Paleo Diet Studies Show Benefits

Paleo Diet Studies Show Benefits
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What happens when Paleolithic-type diets are put to the test?

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There have been about a half-dozen studies published on Paleo-type diets, starting around 20 years ago. In what sounds like a reality TV show, ten diabetic Australian aborigines were dropped off in a remote location to fend for themselves, hunting and gathering foods like figs and crocodiles.

In my video on wild game, I showed that kangaroo meat causes a significantly smaller spike in inflammation, compared to retail meat. Of course, ideally, we’d eat anti-inflammatory foods, but wild game is significantly better—so low in fat, you can design a game-based diet with under 7% of calories from fat. Skinless chicken breast has 14 times more fat than kangaroo meat. So, you can eat curried kangaroo with your cantaloupe, and drop your cholesterol almost as much as eating vegetarian.

So, how did they do? Well, nearly anything would have been preferable to the diet they were eating before—evidently centered around refined carbs, soda, beer, milk, and cheap fatty meat. But, they did pretty good; significantly better blood sugar response, thanks to a ton of weight loss. But it’s because they were starving. They evidently couldn’t catch enough kangaroos, and so, even if they were running around in the desert for seven weeks on 1,200 calories of their original junky diet, they may have done just as well. But we’ll never know, because there was no control group.

Same problem with some of the other Paleo studies: short, small, no control group. But favorable results were reported. No surprise, given they cut their saturated fat intake in half—presumably because they cut out so much cheese, sausage, or ice cream. Same with this one. Nine people go Paleo for ten days. They cut their saturated fat and salt intake in half, and their cholesterol and blood pressure drops, as one might expect.

The longest Paleo study was only three months, until this one, 15 months—but, done on pigs. It was a Paleo pig study. But the pigs did better, because they gained less weight on the Paleo diet. Why? Because they fed the Paleo group 20% fewer calories. The improvement in insulin sensitivity in pigs, though, was not reproduced in people—though there were benefits, such as improved glucose tolerance, thanks to these dietary changes. The Paleo group ate less dairy, cereals, oil, and margarine, and more fruit and nuts, with no significant change in meat consumption.

A follow-up study also failed to find improved glucose tolerance over control, but did show other risk factor benefits—and no wonder. Any diet cutting out dairy and doughnuts, oil, sugar, candy, soda, beer, and salt is likely to make people healthier and feel better. Compare these representations of a day’s worth of food on a Paleo diet, versus the Standard American Diet. Although it looks like there’s a tomato peeking out behind the Frosted Cheerios, the Paleo diet has lots of foods that actually grew out of the ground. So, this kind of Paleo diet would be way better.

Won’t it hurt people to tell them to stop eating beans, though? Hardly anyone eats beans. More than 96% of Americans don’t even reach the measly minimum recommended amount—only like 1 in 200 middle-aged American women. So, telling people to stop isn’t going to change their diet very much.

I’m all for condemning the Standard American Diet’s refined carbs, “nonhuman mammalian milk,” and junk foods, but proscribing legumes is a mistake. As I’ve noted before, beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils may be the most important dietary predictor of survival. Beans and whole grains are the dietary cornerstones of the longest living populations on Earth. Plant-based diets in general, and legumes in particular, are a common thread among longevity Blue Zones around the world.

The bottom line may be that reaching for a serving of kangaroo may be better than a cheese danish—but, foraging for an apple might prove to be the most therapeutic of all.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to hbieser via Pixabay

There have been about a half-dozen studies published on Paleo-type diets, starting around 20 years ago. In what sounds like a reality TV show, ten diabetic Australian aborigines were dropped off in a remote location to fend for themselves, hunting and gathering foods like figs and crocodiles.

In my video on wild game, I showed that kangaroo meat causes a significantly smaller spike in inflammation, compared to retail meat. Of course, ideally, we’d eat anti-inflammatory foods, but wild game is significantly better—so low in fat, you can design a game-based diet with under 7% of calories from fat. Skinless chicken breast has 14 times more fat than kangaroo meat. So, you can eat curried kangaroo with your cantaloupe, and drop your cholesterol almost as much as eating vegetarian.

So, how did they do? Well, nearly anything would have been preferable to the diet they were eating before—evidently centered around refined carbs, soda, beer, milk, and cheap fatty meat. But, they did pretty good; significantly better blood sugar response, thanks to a ton of weight loss. But it’s because they were starving. They evidently couldn’t catch enough kangaroos, and so, even if they were running around in the desert for seven weeks on 1,200 calories of their original junky diet, they may have done just as well. But we’ll never know, because there was no control group.

Same problem with some of the other Paleo studies: short, small, no control group. But favorable results were reported. No surprise, given they cut their saturated fat intake in half—presumably because they cut out so much cheese, sausage, or ice cream. Same with this one. Nine people go Paleo for ten days. They cut their saturated fat and salt intake in half, and their cholesterol and blood pressure drops, as one might expect.

The longest Paleo study was only three months, until this one, 15 months—but, done on pigs. It was a Paleo pig study. But the pigs did better, because they gained less weight on the Paleo diet. Why? Because they fed the Paleo group 20% fewer calories. The improvement in insulin sensitivity in pigs, though, was not reproduced in people—though there were benefits, such as improved glucose tolerance, thanks to these dietary changes. The Paleo group ate less dairy, cereals, oil, and margarine, and more fruit and nuts, with no significant change in meat consumption.

A follow-up study also failed to find improved glucose tolerance over control, but did show other risk factor benefits—and no wonder. Any diet cutting out dairy and doughnuts, oil, sugar, candy, soda, beer, and salt is likely to make people healthier and feel better. Compare these representations of a day’s worth of food on a Paleo diet, versus the Standard American Diet. Although it looks like there’s a tomato peeking out behind the Frosted Cheerios, the Paleo diet has lots of foods that actually grew out of the ground. So, this kind of Paleo diet would be way better.

Won’t it hurt people to tell them to stop eating beans, though? Hardly anyone eats beans. More than 96% of Americans don’t even reach the measly minimum recommended amount—only like 1 in 200 middle-aged American women. So, telling people to stop isn’t going to change their diet very much.

I’m all for condemning the Standard American Diet’s refined carbs, “nonhuman mammalian milk,” and junk foods, but proscribing legumes is a mistake. As I’ve noted before, beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils may be the most important dietary predictor of survival. Beans and whole grains are the dietary cornerstones of the longest living populations on Earth. Plant-based diets in general, and legumes in particular, are a common thread among longevity Blue Zones around the world.

The bottom line may be that reaching for a serving of kangaroo may be better than a cheese danish—but, foraging for an apple might prove to be the most therapeutic of all.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to hbieser via Pixabay

Doctor's Note

I’ve reported previously on Paleo’s disappointing results in Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise.

The underlying philosophy behind “caveman” diets may be flawed in the first place. See:

So, What’s the “Natural” Human Diet? Watch the video!

The wild game video I mentioned is Modern Meat Not Ahead of the Game. Kangaroo is kind of the Australian version of venison. Note that it also matters how the animals are killed. See Filled Full of Lead and Lead Contamination in Fish and Game.

And, for more on the musical fruit, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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