Probably the best academic treatment of why modern foods play a role in diseases of civilization.
A reader left an interesting comment:
I'm a Polyface intern and CrossFit enthusiast. Polyface has a pretty amicable relationship with the Weston A. Price Foundation, which has a lot in common with Paleo. The difference, however, is that WAPF espouses traditional diets that often include grains. The crisis in nutrition didn't start with the introduction of grains 10,000 years ago, right? It started with the maturation and confluence of the food and marketing industries and the flight from agrarian areas to cities. This was mere decades ago. Traditional diets are the answer.
A Paleo diet seems to me to be ultimately fundamentalist and impossible to follow. There is no way we can know what hunter/gatherers 10,000 years ago actually consumed. It makes much more sense to follow human culture and eat traditional diets like we have been for millennia, including sprouted grains!
I tend to be very sympathetic with the idea that agrarian diets are good. But there is simply no escaping the fact that
1. Grains are not necessary to be healthy
2. Despite that fact that many agrarian populations are health compared to us, archaeological evidence shows that they are shorter, have smaller crania, and sometimes have worse teeth. Of course agrarian populations vary quite a lot. I find it quite odd to see people like Matt Stone and other starch-pushers extol traditional potato-based diets. Yes, those people were not obese, but they were very short and when immigrants from these populations move to the US the height gains in their children are quite dramatic. Traditional grains and starches might not be "bad," but are they the best foods to pick when you have access to plenty of easily-digested nutritious meat and fish?
As for the Paleo diet being fundamentalist and impossible to follow, I actually don't think it is. I eat at normal restaurants and shop at normal stores. I am a fan of the WAPF and eat some agrarian foods. Ironically it's THOSE foods that require me to engage in illegal activity, order stuff online, spend hours grinding grains, planning ahead to ferment them. I LOVE idlis and buckwheat pancakes, but I almost never make them because they are too much of a pain. I run my own consulting business and it's much easier for me to just throw a bunch of meat and vegetables into a pan and eat it. I think WAPF is a good diet, but I'm not sure it's the best diet and I'm positive it's not the easiest.
You are right, I don't know exactly what hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago ate. They didn't leave any recipe books. But paleo isn't reenactment, it's about nutritional principles: fat is good, animals are the perfect food, and grains should be limited are the main principles I live by.
* as for shortness being a bad thing, it's only an indicator of a less than optimal diet if people aren't acheiving the max height possible for their genes. There is plenty of evidence from immigration that a lot of people in agrarian cultures don't reach that max height. Caries in agrarian populations are well documented, with some having very high rates (mostly corn based) and others low (milk and rice based).