A Quick Interview with the Father of Paleo: Dr. Loren Cordain

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Unless you have been living underneath a rock, most people by now have heard of the Paleo movement.

The premise is simple:

Our genetic makeup is made to eat a certain way; that of our ancestors in the Paleolithic Era (hence the name), while the advent of civilization and the agricultural revolution gave us another.

The argument, is that if we return to the diet of our ancestors, we will also return our level of optimal health that was prevalent in the Paleolithic time period and erase the maladies that our present society is plagued with.

Dr. Loren Cordain is considered by many to be the father of this movement.cordainloren0736-2400x3000

Not only that but he has also appeared in many of the world’s top scientific journals to include the American Journal of clinical Nutrition, the British Journal of Nutrition, and the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition as well as several others.

He has published many books to include The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes.

He has even been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as well as made several appearances on major news networks.

Currently he maintains a position as Professor Emeritus with Colorado State University.

To say that he is knowledgeable and well-respected would be the understatement of the year.

Fortunately, he took the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions, which I have listed below…

Me:

Can you briefly describe your life work and philosophy to someone who may have never heard of the term ‘Paleo’ before?

Dr. Cordain:

The word “Paleo” in today’s nutritional and fitness community has generally been ascribed to a diet which emulates a contemporary nutritional program that maintains certain dietary characteristics of our Stone Age ancestors. 

Paleo is short for “Paleolithic” which means, The Old Stone Age, a period that first ended in some places in the world about 10,000 years ago.  Prior to the Paleolithic era, all humans made their living as hunter gatherers, consuming only those wild plant and animal foods which could be foraged from their natural environment. ron-swanson

Clearly, contemporary humans, even if they wanted to, could not exactly emulate the dietary characteristics of our hunter gatherer ancestors.

Consequently, present day “Paleo” diets, generally, mimic the food groups our ancestors ate, but not precisely the exact foods they would have consumed.

Contemporary Paleo diets are generally comprised of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grass produced meats, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood.

Modern Paleo diets generally avoid all processed and packaged foods, refined sugars, refined grains, refined vegetable oils, salt, whole grains and legumes and all modern foods made with a mixture of these elements.

Me:

What was the ‘Ah-HA!’ or ‘Lightbulb moment’ when you decided that you wanted to make this your life’s work?

Dr. Cordain:

In 1987, I first read Boyd Eaton’s (M.D), now classic paper (1985) in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.  

This seminal paper acknowledged the evolutionary basis for contemporary human nutrition, and made more sense to me than anything I had previously read about optimal human nutrition. 

I read everything I could on the topic and eventually contacted Dr. Eaton.  We ended up giving talks together, co-publishing scientific articles, and worked collectively to help establish the seminal work that became the contemporary Paleo Diet movement.

Me:

There is plenty of knowledge out there about proper nutrition and the Paleo movement, especially since it has been gaining much traction in the fitness world over the past several years. However, people still have a hard time practicing proper eating and nutritional habits despite the almost unlimited access to knowledge and resources. Why do you believe that this is so and what is your advice to these people?

Dr. Cordain:

I believe we really don’t have sufficient data to know how many people are aware of contemporary Paleo Diets and how many people who actually practice them, or to what degree they maintain compliance.  This information would be important to answer your question, particularly compared to other diets promoted as being health giving, such as the USDM My Pyramid, the Mediterranean Diet and others.

Me:

If you could only give one piece of advice to someone about to undertake a life of self-improvement through proper exercise and nutrition practices, what would that be?

Dr. Cordain:

Avoid processed, packaged foods while replacing them with fresh, living whole foods and exercise whenever possible.

Personally, I have adopted the Paleo style of eating as the method that I keep falling back on.

Influences and knowledgeable experts such as Dr. Cordain and Robb Wolf have been the ones to provide the most insight into this dietary lifestyle, so if you have further questions, I would highly recommend you to pick up both of their books.

From my experience, it has had the greatest impact on my personal health.

In the past I have suffered from thyroid disorder; hyperthyroidism to be precise.

I was on medication to keep it under wraps and decided to fully commit to this method of eating to attempt to resolve the issue.

Miraculously, it did fix itself. Whether that is directly attributable to the Paleo lifestyle, I cannot definitively say.

However, I will say that thyroid disease is considered to be a medically dependent disease. In other words, medication is considered permanent and necessary in order to effectively manage it.

So, with that argument, I make my case for Dr. Cordain’s Paleo diet.

I rest my case.

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