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Paleo Challenges

The season of celebration, gift-giving, and tradition is upon us. Along with all of the fun and festivities, the dieter is faced with the Paleo challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while sorting through the endless sea of desserts, sweets, and holiday treats offered on a daily basis. Whether you have been eating Paleo for years, or just a beginner, this can be a tough time to keep healthy eating a priority. However, it is possible to get through the season, enjoy the special times, and stay committed to your Paleo lifestyle.

The key to success is a well thought out plan that works for you. Think about your family, friends, and work traditions and the foods that are sure to be a part of them. It can be helpful to make a mental or physical list of the food challenges you know will be facing you. We all have family members and friends who make the same dishes year after year. Who can resist Grandma’s homemade fudge, or Uncle Henry’s lasagna?

The key for surviving the holiday unhealthy food fest is to make sure that there will be plenty of nutritious Paleo foods right along with the unhealthy dishes. Be sure your kitchen is well stocked with fresh fruit, veggies, and lean meats and fish throughout the next few weeks. Maintain close to 100% Paleo for the times when you won’t be faced with unhealthy foods. Before heading out the door to the dietary challenges awaiting you at the family gathering, have a healthy Paleo snack to keep from feeling too hungry when you come face-to-face with the offending foods.

For some, making their friends and family aware of their Paleo lifestyle can be beneficial as most people who care about you will make an attempt to include some healthier dishes for the occasion. Often we are asked to bring a dish to contribute to the celebration. This is your opportunity to share your delicious Paleo recipes with others. Who knows, you may even inspire a loved one to adopt the Paleo way of living!

Realistically, there will be times when it is next to impossible to escape a not-so-Paleo meal served to you during the holidays. There may even be certain traditions you value and want to keep as you celebrate the season. Remember the 85-15 Rule for those who don’t want to maintain a strict Paleo Diet at all times. If you eat what your body was designed to eat 85% or more of the time, indulging in an occasional treat for the remaining 15% or less, you will still reap many of the health rewards of The Paleo Diet.

Pick and choose carefully and you will sail through the holidays with your vitality and well being firmly in place. Remember, it’s not what you do on the rare occasion, it’s what you do consistently that makes the difference in your overall health.

The Paleo Diet Team wishes you a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Junk Food | The Paleo Diet

While the title of this article may at first seem implausible (and somewhat scary), a new scientific study seems to show that an inborn preference for junk food is not only possible – it may be affecting more of us than ever could have possibly been imagined. For the first time in history, researchers for Obesity Society have identified two genetic variants, which help to change how the brain responds to high-calorie foods.1 2 While this is potentially terrible news for those of us who struggle to resist highly processed and manufactured foods – it also means there is possibly a way to stop this genetic variant from controlling our dietary choices. This could include changing how the brain processes junk food, changing how much people crave these foods, and even altering the brain’s dopamine system. There are even more potential treatments using this new information – including using gut hormones to act on dopamine brain cells.

To delve into further detail, researchers specifically found that two genetic variants – FTO and DRD2 – influenced brain activity related to the reward system. This occurred when subjects simply looked at pictures of high-calorie foods. As I’ve written previously, this is far from the first time neuroscience (or other scientific studies) have shown that some of our brains respond differently, to rewarding foods.3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 In early 2014, for example, a study was published which showed that not only did some people crave chocolate (while others did not) – but that there was literally different brain activity, in the two groups.12

Asmaro D, Liotti M. High-caloric and chocolate stimuli processing in healthy humans: an integration of functional imaging and electrophysiological findings. Nutrients. 2014;6(1):319-41.

In another, similar study, researchers found that by altering dopamine receptors (specifically D2 receptors) – they could cure binge eating.13 Unfortunately for us, that ground breaking study was done on rats – not humans. However, this is further evidence that our brain plays a fundamental role in overeating and cravings. In fact, it may be the excess stimulation of the nucleus accumbens (the ‘pleasure center’ of the brain) from junk food, which leads to obesity.14 15 16 17 18 19 20

How does this relate to our current world? Well, 70% of the United States is overweight, with 30% of us now being obese.21 What accounts for all these extra pounds? Certainly, as shown by research from Yale scientists, a hyper-stimulatory environment and excess advertisement of junk food – is a large part of the problem.22 23 24 But this data is compounded by other research, which shows that extended access to high-fat and high-sugar food, results in behavioral and physiological changes – which are similar to those caused by illegal drugs.25 [26] While a large portion of these corresponding studies were conducted on rats, this does not mean that the results will not translate to humans. Like many areas of scientific research, we simply need more data.

