We’ve gotten to part three of a series of articles on the Paleolithic diet and the controversy that surrounds it. This article discusses specific groups of people who live long, healthy lives while doing the exact opposite
of what the Paleo diet preaches. So . . . who lives longest?
Why is this “Paleo way of life” such a hot topic for debate? If you spend some time reading comments from proponents of the Paleo diet, you’ll notice an almost religious-like fervor exchange among them. Perhaps the attitude of righteous indignation radiated from some of the followers (though certainly not all) and directed at opponents spurs a closer look at what the diet dictates. Those who have adopted the Paleo way of life hold fast to their belief that certain food groups are “toxic” and “evil” and are the root of many of the diseases of western civilization including obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, auto-immune disease, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Those who follow the Paleo Diet believe enjoying robust health and longevity will be the result. However, there is evidence that there are entire groups of people who live well into their nineties and beyond yet consume a diet totally opposite of what the Paleolithic diet dictates.One such group is the Kitavans.
Kitava is a tropical island in Papua New Guinea. If you could put a label on their lifestyle, it would be a cross between agricultural and hunter-gathers. Their diet largely centers on tubers (sweet potato, yam, cassava, and taro) vegetables, fruits, fish and coconut. Like the caveman eaters, they do not eat grains, white sugar, or processed foods. But that’s where the similarities end.
About 69% of calories come from carbohydrates, 21% from fat, and a mere 10% from protein. By western standards, a Kitavan diet is carb-rich, high in saturated fat, low in protein and high in calories. When you compare this to the Paleo diet where a whopping 65% of calories come from animal protein and fat and is relatively carb restrictive, the difference is obvious.
In addition, unlike the Paleo diet, tubers like yams and sweet potatoes are a huge
dietary staple. They’re a big no-no in the Paleo way of life.
Despite the differences, and the fact that this culture has little access to the marvels of modern medicine, once they reach the age of 50 their life expectancy increases another 25 years. Even more impressive is there is no evidence of cardiovascular disease or dementia, a far cry from the predicted outcome outlined in the Paleo Diet. Oh, and Kitavans smoke cigarettes like there is no tomorrow. The Vilcambian culture.
Another culture vastly different from that of the Paleolithic era is the Vilcambas from the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. They are almost totally vegetarian. Scientists researching this culture have determined their life span is one of the longest in the world, and have noted that "normal" activity past the 100th birthday is common. The Vilcambas show no signs of degenerative diseases common to the elderly in Western cultures.
When you look at these two cultures it’s a little difficult to understand how many of the foods listed “forbidden” on a strict Paleo diet can be toxic or evil. And that is where most of the controversy comes from.
Like most diets, the Caveman diet does
supply some benefits that can’t be denied. The next article will look at some of the documented positive outcomes of the Paleo way of life.