I'm a Paleo Diet sceptic

I have been approached by a few of my friends and acquaintances about adopting a Paleo diet as part of my diabetes management. After doing some preliminary research, my initial response was a firm "no". It seemed to me that living with Type 1 diabetes and eating Paleo was not going to work for me. Another friend, the owner of a local wellness centre, sent me a link this week about recent research indicating that the Paleo diet was beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes. I read the material she sent me, and my adamant "no" became a "possible". But although I respect her knowledge and expertise, I'm still sceptical.

Why am I sceptical? It always seemed to me that although we all descended from an early human, quite a bit has changed in the millions of years since that diet was "the norm". I've mixed ancestry. Some of my ancestors are from African, some are from Europe, some are Asian, and some are from the Americas (Carib). Africans, Europeans and Carib American's do have the same DNA, did not live the same lifestyle, nor had access to the same foods. We've all developed differently. It always seemed to me that arguing for a diet based on what our ancestors ate a few million years ago while ignoring the multiple genetic and environmental adaptions that have occurred since then is VERY short-sighted. The challenge I have with Paleo is that it assumes we are all the same and share the same heritage. I'm not alone in my thinking.

Geographical mapping of my ancestral DNA from 23andme.com
Geographical mapping of my ancestral DNA from 23andme.com

I found this "conversational" thread from a few years ago:

The palaeolithic period is prehistoric and as much as anthropology has told, there is still so much we don’t know. What we do know is that this is the time when Hominids (I think we were called that by then) started moving around the world.

Many tens of thousands of years have passed since then. And if our ancestors adapted so differently, in ways that are visible to us now, it only makes sense that we may have adapted in ways that are invisible to us.

For instance, Asians, Native Americans, and blacks are lactose intolerant, and blacks (the group I know best) tend to grow strong bones without consuming a lot of calcium through milk. White women are prone to osteoporosis and tend not to be lactose intolerant. Also, Sickle Cell is an adaptation that protects blacks from malaria, but can still kill us. Whites don’t have Sickle Cell. In our attempt to become colorblind (which I think is completely ridiculous), we forget that there are real differences that need to be acknowledged and respected.Livetoride

In the USA, I think we tend to avoid these conversations about genetics differences. I think it's collective guilt from years of slavery, colonialism, attempted genocide, and oppression from our past.

But I still wanted to know if anyone with Type 1 diabetes was living a Paleo lifestyle. My quick search found a 2012 Six Until Me article by guest blogger, Lindsay Swanson.

I started a blog to share with others what I learn, and to try to help others feel better too. I’ve tried to find ways to share how being Paleo is easy, flavorful, and rewarding. In all of the benefits I’ve seen, my blood sugar is amazing I’d say 90% of the time. Hard to believe, but I see it with my own eyes, so, yet another reason Paleo has been wonderful for me. My body behaves entirely differently when I eat real food vs. fake food. ~ Lindsay Swanson

Without knowing the full details of Lindsay's diabetes management strategy, I remain sceptical. I have quite a few questions.

Is she on an insulin pump or multiple daily injections? Eating multiple times a day becomes challenging when you have to calculate the right amount of rapid-acting insulin and not run into complications from the activity curve of the insulin. Does she have hypoglycemia unawareness or a CGMS to catch the hypoglycemia before it becomes critical? When my blood glucose rapidly falls because I'm incorrectly "guessed" the amount of "unknown" carbohydrates in my meal or the effect of my activity (exercise, a hike through the woods) I'm going to need some rapid-acting sugar. Fruits will NOT work. Does she work in a slow-paced sit-at-a-desk all day type of job, or is she in an always-travelling-hustle-and-bustle work environment? My work schedule will affect when and what I can eat. Try telling your boss you can't make the 10 AM meeting because it's time for your Paleo snack.

I remain sceptical because I find that Americans tend to simplify everything. They want to take complicated subjects and find easy answers. There is NO easy answer to find the ideal diet for everyone when the variables are unknown and complex. The Paleo diets expect modern humans to eat live our Paleo ancestors while ignoring the fact that we don't live like our ancestors. I don't hunt or gather my food? Do you?

More reading material.

Author: Khürt Williams

A human who works in information security and enjoys photography, Formula 1 and craft ale.