Rationale for the paleo diet stems from the belief that humans stopped evolving 10,000 years ago. In other words, our genetics have not changed since the Stone Age and therefore are not conducive to our modern diet and lifestyle. Hunter-gatherer foods such as meats, fruits and vegetables are acceptable. Dairy products, legumes, and cereals/grains are prohibited.
Is there scientific evidence to support this rationale? Is it practical?
There is very limited research on the paleolithic diet, and those studies that are out there are short and poorly designed. The strongest study done by Mellburg showed no long-term differences between the paleolithic diet and the control group regarding improvements of health markers. Other factors to take into consideration are: expense, restriction, and calcium deficiency. Metzgar conducted a feasibility study on the cost of the paleolithic diet for low-income consumers. The study showed the paleolithic diet is 10% more expensive than a traditional diet of the same nutritional value. The paleo diet doesn’t take into account how much of a specific nutrient you eat, like most other diets, but WHAT nutrients you eat. Restricting entire food groups, such as dairy and grains, could lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals. One concern when avoiding dairy is poor calcium intake, which could lead to osteoporosis, especially in older individuals.
Daily Caloric Recommendations:
- no guidelines for amount of carbohydrate, protein or fat
- restriction of grains, dairy and legumes
- evolutionary appropriate diet
- weight loss
- correction of metabolic dysfunction
In summary, the paleo diet is an expensive and highly restrictive diet that does not have strong scientific evidence to support health claims.
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Reference: Pitt CE. Cutting through the paleo hype: The evidence for the palaeolithic diet. Australian Family Physician. 2016;45(1/2):35-38. https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=817618908759886;res=IELHEA.