins

Atkins is the most well known low-carb diet. Atkins himself followed his diet for the majority of his life, stayed lean, healthy and fit. He tragically died in 2003 from trauma to the head when falling on the sidewalk in New York. He lived to be 72 and didn't die of a heart attack (as most of his enemies would have preferred).

The Atkins diet is primarily aimed at weight loss, but it also addresses all the other problems of our modern diet, namely diabetes, cardiovascular disease and bowel disorders. Carb restriction is of outmost importance and it is probably the most carb-restrictive of all the low-carb diets out there (20 grams per day at Induction), and Atkins also emphasizes the importance of eating a large percentage of your daily energy from fat. On Atkins you count carbs, and foods are mostly evaluated on their carb contents. If it has little carb in it, it's OK to eat. On paleo you don't count carbs, you just eat whatever you want as long as it comes from the sources humans are evolutionarily adapted to eat.

Atkins thus allows a number of foods that are not part of Neanderthin: (low carb) bread, soy, legumes, cheese, butter, dairy and artificial sweeteners.

Atkins also uses Induction, which is a very low carb introductory period of 1-2 weeks. This very low carb period causes a diuretic effect that often accounts for a weight loss of 5 pounds depending on the person. Induction has a psychological effect as you "commit 100% percent" and no cheating is allowed whatsoever, and a lot of people are encouraged by the 5 pounds they lose (although it is mostly water) in addition to the real weight loss of maybe 1-3 pounds. Induction, however, has a couple of side effects that seem to cause people a lot of trouble (it often comes up on the support news group One is the diuretic effect where you drive large amounts of water from your body -- this is caused by the depletion of muscle glycogen stores and glycogen binds water. Along with the water a lot of minerals escape from the body, namely potassium (kalium) and that can leave a person feeling very washed out, lifeless and totally lacking energy. Also, when the body goes from relying on carbohydrate levels around 60-70% of energy to a mere 5% some people experience a lack of energy or fuzzy headedness.

Induction is, in my view, part of why Atkins has gotten such a bad reputation. Some people simply don't feel well and it is a fanatical level of commitment. You pretty much can't eat a carrot or leek on induction, and absolutely no fruit is allowed -- they contain "too much carb". It is Induction that has earned the diet the "steak, cheese and whipped cream" image -- but this is not a true picture of the diet and it is promulgated by simple-minded people who hate Atkins and will do anything to make the diet look bad.

Paleo doesn't use Induction and it is an unnecessary method from a physiological point of view.

Atkins, when you reach Maintenance, is much more balanced that the artificial Induction (and Ongoing Weight-Loss) period. Maintenance is the "normal diet" when you don't wish to lose weight anymore, and here lots of veggies and some fruit are allowed. Atkins loved vegetables. On Maintenance the carb levels approach paleo levels a bit more.

Ideally a diet should cover all your nutritional needs so well that you don't need supplements. On a true paleo diet you wouldn't (and couldn't) eat a multi-vitamin pill each morning. Atkins recommends a number of supplements, and his detractors have concluded that this is "proof" that he doesn't even believe his own diet is healthy -- why else eat the supplements, right? This is, however, not a completely valid conclusion. Potassium is recommended on Induction due to the diuretic effect, but this is not an admission that the diet is unhealthy.

The problem with modern foods is that most of them are grown in rather sterile environments and in quite depleted soil. Only the most basic mineral requirements are met (especially those who will give a nice, cosmetic appearance). Thus our vegetables are actually a lot less nutritious than an organically grown variety, one that's been planted in real soil. For that reason it may even be prudent to eat some supplements even on the Neanderthin diet. Any diet will suffer from this problem, not just Atkins or Paleo.

The Atkins DIET is really quite healthy at Maintenance where the follower gets to eat a wide range of foods. My personal problem with Atkins is the fact that there are simply some really bad pseudo-science in the good Doctor's theories. Those glaring errors help give ALL of low-carb a bad name, simply because they're so obviously wrong. His metabolic advantage is, I'm sorry to say, bullshit science. You lose weight on Atkins as a direct consequence of caloric restriction, and probably because you stabilize your blood sugar which is a very good, physical and psychological help for those of us with a great appetite for food.

