The Journal of Evolution and Health brings together academic researchers and clinical practitioners to develop evolutionary insights into the major factors affecting health, and to translate those insights into practical methods for improving human and animal health.
Volume 5, Issue 1, 2020
The Ancestral Health (or Paleo) movement is a collection of people who apply an evolutionary perspective to improve their health through lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, physical actively, sleep). In 2013, a survey of this population revealed that its participants did not align with media stereotypes; in contrast, survey participants were predominantly white, female, and middle aged. Since diet and health trends change over time, the goal of this survey study was to collect data on the members of the movement and compare the survey responses from five years earlier. In addition, we surveyed people who have left the movement to determine why they left and if they follow a particular diet now. Broadly, we hypothesized that participant demographics would remain the same while lifestyle characteristics (i.e., how they participate in the movement) would change. The survey was distributed online through various platforms (social media, blog posts, and mailing lists). A total of 1506 (54% female) participants completed the survey and a majority (75%) were still a member of the movement. Overall, numerous participant responses differed from the 2013 survey (18 questions; p<0.05 for all). One of the main changes between survey years was a general aging of the participants as demonstrated by an increase in participant age, income, and education level. This suggests that the movement is not capturing new and/or younger individuals. Further, the main reason participants left the paleo movement was a change to a new specific diet (16%; two most reported diets: low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diet), although 39% of participants who left do not currently follow any particular diet. We conclude by hypothesizing reasons for the changes and potential implications for the future of the movement.
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