Friday, March 28, 2014

Paleo Diet: The hottest diet but, is it good?

What was the hottest diet last year? The Paleo Diet topped the list of most Googled diet of 2013. The Paleo diet (short for Palaeolithic) is based upon the concept that an optimal diet is one to which the creators of the diet believe we are genetically adapted too. The diet encourages you to eat grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy oils meanwhile avoiding the consumption of cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetables oils.

Recently, results from a two year randomized trial on the effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women were published. The results suggest that a Palaeolithic-type diet may have beneficial effects on body fat mass, abdominal obesity and triglyceride levels in obese postmenopausal women. Yet, in the same month another study, published in Cell Metabolism, cautions the use of a high-protein diets in older adults, an age range which includes postmenopausal women.* 

The  study compared dietary data from 6381 men and women, aged 50 and older from the NHANES III study (a national dietary survey in the United States), with mouse and cellular studies to understand how the level and source of protein in the diet affected aging, disease and mortality. The researchers concluded that high protein intake increased cancer death risk four-fold in adults aged 50-65 (interestingly, this risk was soothed if the protein was plant derived). Conversely, in adults over 65, when protein intake can help prevent weight loss and frailty, a high protein intake decreased cancer risk.

Both studies have potential weaknesses suggesting caution to drawing conclusions from the research until more is known. However, it does raise the question as to the long-term health effects of high-protein diets on health. 

With every diet there are potential pitfalls. Whenever you restrict your diet, in other words you avoid eating certain foods, you can fail to consume sufficient amounts of nutrients found in the foods you're avoiding. You ALWAYS need to have caution when using any diet to ensure you aren't developing a deficiency in any minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids, fibre, protein, etc. 

Why Diets Work
Diets cause you to stop, rethink and change your diet. That alone will make you eat better and lose weight. Whether the "new" diet you are on is "better" in the long run - well, that's debatable. But, it can never hurt to rethink what you're eating and try to eat better.

My Confession
I've never done a "diet" before. I know - that sounds crazy but, I haven't. Nope, not even the low-carb craze that literally everyone tried. With every new fad diet that comes and goes I'm just too skeptical to try them, particularly the diets that cut out entire food groups or categories. I truly believe that eating a diet rich in a variety of whole foods is the best "diet" there is. And, most importantly, eat what makes you feel good (and, I don't mean that "good" feeling from stuffing your face with a sugar-coated donut). 

Want to Read More? 

Mellberg, C. et al. Long-term effects of Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 68, 350-357 (March 2014) doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.290

Gerlic, M. et al. Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population. Cell Metabolism, Volume 19, Issue 3, 407-417, 4 March 2014.

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