The Paleo Diet Main Event: Harris Vs. Matesz

Ricardo Dominguez (left) and Rafael Ortiz. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Apparently, Dr. Kurt Harris of the “Archevore” blog, has become a little annoyed with the recent chain of inconsistent information that has been streaming from Don Matesz of the “Primal Wisdom” blog. So annoyed in fact, that he decided to lay down one of the most intense, no-holds-bared smack-downs that I’ve seen in a long time, on his blog today (December 13th 2011). If you thought that the debate between Stephen Guyenet (Whole Health Source blog), and Gary Taubes, that began at the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium was intense, you won’t want to miss this little gem!

The Main Event: Harris Vs. Matesz

I have to admit that I was personally very quick to dismiss Don Matesz from my own list of “People whose opinions I respect”, because of his complete 180 change from a standard Paleo diet approach to one that is closer to an almost totally vegan approach, even with the inclusion of some soy-based and otherwise highly processed fake foods, that we learned Paleo folks wouldn’t even touch.

Judging by some of the statements in Kurt’s attack on Matesz, Don has actually been pursuing a basically anti-paleo campaign recently, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t been following his blog since he performed his massive flip-flop…. I mean, why would I? Maybe I’ll check it out, just so I know a little more of the back-story that lead up to this veritable “explosion”.

Harris Vs. Matesz begins with this statement from Archevore:

The other day I got an email from a friend in the paleo world with the following quote in it:

I’m pretty torn about AHS. It was fun, but I don’t see a good future in it because people are unwilling to call out bullshit. Anyone who is pretty much has already quit in frustration like you and Mat Lalonde. I see myself in that position soon.

Perhaps I can partially correct that by addressing a bit of steaming dung in the nutrition blogosphere right now. “

From what I can make of it, Matesz was basically trying to relate to Dr. Harris after AHS11, because it appears that he thought that Dr. Harris chose not to attend the symposium because he (like Matesz), was also distancing himself from the Paleo community on the whole. Obviously Dr. Harris has his own views on the Paleo/Primal template, but he certainly hasn’t decided to effectively become vegan like Matesz, and completely abandon the Paleo/Primal community. Obviously Matesz was barking up the wrong tree with this assumption of brotherhood. If Dr. Harris ever chooses to entirely abandon the Paleo template, I’m sure he will do so on his own terms…..siding with Matesz apparently wouldn’t be part of his agenda.

Don Matesz has always seemed to me a mostly harmless kook. His arguments have always been emphatic and almost comically earnest, but otherwise lacking in subtlety, grace, and wit. This makes his prose, to me, almost unbearable to read regardless of content. Worst of all, he claims “alternative” pseudo-credentials as if they should be impressive and routinely touts the kind of fashionable unscientific crap that has always just rubbed me the wrong way.

I confess that Don can claim at least partial responsibility for my lack of appearance at AHS 2011. The appearance there of so many folks touting pseudoscientific nonsense, and the general lack of thematic coherence exemplified by the roster there made me want to have nothing to do with it, even though there were definitely many excellent presenters with great ideas as well (you know who you are).”

Yep, you read that correctly…..Dr. Harris called Don Matesz “a mostly harmless kook”. I laughed out loud.

Then Don proved me right by supposedly forswearing paleo just a few months before he presented at AHS. The author of “Primal Wisdom”, paid purveyor of dietary wisdom, and also a self-styled expert on the “wisdom” of primitive superstition (shamanism), naturopathy (whatever that is), reincarnation, meditation, crystals, etc… reversed his polarity from being a near carnivore who had little use for plants to a near vegan.

It took him 12 years to figure out he was on the wrong diet, charging people for health advice the whole while.

Recently, some blogger friends alerted me to a series he was writing “debunking” paleo. As I have not identified myself as “paleo” for a long time, and Matesz has always been so painful to read, I didn’t bother to waste any time with it.

I can’t be bothered with creationists or vegans, generally.

Then I was alerted that he was using me, quite selectively and inaccurately, as a representative foil for his debunking.”

Again, obviously Don believed (erroneously) that because Dr. Harris was openly placing his own “spin” on the Paleo template, Dr. Harris was actually in the same anti-Paleo camp as him. Evidently, Dr. Harris didn’t appreciate having his writings so misconstrued by someone for whom he possesses zero respect.

“You ask, rhetorically:

“Should I really believe that Michael Eades and Kurt Harris know more about the effect of saturated fats on heart disease than the members of the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, composed of individuals who have invested their whole lives in studying nutrition both as scholars and bench scientists?”

Believe whatever you want, but if you don’t side with me and with Dr. Eades, then you also are firmly contra Guyenet, Masterjohn and Colpo, just to name a few.

