Primarily Paleo

A path to wellbeing

Reflections from the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012


The second annual Ancestral Health Symposium was held in Cambridge, MA during the beginning of August. This scientific event caters to healthcare professionals, researchers, and the interested layperson who study and communicate about health from an evolutionary perspective. All of the “big players” in the paleolithic movement attended, you know the Sisson, Wolf, Wahls & Taubes types and the days were filled with presentations on current trends, research findings, and personal journeys. There are some great recaps on the individual sessions if you are interested in hearing more details. I took pages and pages of notes, and if you are following me on Twitter, (what are you waiting for) you can see some of the comments I made while attending the sessions.

Here are 20 takeaways from my experience at the Symposium.

1) There is no ONE Paleo Diet. Yes, it’s true for all of you searching for “Can I eat XYZ on Paleo.” It seems there are multiple interpretations and variations of how people follow the Paleo Diet. I met some people who eat rice, eat “safe” starches, eat more and less carbs, drink juice, eat chocolate, drink alcohol,and even eat shredded wheat with skim milk and still consider themselves following a Paleo diet.

2) Eating whole foods promotes good health. So if you eat things from a package, with multiple ingredients, added sugar and chemicals you are not on a whole foods diet, even if you shop there.

3) Whether you follow the Paleo Diet, Ancestral Diet, Weston A. Price, Perfect Health Diet, Atkins, Low Carb or whatever “primal” label you have for what you eat, we all have things in common. Eating nutrient dense foods that are anti-inflammatory and healing to the gut.

4) Everyone has a different health goal: to be thin, to be strong, to heal their guts. Some want to slow down the aging process or controlling a disease. It doesn’t matter. Setting a personalized goal is critical for having an effective lifestyle plan.

5) Current research points to the past for the answers on best lifestyle practices. That past can be 10,000 years ago or what and how your great grandparents ate 100 years ago. Either way, going backwards is the right direction.

6) We shouldn’t have to address any further why saturated fat is not an issue. In case you missed it, saturated fat is good for your health.

7)Fiber is not an essential element in a diet.There’s no evidence to support a role for fiber to have a healthy colon or to remain regular.

8) There is not a global food shortage. There are 2700 calories per day available for every human on the planet. Poverty and political instability have made access to food an issue.

9) You cannot live without cholesterol. Every cell in your body produces cholesterol except the gonads and adrenals.

10) Sugar/ excess glucose will cause your body harm. It is just a matter of when.

11) Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney disease in the US.

12) Hunters historically chose which animals to hunt based on their fat source not the amount of protein they supplied. Fatless animals where left behind.

13) Globally people are getting fatter because they are eating more carbs not more fat.

14) There are over 600,000 foods available in grocery stores, of which 80% contain added sugar. This should shock you.

15) Thin people get metabolic syndrome too; looks can be deceiving.

16) Americans are starving; not getting enough vitamins and minerals from their diets.

17) Our bodies are a jumble of adaptations. Evolution hasn’t stopped; we are being shaped more by our modern culture.

18) There’s no definitive answer to whether total calories really matters. When people cut calories they also cut their daily carbohydrate intake.

19) Following a Paleo diet has been shown to decrease insulin secretion and improve insulin sensitivity in healthy sedentary individuals.

20) All the evidence suggests that sugar will require a societal intervention and some type of public substance control policy in order to improve health nationally.

Do any of these spark more curiosity? I’d love to hear what interests you.

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