I am reminded of a comment I saw on someone else’s Blog recently which said in reply to a similair question about regular exercise. The question was “does exercise work?” The answer was “are you prepared to follow the rules? because if you are then of course it works” There are over 27 million Americans alone who today are following the Paleo diet, I guess some of them must be having a degree of success and that is only 7% of the population. The research shows the number is getting bigger. There are 194 other countries in the world with a combined population 7.7 Billion assuming the same percentage there could be upwards of half a billion people on this lifestyle. So let’s look at the question – the Paleo diet does it work?
What is the Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet is based on foods that were most likely to have been consumed during the Paleolithic age, about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.
Typically, it consists of lean, grass fed, meats, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds in moderation. Essentially we would probably identify this under the description of a hunter-gatherer diet system. The diet excludes foods that became more common when farming started to establish around 10,000 years ago. These are typically dairy products, legumes and grains. It is often referred to as the caveman diet for this reason.
Why Does The Paleo Diet Work
The Paleo diet seeks to return us to eating habits which more resemble those that were prevalent up until 10,000 years ago. The theory, which was first developed by US gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin the 1930s, and which gained a following from the 1970s, is that our bodies are genetically mismatched to the contemporary, mass-produced, foods which have emerged since the inception of early farming; this is known as the discordance hypothesis.
Dairy, grains and legumes became prevalent with domestication and the need to feed greater numbers of social groupings. The discordance hypothesis is that this relatively late, quite rapid evolutionary change has outpaced our bodies ability to adapt to cope with such a diet. It is also believed to be exacerbated by the high degree of modern food processing techniques and the need to apply preservative processes for storage and transportation The mismatch is believed by many to be a major contributing factor to the increasing levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease which are now being experienced today, particularly within developed nations.
Why The Paleo Diet Doesn’t Work
Many folks come to Paleo because they see it as a route to weight control and it certainly can be if part of a balanced lifestyle. But being balanced does mean cutting out those things proven to provide issues for those who have an intolerance to the items listed above that we have been consuming for only about the last 10,000 years. It also means taking modest, but regular physical activity appropriate to the physical condition and abilities of individuals.
Some people make a decision to follow the diet but be liberal with the ‘forbidden fruits’ and this is okay once in a while. But what follows are the scientific facts that should convince us to get back on the straight and narrow as fast as we can.
Bad carbohydrates, taken in regular quantity, will cause the pancreas to release insulin in quantity. This insulin moves a modest amount of carbohydrate into the skeletal muscles and into the liver, where it is stored as glycogen. This is for the body’s next exertion of physical activity. However, the bad news is that the vast majority of it goes to the body’s fat store. This causes a drop in blood sugar level and we get hunger pangs; the body is looking for a quick fix and it will always burn sugar long before stored fat. So we eat more carbohydrate and now we are in the vicious circle, or blood sugar roller coaster.
An Introduction to Antinutrient Compounds
Writing in 2002 in his book The Paleo Diet (Amazon.com), Dr Loren Cordain brought attention to compounds known as antinutrients. These are known to be present in all oats and grains and they prevent our bodies from properly absorbing vitamins and minerals derived from other sources, while contributing to a condition known as increased intestinal porosity also perhaps better known as leaky gut syndrome
The best way to understand what that is to imagine the walls of the intestines as a very fine mesh barrier. Eating foods that easily digestible, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, wild natural proteins and healthy fats keeps this barrier intact and healthy.
The moment we consume food that cannot b properly broken down such as oats and grains this barrier snags and tears and it then leaks,
large particles can then pass through the barrier into the gut and so also can bacteria, viruses and undigested rotting waste pass through the barrier. This is leaky gut syndrome and it brings with it possible inflammation, locally and eventually this spreads which can lead to infection.
A wide range symptoms may then be experienced from a mild to severe range. This can include skin conditions it can lead to and exacerbate autoimmune disease, cause migraine, chronic fatigue syndrome, severe joint inflammation, leading to chronic pain, heart disease and high levels of bad cholesterol.
I would be surprised if I have not provided enough scientific facts in this article to convince the most ardent skeptic that there is a firm basis for believing that a Paleo lifestyle can work. But You don’t actually have to take my word for it. Why not set yourself a goal and test drive Palo for two weeks or a month perhaps. You have little if anything to lose and I believe a lot to gain by proving to your self that after only two weeks and certainly after a month you will feel generally healthier, fitter, more animated and energised than you were when you set out to answer this challenge.
I hope that you found this article both provocative and informing and that it may have sparked an interest in looking after your health in two of the easiest ways possible by exercising regularly and by eating properly the way nature intended.
If you are interested in the Paleo Food List for beginners you can find that here.