The Pros And Cons Of The Paleo Diet | Stephen Coleclough
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The Pros And Cons Of The Paleo Diet

The Pros And Cons Of The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet has become a very popular diet over the last decade.

Its adherents claim that it can produce dramatic results, helping them lose weight and gain muscle mass very effectively.

But is the Paleo Diet as effective as people claim?

What are the pros and cons of a Paleo Diet?

Is it just a fad diet or the read deal?

In this article, I’ll take a closer look at this diet to help you determine if it is the right approach for you.

What is the Paleo diet?

The Paleo Diet only contains foods which were presumed to be dietary staples of humans in the Palaeolithic Era.

This era of human development, also known as the Stone Age, began about 2.5 million years ago and ended about 40,000 years ago.

This is why the diet is sometimes referred to as “The caveman diet”.

The concept behind the diet is that a primitive diet might be better for human health that a modern diet.

This idea first originated in the 1880’s when doctors including Dr. Emmet Densmore and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (inventor of Corn Flakes) proclaimed that breads were unhealthy and that we should be eating a diet focussed on fruits, vegetables, and meat.

A very famous book detailing the Palaeolithic diet was written by gastroenterologist

Walter Voegtlin and published in 1975.

However, the diet didn’t really take off until Loren Cordain published The Paleo Diet in 2002.

It quickly grew in popularity and by 2013 it was the most frequently searched diet on Google.

In Cordain’s book, he suggests that the Paleo Diet should contain:

  • 55% of daily calories from seafood and lean meat
  • 45% of daily calories from fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds (shared equally)
  • No dairy (that’s right, no cheese, no milk, no yoghurt!)
  • Almost no grains
  • No added salt
  • No added sugar

The Paleo Diet avoids any processed food and foods containing artificial additives.

This diet avoids any foods developed by humans after the Paleo period, which includes domesticated plants like barley, lentils, wheat, and flax.

Some Paleo Diets also exclude all legumes (Lentils, Soybeans and so on)

Interestingly, the digestive abilities of modern humans is very different from humans in the Palaeolithic era — which undermines the premise of the diet.

There is also some debate about which foods were available to people living in the Palaeolithic era and how they are different from foods of today.

What are the pros and cons of the paleo diet?

As with most diets, there are both pros and cons involved.

In this case:

Pros of the Paleo Diet

NOTE: There hasn’t been much research into the Paleo Diet at this point.

The research that has been performed has often used very small groups of test subjects and have been run over a very short period — so it should be viewed with caution.

However, these studies have highlighted several positive outcomes from the diet.

May reduce the risk of Type II diabetes

A study in 2007 found that people with type II diabetes may benefit from a paleo diet.

The study involved 29 participants who had heart disease and elevated blood sugar levels or type 2 diabetes.

About half of the men went on a Paleo Diet, while the other half started a Mediterranean-like diet.

The researchers found that the subjects on the Paleo Diet had better glucose tolerance compared to the other group.

Glucose tolerance is how quickly sugar is removed from the blood.

It is an important marker for type II diabetes.

It’s important to note that an animal study has found that the Paleo Diet may increase the risk of type II diabetes (see the cons section below).

Weight loss

The same study found that the Paleo diet was also very effective at helping participants lose weight.

Although test subjects in both groups lost weight during the trial, the group on the Paleo diet lost slightly more.

However, it should be noted that other studies have found that the paleo diet can actually lead to weight gain (see the cons section below).

As you will soon see, some of the evidence in support of the Paleo Diet is contradicted by other studies.

Blood pressure reduction

Researchers tested the Paleo diet on a group of 14 healthy medical students for 3 weeks.

After the 3 weeks had elapsed, the participants had lost 2.3kg (5 lbs) on average and had a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 3 mmHg.

Cholesterol reduction

Researchers have found that the Paleo Diet may reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol in the body.

One research project test the Paleo Diet on a group of 10 healthy women with a BMI over 27.

They found that the women lost an average of 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs) and saw a reduction in total cholesterol of  33 mg/dL (0.85 mmol/L).

This study also confirmed the reduction in blood sugar levels seen by other researchers.

May improve health of people with Metabolic Syndrome

A study published in 2015 found that people with metabolic syndrome had better cardiovascular and metabolic health after eating the Paleo Diet for an extended period.

However, it should be noted that this study used a small sample size.

Cons of the Paleo Diet

Weight gain

A study published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes in 2016 found that mice eating the Paleo diet for 8 weeks experienced a significant amount of weight gain.

According to the researchers, the mice eating the Paleo Diet “gained 15% of their body weight, and their fat mass had doubled from 2% to almost 4%”.

The researchers believe that the Paleo Diet could also lead to high blood pressure, bone problems, anxiety, depression, higher blood sugar levels, and a greater risk of diabetes.

Higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer

The Paleo Diet is a very meat-centric diet.

Eating large quantities of meat has been found to increase the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

The high level of saturated fats found in a Paleo Diet could also increase the risk of kidney disease.

May compromise bone health

The association of UK dieticians have called the Paleo Diet a “Jurassic fad”.

They have also raised concerns about the potential of the diet to lead to nutritional deficiencies like calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.

These deficiencies could compromise your bone health and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

Less energy

Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy in our diets.

Because the Paleo Diet is so low in carbohydrate content, it can adversely affect how much energy you have.

It is usually very difficult for athletes to follow the Paleo Diet because they require the additional carbohydrates that legumes and grains provide.

Eating like a cave man can get very expensive

Meat is very expensive in most countries and the Paleo Diet requires a lot of meat.

Expect your food bills to increase by anywhere between 25% to 50% when switching to this diet.

Thanks for reading The Pros And Cons Of The Paleo Diet. 

Have you tried this diet? 

Did you enjoy it? 

Leave a comment or drop me a line to let me know how it went.

Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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