Dear Primalgirl: Paleo’s Gonna Kill Ya

Dear Primalgirl: Paleo’s Gonna Kill Ya

Okay, maybe I’m being a little mellow dramatic with the title of this post but when Ancel Keys is brought up, I get a little pissed off. I received this comment the other day on a post I did a while back called Can Going Paleo Give You Celiac Disease? The comment was just too long and complicated for me to write a simple rebuttal underneath. Instead, I decided to turn it into a post. I will address each point in black text so it is easier to distinguish who is “talking.” In case you don’t feel like reading the original post, I concluded that going Paleo hadn’t given me any new diseases or syndromes; instead the removal of particular foods from my diet caused me to be highly-aware of the immediate problems they created when reintroduced.

Written by Scotty from

I Highly Disagree, it’s totally possible to get an Autoimmune disease from any dietary restriction, Low carb paleo included. (by the way clay color poop is associated with problems in the pancreas).

Clay colored poop can be associated with pancreatic or liver problems. This is why I immediately had the doctor run a panel for me, to make sure I was okay in those areas. I was. When I stopped eating wheat, my poop returned to normal after three days. Clay colored poop is also associated with Celiac Disease.

“It is interesting that the obese man or woman can be placed on a diet as low as 600, or even 400, calories without loss of body nitrogen or other ill effects and without depression of the basal metabolic rate. In these respects obese persons and persons of normal weight differ strikingly in their response to a low intake of calories.”

~ Ancel Keys the Study of Human Starvation

Whoaaaaaa Nelly. Wait. You’re quoting Ancel Keys?!?!? Really? OMG. Okay, let’s deal with this one:
Ancel Keys is the genius behind the low-fat hypothesis that has ravaged the Western world and several generations. He cherry picked his data to support what he believed and intentionally left out data that would prove him wrong. Fortunately, he has since been proved wrong and his data has been shown to be manipulated. If you don’t believe that, I would ask you to take a good look around and ask yourself how the Key’s low-fat and cholesterol hypothesis is working for the general public. I can’t take any of his arguments seriously, I’m sorry. By quoting him several times, you have unfortunately invalidated your argument with me and (I’m sure) most of my readers. Please find some data from a reputable, current source and we’ll debate. Leangains has a great write up on Ancel Keys, as does Denise Minger at

Seriously, why have you quoted this particular paragraph? Low carb doesn’t mean low calorie. Paleo does not mean low carb. We still get plenty of carbs, but from healthy sources such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and tubers. We don’t starve ourselves. We eat when we’re hungry.

Put an already lean person on a calorie restricted diet and problems will ensue, but not in the obese because it takes longer for those problems to show up (I suspect because they have more fat to burn and lean tissue before they start running on fumes). A low carb diet can decrease secretory IGA and elevate Proteins to inflammatory markers like soy, gluten, eggs.

I am not on a calorie restricted diet, nor a low carb one. The Paleo lifestyle is as varied as the people who follow it. Some people eat very low carb (VLC) because they need to for specific reasons (epilepsy for one), other people eat very high carb depending on their needs. Suffice it to say, none of us are running on fumes. I’m sorry you have gotten the wrong idea about the Paleo lifestyle. Again, where have you gotten this data from? Can you show me the study that definitively proves low carb diets elevate proteins to inflammatory markers? (…NOT a study by Keys, please.)

“There is reason to believe that the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes more permeable to microorganisms in severe under-nutrition. The morphological changes in the intestinal tract would strongly suggest this.”

~Ancel Keys; The Biology of Human Starvation

I am not severely under-nourished. I was before I went Paleo. The phytates and lectins in the grains and legumes I was eating were binding to essential minerals in the foods I was consuming and causing a cascade of problems. I think a problem (besides the fact that you’re quoting Ancel Keys again) is that his book is called “The Biology of Human Starvation.” I don’t starve myself. I eat A LOT.

“The marked decreases in pulse rate and basal metabolism may be regarded as critical indicators of a lowering of speed in the automatic functions of the body…”

A lowered pulse rate can also be an indication of improved cardiovascular health. It makes sense that if a person is starving that the body would slow down non-essential functions. But again, I’m not starving. Far from it. And if I were, my body would be able to call on its fat reserves to burn for fuel. This is a complex evolutionary system designed to keep us alive during famine.

