It is clear that the Paleo diet misses the mark on a number of levels. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that grains, dairy and legumes should be eschewed by the masses. It is true that those with coeliac disease must avoid gluten, but only 1% of the population are afflicted with this disorder. And if so, they only need to avoid gluten-containing grains, not ALL grains. Rice, quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat and tapioca are still very much on the menu for those with coeliac disease. Furthermore, forgoing whole food groups unnecessarily runs the risk of missing out on vital nutrients such as calcium, folate and fibre just to name a few. This can result in vitamin deficiencies, constipation as well as osteoporosis.
You have a lot of fans but there are critics too. Why did you block people who questioned Paleo from your Facebook page?
I was one of the many health professionals who Pete and his team blocked from his Facebook page.
Do you believe Paleo is healthier and suitable for everyone? Would you recommend it to people with medical conditions like Type 1 diabetes, eating disorders, epilepsy, paediatric failure to thrive or post heart-surgery?
I wouldn’t advise those with Type 1 Diabetes to adopt the Paleo way. Type 1 diabetics can suffer from hypoglycaemia if they don’t consume enough carbohydrates. However, if a person carefully controls their insulin dosage based on their carbohydrate consumption then they could in theory maintain a low carbohydrate diet. But, I wouldn’t support this. Furthermore, those with eating disorders already have an unhealthy relationship with food. Encouraging them to be afraid of whole food groups will likely only exacerbate their pre-existing issues. In addition, the Paleo diet would absolutely not be suitable for children who are failing thrive or post heart-surgery patients. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that very low carbohydrate diets may be beneficial for those with extreme epilepsy, in particular for children.
Can you explain the link you suggested between the current dietary guidelines and conditions like autism, mental illness and dementia?
This statement is farcical! There have been NO studies conducted that support such wild and dangerous claims. In fact, numerous studies have shown the benefits of wholegrains on mental health. Recent guidelines for the prevention of dementia explicitly state that wholegrains should be included as part of a regular diet.
Is the government knowingly promoting unhealthy foods to the general public because of the significant financial influence of big food corporations?
I do not believe so.
Aside from personal testimonials, is there quality evidence-based research showing the benefits of Paleo? Why is it better than the Mediterranean diet, for example?
Only a handful of studies have examined the effects of a Paleo type diet. These were all small, short-term studies.
Generally, these studies did report beneficial effects on blood pressure levels, blood cholesterol and triglycerides. However, the authors of the studies were unable to conclude whether these positive changes were simply as a result of weight loss or because of a Paleo lifestyle. No long-term investigations into any potential health benefits of the Paleo diet have been examined to date.
There are loads of long-term studies supporting the vast benefits of the Mediterranean diet on health parameters such as cholesterol, fasting blood sugar levels, triglycerides, blood pressure as well as weight. I know which diet I’d rather be following.
What do you think of the recent pooled/meta-analyses of the many studies examining the correlation between food and chronic disease that concluded that wholegrains are beneficial in preventing disease? Also the findings that red/processed meat increased risk and dairy was neutral? (published in the journal Nutrition Reviews)
You should always back the science!
Why shouldn’t we eat cooked legumes? And dairy for people who are able to digest it?
There is not a skerrick of evidence to support the belief that we should be avoiding legumes. Paleo evangelists seem to believe that because legumes are high in phytic acid they should not be consumed. However, soaking and cooking legumes will destroy any potential nasties. Meanwhile, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, but they are a staple in the Paleo diet.
Further, there is inadequate evidence to support claims that all dairy foods should be avoided. Dairy foods are an important source of bone-building calcium as well as muscle-building protein, Vitamin B12 and riboflavin. We know that most Australians do not get enough calcium. Falling short of your calcium requirements puts you at risk of developing osteoporosis.
What do you think about vaccination? Would you like to see any changes to the childhood immunisation register? If so, what kind of changes?
Vaccination is vitally important. I do not support any changes to the childhood immunisation register. Recent measles outbreaks where vaccination rates are low are a case in point.
Why should we filter fluoride out of our water?
We shouldn’t. Fluoride is vital for the health of our teeth. Just ask any dentist and check out the teeth of anyone over 40 compared to those under 40.
Given that "food is medicine", do pharmaceuticals have a role in keeping us healthy in modern life or should we avoid them?
Pharmaceuticals absolutely have their place in maintaining our health. Until there is evidence to dispute their use, we should definitely not be avoiding them.
What are your goals for the future role of Paleo in Australia?
I will certainly not be advising my patients to follow the Paleo diet. I hope it becomes just another passing fad.