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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modern Cavemen? Stereotypes and Reality of the Ancestral Health Movement

  • Author(s): Schwartz, David B.
  • et al.

Both academic and popular interest in the ancestral health movement, or “paleo” lifestyle, has grown rapidly in recent years. More people than ever are joining the movement, and more books and articles are being published on the topic. Media coverage and certain societal preconceptions of the movement have also increased. More often than not, followers of a paleo lifestyle are thought to be “modern cavemen”: athletic, single, meat-eating, young, white, and male. To test whether or not these stereotypes are true, the authors of the present study created the first large, academic survey (N = 3,967) of the ancestral health community. Specifically, the online survey sought to accomplish two main goals: (1) describe the current composition and demographic makeup of the ancestral health movement and (2) identify common practices, the major obstacles, and the most important motivating factors for adopting a paleo lifestyle. Despite the common stereotypes, survey evidence suggests that the majority of participants are: white, female, middle aged (mean 38 years old), in a committed relationship, highly educated, relatively affluent, and motivated by weight loss and health concerns. Thus, while some of the common preconceptions may hold up, many others probably do not.

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