Paleo Diet Most Healthy, says Research

Groundbreaking research finds “Paleo diet” most effective at improving the three markers of chronic diseases. First-Ever Large-Scale Meta-Analysis of Links Between Diet & Disease Finds “The Paleo Diet” Healthier than Mediterranean & DASH diets. It is the healthiest way of eating to improve the three key indicators of chronic illness.

A new research paper, published in a respected nutrition journal has discovered that “The Paleo Diet” is the healthiest way of eating among 11 of the most popular diets.

What is a Paleo diet?

A paleo diet is typically an eating plan based on foods humans might have eaten during the Paleolithic Era. The Paleolithic Era dates from around 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. A modern Paleo diet includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts & seeds. 

The study found that The Paleo diet is the most effective way of eating to simultaneously work on the three key parameters of health i.e. to reduce inflammation, improve blood lipid profiles, & control blood sugar.

New Research on Paleo Diet

New research on Paleo diet was published in the respected, peer-reviewed journal Nutrients in december 2022.

The researchers initially started with 4,008 studies which they later narrowed down to 68 that met their inclusion & quality standards. They compared many of the most popular diets:

  • The Paleo Diet
  • DASH diet
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Plant-based diet
  • A typical Western diet
  • high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet
  • low- and high-Glycemic Index (GI) diets
  • low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (e.g., keto diet)
  • dietary guidelines diet (diets based on current government recommendations)

In the conventional studies on disease prevention, subjects would be put on a particular diet and then they were tracked to see if the rates of disease were lower in the diet group. The problem with this sort of study is that it would take decades to finish.

Instead, the present research tends to look at the biomarkers of chronic disease. For example, if your doctor gives you a blood test & finds your cholesterol is high, you will be immediately informed that you’re at risk of heart disease & you need to get your cholesterol down. High cholesterol is a major biomarker of heart disease. If you work on lowering this biomarker with diet, exercise, or medications, your doctor would expect your risk of heart disease to decrease.

Current meta-analysis broke common chronic disease biomarkers into three categories:

  1. lipid markers, such as cholesterol, are key indicators of heart disease.
  2. glycemic control markers, such as insulin & resting blood sugar level, are key indicators of metabolic conditions like diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome.
  3. Inflammation markers, are a major risk factor for the broadest number of non-communicable diseases including heart disease, cancer, & autoimmune diseases.

After statistically integrating the data from all 68 studies, the researchers used a powerful statistical tool to rank the diets called the surface under the cumulative ranking curve or SUCRA. SUCRA is a well-known research tool used among meta-analysis studies. The SUCRA number is a score from 0 to 100% that compares all the treatments included in a study or analysis. Higher SUCRA score indicates that a treatment is more likely to be effective than lower-scored treatments.

When all the biomarkers were merged to give a total ranking, The Paleo Diet topped at 67%, followed by the DASH diet at 62% & the Mediterranean diet at 57%. The Western diet (a diet consisting mainly of processed foods) was at the bottom of the list at 36%.

These science-backed results contradict many popular online diet rankings & common recommendations by dietitians, warranting a re-evaluation of Paleo diet & its place in healthy nutrition. 

Focusing on macronutrients alone, like following a low-fat diet or a low-carb diet, is not as effective at improving health.

 A focus on specific foods is the common theme of the three top-ranked diets in this study, The Paleo diet, the DASH diet, & the Mediterranean diet. These three diets were shown to be healthiest, which interprets that healthy nutrition is about choosing the right foods which are natural, human-friendly foods that are less processed & not focusing only on their fat or carbohydrate content.

Other important findings of this research:

  • Plant-based diets & diets based on current government guidelines (e.g., USDA MyPlate guidelines) are less healthy than higher-ranked diets in the study. Government guidelines scored at 48.5% while plant-based diets scored at 49.3%.
  • The Paleo diet is strongly anti-inflammatory. It has the highest SUCRA score of 87% for reducing inflammation markers compared with DASH (71%) & Mediterranean (58.1%). The Mediterranean diet recommends several foods that may support inflammation.
  • While The Paleo diet was ranked the healthiest diet in total, it did not rank best for all the specific biomarkers. The Mediterranean diet topped the list for improving lipid profiles (good & bad cholesterol) while The Paleo Diet ranked below a low-carb/high-fat diet (like the keto diet) for glycemic control. 

The current research joins seven other previously published meta-analysis studies & more than 500 peer-reviewed studies in supporting the health benefits of The Paleo diet. 

FAQ(Frequently asked questions)

Can you follow paleo diet in the long run?

The paleo diet can help with weight loss, hypertension & high blood sugar, but in the long run, it may cause calcium & vitamin D deficiencies. It may also cause excessive intake of protein beyond the recommended level.

How many times can you eat on a paleo diet?

You can eat the traditional three meals a day with paleo snacks occasionally.

Which foods are restricted in this diet ?

Paleo diet abstains from all grains entirely, processed foods & refined sugar and most high-sugar fruits like bananas and melons.

Is paleo a low GI diet?

Yes, because it eliminates highly processed foods & grains, whether refined or whole. It can thus improve insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome & inflammation.

Can Paleo make you feel tired?

Yes, this can surely happen in the beginning, because it eliminates carbs & carbs are the major & quick fuel for our body. 130 g of glucose is consumed just by brain daily & glucose is the only fuel for erythrocytes. Later on your body will adapt to use other fuel sources.

How many calories can you have per day on paleo diet?

When trying to lose weight, 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day is allowed on paleo.

Is paleo a heart friendly diet?

There is evidence that paleo is indeed heart friendly diet. It involves consuming lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and avoiding intake of grains, dairy products, processed foods, & added sugar and salt.

Can you drink milk on paleo diet?

No, dairy is not included in the strict paleo. This ancient diet has no dairy since domestication of animals started long after.

Is there an adaptation time for the paleo diet?

Yes, there is of course an adaptation period of 3 to 4 weeks as you start eating fewer carbs and your body adapts to using fat as a fuel source. You will feel light headed, low in energy & may get headaches too because glucose is the major fuel for brain. Brain consumes 130g glucose daily.

When did paleo diet originate?

The concept of the Paleolithic diet started in the 1970s & it was created back then by gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin. Its popularity soared after the publishing of book “The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat” by Loren Cordain in 2002

My name is Amanpreet Kaur Samra. M.S. Biochemistry. I'm the founder and writer of this blog. I have been teaching Biochemistry for a good number of years. I started this blog because I have always been very passionate about writing, in particular about Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss.

Leave a Comment