Secondary compounds theory

Todd Moody, in the Paleofood list (20 October 2002), summarized this theory thus:

Another theory is that Paleo foods have fewer "secondary compounds".  These include lectins, cholinesterase inhibitors, Phytic acid, Oxalic acid, avidin (in raw eggs, toxins, and anti-nutrients.  This is true, but the whole point of cooking is that it reduces secondary compounds in foods to levels comparable to those in paleo foods.  If this is so, then there's no real reason to reject properly prepared non-paleo foods (which is the position taken by Enig and Fallon, by the way).

Imagine giving every food a secondary compound "score" from 1 to 10.  Suppose that any food with a score greater than 5 is pretty much inedible.  Prior to cooking, humans could eat only foods with scores between 1 and 5; after cooking they could reduce the score of many foods to below 5.  Most or all meats, including turkey (New World), already have scores well below 5.  If this is the right way to think about it, then what matters about a food is its score, and if cooking gives a food a "paleo score" then that should be good enough.  The paleo concept pretty much collapses and is replaced by the secondary compound concept.

Many foods that are edible raw and so considered Paleo also contain toxins or antinutrients. They are edible raw because the concentrations of secondary compounds are low enough for us to tolerate them.

In an earlier post (7 February 2001), Todd attributes the notion of secondary compounds to Ann Brower Stahl, author of "Hominid Dietary Selection Before Fire",

Evfit home   On to foods   On to What is Paleo?   Comment on this page