Do you think Mike Eades and I are the only ones who doubt the diet/heart nonsense?”

I really need to go back and read some of Don’s recent blog posts, because if he has actually reverted to supporting the old diet/heart hypothesis, he has really strayed pretty far from the reservation indeed. How could one of the original supporters of the Paleo movement, and a presenter at the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium stray so far into complete ignorance of established science? I could understand if the alterations in Don’s personal Paleo diet template were something akin to the well thought-out and scientifically sound changes to the paradigm that have been made by Dr. Harris, and people like Paul Jaminet of “The Perfect Health Diet”, but going BACK to supporting such terrible, unsupported “science” is unforgivable. Maybe he decided that he wanted to be re-integrated into the Matrix again…..after all, ignorance is bliss, right?

Keyes felt that fats were bad, and therefore carbohydrate was good. As others were, Taubes was correct in concluding that Keyes’ data were fraudulent and that his predictions about fat and cholesterol consumption have never proven true. But Taubes then went on and made the contrapositive error  – concluding that if animal fats are innocent in disease, the real culprit must be the entire macronutrient class of carbohydrate.

You have now made the same signal error, concluding that if homo sapiens is not an obligate carnivore, then we must be essentially vegan by nature, and if we are not “designed” to eat mostly animal fats for fuel, then they must be poison and carbohydrate is to be the preferred macronutrient at risk of our very health.

Plants are now to be favored and animals are anathema.

You’ve added the false dichotomy of plant/animal to the one Keyes gave us of fats and carbs.”

Dr. Harris finishes up his attack with a barrage that I would liken to the loud fiery crescendo that comes at the end of any worthwhile firework display. These closing statements definitely forced me to physically utter the word “ouch!”, and I’m sure it will illicit the same response from most of you:

So although you have supposedly said “farewell” to paleo, the ship left with you still clinging to her stern. No separation at all in fundamental assumptions, just a different a priori bias now because “your allergies got worse”……

You’ve gone from near-carnivory to MacDougall veganism with no real explanation for why you should be any more credible now than you were then.

Don, you’re like those alcoholics that quit the drink but turn hard to Jesus, and now chain- smoke while eating too many glazed doughnuts at AA meetings.

You’ve gone from one nutty extreme to another, and now have zero credibility left. And I’m not even counting the superstitious nonsense you tout about “traditional chinese” medicine, yin and yang, “shamanism” and the other pseudoscientific bullshit that peppers your blog.

I am asking you to please leave my name out of your dumb crusade against “paleo”, especially if you can’t quote me accurately or even bother to read my more recent writings.

Just quote yourself if you want to show how lame paleo is.

You’ve got plenty of posts that would fit much better than cherry- picking ones I put up more than 2 years ago.

PS: Are you sure you know what your favorite color is?”

Ouch! 

So there you have the Paleo diet main event of Harris Vs. Matesz. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure how warranted such a harsh smack down actually was, but I have to say that I completely agree with most of Dr. Harris’ statements here.

Go read the whole article, and tell me what you think…. I’d love to know.

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So who do YOU support in this knock down drag out of a fight?  Please leave your comments below and share on Facebook and Twitter.

Go to www.undergroundnutritionist.com, and download my 30-Day UN-Challenge eBook now……It’s a step-by-step guide to your personal health revolution.

Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

For more information please visit: www.undergroundnutritionist.com

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2 Responses to The Paleo Diet Main Event: Harris Vs. Matesz

  1. Brian Cormack Carr December 14, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Ouch indeed!

    Like you Barry, I agree with a lot of what Kurt Harris says. In fact, I’m very suspicious of any “absolutist” statements when it comes to nutrition, particularly when they demonize whole food groups, or take an either/or approach to animal and plant foods.

    I’m sure we all know of people who do well on foods that others simply can’t handle. Within the basic, sensible parameters of “eat real food”, there’s quite a bit of scope for leeway, and we’ve all got to work to find our own sweet spot. I’m very appreciative of people like Dr. Harris and the Jaminets who’ve been able to advance the discussion so thoughtfully.

    • Barry Cripps December 14, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Exactly Brian!

      I listened to a Jimmy Moore podcast a while back, in which he interviewed Don Matesz. Don sounded like he was being led by his new, and conveniently Vegan wife. You could hear her prompting him to say certain things in the background. Don should have said “here, let my wife tell you what I believe”. haha!

      You can’t tell me that his recent 180 has NOTHING to do with the influence from his new wife! She must be either VERY convincing, or REALLY hot to produce such a change in an original Paleo proponent. ;-)