Pro and Cons of the Paleo Diet
It is widely accepted that some basic changes in lifestyle and diet that took place, following the Neolithic Revolution, and mostly following the Industrial Revolution and the Modern Era, are very recent, when weighed on an evolutionary time-measuring scale. This mismatch that exists between western lifestyles and diet, and our ancient physiology, triggers several modern day diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, epithelial cell cancers, etc., which were rarely or never seen in ancient non-westernized populations. It has therefore been proposed that one way of reducing these degenerative chronic diseases is to copy the diets and lifestyles of the ancient men. This research seeks to add to these issues by carrying out the analysis of the benefits and disadvantages of the Paleo diet to the health of humans through the nutrients it contributes to the human body (Coerdain 2011).
Purpose and Scope of the Work
It has been discovered that taking whole grains and dietary fibre helps prevent all sorts of cardiovascular diseases. It is not clear if any special type of fibre or its source have links to colorectal cancer. Taking dietary fibre, whole grains and cereal fibre have been linked to reductions in the risks of colorectal cancer. There is, however, no evidence for the links between taking fruits, legumes, or vegetable fibres and the risk of developing colorectal cancer. There was, however, a link between the intakes of dietary fibres, especially cereal fibre and whole grains, and a slight reduction in the risks of colorectal cancer. One major cause of modern health issues is over-dependence on processed foods. So going back to the stone ages when men depended on natural fresh foods might be the only way out. The advocates of the paleo diet propose that people should eat the way their hunting and gathering ancestors did, depending only on animal proteins and plant foods. The diet may cause weight loss and increase maintenance, as well as the prevention and control of several modern diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart -related problems. This research will focus on discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the paleo diet as it relates to cancer prevention due to its fibre and whole grain content. This study will compare the paleo diet and western diets to see if there are links to diseases that have been said to be caused by an individual’s choice of diets (Berardi, 2014).
Expected Report Benefactors
The results of this study are expected to add to the increasingly popular debate on the Paleo diet effects human health through its pros and cons. These results will be useful to both teachers and students that work on Paleo-related topics.
Sources and Methods of Data Collection
There were literature researches and data was gathered up to December 2015. A lot of databases were searched, which includes ISI Web Science, PubMed, BIOSIS, EBSCOhost, Cochrane Library, and in Process Medline. A predefined procedure was adopted for the evaluation in accordance to the normal criteria for the meta-assessment of observational researches. Abstracts, unpublished results and grey literature were not included. The researches needed to possess a potential cohort, case-cohort, or a nested case-control design and carry out an investigation on the link between paleo diets and better health. From each of these studies, extracted data was on the results of the link between diet and health, the characteristics, and how it benefits the body.
i. Nutrition of Paleo Diet
ii. Pros of the Paleo Diet
a. Prevention and control of diabetes
b. On cardiovascular
c. Grains and legumes
i. Cons for Paleo Diet
a. Restrictions and preferences
b. The problem with Paleo
c. Health risks
Letter of Transmittal
The Paleolithic diet is also referred to as the diet of the cavemen. This diet definitely has a lot of positive sides to it. But, it sure has some disadvantages just like every other diet. There have been several attempts to restructure the diets of homonins. Some of these attempts focused on the morphology of the masticatory system and its functioning, and some focus on tooth wear, while others focus on some physicochemical beliefs about an animal’s diet and how it relates to its hard tissues. Some common advantages of the paleo diet include: it is highly individualized; and, the calorie content may be either high or low due to individual differences in the choices of food. Thus far, researches on the link between the paleo diet and diabetes show that the former prevents and controls diabetes. Studies have also shown direct positive correlation between paleo diets and cardiovascular conditions. However, paleo proponents recommend abstinence from legumes due to their high concentration on anti-nutrients like phytates and lectins. But, some reliable studies show that taking whole grains improves the human health. At least, whole grains seem to be neutral to inflammations, although only few people can cope with the restrictions and preferences of the paleo diet such as the intake of supplements. Some challenges with the paleo diet are that the evolutionary arguments hardly hold up, and there are no strong evidences for excluding legumes, dairy foods and grains from the diet. However, one big concern is that there is no feasible one-size-fits-all best diet approach. Moreover, there may be health risks associated with the paleo diet. For instance, one stands the risk of missing lots of nutrients by shunning grains and dairy products completely.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 7
1.1. Background 7
2. Nutrition of paleo diet 8
3. Pros for paleo diet 9
3.1. Prevention and control of diabetes 9
3.2. On cardiovascular 10
3.3. Grains and legumes 10
4. Cons for paleo diet 10
4.1. Restrictions and preferences 10
4.2. The problem with Paleo 11
4.3. Health risks 11
5. Conclusion 11
6. References 12
The Paleolithic diet, also known as the diet of the caveman, certainly has a lot of good things to look forward to. But, it sure has some problems like every other diet. The main theory behind this diet is that the cavemen never suffered diseases like diabetes or any heart diseases, which means, if the modern man goes back to the diet of the cavemen, these diseases will become past experiences. The Paleolithic diet suggests eating only foods like nuts, seeds, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables. These, according to the diet, were the only available foods during the Paleolithic era-about 25 million years ago, which falls between the era of tool invention and the dawn of the agricultural era. Before the dawn of the agricultural era, our ancestors had no way of gaining access to dairy foods, legumes or grains. So, these groups of foods were never part of their diet (Cordain, 2011).
