The promotion of certain dietary patterns as a way to improve overall health is very common. In recent years, a dietary pattern called the Paleolithic diet
also known as the paleo diet, has taken the health and wellness world by storm.
Despite the popularity of the paleo diet, many researchers and health professionals argue that it’s not necessarily the best diet for overall health. In fact, some believe it may be harmful. Here’s what the research on the paleo diet says in order to uncover its potential health benefits.
What is a paleo diet?
The Paleo Diet, also known as the Stone Age Diet or the Caveman Diet, is a way of eating that aims to replicate the way hunter-gatherers ate thousands of years ago. People who follow a paleo diet eat large amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but limit legumes, dairy, and grains.
Foods and beverages that a person following a paleo diet will consume frequently include:
– meat, favoring game meat or grass-fed animals
– the water
– herbs and spices
– healthy oils, such as walnut or olive oil.
Foods that a person on a paleo diet will often avoid include:
– dairy products
– refined sugar
– legumes, which include beans, peanuts and peas
– artificial ingredients
– processed foods
– fizzy drinks
– cereals, especially rice, wheat and oats
One of the most common misconceptions about the paleo diet is that our ancestors survived primarily on a meat-based diet. As we learn more about the Paleolithic era, we discover that the people who lived during this time had a plant-based diet, with only 3% meat, according to estimates.
What are the purported benefits of the paleo diet?
Proponents of the paleo diet believe that the shift from a hunter-gatherer diet to an agricultural diet has increased the global prevalence of chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes. They believe that the human body is not genetically equipped to consume modern foods introduced through agricultural practices. Therefore, they believe that our overall health will improve by following a diet similar to that of our ancestors.
The claimed benefits of a paleo diet include:
– improvement in cholesterol levels
– reduction in blood pressure
– better blood sugar control
– reduction in waist circumference and weight loss
– improved satiety
– improved intestinal health
– reduction in all-cause mortality.
Switching from a Western diet high in processed foods and high in sodium to a Paleo diet allows for the inclusion of more fresh fruits and vegetables, which can undoubtedly benefit overall health. Many people also report improvements in inflammation, focus, and sleep. They also report weight loss, likely due to eating more whole foods while cutting out major food groups.
Although the paleo diet has the potential to be healthy, is it necessary to restrict grains, legumes, and dairy to reap the benefits?
Let’s see how the paleo diet stacks up scientifically.
What does science say about these claims?
Several advances in science and research have allowed us to further explore the potential benefits of the paleo diet to determine whether it should become a diet that medical professionals routinely recommend.
A 2015 review looked at four randomized controlled trials with 159 participants who had one or more of the five components of metabolic syndrome.
The researchers found that the Paleolithic diet resulted in more significant short-term improvements in the following areas compared to the control diet:
– waist size
– triglyceride levels
– blood pressure
– high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, or “good” cholesterol
– fasting blood sugar
A study published in the Nutrition Journal evaluated several randomized controlled trials to establish a relationship between the Paleolithic diet and the prevention and control of chronic diseases and anthropometric measures. The study found an average weight loss of 3.52 kilograms, as well as a decrease in waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) in people following a Paleolithic diet compared to those following a Paleolithic diet. other commonly recommended diets. The researchers behind this study suggest that following a paleo diet may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, as being overweight is one of the main risk factors for their development.
Is the paleo diet better than other diets?
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition aimed to investigate the associations between the Paleolithic diet and the Mediterranean diet and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. The study found that people who followed a Paleo or Mediterranean diet had reduced all-cause mortality, decreased oxidative stress, and lower mortality from heart disease and cancer.
A 2020 meta-analysis looked at four studies to compare the paleo diet with the Mediterranean diet, the diabetic diet, and another diet recommended by the Dutch Health Council. The researchers examined the effects of these diets on glucose and insulin homeostasis in people with impaired glucose metabolism. They found that people who followed the paleo diet had no significant improvements in fasting blood sugar, insulin levels or HbA1c levels compared to those who followed the other types of diet. The study authors conclude that the paleo diet is not superior to other nutritious diets in people with impaired glucose metabolism.
Additionally, a study published in the journal Nutrition in January 2020 looked at the effectiveness of different diets, including the paleo diet and intermittent fasting. Its authors found that there is currently no specific diet capable of effectively promoting weight loss in all individuals. They concluded that the best diet for weight loss is a negative energy balance while focusing on food quality.
The risks of following a paleo diet
Eliminating certain food groups can improve certain health markers and lead to weight loss, but it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and increase the risk of long-term health consequences. For example, a paleo diet restricts dairy products, which are high in calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients essential for bone health. A deficiency in these nutrients can lead to…
osteoporosis and bone fractures.
This diet also excludes beans and legumes. Beans are an excellent source of minerals, fiber and vegetable protein. They may also help lower cholesterol and promote satiety.
Additionally, many people who follow a paleo diet claim that it promotes gut health, but new research says otherwise.
Some studies suggest that people who follow a paleo diet have a different gut microbiota and higher levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a compound linked to cardiovascular disease. This research reinforces current dietary recommendations that recommend consuming foods rich in fiber and whole grains to maintain cardiovascular function and intestinal health.
People who take a modern approach to the paleo diet often use it as an excuse to eat too much meat. Eating more than the recommended servings of meat, especially red meat, on a daily basis can lead to chronic disease. Excess protein intake from any animal source increases the body’s production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). High levels of IGF-1 and a high intake of dietary protein can lead to an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and general mortality.
Unless a person has a health condition that requires them to restrict a specific food group, there is no scientific evidence to show that the paleo diet is superior to other well-known diets, such as the diet. Mediterranean.
Diets high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains allow for more variety, are more sustainable, and have scientifically proven health benefits.
ble to get all the necessary nutrients from the foods allowed on the paleo diet, but it can be difficult. For example, people should try to get calcium from non-dairy sources, such as dark green leafy vegetables.
Paleolithic nutrition for metabolic syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis
Influence of Paleolithic diet on anthropometric markers in chronic diseases: systematic review and meta-analysis
The Effect of the Paleolithic Diet vs. Healthy Diets on Glucose and Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Scientific evidence of diets for weight loss: Different macronutrient composition, intermittent fasting, and popular diets
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