Baik JH. Dopamine signaling in food addiction: role of dopamine D2 receptors. BMB Rep. 2013;46(11):519-26.

As I’ve covered previously, the neurobiology of sugar addiction is fascinating as well.27 28 The brain is bombarded with an overwhelming amount of chemicals and reward, when you consume junk food.29 30 31 32 Over time, this leads to a higher quantity of junk food needing to be consumed, to achieve the same rewarding effect.33 34 35 So even for those of us who are not genetically susceptible to the temptations of junk food, we can alter our brain’s preferences and reward receptors, to become just as likely to crave it.36 37 38 39 40

Gómez-pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(7):568-78.

The good side of all this bad news? Your brain can also be positively impacted by food.41 42 43 44 45 46 A Paleo diet, which is full of nutrient dense foods, will help keep you satiated, and keep your brain from craving high sugar, nutritionally empty choices. Be sure to load your plate with wild-caught fish (high in brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids), healthy fats (like avocados) and complete sources of protein (like grass fed beef). You may indeed be hardwired for junk food – but that doesn’t mean you have to give in to temptation. Adopting a Paleo diet is associated with many different health benefits – many of which work to counteract the negative effects of junk food.47 48 49 50 What this means, is that you can improve your health drastically, by simply changing what’s on your plate. Start eating a Paleo diet today, and watch your health soar!


1. Available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105103957.htm. Accessed November 23, 2015.

2. Available at: http://www.newswise.com/articles/are-you-hardwired-to-enjoy-high-calorie-foods-research-links-genes-to-heightened-brain-reward-responses-to-foods-high-in-fat-and-sugar. Accessed November 23, 2015.

3. Fortuna JL. The obesity epidemic and food addiction: clinical similarities to drug dependence. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2012;44(1):56-63.

4. Garber AK, Lustig RH. Is fast food addictive?. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2011;4(3):146-62.

5. Grimm O., Jacob M.J., Kroemer N.B., Krebs L., Vollstädt-Klein S., Kobiella A., Wolfensteller U., Smolka M.L. The personality trait self-directedness predicts the amygdala’s reaction to appetizing cues in fMRI. Appetite. 2012;58:1023–1029.

6. Macht M., Mueller J. Immediate effects of chocolate on experimentally induced mood states. Appetite.2007;49:667–674.

7. Kringelbach M.L. The human orbitofrontal cortex: Linking reward to hedonic experience. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2005;6:691–702.

8. Francis S.T., Head K., Morris P.G., Macdonald I.A. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people. J. Cardiovasc. Pharm. 2006;47:S215–S220.

9. Small D.M., Zatorre R.J., Dagher A., Evans A.C., Jones-Gotman M. Changes in brain activity related to eating chocolate: From pleasure to aversion. Brain. 2001;124:1720–1733.

10. Kemmotsu N., Murphy C. Restrained eaters show altered brain response to food odor. Physiol. Behav.2006;87:323–329.

11.  Blechert J., Feige B., Hajcak G., Tuschen-Caffier B. To eat or not to eat? Availability of food modulates the electrocortical response to food pictures in restrained eaters. Appetite. 2010;54:262–268.

12. Asmaro D, Liotti M. High-caloric and chocolate stimuli processing in healthy humans: an integration of functional imaging and electrophysiological findings. Nutrients. 2014;6(1):319-41.

13. Halpern CH, Tekriwal A, Santollo J, et al. Amelioration of binge eating by nucleus accumbens shell deep brain stimulation in mice involves D2 receptor modulation. J Neurosci. 2013;33(17):7122-9.

14. Lawrence NS, Hinton EC, Parkinson JA, Lawrence AD. Nucleus accumbens response to food cues predicts subsequent snack consumption in women and increased body mass index in those with reduced self-control. Neuroimage. 2012;63(1):415-22.

