By TAP Integrative

The Paleolithic (Paleo) diet is based on the premise that the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago changed human eating habits in ways that are contrary to our biological needs. Proponents of the Paleo diet assert that our reliance on grains, legumes, dairy and other agricultural foods has contributed to the increased prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases. Adherents of Paleo diet approximate their diet to that of our Paleolithic ancestors—by focusing on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and eggs.

Some research has shown that the Paleo diet may improve cardiovascular health and metabolic risk factors, but the studies have suffered from poor quality and short duration. And, while the Paleo diet and its offshoots have been gaining popularity and celebrity endorsements over recent years, health agencies have not bought in. In fact, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recently published its revised Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE). The goal of the ADG is to promote health and reduce risk of diseases related to diet. Its recommendations—which include grains and dairy—run contrary to those of the Paleo diet.

In a study published in 2016 in the journal Nutrients, Australian researchers sought to compare the Paleo diet with the AGHE and see how each affected anthropometric, metabolic, and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The study enrolled 39 healthy women (mean ± SD age=47 ± 13 years) and assigned them to follow either the Paleo or AGHE diet for four weeks. At the beginning and end of the study, three-day weighed food records, body composition, and biochemistry data were collected.

The researchers found that the Paleo diet group experienced significantly greater weight loss. However, cardiovascular and metabolic markers were not different between the groups. The Paleo group had lower intake of carbohydrate, calcium, sodium, and iodine and higher intake of fat and carotene than the AGHE group.

The Paleo diet seems to be more effective than the AGHE in reducing body weight over the short-term, but larger studies of longer duration are needed to assess long-term effects and what, if any, impact the Paleo diet has on metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk factors.


Genoni A, Lyons-Wall P, Lo J, Devine A. Cardiovascular, metabolic effects and dietary composition of ad-libitum Paleolithic vs. Australian guide to healthy eating diets: a 4-week randomised trial. Nutrients. 2016 May 23;8(5). pii: E314.


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