Is the Paleo Diet Supported by Scientific Research?

People constantly demand proof for the efficacy of the Primal eating plan. And I’m glad they do. The Primal Blueprint makes sense on an intuitive level, and those success stories we see every Friday sure are persuasive, but it’s also important to see broader support in the scientific literature. Many times, people demand proof without really wanting any; they assume it’s all imaginary just-so stories. “Where are the studies?” has become a retort rather than a legitimate query.

Well, it’s time to retire it. With 22 paleo diet papers and counting, the scientific research is quickly accumulating — and it’s quite positive. In last Sunday’s Weekend Link Love, I shared a list of (most of) the available paleo diet studies. Today, I thought I’d summarize some of these studies for you. Not everyone can be expected to have access to, read, and be able to interpret all of the research that is published. But there’s some really interesting stuff in there that I think you might benefit from knowing (and passing along to interested parties who ask). But be sure to have a look for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

Without further ado, here are short discussions of five of my “favorite” studies. These are the ones that leap out at me.

Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle.

This is one of the earliest-known paleo diet studies, so early that the diet was called a “reversion to traditional lifestyle” rather than paleolithic. In it, 10 diabetic, middle-aged, overweight Australian aborigines were instructed to live as hunter-gatherers for seven weeks, eating only what they were able to collect or hunt on their traditional homelands. Their base “city diet” — the diet that got them diabetic and overweight — consisted of flour, sugar, rice, soda pop, alcohol, powdered milk, cheap fatty meat, potatoes, onions, and various fresh produce.

Their new diet looked very different:

Beef, kangaroo, crocodile, fish, turtle, crawdads. Yams, honey, figs. Fat content of the diet ran between 13%-40%. Protein content ranged from 50% to 80%, and carb content ran between 5%-33%. Overall, 64% of the diet came from animal foods and average caloric intake was 1200/day.

After seven weeks, the subjects had lost an average of 8 kilograms (17.6 lbs), fasting glucose had gone from diabetic to non-diabetic, postprandial glucose had improved, fasting insulin levels had plummeted, and triglycerides had dropped.

Takeaways: Some combination of increased energy expenditure (although the study author estimated that activity levels were higher than normal, but not dramatically so), reduced caloric intake, elimination of processed industrial foods, and consumption of healthy traditional foods caused the massive improvements in diabetic markers. I suspect that the drastic reduction in food intake played the biggest role, but what was it about the traditional diet that allowed such effortless calorie reduction?

Paleolithic nutrition improves plasma lipid concentrations of hypercholesterolemic adults to a greater extent than traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations.

Heart healthy diet recommendations are meant to be the gold standard when it comes to reducing the cholesterol of hypercholesterolemic adults. Their entire business model revolves around lowering blood lipids through diet (and maybe a few prescription drugs), so you’d think that the official AHA diet would trounce the supposedly unproven, untested, and dangerously meat-centric and grain-deficient paleo-type diet when it comes to cholesterol numbers.

Not so.

In this study, subjects with high cholesterol spent four months on the sanctioned AHA diet followed by four months on a paleo diet. The AHA diet phase emphasized lots of fruits and vegetables, little to no salt, fish twice a week, tons of whole grains, no more than 7% of calories from saturated fat and no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. During this portion of the trial, subjects failed to hit any of the desired blood lipid changes. Neither HDL, triglycerides, LDL, nor total cholesterol got any better or worse on the AHA diet.

The paleo phase emphasized lean animal protein, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. Dairy, legumes, and grains were all restricted. During this part of the trial, traditional cholesterol markers improved across the board. LDL, TC, and triglycerides went down, HDL went up. Plus, during the paleo phase, patients lost more weight and ate fewer calories (without being instructed to to so).

Takeaway: A paleo-type diet with unlimited eggs, zero grains and legumes and dairy, and no strict caloric limit isn’t just safe but leads to better blood lipids, more weight loss, and greater calorie reduction than an official AHA heart-healthy diet that limits eggs, dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, and places strict limits on total calories.

Paleolithic and Mediterranean diet pattern scores and risk of incident, sporadic colorectal adenomas.

The Mediterranean diet is typically lauded for its beneficial effect on colorectal cancer. It’s fairly low in red meat (a popular whipping boy in colorectal cancer circles), high in extra virgin olive oil with potent antioxidant effects, rich in whole grains whose fiber is supposed to stave off colon cancer, and features ample amounts of red wine whose polyphenols exert protective effects against colon carcinogenesis. Paleo diets, meanwhile, eliminate whole grains and place no limit on red meat. And while they usually allow both red wine and olive oil, they emphasize neither. So when a team of researchers found that high adherence to paleo diet principles was just as protective against colon cancer as adherence to Mediterranean diet principles, some people were surprised.

I wasn’t.

Takeaway: Assuming this epidemiological research indicates a true causal relationship between diet and colon cancer risk, we can draw a few tentative guesses. You don’t need whole grains to have a healthy colon. You can eat meat and enjoy a healthy colon. You probably still need ample amounts of prebiotic fiber (and there’s evidence that prebiotics are important mediators of the effect dietary red meat has on colon cancer risk), but it doesn’t have to come from grains and legumes; fruit and vegetables and tubers are perfectly adequate.

Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial.

“Long-term” is relative, and we’d all love to see 30- or 40-year long randomized trials, but those are cost prohibitive. A randomized dietary trial lasting two years is incredibly rare and deserves our full attention. So, what happened in this one?

