O Me Miserum: possibly the worst "paleo" book ever


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Leave it to me to get distracted from Art De Vany's book and to willfully engage in behavior that makes my blood boil. But it's the Holiday season and of course people are asking me what paleo books I recommend. So this one was only five bucks at the Kindle store and I bought it despite suspicious reviews. It's called The Evolution Diet and it's by Joseph Morse, who is a "nutritionist" — which legally could mean anything from a mail-order certificate from New Age Center of Woo to an actual degree from a university. Not that people without credentials have anything to say, but his bio adds further suspicion to the matter:

JSB Morse is a nutritionist and athlete and prominent figure in online publications. Articles by him have appeared in the quarterly "Veracity" magazine, webzine "the State of Art" and its sister publication "The Thinker." He is also an established painter and sculptor and is showcased in the upcoming "Renascent" book. He has also provided his knowledge of nutrition and health as a consultant to United Brands Company, which produces many popular energy drinks in the booming market, namely Diesel. Future projects include an American-French restaurant called The Holy Crepe! and healthy food items with the Evolution Diet mark of approval. Mr. Morse was born in Indianapolis and has since relocated to San Diego, where he has been working and writing for the past 5 years.

Hmm, energy drinks? Crepes? It's not looking good.

Basically the book amounts to: Look how healthy our ancestors were! BTW Atkins diet is stupid! Carbs aren't bad- here have some saltines! Here are some random wild plants you can gather! 

That latter chapter is particularly bewildering and random. Yes, some wild greens are nice every once in awhile, but some of his gathering tips seem a little unsafe to say the least.

Basically his nutritional recommendations are the same as Self magazine dressed up with some paleo stories: eat lots of crappy "complex" carb snacks during the day, fill your diet with "health" foods like whole wheat crackers and low-fat yogurt, and nuts. Here are some recommended "evolutionary" foods:

"Fresh broccoli with fat-free ranch • Roasted peanuts • Saltines and salsa • Fresh romaine lettuce leafs • Seasoned sweet peas • Whole-grain crackers with cheese • English muffin, lightly buttered • Multigrain Cheerios with or without milk • Multigrain tortilla wrap with salsa"

Hmm, that looks familiar. Oh yes, it's because this is the exact diet I ate before I went paleo. It left me bloated, gassy, asthmatic, and with horrible heartburn and IBS...among other ailments. 

He cites a few random out of context papers to show that you shouldn't combine protein with carbs or you'll get gas and other such nonsense. You'd think that if he was trolling pubmed to fit paleo into his conventional wisdom he might come across information about how harmful gluten can be to everyone or the aflatoxin/omega-6 problems with peanuts. But no. He also laughably says that corn was eaten in the paleolithic, something even an undergraduate in anthropology would be able to refute.

Worse, he has a nearly identical book with slightly less horrible food recommendations called The Evolution Diet: All Natural and Allergy Free.

Has paleo jumped the shark? I do think we'll see more and more "made for TV" quality books like this written by those wanting to cash in on a growing trend, but I do remember Eaton's Paleolithic Prescription, written back in 1989, also recommended some gluten foods and vegetable oils. But information about why those foods are harmful has now been widely disseminated and even the newer paleo books I disagree with don't recommend such non-foods.

So where is the perfect paleo book? There are many I like, but there isn't one to rule them all yet. For food I like Mark Sisson's, for immunological context I like Robb Wolf's, for exoneration of fat I like Taubes', for exercise Art's isn't bad, for anthropological context I like anything by Richard K. Nelson or Weston A. Price. What if all the paleo luminaries collaborated and wrote one awesome book? 

If you could make a better book out of all the books out there, whose books would you use?