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The Paleo Diet – Explained

The paleolithic diet, paleo for short, was first brought into the limelight in the 1970’s by the gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin. The premise to the diet is fairly simple, and Voegtlin used this diet as a form nutritional therapy for patients suffering from gastro-intestinal problems such as Crohn’s and colitis. In 1975, Voegtlin self-published his book entitled The Stone Age Diet: Based on in-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man where he outlines the basics of this dietary paradigm.

Voegtlin and others advocate the paleo diet as a means for a healthier lifestyle.  Voegtlin has used it as a means for treating gastro-intestinal problems, and other doctors have observed populations of people who follow a paleo diet live in absence of cardiovascular disease.

Constituents of the Diet

The paleo diet follows the idea that man was originally carnivorous and ate mainly fats and protein with very small amounts of carbohydrates. In contrast to today’s westernized dietary regimes, the average diet is mainly comprised of carbohydrates, with little fat and protein.  The paleo diet is a modern rendition that attempts to mimic the diet of paleolithic humans who would hunt and gather food in their ecological location.

The diet consists primarily of foods that can be hunted or fished, such as seafood, eggs, and meat.  Fruits and vegetables fall into the paleo diet as well as they would be synonymous to what the foragers would find in ancient times.   The best word of advices to the Paleo diet – if it does not come from the ground or it is manufactured, it does not go in the mouth.  Finally, the beverage of choice for paleo practitioners is water with no tolerance of alcoholic or fermented beverages.

Practitioners of the paleo diet advocate that one should derive 65% of their daily calorie intake from animal sources and 35% from plant sources.  This ratio seems the most ecologically and historically accurate breakdown for paleolithic hunter-gathers.

Health Effects

The paleo diet came to a drastic halt when several new foods got introduced into our environment during the Neolithic revolution.  We began to consume large amounts of beans, cereals, salt, and dairy products.  After these changes, we became the victim to the industrial revolution which lead to modern day food processing and technological advancements in farming.  These advancements brought about the major constituents of the Western diet.

This change in food staples has been theorized as the reasoning behind pathogenesis of many common illnesses of today’s society.  These ‘diseases of civilization’ include obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.  It is suggested that if we reclaim the paleo diet, we may reduce our risk of these diseases and live a healthier life.

Benefits of a Paleo Diet

–          Increased consumption of essential fatty acids

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

–          Decreased energy intake

  • The high content of protein and fat in combination to foods high in fiber lead to increased levels of satiety on less energy consumption

–          Increased intake of micronutrients

  • Animal and plant sources of food that are not refined are highly dense in vitamins and minerals

–          Fiber

  • Fruits and vegetables are quite high in fiber and have low glycemic indexes resulting in one feeling fuller – longer.  Practitioners eat upwards of 100g/day; almost 9x more than the daily average intake of US citizens.

–          Sodium intake

  • Sodium intake is much less resulting in a decreased risk of hypertension

 

In conclusion, the paleo diet seems to be a great alternative to the current Western diet.  In terms of cost, the paleo diet may burn a hole in your pocket, but I am sure the numerous health benefits will be reason enough.  I have yet to attempt this diet, therefore I cannot speculate on its efficacy, however the details alone spark my interesvar 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