Figure 1: Paleo Diet Elements (Adopted from Stephenson, 2016)
So, what are the several good things that the diet has going for it? It does not accept any processed or packaged food; instead, it relies on whole and natural foods. It has low sodium and sugar content. It has a high protein content, as well as fiber and potassium. And, it has lots of fresh fruits and vegetables as its core basis. These are great building blocks for a very healthy diet (Berardi, 2014).
Several approaches have been adopted in an attempt to restructure the diet of humans, with some focus on the morphology of the masticatory system and its functioning, tooth wear, and others targeting the physicochemical signatures on how an animal’s diet relates to its hard tissues. Some chemical approaches include using strontium/calcium and barium/calcium ratios, but this study concentrates on the evaluation of the stable carbon isotopes (Cerling, Manthi, Mbua, Leakey, Leakey, Leakey, Brown … & Woodi, 2013).
The study of this diet evolution depends on the discrepancy in the carbon isotope ratios of plants that make use of either the C3 or the C4 photosynthetic pathway. Therefore, the ?13C fossil tooth enamel can determine the difference between diets that depend on the C3 resources (fruits and leaves from shrubs and trees together with non-grassy herbs and forbs and their fruits) and diets that depend on the C4 resources (primarily sedges and grasses). Meat and other organic tissues are mildly rich in 13C when compared with any plant-based diet, but they can be utilized when tracing the diet back to the main resources: C3 or C4 plants (Cerling et al., 2013).
In the words of Cerling et al. (2013), there are excellent, well-dated fossil records on Hominin from ca.4 Ma to date, at the Turkana Basin. Therefore, one can use the Hominin taxa diets represented at the Turkana Basin sites to learn the diet preferences of the hominin era during this time. Paleo proponents recommend that we go back to the diet of the past era. Specifically, the paleo diet expects us to base our diet on the following: whole animals — the organs, bone marrow, cartilage, etc., animal produce like honey and eggs, fruits and vegetables, raw seeds and nuts, and some added fats like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, butter, etc.
2. Nutrition of the Paleo Diet
Below is a breakdown of the daily nutritional value of a paleo diet and the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This diet is highly individualized, and food choices can make the nutritional content higher or lower.
Proteins: There may be variations in estimate, but about 38% of calories in the paleo diet are derived from proteins. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends between 10 and 35% of proteins for paleo diet. However, there are risks of accumulating artery-blocking fats since the protein comes from animal products, but you can avoid this by insisting on wild game, grass-fed meats, and lean meats. High protein Paleo diet is not safe for people with serious kidney diseases (Cordain, 2011).
Carbohydrates: Paleo diet contains low carbohydrates. Carbs make up only about 23% of the entire calories contained in the diet, as compared to the 45-65% recommended by the Dietary Guidelines and nutritionists. Carbohydrate is vital for energy. They are the major sources of fuel for the body, and people who restrict them to this level always find it difficult to sustain an exercise program (Eaton and Konner, 1997).
Fats: With 39% of paleo calories coming from fats, the paleo diet exceeds the Dietary Guidelines by a far margin. The Guidelines recommend between 25-30% fat. If you choose to go the paleo way, make sure you protect your arteries by going for healthy sources such as seeds, nuts, avocados, fish and olives, instead of fatty meats. Irrespective of its saturated or unsaturated nature, fat contains very high calories, and too much calories aren’t good for health (Cordain, 2011).
