Paleo Diet: Fighting Within The Ranks…AGAIN!

I guess it was bound to happen. For a while there, the Paleo community on the whole seemed to get along nicely, like one large reasonably cohesive family…..but now, not so much. Recently, the Paleo community has witnessed a little, sometimes-unfriendly fighting within the ranks. First, everyone began taking shots at Don Matesz for his public nutritional 180, and then came the battle of the minds between Gary Taubes and Stephan Guyenet, that started at the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium….now, Melissa McEwen of the Hunt Gather Love blog, is taking some huge, public swings at Dr. Jack Kruse of the Living an Optimized Life blog.

Melissa’s blog post, entitled “What The Bleep Do We Know About Carbs?”, was published on February 19th 2012, and was aimed squarely at Dr. Kruse. The post was news worthy enough by itself, but what really turned up the heat on this whole thing, was the follow-up comments left by several very notable Paleo names, such as Chris Kresser, Kurt Harris, and Evelyn (aka Carbsane).

Now, I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t 100% sure about everything Melissa was talking about in her post……it was a bit…..random and garbled in my opinion, but the sentiment it contained was obviously enough to light some

fires. Maybe it’s because she stepped out into the spotlight, and said what other lesser-known people have been saying across the Paleo interwebs for a while now. Anyway, I’m not going to quote any of the original blog post here. Instead, I’m going to post a few of the most interesting comments. You can head on over to Melissa’s blog, if you want to read the blog post itself.

First up is Chris Kresser’s comment:

“I thought the whole “Paleo is VLC” idea had already died.  But it seems it has been resurrected once again.  It’s amazing to me that anyone that treats patients and actually observes and listens can come to the conclusion that everyone should be on a VLC diet.  I see people every day who have been there, done that, with not much to show for it.  I’m not saying it can’t be an effective tool for some, but to extrapolate those results to mean that carbs are poison for everyone, or even for everyone with weight or metabolic issues, is illogical (to put it mildly) and completely unsupported by the evidence.

I was surprised to see Dr. Kruse headlining all of the major Paleo events this year.  Especially so because it appeared to me that the tide had turned against the VLC Paleo concept.

Leptin resistance is the new candida.  Ha.  Loved that.”

J Larios said:

“We’re heading towards Mystical Paleo.”

Kurt Harris replied:

“No blog post but I called him a quack first…. : )”

Travis McBride commented:

“Finally, someone says it loud and clear:  Kruse is full of sh*t!  The man wouldn’t know a probabilistic wave function nor the statistical interpretation of it from a hole in the ground.   He confuses quantum with macro.   He should be embarrassed.”

To which Kurt Harris replied:

“The only person who uses “quantum” more than Kruse is that other wu-li master, Deepak Chopra.”

Melissa McEwen commented:

“I think an example of someone who I am skeptical of, but who has enough scientific integrity to be worth debate and consideration, is Ray Peat. Dr. Kruse is so far out there that he’s almost impossible to debate, which is one of the reasons I think you don’t see many posts on him. How are you going to debate something like the idea that a thought can alter your DNA? That’s even if you can decipher his text.”

And Evelyn (Carbsane) replied:

“I agree on this.  Nobody but nobody is right about everything all the time.  Even science, for all it’s exactitude, is open to considerable interpretation.  When one reads the letters in peer review journals you can see just how contentious this can be … and yet often times I find myself reading the paper by A, agreeing with the author, then reading a criticism by B and agreeing with them.  So I go back to the paper and A seems right after all … or maybe both are, or neither is.

I am a huge fan of Paul’s because I don’t see him as agenda driven.  If something he wrote in PHD turns out to be wrong, he seems more than willing to change and/or refine his position.  I think that’s all we can ask.  Others have their agendas and just dig their heels in deeper and deeper the higher the pile of contradictory evidence becomes.  I gotta hand it to Sisson.  He’s morphing almost imperceptibly in a way that has new readers thinking he’s been saying what he says now all along.  Smooth.

