Thursday, May 3, 2012

Myth: The Paleo Diet is the most nutritious diet on the planet.

Answer: BUSTED!

The Paleo Diet is based on the idea that the standard American diet wreaks havoc with our Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) constitutions. It claims that anyone can lose weight and regain health by eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate – the diet that “nature intended.” Our Paleolithic ancestors may have been generally leaner, more fit, and with less prevalence of disease, but there are endless other contributors to those facts that must be taken into consideration. For example, our Paleolithic ancestors walked nearly 24,000 steps per day. Today, the average American walks closer to 5,000 steps daily. It is also important to remember that our ancestors had significantly shorter lifespans and lacked the scientific knowledge to diagnose diseases related to aging such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.

fruits and vegetables
Here are the basic ground rules for following the Paleo Diet:
  1. All the lean meats, fish, and seafood you can eat
  2. All the fruits and non-starchy vegetables you can eat
  3. No cereals
  4. No legumes
  5. No dairy products
  6. No processed foods

The foods encouraged on the Paleo diet can be more expensive. Processed grains and dairy are widely used in prepared foods, so eating out and consuming non-perishable items may be out of the question. Also, by eliminating all grains and dairy products you are also cutting out beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber. Because the Paleo diet eliminates important foods, it is recommended that you take a multivitamin. When diets recommend supplementing with a multivitamin this is a “red flag” that the diet doesn’t supply all the nutrients you need.

Because this diet relies heavily on whole meats, fruits and vegetables which digest slowly, it can help keep blood sugar levels more stable than a diet high in processed carbohydrates and refined sugar. High protein and high fiber foods, when compared to low-fat, grain-based foods, fill you up and may help reduce hunger between meals.

Visit for more information about the health risks of low-carb diets.

Contributors: Loni Stewart, MU Dietetic Intern; Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,


  1. Because there's absolutely no fiber in fruit & vegetables whatsoever. Right... But I'm sure you're all for vegan or vegetarian diets. Note: those require supplementation!!!

  2. "our ancestors had significantly shorter lifespans"

    This is not true. This is a myth that everybody repeats because they heard it repeated before. Sure plenty died of accidents, but those that didn't lived to a ripe old age. Menopause is nature's way of not wasting effort raising a child and having the mother die before fully raised. It takes about 16 years for a child to mature. This implies that our ancestors lived to be about 70 years old. Elephants also go through menopause. Theirs is at around age 50. It takes 20 years for an elephant to mature. They live to around age 70.

    The myth that they died at age 40 comes from looking at their bones. They couldn't find any bones that looked older than what our bones look like at 40. But they didn't have the degenerative diseases that we now have. There is every reason to believe that when they were 80 their bones looked like ours do at age 40.

    "all grains and dairy products you are also cutting out beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber."

    There are no vitamins, minerals and fiber in grains or dairy products that can't be gotten from paleo foods, and in a form that is more bio-available. There is no supplementation necessary for a paleo diet, and no paleo commentator recommends supplementation, except for Vitamin D3, as we don't get nearly as much sun as our ancestors did.

    The problem with dietitians is they are educated by the food industry to promote what the industry wants to sell. The foods the industry wants to sell are the ones most profitable. In the food industry profitability is inversely correlated with the amount of labor involved. The grains and other seeds are low labor and highly profitable. All paleo foods have to be hand picked or hand butchered. They are more expensive, and less profitable.

    Any diet that requires pharmaceuticals to achieve proper blood chemistry and blood pressure can't be the diet that humans evolved to eat. On the paleo diet one can achieve normal BP, optimum lipid ratios (HDL > Tri), very low CRP, and very low homocysteine, with no drugs.

    1. Don, I couldn't have put it better myself. Go on a Paleo diet. Experience the amazing turnaround in health. Do Robb Wolf's thirty day trial. It's not going to kill you, but it will certainly demonstrate the curative benefits of this way of eating.
      As Christy Thiel says, the diet information here is ill-informed at best and I feel,to some extent, deceptive.
      The Paleo diet is a diet based on the best posssible way of eating, high in vegetables, low in good-quality meats and fish, with some fruits. It just HAS to be better than consuming processed foods the quality of which is entirely dubious!

      My family thrives on this diet. When no doctor was able to help, let alone suggest a cure for my daughter, we researched first of all to find out what was wrong with her. Against all odds we found that. In changing our diets we tried going raw with very little results. Then we read about Paleo and decided to give it a try. The results were astonishing to say the least.

      We still follow a high-raw diet (which one can easily do on Paleo) but we eat organic meats and wild-caught fish as well.
      Eliminating all grains, and most dairy food, saved my daughter's life I believe.

