Watch this video.  Then re-blog it, like it on facebook, and re-tweet it.  Tell your family and send it to your doctor.  Write a letter to your congressman.  Show it to your niece and nephew, and teach it in your classroom.  Let your dog sniff the computer while it's playing.  Meditate on it.  Put it on a thumb drive, duct tape it to a brick, and throw it through the window at the USDA.  Put it in a time capsule so future generations will know.  Convert it into binary and beam it into space.

And here's the article: Captive Gorillas Succumbing to Human Disease.  I'm just going to post it here without commentary, just my bolding.

Life for humans is much easier than for animals in the wild. On a day-to-day basis, we generally do not have to worry about being eaten or starving to death. Depending on the individual's job, some can get by just fine by sitting around all day. However, this lifestyle brings forth its own set of health issues such as diabetes and heart disease, illnesses rarely found in the wild. These "human" diseases have spread to gorillas that are raised in captivity.

The only species of gorilla kept at North American zoos is the Western Lowland Gorilla. The number one killer of males in captivity is heart disease, much like humans. After a 21 year old gorilla named Brooks died of heart failure at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2005, a group of researchers decided to examine how the gorilla’s lifestyle affect their health. The team was led by Elena Hoellein Less, a PhD candidate in biology at Case Western Reserve University.

The researchers believe that heart disease can be stopped by switching captive gorillas back to their natural diets in the wild. For decades, zoos have fed gorillas bucket loads of high vitamin, high sugar, and high starch foods to make sure their got all their nutrients. At the Cleveland zoo, they have started feeding food such as romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, endives, alfalfa, green beans, flax seeds, and even tree branches which they strip of bark and leaves. To top it off, they give the gorillas three Centrum Silver multivitamins inside half a banana.

Going back to this natural diet has changed gorilla behavior. Before, gorillas only ate during a quarter of their day because the food was so packed with nutrients. Now at Cleveland, they spend 50-60 percent of their day eating which is the same amount as in the wild. With all this extra eating, the gorillas have doubled their caloric intake, yet at the same time have dropped 65 pounds each. This brings their weight more in line with their wild relatives.

"We're beginning to understand we may have a lot of overweight gorillas," said Kristen Lukas, an adjunct assistant professor of biology at Case Western Reserve and chair of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan®. "And, we're just recognizing that surviving on a diet and being healthy on a diet are different. We've raised our standards and are asking, are they in the best condition to not only survive but to thrive?"

Less and her crew are continuing their studies of captive gorillas by measuring the fat on their backs to create a gorilla body mass index. This can be used to gauge healthy weight for gorillas much as it is used for humans. The next step, says Less, is to exercise gorillas at the zoo to get their muscles to a similar level as their wild relatives.

I may shut down the blog after this post because there's nothing left to say.

Thank you to Mark for the link.

47 Responses to “Health problems disappear when captive gorillas fed wild diet”

  1. Robb Wolf says:

     OUTSTANDING! The ancestral diet, good for a critter?! 



  2. Grok says:

    LOL. What a concept huh?

  3.  I love that you are emphasizing the similarities between us and the animals we force-feed an unnatural diet. The significant implication, of course, is that we are animals too. That one very simple point is perhaps why so many people shrug off paleo as a fad — they are so deeply entrenched in conventional thinking that they can’t even accept that they are a part of nature. The emphasis you’ve been making lately might be the important first step in moving away from that.  

    • John says:


      • alhaddadin says:

         Strangely enough I hear pretty much that refrain all the time. "We have evolved past the point where we should be dependent upon nature [i.e. evolution] to survive." For a long time, when I was a vegan, something close to that was my mantra – that from a cruelty-to-animals/waste standpoint, the vegan lifestyle was our response to the cruel and wasteful path that nature designed for us. This new, fabricated food and exercise regimen was somehow better than what our ancestors had!

        Clearly I should have done my research on that one, I know… but you see how very easy it is to fall into that logical trap. Pretty silly.

      • James says:

        Actually we are both.

        Humans (

        Scientific classification

        Kingdom: Animalia
        Class: Mammalia

        Sounds like an animal to me.