15. Salamone JD, Cousins MS, Mccullough LD, Carriero DL, Berkowitz RJ. Nucleus accumbens dopamine release increases during instrumental lever pressing for food but not free food consumption. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1994;49(1):25-31.

16. Olausson P, Jentsch JD, Tronson N, Neve RL, Nestler EJ, Taylor JR. DeltaFosB in the nucleus accumbens regulates food-reinforced instrumental behavior and motivation. J Neurosci. 2006;26(36):9196-204.

17. Day JJ, Carelli RM. The nucleus accumbens and Pavlovian reward learning. Neuroscientist. 2007;13(2):148-59.

18. Pratt WE, Kelley AE. Nucleus accumbens acetylcholine regulates appetitive learning and motivation for food via activation of muscarinic receptors. Behav Neurosci. 2004;118(4):730-9.

19. Salamone JD, Correa M, Mingote S, Weber SM. Nucleus accumbens dopamine and the regulation of effort in food-seeking behavior: implications for studies of natural motivation, psychiatry, and drug abuse. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2003;305(1):1-8.

20. Demos KE, Heatherton TF, Kelley WM. Individual differences in nucleus accumbens activity to food and sexual images predict weight gain and sexual behavior. J Neurosci. 2012;32(16):5549-52.

21. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm. Accessed November 23, 2015.

22. Yokum S, Gearhardt AN, Harris JL, Brownell KD, Stice E. Individual differences in striatum activity to food commercials predict weight gain in adolescents. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(12):2544-51.

23. Udo T, Weinberger AH, Grilo CM, et al. Heightened vagal activity during high-calorie food presentation in obese compared with non-obese individuals–results of a pilot study. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2014;8(3):e201-98.

24. Gearhardt AN, Roberto CA, Seamans MJ, Corbin WR, Brownell KD. Preliminary validation of the Yale Food Addiction Scale for children. Eat Behav. 2013;14(4):508-12.

25. Epstein DH, Shaham Y. Cheesecake-eating rats and the question of food addiction. Nat Neurosci. 2010;13(5):529-31.

26. Stockburger J., Schmälzle R., Flaisch T., Bublatzky F., Schupp H.T. The impact of hunger on food cue processing: An event-related brain potential study. Neuroimage. 2009;47:1819–1829.

27. Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83(2):101-8.

28. García-cáceres C, Tschöp MH. The emerging neurobiology of calorie addiction. Elife. 2014;3:e01928.

29. Norton P, Falciglia G, Gist D. Physiologic control of food intake by neural and chemical mechanisms. J Am Diet Assoc. 1993;93(4):450-4.

30. Wurtman RJ. Nutrients affecting brain composition and behavior. Integr Psychiatry. 1987;5(4):226-38.

31. Young SN. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007;32(6):394-9.

32. Wang GJ, Volkow ND, Telang F, et al. Exposure to appetitive food stimuli markedly activates the human brain. Neuroimage. 2004;21(4):1790-7.

33. Baik JH. Dopamine signaling in food addiction: role of dopamine D2 receptors. BMB Rep. 2013;46(11):519-26.

34. Lietti C.V., Murray M.M., Hudry J., le Coutre J., Toepel U. The role of energetic value in dynamic brain response adaptation during repeated food image viewing. Appetite. 2012;58:11–18.

35. Meule A. Are certain foods addictive?. Front Psychiatry. 2014;5:38.

36. Davis C, Curtis C, Levitan RD, Carter JC, Kaplan AS, Kennedy JL. Evidence that ‘food addiction’ is a valid phenotype of obesity. Appetite. 2011;57(3):711-7.

37. Reward systems and food intake: role of opioids. International Journal of Obesity. 2009;:S54.

38. Naleid AM, Grace MK, Chimukangara M, Billington CJ, Levine AS. Paraventricular opioids alter intake of high-fat but not high-sucrose diet depending on diet preference in a binge model of feeding. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007;293(1):R99-105.

39. Woolley JD, Lee BS, Fields HL. Nucleus accumbens opioids regulate flavor-based preferences in food consumption. Neuroscience. 2006;143(1):309-17.

40. Zhang M, Gosnell BA, Kelley AE. Intake of high-fat food is selectively enhanced by mu opioid receptor stimulation within the nucleus accumbens. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1998;285(2):908-14.