It can also be noted that a high Fat diet can destroy your glucose tolerance leading to thyroid imbalance which then may lead to digestive problems:
“Because of the high fat diet of the Eskimos, Heinbecker studied their glucose tolerance curves both before and after 82 hours of fasting. The basal blood sugar during the starvation decreased from 110-120 mg. per 100 cc. to about 80 mg. The glucose tolerances after the ingestion of about 2 gm. of glucose per kg. of body weight were normal in the control period. After 3.5 days of starvation the glucose tolerance showed blood sugar levels close to 300 mg. per 100cc. These returned only very slowly to normal.”

~ Ancel Keys; the Biology of Human Starvation

Sorry, but this quote doesn’t even reference your point, let alone prove it. Again, Keys selectively picked his information to tell the story that he wanted to tell. By adopting a high-fat diet, I personally overcame insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and hypoglycemia. However, once again Keys is talking about STARVATION. I don’t fast for 82 hours. I don’t know anyone who does if they don’t have to. It makes sense that when someone fasts for that long that their bodies would make glucose via gluconeogenesis or other pathways in order to fuel their brains. Again, we are complex systems based on millions of years of evolution. We are designed to be able to withstand short periods of famine. Who cares if your blood glucose is elevated during fasting? It’s not going to give you diabetes, in fact it would be beneficial. It would give you enough energy to go out and hunt/gather some food, eat it and continue to live. Of course blood glucose returned to normal afterwards. Of course it was “slowly.” Their bodies were smarter than they were, making sure the famine was truly over before announcing ‘Mission Accomplished.’ So tell me again, how does a high-fat diet destroy glucose tolerance, leading to thyroid imbalance and digestive problems?

Reduced Metabolic rate from Industrialized food (Overly processed, lack of vitamins) > Famine response is triggered > Low Thyroid> Lowered Secretory IGA > increased immune response to proteins > “leaky gut”.

So don’t eat industrialized food? Ok. I won’t. And I don’t. Are we saying the same thing here, or what? I’m not sure what your point is. Are you against Paleo, low carb or industrialized foods? 

Celiac disease is really just a blanket term for all digestive problems, seeing as removing gluten doesn’t always solve the problem. IBS, IBD, Ulcerate Cholietis, Chrones, etc

Tell this to someone who is suffering from Crohn’s Disease. (Reid, can you hop on this?!) Celiac Disease is caused by gluten. If the complete removal of gluten from the diet does not result in a lessening of symptoms or complete remission, then perhaps the person didn’t have Celiac to begin with or is still getting “dosed” without knowing it. It can take half a year to see remission of symptoms after gluten has been removed. [Editors Note: According to Dr. Tim Gerstmar of Aspire Natural Health, sometimes complete removal of gluten from the diet doesn’t solve the problem. In this matter, I will concede that you are right. Are these cases that are extremely far-gone? Thankfully this was not my case, but I was in the beginning stages.] Testing processes for Celiac are far from perfect. My doctor told me I have an 80% chance of having inaccurate test results come back. Celiac Disease is not a blanket term for all digestive problems, IBS is.

Dieting in general is a stress on the body, Paleo included. You could have had a gluten “sensitivity” (such a garbage term) before that is now exacerbated by a diet that is deficient and sub optimal for the current environmental conditions and Epigentic changes that said individual was conditioned for.

Again, I am not on a diet. I have been following a Primal/Paleo lifestyle for almost three years and during that time have seen the complete remission of all the problems I was suffering from during my pre-Paleo days. I agree that dieting puts a stress on our bodies, which is why I have NEVER ONCE DIETED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE – with the exception of in 1999, when I was placed on a calorie-restricted diet of 1600 calories a day under a doctor’s supervision. There was no importance placed on food quality or groups, it was simply a matter of calories in/calories out. Along with exercising vigorously for 5-6 days per week, I managed to lose ONE EFFING POUND over a 2-3 month period. Yes, it caused stress on my body and also on my mind. Keeping track of every single thing I put in my mouth caused me to think about food constantly. I had to starve myself if I overindulged earlier in the day, I had to weigh and measure everything and it was a horrible, horrible experience. I love the freedom that the Paleo lifestyle gives me. As long as I don’t eat grains, legumes and sugar, I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, to satiety. I am healthy, vibrant and strong. I no longer have ANY medical or mental health issues. I don’t take any medication. I don’t have to buy products marketed towards “improving health.” That is my own personal experience. I will never, ever go back. I believe that my body is conditioned to eat Paleo foods, since it does so freakin’ well on a Paleo lifestyle. It was not conditioned to eat Neolithic foods. The proof is obvious if you look at my before and after pictures and listen to the diseases/syndromes/conditions that I was living with before but no longer have. Please tell me what nutrients and minerals my Paleo diet is deficient in. I can’t think of any, nor do I have the markers of any deficiencies.

