What You Need to Know About the Paleo Diet

By Victor Marchione, MD

Depending on who you ask, the paleo diet is either beneficial or yet another diet trend to sell products to individuals looking to lose weight and improve their health.

On the one hand, the paleo diet, (also known as the caveman diet, stone age diet or hunter- gatherer diet), has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as improve blood sugar control. Even though the paleo diet involves consuming fewer calories, people on the diet report feeling full.

The paleo diet consists of food that humans are thought to have consumed before agriculture was developed such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts and free range, lean meats, with no grains or processed foods.

But is it healthy for you? A 12-week study by the University of Lund in Scandinavia placed two groups of men with excess belly fat, heart disease, diabetes or pre-diabetes and divided them into two groups, and put one on the paleo diet and the other on the Mediterranean diet. The study found that both groups lost similar amounts of weight but the group on the paleo diet also lost inches around their waists and had better control of their blood sugar levels. They also consumed fewer calories per day.

The study also revealed a striking result in the subjects’ levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “unhealthy” cholesterol: it lowered by 22%, similar to the level to patients who had been on cholesterol-lowering statins. Since the paleo diet is low in sodium and high in potassium, it is reckoned this is the reason why it lowers cholesterol levels.

With over 68.8% of American adults being overweight or obese, many could benefit from the paleo diet.

While the paleo diet is lower in calories, it is dense in nutrients, which can make you feel full and satisfied, helping you not overeat with empty nutrient-less food later on. It is also believed that consuming grains and dairy products can contribute to obesity. By eliminating them from your diet, you’ll lose weight and have better health. It also removes processed sugars and foods from the diet, another cause of obesity.

Though the diet is low in calcium and vitamin D, many of the foods in the paleo diet contain adequate amounts of calcium and you can get vitamin D by taking supplements or getting plenty of sunshine.

However, the paleo diet is not without its detractors. There are many nutrition experts that say, despite the paleo diet’s claims, that the human body has adapted to consuming grains and dairy products. Grass fed beef also figures heavily in paleo diets, and humans hadn’t started to domesticate farm animals during the hunter gatherer era. Besides, when was the last time you saw cave paintings of early man hunting herds of wild cows?

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, the paleo diet has been found to help people lose weight as well as improve the health of your heart, lower cholesterol, and blood sugar.

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The Food Doctor newsletter. Dr. Marchione has also served as Principal Investigator in at least a dozen clinical research projects relating to serious ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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