  4. kennelmom says:

    Yep. Lots pet owners will share the same story. Feed a dog what it’s supposed to eat and a whole host of problems (physical and behavioral) will disappear. It was such a no brainer when we switched our dogs to raw that I honestly felt like a dolt when I discovered "paleo" (years later!) and was like: oh yeah…I guess a species appropriate /ancestral diet makes sense for humans too!

  5. Miles says:

    I have noticed a lot of talk here lately about animals. You might be interested by this article which is also off the beaten path but very much connected to the same themes:


    The principle underlying most memory techniques is that our brains don’t remember every type of information equally well. Like every other one of our biological faculties, our memories evolved through a process of natural selection in an environment that was quite different from the one we live in today. And much as our taste for sugar and fat may have served us well in a world of scarce nutrition but is maladaptive in a world of ubiquitous fast-food joints, our memories aren’t perfectly suited for our contemporary information age. 


    Click here

  6. NoSurf says:

    Gorilla body mass index.  Uh oh, I better get my back shaved…

  7. "And, we’re just recognizing that surviving on a diet and being healthy on a diet are different."

    LOVE this quote from the article! Thanks for sharing the video.

    • John says:

      yeah, it IS a great quote

    • George Gorillo says:

      it was madness to ever think that gorillas would thrive on a diet of starchy vegetables. glad to see the ‘paleo’ philosophy is spreading to zoos and i have no doubt these gorillas will be much healthier and happier on their natural diet of romaine lettice and Centrum Silver Multivitamin pills, just like they would eat in the wild

    • John says:

      jelly beans and marshmallows…terrible

      • amanda says:

         What, it doesn’t work for you?  I tend more towards a skittle diet, but she, I, and almost everyone I know  have been reaping the benefits of comfort eating sugar, getting no social interaction other than that which is based upon junk food, and never getting any exercise.  (Yeah–so terrible on so many levels.)  Also, on a kind of related note- a while back I was investigating what causes regurgitation and reingestion in primates in captivity after watching it for several painful but fascinating hours at San Diego Zoo bonobo habitat–it’s crazy to watch someone induce vomiting and eat it on an endless loop with horrified moms shielding thier kids eyes all around–and I discovered that, at least in 1997, the Milwaukee Zoo used Kool-Aid, sugar-free Jello, chewing gum, cookies and cereal as part of thier bonobo behavior enrichment program (coincidentally in the same study: they also reported weight problems  in some of the animals) and Cincinnati was regularly giving them chips, pretzels, party mix (WHOO!), spaghetti and tons more puzzling and on the level of jelly bean gross things.  So you posting this made me feel a tiny bit better about zoo dieticians–I was seriously wondering if they forgot they were working with animals after looking into the R&R stuff.  Kind of like human dieticians, too, I suppose. 

  8. Monkeys, humans, and pets all getting modern diseases consuming modern diets of over processed dreck.  When will we ever learn???


    Another article in the NYT this week talked about studies showing that sedentary, junk food-fed monkeys have similar poor health outcomes to humans.

  9. Anthony says:

    There are so many awesome things going on in this article that you are right, John, you may need to call this the end. Pack up and go home, it’s done.

    But you missed the most the most awesome part. Just in case, especially men, need some more convincing on the success behind Paleo diet…all the women advocating it in this video are are not just well-spoken but also really cute.

    It’s good to be a gorilla ­čÖé

  10. One day we’ll realize that we can’t outsmart God when it comes to creating and/or sustaining life; wether it be in procreation/artificial inteligence or the mere food we eat.  Life force can not be created, it is merely recycled.  Our hubris has taken us beyond this intuitive truth and led us to think we can think up life force in chem labs across the world. 

    • James says:

       Whats the difference between cooking a steak and working with chemicals or genetics in a lab? Its all chemistry and change.

      • John says:

        In a theoretical sense, you’re right — everything is just “chemicals”. But they’ve been trying to formulate breast milk for over a hundred years now and still can’t do it as well as mother nature.