41. Gómez-pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(7):568-78.

42. Bourre JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006;10(5):377-85.

43. Hill JO, Berridge K, Avena NM, et al. Neurocognition: the food–brain connection. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(5):544-6.

44. Armelagos GJ. Brain evolution, the determinates of food choice, and the omnivore’s dilemma. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(10):1330-41.

45. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1261-72.

46. Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Mo Med. 2015;112(2):111-5.

47. Kowalski LM, Bujko J. Evaluation of biological and clinical potential of paleolithic diet.. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2012;63(1):9-15.

48. Konner M, Eaton SB. Paleolithic nutrition: twenty-five years later. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25(6):594-602.

49. Klonoff DC. The beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2009;3(6):1229-32.

50. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-synder M, Morris RC, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947-55.

Arthritis | The Paleo Diet
It’s often times a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), or another disease which proves to be the pivot point for individuals to make significant changes to their eating and exercise habits. Whether the change stems from obvious reasons, like losing weight because obesity has been the causal agent for developing type 2 diabetes, or per the advice of their physicians to cut out gluten and dairy following an autoimmune diagnosis, these steps are reactive versus proactive.

If we were to exercise daily and eat foods that set us up for health, rather than sickness in the first place, would we be able to determine our destiny? Clearly, we can take preventative measures to lower our risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes by leading an active lifestyle, veering away from the typical, highly refined Standard American Diet (SAD), and implementing a Paleo diet.

But what about minimizing our risk for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with diet? Science suggests it’s looking quite promising.

Two studies presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Francisco show diet can significantly lower our chance for developing RA.1 RA is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, creating inflammation that causes the tissue lining of the joints to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joint.2

For those following a Paleo regime, inflammation is hardly a foreign term, and you’re familiar with the notion that avoiding certain foods can help offset symptoms dramatically.3 But how does this scientifically factor into RA treatment or minimize risk altogether?

In the first study, researchers found “typical Western diets high in red meat, processed meat, refined grains, fried food, high-fat dairy, and sweets can increase a person’s risk of developing RA in comparison to Prudent diets (a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium which aid in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels and blood pressure)4 made mostly of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, poultry and fish.”

The second study found that “following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans can also lower one’s chances of developing the disease because they provide authoritative advice about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.”

How was this measured? By using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, created to measure how well participants followed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, researchers observed associations of the subjects’ diets and their likelihood of developing RA. The researchers noted those who best adhered to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a 33% reduced risk of developing RA when compared to those who did not follow the guidelines as closely. And, just as in the first study, the researchers noted that body mass index may be a modest intermediate factor linking diet and risk of RA.

A few questions arise. If the sole means of data collection was to review and analyze what the participants reported to eat, how accurate can the findings really be? Were findings measured upon accountability and how can we be sure participants didn’t take the liberty of “cleaning up” their food log entries, energy levels, or sleep patterns?

A colleague of mine joked in reference to a new client who’d touted the benefits of a new fad diet, “any eating plan is going to ‘work’ in comparison to what one did before, because before, they didn’t have one!”

Researchers state “the single-nutrient approach may be inadequate for taking into account complicated interactions among nutrients, and high levels of inter-correlation makes it difficult to examine their separate effects.” So grouping all foods into  one lump category (recall the list: “diets high in red meat, processed meat, refined grains, fried food, high-fat dairy, and sweets”) doesn’t differentiate between high quality, grass fed meats, from the corn-fed beef. Nor does the “diet made mostly of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, poultry and fish” distinguish the effects of antinutrients contained in legumes and grains,5 or the glycemic load of eating too much fruit.6

While I do agree that a healthy diet may prevent RA development, it’s a matter of deciphering what actually comprises a healthy diet. And from everything I’ve read and seen over the past decade, I certainly don’t need further convincing that a real Paleo diet can be the remedy to addressing a diagnosis of RA. By eating a diet rich in alkaline, anti-inflammatory foods, the body is armed with its best defenses and most equipped to stay diseases free for a healthy, long life!


