The Paleo Diet is Based On Fantasy, Not Science


The Paleo Diet instructs its followers to eat lots of animal-derived food while completely avoiding all grains and legumes. It is an equally harmful derivative of its meat-heavy predecessor, the Atkin’s diet. The intention of this article is to expose some of the many fallacies behind this fad, while also providing some insight on how to properly fact check health information. Let’s begin by addressing 6 of the core presumptions that form the basis of the Paleo Diet.


1. Myth: Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, but mainly hunters, eating lots of meat during the Paleolithic era- a period of time from 10,000 to 2.5 million years ago.

As human beings we sometimes allow our personal bias to overshadow our common sense. We romanticize about the macho caveman, hunting, dominating, capturing and killing wild animals, while the woman stays at home gathering berries and, of course, dusting and cleaning the cave. And we hold on to this sexist image even when logic and scientific evidence prove otherwise. Highly respected anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, such as professor Nathanial J. Dominy, have outed this myth, explaining that the majority of calories that our Paleolithic ancestors consumed came from plant foods.1 Meat was simply too unpredictable. When scientists analyze the remains of skeletons that date back 2 million years, they report that close to 100% of the diet our ancestors ate consisted of forest food.2 Dr. Benjamin H. Passey, a geochemist who conducted tests on the teeth of skeletons dating back to the Paleolithic era, remarked that “one thing people probably don’t realize is that humans are basically grass eaters.”2 Cavemen surely feasted on meat whenever the opportunity arose, but these opportunities were far and few in between. In comparison, modern people following the Paleo Diet have eggs and bacon for breakfast, steak for lunch, and chicken for dinner. The idea that this resembles the diet of our ancestors is a Homo Sapien fantasy. If you want to create a fad diet that consists of eating animal-derived foods three or more times a day, every day, you should NOT associate it with the Paleolithic era- it’s insulting to archeologists, anthropologists and biologists.3


2. Myth: We’ve evolved, through millions of years, to require a meat-centered diet in order to be healthy.

First, that’s not how evolution works. Evolution does not care about optimizing our personal health. Evolution only cares about one thing, and that’s our ability to procreate. After we have children, as far as evolution is concerned, we are essentially living on borrowed time. Evolutionary biologists have grown increasingly annoyed at the false presumptions being made by followers of the Paleo Diet.3 Roddy Collins, a scientist who has studied evolutionary physiology for thirty years, was once lectured about evolution at his gym by a 17 year old Paleo Diet follower.3 “Leave evolution out of it” has been the plea of scientists that actually understand what they’re talking about. While we are a product of evolution, it is not evolution that can tell us how to improve our health in today’s world. For that we need to turn to modern scientific evidence.

Second, we have definitely not evolved to consume meat. In her lecture debunking the Paleo Diet, Christina Warinner, an archaeological geneticist, reminded her audience that “humans have no known anatomical, physiological, or genetic adaptations to meat consumption. Quite the opposite, we have many adaptations to plant consumption.”4

3. Myth: Our Paleolithic ancestors did not eat grains and legumes.

This is false. We have evidence from at least 100,000 years ago that our ancestors used stone tools to grind up grains and seeds, and starches have been found on the teeth of their skeletons.4,5 An archeologist from the University of Calgary found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal grains in the diet of Homo Sapiens dating back at least 105,000 years.But, more importantly, why do we hold in such high regard what our ancestors ate, or didn’t eat, thousands and millions of years ago? This brings us to yet another Paleo Diet fantasy …


4. Myth: We should eat like our ancient ancestors because we are genetically the same.

Caveman-Paleo-Diet-MythsThere is virtually nothing in our world today that resembles the prehistoric world- we wouldn’t even recognize a prehistoric banana- and we have certainly evolved over time along with our environment. But that’s not what proponents of the Paleo Diet want you to believe. According to the diet, which claims to take an evolutionary approach to life, our genes are identical to those of our Paleolithic ancestors, and that’s why we should eat the way they did (whatever that means). The rationale behind the Paleo Diet completely ignores the field of epigenetics which shows how genes are quickly switched on and off depending on our environment, especially our diet, resulting in an astonishing level of differentiation within our bodies. The Genetic Science Learning Center, at the University of Utah Health Sciences, states that “epigenetic inheritance may allow an organism to continually adjust its gene expression to fit its environment – without changing its DNA code.”6 Different food sources create pressure for genetic changes, and these changes can happen quickly. The lesson, once again, is that we need to stop fantasizing about what occurred millions of years ago, and look at today’s environment and today’s people to understand how to maximize our health potential.