Subjects were split into two groups. One followed your standard paleo diet, the other followed a high-carb, low-fat Nordic Nutrition Recommendations diet (fairly standard “eat healthywholegrains, avoid arterycloggingsaturatedfat” approach, albeit with higher fat allowances than most heart healthy diets in the US). The group following paleo lost more body fat, especially abdominal fat, at 6, 12, and 18 months. They also had more sustained drops in triglycerides after two years, and their blood pressure improved to a greater degree.

The weight loss and biomarker improvements were accompanied by dietary shifts typical of Primal/paleo diets: reduced carb intake, increased protein intake, increased monounsaturated fat intake, reduced omega-6 intake, increased omega-3 intake.

Takeaway: It’s safe. Two years is usually enough time for some worrying trends to appear. None did, though.

The obese women who lost so much body fat at six months, twelve months, and eighteen months on the paleo diet had pretty much flatlined at 24 months, allowing the Nordic diet group to catch up to them. This was probably because they didn’t stick with the diet, as indicated by their difficulty maintaining the elevated protein intake normally associated with paleo in these studies. For any diet to continue working, you have to actually do it.

A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease.

Participants in this diet were overweight with big bellies, either glucose intolerance or outright diabetes, and a confirmed diagnosis of ischemic heart disease. In other words, they consisted of the typical people who really need to change their diets. They were randomized to receive either a paleo-like diet or a Mediterranean-like diet.

The paleo diet was based on meat, fish, eggs, nuts, vegetables, fruit, and root vegetables.

The Mediterranean diet was based on whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables.

Both groups reported high satiation from their respective diets, but the paleo group consumed fewer daily calories and smaller meals to achieve it. While the Mediterranean group needed over 1800 calories a day to feel full, the paleo group ate a hair under 1400 to achieve the same level of satiation. And that’s without eating any more protein (well known for its powerful induction of satiety). Calorie for calorie, the paleo food was simply more filling.

Takeaway: There’s something about eating plants and animals while avoiding grains and other processed junk that improves satiation, beyond the added protein that normally accompanies a lower-carb Primal way of eating.

That was just a small sampling of the available evidence. Go have a look at the rest of the studies, if you’re still interested. But my point: by now, it’s clear — and growing clearer by the day — that this way of eating really does work. Not that we needed these study results to tell us that.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Which of the studies listed is the most significant or relevant to you? Did I miss any great ones?

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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104 thoughts on “Is the Paleo Diet Supported by Scientific Research?”

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  1. Paleo principles make sense, and science is there to try to help us understand why. For me, science is the servant, not master. I personally would be perfectly fine without any hard scientific paper “supporting” the principles of living like a real human being (a.k.a. paleo).

    What I personally crave for are the accounts of time-tested diet practices that made people healthy (example: Weston Price book), especially from my region (example: Czech Folk Diet by M. Úlehlová-Tilschová (sorry, no English translation AFAIK)).

    1. Science became the master when people started abdicating their responsibility–SOMEBODY had to!

      The more we take back power, the more they become powerless to do all but our bidding.

    2. I agree. I just started reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (assumed to be the Weston Price book referenced above): it’s been on my bookshelf for almost a year. I don’t really know why I waited so long to get into it, it’s udderly fascinating.
      I have performed enough n=1 studies to know that whole foods, plants & animals, are what I thrive on. Why is it that some of the simplest things are the hardest to understand?

      1. Yes, that book. And yes, it’s absolutely fascinating, the best book on true health there is.

        1. +1.
          I particularly loved the diets of the Polynesians and the mountain Swiss in the Price book.

    3. Translate it for us please. My Czech grandmothers cooking past away with her.

      1. Well, that would require a crowdfunding effort, it’s pretty big, and written in a slightly old Czech (a fun fact: it was actually written during the nazi Protektorat of Czech Republic).

        But it would be worth every dollar, especially to those who are interested in Central European dietary know-how. In fact, the most important facts are not that different from the Switzerland chapter of Weston Price’s book (e.g. sourdough rye bread, sugar).

        1. Hi Jan,
          While being Czech and on pale for almost 4 years now, never heard of the Czech folk diet, will check it

        2. Great, many thanks for the link, I will check it out. Greetings to Slovakia!

  2. Mark, I have been reading studies on the effects of eating meat. The studies are saying that eating animals are causing cancer and all other kinds of disease. What do you think of this?

    1. Perhaps the studies were based on meat that is not antibiotic and hormone free. Grass fed meat is really the only type that should be eaten.

    2. Perhaps it is their first visit. We should try to educate everyone who comes on this site.

    3. Good question. Beyond the US and especially in western Europe where long ago they realized the Standard American Diet and most everything else we come up with is driven by MONEY.

      Let’s put it this way: The U.K. and several EU countries seem to agree with Michael Pollan’s basic principle: Eat lot of plants and little bit of meat (animal protein) won’t kill you. Like Pollan, the Euros are way ahead of most of us in the states….that includes the health, the economic, and the social factors related to diets high in animal protein.

      Aside from the data we see on red meat and certain internal organ cancers, eating a lot of red meat has a significant negative consequence on the environment – big time!

      If all 320 million plus Americans were eating grass fed meat, there’d be no room for us! It is completely irrational and impractical from a soci-economic and a health viewpoint to suggest red meat should be a high portion of our daily diet….regardless if it’s grass fed or from the factory!


