an example of vitriol on a listserv to compare with what we teachers do

Here’s an example of the tone of posts on a diet listserv. Even flteach sounds pretty tame compared to this. We won’t even bring up sites involving Macedonians and Greeks or Pakistanis and Indians.

> The argument that “palaeo” is undefined, doesn’t convince. After all “palaeo”, is rather more defined, not so much by what it is, but by what it is not(ie no Neolithic foods like grains, dairy, legumes whatsoever). By that definition, 4 of the 5 beliefs you claim are indeed all “palaeo” but not the 5th.

The point is that words acquire their meaning in their usage, or by authoritative stipulation. No authority has stipulated a precise definition of the term “paleo diet.” As you say, the most commonly encountered conceptions of paleo emphasize what not to eat. That includes my fifth conception, of course: “5. Avoid the neolithic foods for which there is convincing evidence for a causal role in disease.” You are mistaken to exclude it.

> As for the Atkins mention, it seems you are right. I should instead have placed Harris in the Ray Peat/Gary Taubes camp within cooked-low carb diets. Though I could argue that Taubes et al were inspired by Atkins to a large extent.

You simply don’t know what you are talking about. Ray Peat does not support the approach that Harris favors; he takes almost the exact opposite position. Did you bother to read what he has to say about carbohydrates on his site ( For example, ” Fructose inhibits the stimulation of insulin by glucose, so this means that eating ordinary sugar, sucrose (a disaccharide, consisting of glucose and fructose), in place of starch, will reduce the tendency to store fat. ” As I already pointed out, and as anyone who has “read Harris’s site” as you claim to have done would know, Harris does not share this view of the benign nature of fructose.

As for Taubes, Harris openly acknowledges that Taubes inspired his approach and, in fact, caused a kind of “conversion experience” in his thinking. I happen to hold the view that Taubes is one of the most important and responsible researchers in recent decades in this area. Harris’s views largely coincide with Taubes’s, but Harris develops them in his own way. For that matter, Taubes’s views have not stood still since the publication of Good Calories, Bad Calories. The emphasis that Harris places on fructose, PUFA, and wheat is not found in Taubes’s book. Taubes, for his part, was indeed partly inspired by Atkins. As he explains in GCBC (have you read it?), he solved his own weight problem with the Atkins diet. As a science journalist interested in stories about how science goes wrong, he was naturally interested to learn more about why almost the entire scientific community vilified Atkins. That led to years of research and, eventually, the book.

> Can’t say I approve of his rather overly combative style, it amounts to demagoguery , from my POV. Admittedly, most diet gurus seem to be that way. The only exception I’ve come across was Loren Cordain. Even when being given a hatchet-job by the likes of Sally Fallon, he always responded in a polite manner in his defence.

He’s abrasive, no doubt about that. What I find far more offensive than mere abrasiveness, however, is dismissiveness rooted in ignorance, such as you have displayed in this discussion. “I’ve read Kurt Harris’ site and it is pretty misleading, IMO. For one thing, legalistically speaking, he shouldn’t even be using the word “paleo”, since his advice isn’t really palaeo at all, just more of the usual cooked,low-carb dogma a la Atkins.” Now, who is being misleading here? Harris or Purcell?

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