Research has discovered once and for all what the benefits are (if any) of this one popular dieting program. Findings from a small study by the University of Houston Laboratory of Integrative Physiology suggests that people who followed the Paleo diet for only eight weeks experienced positive effects on heart health.
“Very few studies have examined the Paleo diet in seemingly healthy participants, despite the prevalence of this dietary practice in health and fitness enthusiasts,” said study author Chad Dolan, a graduate student researcher.
The study asked 8 “seemingly” health participants who follow a standard western diet which is typically full of processed foods to switch to the Paleo diet for eight weeks. The Paleo diet is typified by minimally processed foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit. Notable exclusions are dairy and cereal products.
The participants were given a diet menu to follow and were allowed to eat as much as they liked, so no one was starving themselves.
The participants experienced a 35 percent increase in levels of interlukin-10 (IL-10), a signaling molecule secreted by immune cells, according to researchers. A low IL-10 value can predict increased heart attack risk in people who also have high levels of inflammation.
The study, which wasn’t aimed at weight loss nevertheless noted a drop in weight. Participants reported consuming around 22 percent fewer calories and 44 percent fewer grams of carbohydrates on the Paleo diet.
“This study’s findings add to the possibility that short-term dietary changes from a traditional Western pattern of eating to foods promoted in the Paleo diet may improve health—or, at the very least, the diet does not have negative health implications in terms of the parameters we studied,” Dolan said. “If our research continues to show that the Paleo diet produces detectable changes in healthy individuals, it will substantiate claims made by those supporting this diet for the past few decades and provide preliminary evidence for another therapeutic strategy for cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease prevention.”
These initial reports are heartening for proponents of the Paleo diet but it should be noted this was a very small study that also lacked a control group. Preliminary findings from this research will be presented at the American Physiological Society’s Inflammation, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease conference.