Kruse pegged my BS meter from the get-go.  I’ve read enough by Peat that doesn’t sit right that I’m skeptical like you, but other works that are well reasoned and founded.  I don’t want to name a bunch of names here, but there are several paleo-types who fit that description (of Peat) as well.   Somewhere in my head resides the old 2-pan balance.  When it gets tilted too far to the woo woo pan side, the other pan seems to disintegrate and no longer hold its weight.  With Kruse I never got to stack anything on pan.”

Dr Emily Deans says:

“I struggle with leaving well enough alone and the calling out… the issue is that silence can sometimes be seen as assent.  Unfortunately I find Jack’s website unreadable and his very personalized and aggressive advice difficult to support.  Others seem to appreciate his foray into advising people free of charge online.  On my blog I try to remain very general, because the minute you start to be specific there are a number of rabbit holes to fall down.  My intakes at my clinic usually take an hour, and it often takes days to gather enough information to make specific recommendations for someone.  If I am criticized for that, so be it.  I write primarily for myself, and beyond that as hopefully a trustworthy resource for other medical and health professionals to find interesting info, and I consider myself lucky that others seem to enjoy my site.

The “trustworthy” part is important to me.  There are only a few places I deem reliably trustworthy.  Are those the cool kids?”

Kamal Patel replies:

“…and one more thing. Dr. Kruse’s whole shtick has a very “The Secret” vibe. And nothing irks me more than The Secret.

While some people seem to be drawn to how to optimize your cellular terroir using advanced quantum theory coupled with resveratrol cocktails and nipple massages, others see jumping to conclusions. Unfortunately the latter people are outnumbered because they have not spoken up. Time to speak up :)

Paul Jaminet posts a comment in reference to the “safe starches” panel that is scheduled to be featured at the up-coming Ancestral Health Symposium in August 2012:

“Melissa, Jimmy Moore organized the panel and invited Ron Rosedale and myself. Cate Shanahan was invited at my suggestion since she had previously asked me to do a panel with her on starches. Jimmy then asked Jack to round out the panel, without consulting with me. As I find Jack’s contributions incomprehensible, I certainly would have preferred someone else, but having agreed to participate I felt I could not back out.

The organizing committee could have chosen more science-oriented topics, like my proposed talk, over the panel, which is more akin to theater, but they chose the panel.

You speak of “those who have devoted their lives to this movement” being
 responsible for quality control. That is not me. I have devoted my life
to finding truth, in physics, diet and health, and economics, and to helping others come to the truth, but I 
have not devoted my life to the Paleo movement. I didn’t even know it 
existed until 6 years ago, and I didn’t become a public part of it until June 2010. I think Paleo is close to the truth about diet and therefore I am happy to be part of the movement, but my loyalty is to truth itself, not the movement. I’m equally happy to be involved with a Weston A Price Foundation traditional foods movement, or a natural health movement. All are making positive contributions.

I think the Paleo movement is fragmenting. There is no longer just one Paleo. If Paleo were to (a) remain united as a single, coherent dietary style, and (b) become a respected part of the mainstream, then I think it’s true that Paleo would need (c) some kind of quality control. But is there any reason to think that any two of (a), (b), and (c) can possibly be achieved? I doubt it. I think you are chasing a mirage if you want all three. What will happen is that a version of Paleo will become the mainstream, other versions will continue to be regarded as extreme diets, and when some version of Paleo does become mainstream, it will be a new synthesis that is considered to be Paleo-inspired but is no longer part of a specific “Paleo movement.”

Even if some form of movement-wide quality control were necessary and desirable, I don’t believe it’s my specific responsibility to perform that function, nor could I do it successfully. The safe starches debate is a good example. A number of people were persuaded by it to eat starches, including Dr Mercola, so I know I had an effect. But at the same time, others were unpersuaded. Why should I expect that anything I write will succeed in controlling the quality of the Paleo movement? It’s much bigger than I am, and people will go their own way. Many are attracted to extreme diets, or to obscure gurus. Mysteries have always been attractive.

