Paleo Diet | What It Is and Pros and Cons
Many have heard of the Paleo diet yet are confused as to what it’s all about. This article explains the Paleo diet and the pros and cons of Paleo nutrition.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet originates from long ago. It is based on the concept of eating “whole” foods that were consumed by hunter-gatherers from the Paleolithic era, the time before recorded history. The focus is on consumption of meat/seafood/eggs, nuts/seeds, vegetables and seasonal fruit with avoidance of dairy and grains.
What is the Evidence for The Paleo Diet?
While there are relatively few studies that have compared Paleo Diet to traditional diets, research suggests the need for more clinical trials to fully understand its mechanistic benefits to human health. A re-occurring theme in research conducted thus far is that the Paleo diet has favorable outcomes on metabolic function including cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation1.
Pros of the Paleo Diet
- Improves glycemic control
- A study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (EJCN) found that when type 2 diabetic subjects were placed in a Paleo diet or American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended diet group there were significantly distinct results2. The Paleo diet group had improved insulin sensitivity and glucose balance compared to the ADA diet2. Additionally, the Paleo diet conferred more beneficial effects to participant’s lipid profiles2.
- The dietary glycemic index (GI) has been found to be consistently lower in a Paleo Diet compared to others3.
- Another study concluded the Paleo Diet improves glucose tolerance more than the Mediterranean Diet in ischemic heart disease patients4.
- Modulates lipid profiles
- In the EJCN study, participants on the Paleo diet had significantly greater improvements in lipid profiles than the ADA diet group1.
- The Paleo diet was found to exert significantly greater effects on regulating hyperlipidemia and cholesterol ratios in non-diabetic adults compared to a grain-based, “heart healthy” diet recommended by the American Heart Association5.
- Improves cardiovascular risk factors
- A clinical trial analyzed diabetic patients administered a Paleo diet or diabetic diet (dictated by the dietary guidelines) treatment3. The study, which was published in Cardiovascular Diabetology, found that the Paleo diet participants had significantly lower levels of HbA1c, diastolic blood pressure (BP), and waist circumference along with significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol3.
- One study reviewed the effects of the Paleo diet on diabetic patients with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). It concluded that the Paleo diet has increased beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes and hallmark cardiovascular risk factors6.
- Assists with weight loss
- A two-year study with obese, post-menopausal women given a Paleo diet or Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR) diet concluded that the Paleo diet group had significantly greater reductions in adiposity and waist circumference than the NNR group7.
- Overall, advantageous for metabolic parameters and CVD risk
- In a study, the Paleo diet had beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors8. The results of the PALEO DIET treatment were lower systolic BP, diastolic BP, total cholesterol, as well as higher HDL cholesterol8.
- Furthermore, there was significant weight loss in the Paleo diet group8.
- A research review concluded that the Paleo diet amassed significantly greater improvements in metabolic syndrome markers compared to guideline-based control diets9.
Whatever your diet, make it organic. If you consume dairy, make sure it is from a grass-fed source.
Cons of the Paleo diet
-Difficult diet for vegetarians and vegans. Pegan is a popular term, but Paleo man was never vegan. All societies in the history of the world were meat and/or seafood eaters. All animals eat other animals or insects.
-If an extreme athlete, work harder to get adequate carb intake. Potatoes, quinoa, and gluten-free grains along with increased fruit intake may satisfy the athlete.
- Pitt, 2016: https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2016/januaryfebruary/cutting-through-the-paleo-hype-the-evidence-for-the-palaeolithic-diet/
- Marsharini et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25828624
- Jonsson et al., 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19604407
- Lindberg et al., 2007: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17583796?dopt=Abstract
- Pastore et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26003334
- Klonoff, 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787021/
- Melberg et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24473459
- Boers et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25304296
- Manheimer et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26269362