Few diets have sparked as much controversy as the Paleolithic or “caveman” diet
. Die-hard fans are rather vocal in their defense, and staunch opponents are often equally as vocal. However, since the U.S. News & World Report “Best Diets”
review ranked the Paleo diet as the worst in the overall weight loss category, supporters are coming out of the woodwork to stand behind their lifestyle.How the diets were ranked.
Twenty-two experts, including dietitians, diabetologists, nutritionists, and cardiologists studied 20 of the “most popular” diets. After reviewing diet profiles developed at the U.S. News World Report
, the Caveman diet came in dead last. This caused quite the outcry online, and diet supporters are defending their philosophy that eating like a caveman is the healthiest way to live.
The Paleo diet consists of vegetables, lean meats, fruits, fish and nuts–foods that Paleolithic man had readily available. Foods such as grains, milk, sugar, and salt are to be avoided since Stone Age Man didn't have access to these.
They didn’t have access to public transportation either, but does that mean we should all walk to work? Sorry, side note…
Lauren Cordain, one of the strongest supporters of the Paleolithic diet and professor of health and exercise at Colorado State University pointed to five clinical studies that revealed the health benefits of the Paleo diet
. These studies showed lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improved insulin resistance among the followers. Plenty of Paleo diehards went online to give their support and anecdotal evidence.Is excluding entire food groups a good idea?
While not everyone in the 22-person panel ranked the Paleolithic diet last in the weight-loss category, some expressed fear that what the diet means could be misinterpreted. Since protein is a strong component of the diet, it could be easy for those that don't fully understand the diet to gorge on hamburgers - which in most cases are far from healthy. Other experts don't see a problem with eating lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables but believe totally ignoring food groups such as whole grains and low-fat dairy is not a good idea.
Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, said, “I can't recommend a diet that advocates exclusion of whole food groups
, and foods like low-fat yogurt, milk, beans and whole grains. As for dairy, a lifetime of no dairy and you're really risking osteoporosis and low bone density. Paleo man didn't have to worry– he should [have been] dead by age 40; but the rest of us would like to hang out for considerably longer and have strength while we do.”
Cordain counters by arguing that dairy is not necessary and states that the majority of people are lactose intolerant. He goes on to remind us that humans have not always consumed non-human milk. The Paleo man certainly didn’t.
“They lived outdoors so they had a lot more sun exposure. Their blood concentration of vitamin D was likely higher, which enhanced calcium absorption in the diet” said Cordain.
The Paleo diet and obesity.
As for the obesity and diabetes argument, opponents point out that Paleolithic man was much more active than today's society. Obesity probably wasn't a factor, and we know that obesity can lead to type-2 diabetes. And because physical activity has a strong impact on insulin resistance, cholesterol levels, and body weight, more focus needs to be on physical activity.
Despite the dismal ranking, the Paleo diet will likely continue to receive its fair share of attention. Until obesity and related diseases are under control, people will search for modern-day solutions to these epidemics.