The theory of Paleolithic diets is that by adhering to a diet prevalent in the Stone
Age, when humans evolved, we will be consuming a diet to which our bodies are
best adapted and, therefore, consuming the healthiest diet. Paleolithic diet versions
vary considerably, but most feature avoidance of dairy, grains, and processed foods,
and they emphasize consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs, and
lean meats. The Paleo diet also recommends avoiding some healthy foods, such as
whole grains, dairy products, and beans.
The theoretical basis for Paleo diets is shaky because of considerable uncertainty
about the nature of a Stone Age dietary pattern. The Paleolithic period lasted 2.5
million years (2.6 million to 10,000 years ago), and many of the plant and animal
foods consumed during the Stone Age are now extinct. The proportion of meat
from hunting that was consumed compared to consumption of gathered plant foods
is unknown, but plant microfossils have been found on the teeth of Neanderthals,
and starches from grains and tubers have been found on Paleolithic grinding stones
that predate agriculture by more than 10,000 years. Furthermore, most meat available
today is from relatively sedentary animals bred for human consumption, raised
on farms and ranches, and often fattened in feedlots. Therefore, currently available
meat has different fat and other nutrient content compared to meat from wild animals,
and it is highly likely to be even more different from the meat consumed in
the Stone Age.
The nutritional health experts who participated in the 2019 U.S. News & World
Report ranking of diets were not impressed with the Paleo diet.327 In eight of nine
categories, it ranked near the bottom at between 30 and 37 out of the 41 diets evaluated.
The highest-ranking was 26 for Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet.
There is little long-term evidence of the health effects of currently advocated Paleo
dietary patterns, but one study suggests that the Paleo diet would not be heart
healthy over the long-term. A study of 44 subjects on the Paleo diet for just 10
weeks found that there was a significant increase in LDL-C by 12.5 mg/dL and total
cholesterol by10.1 mg/dL. Additional evidence comes from the work of professor
Banach, whose previously described study suggests that low carbohydrate diets
are unsafe because they increase LDL-C and should not be recommended.
However, other short-term studies have found improvements in the metabolic syndrome biomarkers associated with poor health. Evidence that the Paleo diet is healthy also comes from a study that found that diets that are the most Paleolithic or
Mediterranean-like may be associated with about a 25% lower risk of all-cause,
cardiovascular-specific, cancer-specific, and other noninjury or accident-specific
mortality. The study found that the observed associations were slightly stronger
for the Mediterranean diet pattern. The study also found that, especially the Paleolithic
diet, higher consumption of nuts, and lower consumption of red and processed
meats more strongly contributed to lower mortality than did other individual components
of the diets.
In part, because most of the calories in a usual American diet come from carbohydrates,
low-carb diets are almost invariably calorie-restricted. High-protein intake
contributes to the preservation of muscle mass during weight loss, and adherence
to the diet is facilitated by the high consumption of protein that provides a relatively
high level of satiety. The beneficial metabolic effects of low carb and all other
low-calorie diets are probably in part the result of calorie restriction and weight
loss. For many people, low carb diets are effective at least for short duration weight
loss. But longer-term, if low-carb eating includes large amounts of meat, it presents
the CVD risk of increased LDL-C from the saturated fat in meat, also a feature of
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.