      1. That just goes to show you that there are too many people on the planet. For those of us that want to eat grass fed meats we most definitely should. I don’t think we are going to let it get to the point of our own food animals pushing us off the planet. Naturally raised and fed animals on scientifically managed ranches are much better for the environment and us then factory raised animals. Red meat can be a portion of our healthy diets, the studies prove so.

      2. …”If all 320 million plus Americans were eating grass fed meat, there’d be no room for us!”

        I hear this argument all the time and it’s a moot point because it will never happen – it’s just not feasible.

        Unfortunately, factory farming will be around for a long time. Should we strive to reduce it and move more towards grass fed? Absolutely. The trend is turning in that direction which is great.

        But making such absolute statments to prove red meat is unhealthy is not a solid argument, IMHO.

      3. Hmmmm. There were 80 million bison on the great plains living in harmony with the tall grasses. How many people would that have fed?

        You need to go to the TED Talks and hear about the health of the land when there is free range poop plopped onto the earth.

        1. I’ve heard talks around that vein and they’re great.

          Also, this short (4-min) video is absolutely fascinating – “How Wolves Change Rivers”.

          It’s about how when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park after being gone for 70 years, it affected the entire park by restoring river flow, repopulating previously absent animals, changing the vegetation and many more. Well worth a watch.

        2. Gosh sorry I didn’t know that by pasting a list it would put the whole video into the comments…! Sorry to interrupt everyone’s comment scrolling!

      4. “If all 320 million plus Americans were eating grass fed meat, there’d be no room for us! It is completely irrational and impractical”

        Complete BS. You know all that land that is currently growing animal feed? The cattle would just graze there.

        1. And Pollan admits that more food per acre is made by feeding cows
          directly on grass. More labor intensive, but we have no shortage of people out of work. Indeed industrial corn and soy feed beef only exists because of government subsidies.

          Some people think these would be bad jobs, but any good honest work is better than no job.

      5. Tl;dr: There are ways to sustainably raise 100% pastured cattle in a way that improves the environment and their pasture, on the same amount of land as industrial methods (actually less, because no need for feed crops or lots).

        Grazing only degrades the environment and takes lots of space when you’re doing it wrong (ie, not emulating nature). Far better is managed cell grazing/rotational grazing, in which grazing animals are densely packed (like a herd) in a small area, kept there until they have eaten it down by about half (a few days at most), and then moved on to the next spot, not to return for 30-50 days (depending on growth rate of plants). This simulation of herd behavior improves the pasture with each pass (higher, denser, greener, more diverse, more habitat, better for the grazers) and uses the same amount of space per animal as [currently] conventional methods.

    4. Whoa, no need to be mean. Look I’ve been eating four to six eggs a day my entire life. I intuitively knew the warning against eggs were wrong, and my blood work and overall health has consistently confirmed it. But even now, at age 49, the decades of anti-egg propaganda occasionally creeps in. Sometimes, just for moment, when reaching for my sixth egg, I’ll pause and wonder “is it too much?”. I come to my senses quickly, but that’s the power of total immersion is a false narrative. It casts doubt even when you know what you are doing is 100% correct.

      If everyone around you, every government agency, and every professional since birth, told you that the red stop sign was actually green and said “cheese”, you would from time time think that maybe it is green and says cheese. Maybe you are the one who’s wrong.

      We are social animals and what society says has a huge impact.

      1. I wasn’t particularly kind in my comments but I was just today getting frustrated at people like T. Colin Campbell and the China Study. Campbell is invested soul, mind, body, every waking thought on veganism. So having him lead the China Study is not only like a cigarette scientist leading a study on smoking and cancer, but a scientist who heart and soul truly, passionately believed smoking improved your health. How is that study going to go?

        Or the ‘starch solution’. Many people clearly insulin resistant who have been having too much starch and carbs for probably their entire life and are desperate for good health are going to turn to someone who says the solution is….more starch.

        If you have moral, environmental concerns, awesome, I want everyone to have those. I think I would differ on what is best for the planet, substantially from a vegan. But I can talk to you about that. I think, depends if the mind can calm down for the vegan and, I suppose, for me talking to a vegan.

        But when you start presenting this non-science as science that directly contradicts every aspect of human evolution, human biochemistry, and human physiology, then you and me have problems. And I feel it is, essentially condemning insulin resistant folk to even worse health and the ultimate price that can be paid.

      2. I personally go by cravings. As long as you eat clean and don’t allow fake flavorings and other addictive stuff such as the exorphins in wheat, or excessive refined sugar to mess you up, you’ll find your cravings are usually correlated to your nutritional needs.

        There are days where all I can think about are eating half a dozen eggs fried in kerrygold, and I do eat a bunch of eggs, and then, the next day I don’t even want to look at an egg.

        It’s pretty useful to listen to what your body wants, and since yours wants the eggs, by all means.

    5. Amy, It’s the bun, adulterated red meat and french fries plus the soda that come with the red meat that cause the cancer. The red meat by itself without all those other “civilized” items are the cancer-causing elements.

    6. Unfortunately almost anything can cause cancer these days if you listen to the media, so take their “doom stories” with a pinch of salt and better use your own common sense instead. Meat from grass-fed cows is usually better than meat from so called CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) cows. But that doesn’t mean you should eat it the whole day either. Everything in moderation is the way to go if you wanna live a healthy life.

  3. The obese postmenopausal is of great interest to me since I am living proof it works. 66 years old and no meds. I have more energy than my kids. To be honest I have not had any blood work done so am not sure what my blood lipid results are but my BP is now in the 120’s. It has been as high as 140.

