The effects of Paleo diet
The “Paleo” or Paleolithic diet has become popular for people interested in losing weight or who are looking for a healthier diet. Due to modern farming methods, loss of nutrients in our soil, and processed food, our modern diet lacks many of the nutrients needed for good health.
Rationale for Following a Paleo Diet
Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, an authority on prehistoric diets, claims that our modern diets fail to meet our genetic requirements. Evidence indicates that 99.99% of our genes were formed while men were hunter-gatherers and before agricultural societies developed. Because our bodies haven’t genetically adapted to our dietary changes, our modern diets fail to meet our biochemical and molecular requirements.
Comparison of Paleolithic and Modern Diets
Protein and Fat.
For cavemen, undomesticated animals provided most of the protein and a higher percentage of omega 3 fatty acids compared to omega 6. North Americans consume much higher rates of omega 6 to omega 3’s. We now know that too much omega 6 has a negative impact on our health and the importance of including in our menus more foods containing omega 3.
Vitamins, Mineral, and Fibre.
Hunters-gatherers obtained these nutrients from over 100 different species of fruits and vegetables, which were eaten raw or with very little processing. These sources, as well as roots, legumes, and nuts, led to better bowel movements. Few North Americans meet the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables and even these have reduced vitamin/mineral content. Phytochemicals, important for immune system support, are also greatly lacking in our green-harvested produce. In addition, cooking further reduces vitamin content. Much of our fiber comes from cereal grains containing phytic acid which lowers mineral absorption.
To compensate, many people take a vitamin/mineral supplement. However, most of these are synthetic. In addition to having a low absorption rate, recent studies indicate they can have a negative effect on our health. In 1939, Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi conducted a double blind study on vitamin C to determine its effectiveness in curing scurvy. The study showed that food sourced vitamin C cured scurvy; synthetic vitamin C did not.
The difference in sodium and potassium consumed is also notable. The average adult American consumes about 4000 mg of sodium, over 90% of which is added to food during cooking, processing and seasoning. Potassium intake is about 3000 mg daily. In contrast, early humans consumed about 600 mg of sodium and 7,000 mg of potassium daily.
Paleolithic man obtained most of his carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. In contrast, most of our carbohydrates come from sugars, sweeteners and refined flours, which are all lacking in vitamins, minerals, essential amino and fatty acids.
We are all well aware of the explosion in the rates of serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and more. While many people will find a strict Paleo diet too stringent to follow, we can all benefit from altering our food choices to include the types of foods consumed prehistoric ancestors.