Looking at google trends:
If we can read anything into the popularity of Google searches (and I think we probably can) the terms 'Paleo Diet' effectively flatlined (besides a a few minor blips) before some point at the start of 2007 where it garnered a modest popularity. It gained steadily in 2009 before taking a massive leap at the end of the year.
There are no news articles to account for this so what was the catalyst in the popularity growth?
Me personally I came to Paleo as I was low carb for a year with great success, became more interested in nutrition and started reading some blogs on the subject. Started with Dr. Eades, progressed to Stephan and Peter at Hyperlipid. I think it was PaleoNu that made me finally switch to paleo, though it was a pretty natural progression when you realise the evils of gluten etc.
here is a chronology:
arthur de vany i believe credits eaton for a lot of it. de vany was first on the internet and influenced robb wolf and mark sisson. robb wolf i believe brought paleo to crossfit. nassim taleb brought arthur devany to a larger audience via an interview with him in a british newspaper i forget the name of.
Truth be told, I'm not sure the paleo movement has had its "tipping point" yet. If anyone is familiar with the Malcolm Gladwell book, I believe the original poster was asking about that moment with the "massive leap" comment. I don't think that we have had it yet. The NYT article was a help, seeing John Durant on the Colbert Report is good and helps raise awareness and the multitude of blogs are a great resource for those of us who are curious but the general public is still ignorant or don't care. My own mother refuses to admit that organic foods are worth wild.
A good friend of mine had her mother admitted to the hospital due to what she thought was a heart attack but was actually her blood sugar spiking over 400. She was pre-diabetic and is now full blown diabetic. So I sent her a lengthy facebook message (she's a cool mom like that) explaining the benefits of fat and meat and how long term health is really related to control your insulin levels, ESPECIALLY for an overweight diabetic. Her response was "thanks for the effort hun but I'm going to stick to whole grains and rice and limit my fat and meat intake". I really don't think that this is unusual or unique. I get a lot of odd looks and befuddleness when I discuss diet and food and exercise.
I can trace my interest in paleo/primal lifestyle all the way back to fantasy baseball, as odd as that sounds haha. In an effort to gain an edge in fantasy baseball, I read Will Carroll's Saving the Pitcher. In the book, he discussed Jose Reyes overcoming his hamstring issues by using Pavel Tsatsouline's Relax into Stretch techniques. This led me to trying the book and leading me to the wonderful world of kettlebells. This led to a drive for functional fitness and when I started up my twitter account, I had a lot of kettlebell activity and one of my followers is Sandy Sommer, who is an RKC trainer and a huge backer of Mark Sisson. Quite funny how life works sometimes.
I'm still hoping for that tipping point to come. Something BIG has to happen, like Obama coming out and supporting the paleo movement and overhauling the FDA or something to that effect. With the news of genetically modified alfalfa being OKed by the Supreme Court, I really don't hold out hope for this. Looks like I'm going to have to start my own farm after all.
Although a lot of people, websites, blogs, publications are really important for the rise in the popularity, and I thank them all, I think one major factor could be the main reason:
the sound scientific and evolutionary frameword of the paleo-life. It just makes sense!
That's what got me hooked (and I never even thought about nutrition before, not did I look for a diet or weight loss program.) I stumbled upon Art De Vany and his essay, my mind was open and prepared (I'm always hugely interested in evolutionary biology and psychology), it made incredible sense, and I changed my eating patterns...
I think that the Crossfit and MMA movement helped blow it up. The same type of people that are into Crossfit seem to like MMA and those into MMA often train in one way or another.And both of these sports gained a lot of steam right around 2007 (especially MMA). This all leads to a search for optimal nutrition. I heard about Paleo on Sherdog.com which is an MMA website. I paid it a little attention but then heard it again from my buddy who is an ex-green beret and brought me out to a day of crossfit where the owner was also talking about it. Im not a crossfitter but that day forward Ive been Paleo.
I'm a Professor of Evolutionary Psychology/Biology and I was aware of the hunter-gatherer diet/lifestyle from my studies as a graduate student for a while. I fully embraced paleo after graduating in 2002, and have been on and off the wagon for a while. Recently, with my strong interests developing around CrossFit/Functional Fitness + Nutrition + Ancestral Living all becoming part of my research program I am back on, and this time all my family knows about it - I've educated them, even if they won't switch - and I think it'll stick this time.
I'd definitely give some props to Jimmy Moore and his wonderful podcast for pointing me in the right direction. I started down the grain-free path after reading Good Calories Bad Calories, and subsequently found Jimmy's podcast show as a resource. I had been dabbling with low carb, cleaning up my diet, and finding non-CFO sources for my family's meat, eggs and cream - but it wasn't until I listened to interviews with Mark Sisson and Drs. Eades (and later Dr. Kurt Harris, Rob Wolf, etc.) that I realized that paleo really summed up what I was trying to do.
Jimmy's podcast guests are certainly not all 100% paleo friendly, but if you listen with a skeptical ear, it is a treasure trove of information.
I did a search on Google Trends with vegan diet as well as paleo diet. Looks like paleo has overtaken veganism in popularity! believe it or not.
I think the fact Robb Wolf's Paleolithic Solution podcast appears in the iTunes Top 20 list for Health and Nutrition may help. I can't remember exactly, but I think that was one of my first exposures to Paleo. It's the kind of thing you find when you're just cruising around on iTunes.
We have a few important movers and shakers out there as mentioned above....Both Dr. Eades, PaleoNu, Robb Wolf, & the rest of the rabid "Crossfit" community.
I would also mention people like Dr. Nora Gedgaudes, Dr. Loren Cordain, Dr. Al Sears, & Mark Sisson for being major influences in this movement.
Tremendous credit must also be given to the scientific investigators who have researched, questioned and debunked the lipid hypothesis and overall dietary status quo....Gary Taubes, Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Anthony Colpo....The list goes on and on.
In the end, I also see Paleo's popularity exploding because the community fundamentally believes the information needs to be shared! This generous flood of knowledge is life altering and ultimately addictive!
Who doesn't deserve to live a happy and happy life?
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