Paleo Diet Debunked?

Did You Know…that evolutionary scientists have debunked the so-called “Paleo Diet?”

Have you “gone Paleo?”  The popular Paleo diet aims to promote better health by focusing on the foods eaten by our ancestors during the Paleolithic era—thus, the name “Paleo.”

The theory behind the Paleo diet is that our bodies evolved to eat certain foods, namely, meat… seafood… vegetables… nuts and seeds… and some fruits.  The Paleo premise further supposes that when we eat other foods, we are forcing our bodies to break down material not included in our built-in digestive programming.

 

Paleo No-Nos…

  Processed foods
  Dairy
  Grains and pseudo-cereals (like quinoa)
  Legumes
  Starchy carbohydrates


According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, that theory doesn’t line up with evolutionary realities.

Carbohydrates: Food for Thought 

Those who adhere to a strict Paleo diet consume very low levels of carbohydrates.  According to University of Chicago researchers, however, the importance of carbohydrates has been woefully undervalued.  Evidence from multiple fields indicates that carbohydrates (specifically, from starchy vegetables) formed a crucial part of our ancestors’ diet.

The researchers reviewed findings on the presence of carbohydrates in the lives of early humans from studies in disciplines including….

 Anatomy
 Anthropology
 Archaeology
 Genetics
 Physiology

Their investigation revealed not only that our ancestors consumed starchy carbohydrates, but also that doing so fueled the development of the human brain.

The Real Problem with Paleo 

The real problem with the Paleo diet has nothing to do with how accurately it reflects the foods eaten by humans living in a different era.  The real problem with the Paleo diet—with any diet, for that matter—is that flashy claims about dramatic health outcomes detract from the credibility of nutrition science.  With so many claims and so many contradictions constantly bombarding us, the best answer may seem to be ignoring them all.

Dr. David Katz, practicing physician and researcher at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, describes faddish nutritional advice as a “dangerous injustice.”  He also has a solution that’s far superior to disregarding nutrition altogether.

What we eat inextricably impacts our health.  Dietary improvements can significantly increase your lifespan, and decrease your risk of most chronic diseases. But what constitutes the best diet?

What IS the Best Diet? 

Surprisingly, there may be an answer to that question.  A scientific publisher called Annual Reviews asked Katz to evaluate the evidence on the major diets of the current moment.  Katz was chosen because he is known for his objective analyses.  “I don’t have a dog in the fight,” he told a reporter from The Atlantic.  “I don’t care which diet is best. I care about the truth.”

Katz and a fellow Yale researcher, Stephanie Meller, compared the all big-name diets…

  • Low carb
  • Low fat
  • Low glycemic
  • Mediterranean
  • Mixed/balanced (DASH)
  • Paleolithic
  • Vegan

They ultimately concluded no single diet is best.  Instead, they found there were common elements found in many of them that proved beneficial to health.  “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention,” they wrote.

So, rather than tossing out all the dietary rules, try simplifying the list.  You don’t need to follow the Paleo diet, or any other highly restrictive plan.  As author and activist Michael Pollan famously and succinctly put it: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  If you keep that in mind, you can be sure you won’t go too far astray.

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