THE BLOG

Going Caveman: The Paleolithic Diet

19/03/2013 15:35 GMT | Updated 17/05/2013 10:12 BST

No, this doesn't mean chewing raw animal carcass and wrestling boar for exercise. 'Paleo' for short, the so-called 'caveman diet' is becoming more popular as anxiety surrounding the quality of food grows, in an attempt to eliminate chemicals and general bad stuff from meals. Of course, there are continuing debates over what the 'bad stuff' really is: sugar, sweeteners, fat, low-fat, antioxidants, lack of antioxidants, you name it - it has probably been studied. Which begs the question: is the paleo diet really a solution to this problem?

Well, in principle, yes. The hunter-gatherer foods that people on the paleo diet reclaim as 'good' foods largely consists of fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs. fungi and nuts - things that, hypothetically, pre-agricultural communities lived on. This means the exclusion of grains, potatoes, legumes, sugar and dairy, or anything else that has to be farmed.

This kind of lifestyle is unthinkable to hardcore cheese-and-bread lovers (like me), but the argument that this is the diet humans are adapted to seems logical. It is certainly an effective way of cutting all potentially dangerous ingredients from food. There have also been claims that going paleo reduces the risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Normally, this is something I fully support.

In this day and age, though, things are never quite that simple. Firstly, one obvious drawback to this lifestyle is cost. All food prices have risen in recent years, but meat and fish in particular are the biggest drains on anyone's wallet. This isn't a problem for a lot of people, but the reasons behind it are. Feeding a growing craze on already dwindling or environmentally-damaging resources is never going to be sustainable. In fact, some people dispute the claim that paleolithic humans didn't eat starchy foods - we are talking about an entire globe full of cultures and locations, after all. And perhaps the fact that there were less modern day diseases among hunter-gatherers was simply because they were always moving and didn't live long enough to develop any. We can only guess.

I could go on raising issues with this trend. The high amount of fat, for example, or its similarity with the high-protein Atkins diet (which makes your breath smell, among other more fatal risks).

Mainly, though, it simply seems illogical to base a contemporary diet on an ancient one driven by immediate necessity and limited opportunity. At the end of the day, we aren't living in caves, and should have more knowledge and resources than ever before. So why would you pretend otherwise? By all means, eat natural food and a balanced diet - but don't make your poor potato smiles frown.