The Ancestral Health Symposium at UCLA this past weekend was billed by Loren Cordain as the “Woodstock of Evolutionary Medicine.” From what I understand of what happened at Woodstock though, a whole lot of drugs were taken and not much was accomplished. While AHS had the good-times vibes of a hippie festival, I’m hoping that the result of all these great minds getting together in one place is a far more tangible re-imagining of the nutrition/health landscape.
Here’s a rundown of the awesome people I met and the great work their doing in the tribe, as well as some of my favorite speakers:
One of the original badasses of the ancestral health movement. Over 25 years ago (actually about 2 weeks before I was born), Eaton and his colleagues put forth this paper that laid the groundwork for the premise that maybe mankind was not thriving on the foods made so abundant by the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution. It was an interesting/controversial keynote, and did a good job of introducing some of the topics to be covered during the weekend.
Cordain’s The Paleo Diet was the first book I read on the topic (slow-poke Robb hadn’t published yet :p) and really started my own healing process. I was thrilled to get to see one of the people whom I idolize speak in person. While the content of Cordain’s talk was very familiar, I was impressed at just how engaging of a speaker he is. Seriously, he’s really good. While I tend to spend more time on the biochemistry side of Paleo, it’s nice once in a while to listen to someone talk about how the evolutionary side of the house is doing. If you haven’t read the amazing paper The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilzation, you absolutely should. What I loved most about Cordain was that ever since his book came out, he’s been getting flak about the “lean meat” recommendation in light of some of the latest research that shows saturated fat has minimal if any impact on cardiovascular disease. At the end of his talk, in front of a good chunk of the community affirmed that he didn’t believe saturated fat was a problem in the context of an Paleo diet, a statement that drew applause. It’s always nice to see a scientist modify their stance in light of new evidence and something that I wish happened in the mainstream more often. I’m really looking forward to his next book.
Pedro works with Cordain (and is actually first author on the paper I cited above), and his specialty is on the many ways that dairy can wreck you. Despite confirming the many suspicions I had about dairy It was actually a really balanced presentation, and basically called for a severe need for more research in both populations that tolerate dairy and those that don’t, as well as long term studies on IGF-1, whey, casein, A1/A2 and more.
I didn’t actually get to hear Mark talk, but it’s impossible not to listen to a man who’s this ripped at his age:
I did, however, get to meet him at the CrossFit Games the week before, and he seems like quite the class act. His focus these days seems to be less on the biochemistry of paleo/primal but more on the movement/play side of things. I imagine it won’t be long before he’s hanging out with the MovNat crew.
My #1 AHS crush. Denise became well known in the Paleo community after her thorough (wo)man-handling of T. Colin Cambell’s pro-vegetarian diatribe, The China Study. At AHS, Denise gave the most fun, light-hearted talk (although Sisson did have beachballs at his) entitled “How to Win an Argument with a Vegetarian”. The presentation focused on just how oddly similar many of the vegetarian and vegan diets out there are to our own Paleo approaches. As she pointed out, in all cases, there is a restriction put on processed foods, seed oils, sugar, and other junk food. And isn’t that what the heart of Paleo really is, a removal of food toxins? Denise then gave some more resources to help fend off the typical pro-vegan arguments, and at the end of her presentation, turned the room into a Paleo townhall. It was quite a welcome departure from the strict presentation embodied by the rest of the weekend.
Tom is a comedian turned-real-foodie, who’s film “Fat Head” (available to watch for free on Hulu) is a hilarious yet provocative look at what really went wrong with mainstream science and its diet recommendations. It was an absolute pleasure for me to get to meet Tom, and we got to reminisce about how much we both hated LA together. Turns out that he also has a line of “Wheat is Murder” t-shirts, though I have to say, mine are a bit sexier. Tom gave an updated version of his talk “Science for Smart People” that is a fun look at more shoddy science.
I like to think of Mat LaLonde as the reluctant hero/guardian angel of the whole-food movement. The guy is wicked smart, hangs out with all the big-wigs, teaches at CrossFit gyms, yet does not claim to be part of the Paleo movement. Instead, he comes down from the heavens every so often to remind us that in order for what we’re saying to be taken seriously, we better have our science down pat. He partly inspired the post I wrote a while ago, The Paleo Diet Creation Myth, discussing the need logical fallacy of using cavemen to prop up what should be a science-based argument in favor of real food.
Mat’s talk was chock full of the biochemistry goodness that I’ve always loved poring into, and while you could see the confusion on the faces of the crowd, the main point was still, learn your science because if you don’t they (scientists) are all going to laugh at you.
There were also a handful of other people I met who deserve some praise for their contributions to the community.
I was absolutely beside myself to meet Jimmy. He’s the host of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb show and has interviewed everyone under the sun involved with nutrition and health, from all sides of the spectrum. You really, really should start listening to his interviews, as they can provide context and a variety of opinions that can help enlighten your own.
Cain & Tammy Credicott aka Paleo Magazine
Cain and Tammy are the force behind Paleo Magazine the first periodical on the paleo lifestyle. Each issue features contributions from bloggers and experts alike, as well as the latest scientific research and an array of yummy recipes. Subscribe today!
Richard runs the immensely popular Free The Animal and while we only talked briefly (he in his pre-coffee state and me in my pre-breakfast state) he’s definitely a blogger I admire for his candor. He’s also a frequent guest (n>1) on Angelo Coppola’s Latest in Paleo podcast. He’s local to me, so I hope that there is more Paleo hanging out in our future. Richard has also put together the largest roundup of AHS recap on the interwebs here.
Paleo Comfort Foods
Charles and Julie Mayfield are a delightful and surprisingly giddy couple based in Atlanta who’s upcoming book, Paleo Comfort Foods is sure to be a hit. I’m especially looking forward to Paleo Fried Chicken (it’s important to me as a recovering Roscoe’s addict).
Yet another adorable Paleo couple (sensing a theme here?), Bill and Hayley of The Food Lovers Primal Palate take food porn to a new level with their stunning photos and videos. They also have a cookbook coming out soon, and you can pre-order it here.
Jo and Henry of the Nutty Kitchen showcase some of the more ethnically diverse primal/paleo recipes on their site. I’m looking forward to trying the Deviled Sweet Potato Eggs recipe!
I also got to meet Patty and Ron of Chowstalker and Dessertstalker. These are the first places I go whenever I need a new recipe to change things up, although admittedly, I can’t go to Dessertstalker without getting intense cravings for chocolate, so beware!.
And the rest
A big thank you again to all the organizers of the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium! It was an incredible experience and I look forward to an even better one next year!