In my case, I long ago decided that it was much more productive to focus on discovering the truth and expounding it, than on refuting error. The reason is that there are millions of ways to err, but only one truth. Despite being outnumbered, truth has God on its side and is bound to triumph. Life could easily be frittered away refuting silliness that would have died on its own. That’s fine if you have nothing better to do, but I feel I have more important things to do with my time - namely cooperating with Truth. This is a deep matter of Christian spirituality: one must always prioritize cooperation with goodness, over fighting evil. It is a sinful pride to think one can defeat Satan. But it is wisdom to know that one can love and be allied with Truth.

Best, Paul”

So, don’t shoot the messenger…. I’m just reporting on what I see. I’m just a lowly blogger, and not a Paleo authority of any kind, so read the blogs and then make your own judgment call on who YOU think is speaking the truth, or just spouting nonsense. I’m not about to add my two cents here, because that could be a poor choice. However, feel free to let me know what YOU think about all of this, in the comments below.


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

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6 Responses to Paleo Diet: Fighting Within The Ranks…AGAIN!

  1. Paul Jaminet March 7, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Hi Barry,

    Minor correction: The safe starches panel will be at AHS 2012 in August.

    Best, Paul

    • Lila Solnick March 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for the correction, Paul! The post has been updated.

  2. Paleo Diet Recipes March 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Healthy competition is always helpful for spreading the word about the paleolithic diet , but public spats may spoil the whole idea.

    • Lila Solnick March 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

      I see this as a disagreement on approaches. However such disagreements can keep the Paleo method dogma free. From what I’ve observed on this lifestyle there is no “one way” to follow it (except for the basics). Whether or not one agrees with Dr. Kruse’s methodology, is irrelevant as long as it has worked for his patients. I might not include safe starches in my diet, like Paul Jaminet suggests, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t work for someone else. I think the diverse opinions in this community is what I like the most. That means that everyone should be able to find an approach that works for them.
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Ken O'Neill March 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    We should remember the origins of the Paleo movement arose with formulation of a new scientific paradigm, that of evolutionary medicine brought about by the meeting of anthropology and medicine. What startling insight arose: the majority of chronic degenerative diseases constituting a pandemic among civilized cultures remain largely unknown among extant hunter/gathers. Until then, medical consensus held that our diseases are normal expectations of life, even with a subtle ‘genetic’ argument holding ‘the run in families.’ Evo med changed our specious world view, perhaps awakening us that the majestic triumphs of 20th century medicine in conquering infectious, communicable disease do not and cannot apply to the contemporary plague: we are making ourselves sick, disabled, and killing ourselves.

    Public disagreement is absolutely mandatory for emergence of new scientific paradigm and their successful, practical application. Far larger problems loom in Paleo, problems and challenges remaining in the background as the popular Paleo movements turns into fads of consensus willing, indeed surviving, due to maintaining myriad loose ends. Among those loose ends is science itself: the Paleo model is necessarily incomplete, increasingly watered down with commercialism mandating loss of rigor to earn popular accceptance.

    The disagreements reported in this blog are aboslutely pale in comparison to genomic & molecular biology based evolutionary exercise physiology. First, diet is of secondary - genuinely important secondary - consideration for evolutionarily fit, vibrant genetic expression - activity comes first. Paleo has multiple representation of what might be deemed those claiming to be “Paleo based physical training”. They are NOT. And for several important reasons which will be detailed on my blog soon. The Paleo movement has been invaded by colonialist commercial systems of exercise, not one of them evidencing rudimentary understanding of evolutionary based exercise physiology nor what I’ve characterized as Physical Culture 2.0.

    Without an etiquette of disagreement and deliberate checks and balances safeguarding Paleo, it will very quickly become a movement at home on eBay as myriad little mom and pop commercial business, with the original impetus of Paleo in evolutionary sciences lost in watered down, dumbed down discourse encouraging conformity unto a prefrontal lobotomy.

  4. Marty March 14, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Hey, thanks for the heads up on this! ‘Having attended AHS11, I got a kick out of trying to understand the different approaches re: Paleo/Primal/Ancestral. To get a real overview of the brewing controversies (from last August), if one has the extra time - watching all the videos from AHS11 at would be well worth the time.