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AHS13 Seth Roberts — Paleo: Necessary But Not Sufficient


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Persistent lack of progress by mainstream (non-evolutionary) medicine suggests evolutionary thinking is necessary for progress, but many examples – involving Weston Price, sleep, depression, weight control, omega-3, acne, depression, and fermented foods -- suggest it is far from sufficient. Evolutionary thinking helps solve health problems because it greatly narrows the possibilities worth study but it does not narrow the possibilities far enough (there is too much uncertainty) to by itself produce practical solutions. For example, evolutionary thinking helped me find a new theory of weight control but I had learn more to find a practical way to lose weight.

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AHS13 Seth Roberts — Paleo: Necessary But Not Sufficient

  1. 1. Paleo: Necessary, Not Sufficient Seth Roberts UC Berkeley & Tsinghua University
  2. 2. “It Works” Defense • “I don’t give a *&%@ what detractors say. Paleo/low-carb works for me.” – Mark’s Daily Apple comment • “The Ancestral health movement has become popular because it works . . . Millions have experienced its benefits.” – Paul Jaminet
  3. 3. Problems with “It Works” Defense • Many things work that are wrongly explained • Paleo includes theory – the theory behind the advice. If you want better advice or more advice, you want the theory to be true.
  4. 4. Three Kinds of Paleoistas 1. Theorists give advice 2. Testers try the advice (does it work for me?) 3. Me theorist & tester, micro ideas & advice
  5. 5. My Interest in Paleo • Self-experiments showed dermatologist & I both wrong • Can self-experiments improve sleep? 10 years of failure • Finally: no breakfast  less early awakening • Breakfast not paleo. Start with mismatch assumption?
  6. 6. 6 Uses of Paleo Ideas 1. Morning faces & mood 2. Shangri-La Diet 3. Flaxseed oil & brain function 4. Fermented foods 5. Standing & sleep 6. Morning Vitamin D & sleep
  7. 7. What Examples Share Paleo Idea + Non-Paleo Input  Progress
  8. 8. Morning Faces & Mood Problem Early awakening Non-paleo input When we socialize influences when we sleep Paleo idea Stone Age people chatted with neighbors in morning Big new effect Seeing morning faces improves mood the next day
  9. 9. Shangri-La Diet Problem Obesity Paleo idea Amount of energy stored should depend on energy cost Non-paleo input Rat experiments Big new effect Calories without smell cause weight loss
  10. 10. Flaxseed Oil & Brain Function Problem How to do Shangri-La Diet? Paleo idea Aquatic Ape Theory Non-paleo input Nutrition experts rarely study brain function Big new effects 1. Flaxseed oil improves balance and other measures of brain function. 2. So does butter. 3. Removal of mercury amalgam fillings improved brain function.
  11. 11. Morning Vitamin D & Sleep Problem Tara Grant’s poor sleep Paleo idea Less sun exposure now than long ago Non-paleo input Morning sunlight improves sleep, sunlight makes Vitamin D Big new effect Morning Vitamin D improves sleep
  12. 12. My Experience What Worked Several Times Mismatch Assumption + Guesses about Ancient Life + Non-Paleo Input What Never Worked Mismatch Assumption + Guesses about Ancient Life
  13. 13. Paleo Alone Can Be Misleading Warinner Me • diversity No reason to think 50% good, 50% bad better than 100% good • fresh fermented better • whole foods supplements helpful Warinner told listeners what they already believed. Which I consider wrong or overstated
  14. 14. My Explanation
  15. 15. My Explanation
  16. 16. My Explanation
  17. 17. My Explanation
  18. 18. My Explanation •Paleo helped me decide where to look •. . . but I needed more help to find useful effects