The Paleo diet is one of today's hottest diet trends, but some health experts say the meat-heavy, low-carb eating plan has devolved into nothing more than a gimmick to market inane, overpriced products.
Fitness coach James Fell says "Paleo water," the latest offering in the Paleo product umbrella, has officially turned the caveman diet into a joke.
"Paleo is nothing but a marketing gimmick, and a damn effective one, judging by how many it has sucked in," Fell wrote Sept. 30 on his blog, SixPackAbs. "I have an MBA and a dozen years of sales and marketing experience. I know a scam when I see one."
Fell, a certified strength and conditioning coach, is a syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.
In October 2010, he made headlines after slamming "The Biggest Loser" star Jillian Michaels as "an actress playing the role of fitness trainer" in a widely read L.A. Times piece.
Fell also berated Michaels for claiming her fitness DVD could produce unrealistically dramatic weight loss (five pounds a week) and for promoting poor kettlebell techniques that could injure viewers. Two months later, Michaels abruptly quit "The Biggest Loser" amid four separate false-advertising lawsuits, which were later dismissed. She returned to the reality TV show earlier this year.
"[You will experience] the return of your natural thirst as your body remembers its genetic blueprint and begins to operate from its natural ‘template,' " reads the ad copy.
According to Fell, the glowing health promises of "Paleo water" are hogwash. He says today's drinking water is fine, and we certainly don't want to recreate the filthy, polluted water consumed by our Paleolithic ancestors.
"Today’s chemically treated water is way different from what we drank for millennia, and that’s a good thing!" he wrote. "Clean water is probably THE most important health advance humans have ever made. The reality of our Paleolithic ancestors is that most of the water they drank was contaminated with stuff like parasites, E. coli and poop. Their lack of clean water sometimes killed them.
"Want some real paleo water? Find a pond, take a dump in it, then have a drink."
Like fellow Paleo critic Alan Aragon (the nutrition advisor for "Men's Health" magazine), Fell says the Paleo diet's wholesale dismissal of certain food groups such as dairy, grains and potatoes doesn't make sense.
"Don’t demonize food groups because someone says our genes haven’t changed – they have!" he said. "The genes of much of the population has adapted just fine to dairy, because there were plenty of famines where those who couldn’t consume dairy starved to death and were removed from the gene pool.
"Same goes for eating grains. Being able to digest a wide variety of foods is a major evolutionary advantage that has been naturally selected for over the years."
Like other experts, Fell points out that ancient man's diet consisted mostly of small animals like frogs and lizards and did not showcase the grass-fed beef that's featured prominently on modern-day Paleo diets.
In the end, a commonsensical approach to eating and exercise trumps dogma and hyperbole, says Fell. "Think for yourself, and figure out what is right for you in our mostly wonderful modern world," he suggested.
For those seeking the next get-rich-quick scheme, Fell offered this advice: "Figure out the next big diet gimmick, because paleo has jumped the shark and won’t be around a lot longer. It will go the way of the blood-type diet (over seven million copies sold) and the [insert place where rich people live] diet."