Mar 26, 2015

Paleo is a stupid cult, and it is killing people

A toxic mix of scientism and a delusional belief in pseudo-history have created a world in which we pick and choose easy "answers", rather than search for actual knowledge.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

In shocking news recently and less recently and, really, since there was scholarly response about the nutty matter to hand, the Paleo Diet might not be evolutionary perfection on a plate. The meat-rich eating plan might increase, and not decrease, as is claimed by its profiteering advocates, the risk of colorectal cancers, and despite cheerleading by its slender celebrity squad, it’s about as sustainable an energy source as coal. You don’t endorse a commercially popular “movement” that relies on the mass-farming of beasts and get to claim you’re getting back to nature. It doesn’t matter how artisanal or grass-fed your steak is, it remains, rare or well done, a product with an immense carbon hoof-print.

But let’s set aside the irritating matter of the planet and ignore the claims of pseudo-sustainability for meat made by the I Quit Sugar cult and others. Popular diets, however compassionately they choose to market themselves, are rarely designed to save the world and appeal almost exclusively to an idea of individual “wellness” — the new and acceptable term for thin. But we’ll make-believe for the sake of argument that this caveman bunkum — and all promotional urging to nature from Belle Gibson to Atkins — is commercially responsible and that increasing the demand for artisanal meat can only end well. Let’s agree with the proposition that 7 billion stomachs, nearly all of them on a direct IV to the free market, can be sustainably filled by kilos of meat every week produced by small and responsible farmers, who enrich the land and do not brutally slaughter their stock but simply bore them to death by reading them passages of Sarah Wilson’s swill.

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31 thoughts on “Paleo is a stupid cult, and it is killing people

  1. Desmond Graham

    Didn’t they become extinct ??? Good diet !!!

  2. Sean

    The single best article I’ve read on this frustratingly presented topic. Spot on.

  3. Art Randolph

    Once again Razer hits it out of the park. Articles like this keep me subscribing to Crikey.

  4. Steven Grant Haby


    Another well written article / rant on these obsessions with ridiculous diets and so on.

    You’ve called it for what it is … a cult.

    Well done Ms R.


  5. Duncan Gilbey

    The good thing about fads is that they don’t last long. The bad thing is that there’s always another one coming.

  6. Sean

    Funnily enough there is a lot to disagree with in Helen’s article, although I often sympathise with her work.

    Her treatment of what science is and is not and what Paleolithic people ate or didn’t eat and how long or short they lived and why or why not, and why trivial measles is bad but vaccines with pretty questionable safety profiles are good, GMO products are not longitudinally tested for safety and are designed for profit and not to feed the poor but here, have some more (despite a few experimental strains causing lesions and cancers), the world population has exploded and is starving due to various factors not really touched on, and it is irrelevant to our biology and digestion anyhow, are themselves subjective claims to the truth, and not necessarily the absolute truth. And a few more things I might choose to pick at when I get to a real keyboard and off this smartphone.

    Oh, and I have a science degree including studies in human biology, immunology and epidemiology, and a major in anthropology, and work these days in logic. Will talk anthropology and diet and longevity once I get to a bigger computing device.

    1. Warwick Saunders

      What rot. Do you even provide one source? Classic troll.

  7. Vicki Brous

    I take your points about Paleo eating which I am trying out even though I agree on the mass cult attitudes and climate change issues, however where do you get that “antibiotics are bad for you” is folk lore? Any one with any medical knowledge and experience will tell you that as a society we have become overly dependent on antibiotics. Yes, this is fact and yes this is bad, because if you get sick and there are no antibiotics that will fix you, well you will die! Since when was that folk lore?

  8. Sean

    Certainly it has artifacts of a fad and a religion and has a few requisite weird rituals and the smugness and superiority that goes with all good religions and fads and preys on today’s individualistic self-obsession about health and beauty, and, yes, his teeth are all wrong nd it’s a midlife money spinner, but that’s not to say its reasoning is entirely invalid from a health perspective.

    Naturally this article will appeal to the cognitive biases of the worst pseudosceptics in the crikey collective and they’ll all come out of the woodwork to nod and harrumph and stroke their beards, thus validating all the incorrect assertions and cultural memes repeated here that say keep doing what you’re doing, science and medicine and giant agribusiness are great and not the least corrupted by money, etc…

  9. Rais

    One thing I don’t quite follow is how grass-fed beef is a product with an immense carbon hoof-print. They’re eating grass, not grain. Grass doesn’t require a big carbon input to grow and being green vegetation it absorbs some carbon from the atmosphere. The cattle emit methane but this is a short lived gas in the atmosphere. Cereals and legumes on the other hand do require a large carbon input to grow and harvest them on an industrial scale.

  10. Gregory Grasshopper

    Ouch. Double bite there about Catalyst and historical fiction!

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