      To the reasearchers at M U, I must say that Paleo has not caused weight gain in any of us. Rather we are trim and energetic, we sleep well, and we look and feel, healthy. No pills in our home!!

  3. This article is misinformed!
    The Paleo isn't Atkins, it's not an "all you can eat" protein diet. It's a level of consciousness about how your body burns sugars, fat and functions hormonally.
    Eating healthy is understanding what feeds and depletes us. Supplementation is okay as long as it isn't replacing food. But getting an extra boost of antioxidants, repairing insulin receptors (from a lifetime of eating SAD) and/or replenishing flora here and there a good idea- for anyone!
    Paleo eating is sound scientifically. And you can eat Paelo YOUR way- it's a principle, discipline and healthy!

  4. As University of Missouri Extension Faculty and Registered Dietitians, we use peer reviewed research when communicating with the public. We do not sell books or products for profit. It is important to be aware of the potential biases of those selling products or services.

    Eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and seafood, and less processed foods is a great way to improve health, lower cholesterol and lose weight. This is certainly a strength of the Paleo Diet. There is also overwhelming research supporting the benefits of whole grain foods and low-fat dairy foods. Until there is convincing evidence showing benefits of excluding these foods, it would be irresponsible to recommend such drastic dietary changes. Strict diet plans are difficult to follow and often result in modest weight loss, followed by greater weight gain. This leads to more significant health problems and obesity-related complications. Flexibility, variety and moderation are key concepts for any healthy lifestyle.

    1. Many of us on the paleo diet don't find the diet hard to follow. I've been on a strict version for 16 years. (Having celiac disease forces me to be gluten-free.) I've never had weight to lose, so that is not the purpose of my being on the diet. My goal is to avoid the diseases of civilization. Many others adopt it to increase their athletic performance. As noted above, my BP, lipids, CRP, and homocysteine are all excellent. I take no medications, like most people that follow the diet recommended by dieticians.

      I agree that a problem with diets is that people consider them to be temporary, and after going off them they revert back to what they were before. So called yo-yo dieting. But people following paleo prefer to call it a paleo lifestyle, as most have no plans to ever go off it.

      You note lean meats. I gather you haven't read the books by Gary Taubes. It has never been proven that high intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol are detrimental to our health. The American Heart Association bases their "low-fat" prescription off of five studies. The Ancel Keys study was an outright fraud. The other four:

      (1) The Los Angeles VA Hospital Study (1969): Researchers didn't collect data regarding smoking habits for some men, and stated later that half the participants strayed from the prescribed diet.

      (2) The Oslo Diet-Heart Study (1970); basically proved nothing regarding deaths from heart disease and a low fat diet.

      (3) The Finnish Mental Hospital Study (1979): almost half of the participants either left or joined half way through the 12 year study.

      (4) The St. Thomas' Atherosclerosis Regression Study (1992): 74 men showed a reduction in heart disease by those who ate diets low in saturated fat... but they were also required to eat less sugar. Since the message needed to be "saturated fat bad" that little detail is often left out.

      Let me sum it up: Cholesterol doesn't lead to heart problems. Cholesterol is absolutely essential to good health. A major factor is the small dense LDL particles that cause problems.

  5. When you bust something could you please cite the overwhelming government subsidized, corn backed, dairy farmer research you refer to?

    1. You mean the scientific funding that backs Basic Research? the funding that is defending whats left of america's scientific credibility? You do know that in 20 years, america might not be a place to do research anymore.

  6. Anonymous's claim, "vegan or vegetarian diets ... require supplementation" is false. A well-balanced vegan or vegetarian diet does not require supplements.

  7. click here
    Since the most common argument against the efficacy of the Paleo Diet for long-term health is that high-fat diets increase the chance of getting heart disease and stroke (although, bacterial infection and calcium deficiency are also fair worries), I have decided to concentrate on measures of cardiac health. click here

    1. I follow the Paleo Diet and have most of my caloric intake coming from lean meats, fruits and vegetables. I set my caloric breakdown at around 50% carbohydrate, 35% protein, and 15% fat. Nothing about Paleo eating dictates high-fat eating.


  8. Great stuff here. The information and the detail were just perfect. I think that your perspective is deep, its just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well. Great job on this.

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  9. The SAD diet, the Paleo diet, vegetarianism vs vegan. Even if we eat 100% organic, we are only getting 40% of our vitamins. Whomever is recommending a MVT is right on, we probably also need Mg, EPA and DHA Omegas, B complex as well. You can live on food alone, but if you want to live healthier and longer, its best to include vitamins, at the minimum of 5 days per week. And not Centrum...Go Paleo, big fan, minus the sugar in all the fruits...Sugar BAD!


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