1. “Diet May Determine Your Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015

2. “What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?” What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Arthritis Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015

3. Wahls, Terry L., and Eve Adamson. The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print

4. “What Is the Prudent Diet?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 30 June 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015

5. Stephenson, Nell. “Antinutrients, the Antithesis of True Paleo | The Paleo Diet.” The Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet, 10 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015

6. “Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load | The Paleo Diet | Dr. Loren Cordain.” The Paleo Diet. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015

Sleep | The Paleo Diet
As we move into the colder, darker and shorter days of fall and winter it becomes more difficult to maintain your energy levels, productivity and fight off nasty colds and flu. These common complaints become the norm as the seasons change and people are constantly looking for that “magic bullet” supplement or medication to keep them running on all cylinders. Interestingly, a new study on the daily patterns of modern hunter-gatherer tribes across the globe might hold a few clues in how we can keep ourselves healthy, fit and productive through the winter season.

How Much Sleep Did Our Paleo Ancestors Really Get?

There is a romantic notion that our “hunter-gatherer” ancestors rested their heads with the setting sun in the evening, slept blissfully through the night for 8-10 hours and woke up with the rising sun. They certainly didn’t have cellphones, laptops or external light sources to keep them up. Was it partly down to this that they were so fit, strong, and free of chronic degenerative diseases? Not quite.

An interesting new study on modern day hunter-gatherer tribes – the San of southern Africa, the Tsimane in Bolivia, and the Hadza in Tanzania – found they only sleep an average of 5.7-7.1 hours per night.1 This is very surprising because sleep research today suggests most westerners are sleep deprived, averaging about 6.5 hours of sleep per night, which is approximately 1.0-1.5 hours less sleep than our grandparents got two generations ago. Experts believe we should be aiming for 7.5-8.0 hours per night for better health.

This new research suggests there is much more at play than simply the amount of hours of sleep you get (although, I believe this is also important). Let’s take a closer look at some key factors that could help you improve your sleep and upgrade your energy levels this winter and help fight off colds and flu.

The Tribes Go To Bed Earlier in the Winter

As the year comes to an end, most people are busier than ever at work and home as the holidays approach, rather than winding down to recharge their batteries. If we look to our ancestral roots to find answers to the “best” sleep practices, we find the tribes in the aforementioned study went to bed earlier during the darker days of winter/rainy season and later in the summer/dry season. Their average bedtime was just after 9:00 pm in the winter months, compared to 10:45 pm in the summer (still, not exactly “night owls” by today’s modern standard).
A lot people struggle to get bed before midnight (laptops, cellphones and TVs don’t help) and usually don’t get to bed earlier in the colder, darker, winter months. As we approach the darkest days of the year, we should be getting more sleep (not less), but holiday parties, travel, and work commitments usually ramp up at this time of year. This lack of sleep is shown in the research to suppress your immune system function, putting you at significantly increased risk of catching a cold or flu.2

The Tribes Wake Up Consistently With Morning Light

Hitting snooze is a morning ritual for a lot of people, as they struggle to find the energy to get out of bed and start their day. While I am sure we can all agree that sleeping in feels pretty good, is it what your body really needs? The tribal groups in this study woke up at virtually the same time throughout the entire year with the morning sun (not surprising if you’re an avid camper!).

Many of your key hormones are produced on a natural daily pattern or circadian rhythm that new research shows gets disrupted if you constantly change your sleeping and waking time. Disrupted circadian patterns have been shown to leave you more prone to fatigue (sound familiar?), inflammation, and even change the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your gut.3

If you struggle with fatigue, insomnia or frequent colds and flus, aim to have a consistent bedtime and waking time this winter. Go to bed earlier (don’t sleep in longer in the mornings) to help kick your snooze button habit in the morning. If you really struggle to wake up, try some gentle stretching/mobility/yoga on the floor to ease your way into the day. (Not only that, research shows the later you get to bed the greater your likelihood for weight gain.4 If weight loss is also a goal, get ahead of your new year’s resolution by tucking in earlier at night).

The Tribes Are Exposed To Lots of Morning Light

It’s difficult to wake in the morning and get outside during the cold days of winter. Fatigue, lack of time and general desire to stay warm keep you huddled up in your house, car, and office. However, not exposing yourself to natural light may be having a significant negative impact on your health.

