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Paleolithic Diet

Paleo diets are a set of eating patterns that limit or exclude foods that were unavailable to our Paleolithic ancestors. Randomized trials suggest well-formulated paleo diets may be as effective as other healthy diets for weight loss and improving markers of metabolic health. Risks of a well-formulated paleo diet are minimal, but more restrictive versions can cause nutrient deficiencies and health issues.

Our evidence-based analysis on paleolithic diet features 84 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Paleolithic Diet

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

What is a paleo diet?

Paleolithic (paleo) diets are a group of dietary patterns that approximate what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. They are usually minimally processed, whole-food diets full of plants and animal products. Paleo diets commonly limit or completely exclude grains, dairy, legumes, starchy root vegetables, and processed foods.[1]

What are paleo diets used for?

While paleo may be considered a panacea in some popular circles, randomized trials have shown that paleo can be used for modest positive effects on weight loss,[2][3][4] glucose regulation,[5][6] blood lipids,[7][4] and other markers of cardiometabolic health.[3][7][4][5] These effects are comparable to those seen with other healthy diets, but paleo may lead to greater weight loss, especially in the short term.[8][3]

How safe is paleo?

Moderate paleo diets are generally safe, but more extreme paleo diets may pose risks.

Extremely carbohydrate-restricted paleo diets can lead to lactation ketoacidosis (a rare condition that may arise when a lactating woman’s energy needs are not being met through diet) in breastfeeding women.[9]

Paleo diets that are very high in protein (>2.5 grams protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day, or about one-third of calories from protein) may increase risk of kidney stones and kidney dysfunction.[10] The relationship has not been confirmed in more rigorous randomized trials, and does not apply to paleo diets with more moderate levels of protein.[11]

A balanced paleo diet should include sources of iodine, calcium, and vitamin D to prevent nutrient insufficiency or deficiency.[12][13][13][14][15]

How does the paleo diet work?

Paleo diets may lead to weight loss by making calorie restriction easier with nutrient-dense, highly satiating foods that emphasize fiber, protein, and fat.[16][17] The positive effects on blood pressure, blood lipids, and other cardiometabolic outcomes may be due to the inclusion of particular nutrients (omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium) and the exclusion of others (sugar, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, excessive saturated fat).[18][19][20][13][8][5]

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Human Effect Matrix

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The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Paleolithic Diet has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

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Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-a Notable Very High See all 5 studies
Most studies and meta-analyses report a modest blood pressure reduction compared to other healthy diets.
grade-a Notable Very High See all 4 studies
Paleo may reduce BMI to a greater extent than other healthy diets in both short- and long-term studies.
grade-a Notable High See all 4 studies
Paleo may decrease insulin more than other healthy diets, but this effect is not universally observed.
grade-a Notable Low See all 3 studies
Paleo may decrease HOMA-IR more so than other healthy diets, but this effect may not persist beyond 6 months.
grade-a Notable Very High See all 4 studies
Paleo may decrease total cholesterol to a greater extent than other healthy diets.
grade-a Notable Very High See all 5 studies
Paleo may decrease triglycerides to a greater extent than other healthy diets.
grade-a Notable Very High See all 4 studies
The effect of paleo on reducing waist circumference may be similar to or greater than that observed with other healthy diets.
grade-a Notable Very High See all 4 studies
The effect of paleo on decreasing weight may be similar to or greater than that observed with other healthy diets.
grade-a Minor Moderate See all 5 studies
Paleo may have a modest effect on reducing blood glucose, comparable to the beneficial effect of other healthy diets.
grade-a Minor Very High See all 3 studies
In studies using the gold-standard (DXA), paleo's effect on reducing body fat is similar to that observed with other healthy diets.
grade-a Minor Very High See 2 studies
Paleo diets may decrease CRP to an extent similar or greater than other healthy diets.
grade-a Minor High See all 5 studies
Paleo may raise HDL-C to a similar extrent as other healthy diets.
grade-a Minor Very High See all 4 studies
Paleo may reduce LDL-C to an extent similar to or greater than other healthy diets.
grade-a - - See all 3 studies
Paleo may reduce HbA1c to a similar extent as other healthy diets, but this effect is incosistently observed and only modest when present.
grade-b Minor Very High See 2 studies
Paleo diets may decrease heart rate ot a greater extent than other healthy diets.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease cardiac output to a similar extent as other healthy diets.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease end diastolic volume to a similar extent as other healthy diets.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease food (calorie) intake to a greater extent than other healthy diets.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease hs-CRP to a greater extent than other healthy diets.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease left ventricular mass to a similar extent as other healthy diets.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease RMR to a greater extent than other healthy diets over 24 months.
grade-d Minor - See study
Paleo diets may decrease stroke volume to a similar extent as other healthy diets.
grade-d - - See study
Paleo diets may have no effect on end systolic volume.
grade-d
- See study
Paleo diets have a widely variable effect on TDEE, similar to other healthy diets.

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Things to Note

Also Known As

Ancestral diet, Paleo diet, Hunter-gatherer diet

Do Not Confuse With

Carnivore diet, Ketogenic diet

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Click here to see all 84 references.