The Controversial Paleo Diet has its Risks
The Paleolithic diet is an attempt to go back to our ancestral roots: originally human beings were hunter-gatherers not farmers, so the first Homo sapiens didn't sow cereals or milk cows, instead they ate meat (chicken, fish, beef, pork), nuts, legumes, tubers.
Sugar, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter), grains and cereals (flour, oats, barley, corn, etc.) and alcoholic beverages are all the result of our more recent ancestors' development and date back to the last 10,000 years of human history (modern humans have been around for some 300,000 years).
So the argument is that what was "good" for our distant ancestors and was the staple diet for 290,000 years is still good for us, twenty-first-century human beings.
Dr. Angela Genoni's doctoral thesis at the Edith Cowan University in Australia ( 1 ), expresses her concern about the Paleo diet.
This diet is promoted as a way to improve gut health, reduce inflammation and lose weight.
Based on its composition it is clearly a low carbohydrate diet (like the Ketogenic Diet),
The problem detected by Genoni is that by eliminating grains, people reduce their whole grain and therefore dietary fiber intake. This in turn has a negative impact on gut bacteria.
Read More about your gut's microbiome
The Negative impact of a Paleo Diet
Eating more meat than usual and reducing fiber (lack of whole grain in food) alters the composition of the microorganisms that live in your gut, the gut microbiome. The bacteria that survive in this new environment produce more quantities of a chemical known as trimethylamine-n-oxide or TMAO for short.
High levels of TMAO are associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease or CVD.
This is because meat provides more raw materials used as precursors by the gut microbes to make TMAO, and the lack of fibre favors TMAO producing bacteria. The perfect storm!
The scientific studies
Genoni did three separate studies using randomized subjects and feeding them a "healthy diet" according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) or a Paleolithic diet.
TMAO levels, fiber intake, and bacterial mix in the gut were measured.
Genoni concluded that "The significantly higher concentrations of TMAO in the Strict Paleolithic group and the association with both whole grain intake and the microbiota indicates that a variety of carbohydrate sources and fibre components may be required to maintain colonic health."
Based on these conclusions, it is quite clear that the dietary fiber from whole grains should be replaced by eating more fibrer-rich vegetables and fruits, such as berries, which also provide antioxidants.
Dropping whole cereals, flour and dairy products means losing the vitamins and minerals (D, A and calcium) which are added in most developed countries to these foods, to "fortify" them.
Those going on a Paleo diet should consider eating a Balanced Diet to compensate for these nutrient shortcomings.
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