The Mark Sisson way of eating can come with consequences:

Just my take on the subject…

Thank you, Scott. And this is just *my* take on the subject. Everyone is different. Everyone will have a slightly different path and results. Saying that “eating this way can come with consequences” is a loaded statement. The “consequences” for me have been vibrant physical health and strength, coupled with stable mental health and the body I have always dreamed of.

By the way, the Paleo-Fail post you linked to above is hilarious. The guy is trying to sell an e-book. Not everyone will have luck following a VLC Paleo diet longterm and will need to tweak their diet to suit their own individual needs. I have been following a Paleo lifestyle for three years and have found that I need to increase my carb intake from time to time, depending on the season, my activity level and my goals. I don’t need an ebook to tell me when it’s time to eat, I listen to my body.

I look forward to your reply as well as any medical studies or literature you are basing your opinion on, with the exception of anything by Ancel Keys.



  1. I applauded several times during this. You are awesome.

  2. i just love verbal judo! You nailed it! :)

    • Thanks! Yup, I had an autoimmune condition I reversed with Paleo, too. It can be done!!! :)

  3. I concur with Orleatha, I think your responses are well considered and written. They logically refute the inaccuracies and provide sources and data for corroboration . A+

    • If only you had graded my papers when I was at university, Dad. I thought I had logically refuted inaccuracies and provided great sources and data for corroboration on my Honours Thesis, but I only got a C. xoxo

  4. thanks so much for this post. i’ve been to doctors since i was 17 dealing with crohn’s. my weight has been influx for years. at one point, i was wearing adult diapers because the blood and mucus in my intestines were falling out. granted, i was 17 and a taco bell vegetarian. i’m 33 now and have been paleo for 1.5 years. i’ve lost 30 pounds, my skin cleared up, anxiety drastically reduced (not scared to leave the house or go out in public for fear of not finding a bathroom, etc). i started with scd and realized i couldn’t hang with beans BUT i eat paleo and peas and occasional white potatoes with no problems. i’m kind of rambling here because i’m having a hardtime articulating my frustration regarding celiac being a blanket term for anything. i rarely discuss what/how/why i eat because its personal. people sometimes think i eat this way for vanity (and while its true that im a babe) they dont know about the stabbing pain and dry heaving and broken blood vessels in my face from throwing up and crippling anxiety and depression from being sick all the time, having no sex drive, poor circulation, bleeding gums from malnutrion). people don’t talk about that part. i applaud your thoughtful post and congratulate you on your improved health!

    • Thank you so much and the same to you! It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, only how YOU feel. I’m glad that you can eat peas and potatoes. I wish I could, I miss fresh peas but they don’t agree with me. Everyone is different. :)

  5. Ola Everybody.

    I didn’t mean to come off as troll…oops. Well lets see if I can sum this up more articulately and with more of a vibrant and even flow like 2pac’s hologram at coachella. (darn I wish I could right a neato blog response to your response, foiled again)

    Here is the main reason I brought up the issue (I will get to your ancel keys bashing later if you haven’t read his 1,500 novel on human starvation you are missing out…I’m super serial). Many people have tried a paleo diet (including myself) who were never overweight with a perfect metabolism(also like myself) and saw their health fade away from a paleo diet even with starchy tubers. We intermediate fasted, We kept the carbs below 150 to not ensue “insidious weight gain” as mark sissy puts it, and lifted heavy things only to find our health degenerate from what can only be described as malnourishment after a period of a year or two.( as shown in the paleo fail from Matt Stone’s great website where he too experienced the same) Similar stories can be seen in all fascists of the health communities/cults (vegan , vegetarian, low carb, zero carb, paleo etc). I realize this is a paleo friendly website that I am responding to(which means this is like the oakland A’s playing the Yankees IN Yankee stadium) which means I am at a huge disadvantage in terms of validity of my statements and personal accounts.(basically they are immediately discredited because I am challenging the core beliefs) The blog response was merely taking a different look at disease ,instead of just the myopic view of blaming everything on grains, legumes, and dairy.

    Why I brought up Ancel keys… for the exact reason that was written in one of the quotes(see below, i’m not sure where I was going with the other stuff, I have thousands of quotes couldn’t decide). Also before I move on, yea the guy messed up he blamed saturated for heart disease but his work on the human biology of starvation, weight lose, metabolic rate, and hormones is very valuable and not to be confused with his work on lipids and their effect on heart disease. (Also see Ethan Allan Sims work for the prisoners overfeeding experiments.)

    “There is reason to believe that the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes more permeable to microorganisms in severe under-nutrition. The morphological changes in the intestinal tract would strongly suggest this.”

