The Argument for Lacto-Paleo

As various Tribe members forage deeper into the woods of the 2010 pure paleo challenge, some interesting conversations have begun to arise in the forest.  One of the more interesting and contentious ones is around dairy and whether or not it should be allowed into the paleo diet.

Some key experts in the field, including Dr. Loren Cordain in his book The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, are clear in their opinions that dairy in any form is definitely non-paleo and therefore strictly discouraged.

However, others believe that an appropriate amount of lacto belongs in the paleo.  Dr. Kurt Harris, for example, is a strong advocate for paleo nutrition who in his blog goes so far as to say: “I myself consume copious amounts of butter and cream, half and half and occasionally whole milk.”  So he is not only okay with dairy, he’s enthusiastic about it.  “But, no surprise,” he continues, “I consume zero gluten grains.”

For Harris this is in line with his concept of trying to replicate the metabolic conditions of paleo man but doing so in a realistic manner amid our modern environment.  He just makes sure to drink high quality dairy products like raw, whole milk and fresh cream, or pasture-fed butter.  Specifically, he avoids all forms of skim milk which are carb-rich and unhealthy.

Good dairy provides an incredibly rich source of nutrients such as Vitamin A, selenium, and conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) — not to mention the uber-substance known as X-factor, which can be found in wholly pasture-fed butter.

“I find much less scientific evidence indicting dairy than grains,” he writes.

“Dairy is not paleolithic historically, but as a relatively ubiquitous food class, definitely helps in achieving the EM2 – the evolutionary metabolic milieu of low insulin levels and minimal toxins from modern cereal grains.”

He concludes by reminding us that his “PaNu EM2 is not a diet composed of prehistoric food items, it is a metabolic state that we are trying to live in while eating foods that exist now.”

It is worth noting, too, that Dr. Weston Price in his classic early 20th-century study Nutrition and Physical Degeneration found ample evidence of modern hunter-gatherer tribes who relied extensively on dairy as a cornerstone of their diet.  This was clear among one of the first groups he studied, the remote Swiss villagers in the Loetschental Valley.  They were the absolute picture of health, with full sets of straight and healthy teeth and free of all degenerative diseases.  And they ate dairy til the cows came home!

There definitely seems to be something compelling about milk for us humans.  Maybe it is simply because, as Jessica Prentice points out in her fascinating and informative book Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection, “Milk is the original comfort food.”



  Chris wrote @

Great stuff – a nice summary of the arguments.

  Marc wrote @

There definitely plenty of room for interpretation of what’s “pure” paleo. When I switched to a strict paleo diet (sans dairy), I found my calorie intake plummeting and began to lose weight almost scary fast over the first few weeks. It stabilized though, obviously.

I’m still pretty strict but do allow hi-quality organic butter in my cooking from time to time. It just makes vegetables taste so much more awesome… At some point, I think I’ll start easing more diverse forms of dairy into my diet à la PaNu EM2. My excuse is that I need to evolve over time (and I just plain miss it)!

  wordsworthwhile wrote @

I agree, an excellent summary.

Here is a link to Dr. Price’s “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” at gutenberg:

I follow Dr. Harris’ recommendations, and find that eating a VLC (very low carb) Paleo diet with butter/heavy cream/clarified butter, is a stable, calm, regenerative way to eat.

Thanks very much for this post and for your blog.

  Ravi wrote @

I too agree that – notwithstanding a full out lactose intolerance (actually quite rare in white people of European descent) dairy is arguably very paleo –

please don’t get hung up on “blood biomarkers” and the like unless you have some specific problem you are addressing – i am so amused that almost all the intelligent paleo blogger nerds get themselves sooo busy with this blood work! it’s actually hysterical – they rail about paleo’s not having access to this and that and then live from blood test to blood test to see if they are “doing it right”

ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! and furthermore about dairy –

the paleo cry “do not eat dairy” is highly suspect – while paleo’s generally have a pretty good f-off attitude towards conventional wisdom, they accept conventional anthropological assumptions that our paleo pals were not smart enough or capable enough to husband animals that provided milk/dairy nutritional adjunct… bbbbzzzzzt! – wrong!- a close examination of the evidence leads to the conclusion that we very well could have and did keep at least goats – if not other mammals long into our paleo past enjoying the delectable white gold…

Check out the argument here:
Ravi, DaiaSolgaia, Discoveries for a Full Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: