The way to tell the difference between a fad diet and one that’s healthy and sustainable is to look at the research. While anecdotal evidence is important, only scientific studies can truly tell us if and why a diet works.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the Paleo Diet, the prehistoric nutritional plan that mimics the diet of our Stone Age ancestors. And luckily, there’s rather a lot of scientific research too!
So What Does Science Tell Us About Paleo?
Supporters of the Paleo Diet say it works because it’s similar to that eaten by pre-agricultural humans. They argue that hunter-gatherer tribes who still live off the land today tend to have significantly lower rates of heart disease and other ‘lifestyle’ illnesses, compared with the rest of the human race. A review published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 2003 looked at all the available evidence and concluded that the Paleo Diet may indeed be “optimal, rather than a strictly vegetarian diet, in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and insulin resistance”.
Improvements in Key Health Measures
Several studies have shown that the Paleo Diet may improve certain aspects of health. For instance, a study comparing the Paleo Diet with a nutritional plan often given to people with type-2 diabetes discovered that Paleo was better at lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI and waist size, as well as improving levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good cholesterol’)!
Reduced Risk of Disease
Another study comparing the Paleo and Mediterranean diets concluded that Paleo brought about greater improvements in glucose tolerance, as well as making people feel fuller for longer. And just last year (2012), research published in the American Journal of Human Biology found evidence in support of the Paleo Diet’s role in preventing and treating common ‘Western’ diseases and stated that an ancestral-like diet “may provide an appropriate template” for preventing stroke, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and even cancer!
Here’s what Dr. Loren Cordain, a major proponent of the Paleo Diet, has to say about the most recent research into Paleo: “Five studies, four since 2007, have experimentally tested contemporary versions of ancestral human diets and have found them to be superior to Mediterranean diets, diabetic diets and typical western diets in regards to weight loss, cardiovascular disease risk factors and risk factors for type-2 diabetes.”
The science is no doubt exciting. It seems the Paleo Diet really could be the most natural, health-promoting, life-enhancing nutritional plan for us humans!