        • Mark says:

           I had a high school chemistry teacher who had a Ph.d.  in organic chemistry.  We were once talking about spider silk  and how much stronger it was than any man-made material (or at least steel or something).  I asked why we didn’t just manufacture  spider silk  if that was the case.  He pointed out that the molecular structure of spider silk is pretty complicated, and to make it you’d have to be able place specific atoms  in specific places in molecule after molecule–in fact trillions  of molecules.  He said that’s the power of life itself.  If you could do that, you could make DNA, or an entire genome.  Our science is just not there yet.  While breast milk is an unremarkable, everyday little feat of nature,  it is quite  simply beyond our meager ability to replicate, even with all our science. 

      •  A steak was once walking around eating grass that takes life source from the sun and nutrients from the soil that gets fertilized with dead bugs that came from some stagnant pond that was provided oxygen by some unicellular algae…..could go all the way back to the Big Bang if you’d like.  Lab chemicals have no life.  Sure this whole universe was once only mostly Hydrogen at one point but if you use that as your argument, we have to get in to a theology discussion.  

  11. Robin says:

    This is great!  I was always skeptical of popping pills.  My family’s business was with performance dogs and we also had a small farm.  Diet was a major factor and if something was wrong with any of our animals the first place we looked was diet.  You never go get a prescription to give the animal, the rest of it’s life, in order to correct the problem.  We always corrected the diet.  So I always wondered why the same principle didn’t apply to me.  When I came across the Paleo diet 6 or 7 years ago it just made complete sense to me.  I’m just now getting around to making the change in my lifestyle, it was a hard battle for me to overcome my "addiction" and issues with food.  I’ve been strictly Paleo since January 3rd and I know that I’ve now experienced clean, proper living and it’s given me the ability to be true to myself.  Wonderful link and I’ve shared with my friends and made my parents watch it.  Hopefully it will get them thinking about changing their lifestyle.

  12. Paul Winter says:

       Dear John,

       A question on their un-natural diet, did it contain PUF- 6 oils?



  13. fearsclave says:

    "So if you think that keeping a gorilla in a cage with insufficient fresh air and exercise and feeding it a diet that’s going to make it fat, sick, and ultimately kill it is wrong and cruel, why do that to yourself?"

  14. gabriel syme says:

    I live in Cleveland and have seen the gorillas in question. Just last year I asked my wife why they looked so unhappy, just lying there, staring at the sky. I swear for all the world they looked like "Mojo" in that Simpsons episode where Homer’s helper monkey eats, drinks, and smokes too much.

    But scientists and academics are our betters, and we should do what they say, always.


  15. John,

    But of course they are thriving when their diet is correct.  Just like humans.  

    Thank you for posting.



    David Pendergrass

    University of Kansas

  16. Burlap Sack says:

    You know the vegans will use this as propaganda to claim that humans should also eat a solely plant-based diet, since the gorilla lost all this weight eating only shrubbery.

    • John says:

      I hope they do, because that’s an easy one to refute

    • heather says:

      Propaganda? ….and…..the vegans will be right. Humans don’t NEED to eat the flesh of animals OR NEED to consume the milk of another species mammary glands. The PROOF is everywhere. One just need search the internet for Vegan blogs and info supporting Veganism. Far outweighs the anti-vegan info.  A healthy whole foods Vegan diet is all the nutrition you need. Proof is in the pudding(vegan that is). I grew two superbly healthy babies in my womb meanwhile exercising at HIGH intensity 6-7 days a week and working 50 hours/week out of the home. Hah, propaganda.  Your taste buds do not supercede the right of life for another animal. Vegan For Life! Go Vegan! 

      • alhaddadin says:

        Seriously, what are you hoping to accomplish here? There are other platforms for this discussion. Stop wasting your time and ours.

      • fearsclave says:

        And Melissa McEwen’s Smug Vegan Troll Comment Generator strikes again!

        • alhaddadin says:

           Oh no… please don’t tell me I just reponded to a bot…. AGHHH hahahah

          • fearsclave says:

            @alhaddin: to be honest, I’m not entirely sure it was a bot, but it sure sounded like Melissa’s comment generator, which is a testament either to the quality of the bot or the lack of originality of the poster, I’m not sure which :).

          • John says:

            @fearsclave I love Melissa’s vegan comment generator. Just so funny.
            @alhaddin Thanks for sharing your experience with veganism in such a reasonable way

      • alhaddadin says:

         Sorry, perhaps that was a bit heavy-handed. Let me take a crack at a more measured response.