    Also the Diabetic Australian test was exactly how I thought it would turn out. My Husband is borderline diabetic and takes meds for it. I can not convince him to give up his bread. He does have a big salad, veggies and meat for dinner with no grains but loves his toast for breakfast and sandwich for lunch.

    I love reading these studies. My goal in life would be to spread the word about a Paleo lifestyle. When I stand in line at a grocery store and see what the person behind me is buying, I just cringe. Most folks do not have anything of nutritional value in there baskets. So sad.

    1. I cringe looking in peoples baskets too, especially when they get to the bottom with all their anti inflammatory, joint meds, stool softeners etc. It’s the bottom of the basket that is just as bad as the top if not worse!

        1. I am a nutritionist, and I give commissary tours every once in a while (military) and the number one thing I hear is “eating healthy is too expensive.” Then I will be in the grocery store and see club boxes of ez mac, pop tarts, and welch’s fruit chews and then see their grocery bill is easily in excess of my primal cart, which costs about $80-100 bucks per week to feed my family of three. Although that exludes the 30 bucks I regularly drop at the farmers market. (Great eggs, grass fed pork, and primo veggies do that to a guy)

    2. Try zero carb (nothing but meat and water)? It’s working for my husband, Mr. Carnivore himself.

      1. Hopefully this is a short-term thing! Long-term, seems like a recipe for serious nutrient deficiencies…

    3. Tell me about it. When I browse books in B&N I see all the people in the cafe who are drinking the fancy coffee drinks; they are deadlier than a land mine.

      The people may not know how bad they are; they for sure know that the pastries and cheesecake is not so good, but the coffee drinks are new.

      Personally if I want poison, I’ll have some ice cream.

    4. “66 years old and no meds. I have more energy than my kids.”

      Amazing stuff, PP!

      Proof n=1 is better than any research you could do.

  4. re: Is {any} Diet Supported by Scientific Research?

    And that’s medical research. Nutrition research is less reliable, if such a thing can be imagined (and anyone who has read “The Big Fat Surprise” by Teicholz can easily imagine it).

    Even the studies and trials that are earnest and honest rarely account for major confounders, such as gut biome status and genetic influences.

    In the meantime, we need to mind our own personal results.

  5. I have followed Marks advise on eating since I was released from hospital for stomach problems in April. I can’t believe how much better I feel. My doctor is amazed. I refused all pills and started eating Paleo. I use primal fuel that I drink one a day. I use his supplements and I feel great. Years ago, I had to have my thyroid removed and have had all kinds of digestive and being able to go to bathroom problems. Not any more since I have followed Marks program. Will stay with it for rest of my life. I am 68 yrs. old and I have never felt better. Thanks Mark.

  6. I always appreciate these posts that provide an overview of the literature, and I feel well on a paleo like diet. I do think we need to exercise caution in interpreting many of these studies as hard evidence. 20 studies in the literature about any given diet is actually a rather limited volume of evidence. I want to believe this is a healthy long term diet, but I do not think there is sufficient evidence for this. It is easy to cast off large population based studies that raise questions about the safety of red meat, but we must keep in mind that while not perfect, these studies often include huge amounts of data (not 20 Australians eating a highly calorie restricted diet) and I would encourage everyone to avoid dogma. I am a type 1 diabetic and this diet has been life changing for me, but I think some skepticism is necessary specifically in the context of long term effects. Thanks for what you do Mark.

    1. The red meat studies did not account for hot dogs, bacon, bologna and all forms of cured meats. When these factors are removed, and fresh red meat is eaten, the negative effects are zero. This was touted widely in the news within the last year or so. Why the continuing confusion over red meat?

      1. They also don’t take into account the other food. If you start a study already convinced that animal fat is the problem, and you look at a breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes and syrup, orange juice and coffee with tons of sugar and fake creamer. And that person has bad health, you will blame the eggs and bacon. After all “carbs are healthy”. How could pancakes and syrup be causing the heart disease and diabetes when we already “know” it’s saturated fat.

      2. I hear what you’re saying. My point is that it’s really not black and white. One of the main things the major Blue zones have in common is a plant based diet and little red meat. My main point is that the evidence in favor of the paleo diet is weak. The studies simply need to be done on a larger basis. I hope they are completed and I hope they show what most bloggers here expect they will which is that it is a healthy diet.

  7. I followed a paleo diet for a while and it definitely had some beneficial effects on my health. However, I recently (couple of months) went vegan (with a paleo bent). I’ll be curious to see what changes there are (if any) in the screening that my employer does every year at open enrollment. Last time my triglycerides went down from 118 to 57.

    Why vegan? I’m an animal lover and it was really just a matter of time.

    1. Keep an eye on your B12 and Iron, I always see those low in vegans. Also, consider bi-valves (they aren’t centiant, lacking a CNS).

      1. Myles,
        My grocery bill went down dramatically when I discontinued allowing anything but primal foods (well 80/20) into my house. Healthy was LESS expensive enough for me to now pay for grass fed and still the bill is lower.
        Our farmer’s markets are not cost effective yet but they will probaly get better the more farmers start selling their produce. There are now about 5 in my small area on pretty much every day of the week, if you miss one there’s another in another area close by.

    2. I love animals too. They taste great. If you spent some time watching most of the animals on the planet you would notice that none of them commonly switch their diets away from what they have evolved to eat to keep them healthy. You will never find a herbivore lion or a carnivore giraffe. For 2 million years our homo ancestors ate animal protein whenever they could catch it and kill it and we know this was good for their health or we wouldn’t be here. I hope your diet keeps you healthy, strong and robust.

