Did Cavemen Have Good Lipid Profiles?

JUNE 17, 2015
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
The Paleolithic (grain-free) diet is gathering steam among dieters and health conscious individuals alike. Proponents consume only items that, hypothetically, cavemen would have had access to. They claim that modern man can’t metabolize comparatively new types of food, and our reliance on processed foods has increased rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Critics say that humans are much more nutritionally flexible than previously thought, and that we have very little idea of what Paleolithic humans ate. Regardless, it appears that a common dietary approach—replacing dietary saturated fat with carbohydrate and reducing total fat intake—doesn’t necessarily improve lipid profiles. Might a Paleolithic diet be better at lowering lipids?
The journal Nutrition Research has published a 2-phase diet intervention study ahead of print that looked at the grain-free Paleolithic diet with respect to weight loss and dyslipidemia. They enrolled 20 nondiabetic adults (10 men and 10 women aged 40 to 62 years) with hyperlipidemia. They followed a grain-based heart-healthy diet based on the American Heart Association’s recommendations for 4 months. Immediately thereafter, they switch to a Paleolithic diet for 4 months. Twenty volunteers were selected based on diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia. Volunteers did not take cholesterol-lowering medications.
The Paleolithic diet contains 3 times as much fiber and potassium, double the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and 4 times more omega-3 fatty acids than a typical American diet. It also has significantly less sodium and plenty of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, C, and E.
After 4 months of consuming the Paleolithic diet, participants’ mean total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL were significantly lower than after 4 months of a grain-based heart-healthy diet and compared to baseline. HDL was also significantly improved.
These changes were noted regardless of body weight changes.
The authors conclude that Paleolithic nutrition has clinical potential for adults who have hyperlipidemia unresponsive to traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations, or who have had intolerable side effects from pharmaceutical interventions.

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