        I used to be a vegan. For ten years, actually. The angle that I took on my choice of dietary regimen was very similar to the one which you are espousing here, including the proof which you believe is available all across the internet, as well as other places. I don’t disagree that that information is valid, but now I have chosen to draw a slightly more realistic and measure conclusion from it. We understand the horror that many vegans espouse about the factory farming of livestock and fish that prevails in this country and most of the westernized world. I understand that there is such a thing as the trophic hierarchy, aka food chain, which leaves the energy transfer from one level to the next grossly unequal, i.e. it is total insanity to rape the land to raise corn which we then transport all around the country to feed livestock which eat that and other disgustingly processed feed and then are transported all over again from slaughterhouse to packing facility to retailers to our fridges in a cycle of hopelessly wasteful energy consumption and inefficiency. We understand that the level of suffering and cruelty which prevails in this carnivory-industrial complex of ours is truly horrifying and largely unnecessary. We understand that, as silly as it sounds, cow farts are destroying the ozone layer more than aerosol hairspray. And we understand that, when an animal is pent up for years of its life and then slaughtered in a noisy and stark industrial facility, there are stress hormones and chemicals that leak into its muscles which we then ingest and absorb into our own bodies. All of that stuff is, unequivocally, very very bad, and one would be crazy to support its propagation. Fortunately, ALL of these problems are solved when one eats a diet that is based upon locally and ethically sourced foods, including pastured and/or grass-fed and -finished meat & fowl, and wild-caught fish. From an ethical and environmental standpoint dairy is hardly questionable under these criteria, but I concede that, from a strictly dietary standpoint the practice of consuming substances from another animal’s mammary glands is still largely up for discussion.



        Your point about being healthy and fit as a vegan is, to me, anecdotal and extremely subjective, and therefore not really reliable as a benchmark for any other vegans except for yourself. (Raising children Vegan is, in my opinion, about as draconian as raising them Amish, but this is admittedly not my choice nor ultimately my judgment call to make.) That being said, I feel that it’s necessary to share my own experience with veganism here, because I think it sheds light on the duality of perceived vs. real profiles of personal health. During my time as a vegan, which spanned the critical growth period of my late adolescence, I thought of myself as being healthy because I was able to keep myself within (what I believed then to be) a desirable weight range; in reality I was drastically underweight, had brittle bones, was unable to build any significant muscle mass (kind of a bad sign for a male during a time when he’s supposed to be flooded with testosterone). In additon to all of this I was unusually tired and hungry all the time due to disastrously low insulin sensitivity which was confirmed by not one but two endocrinologists who advised me to change my diet unless I wanted to become a type-2 diabetic in my late teens (admittedly, diabetes does "run in my family," but this is easily preventable with the right kind of diet). As soon as I switched over to a paleo mode of eating (compliant, of course, with all of the ethical specifications I delinated above), all of these problems went away within a matter of weeks. No kidding. It was only after ten years of thinking I was healthy in one mode of existence that I finally discovered how skewed that perception was – no doubt the result of my "buying in" to the idea that peak health could either be swapped out for (or dubiously achieved while) living as a complete herbivore.



        One last point: don’t ever assume that we live and eat this way because our taste buds dictate it. There are days when my taste buds – whose demands are notoriously out of synch with what our bodies actually need – are clamoring for a double-chocolate fudge brownie, which, as I’m sure you are aware, can be made with fully vegan ingredients. Fortunately, like anyone else who is interested in reaching optimal health, I have learned to recognize that I’ve been conditioned by more than two decades of addiction to crap foods, and I’m not about to give in just because of a simple Pavlovian response.



        This is probably more than you wanted to hear on this subject, so I’ll give it a rest. I will only say that I am sure that if you ask any other frequent reader on this site, they’ll be able to give you even more good reason for why we live the way we do (and they will be able to do so probably more eloquently, and more seamlessly, than I have done here).