      1. The logic behind veganism (I think) is that we humans have sentience and compassion, and we should act out that compassion by not killing other living things in order to eat, if possible. And unlike lions and giraffes, our intelligence and technology makes the vegan way of eating possible. Yes, for millions of years, humans had to kill to stay alive. But we no longer have to do that. We should honor our sentience and compassion by rising above our ancestors and refraining from killing.

        That is the line of thinking. I don’t quite agree with it, I realize that our biology hasn’t evolved to catch up with our morals, and I don’t understand why humane eggs and milk would be disallowed. However, when discussing with vegans, we need to understand this perspective.

        1. Most vegans who eat soy are indirectly killing animals. The factory farming equipment used to harvest soy kills small animals in the process.

          As with most highly debatable subjects, Is not a black and white issue.

        2. “Yes, for millions of years, humans had to kill to stay alive. But we no longer have to do that. We should honor our sentience and compassion by rising above our ancestors and refraining from killing.”

          Why? Why is it compassion to not eat animals? they eat each other, it is as natural as it gets- it is un-natural to not eat them. Also, what purpose do animals serve if we don’t eat them? If we don’t value them as food, then we get rid of them… so animal lovers, eat meat! For the animals health as well as yours.

          Talking about animals, I have cows, sheep, pigs, chickens. We take very good care of them, protecting them, making sure they have good cover, food, water, etc. They have a much better life than they would if we didn’t take care of them. Why do we take care of them? We value them, we raise them for food. Compassion for them and eating them can co-exist, I don’t understand this modern fake compassion. Look at traditional hunters, they most always honored the animal they ate…

          What is the real reason that people are so “compassionate”… maybe the big canola oil conglomerate with their educational animal hugging groups? 🙂

        3. Here’s the flaw in that thought process: sentience, intelligence and compassion are increasingly being observed across many animal species, even carnivores. Humans are not as different as their “ancestors” as they like to think.

        4. Brian,

          Does everything have to serve a purpose in order to exist? You seriously think animals have no purpose if we don’t eat them? I’m not against consuming humanely raised/slaughtered meat but your post, perhaps purposely, seems to be written to rub people the wrong way.

        5. Veganism/Vegetarianism is not science, it’s a form of Lysenkoism, that is using political goals to influence science, or rather subvert. It’s not that eating veggies is bad for us in any way, it’s that it’s used as an alternative in a way that lowers our health by ignoring our evolution. We evolved to eat meat, not factory farmed grains.

          The fact that they point to CAFO production in an attempt to gross people out rather than urge them to at least switch to grassfed tells you everything you need to know about their absolutist agenda.

          But, as with any appartchik, they are pushing the agenda of a much bigger entity: big agra. They aren’t pushing wild plants as a diet, they’re pushing things like GMO soy.

      2. I have seen a nature film of an alpha bull hippo eating meat left over from a lion kill. The hippo, according to the narration, was too busy guarding his harem to browse.

        Many vegetarians animals will eat meat if available, just like most American vegetarians have eaten meat in the past two days.

    3. So Lisa, you kill plants instead?
      Who are you to decide that the plant does not want to live just as much as the animal? Everything on earth is alive in it’s own way. You kill billions of living things every time you shower.

      1. You know, I debated even posting it. I don’t regret my decision to not eat meat, but I kind of regret now posting it on a paleo site. Definitely should have seen that coming.

        We all have our own path to follow.

        1. haha Lisa, I appreciate this response. You could have freaked out on everyone and got super defensive, but you realized where you were and decided to just leave it alone. Bravo.

        2. Yes, well done Lisa! They say that discretion is the better part of valor.

    4. “Why vegan? I’m an animal lover and it was really just a matter of time.”

      I think if someone has ethical concerns over animal treatment (which is very legitimate and which I do too), instead of just not buying animal products, it would be better to “vote with your dollars” and spend money on ethically/naturally raised animals. That way it shifts demand away from factory farmed products. The supermarkets in my area are stocking more and more grass-fed organic meat every week… to me, spending money on these would have more influence on the meat industry rather than purchasing no meat as a vegan/vegetarian.

      1. I’m an Australian and have had direct contact with small mom and pop farms which are grass fed and organic.. Unfortunately they can be some of the most sloppiest and brutal slaughterers. Grassfed free range and organic doesn’t account for much.

  8. If you want put an authentic twist on a paleo lifestyle, try foraging for some of your food. It’ll make you appreciate how hard our ancestors had to work just eat, and talk about real organic! I felt better when I went mostly paleo; I feel even better eating wild greens and the like. There are numerous books available on wild edibles and several websites and blogs dedicated to the topic as well. Just be 100% sure of your identification. A good place to start, and one that’s readily available to almost everyone is with dandelions. The young greens are delicious in a salad or cooked, and the flower buds can fried in coconut oil for a tasty treat.

    1. I have mushroom hunted, picked native persimmons, harvested native and european pecans at their annual drop, eaten wild lambs ear. Wild mulberries. Wild onion. I have slaughtered a goat with a knife after thanking it for its life. It really helps one appreciate the big picture of eating.

  9. The paleo diet not only is scientifically proven but it’s just common sense, and is the most time-tested diet plan that exists. I confess, for a few years I’d been eating a dozen eggs a day (coddled, nearly raw). In recent times, when training hard, I increase that amount to an average of 18 per day.

    1. 18! Wow. That would send me broke! 🙂

      A dozen organic/bio-dynamic eggs in my area is about $12.

