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Q: What do doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals think of the Paleo diet?
A: The US News and World Report ranked the Paleo diet number 32 out of 40 in their “Best Diets Overall” list. I – and hundreds of my colleagues – think they have their proverbial heads up their proverbial derrieres. If that kind of robust disagreement among health professionals surprises you, read on.
The basic assumption of your question is that doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals are a single, unified, homogeneous group and agree on basic principles of nutrition. That couldn’t be further from the truth. (About the only thing everyone agrees on is that vegetables are good for you.) We disagree as often as the members of congress, and sometimes just as vehemently.
Medicine and nutrition have their “left wing” and “right wing” sides, just as politics does. Conventional medicine and dietetics tends to be “center right.” The conservative faction defends old bromides like that vitamins give you expensive urine, low-fat diets are good for you, saturated fat is bad, and you need carbs for energy.
The “left” side has a much different view. This faction recognizes that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a complete disaster, believes that sugar – not fat – is the true enemy of health, and that our genes are not suited to a diet high in processed carbohydrates like cereals. This side has a slightly skeptical view of much of conventional wisdom when it comes to diet, citing the awful 1992 USDA Food Pyramid as a case in point. I am very much a member of this “left wing” party.
So from the point of view of the medical and nutrition professionals I know and work with, the Paleo diet ranks very high. It’s not just a fad but a return to a diet in which we ate mainly from what I call “The Jonny Bowden Four Food Groups,” or foods you can hunt, fish, gather or pluck. That’s what kept our human ancestors alive, and it makes a lot more sense to me than a diet based on things like low-fat milk, cereal and processed soy burgers.