    Under-nutrition is more then just calorie restriction, I have seen vegans develop cancer in the colon, low carbers who developed SIBO and many other similar stories. None of whom were restricting calories yet still manged to screw up their health over time. That post was merely meant for anyone who is looking for answers…They are on a paleo diet and at first things were going great and then all of sudden the muscle mass starts to fade, mental capacity diminishes so and so forth only to find that returning to a diet of pizza and tacos some how remedied this problem? Maybe(I probably am) I am jumping the gun as I will admit I only read that one blog post and not the rest of your site before jumping to conclusions. Also did you read the link I posted to my own blog where I explained why I believe that things like gluten sensitivity and gut problems more or less come from hypothyroid, low body temperature, and slow metabolic rate and not from grains and beans or even gluten for that matter? I’m sure if we met in real life and had a civilized conversation surrounding our general beliefs in nutrition we would come to many of the same conclusions just with a few tweaks.

    Once again I didn’t intend to abolish or counter a “fact” or “truth” if you will but to merely offer another solution or theory. There are few absolute truths in nutrition and I ‘am learning new things everyday. The Ancel Keys Studies along with thousands of other materials I have read can be found on my blog. No I did not lose 100 lbs or cure myself of cancer with a diet. I’m quite the opposite,I’m a lean high metabolic young man ( who has been told he has smart mouth) just looking for answers to life’s great health questions.

    I wish everyone great health but if you start running into problems with your diet philosophy, challenge your own beliefs and maybe some things you thought were true end up being more complicated then you thought.

    “The Truth is out there” – X Files

    • Thanks for your reply, Scott. You’re absolutely right – some things I thought about the Paleo diet are ending up to be WAY more complicated than I thought. I am still a huge advocate of the diet for most human beings on this planet and I don’t think the removal of grains, legumes, beans or dairy from anyone’s diet will hurt them if they replace those foods with healthy alternatives and lots and lots of animal products and fat. However, it is becoming very clear that food intolerances can play a huge role in stories like yours. Either our systems are so clean that we can now see the exact foods causing the problems, or new intolerances are developing in people, but I am hearing stories of people who are now reacting to things like blueberries. It turns out that the Paleo diet needs to be strictly tailored to each individual. It is not a one size fits all approach, so perhaps you just didn’t hit on the proper protocol for yourself. Perhaps you suffer from fructose malabsorption. Or some other little-known condition that was aggravated by the foods your were eating when you were Paleo. Until you biohack the hell out of yourself, you can’t really know. If you feel great on the diet you’re on now, I would ask why you wanted to change it in the first place. If I were metabolically gifted, at an optimal weight and felt fantastic, you can bet your ass I wouldn’t change a thing.
      By the way, I will take your reference to Mark Sisson as an inappropriate typo, and not an intentional parody of his name. Mark is an amazing man, a personal friend of mine and he has helped me greatly. Calling him school-yard names will not win you any points here.

  6. These associations remind me of what Charles Seife says about causuistry in the book Proofiness: “Sure, NutraSweet consumption was going up at the same time brain tumor rates were, but a lot of other things were on the rise, too, such as cable TV, Sony Walkmen, Tom Cruise’s career. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, government spending increased just as dramatically as brain tumor rates….It’s particularly galling because there was pretty convincing evidence that NutraSweet wasn’t responsible for the increase in brain tumors.”

  7. I would have emailed you privately but can’t see a way to do that — just in the interest of keeping your blog free of inaccuracies I wanted to point out that the Mellow Dramatic should be spelled melodramatic, sorry if I come across as a troll — it’s just that errors like that tend to jump out at me and I can’t help thinking that you might lose credibility in the eyes of some readers. Feel free to not post this comment or delete it.
    I followed a link to your site from the CBS local health web site — I’m very excited by the idea of Paleo taking off and entering the main stream.
    Keep up the good work

    • LOL, thanks Cathy, I should know how to spell that word. I’m a grammar and spelling nazi myself, so I totally appreciate your comment. Sometimes when I get fired up about something, my spelling suffers. :)
      I’m excited about the CBS stuff, too! I haven’t even seen the most recent stuff yet as it aired when I was out of town, but I’ll be linking to it soon.

  8. Hey Primalgirl, love your attitude!

  9. I love your response! I have psoriatic arthritis and paleo has changed my life. I began this journey to decrease my pain and be the mother I wanted to be. Well, I am and so much more. Loosing weight was just an extra bonus. I am definitely not starving. I eat ALL the time! I feel and look great. My blood pressure is the best it has ever been. My inflammation is down. My skin is glowing. I haven’t been sick when everyone else around me has been. I found the formula that works for me. If I stray from it, I literally feel it. This lifestyle has done that, given me my life back.

