The much publicised ‘Paleo diet’ is one of the more popular diets which preaches fast weight loss and better over health. The Paleo diet focuses on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, eggs, nuts but not grains, legumes and dairy products (Andrikopoulos 2016), many people swear by the Paleo diet, but does it actually work.
Paleo v Standard Diet
According to a study conducted by experts from Edith Cowan University (ECU) women on the Paleo diet lost an average of two kilograms more than the group of women on the standard diet did over the period (Scott 2016). The Paleo diet studied, focused on a higher consumption of lean meats, vegetables and fruits, as well as nuts and eggs. Grains, legumes and dairy products were all banned from the study. The standard diet in the study was similar to the paleo diet but included the consumption of grains, cereals and dairy products. It should be noted that both groups of women lost weight over the period. However, the Paleo group lost an average of 4.3% compared to the 1.6% of the standard group (Scott 2016). According to ECU’s research, both diets had no significant differences or impacts on cardiovascular health.
The journal article by Sabatino (2015) notes that while the paleo diet eliminates processed foods, it also excludes whole grains and legumes, improving the value of a healthy plant-based diet. The elimination of dairy products is also significant as low levels of calcium can have a negative impact on bone strength, especially in older people. Furthermore, the high fat and cholesterol from the large red meat intake recommended by the Paleo diet promotes a variety of diseases. The human immune system is aggressive towards a sugar found in red meat, causing inflammation within the body, which can eventually lead to cancer (Sabatino 2015).
While both groups of women in the study lost weight, it can also be stated that the women on the Paleo diet lost more weight simply because they were consuming fewer calories. While in the short term both diets had no significant impacts on cardiovascular health, the long-term effects of the Paleo diet are still unknown. It is also important to realise that there are a number of other similar diets that claim fast, short-term weight loss and better health, while many lead to disability and disease later in life. Sabatino (2015, p.20) highlights that the focus should be on ‘eliminating refined, processed foods from your diet’ and that a diet ‘centered on animal products takes the greatest toll on our environment, land and water resources’.
When looking and diets in general, the most beneficial diet is a well balanced diet, one that is predominantly plant-based, with a whole food meal plan, including lean meat and dairy products but in moderation. This type of diet in conjunction with regular physical activity will provide the greatest amount of nutrients and energy, and is ideal for overall health and long-term weight reduction (Sabatino 2015). For the average Australian adult the focus for nutrition should be in moderation, while maintaining a highly dominant fruit and vegetable based diet. Diets like the Paleo diet have shown results in the short term, however the long term impacts are yet to be known. Thus, a well balanced diet along with moderate to high-intensity exercise regime will produce the most effective results for weight loss and long-term general health.
About Zack Jenetsky
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- Andrikopoulos, S., 2016, ‘The Paleo diet and diabetes’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 205, 4, pp.151-2.
- Baur, L., Bauman, A., Brand-Miller. J., Caterson, I., Colagirui, S., Gill, T., Steinbeck, K., Storlien, L. & Singh, M. 2009, ‘Childhood obesity in Australia remains a widespread health concern that warrants population-wide prevention programs’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 190, no. 3, pp. 146-8.
- Brooks, E. 2016, ‘Parents Want Politicians’ Help To Tackle Childhood Obesity, Say New Poll’, The Huffington Post, 1 June, viewed 20 April 2017, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/05/31/parents-want-politicians-help-to-tackle-childhood-obesity-say/>.
- Eisenberg, M., Frank, C. & Grandi, S. 2013, ‘Taxing Junk Food to Counter Obesity’, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 103, no. 11, pp. 1949-53.
- Sabatino, F. 2015, ‘Unpacking the Paleo diet: does it really promote health and weight loss?’, Health Science, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 20.
- Scott, S. 2016, ‘Paleo diet more effective for weight loss than previously thought, research finds’, ABC News, 27 May, viewed 20 April 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-27/paleo-diet-effective-for-weight-loss:-research/7449916>.