This post was updated in May 2020 to ensure accuracy and relevancy.
In January 2014 U.S. News reviewed 32 diets, ranking them according to their effectiveness in supporting weight loss, promoting cardiovascular health, preventing diabetes and so on. The evaluation performed by experts puts the paleo diet almost at the very end of each ranking, meaning it’s inferior compared to other 31 diets. I read the article and I was really confused.
Is paleo diet that bad?
Would you like to learn more and try the paleo diet, but such articles make you skeptical? I was obese at one point in my life, and I successfully lost weight on paleo diet. The article made me think. Are these criticisms valid points? Most arguments against the paleo diet were at least unjust. Some indicated misunderstanding by the reviewers. Some were simply flawed. Let’s review the article.
Criticism #1: You won’t lose weight
To lose weight you have to eat less calories than you burn. Your body will supplement the difference from your body fat and you’ll lose weight. The main problem with eating less is that when your blood sugar plummets you get hungry and sooner or later your strong will turns not so strong after all, and you eat more than you originally intended to.
Different diets solve this problem in different ways. You can make yourself full with few calories involved (volumetrix), you can make your calories last for longer (low carbs), or you can make your body work hard to process the food you have eaten (raw / whole foods).
Paleo diet prevents the blood sugar drop, by using only fat to power your body. When the blood sugar is used up, there is a time gap before fat starts to be burned. This gap can feel like starving and result in ravenous appetite. When on paleo diet, there is no such unpleasant phenomenon. Your body just burns fat – from your food or from your tissues, there is starving in between. But if you eat because of other factors than hunger (stress, sweet tooth, etc.) you can of course overeat and maintain excessive weight.
Criticism #2: No researched benefits for cardiovascular health
Paleo diet is often criticized for the lack of extended scientific studies. Like in this example, there have been some lab research about cardiovascular health benefits performed, but the studies were few, small and short.
Studies get financed by someone because of somewhat. If a pharmaceutical company wants to sell the new miracle drug and earn a few bucks, it puts some (or rather a lot of) money to research the drug. According to Wikipedia Pfizer only in 2007 invested $8.1 billion in research and development. Pay attention to the word “invested”, the money comes back to Pfizer.
The problem with paleo diet is, there is no one earning serious dinero with it. There are no Weight Watchers selling paleo meals, there is no food industry producing highly processed paleo pop tarts. All you need is basic, raw, organic if possible food, no drug, no processing just pure nature. Who should finance the research?
If you still have your doubts don’t forget to eat fat sea fish, and you’ll get a lot of Omega-3 fats which have been extensively researched.
Criticism #3: Missing nutrients / vitamins
That’s a popular myth leading to overconsumption of e.g. fructose-laden sweet fruits. If this myth were true, the Inuit who eat mostly meat and fish would be extinct by now. The article points at dairy and grains as a source of these nutrients.
First of all – cavemen were not eating only lean muscle meat. They didn’t waste anything, because food was scarce. The most nutrients and vitamins can be found in organ meat. So by eating the whole animal with its innards, our ancestors were getting a healthy dose of vitamins and micro nutrients. Don’t shun liver or liverwurst, get checked by your doctor once a year and you’ll be OK.
Second problem – are grains really the source of choice for nutrients? Phytic acid present in grains can actually reduce your intake of nutrients. Eating veggies, allowed in paleo diet, like e.g. celery or spinach will cover your dietary requirements of micro nutrients.
Criticism #4: Not following dietary guidelines
Paleo diet emerged exactly because dietary guidelines were questioned. Do you remember the food pyramid? With grains at the bottom, in form of bread, pasta and cereals? Well, if you think that pasta, bread and pizza will make you slim and healthy, follow dietary guidelines.
To make 100% sure you get enough vitamins and minerals you can complement your paleo diet with a multivitamin supplement. That’s not very caveman style, but let’s face it – cavemen didn’t suffer from prolonged workplace stress nor didn’t breathe air with smog.
Criticism #5: Expensive
That may be an issue if you live on budget and can’t afford enough fresh meat and vegetables. Organic meat and fresh fish tend to be pricey, fresh organic vegetables are not exactly a bargain either. But still – it’s not a valid argument against the paleo diet as a healthy nutritional choice. Is grass-fed beef unhealthy because it’s expensive?
I hope I helped to debunk some myths and fallacies in regard to paleo diet. Did you like this article? Bookmark it and check from time to time for new stuff about diets and health.
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