The Paleolithic Diet is one such example.
Firstly, I think it's important to clarify that eating 'Paleo' is a diet. And like any diet, it has severe restrictions that often aren't realistic as a permanent dietary lifestyle. "Diets" don't work, I am a firm believer in this statement and feel that it is more important to strive for balance and acceptance. There is a lot of evidence out there that also point out the problems with "dieting" and cyclical food restrictions.
If you have a balanced food bubble and haven't heard of the Paleo diet here is the Wikipedia definition:
The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet), also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. In common usage, the term "paleolithic diet" can also refer to actual ancestral human diets, insofar as these can be reconstructed.
Centered on commonly available modern foods, the contemporary "Paleolithic diet" consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils (Wikipedia).
Above and beyond this definition, many versions include fasting between meals (like hunter gatherers did) and practicing extreme physical exercise... as if hunting and chasing big game, prior to eating. Check out this NYTimes article on a group of Paleo dieters in NY.
I am certainly a fan of eating more fruits, vegetables and avoiding processed foods and refined sugars. That's not my problem with this "diet".
What I think is really interesting, is the (in my mind) extreme reaction of anti-modernity and nostalgic assumptions of the "good ole times"... of 10,000 years ago. In an extremely well-written article on the history of the Paleolithic Diet, the author of this blog points to a more larger cultural reaction that has been happening since the early 1900's reacting against modernity and fantasizing "back to nature" wilderness human living.
Yes, modern humans are having difficulty with eating healthy and living well... but that does not necessarily mean that paleolitic humans were living all that well either. I wouldn't necessarily point to the invention of agriculture as the culprit for unhealthy living. Humans had a significantly lower lifespan and we're not quite clear from archeological records what the main causes of death could have been (ie diseases from nutrient deficient diets... like never eating whole grains, legumes or low fat dairy). There has been some recent evidence that humans during that time period did in fact have atherosclerosis (arteries clogged with cholesterol and fat).
I find it difficult when a proponent of the diet makes sweeping claims that eating habits (and implying lifestyle) was 'better' 10,000 years ago based of evolutionary "science". Evolutionary "science" also claims that women go through menopause because we were never meant to live or have a biological (and read: usefulness in society) purpose beyond child rearing... most women (and men) never lived beyond the decades of menopause. (ps, if you haven't guessed from my tone, I believe this is a load of huey- and there's some interesting alternatives theories to support women's role beyond menopause).
(Image by Jen Christiansen from Scientific American)
(Read this Scientific American article for a point-by-point debate on the Paleo Diet).
Like all things green, and all things eating and health related, I am a huge proponent of moderation and realistic expectations. Perhaps instead of constantly fixating on elaborate fads, trends or changes, we need to take a step back and strive for Balance.