The Paleo Diet

The buzz about Paleo Diets is as much controversy as it is popularity. It is widely panned by nutrition experts and public health authorities, but praised passionately by those who practice and believe in it. It has been labeled a ‘fad diet,’ although it may be the oldest and longest-practiced diet in existence.

The Paleo Diet (also known as the Paleolithic Diet, the Caveman Diet, and the Stone Age Diet in certain circles) advocates eating like our long-gone ancestors. The theory is that for most of human existence we didn’t have agriculture or access to livestock, so we weren’t eating cultivated foods or animal products. Although our eating patterns have changed dramatically since the advent of agriculture and livestock-keeping, perhaps our bodies haven’t had time to catch up.

Most Paleo Diets prohibit table salt, cane sugar, wheat and grains, beans, milk products, grain-fed meat, and potatoes. Proponents of the Paleo diet claim that our DNA and our digestive systems are best equipped to handle those foods with which we have lived for so long. The main components of a Paleo Diet include: Grass fed meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish, and roots.

Paleo Diet programs differ slightly in the percentage of calories that come from protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but almost all recommend that a high percentage of calories come from animal flesh around 60% of calories daily. This is based on an anthropological estimate of hunter-gatherer diets around the world, but is the source of many of the criticisms of the Paleo Diet.

The percentage of calories from meat varies wildly in actual hunter-gatherer societies, adding evidence to support the idea that our bodies can handle a wide variety of diets. Arctic Inuits, for instance, eat whale blubber and fish almost exclusively, and get 95-100 percent of their calories from animal fat and protein. Some hunter-gatherers are nearly vegetarian.

Experts criticize the Paleo Diet especially for its meat-eating recommendations, since it goes against nutritional wisdom that for a healthy heart and lean body one should eat mostly grains, fruits, and vegetables and limit meat intake to lean cuts 3-4 times per week. Other critics assert that the diet doesn’t accurately mimic the diets of our Stone Age ancestors well, even though a diet that did approximate theirs would likely be beneficial.

Others argue that, even if the Paleo Diet did resemble the diet of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, the diet wouldn’t make participants healthier, and point out that life expectancies for cavemen were half of what they have grown to and that those living in the Stone Age didn’t have to worry about heart disease since they usually died before it would affect them.

Some studies have shown support for the Paleo diet, saying it promotes weight loss and reduces risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease even better than popular diets like Atkins and standard low-fat diets. These three or four studies have been criticised, however, for being conducted with too few subjects or not lasting long enough. The jury is not exactly out on the Paleo Diet, the jury seems to have condemned it. Its supporters still argue passionately on its behalf, so it is likely that it will be around for a long while yet.

Some speculate that he is part man, part animal, but the only thing that you need to know is his obsession and dedication to the art of living lean and helping you to achieve your body fat goals.


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