For most people the fact the Paleo diet delivers the best results is enough. Improved blood lipids, weight loss and reduced pain from autoimmunity is proof enough. Many people however are not satisfied with blindly following any recommendations, be they nutrition or exercise related. Some folks like to know WHY they are doing something. Fortunately, the Paleo diet has stood not only the test of time, but also the rigors of scientific scrutiny.
With a very simple shift we not only remove the foods that are at odds with our health (grains, legumes, and dairy) but we also increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Here is a great paper from Professor Loren Cordain exploring how to build a modern Paleo diet:The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. This paper also offers significant insight as to the amounts and ratios of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the ancestral diet.
Image courtesy of The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate – http://www.primal-palate.com
Come on! Our Ancestors lived short, brutal lives! This is all bunk, right?
The Paleo concept is new for most people and this newness can spark many questions. We like people to not only read about and educate themselves on this topic but also to “get in and do it.” Experience is perhaps the best teacher and often cuts through any confusion surrounding this way of eating. Now, all that considered, there are still some common counter arguments to the Paleo diet that happen with sufficient frequency that a whole paper was written on it. Enjoy: Evolutionary Health Promotion. A consideration of common counter-arguments.
Does it work for diabetes?
A great question to ask is “Does the Paleo diet work”? Here we have a head to head comparison between the Paleo diet and Mediterranean diet in insulin resistant Type 2 Diabetics. The results? The Paleo diet group REVERSED the signs and symptoms of insulin resistant, Type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet showed little if any improvements. It is worth noting that the Mediterranean diet is generally held up by our government as “the diet to emulate” despite better alternatives. You can find an abstract and the complete paper here.
According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Interestingly however, our Paleolithic ancestors and contemporarily studied hunter-gatherers showed virtually no heart attack or stroke while eating ancestral diets. The references below will explore these facts to better help you understand the heart-healthy benefits of a Paleo diet.
Autoimmunity is a process in which our bodies own immune system attacks “us.” Normally the immune system protects us from bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. The immune system identifies a foreign invader, attacks it, and ideally clears the infection. A good analogy for autoimmunity is the case of tissue rejection after organ donation. If someone requires a new heart, lung kidney or liver due to disease or injury, a donor organ may be an option. The first step in this process is trying to find a tissue “match”. All of us have molecules in our tissues that our immune system uses to recognize self from non-self. If a donated organ is not close enough to the recipient in tissue type the immune system will attack and destroy the organ. In autoimmunity, a similar process occurs in that an individuals own tissue is confused as something foreign and the immune system attacks this “mislabeled” tissue. Common forms of autoimmunity include Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and Vitiligo to name only a tiny fraction of autoimmune diseases. Elements of autoimmunity are likely at play in conditions as seemingly unrelated as Schizophrenia, infertility, and various forms of cancer.
Interestingly, all of these seemingly unrelated diseases share a common cause: damage to the intestinal lining which allows large, undigested food particles to make their way into the body. This is called “leaky gut and the autoimmune response”. Here is a 7-part video series by Prof. Loren Cordain describing the etiology of Multiple Sclerosis. And please watch this TED talk by Dr. Terry Wahls, MD as she describes how she reversed her Multiple Sclerosis with a paleo diet. If you have an autoimmune disease you might consider trying the autoimmune protocol of the paleo diet. If you do, please tell us about your experience.
More information about the Paleo diet and recipes to get you started:
Paleo For Athletes Cliff Notes Loren Cordain, PhD and Joe Friel, MS
Healthy Viking Eating – Viking CrossFit’s own healthy recipe blog on Facebook!