Utahn's ‘Caveman Diet' catching on worldwide

By John Hollenhorst  |  Posted Feb 8th, 2010 @ 9:50pm


ST. GEORGE -- A Utah man is gaining international attention for preaching an unusual lifestyle. He believes we'd all be healthier if we lived more like our ancestors did in the Stone Age, and he says his own physical prowess helps make the case.

The basic diet has been promoted by various people under names like "The Caveman Diet" and "The Paleolithic Prescription." Nutrition experts are waiting to be convinced, but Art De Vany takes a big step further into the Stone Age with an entire lifestyle he calls "Evolutionary Fitness."

Those on the Evolutionary Fitness diet eat things that existed 10,000 years ago, before agriculture and food processing

When he goes for a workout, for example, Art doesn't believe in long, hard runs. He hops and jumps and exercises hard, just momentarily.

"It's always intermittent and ‘bursty,' so to speak," Art says. "A few intense episodes, short in duration."

It's as if he's stalking game or running from a predator.

"It's the rhythm of life, of a wild animal, and we were wild animals then," Art says.

"Then" means 10,000 years ago, when men were strong and women were too.

Art and his wife, Carmela, are both 72 years old, and they don't mind showing off their muscles. One of their exercises, pulling their Land Rover with a rope, mimics their ancestors pulling a bison.

"Hauling food back to camp was one of the things we had to do," Art says.

In the kitchen, it's hunter-gatherer time -- more "Fred and Wilma" than Julia Child.

"We're 21st century cavemen," Art says. "We don't suffer."

Art and his wife, Carmela, are both 72 years old. They say the Evolutionary Fitness diet helps them stay fit and energetic.

The idea is to eat things that existed 10,000 years ago, before agriculture and food processing.

"You notice there are no grains. There's no bread. There are no beans, no rice no potatoes," Art explains.

Still, Art doesn't go to the desert to do his hunting and gathering. Like most people, he does that at the grocery store.

"We're only trying to mimic, or emulate, the kind of diet that would have been natural for humans," Art says.

He believes human genes evolved over millions of years for conditions then; our genes have hardly changed since.

"40,000 B.C. is really my model of how to live," Art says.

His Evolutionary Fitness blog has paid subscribers in 115 countries. He has groups of followers in London and New York.

Art De Vany's Evolutionary Fitness blog has paid subscribers in 115 countries.

The New York Times recently profiled Art's fans, who eat from a meat locker in their living room, and then fast as if game was scarce.

"They're following it almost exactly," Art says.

He says about half his diet is meat and fish.

"We eat a lot of seafood, and that is known to have entered the human diet 200,000 years ago, during the Ice Ages," Art says.

"The premise that he's talking about has some merit," says nutrition professor E. Wayne Askew, of the University of Utah's College of Health.

Askew says more studies are needed on long-term effects of a Paleolitihic diet, but two small, short studies seem to show positive results.

"I think some of the claims that are made for it are without substantiation; that doesn't mean they're necessarily wrong," Askew says. But isn't 72-year-old Art De Vany himself a pretty good advertisement?

"Well, we'll keep an eye on him," Askew chuckled. "If he's like the Energizer Bunny, and if he keeps on ticking, why, that's a good sign."

Art is not a nutritionist -- he's an economics professor retired to the St. George area -- but he claims his own research puts him ahead of most modern experts. He thinks people had it right, naturally, before they invented the scientific method.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

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