      I know they say ‘you can’t put a price on health’ but that’s putting a big price on it for me, ha!

      1. Well, I usually don’t buy organic because of the cost. I simply can’t afford it. But eggs are my main source of protein and since I began eating them in such high quantities I have had wonderful health benefits.

      2. I know a story that backs this up Chad. A fellow was captured and held for ransom in some third world country, and the only thing they gave him to eat for a month was hard boiled eggs. When he was released, his liberators could not believe how healthy he was.

  10. I think these results are very interesting, but as usual, confusing. I have a hard time making sense of it all in my head – especially comparing paleo to Mediterranean or Paleo to the results of the “Blue Zones” research.

    Namely, in beans.

    The thing that makes the most sense to me (right now, anyway), is what I’ve read from Denise Minger’s book (compare what these various eating plans have in common), and Dr. Mark Hyman (“eat Pegan – Paleo-Vegan”).

    I’m a big fan of experimentation. I tried the Primal Blueprint 21 day challenge 4 years ago. I didn’t lose any weight but I did get pregnant (at 41, after years of trying and giving up). As I tried to lose the baby weight, I realized that my old standby (weight watchers) high carb, low fat, simply didn’t work.

    Much much experimentation later, and I realize that a lower-carb approach works for me, especially limiting wheat. But I *also* have found that my attention at work and my mood are MUCH improved if I eat a grain for breakfast. The difference between having my normal protein-and-fruit breakfast smoothie alone, and with a piece of toast, was like night and day.

    So the experimentation continues. As it is right now, I focus on protein and produce, with maybe 1/2 cup of beans a day and occasionally potato, corn tortilla, popcorn.

    And losing baby weight at 45 SUCKS.

    1. Most of those Blue Zones studies never talk about what probably is really keeping them healthy and long lived. Fasts, sunshine and meditation/church type stuff.

      1. Oh no – they do mention that too – stress, sunshine, family – that’s a big part of the book also.

        Which is also a big part of Primal living.

        I cannot remember which area – but one of the Mediterranean ones (the island?) – the MEN lived to be over 100, but the women didn’t – and when you look at the daily stressors – it’s the women that handle the household, the funds, etc. That stuck with me (not the details, just the general idea that the men had little stress due to their lives and women took on most of it.).

        1. sardiniai where the men live longer since they basically roam around the mountains with sheep and goats while the women manage the affairs of life. some of the blue zones eat a fair amount of meat, some less. all except loma linda are pretty poor. having been to a couple of the areas, i think most would eat as much meat as they could get if available. the lack of processed food, 4-10 mi of walking per day, extended families and low pollution probably have more to do with their longevity than their exact macronutrient ratios. interestingly, the okinawan elders who eat their traditional rice, vegetable, sweet potato and soy diet plus higher amounts of pork, dairy and eggs live statistically longer. another point: the low stress of their lives might kill some of us with boredom!

  11. > This was probably because they didn’t stick with the diet, as indicated by their difficulty maintaining the elevated protein intake normally associated with paleo in these studies.

    Was this a conclusion drawn by the authors, or is this a conclusion you drew on your own? If the latter, what was the evidence upon which you based this claim? Isn’t it more likely that they simply approached a homeostatic set-point which made further improvements more difficult without radical intervention? Why should we expect participants who had been diligent for 18 months to have all (or mostly) abandoned the protocol for the last six?

    The article was a great review, but this claim seems unsubstantiated and I’d really like some more information here. Thanks.

    1. I questioned that statement too. And it also made me wonder if during these studies people are asked to eat more protein than the average person eating a paleo-type diet. If not, then it would seem that paleo is too much protein for some people; and what does that say about the paleo diet as a long-term endeavor?

  12. I guess I had a Paleolithic Freudian mental slip, because at first glance, I thought that those two chicken thighs were a small pink elephant. I was thinking, is that a garnish, or are we supposed to eat elephant?

  13. This was the same experience I had. I was gaining weight and slipping into high blood pressure and diabetes eating the SAD. My doctor prescribed lower fat and higher ‘heart healthy whole grains’. I gained more weight and my blood indicators kept getting worse.

    When something isn’t working, continuing to do the same thing and expecting the results to change is insanity.

    I actually read the dietary studies that bring us the diet advice we get and found that the data sources sucked (asking people what they ate), large swaths of data were eliminated for lame reasons, and what they came up with was often loose correlation that meant nothing. I took this as a demonstration that there was zero benefit to any dietary advice. What I needed wasn’t a diet, it was a lifestyle change.

    So I went for a high nutritional density diet instead of high calorie density foods. I never heard of Paleo or Primal until I was done losing 90lbs and reversing my diabetes and high BP. My LDL fell so low I almost went through the minimum lower limit. All I did on the exercise front was walk a couple of miles a day.

    What I adopted was a satiating diet of eggs, meat, whole vegetables and some fruit, animal fats and coconut oil/butter being back on the menu, nuts, seeds, avocado and sardines often, etc. A modified ‘hunter gatherer’. And it worked.

    As an experiment, I started eating grains and starches regularly again and gained 30 of it back in short order. I’m going back to the lower carb, higher fat, minimal grain/starch diet.

    1. I am in my 40’s and have been interested in diet and health for 30 years, so I read about it a lot. And it’s hard to go from 20 years of being told “low fat, high carb, heart healthy diets” (that are based on the food pyramid) to something else. Really hard to overcome that.

