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The Fitness Zone

Does the Paleo Diet Stack Up?
March 23, 2014

You may be surprised to learn that the Paleo diet has been around since the 1970s, but it's only been gaining mass popular appeal in the past few years. Part of the reason for this is that a horde of celebrities have been trying the so-called cave-man diet and touting its health benefits.

Will the Paleo Diet Make us Less Prone to Disease?

Fans say that the diet has the ability to prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes, lower blood pressure and even prevent depression and Alzheimer's. Yet T. Colin Campbell, a vegan biochemist and author of The Low-Carb Fraud, criticises the Paleo diet as just one of many fad diets that will lead to short term weight loss that is ultimately unsustainable. And contrary to what some say, he explained that the low-carb, high-protein and high-fat nature of the Paleo diet may lead to increased rates of heart disease and cancer. Instead, the tried and tested balanced diet with all the food groups and limited sugar and fat is recommended.

Are We Designed for No Dairy, Legumes or Grains?

Most people start the Paleo diet simply to lose weight, and some aspects of the diet adhere to the principles of any weight loss program - it restricts the consumption of alcohol, sugar and processed snacks, and encourages more natural and whole food like meat, vegetables and fruits.

Yet the total exclusion of dairy, grains and legumes is questionable. Tim McHutchison of Deakin University explained that the reason for excluding these food groups in the Paleo diet is justified by the fact that these foods have high levels of anti-nutrients', which are compounds that inhibit the body's absorption of some nutrients. It's true that these anti-nutrients are found in grains, but they also exist in many Paleo foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. A large number of anti-nutrients may become a problem if your diet is very limited, but most people with a varied diet that cook most of their food are not in any danger.

Furthermore, some anti-nutrients can be beneficial in helping to reduce cardiovascular disease and some cancers!

Will the Paleo Diet Help You Lose Weight?

In the end, adjusting your diet to have less sugar, alcohol and processed foods while increasing your consumption of whole, natural foods is always going to be a winner. But cutting out dairy, grains and legumes while dramatically increasing the amount of animal fat consumed could be problematic - as well as being difficult and unsustainable for most. A better option is to stick to those diet tenants that most health professionals swear by - more exercise, less unhealthy foods and smaller portion sizes.

In the end, some may argue that our bodies were only designed' to eat the way our hunter and gatherer ancestors did. But Lawrence Cheskin M.D., FACP, the director of Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, reminds us that "We lived to an average of 25 years of age on that diet, so I'm not sure where it is a great plan to follow now."

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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