Chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) are a matter of great concern to the world’s public health and the leading cause of death. In 2005, around 35 million deaths were attributed to such diseases, almost 60% of global mortality and 45.9% of the global burden of diseases. If this trend is maintained, it is estimated that by 2020 CNCDs will account for 73% of deaths and 60% of disease burden.
Excess weight is associated with a greater risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and health problems that cause devastating consequences, including an increase in mortality rates.
Different diets are recommended in an attempt to combat these conditions, whether to prevent or control them. One of the most accepted diets for the treatment and prevention of CNCD is the Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by a high intake of cereals, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil; a moderate intake of fish and alcohol, mainly wine; and low intake of dairy products, meat, and sweets.
Another diet, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), is also recommended.
The Paleolithic diet has been gaining ground in the field of fad diets. It is based on the food patterns of human Paleolithic ancestors, a period that precedes the advent of industrial agriculture and is different from today’s modern society. Food choices vary since men were hunter-gatherers and often moved in search of food availability.
The diet often includes meat, with an emphasis on meat from wild game or grass-fed animals, fish, eggs, herbal tea, fruits, herbs, seeds and nuts, and healthy oils. Foods that are normally avoided are dairy products, refined sugar, salt, legumes like beans, peanuts, and peas, artificial ingredients, processed foods, soft drinks, and rice.
New Studies Findings
A new study published in the Nutrition Journal evaluated several randomized control trials to establish a relationship between the Paleolithic diet and the prevention and control of CNCD and anthropometric measurements.
Most studies used diets based on higher consumption of vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy for the control group. For the Paleo diet intervention group, diets were based on fish, lean meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and exclusion of cereals, dairy products, and sugar.
The study found a mean weight loss of 3.52 kg and a decreased waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) in patients who followed a Paleolithic diet compared with those eating other commonly recommended diets. Researchers suggested that following a paleo diet reduces the risk of chronic diseases, as having excess body weight is one of the most important risk factors for their development.
Another study published in The Journal of Nutrition investigated associations between the Paleolithic and Mediterranean diets, with all-cause and cause-specific mortality.
The study found that patients who followed any of these diets had reduced all-cause mortality, lower oxidative stress, and decreased mortality from heart disease and cancer.
Although results from these studies have shown good and promising results, it is important to mention that cutting out certain food groups can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as calcium and vitamin D. Also, some studies have shown that people who follow this diet have changes in the gut microbiota and in trimethylamine N-oxide, which has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is important to discuss any type of major dietary modifications with your healthcare professional before considering starting a new diet, especially if you have any type of medical condition.
de Menezes, E.V.A., Sampaio, H.A.d.C., Carioca, A.A.F. et al. Influence of Paleolithic diet on anthropometric markers in chronic diseases: systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr J 18, 41 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-019-0457-z
Whalen, K. A., Judd, S., McCullough, M. L., Flanders, W. D., Hartman, T. J., & Bostick, R. M. (2017). Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Adults. The Journal of nutrition, 147(4), 612–620. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.116.241919