This documentary by CJ Hunt breaks down the reasoning behind why he believes the paleo way of eating helped to save his life. After being diagnosed with a severe heart condition, he became a raw food vegan for over five years. He even wrote a book on it. But life’s stresses got in the way, and he eventually turned to a paleo lifestyle.
The Perfect Human Diet is compelling. Watching it was another of the catalysts for me to start this blog. A lot of the stuff in there makes a lot of sense.
But I do have some concerns about a diet this high in meat content, as well. We’ll get into that later, and look at some studies.
There were a couple of research studies that helped the case of eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to.
The first was by a guy named Dr. Weston Price that traveled all over the world looking at various healthy tribal populations. He was trying to figure out what they ate and had been eating for generations, to find out what their diets had in common. Interestingly enough, he was hoping to find a vegetarian tribe, but he never did. They all consumed meat in varying amounts. Some of them ate almost exclusively meat and fat because they lived at a high enough altitude where there simply wasn’t vegetation to be found.
Another more modern study was done by Professor Kerin O’Dea, who studies the relationship between diet and chronic diseases. She got a group of diabetic or pre-diabetic Indigenous Australians (Aboriginals) to adopt a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They spent 7 weeks in the wild, as their ancestors had. They all lost weight, reduced their cholesterol, lowered their blood pressure, and had improved blood glucose control.
But my question is, was it necessary to take it all the way back to hunter-gatherer? Is it possible that removing sugar and processed foods could achieve the same result?
Maybe. But that’s really the point behind the paleo diet, anyway. Industrial age foods simply aren’t good for us. There are only a few extra things you can’t eat that are “natural foods” when it comes to paleo. Legumes, potatoes, and grains. So other than these exceptions, that’s precisely what you’re doing–cutting out sugar and processed food.
And who among us would genuinely argue that we were meant to be consuming loads of sugar and processed foods? So, it’s really the legumes, potatoes, and grains that are the only real “gray area” when it comes to paleo.
The paleo movement started in 1985 with a paper written by Dr. Boyd Eaton and gained popularity with The Paleo Diet book written in 2002 by Loren Cordain, PH.D. But interestingly enough, there was a pamphlet published way back in 1865 that was basically the same as what the paleo diet is today.
The pamphlet was written by William Banting and is called Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public. I went ahead and read it online, and it’s most amusing. 1865 was a totally different world! Anyway, Banting was just your average guy, publishing a pamphlet on obesity because he learned what helped him and wanted to pass along what he’d learned. Probably because the Turkish baths that doctors were prescribing for obesity weren’t helping. Imagine!
He talks about having to walk down the stairs backward because of knee pain and not being able to stoop to tie his shoes. He tried exercise, but at his “advanced age” of 65 years, it only caused him more issues. So he found a doctor that told him to abstain as much as possible from the following: bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes. He also states that he avoided salmon and pork.
In 38 weeks, Banting lost 35 pounds. He was able to walk down the stairs normally, exercise freely, his sight and hearing improved, and other bodily ailments were “ameliorated.” I love the way they wrote in the 1800s! Additionally, he had a friend who lost weight and put a stop to his heart palpitations by following the same diet.
So, not all of our woes these days are due to sugar and processed foods. Sugar was still pretty rare in the 1800s, and processed foods were still on the horizon. This helps make the case that grain is contributing to our current health crisis, for sure.
After that pamphlet was so widely well-received, it became a pretty standard prescription for a doctor to tell an overweight patient to cut back on carbs to lose weight. Until the 1950s, when we suddenly decided that fat was making us fat.
Somewhere along the way, people started recommending low-fat diets, thinking that high-fat foods might be tied to heart disease. At first, this recommendation came with a warning label that there wasn’t enough evidence to clearly show that this was true yet. Somehow, somewhere, that warning label just got dropped. And it eventually became “common knowledge” that high-fat diets caused us to gain weight and die early from heart disease.
One of the worst blunders in the history of nutritional science, to be sure. Because, of course, it turns out that not all fats are the same. Some fats are bad, but some are good for us.
The USDA designed its Dietary Guidelines around this blunder, and it still has yet to recover. They are basing their recommendations off reviews from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, both of which are heavily supported by food and drug companies.
If you’re the AHA and you’re getting paid for each “heart-check” logo by companies like Kelloggs and General Mills and you’re partnering with the grain industry, you’re not going to tell people to stop eating grains.
