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128 of 132 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes my top five rankings, but still has a few weaknesses, January 18, 2012
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This review is from: The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young (Kindle Edition)
Among the crop of paleo/primal/ancestral health books, this one earns a place on my top five ranking. It has useful and up-to-date discussions of specific disease conditions and their relationships to nutrition. Since the Paleo Answer is brand-new, it also has the advantage of being able to cite new research since Good Calories, Bad Calories (GCBC) came out.

The book is almost entirely about nutrition. It mentions other lifestyle issues, but only in short treatments, so do not expect the kind of wide-spectrum discussion of lifestyle at the depth available in the Primal Blueprint. I thought the sub-title was misleading. This is not a play-by-play gimmicky diet program. It is a useful applied science book (and sure, if you stop eating nasty toxins, of course you'll feel better in a few days!).

The chapter on vegetarianism/veganism is notably solid and might be useful to recommend to vegetarians and vegans. Moral issues are touched on, but what Cordain really wants to make fully clear in this chapter, and I think he slam-dunks it, is that seeking better health is not one of the reasons to be a vegetarian/vegan [Steve Jobs, RIP].

It is nice to see an author who openly changes his mind and Cordain is quite clear on points on which new evidence or understandings have led him to do so in the past few years. The discussion of vitamin supplements is important. Cordain argues that the most recent studies are trending to indicate that most supplements are somewhere between useless and harmful, but D and fish oil appear to remain positive. I thought his personal stories fit with the content and add to the book (rather than being mere ego digressions), I particularly liked the story related to obtaining clean water.

The chapter on dairy showed some logical weakness. All of the evidence it cites is from studies of cow milk drinking, but the author generalizes those conclusions to all dairy products. I have had very negative experiences with milk drinking and stopped years ago, but no (noticeable) negatives with cheeses and heavy cream. Clearly there is a major difference created with the separation into cream/butter and the bio-processing involved in cheesemaking. I'm not saying those products are thereby cleared of suspicion, just that they are clearly different in their effects from milk itself and need to be addressed as such. I thought it was a black mark on the logic of the book that this distinction was not addressed at all in the dairy chapter and that conclusions based on milk studies alone were generalized to all dairy products.

Another weakness is the repeated reference to "lean" meats as being recommended. I'm not sure what this is about, but I guess it might be a kind of subconscious artifact leftover from the habit of bowing to anti-fat hysteria. Fat is the primary target of predators and ranks above lean meat in priority of consumption. Traditional societies eat the whole animal and your fellow hunters would certainly be horrified if you started tossing out the fat components of the kill in favor of boring old chunks of dry muscle! Treatments of fat in the Primal Blueprint and GCBC seem to be superior.

Above this on my current nutrition/health rankings are only three volumes: The Primal Blueprint, GCBC, and The Paleo Solution. In sum, that leaves a lot of other volumes in this genre that I am ranking below this one (I've gotten good specific insights from a lot of other books, but the quality and reliability of the advice is much more spotty). I would definitely include The Paleo Answer in a top-five reading program in this area.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 18, 2012 9:49:01 PM PST
Sheshechic says:
I understand your concern about the treatment of milk in this book. Can you tell me if Cordain discusses the different sources of milk?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2012 1:49:52 AM PST
Konrad Graf says:
I don't think he mentions raw milk distinctions, although my impression is that he might say that at least pasteurization would help destroy some of the potentially immune reactive bovine "hormones and bioactive peptides" that he details. Overall, the chapter is a pretty thorough take-down of milk drinking, per se. I just thought it was weak in contrast to the rigor of most of the book to present hard evidence based entirely on milk studies as automatically generalizing to "dairy."