      Last year, I started this new program for weight loss. And it involved having only two servings of carbohydrates a day (1/2 cup each). I had a REALLY hard time with that, after years of being told “6 to 11”. Not only the mental block, but also just “how to plan meals” part. The program worked, a little, but I still had reservations.

      Then over the summer I read “What to Eat” by Luise Light, who was in charge of developing the food pyramid in the late 1980s. She and her team reviewed all of the research at the time of what people should eat to maximize health. Then the USDA people and the politicians got involved, and she quit in disgust. The pyramid that was released didn’t look at ALL like the one the experts recommended.

      That was a revelation. A huge one. I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but all of these “health” recommendations were based on a LIE. Even the government Choose My Plate website will recommend 6 servings of grains per day for me, when I’m trying to lose weight – and the fact of the matter is, it’s impossible to meet BOTH that AND the calorie recommendations.

      The grain recommendations in her book? 0-2 servings of grains per day. Whole grains only. 1-2 servings for women, up to 2 servings for men, maybe 3 for very active and teenagers. Now, beans and potatoes were handled separately in her recommendations. But think about that – the experts knew that grains should be limited back in the late 1980’s. How it is that the book didn’t come out until 2005 and I didn’t really hear about it until much later than that?

      Well, after reading that book, I experimented with “no carb” days (just to help me get used to meal planning), and it got easier from there.

      But wow. Talk about disillusionment.

      1. I’m in my 50’s. Imagine how I feel having spent decades eating fake butter full of transfats, no fat everything, turkey or soy bacon, avoiding meat (I was a near zero fat vegetarian for 3 years) and eating 1800 calories of “healthy whole grains” a day while gaining weight and getting sick.

        Check out the movie ‘fat head’ for some interesting revelations including the one about the food pyramid being politicized to include more grains, add significant dairy and even changed the color of the ‘meat’ portion to suit the beef industry. Its free on Hulu. Its not anywhere near perfect but the comedian author eats little other than fast food (minus the carbs), reduces his weight and improves his blood work. Then he shifts to eating a lot of meat and vegetables soaked in butter, loses more weight and considerably improves his blood work.

        Influence follows the money, just like anything else. Meat isn’t particularly profitable and its a pain to raise, process and distribute. Grain and dairy are cheap, easy and profitable. You can make a lot of money on a cracker boiled in soybean oil and sprayed with all sorts of things that make you want to eat more of them.

      2. There’s really nothing new there. I have a copy of a little tome by the renowned Australian athletics coach, the late Percy Wills Cerutty with the rather confronting title of “Be Fit! or Be Dammed!” and in one of the appendices one dealing with diet, a table classing foods in three groups: Group1 ‘Suitable for all persons any age or occupation’ which corresponded with the exception of one or two items, largely to Paleo-Primal specs, Group 2 ‘Suitable suitable for younger persons or those who exercise above average’ which contained grain based items and Group 3 ‘Foods best banned from the dietary entirely’ such as ‘refined flour and all its products’.
        The interesting thing is, that he recommended that the overweight should confine themselves to Group 1. In other words he was perceptive enough to figure out back in the early 1960’s long before anyone ever heard of Atkins or Loren Cordain, let alone Mark Sisson or Robb Wolf that if you were overweight, you should keep grains to a minimum or avoid them entirely.

      3. It really does chap my butt that the government’s recommendations have been completely co-opted by special interests. It’s no wonder people are so unhealthy!

  14. The idea that well-rasied (grass fed) animal products are bad for humans (or any other omnivore or carnivore) is common-sense madness.

    Forget science, just basic common sense. Sun–grass—herbivore–then omnivore or carnivore.

    What is especially absurd is animal fat being bad. Um the animal stores it to use when food is scarce. If it was toxic…then the animal itself would be poisoning itself which is just too stupid for any animal but one: modern people following the SAD or vegan and if not careful vegetarian.

  15. BTW good luck having compassion being a vegan. Not how your brain is designed. I think the average vegan, however well-intenioned, is going to be more aggressive (low testosterone), anxious, moody, and depressed.

    Just, on average, not a pleasant person to be around. And I DON’T BLAME THEM. It would happen to me as well.

    Just what is going to happen when you deprive your brain of essential fats for an extended period and mess up all your hormones including mind hormones.

  16. Okay, the thing I don’t get about paleo is the fact that legumes are forbidden. I’m not trolling, I swear – I just don’t understand the rationale that lumps legumes with wheat. Anyone?

    1. And I for one LOVE beans but they show they love me back by making me GAIN weight so they are not worth for me. I lived on lunch of a wonderful bean soup when I was on Weight Watchers but never lost any weight until I cut out the beans. I had already cut out the grains, so it wasn’t that. Oh well, a spoon of them here and there will do just fine for me.

  17. While I agree with the Paleo studies, sadly, for everyone to eat Paleo on this planet just isn’t feasible anymore. At 7 billion people, where would all the grass fed meat come from? All the organic veggies & fruits? How many eggs could realistically be produced that aren’t factor farmed?

    Experts have often said 2 billion people is about the number earth can sustain at a European standard of living (which is less than the North American standard).

    Grains can be mass produced to feed masses of people. Factory bread beef and chickens are also used to feed masses of people, along with giant crops of fruits and veggies that have who knows what chemicals in them. I don’t believe for a second it’d be possible to feed all of us here if all food producers were forced to manufacture food paleo style, especially if grains were eliminated from the planet completely.