Paleo vs. Protein Power (Lifeplan)

This is based on the Protein Power Lifeplan book by the Eades couple. In reality this diet has 3 levels of commitment. Hedonist, Dilettante and Purist. Hedonist looks and feels a lot like the Atkins diet. Purist is the Paleo/Neanderthin diet. Dillettante lies somewhere in between as it restricts some of the less-fit-for-human-foods such as soy and grains, and it also says no to chemical substances and processed food additives while recommending range-fed poultry and beef. Dairy is still allowed on the Dilettante approach. Neanderthin doesn't really operate with such levels. However, Protein Power may be more practical for some people who wish to restrict their diet a little less or at least drift at little between the 3 levels of commitment.

Protein Power also counts carbs, even for the Purist approach, although it allows for a few more carbs each day. The diet is 50/50 concerned with weight loss and general health.

Carb restriction is the primary concern and besides that the focus is more on eating adequate amounts of protein -- and less on eating fat. It's not really a genuine "high protein" diet despite the name -- more like an "adequate protein" diet.

Paleo vs. Omega diet

Known at least in Denmark this is a diet that is mostly concerned with the glycemic index (GI) of foods and they have used those indexes to create a new food pyramid that puts potatoes, pasta and white bread at the top. However, it is not necessarily a low carb diet as bread is allowed as long as it's made with whole grains. Paleo doesn't use the concept of GI directly and it is not the defining aspect of a food. However, most paleo foods tend to be have low GIs compared to the technological foods like bread.

Paleo vs. low-fat, high-carb diets

This should be sort of obvious if you read these pages. However, to sum up: Neanderthin doesn't restrict the meat, fat or carb you can eat, but it does require you to eat like our stone age ancestors. Neanderthin has one central source of energy and nutrition: meat and whatever fat is attached to it. Neanderthin knows that humans require the protein and fat from meat to function properly, whereas we do not need very much carbohydrate to function optimally; what we get from vegetables and fruit is absolutely enough. The often 60-70% carb recommended by low-fat diets is way too much compared to the diet we're evolutionarily adapted to eat.

Paleo vs. low-calorie diets

Paleo doesn't believe that you should starve yourself quite to the extent that some diets seem to advocate (I've seen recommendations from 600 to 1300 kcal per day). Starvation diets that run that low tend to do bad things to the body and can't be used as a life style. All such diets are ultimately set up for failure, because in starving the body you lower its metabolism, and then when you start adding more calories to your diet you replenish your fat stores as the metabolism only sluggishly moves upwards. This is also what's called "yoyo" dieting.

Most low-calorie diets are, incidentally, low-fat too. This compounds all the problems of the two approaches. A body that runs on nothing but sugar (carbohydrate) lacks the life sustaining protein and fat that a healthy diet should provide. You could of course eat low-carb, low-calorie, and while it is certainly better than low-fat, low-calorie, you still get the problems of lowered metabolism.

Neanderthin DOES run a calorie deficit, because that is the ONLY way you can lose weight short of surgery (yes, the laws of physics MUST be obeyed). But it tends to automatically hit just slightly below the current need. Many have reported losing plenty on a diet of 2500-3000 calories, which is a VERY sensible caloric intake when you're currently overweight at 110 kilos and are used to eating more like 4000-4500 kcal.

As a rule a person's appetite will reduce itself as he or she loses weight and without much conscious thought weight will stabilize at the optimum level give and take some kilos (some people have different metabolisms, some are extremely sedentary, some will cheat a wee bit more than other persons, some will be hurried people who forget to eat quite their optimum share of food, etc.)

Paleo vs. the blood type diet

Despite its scientific looking appearance D'Adamo's book is not a work of science. There are also some glaring errors in his work, e.g. he does not know the true evolution of blood types and has gotten this very important and basic fact all backwards (Type O is NOT the hunter gatherer blood type). Also, it doesn't seem clear from a scientific view that eating certain foods with certain lectin are dangerous to the health of that person. Finally his food recommendations are very, very specific and it is simply not scientifically proven that they help, nor that they relate in any way to his underlying (equally shaky) theories. A'damo has never published even ONE article in a peer reviewed journal. But bottom line is that it is impossible to trust someone who doesn't even get his most important and central facts straight.



Can you feel full just eating meat and veggies -- don't you need some bread or potatoes?