For example, the Human Microbiome Project has showepigenetics and environmentn that much about our health is the result of a symbiotic relationship with 100 trillion bacteria that colonize our digestive systems. These microbes provide more genes for human survival than our own human cells. In fact, the human microbiome contributes eight million unique protein-coding genes, versus the human genome’s 22,000.7 What this means, essentially, is that not only are we affected by our immediate environment, but we are also, in large part, composed of it – the average person having 10 times more bacteria than human cells. It goes without question that when our environment changes, so do we. Still, the biggest factor that alters the balance of our gut bacteria is the food we choose to eat. Science has clearly shown us that a plant-based diet promotes a healthy microbiome, while just one piece of meat can upset this balance.8,9


5. Myth: Grains and legumes are unhealthy. They contain harmful anti-nutrients, and that’s why we should never consume them.

We have close to 100 years of consistent scientific evidence showing that a plant-based diet, rich in whole grains and legumes, is the healthiest diet on the planet. Such a diet has been shown to prevent and reverse chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.9,10,11 Perhaps Paleo Diet promoters are too trapped in their caves to have heard about the Blue Zones? These are 5 places around the world where people experience a level of superior health and longevity unseen anywhere else on the planet.12 The populations reach the age of one hundred at rates 10 times greater than in the United States, and they all share a very similar diet: almost 100% plant-based, with whole grains and legumes forming the cornerstone of most centenarians’ diets. There is no Paleo Diet in any of the Blue Zones around the world.

sprouted chickpeasAnd what about those pesky anti-nutrients? It’s true, seeds rely on anti-nutrients to protect them from their environment. Throughout our history, all grains, beans, nuts and seeds, in their natural form, were not consumed without first being soaked, fermented, or sprouted. That’s how you get rid of the anti-nutrients, magnify the nutritional content, and improve your digestion and absorption of these foods.13 Sprouting also substantially decreases wheat gluten proteins.14 Even the author of the Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain, has written that sprouted grains and legumes are a much better option, and that we can consume grain sprouts without any fear of anti-nutrients.15 Furthermore, some of these so-called anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, are proving to have anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties.16 So consuming some amount of “anti-nutrients” may not be such a bad idea.

For more information, my video Exposing The Whole Grain Myth explains the difference between sprouted whole grains versus the harmful so-called whole grain products that we purchase from the grocery store.17


6. Myth: We only get vitamin B12 from eating animals, and this proves that meat is essential for good health.

Vitamin B12 is not produced by animals nor is it produced by plants. Biologically active vitamin B12 is produced by soil-based microorganisms- more evidence that the right mixture of microbes is essential for our good health. The B12 producing bacteria in the soil find their way into the intestines of animals, including humans. However, in humans and other animals, B12 is manufactured a little too far down the intestinal track to be absorbed, and is instead excreted in our feces. Infected animals contain B12 due to the fact that they have their noses and beaks in dirt all day long, and they also eat their own feces – that’s a good way to get your B12 although I would not recommend it. A 1959 study in Iran found that a community of vegans were not vitamin B12 deficient even though none of them took a B12 supplement.18 Researchers discovered that the villagers grew their vegetables in what they called “night soil”- soil heavily composted with human manure.

In our modern, industrialized, germaphobic world, where we over-sanitize our food and are no longer connected to high quality organic soils, vitamin B12 deficiency is indeed a problem for both meat-eaters as well as vegans. The Framingham Offspring study found that 39% of the general population is low in vitamin B12, regardless of animal-protein consumption.19,20 In fact, researchers found no association between plasma B12 levels and meat, poultry, and fish intake. They noted that B12 from animals isn’t well absorbed, and that this may be because human beings do not have sufficient stomach acid to separate the vitamin from animal protein.20 The fact that humans have less stomach acid than carnivores is often used to support the argument that we are biologically plant-eaters.

One of the consequences of being B12 deficient is irreversible nerve damage. It is therefore important to take a proper B12 supplement. For anyone still thinking that this is evidence that we need to consume animals, I should point out that modern farmed animals receive supplemental B12 in their feed21,22– so you can either take your supplement directly, or you can let it pass through the intestines of an animal first and then struggle to absorb it. The vitamin B12 issue is one more example of our symbiotic relationship with our environment, in this case our soil, that we depend on for good health. Instead of discussing the fantasies of the Paleo Diet, we should be more concerned about the depletion of our soil with unnatural pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.