    1. I for one don’t feel an obligation to eat what I consider an unhealthy diet to feed overpopulation. It’s my responsibility to feed myself and my family in the best way possible. Is it really my responsibility to feed someone who has more children than they can support? Where does the responsibility come in to throw off the cultural and religious norms that promote having more children than you can support? I for one made the decision to have 1 child for this reason. I don’t feel it’s my job to support someone who chooses to have 4 or more kids because their religion says to.
      It is feasible to feed many people on a paleo diet, if we grow up as a species and stop overpopulating the planet.

    2. Of course, all 7 billion people currently on the planet aren’t getting all the food they need now… One of the reasons I chose not to have children is that I recognized that we already had way too many people on the planet; I didn’t feel a burning need to add to the overpopulation.

    3. Sorry, but that’s the big lie we’ve been fed for years now. We can feed everyone. Turn the big wastelands of monoculture back into grassland and let the animals forage on them. Grow produce locally and deliver it locally. It can and does work.

      Before WWII, farms raised both produce an animals on the same land. Animal waste and any parts that could not be eaten was used as fertilizer. This enriched the top soil and provided for both healthy animals as well as healthy produce.

      After WWII it was illegal to do this, so you could either raise crops, or you could raise animals. So now you’ve split a working solution into two big problems. You had to fertilize the land so crops would grow, and you now had to dispose of animal waste in ways that pollute the land.

      Why? Because we found that we could use fossil fuels to make fertilizer and grow stuff very quickly. That much is true, you can grow things a lot quicker if you use by products of the oil industry as fertilizer. However, what you grow now lacks a lot of nutrients and since you’re not allowing the land to get its nutrients back by using animals, you desertify that land over time.

      And on the animal side, if you force feed them to eat grains they get sick, so you feed them antibiotics, then they can tolerate grains, but as a side effect they also get fat very quickly and cause all sorts of antibiotic resistant bacteria to surface, and now you can put them in a concentrated feed lot where they stand in their own waste, nose-to-tail, and you pollute the land and water tables, and create all sorts of diseases.

      This is what isn’t sustainable. What we had before was perfectly sustainable, but you needed to have a large portion of the population working as farmers, not in offices, so you could have local farms to feed those near them. Not by using a limited resource such as fossil fuel to transport unripened nearly nutrient free produce half way around the world, while you “ripen” it as it ships using ethylene gas or just time.

  18. You dont need `The Paleo diet` to live a healthy life there are many diets thats follow the same principles not to mention a healthy diet is more common sense than anything else What people need is the guidance/direction and ineraction with others who are also seeking a healthy life still.
    Marks Daily apple is one of those elite sites that fit this criteria

  19. I have noticed eating paleo makes me less hungry. The first 3 weeks I felt like a crack addict and wanted wheat products so bad. After that 3 weeks, I could get full much quicker and had no cravings. Now I have had some carbo based foods on special occasions (I had a pasty on my birthday, lasagna at christmas, the best pizza in the state for fathers day) and for a couple of days I was really wanting them again. So for me 80/20 doesnt work really well.

  20. Al Gore and “scientists” brought us “global warming” too. Science is WRONG way more than they are right.

    Anyone remember the OAT BRAN theory that food “scientists” brought us a couple of decades ago? OOPS!

  21. Has anyone seen this TED talk “Debunking the Paleo Diet”, by archeological scientist Christina Warinner? It’s actually really good.

    1. She isn’t incorrect in most things she says.

      She is only incorrect in assuming what is in the head of educated “paleo dieters”.

      None of us are under the illusion that we are eating like cavemen.

      All we want to do is eat LESS like Westerners and AS CLOSE as possible to our evolutionary roots.

      If many of us could eat like cavemen, we would. We just can’t, exactly because of what she is saying. But what she doesn’t know is that we are aware of that. So we just do our best to move in the appropriate direction.

      Her recommendations at the end are pretty much exactly what we try to do in the big picture.

      She isn’t debunking the main overarching principles of the paleo diet at all. She is promoting them. She is simply debunking what she thinks we think the paleo diet is supposed to mean, which is “we are eating the exact perfect foods that our ancestors ate to a T free from any influences of farming”. Uh. no.

      1. ie, yes our broccoli is nothing like a caveman had access to, but it is far closer than that loaf of bread we try to avoid.

        Damage control is what we are trying to do. Not perfection.

        1. And of course, the research says the modern cushy version of the paleo diet (or whatever derivatives thereof), still seems to be as good or better than other existing modern diets on certain health parameters.

          Nobody entrenched in the primal world is touting that the paleo type diets are replicas of paleolithic diets. The are just reminscent of the paleolithic patterns given what is available in modern times, that is all.

  22. amazing article about paleo diet i love it thank’s i will be inspired to put a article about paleo in my new website i get really a good idea

  23. I’ve been vegan and lost weight and vegetarian and for a short while whole food plant based diet but that was really expensive – I signed up for a CrossFit boot camp next week and have been eating the paleo diet they recommend- no diet for me has been easier to stick to and I never feel very hungry – last night was my daughter’s 11th birthday and everyone enjoyed kfc and dq ice cream cake and I had two hard boiled eggs and two sticks of celery and could only eat 1 egg because I was full and didn’t even crave the cake or kfc- I’m so glad it’s healthy and now I realize the importance of organic and grass fed – so thanks!

  24. Hi I have a question about Paleo. I don’t have a gallbladder and my stomach doesn’t tolerate red meat. I’ve been like this for nearly five years so I just avoid red meat. If I wanted to go 100% Paleo how would I manage this?