Legumes: Lentils, soybeans, garbanzo, black beans and several other legumes have high fiber content, low-fat folate sources, magnesium, potassium and iron. They are equally essential protein sources for vegetarians, who would need to solely rely on seeds and nuts for protein on the Paleo diet. Researchers have shown that legumes help reduce the risks of heart diseases and keep the blood sugar stable in people with diabetes; so, concluding that getting rid of legumes will free you from these ailments may be difficult (Berardi, 2014).
Grains: Reducing processed grains like white rice, white bread and white pasta, is a very good idea. According to studies, eating whole grains has been linked to reduced risks of diabetes and heart diseases (Berardi, 2014).
Dairy: While individuals who are lactose intolerant must avoid milk products, most humans have the ability to digest these dairy products without any issues-all these foods come with very important health benefits. The best sources of vitamin D and calcium are low-fat milk, and other kinds of dairy products. We need calcium and vitamin D for strong teeth, bones, nerves and muscles. There are proofs, according to some studies, that vitamin D and calcium can even help keep one protected against high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. When it comes to the Paleo diet, you will need to take some supplements to be able to get adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium (Berardi, 2014; Cordain, 2011).
3. Pros of the Paleo Diet
3.1. Prevention and Control of Diabetes
Prevention: One of the highest risk factors to Type 2 Diabetes is being overweight. You will stand better chances of being diabetes-free is you can go back to the paleo diet era as it helps you lose weight. According to researches, nine sedentary adults with obesity improved their blood pressure, lipid profiles and glucose tolerance-which are all indicators of diabetes risks -within 10 days while on a paleo diet (Carrera-Bastos, Fontes-Villalba, O’Keefe, Lindeberg & Cordain, 2001).
Control: Most experts suggest diets based on dairy products and whole grains; some studies, however, support the use of Paleo diet for diabetes control. A little research conducted on Type 2 Diabetic patients comparing a traditional diabetes diet and a Paleo diet showed reduced levels of hemoglobin and A1C, a blood sugar measure over a period of time. A study compared the recommended diet by the American Diabetes Association, like low-fat dairy, legumes and whole grains, with the paleo diet in 24 patients for 2 weeks (Carrera-Bastos et al., 2001). Researchers discovered that patients who were on the Paleo diet experienced lower glucose control than those on the ADA-recommended diet. In a related study where 29 heart disease patients were subjected to, either a western diet or diabetic diet, was administered for 12 weeks; the patients on the Paleo diet had lower AUC glucose-which is associated with diabetes risk than those on western diet. This shows that the Paleo diet prevents and controls diabetes (Eaton, 2006).
3.2. Cardiovascular Benefits
Going overboard on unhealthy animal fats while on the Paleo diet is quite easy, and this worries a lot of experts. But, certain studies have linked the Paleo diets with bad LDL cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and triglycerides (a fatty substance that can increase the risks of heart diseases), in addition to being short, small and few. One study focused on 10 obese or overweight postmenopausal women who followed one Paleo diet for 5 weeks. Among several other findings, researchers found a 50% decrease in the amount of fat lodged in the liver, which is attributed to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease within that population. Conversely, some studies have established links between diets with whole-grains (which is forbidden by the Paleo diet) to improved heart condition. A research assigned 200 participants a diet that included wheat and oats, or a control group. Those who consumed about 3 portions of whole-grain foods per day reduced blood pressure and heart disease risks. This proved that the paleo diet has a positive effect on cardiovascular conditions (Eaton, 2006).
3.3. Grains and Legumes
Paleo diet fans suggest abstinence from legumes due to their high anti-nutrients concentrations like phylates and lectins. Expectedly, it reduces their nutritional value to nothing. Fortunately, this does not apply to beans. Studies show that the benefits of legumes far outweigh the effects of their anti-nutrient contents. Most anti-nutrients effects are eliminated by cooking, and some of the anti-nutrients such as lectins may even hold some benefits for us. When it comes to grains, Paleo proponents say grains can cause inflammation and other problems.
This may apply to people who suffer celiac diseases (about 1% of the population) and for others with non-celiac sensitivity to gluten. But a considerable body of dependable research suggests that consuming whole grains come with lots of benefits (Cordain, 2011).
