Health improves on Paleo diet

February 24th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  5 Comments

A new study examines the how a Paleo-style diet might help improve health markers of average sedentary people. Note the conclusion, which I have also bolded in the abstract below: Even short term consumption of a Paleo diet improves pretty much every major blood marker of general health. Sample size was small — would like to see this study replicated, but the results are definitely suggestive.

Background: The contemporary American diet figures centrally in the pathogenesis of numerous chronic diseases-‘diseases of civilization’. We investigated in humans whether a diet similar to that consumed by our preagricultural hunter-gatherer ancestors (that is, a paleolithic type diet) confers health benefits.

Methods: We performed an outpatient, metabolically controlled study, in nine nonobese sedentary healthy volunteers, ensuring no weight loss by daily weight. We compared the findings when the participants consumed their usual diet with those when they consumed a paleolithic type diet. The participants consumed their usual diet for 3 days, three ramp-up diets of increasing potassium and fiber for 7 days, then a paleolithic type diet comprising lean meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and excluding nonpaleolithic type foods, such as cereal grains, dairy or legumes, for 10 days. Outcomes included arterial blood pressure (BP); 24-h urine sodium and potassium excretion; plasma glucose and insulin areas under the curve (AUC) during a 2 h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT); insulin sensitivity; plasma lipid concentrations; and brachial artery reactivity in response to ischemia.

Results: Compared with the baseline (usual) diet, we observed (a) significant reductions in BP associated with improved arterial distensibility (-3.1+/-2.9, P=0.01 and +0.19+/-0.23, P=0.05); (b) significant reduction in plasma insulin vs time AUC, during the OGTT (P=0.006); and (c) large significant reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides (-0.8+/-0.6 (P=0.007), -0.7+/-0.5 (P=0.003) and -0.3+/-0.3 (P=0.01) mmol/l respectively). In all these measured variables, either eight or all nine participants had identical directional responses when switched to paleolithic type diet, that is, near consistently improved status of circulatory, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism/physiology.

Conclusions: Even short-term consumption of a paleolithic type diet improves BP and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy sedentary humans.

Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC Jr, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print]


  1. Clarou says:

    February 25th, 2009at 4:46 am(#)

    I find this study mostly unconvincing, because we have no idea what the volunteers ate before the study began. If it was a typical North-American diet, it was probably complete crap, and so any kind of change of diet would have been an improvement: vegan, traditional-chinese, whatever ! So it doesn’t really prove anything about the paleo-diet, except that — as almost any other diet you could imagine — it’s better than the typical American diet.

  2. Robin says:

    February 25th, 2009at 10:09 pm(#)

    I think it was a year or two ago that good old Dr. Oz on Oprah had 10 or so folks go on the same diet, eating something like 11 lbs of fruits, veggies and nuts a day. Their goal was to prove you could loose weight while eating plenty of food but had the similar results with their blood workups. Of course any change from the crud of a North American diet would most likely produce some similar results, however, I’ve cut out almost all sugar, cut my sodium intake right down, lost about 80 lbs, eat my veggies and do my strength and cardio work (also trying to figure out how to live without ketchup, crazy amounts of sugar in there but eggs without ketchup . . . yuck!) and still my blood pressure is high. While all my other blood markers are at very good levels, I’m still on blood pressure meds. I could see the possibility in this . . .

  3. Englyn says:

    March 4th, 2009at 11:57 pm(#)

    I agree with Clarou – very underconvincing. I’d like to see it repeated with a good sample size, monitoring time of at least a couple of months, a control group, and at least two other diet groups – one following the healthy eating pyramid (wholegrain heavy), and one with a moderate consumption of both proteins and wholegrains, plenty of veg, fruit and an emphasis on minimially processed food. Followed by a survey on how participants enjoyed their new eating patterns and whether they thought they could keep it up long term.

    The results are suggestive, as you say. They suggest further research is worthwhile!

  4. Mistress Krista says:

    March 5th, 2009at 7:38 am(#)

    Speaking for myself at least, in terms of both physical response and lifestyle adherence, the Paleo diet has been very positive, and very reasonable to maintain. I’ve tried it with various clients and in general I have not had any negative reactions. The tricky part is figuring out the small details of habits: what to cook, how to shop, how to substitute for familiar dishes, etc. But in my anecdotal experience people seem to really like it and find it easy to continue. Research and data collection is ongoing; I have just assigned it to an entire family who appears to have a collection of autoimmune problems.

  5. OMGBFFA says:

    March 5th, 2009at 9:13 am(#)

    It works for me. In fact, it’s the only thing that works for me.

    N=1 isn’t much of a sample size, but there you go….

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