Validity of the paleolithic diet and its relative effectiveness for overall nutrition
MetadataShow full item record
The Paleolithic, or ancestral, diet was first proposed by Eaton and Konner in 1985, and it is based on the theory that humans have not diverged greatly from the physiology of the Paleolithic human. Eaton and Konner suggested a diet consisting of meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds while omitting food such as dairy, grains, legumes, refined sugar and processed foods. The latter of which are incongruous with the diet we evolved with and are likely the cause of the so-called "diseases of civilization" such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and cancer (Konner & Eaton, 2010). This review will first elaborate on the Paleolithic lifestyle and the evidence presented on it before examining the evidence for and against other diet categories not included in the diet such as whole grains, red meat, grass-fed meat, dairy milk and soymilk. The aim of this study is to first evaluate the Paleolithic diet, based on nutrition and ability to address common public health diseases and then to appraise the value of other food categories not included in the lifestyle on the same factors, in order to determine their place in an ideal diet. This study concludes that the Paleolithic diet can lower total body weight, body mass index, cardiovascular risks, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein among others while increasing insulin sensitivity and ω-3, iron, fiber, vitamins and minerals, including improving the ω-6 to ω-3 ratio and the potassium to sodium ratio when compared to the typical Western diet. The results were consistent even when compared to other diets such as the Mediterranean or the diabetes diet. Studies showing the effectiveness of consuming other foods, such as whole grains, dairy or soymilk, with the intent on losing weight or preventing diabetes, on the other hand, have been inconclusive. Research on soy's estrogenic isoflavone action has been inconclusive. Concerns over the consumption of red meat due to cholesterol and cancer are mitigated and review of the grass-fed literature reveals a potentially richer fatty acid profile with more healthy polyunsaturated fats and less cholesterol-raising saturated fatty acids. It is concluded that an ancestral diet of whole foods, made up of mostly fruits and vegetables, meats, especially grass-fed, nuts and seeds is strongly associated with significantly better outcomes for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity as compared to a typical Western diet, Mediterranean diet or diabetes diet.