Posted on Mar 4, 2012 9:27:57 AM PST
murfeeman says:
Thanks, Konrad, for an excellent review. The "lean meat" issue has actually caused me to avoid reading Cordain's other books. Many other paleo writers have presented convincing proof that animal fat is essential for optimal health. I have read recently that Cordain's view on this had changed and I was hoping that would be reflected in this new book. However, that won't prevent me from buying this book since there is obviously other valuable information. I think the dairy issue is still controversial and might best be resolved on a personal basis. There are strong advocates like Dr. Cate Shanahan for raw milk products when obtainable. Like you, I am using small amounts of raw milk cheese with no apparant ill effects.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2012 7:58:18 AM PST
Konrad Graf says:
Thanks! I am just starting to read Deep Nutrition and also just starting to examine some material from Chris Kresser, and have also started reading Jack Kruse recently and getting out the ice packs. I think the key is that a lot of these people have things to contribute, but each brings a particular angle and set of strengths and weaknesses in what they have uncovered and what they present that can be sort of balanced off of the others, which means... a lot of business for Amazon :-) but we'll get there. Sisson still tops my list for the best overview and framework tone setting for the whole enterprise. My favorite "lean meat" story image is of Inuit eating the fat and feeding the extra lean mean to the dog teams. Similarly, the leftovers that hyenas get from lion kills is...lean meat.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 11:23:01 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 22, 2012 3:37:59 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012 3:53:18 PM PDT
Max More says:
What's odd is that Cordain does say, in this book, that he's changed his position on fatty meat, but then he goes on to continually recommend lean meat. Puzzling. Overall, though, I found The Paleo Answer highly informative and an excellent addition to the dozen other books I've read on the topic.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 2:31:04 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 22, 2012 2:31:55 PM PDT]

Posted on Apr 23, 2012 10:36:23 AM PDT
What Dr. Cordain has previously said about the fat vs. lean issue is that, in practice, our ancestors ate the *whole* animal. They didn't have the luxury of just eating the fatty parts. (Predators would of course go for the most nutritious fatty parts first, but they face fierce competition for the carcass from other predators and scavengers and it's in their interest to go for the choicest parts first.) And he also pointed out that while game meat is fatty during part of the year, it is very lean at other times. So the fat content of supermarket meat is much higher than the fat content of wild game. He based his lean meat recommendation on an average figure for game.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 23, 2012 3:26:56 PM PDT
Konrad Graf says:
@Joshua. Thanks. Nice clarification on the background to this. Fat from ill, grain-fed conventional beasts kept alive on antibiotics is probably not the kind of fat source one would want to prioritize. As Robb Wolf puts it so nicely, "How much grain does it take to raise a cow? None. Cows eat grass!" I think my original point with point out this issue for this book was that in the starting context of conventional discourse, the default is going to be people obsessing about trying not to eat any fat because of conventional anti-fat hysteria, and for the author in that context to still be saying "lean meat" is just going to appear to fall right into that mainstream non-sense even if that was not intended.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2012 1:32:52 PM PDT
Hi Konrad, some other points he makes in the new book are that much of the saturated fat in the American diet comes from dairy products, and that the average American consumes more saturated fat than hunter-gatherers. However, he recommends more fat than the American Heart Association: "If we look at the typical hunter-gatherer diet, in which animal food consumption falls between 55 and 65 percent of the total calories, the dietary saturated fat intake is higher still at 15.1 percent. Even in plant-dominated hunter-gatherer diets, the dietary saturated fat (11.3 percent) is considerably higher than the American Heart Association's recommended healthful values of less than 7 percent," and "If you are faithful to the basic principles of the Paleo Diet, consumption of saturated fats within the range of 10 to15 percent of your daily calories will not increase your risk for heart disease. In fact, the opposite may be true, as new information suggests that elevations in LDL cholesterol may actually reduce systemic inflammation, a potent risk factor for heart disease." So he isn't pushing a low fat diet, just one that's lower in fat than what most people consume, and that isn't because of unprocessed meat, so in his diet your actually getting more saturated fat from unprocessed meat than we already do.

It sure would be great if you could eat even more saturated fat than that, but in the absence of conclusive evidence that we can it seems to me that the principle of following the diet that we evolved to eat is a sound one. That to me is the beauty of paleo diet, evolution has already done the thinking for us -- it's the safest diet in that regard.
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