Finally, once you remove all of the false presumptions, there are a few positive aspects of the Paleo Diet, such as the elimination of dairy and processed foods. I guarantee that if you simply eliminate processed foods from your diet you will experience some health benefits. However, animal-based diets have been shown to promote disease, whereas nearly a century’s worth of consistent scientific evidence shows us that a proper plant-based diet is, by far, the most natural, healthy and protective option for all people on earth. It’s also the most ethical and sustainable diet for our planet. Everything else is a fantasy. There will be other fads once the Paleo Diet joins the Atkin’s diet in extinction. The problem, however, is not that people make a living promoting these harmful diets and speaking beyond their limitations, but that the general public is so quick to accept information without digging a little deeper. Education, common sense, and an increased level of consciousness always lead to better choices. Thank you.

Marc Jaoudé
Naturopath, Health Educator
Nutrition & Exercise Specialist



  1. Mcdougall, J.The Paleo Diet Is Uncivilized (And Unhealthy and Untrue).” The Mcdougall Newsletter. June 2012. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  2. Wilford, J. “Some Prehumans Feasted on Bark Instead of Grasses.” New York Times. New York Times. June 27, 2012. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  3. Zimmer, Paul. “Archaeologists  officially declare collective sigh over Paleo Diet.” Hell’s Ditch. August 6, 2012.  Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  4. Warinner, C. (2013, February 12). Christina Warinner: Debunking the Paleo Diet. [Video file]. Retrieved from
  5. Julio Mercader et al. Mozambican grass seed consumption during the Middle Stone Age. Science, December 18, 2009
  6. “Epigenetics and Inheritance” Genetic Science Learning Center. University of Utah Health Sciences. Web. accessed: August 26, 2015.
  7. “NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body” National Institutes of Health. June 13, 2012. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  8. Jaoude, Marc. “Meat & Dairy Harms Your Gut, Quickly” Markito Nutrition. December 13, 2013. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  9. Jaoude, Marc. “The Truth About Cholesterol” Markito Nutrition. November 7, 2014. Web. accessed: August 26, 2015.
  10. Jaoude, Marc. “Type 2 Diabetes is Reversible” Markito Nutrition. March 8, 2015. Web. accessed: August 26, 2015.
  11. Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas Campbell. (2006). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2006.
  12. Buettner, Dan (2010). The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Washington: National Geographic Society, 2010.
  13. Jaoude, Marc. “Sprouts & Microgreens” Markito Nutrition. Web. accessed: August 26, 2015.
  14. Koehler P1, Hartmann G, Wieser H, Rychlik M. “Changes of folates, dietary fiber, and proteins in wheat as affected by germination.” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. June 13, 2007; 55(12):4678-83. Epub 2007 May 12
  15. Cordain, Loren. “The Sprouted Grain Conundrum” The Paleo Diet. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  16. Nawrocka-Musiał D1, Latocha M. [Phytic acid-anticancer nutriceutic] Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2012 Jul;33(193):43-7.
  17. Jaoude, M. (2013, February 24). Marc Jaoude: The Whole Grain Myth. [Video file]. Retrieved from
  18. Capps, Ashley. “B12: A Magic Pill, or Veganism’s Achilles Heel?” Free From Harm. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  19. Rooke, Jennifer. “Do Carnivores Need Vitamin B12 Supplements.” Baltimore Post Examiner. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  20. McBride, Judy. “B12 Deficiency May be More Widespread Than Thought.” United States Department of Agriculture. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.
  21. Stewart, Lawton. “Mineral Supplements for Beef Cattle.” 
  22. “Vitamin B12 Properties and Metabolism.” DSM in Animal Nutrition & Health. Web. Last accessed: August 26, 2015.

13 Responses

  1. Hello Dr. Jaoude,

    Thank you for this great article. I greatly appreciate all your writings and your wonderful videos, too!

    If there is any sort of “wish list” or “request list” for future articles or videos, I’d like to make a suggestion, if possible.

    The Topic: Ketogenic/Zero-Carb Diets

    Lately, I’m hearing more and more about ketogenic/zero-carb diets. While there are lots of anecdotal stories of people losing excess body fat, halting or reversing chronic conditions, and other near-miraculous claims, it sure doesn’t intuitively seem healthy to me. However, this is speculation on my part, as I’m not a healthcare provider.

    As an example, two days ago, someone send me a link to a story about a woman who alleges to have eaten only ribeye steaks and water for [now] 20 years. (Her and her husband, actually. Again, excess body fat lost and chronic conditions resolved.

    However, in reading the story, I found no mention of any health markers, such as Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, hs-CRP, HbA1c, ACR, GFR, etc. Being thin but then developing cancer, heart disease, or dying prematurely doesn’t seem like a good trade-off.

