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Ghaedi E, Mohammadi M, Mohammadi H, et al. Effects of a paleolithic diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials Adv Nutr. 2019;10:634-646.
What is the effect of the Paleo diet on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD)?
Thirty percent of deaths that occur globally are related to some type of CVD, making this group of conditions the leading cause of death worldwide. Past research, looking mainly at certain foods/food groups/nutrients, has demonstrated that diet may greatly influence the occurrence of CVD. But research on this link and specific diets, as a whole, is lacking. The Paleolithic diet or Paleo diet recommends avoiding dairy, grains, added sugar and salt, and processed foods, while favoring the consumption of nuts, eggs, lean meat, fruits, fish, and vegetables. This diet mirrors the food consumption patterns of hunter-gatherers in the Old Stone Age. The current evidence base around the Paleo diet and its impact on risk factors for CVD and diabetes is inconsistent, requiring further research on the topic.
This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled trials published between 2009 and 2017, including a total of 266 participants.
The Paleo diet was effective in reducing weight, waist circumference, BMI, body fat percentage, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and CRP in adults, compared to control diets. It was also effective in increasing HDL cholesterol. However, it should be noted that when certain studies were removed from the analysis, the positive effect of the Paleo diet on blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and CRP was no longer present. This means that the results for these outcomes need to be interpreted carefully. Overall, more high quality long-term studies, which include many more participants, are needed in order to make firm conclusions about the relationship between the Paleo diet and CVD risk factors. The current review was hindered by the small number of participants across studies, as well as differences in the participants’ health status, how long they were on the Paleo diet for, and what type of diet was used as the comparison.
In adults, the Paleo diet may improve certain risk factors for CVD, such as weight, waist circumference, BMI, and body fat percentage. Despite these promising results, more research is needed to make definitive conclusions on this diet’s impact on risk factors for CVD.