The Daveman Diet

Posted by admin on March 8, 2013

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 55, No. 1, January, February 2013, page(s) 5 Editorials
David R. Richardson, MD

One summer I worked in a pet food plant operating a meat grinder. This machine took 600 pounds of frozen meat and spit it out in little cubes. I still have nightmares about being inside cleaning the beast when someone in a goalie mask… well, you get the picture.

Each type of dog food had a recipe for its different components that I would procure from the warehouse and load into Jaws (my pet name for the machine). I won’t go in to detail about the recipes, but this work experience taught me that our furry canine friends will eat pretty much anything. Therefore, I had to shake my head in disbelief when a recent pet food manufacturer on a TV commercial proclaimed that they avoid putting extra gluten in their dog food.

This whole anti-gluten campaign has started to bug me. It reminds me of the Atkins craze a few years back. I remember going in to a popular coffee establishment and noting that they were selling Atkins chocolate pudding like it was some sort of healthy alternative. Think about it—if it didn’t have any carbohydrates in it, then people were feeling smug while essentially consuming chocolate-flavored butter.

So back to gluten, which is found in wheat. Celiac sufferers have an autoimmune inflammatory response in their small intestines to gluten proteins, which can lead to malabsorption and gastrointestinal symptoms. Their only treatment is lifelong avoidance of gluten. Thanks to the current “wheat is evil” craze there has never been a better time to be celiac. Gluten-free products abound and most restaurants now cater to this trend by providing numerous tasty gluten-free options. I also accept that some individuals have differing degrees of wheat allergies and intolerances, causing them to feel unwell if they consume gluten. What I take issue with is the idea that wheat consumption is a health care crisis on the level of smoking or obesity.

A lot of the driving force behind this line of thinking comes from proponents of the paleo or caveman diet. Their theory is that we are genetically designed to consume the hunter-gatherer diets of our ancestors and should follow a diet consisting of fish; grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, vegetables and fruit; and fungi, roots, and nuts, and we should avoid grains, legumes, dairy products, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

I can see some value along this line of thinking, but I don’t believe that wheat is a cause of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, MS, dementia, epilepsy, autism, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia (just to name a few of the claims I found on the Internet). Also, when researching the average life expectancy of a caveman I found estimates ranging from around 16 to 30 years of age (which must be true because I have never met a caveman in his thirties). Compare this with Canada’s 2009 life expectancy rate of 81 years of age. While it’s all good to claim that we should eat like cavemen, we really don’t have any health statistics on that population. I’m also pretty sure cavemen didn’t lie around worrying about bloating or indigestion.

All I’m asking for is a little common sense, and therefore I am proposing the following radical “Daveman” lifestyle program: don’t smoke, drink alcohol only in moderation, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and consume a balanced diet of non-processed foods.