        • heather says:

          Thanks for responding.  I am not a bot or troll. I came across this site because someone at my Crossfit Gym linked the above article on our gyms site. I am glad I visited as I had heard of this study  and hadn’t found an article yet, so I was pleasantly surprised to finally get my hands on a bit about it.  I was not raised vegan! I was once a full on meat eater and milk  chugger.  I was raised that way and aggressively opposed vegetarians and vegans I came across in college.  I also tried vegetarian as a teenager (about 17 yrs ago) after reading The Jungle (a book about the meat packing industry turn of the century) and largely lived on pasta, breads, and "healthy snack foods". If you don’t mind I’m going to make an assumption…  As a teenager I highly doubt you were eating a well balanced diet consisting of a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.  Was everyone in your family on the Vegan diet and accomodating your nutritional needs? Were you buying and preparing your own whole food nutrient dense and calorie filled meals? As a teenager I highly doubt that you were seeking out the healthiest options or have sufficient knowledge to create wholesome meals for yourself…or maybe you did…only you know. As a teenager, I certainly did NOT.  Or did your eating habits more closely resemble the vegan version of the Standard American Diet? I can tell you from experience and education, any diet consisting of highly processed food, vegan or not, is going to FAIL.  Most people who fail on the vegan diet do so because they are not eating a wide variety of WHOLE foods.  Junk food veganism is no better and just as nutritionally void as SAD. I was also Strict Paleo for a full year before transitioning back to vegan. I had great success, but  I found after taking out the processed foods in my diet and having gained significant experience with planning nutrient dense plant strong meals I also did not need the animal products.  I just replaced those animal derived micro and macro nutrients with more WHOLE plant foods. Success:)  There are well known endurance and strength athletes proving  that a body can be plant strong.  If you are interested here are a few: Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, Endurance athlete Scott Jurek, NBA star John Salley, mountain runner Tim VanOrden, triathlete Rich Roll, Tour de France cyclist Dave Zabriskie and so many more.    Have a great day.

          • alhaddadin says:

            You have an excellent point, which is that as a vegetarian/vegan it is incredibly easy to eat a very nutritionally poor diet. You’re correct that this was largely my experience (for all but the last year or so of my period of veganism), and I respect you for being able to find a level of fitness and health that works for you while on a vegan diet.  However, to use your own line, the proof is in the pudding: there are tons and tons of vegans and vegetarians, possibly even the majority of those who identify as such, who subsist on a diet that is nutritionally godawful. I would challenge you to find even a single percentage-point’s worth of paleo folks whose diets are as nutritionally poor, because it is almost impossible to eat a nutritionally poor paleo diet. The fact that you must stay within a very narrow range of foods ("whole" or not) is not a good sign for the viability of your diet. We are beings built on variety and adaptation: Veganism largely excludes the former and exacts too much from our bodies via the latter.

          • heather says:

            Oh definitely and without a doubt a great number of veg*ns eat nutritionally poor diets.  Absolutely. However, your argument is based on a snapshot in time of healthy committed Paleo enthusiasts vs. lazy junk food Vegans. These two experiences are not at the same level of potential. More accurately, if you take a snapshot of healthy committed Paleo enthusiasts vs. healthy whole plant foods Vegan enthusiasts, you have a more even playing field from which to draw conclusions.  As much as my own process to veganism was laden with vegan junk foods, dairy and tofu filled vegetarianism, and low fat raw experimentations, I eventually struck a vegan  balance that worked for me.  For many it is a similar journey. So it is with Paleo; I see people fall off all the time. I am surrounded by my fellow gym friends who attempt Paleo (it is part of Crossfit culture) and just can’t keep it up.  However, I don’t doubt at all that if they keep getting back up they too will eventually strike a balance with their greatest Paleo potential. Veg*nism, Paleo, Vegetarian…one can fail or succeed with any one of these approaches.  It takes committment and persistence.  Each of these can succeed when processed junk is taken out and a variety of vegetables put in its place.  That is the breaker in terms of sustainable health, the junk.  Lastly, variety is absolutely not a problem in an herbivore diet. Not at all.  I just can’t state that enough. If one lives near a major grocer and/or farmers markets/stands fruit, veggie, and legume variety is very high. One simply visit a grocer or market farm to witness variety in the hundreds of items. Nuts and seeds…I have well over a dozen different kinds in my kitchen right now.  The number of Vegan-gluten free recipe blogs out there is insane. So many resources. Have a good one and Happy Eating!     

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