I love and believe in capitalism. But allowing your recommendations to be influenced by who’s writing your paycheck is not only a conflict of interest, but pure greed. The almighty dollar has become more important than our health, and our nutritional recommendations and our entire health industry are being compromised because of it.
Michael Eades, the author of Protein Power, talks about going to a farm to do research on what farmers fed their animals to fatten them up. He looked at copies of the nutritional content on the bags of feed and then came home and inputted them into his computer. Turns out, it was almost exactly–to the percent–what the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines are.
We are being fattened up, just like the livestock we eat.
There was also a fascinating analogy in the documentary using a football field. One goal line was 2 million years ago, the time of Homo Erectus. Homo Erectus were the first modern-day humans. There are no substantial physical differences between them and us. The other 0-yard line is today. In this analogy, the .5 yard line is when humans started eating grains. Processed foods start at the 0.001-yard line.
When you look back at from that distance to here, is there any wonder that we are having trouble with our diet? We are so far off base from what we are genetically programmed to eat.Dr. Loren Cordain
If you read my last article, you know that there’s a strong correlation between our ancestors beginning to eat meat and the evolution of the human brain.
If we had stayed as vegetarians, in all probability, I wouldn’t be speaking to you at this particular high level of intellect.Gary J Sawyer, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History
Agriculture did amazing things for the population and health of the human species. We no longer had to hunt for food, so we were able to feed more people more efficiently. But there are some negative consequences of it that we may never fully recover from.
They (Homo Erectus) were eating a huge diversity of foodstuffs. We go to the supermarket, and we make a salad. We think that we’re eating a lot of different types of veggies, you know. But in comparison to what our ancestors were eating, this isn’t true. They had a huge diversity. Once you start agriculture, you seriously reduce the variety in your food. And this also reduces the variety of nutrients you get.Leslie Aiello, Ph.D.
I had no idea! I honestly thought if I was getting a bunch of veggies of different colors and really mixing them up, I was getting good nutritional content. But it makes sense. There were so many other vegetables out there that we just kind of phased out of our diet because they weren’t as easy to farm.
Lane Sebring, MD, has been putting the paleo diet’s recommendations into practice with his patients for years. He claims that it’s working really well for everyone.
He says to think of protein as time-released glucose. The liver can take our “extra” protein and turn it into glucose in a time-released fashion, therefore giving you a steady supply of energy all day.
But eating carbohydrates shuts off this conversion of protein into glucose from the liver. Then your sugar levels get low, and you can’t access the protein you ate for breakfast, so you must eat again. And most people are craving more carbs at this point, for a “quick fix.” And so begins the cycle.
I’ve got to say, there’s something to this. I notice that if I don’t eat many carbohydrates in a day, I have a much more steady supply of energy. And I don’t get as hungry.
As a side note, the fact that the liver turns “extra” proteins into glucose is what trips up a lot of diets like the keto diet and other ultra-low-carb diets. It can keep you from going into ketosis. Which is why they are careful not to get too much protein and make up for it by eating more fats.
But we’ll get into that more when I research and try out the keto diet.
This is a tiny percentage of what The Perfect Human Diet covers. It’s jam-packed full of useful info, so I highly recommend checking it out if you’re at all interested in trying a paleo nutritional approach. I will be getting into a few more of the points made in the documentary as they overlap with some of the other films or books that I read on Paleo, as well. So stay tuned!
The Perfect Human Diet Documentary Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Overall, I’d say the documentary is very compelling and professionally done. The information is presented clearly. And the paleo diet itself is obviously working for CJ Hunt, who says that he has been eating like this for 5 years now and his bloodwork backs up that it was the right decision.
The only negative things that I found about the documentary were related to style. It is presented much like a news program (not my favorite format), and was a bit cheesy or overly-dramatic a few times. It wasn’t as bad at that as some other documentaries out there, though, and so I only subtracted half a star for it.
This is just the start of my paleo journey, so be sure to follow my blog to read more of my reviews on other documentaries and books out there. I’ll also be presenting my own conclusions when I’m done trying the diet out for myself.
Have you tried paleo? How did it work out for you? How did it make you feel? Do you disagree with any of the reasoning behind “eating like our ancestors”? Do you think that’s what we’re really even doing when we follow a paleo diet? I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences!