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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paleo Cleanse: Book Review


Given that I don't believe in cleanses/detoxes, etc. nor the Paleo diet, you might be wondering why I agreed to review this book.

Well I try not to judge a book by its cover...or its title.  You might recall I reviewed Paleo Fitness, which I expected to be ridiculous, but actually was pretty good?  So I decided to give this a chance too.

Unfortunately, that was a mistake.

Paleo Cleanse is written by Camilla Carboni and Melissa Van Dover, who both have a background in marketing.  I guess it should come as no surprise that they clearly don't understand how to do proper research.

These women are devout followers of Loren Cordain, who supposedly came up with the whole stupid Paleo Diet thing. 

The book starts with them chronicling their own health journeys are their discovery of the Paleo Diet.  Next, they compare the Paleo Food Pyramid with the traditional one here in North America.  In the third chapter they supposedly 'debunk marketing myths' about the diet.  This is where I started getting agitated. First, I want to point out that they use almost no primary data for this book, relying almost exclusively on secondary data.  For example, when making their claim that eating grains can result in leaky gut, their reference is a book called Perfect Health Diet, which is for popular consumption.  They refer to the same book to suggest that if you are going to eat any grains, you should stick with WHITE RICE because it is least likely to cause leaky gut.  Um yeah, but its also linked to diabetes and obesity!  I very strongly agree that refined carbs INCLUDING white rice should be avoided at all costs, but there is no compelling scientific evidence that those of us without intolerances or allergies benefit in any way from eliminating things like oats, quinoa, millet, etc. from our diet.

I did my own research of the primary data and was not able to find any evidence to back up some of the claims...even when I looked at Cordain's publications!  A few of his studies find evidence that dairy consumption can have negative effects, but if you want an informed perspective on this, I suggest you refer to Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who regularly reviews recent research.

For one thing, the claim that we shouldn't be eating legumes is total hogwash.  It took me 2 seconds to find this research showing very little association between consumption of grains and legumes and weight. I did find studies linking legumes with decreased risk of osteoporosis, lower cholesterol, increased metabolism and reduced inflammation. I found no research at all on 'leaky gut' being related to consumption of grains.

The purpose of this 30 day cleanse is apparently to prepare you for the Paleo Diet.  According to these women, following the Paleo lifestyle will lead to reduced inflammation, superior physical performance, stable blood sugar, less congestion, better skin, fewer headaches, weight loss, mental clarity, better sleep, greater immunity, fewer cravings and less stress.  Most of their evidence for all this, again, comes from secondary mass media resources, not primary data.  Also, I suspect this would hold true for anyone who eliminates processed foods and switches to eating whole foods, regardless of whether you include legumes, grains and even dairy.  What the Paleo diet does have going for it is that it encourages you to eat real food and avoid all the crap.

In Chapter 8 they explain what foods are and are not permitted on the cleanse.  As with the Paleo Diet, the dos are fruits and veggies, eggs, coconut, olive and avocado oils, fish and meat.  The don'ts are dairy, gluten, grains, processed foods, legumes, refined sugars and vegetable and seed oils.

What readers may find helpful is that they provide tips on preparing for the cleanse and setting yourself up for success (i.e. do it with a buddy, substitutions for cravings, planning shopping and cooking, etc.). 

The book includes meal plans, shopping lists and recipes too, organized by week for the full 30 days.  The recipes are pretty plain and simple...they don't really appeal to me that much.  If you're vegetarian or vegan...good luck to you!  My one problem with the meal plans is the amount of meat.  Seriously bacon?  Bacon is not healthy, unless you think getting colon cancer sounds fun!  As I've said before, if you are going to do the Paleo thing, at least try and get most of your protein from eggs, poultry and fish and minimize the red meat as much as possible.  Especially the cured meats like bacon.  There is quite a bit of scientific evidence that red and processed meats is linked to cancer and mortality.  Skip it.

So there it is.  If you are intent on transitioning to a Paleo Diet, than this book can help you do so.  But honestly, ask yourself if this is a diet you can maintain long-term.  If not, there's really no point to it. 

Oh, and just for the record, there is no scientific evidence that cleanses/detoxes have any value either.  Our bodies are designed to detoxify themselves and, again, it matters little what you do for short-periods of time.  Cleanses you do for a few days, weeks or even a month cannot make up for a poor diet and lifestyle.