A recent article from Web MD suggests that adhering to a Paleo diet may help post menopausal women lose weight, as well as reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers claim that these benefits can be experienced without calorie restriction due to the nature of the Paleo diet.
What is Paleo?
The Paleo diet encourages eating foods that our ancestors in the paleolithic period consumed. This means only eating foods found in nature such as lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and nuts and seeds while foods that modern farming brought to the table, such as dairy products, grains and legumes should be limited, if not completely eliminated, from the diet.
Caroline Blomquist, a doctoral student at Umea University in Sweden, conducted a study where 35 postmenopausal, obese women with normal blood sugar levels followed a Paleo diet for two years. She asked the women to partition their calories to be made up of 30% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 40% unsaturated fats. No dairy products or processed forms of grains or carbs were to be included.
A control group of 35 women with the same demographics were asked to adhere to a diet comprised of 15% protein, 55% carbohydrates, and 30% fats.
After two years, the Paleo group claimed to have decreased their consumption of saturated fats by 19%, increased their consumption of monounsaturated fats by 47%, and their polyunsaturated fats by 71%. The control group claimed to have made no recognizable changes in the form of their dietary fat intake. As a result, the group following a Paleo diet higher in healthy dietary fats had lower levels of fatty acids in their blood related to insulin resistance, suggesting that a Paleo diet can aid in the prevention of diabetes.
Both groups did experience similar and substantial amounts of weight loss, however, and Blomquist believes that following the Paleo diet could improve the obesity epidemic in the United States.
“Obesity-related disorders have reached pandemic proportions with significant economic burden on a global scale,” she said. “It is of vital interest to find effective methods to improve metabolic balance.”
The Pros and Cons of Paleo
Dr. Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center believes that the health benefits of Paleo are a direct result of the calorie balance. “You’re basically eliminating all processed and simple carbohydrates, which we know is one of the exacerbations or causes of overweight, obesity and insulin resistance,” Apovian said.
On the other hand, a nutritionist from Washington University, Connie Diekman, recognizes some potential downsides of Paleo. She believes that eliminating all dairy products could lead to deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
Eliminating legumes and whole grains could cause deficiencies in fiber, manganese, magnesium and selenium as well. “Avoiding beans and grain foods also makes meeting nutrient needs harder,” she said.
Diekman thinks that overall balance without food group restriction is optimal for ensuring adequate nutrient intake. “The beauty of including all food groups is that, when consumed in proper portions, we can more easily meet nutrient needs. When a food group is skipped, nutrient balance can be impacted.”
It should also be noted that often times the foods required for adherence to a Paleo diet are not affordable by members of lower socioeconomic status, who are also the individuals who are normally most at risk for the health risks the diet aims to prevent.
Overall, the health benefits of a Paleo lifestyle have been proven to be effective at improving health in postmenopausal women. If you feel you may be a good candidate, consider discussing potential health concerns with a professional first to ensure you obtain adequate nutrients from the new foods you plan to start placing in your shopping cart at the grocery store.