Low Fat Paleo

When I first read about the Paleo movement, I remember strongly identifying with the concept behind it i.e. that we should try to model our dietary patterns with our past as much as possible.  However, I believe that the modern Paleo Diet has fallen off the rails and gotten itself completely side tracked and one of the reasons is that it many of its practitioners, at least here in American, embrace the idea that modern industrial meats are somehow healthful and somehow "Paleo".  In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe that the future of Paleo lies in what I call Low Fat Paleo.  Below I will give you X reasons you should embrace Low Fat Paleo and why I think it will eventuallycrush all future diets:

1. The Testimony of the Supercultures.  I have done a fair amount of study on what I call the "supercultures", which are essentially "primitive" peoples that eat in a Paleo-esque fashion and enjoy vastly superior health to our own.  These cultures have essentially no heart disease, no cancer and no autoimmune disorders coupled with exceptional longevity.  Seriously, can you imagine a society where NO seniors have hypertension?  Welcome to the Tarahumara.  Most of our seniors here in American are on 2 or 3 blood pressure medications and, even then, they often still have elevations in blood pressure.  These cultures also have no Alzheimer's, no diseases of the bowel such as IBS, Crohn's and diverticulitis, no arthritis and on and on.

All of these cultures eat a low or quite low fat diet.  The only exceptions are really the Masai, who had cholesterol of 150, and a few cultures that each large amounts of heart healthy, high omega-3 fish.  Again, eating low fat puts you in the company of the cultures with the best longevity and lowest rates of chronic disease.

2.  Wild Game is Almost Always Low Fat.  Our ancestors, for the most part, did not eat high fat meats.  Yes, there are caribou in the north that have pretty high saturated fat levels.  But most of the meat in wild game is shocking low fat in the 10-15% range and this is what was available throughout the majority of our history. I cover this in my page on Low Fat Meats. Again, eating lower fat meats is truly Paleo in every sense of the word that I can think of.

3.  Loren Cordain Saw the Wisdom of Low LDL.  If you don't believe me, then check out these words of the founder of Paleo, Loren Cordain:

"Evidence from hunter-gatherer populations while they were still following their indigenous lifestyles showed no evidence for atherosclerosis, even in individuals living into the seventh and eighth decades of life (15,16). These populations had total cholesterol levels of 100 to 150 mg/dl with estimated LDL cholesterol levels of about 50 to 75 mg/dl." [1]

Now, in fairness, Loren Cordain is now less assertive about saturated fat.  However, if you listen carefully to his position on the subject in this interview, you will note that he does not put his name on eating more saturated fat.  He actually says that his friend believes that saturated fat is okay.  I cannot help but believe that he still has his reservations that eating a bunch of saturated fat is good for your arteries.  And that makes sense based ont he stellar track record of the hunter-gatherer supercultures.

4.  Low Cholesterol and Low Triglycerides.  Dr. William Davis, author of Track Your Plaque and one of the foremost experts on reversing arteriosclerosis, points out his "Rule of 60", which is

  • LDL < 60
  • Triclycerides < 60
  • HDL > 60
  • The significance of this rule is that he says it can reverse plaque in 90-95% of people. Low Fat Paleo is perfect for doing this. Paleo itself is known for lowering triclycerides (and helping with glucose and insulin issues). And by going low fat, it can also greatly bring down LDL levels as well. It's an artery-healing proposition and one that lines up with another lay researcher: Nathan Pritikin.

    5.  Nathan Pritikin.  Nathan Pritikin was the modern apostle of the low fat movement. He basically at a little low fat meat and then a lot of low fat plant foods. And his efforts were vindicated by his coroner: his arteries will perfectly clean and supple. [2]  The cornoner's report included the following:

    "The pathologist reported that Pritikin had no signs of heart disease, and his arteries were as soft and pliable as a teenager s. In a man 69 years old, the near absence of atherosclerosis and the complete absence of its effects are remarkable." [3]

    Of course, this was made possible by Nathan Pritikin's Low Fat Diet.  (He also was a regular exerciser and ran for an hour each day.) Now where did he get the idea for his low fat theories?  From the hunter-gatherer supercultures!  This is why he ate low fat and it is also likely why he ate a little bit of low fat meat.  Virtually all of the longest-lived supercultures ate a little meat but not too much.  This is clearly the sweet spot of dietary regimens.

    The Future of Paleo

    How many Paleo folks out there have cholesterol over 180?  over 200?  Lots of them.  I ask, "Why not model yourself after all these primal peoples who have proven how we can live without heart disease, hypertension and cancer?"  Why risk life and limb just so you can eat a bloated, corn fed cow? It just doesn't make sense and I would argue it is time to "go natural" and go Low Fat Paleo.

    And this is how I try to eat and live - like these "Paleo" supercultures - modeling as best I can their lifestyle in a modern setting.  In fact, in my opinion, I am one of the only guys really trying to eat what I would call "True Paleo" that is based on the supercultures. 

    Again, low fat eating just makes sense, because it's so much a part of our past. Even if you eat low fat, you will still get all the essential fatty acids that you need, especially if you include some kind of fatty fish a few times per week. You can also supplement with some fish oil if you are worried about it as well.


    1)  JACC, 2004, 43(11), "Optimal Low-Density Lipoprotein Is 50 to 70 mg/dl: Lower Is Better and Physiologically Normal"

    2) N Engl J Med, 1985, 313:52, "Nathan Pritikin's Heart"