I often wonder what will happen with the Future nutrition of the Western Nations. With mounting evidence and the growing popularity of Paleo, surely the mainstream conventional wisdom has to shift?
People used to believe the World was flat and that smoking was healthy. Before the internet came along the minority have been able to convince the majority – and shift many beliefs in the past. Why can’t the same happen with Paleo?
The Industry leaders and other influencers already know that the lipid hypothesis is wrong. They know the food pyramid does not represent a healthy diet. They know they are deliberately encouraging people to eat a sub-optimal diet.
The problem seems to be entirely a financial one. Billions are spent on drugs like Statins, Antacids and Diabetes medication. Monsanto reported a profit of $1.21 billion for the quarter ended 29th February 2012! None of that was from anything that went on the Paleo plate.
Most of the profit in food comes from processing it – this option doesn't exist to the same extent with a Paleo style diet. If everyone stopped eating grains and processed food – and became healthier, what would happen to the pharmaceutical and food industries?!
The other road block is time and convenience, particularly for organisations that provide food. Schools and hospitals can reheat cheap food quickly and easily – and store it for long periods of time. They won’t be too keen on the extra time (and therefore cost) needed to prepare meals from whole ingredients – and the increase in deliveries needed for fresh, over processed long-life foods.
The Long View
Of course, the flip side is that healthier citizens would lead to decreased medical expenses in the future. Healthier people are more productive and live longer – far better for the economy. Whilst some industries would falter, others would flourish as people became healthier and more active.
How Will Change Happen?
There are six distinct stages in the acceptance of change, shock, denial, anger, passive acceptance, exploration and challenge. I don’t see any reason why the widespread acceptance of a different nutrition model wouldn't follow this path.
I think we've passed this stage.
This is the disbelief that people are seriously suggesting eating meat is healthy – and saying that whole grains aren't healthy.
To those who have grown up alongside conventional wisdom, with have deep held nutritional beliefs – shock is the natural reaction to something so contra to their core beliefs. Hearing a similar message from an increasing number of sources will help somewhat to reduce the initial shock and come to grips with the new idea they have just heard.
Once the initial shock has had time to dissipate, denial is the next stage. I think we are currently in the grips of this stage. Refusing to accept Conventional Wisdom may be wrong – and desperately clinging onto it. Deny, deny, deny. Every day I read more and higher profiled warnings against the Paleo diet (by the food and health industry – and those paid to support them). Of course, they have an ulterior motive behind their denials – but with their weight they can cause serious ruptures and give the trusting public the belief that they too should deny.
Whilst we’re mainly in the denial stage, I think we’re starting to see the anger stage emerging, particularly from those who have a lot vested in the SAD diet such as the food and pharmaceutical industries. I imagine a lot of anger and resistance will be seen from individuals, happy with how they currently lead their lives and reluctant to give up the foods they enjoy and perceive to do them no harm. I would also expect some anger will be directed at governments and health authorities, when individuals realise they have been misinformed for such a long time. Anger is likely to be the most difficult stage, with people actively resisting and attacking the Paleo movement.
4. Passive Acceptance
Once the anger dissipates and people start to realise Paleo is not a fad that is going to disappear, acceptance will slowly take hold. This is the stage where governments and health organisations will have to address their recommendations. This certainly won’t be the point for the Paleo community to breathe a sigh of relief – this will be the time to provide more information to more people – to make the transition easier and information accessible to the masses.
Once an ancestral diet is accepted, a lot of effort will need to be spent exploring how this can be adapted to the mainstream? Food and labelling laws may need to be changed, a new food pyramid agreed on and promoted and medical recommendations changed.
This is an important stage and where we are within the community right now. Instead of just accepting ideas, they should constantly be challenged and explored as new research and ideas evolve.
What will the Catalysts for Change be?
To go from where we are today, to the point where Paleo hits the mainstream a number of things need to happen. Whilst Paleo blogs and books seem to be having a huge impact, will this be enough for widespread change? I think it’s far more likely a high profiled Paleo individual will take Paleo to the mainstream; such is the impact of the celebrity culture in the Western World. A number of people in the public eye have been spotted wearing Vibrams and talk about nutrition in terms close to Paleo, so I’m convinced this will happen soon. As the Paleo movement becomes more and more popular, I hope to see more studies and research backing up the science and convincing the sceptics.
Once the movement is too big to ignore, I like to think the government of a country like Australia or New Zealand will be first to formalise Paleo nutrition in their official nutrition and health recommendations. Once a country has successful paved the way, it would be extremely difficult for the remaining Western Nations to ignore. Isn't this what happened as smoking in public places became banned across the Western World?
Once Paleo is Conventional Wisdom, perhaps the differing brands of Paleo we see today will become opposing camps, such as High Carb Paleo vs Low Carb Ketogenic Paleo?
Land use will change from grain and intensive farming to a more local, organic model, with grain grown almost exclusively for animal feed?
Will grain based foods be sold under licence and bought only for special occasions? Or will only grain free versions be available?
With the rapid growth, popularity and science backing this movement, I don’t think it’s even an option for change not to occur.
How do you see the future of Paleo? (When) do you think widespread change will occur?