Despite limited scientific evidence, the so called “Paleo Diet,” a meal plan where participants eat only foods believed to be available during the Paleolithic era, remains very popular – particularly with the CrossFit® set.
Many of the foods permitted in the Paleo plan are of animal origin (e.g., beef, pork, eggs, duck, lard, tallow, etc.) and thus, high in saturated fat and cholesterol, leading many nutrition experts question the safety and validity of the diet.
The jury is still out on the long-term benefits and/or health implications of Paleo eating, but the results from a small study out of the University of Houston suggest that the diet could be heart healthy (at least in the short term).
In an eight-week trial, eight healthy people were asked to switch from their normal (typical Western diet) to Paleo-style eating. All of the participants were educated about the meal plan and instructed to each as much of the permitted foods as they wanted during the study period.
What they found:
- 35% increase in interlukin 10, a signaling compound believed to protect blood vessels by counteracting inflammation.
- The group lost weight. Even though the amount of food was not restricted, on average the participants reported eating 44 fewer grams of carbohydrates and 22% fewer total calories while eating Paleo.
This research is interesting, but it’s hardly conclusive. The study was very small (8 people), short (just 2 months long), and not well controlled (no comparison group). It is quite possible that the reduction in inflammatory markers was a result of consuming fewer calories or carbohydrates, and/or a result of weight-loss itself. These are answers that will hopefully be better elucidated by future research.