4. Cons of the Paleo Diet
4.1. Restrictions and Preferences
It is not easy to follow the Paleo diet plan. For instance, the Paleo diet suggests that vitamin D supplements be taken if you do not get adequate sunlight daily. If you are not a lover of fish or shellfish, fish oil capsules are recommended. Some sources equally recommend calcium supplements. Like all diets, the Paleo diet cannot be sustained. For people who desire to lose weight by adhering to Paleo diets, they should know that anyone can lose weight in the long run by shunning three classes of food entirely, but this cannot be sustained because it is hard for many to continue eating that way. This is mostly due to the modern lifestyles, which encourage western diets like pizza, garlic bread, pasta, and birthday cakes. There may be some resolute people who have the discipline to give up all these without looking back, but that is very unrealistic for most people. For people who desire to attain optimum health and weight loss through the Paleo diet, these are long-term goals. Making this a goal one can achieve and sustain for life requires formulating a sustainable diet plan that can conform to the lifestyle, likes and preferences of an individual (Cordain, 2011).
4.2. The Problem with Paleo
Paleo diet has several good qualities. It lays emphasis on whole foods, vegetables, lean proteins, fruits and healthy fats. Making more of these foods a part of your diet would be one huge improvement. Nevertheless, the paleo diet does come with some flaws. The evolutionary arguments do not add up, and there is no strong evidence for excluding legumes, dairy foods and grains in the diet. But the major concern is that there is no feasible one-size-fits-all best diet approach. A strict adherence to the list of the good, the bad, the allowed and the disallowed foods is seen by most people as problematic. Even so, it is difficult to sustain a strict diet like the paleo diet, over a long period of time. Most people can easily follow the diet for some weeks or even months, but definitely not for years or decades (Lindeberg, 2005).
4.3. Health Risks
One risks missing several vital nutrients by shunning grains and dairy products entirely. Additionally, people who are not keen on choosing lean meats will increase their risks of cardiovascular diseases. They might also boost their cancer risks, according to a report in 2015 by the World Health Organization, and the findings that processed meats lead to colorectal cancer and red meat possibly causes cancer. Conversely, going the paleo way may not be the smartest idea-it could even turn out to be a deadly move, if all bread is replaced with bacon, hot dogs and beef jerky. In the absence of unique dieting restrictions, consulting your doctor before making important diet choices is very important (Stephenson, 2016).
The physical activities, sun exposure, sleep, and dietary requirements of every living organism (humans inclusive) are determined genetically. This explains why it is increasing in popularity and acceptance in scientific literatures, that deep changes in lifestyle and diets that took place after the Neolithic Revolution (and mostly after the Industrial Revolution and the Modern Age) are much too recent, when weighed on an evolutionary time-measuring scale for human beings to have adapted fully. Instead of one difficult and unsustainable lifestyle template, small changes that consider both ancient and modern body requirements would be more ideal. For instance, eating more fresh foods, replacing the processed foods, exercising more regularly, getting more fresh air, going to bed earlier and getting more adequate night sleep are recommended for improved health.
Berardi, J. (Nov 17, 2014). The Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-berardi-phd/paleo-diet_b_5774200.html on 6 February 2016
Carrera-Bastos, P., Fontes-Villalba, M., O’Keefe, J.H., Lindeberg, S. & Cordain, L. (2001). The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology. 2:15-35.
Cerling, T.E., Manthi, F.K., Mbua, E.N., Leakey, L.N., Leakey, M.G., Leakey, R.E, Brown, F.H., … & Woodi, B.A. (2013). Stable isotope-based diet reconstructions of Turkana Basin hominins. Proc Natl Acad Sci .110 (26):10501-6.
Cordain L. (2011). The Paleo Diet Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Rev. ed. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Eaton, S.B. (2006). The Ancestral Human Diet: What Was It and Should It Be a Paradigm for Contemporary Nutrition? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 65(01): 1-6.
Eaton, S.B. and Konner, M.J. (1997). Paleolithic Nutrition Revisited: A Twelve-year Retrospective on Its Nature and Implications. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 51(4): 207-216.
Lindeberg S. (2005). Palaeolithic Diet (“stone Age” Diet). Food & Nutrition Research 49(2): 75-77.
Stephenson, N. (January 19, 2016). DITCH THE DIETS, FOCUS ON FOOD! Retrieved from http://thepaleodiet.com/real-paleo-diet-ditch-the-diets-focus-on-food/#.VrYj0Rh96M8 on 2 February 2016
World Health Organization, IARC. (October 26, 2015). IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat. Press Release Number 240. Retrieved from http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf on 2 February 2016
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