  10. Great post, the first that i have read on your site. Paleo has been a great fit for me since I cant eat gluten dairy or beans anyway. I thought his claim that celiac is a blanket term is a strange statement…..!

    • Thank you! I thought it was strange too, hence the entire post based on one comment. I’ve never done anything like that before! :)

  11. You go girl! It’s totally sad how people equate Paleo/Primal with low-carb (it CAN be, but it doesn’t have to be) or they see it as a deprivation of food or nutrients. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s not depriving at all! I read your Success Story on MDA and I was so glad to read that someone else cured their endometriosis and other hormonal issues with Primal living!

    @Scotty, I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience with Paleo. I also have a near perfect metabolism. I was eating sugar and grains all the time and I was suffering from headaches, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, depression, low-energy, no sex drive, and many many other things that seriously took a toll on my quality of life. Since going paleo, those have all gone away! My weight, muscle mass, body fat percentage, and other “outer” traits have not changed at all. I also eat a fairly high amount of carbs for the paleo lifestyle–from starchy tubers, veggies, and occasional corn. I eat REAL FOOD–nothing processed or industrialized. I agree with PrimalGirl–nutrition is going to be different for everyone, and you shouldn’t put people down just because this lifestyle didn’t work for you!

    • To his credit, Scott did post a follow up comment. I find it hard to believe that Paleo doesn’t work for some people, but after all, we are all different. But I agree that no one should put anyone down for their food choices – as long as the choices are 1) conscious and 2) based on how your body reacts.

  12. Excellent blog post and it is nice to see a healthy discussion about the Paleo Diet. In my opinion, we should eat what works best for our health goals and for the good of our body.

  13. Hello everyone, great site primagirl.

    One quick touch on Keys. I think Denise Minger admits that Keys wasn’t necessarily wrong or wrongful, but rather incomplete? is the link to her analysis. We know he hand-picked 7 countries from 22, but he don’t know why. Just because he did this means absolutely nothing to its integrity. It’s speculation that it means he was trying to bend data to meet his hypothosis. When Yerushalmy and Hilleboe studied the data with all 22 countries to try and prove Keys wrong, it still showed the same upward graph indicating high-fat is bad. Nothing changed. The incomplete part is that the same data showed high carb intake had an even higher association with death than high-fat.

    I’m interested in hearing the conclusion on this, and am quite surprised there isn’t a general concensus on what’s worse: high fat or high carb. Crazy, in my opinion.

    So I’m new to gluten-free. I found out that I have some allergy to wheat or gluten (not certain) by mistake. My employer held a biggest loser competition, and I won. I was given the advice of avoiding carbs and I’ll lose a ton of weight by a body builder. So I did. In eight weeks, I lost 31 lbs. I went from 210 to 179, so I wasn’t fat, but wasn’t skinny either. The other thing was that the ‘psoriasis’ that I was diagnosed with 7 years ago, went away after 2 weeks. Neat eh? Not completely gone, but no itch, the skin colour came back, and inflamation gone. 1st time in 7 years.

    Then, I pounded a bunch of beers w/ some friends one weekend, and my ‘psoriasis’ came back with anger. Itchy, my entire stomach was red. Let me tell you something… poison ivy don’t have shit on this itch.

    Anyway aside from avoiding wheat, I eat whatever I want in any quantity I want. I tell people that I’m on diet vacation. But the reality is I haven’t eaten healthier. Another big impact is that just days after avoiding wheat, I no longer get starving hungry during the day. I used to have to eat food every 3 hours, maybe 2, and lots of it. Now my stomach says “feed me” less often, and it requires much less. I think much clearer now too. I find my self-discipline has sky-rocketed, and I make really great decisions. I know it sounds funny, after reading that. It’s true though.

    I read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, and I found it very insightful. What I also found is that there is a battle going on between Vegans and Paleo folk that is similar to religious battles. It’s almost about offense being taken because of what it might mean if carbohydrates causes diabetes, or that dietary cholestoral has little impact to your actual cholestoral levels.

    I don’t actually know what reality is yet, I just know I’m learning.. and I prefer to remain a student. Especially when the government advises its citizens to eat health whole grains when some doctors advise to avoid it. What to do, who to believe?

    • Believe what your body tell you and what is true for you. It won’t be what is true for someone else, but that is okay. I love the comparison to religion, treat it like that. But don’t burn anyone at the stake. :)


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