    There’s even a medical doctor that is on the same bandwagon and has written, among other things, the following:

    “Fruits , though delicious, are not required in the human diet. The specialized plant chemicals found in most edible fruits are far less likely to bother most people than those found in vegetables. There is no clear evidence that the naturally-occurring phytochemical antioxidants in fruits are beneficial to human health. In fact, some of these chemicals, particularly in concentrated forms, are potentially harmful.”

    “There is no scientific evidence proving that vegetables are necessary, let alone good for us.” and “Young vegetable sprouts contain higher concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals than mature vegetables because baby plants are vulnerable and need more protection from predators.”

    “Of all natural plant and animal foods available to humans, seed foods are the foods most likely to endanger human health. Therefore, eliminating foods from this family is the single most important dietary change you can make to improve and protect your health.”

    “It is completely unnecessary to eat any carbohydrate once you are old enough to eat solid food.”

    “*Fiber* is not essential for human life or health. Adding fiber to your diet cannot cure any health problem, because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.”

    After reading those (and others), I nearly fell out of my chair.

    But, as I started searching online, I found several websites, Facebook groups, and books that promote a zero-carb, meat-and-water-only diet.

    And, apparently, this is far from new. I found one book on the topic from back in 1956. I’d heard of the Atkins Diet, but these folks seem to take it to an entirely different level.

    I’m not sure if this topic would be of any interest or possibly be too much to tackle, but I thought I’d submit my humble request.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hello Scottie,

      Thank you for your request. Yes, there are too many nutrition claims that stretch the limits of the evidence and, in many cases, are flat out myths with zero truth. It’s very harmful for the public that doesn’t take the time to review the evidence. This is why I published a video showing examples of how we can better navigate through all the misinformation:

      The video tackles some of the specific claims you included in your comment.

      Yes, publishing something on ketosis is on my to-do list.

      Thank you very much,


      1. Jordan Peterson has used a meat-and-water-only diet to reverse his depression. His daughter Mikhaila Peterson used the same diet to cure a long list of ailments. After a bit of searching, I think I found the woman who’s only been eating steak for 20 years. Her name is Charlene Andersen. Her husband Joe has also been eating the same way. They have two teenage kids who are also meat-only. There’s also Kelly Hogan. Both Charlene and Kelly were meat-only eaters before, during, and after pregnancy. Their kids were (still are) healthy. So, that kinda puts a bullet in the “meat is dangerous” theory. If these were the only people, one might tend to dismiss them. But, the site shows many more. Now, don’t misunderstand…I’m not intending to promote this diet for everyone. Personally, I don’t/wouldn’t follow it, if only due to the restriction on the variety of foods I can eat. But, if I were really sick, like Mikhaila Peterson (she had multiple joint replacement surgeries by age 17), you can bet I would eat only meat if that helped me. But, the fact is that populations around the world are healthy on a variety of diets. And, of course, many people are also sick and in poor health on a variety of diets. So, if a person feels good, takes no medicine, and all their lab and imaging results show no issues, then who cares what one eats? (rhetorical question) There’s no way I’m giving up fruits, nuts, grains, potatoes (especially sweet potatoes), and beans, unless I have a medical reason to do so. Cheers.

        1. There will always be outliers, and this includes people who smoke and yet still manage to live past a hundred without any major health issues. The truth of the matter is that the healthiest communities on this planet all consume plant-based diets, and in addition to the correlations we see between diet and longevity, we also have the science that shows the mechanisms of action. There is no healthy population that consumes a meat-centered diet.

          Yes, sometimes medical reasons require us to adjust our diet. For example, a diet that puts you in a state of ketosis has been shown to help people who suffer from seizures, but this is a different topic all together. The following was my response to someone who inquired about ketogenic diets and weight loss:

          Saying that a ketogenic diet is great for weight loss can be quite a harmful and misleading statement. The best way to argue some of this nonsense away is to acknowledge the little bit of truth behind it.

          Ketosis is effective for battling seizures, and does somewhat show to be promising for people with certain cancers. But the diet for preventing cancer is not the same as the diet to extend life after being given a terminal diagnosis. I don’t think anyone would accept chemotherapy treatment if they didn’t already have cancer- nor should they accept a diet that compromises their long term health for short term weight loss.

          Furthermore, there is a much healthier way to achieve a state of ketosis than the terrible type of diet that is often suggested on popular websites. People should recognize the fact that ketosis is not about a specific diet, and that we’ve moved on to understand that protein restriction is also necessary to achieve ketosis- so anyone recommending an animal heavy diet hasn’t properly looked at the research. A raw vegan diet, I would argue, is the best way to achieve a state of ketosis. Furthermore, calorie restriction is often used to kickstart the process. So yes, weight loss is undoubtedly a side effect.

