Does the Paleo diet live up to the hype?

All Woman

Dear Donovan,

I weigh 150 pounds and would like to lose 20 pounds. Does the Paleo diet live up to the hype?

The Paleo diet is also called Paleolithic diet, Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet and caveman diet. It is a diet our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors might have eaten, and usually includes lean meat, especially from grass-fed animals, or wild game, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that would have been obtained by hunting and gathering. It restricts food that became popular with farming, including grains, such as wheat, oats and barley, legumes, dairy products, refined sugars, salt, processed foods and potatoes.

The main assumption of the Paleo diet is that there is a genetic disconnection between our modern farming diet and our bodies. With the emergence of farming there has been a change in what people eat, for example, adding dairy products, grains and legumes. The Paleo diet assumes that our bodies have not been able to adjust to the rapid change in our diet. This mismatch between our diet and our bodies is thought to be the major contributing factor for the prevalence of many lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.

The main aim of the Paleo diet is to return to a diet closer to that of the hunter-gatherers. Most people follow the Paleo diet in order to be healthy, lose weight, maintain a healthy weight or just to follow a structured diet programme. It should be noted that randomised clinical trials have shown that the Paleo diet can produce weight loss, improve glucose tolerance, improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve appetite control.

The Paleo diet is rich in vegetables, fruits and nuts, which are basically elements of a healthy diet. However, it differs from most other healthy diets with the absence of whole grain, legumes and dairy products. These are usually thought of as contributing healthy nutrients to the diet.

In addition, no long-term clinical trial has been done with the Paleo diet to show the benefits and risks. Another drawback to the Paleo diet is that the recommended foods like wild game, fish, grass-fed animals and nuts are usually less affordable and available compared to the foods of other diets.

For some people a Paleo diet might just be too expensive. Many critics of this diet have pointed out that genetic research has shown that evolutionary changes occurred over time, thus helping us to digest foods like starches better. Also, factors such as geographic region, climate and food availability might also have shaped our nutritional needs and food tolerance.

I am very happy that you have decided to lose some weight. However, you did not tell me your height and what you are presently eating. Switching to a Paleo diet will definitely help you with your weight loss. However, I must tell you that doing a weight loss programme with exercise and a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables could give you the same weight loss results.

The main factors of a good weight loss diet are that it should cut calories and the diet should be sustainable. Note that the only possible way to lose weight and keep it off is to adopt a healthy lifestyle which has a healthy diet as well as exercise. Good luck!

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight, or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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