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PYP 115: Don Matesz on the Absurdity of Paleo

don-mateszWeird footnote to this episode: Don apparently forgot everything he wrote in his book and said in this podcast, and now inexplicably advocates a carnivore diet. I leave this podcast up in the hopes that the intelligence and balance expressed herein will be helpful to you.

Don Matesz loves ideas and philosophy as much as he loves nutritional and health research. After spending many years eating a vegetarian diet, he was swayed by a storybook, NeanderThin by Ray Audette, masquerading as serious science.

The story was so compelling, however, and glazed with just enough scientific references to appear legit, that Don fell for it. He and his wife went paleo, and soon started experiencing health problems, some annoying and some quite severe.

But the cognitive dissonance caused by becoming unwell on a diet he had committed to intellectually and emotionally kept him eating a low carb, meat-heavy diet for much longer than was wise.

His book Powered by Plants: Natural Selection and Human Evolution is a comprehensive, critical, science-based, and logically impeccable refutation of the entire paleo movement and philosophy. In today's long-ish and fascinating show, Don and I dive into the research and the ideology of eating and human evolution.

We discuss:

  • the naturalistic fallacy, and why Don fell for it
  • how the Hero's Journey misleads us when we use it as a filter for scientific evidence
  • how the paleo diet damaged Don's and his wife's health in short order
  • the persistence of the myth that humans are omnivores
  • why pleasure and disgust are reliable barometers for the preferred human diet
  • why we give flowers to show love and care
  • why binocular vision suggests fruit-eating rather than hunting
  • lessons from aspirin
  • the evidence that hunting was a sport, not a nutritional imperative, in hunter-gatherer tribes
  • “doing the math” – why humans could never have engaged in persistence hunting on a meat-based diet
  • why the humorous phrase “tastes like chicken” proves that humans are not designed to eat meat
  • what we can learn about our natural diet by studying vision in dogs
  • the physiology of excess and scarcity (this concept blew my mind)
  • why we produce cholesterol, and what that says about eating animal flesh
  • the truth about vitamin B12
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.


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7 comments on “PYP 115: Don Matesz on the Absurdity of Paleo

  1. Stephen Turner says:

    I remember Don writing for a Canadian bodybuilder (who sold a fitness course that I spent a lot of money on a decade ago). The main text spent more pages ‘debunking’, not the China Study – lol, but Einstein and modern physics, than discussing exercise form and things that would have been more useful. All this based largely on…philosophy, such as Ayn Rand! At that time I believed in ‘mostly plants, probably’, and Don’s writing sounded convincing and upset my beliefs quite a lot. But I kept reading and thinking, and the claims and rebuttals of Paleo type arguments slowly lost weight to me compared with plant based arguments. I am now ‘all plants’. I am glad to hear that Don has changed his mind also.

    1. Howard says:

      Everyone is on such an interesting journey!

  2. JL says:

    Just found this podcast and this discussion with Don Matesz was great. Was also taken in by the low-carb, previously was a vegan. LCHF at first seemed fine, but after some time; about 6 months to a year. Began having some issues, the usual stuff from eating that way. Kept at it for about another year or so.

    Thankfully something guided me back to eating plant based; vegan in my case. After only a couple of weeks, started to feel like my old self. Will do my best to never stray from a plant based way of eating.

    Thankful to have found this podcast/Howard Jacobson. Need to catchup on your podcasts 🙂

    Thank You Howard Jacobson!

  3. Samia says:

    Rejecting the paleo diet doesn’t mean you have to go vegan, either. A little bit of flesh, dairy or egg should not cause any problems in the majority of people. After all is said and done, so long as you are not over- or under-mineralized, a sensible mixed diet is probably the way to go. Mind you, I am a vegetarian for what might be called “emotional” or “psychological” reasons (an identification with animals) but that does not enter into any discussion regarding nutrition.

  4. Walt S. says:

    I can’t keep up with Don, as he keeps changing teams. Now, he’s “Hyper Carnivore.”

    Eat Meat, Get Fit. Plants Optional.

    1. Howard says:

      Yeah, it’s a head scratcher..

  5. ant says:

    So guess what, as of 2022 Don has yet again shifted 180 degrees and is back to being a whole-food plant-based advocate (mostly vegan, some allowance for dairy). He’s even written a new book called “Powered By Plants”. Apparently his hypercarnivore diet eventually caused a lot of problems for him and was remedied by going back to wfpb. I’m all for people changing their minds as they learn more (Keynes’ quote rings true: ‘When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?’), but it’s a bit strange to see someone flip flop so drastically and dive so extremely into polar opposite ends of the spectrum multiple times. Maybe such a way of purposeful living to find the truth, even if it takes one on a convoluted path doubling back on itself, is actually needed when complex areas of the world do not yield to simpler scientific methods?

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