          In short, ketosis is the Warburg effect being revisited 80 years or so later, a metabolic treatment for what may be a metabolic disease (cancer), and a treatment for seizures. But for people looking to lose weight, you should know that a proper plant based diet allows you to eat as much as you want and still achieve your ideal weight while boosting every aspect of your health.

          Finally, if anyone has a hard time convincing others about these facts because “a doctor says otherwise”, I highly recommend you show them my latest video:

          1. Great comments, Marc.

            What makes matters more confusing to the general public is very educated people following these fad diets. They appear to confer legitimacy to such diets.

            One example (of many) is the following professor who teaches Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology. He says it’s his education that caused him to adopt a ketogenic diet.

            “A Cancer Researcher Who’s Been On The Keto Diet For 6 Years Explains How He Does It”

            Now, he seems to be doing the “diet” a bit better than most (e.g. not eating a lot of meat), but doing better on a poor diet is like saying it’s better to get stabbed rather than shot.

            In another “keto” article on the same (non-peer-reviewed) website, they provide the following caveats on the ketogenic diet:

            “Like any restrictive diet, it’s hard to get a balanced plate of all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy on a keto plan. The diet is also not recommended for pregnant women, people with liver and kidney problems, or anyone prone to gout.”

            So, WHY would they even publish an article on it? Of course, we know why — to get clicks, because it’s a fad.

            Keep up the great work!

            1. Thank you very much for your insightful comments Paul. In fact, I dedicated and published an entire video on the very topic you brought up. It’s called “Nutrition Scam 101: When Doctors Abuse Your Trust”. It teaches the viewer not to be blinded by credentials, and illustrates 10 ways that even intelligent people can get fooled into believing certain claims. I hope you get a chance to watch it.

              Wishing you all the best.

    1. Dear Calvin,

      Thank you for your comment. The studies you linked to, that seemingly support a “Paleo Diet”, are in fact examples I’ve used when teaching my clients how to become better consumers of information. In short, they are terribly flawed and limited, and the results are quite poor to say the least.

      For example, one study followed 14 participants as they consumed a paleo type diet for a few weeks versus a control group which consumed a diet recommended by the ADA (a terrible diet that still includes meat and dairy). And at the end of the few weeks the people on the paleo diet saw a small improvement (compared to the control group) in their blood glucose levels and lipid profiles. This small improvement is certainly attributed to the elimination of processed food, and also to the fact that this was compared to results from another poor diet (not to a proper plant-based diet).

      In contrast, several of my articles reference well designed hospital controlled studies where, at the end of 3 weeks on a high-fibre, high carbohydrate, low-fat diet, diabetic participants no longer required any medication, and their cholesterol dropped by 40%. In short, they reversed diabetes.

      Other studies I mention followed cardiac participants for decades showing that those who adhere to a plant-based diet live heart attack free, completely reversing the damage to their arteries that was once believed to be irreversible and even inoperable. And the evidence is shown in before and after angiograms. In short, they reversed advanced coronary artery disease through diet.

      I recommend you read my articles on cholesterol and diabetes to learn more about these studies, they are truly indicative of the power of a proper diet. Whereas the links you posted show, in the short term, some benefits that a bad diet has over a worse diet.

      Thank you.

  2. I just feel better with carb restriction..especially grains. I’m leaner, now sporting a six-pack without a cardio workout and don’t catch colds anymore. Grains today are hybridized and no comparison to grains of hundreds of thousands of years ago. I’ve been through survival training in the military and I was hard pressed to find carbohydrates in the wild. Grains trigger insulin as sugar does and they are unnecessary unless they’re the only foodstuff available as a stopgap.

    1. As I explain in my video Exposing The Whole Grain Myth, there is a difference between consuming processed grains and sprouted whole grains. Ideally, grains should be sprouted before consumption in order to increase nutritional content and improve digestion. The word “carbohydrate” is often misunderstood by many people. All foods contain a combination of nutrients. For example,  whole plant-based foods, including those that you would find in the wild, contain a combination of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Calling a food a “carbohydrate” or a “protein” is something that became popular due to marketing that started with the Atkin’s diet as well as the meat and dairy industry.

      While we are on the topic of marketing terms intended to confuse the public, there is no such thing as a “cardio workout”. A set of heavy squats will leave you with your heart pumping. That’s because the body doesn’t know the difference between a “cardio exercise” versus a weight training set, and research shows that the physiological process is the same. Resistance training does improve cardiovascular fitness. What matters is not the modality of exercise, but the intensity level. Congrats on your training.

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