You will feel very sated and pleasantly full when eating Neanderthin-style, sufficient protein and fat is the best sources of satiety -- and it keeps you feeling full for a longer time than anything else. You won't feel bloated like a balloon after eating a meal, but the feeling will be more pleasant. Don't believe it? Try it out for just one day.

Doesn't meat cause arthritis and osteoporosis?

No. There is no such evidence from the studies of fossil records or modern hunter-gatherers.

Doesn't meat cause colon cancer?

No. The evidence is based on isolated protein powders, not on meat.

Doesn't fat make you fat?

Obviously fat tends to do that when you eat on a high-carbohydrate diet. When you eat paleo-style this does not happen, because paleo foods are more satisfying and the fat you eat is the only high-energy food (you don't get tons of high-energy carb). You think this "can't be"? Well, there are many people who have lost on an all meat, veggies and fruit diet. It works.

Doesn't all that fat give you high cholesterol?

Generally your cholesterol profile improves when you are on the Paleo diet. Total cholesterol may rise a little, but generally the ratios between HDL and LDL improves, as do your Triglyceride count (it drops). If cholesterol worries you, get it tested before your start the diet and after a couple of months to see how the diet has impacted that area. Actually, triglycerides tend to be higher on high-carb diets.

Isn't heart disease a consequence of this diet, all that saturated fat?

Studies of primitive societies (who eat pretty much like Neanderthin) do not tend to have very much (if any) of heart disease. Saturated fat fell from grace back in the fifties, but it did so without any real evidence. To see that the case isn't clear cut, se The Soft Science of Dietary Fat. The words cholesterol and heart disease usually go hand in hand. This is due to the theory known as the Lipid Hypothesis (aka. the diet-heart hypothesis). This theory states that if you eat saturated fat it causes high cholesterol, and that high cholesterol causes heart disease, or more specifically arteroschlerosis or "clogging of the arteries". However, just because you have a theory doesn't make it right. So far NO evidence exists that links paleo or even Atkins with heart disease. Nor does low-carb diets cause high cholesterol in normal people, both Atkins and the Drs. Michael and Mary Eades have treated probably 10,000 people without ill effects on the cholesterol profile. THINCS (see links) have a lot of information of this subject, as does the Weston A. Price Foundation. Read "The Cholesterol Myths" by Uffe Ravnskov to disabuse you of your fears.

It's all just water weight loss, isn't it?

You can't keep losing water after 6 months and 30 pounds lighter. It's bound to be mostly fat. The only water weight loss that occurs can happen in the first week or two if you eat very, very few carbs and thus are unable to replenish your glycogen stores. This is often the result of the Induction/Intervention phase of some diets (like Atkins or Protein Power), but Neanderthin tends to include enough carbs so that this flush-out does not happen.

Do you eat varied enough on just meat, veggies and fruit?

Yes, the diet is varied enough and it is still the diet that humans are adapted to eat. Vegetables and fruit are far superior nutrient sources compared to grains, legumes and potatoes. Also, vegetables and fruit do not contain nearly the same amounts of toxins or anti-nutrients that legumes and whole-grain products may. Phytic acid is a prime example of an anti-nutrient and it contributes to rickets, a disease where the bones fail to mineralize. Rickets is also known as "The English Disease" due to the fact that a lot of children ate vast amounts of oats and suffered from this disease (a problem solved by making the kids drink milk and eat an egg a day).

Doesn't all that protein cause kidney disease?

The research doesn't seem to support this. As long as you're a normal, healthy person without existing kidney disease there's no risk. If you already have a kidney problem you should probably eat less protein and more fat. Check out Low carb research on kidneys. Also, if you remember to drink whenever you're thirsty it helps ease the load on the kidneys - but that's true for any diet.


What about women who're pregnant or breast feeding?

Don't change your diet drastically when you're pregnant or breast feeding. The body takes a bit getting used to the new way of life (you also shouldn't do SlimFast or any other diet that changes a lot). However, your can easily apply a lot of the advice here in order to get a healthier diet (moderate slashing of carbohydrate is a valid approach). However, if you've already on doing low-carb there's no reason you should change your ways just because you get pregnant. You DO get way more nutrients and proteins/complete amino acids than any other known diet.