Modern hunter-gatherer communities get up daily with the morning sun and engage in the vast majority of their physical labor in the morning hours exposed to natural light. In contrast, most people are indoors all morning throughout the winter – commuting in cars and working in buildings – not getting nearly enough exposure to natural light. Even on a cloudy day, the natural light outside provides a whopping 100,000-lux (a measure of light intensity), compared to only 5,000-lux in your office or home.

New research shows that this light exposure is crucial for circadian hormone production and thus your energy levels, health and resiliency.5 It’s easy to find yourself stuck in your car, office or house all winter. Instead, get outside to grab your morning coffee, walk a few blocks to your next meeting, or go outdoors in the morning for a light run/jog to start your day. You’ll feel much better for it!

Often we’re drawn to the “shiny new toy” or exotic and complex solutions to our problems, however the real lasting solutions are typically always found in how you eat, move and lifestyle factors. While a Paleo diet will go a long way to keeping you energized and fighting off colds and flu this winter (check out my article on how to Paleo boost your immunity this fall), looking at your daily patterns of sleeping and waking from an ancestral perspective will likely help you dramatically upgrade your energy and vitality this winter.



  1. Yetish G et al. Natural Sleep and Its Seasonal Variations in Three Pre-industrial Societies. Current Biology. Vol 25, Iss. 21, 2 November 2015, Pages 2862–2868.
  2. Prather A et al. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep Journal. Vol. 38, Issue 09.
  3. Voigt R et al. Circadian disorganization alters intestinal microbiota. Plos One. 2014 May 21;9(5):e97500.
  4. Asarnow L et al. Possible link between bedtime and change in body mass index. Sleep Journal. Vol. 38, Issue 10.
  5. Czeisler C, Klerman E. Circadian and sleep-dependent regulation of hormone release in humans. Recent Prog Horm Res. 1999;54:97-130; discussion 130-2.

Beans and Legumes | The Paleo Diet

A few days ago I was delighted to learn that Dr. Oz was going to again feature The Paleo Diet on his nationally syndicated television show along with one of my co-authors, Nell Stephenson, of The Paleo Diet Cookbook. I tuned into the Dr. Oz show and was happy about most of what I saw except for Chris Kresser, expounding upon the health virtues of a food group, beans and legumes, that definitely are not Paleo. Please read the following article on beans and legumes, and decide for yourself if beans and legumes are Paleo and feel free to pass this information on to your friends, family and anyone interested in starting a Paleo Diet.

In the decade since I wrote The Paleo Diet, a question that comes up time and again is, “Why can’t I eat beans?”  I briefly touched upon this topic in my first book, but never really was able to get into the necessary detail of why you should avoid not only beans, but all other legumes including peanuts and soy.  Now let me bring you fully up to date on recent developments about our understanding of how beans, soy and other legumes may impact our health.  But most importantly, I’ll show you beyond a shadow of a doubt why legumes are inferior foods that should not be part of any contemporary Paleo Diet.

Toxicity of Uncooked Beans

It may come as a surprise to you, but as recently as 19 years ago imports of red kidney beans into South Africa were legally prohibited because of “their potential toxicity to humans” (63).  Although many people think about kidney beans as nutritious, plant based high-protein foods; few would ever consider them to be toxic poisons.  But indeed toxic they are – unless adequately soaked and boiled kidney beans and almost all legumes produce detrimental effects in our bodies.  Starting in the early 1970’s a number of scientific papers reported that consumption of raw or undercooked red kidney beans caused nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, muscle weakness and even inflammation of the heart (42, 52, 60).  Similar symptoms were documented in horses and cattle (8).  Further, raw kidney beans were lethally toxic to rats when fed at more than 37 % of their daily calories  (24, 27, 51).  Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, these clues should make us proceed cautiously as we consider the nutritional benefits and/or liabilities of beans and legumes.  Before I get into why raw or partially cooked beans, legumes and soy are toxic, I want to first point out the obvious – these foods (even when fully cooked) are nutritional lightweights when compared to meat, fish and other animal foods.

 The Nutrient Content of Beans and Legumes

If we examine the USDA’s My Plate, governmental nutritionists have arbitrarily created five food groups: 1) grains, 2) vegetables, 3) fruit, 4) dairy and 5) protein foods (61).  On the surface, these categories seem reasonable, and I would basically agree that most common foods could logically be placed into one of these five categories except for one glaring exception – protein foods.

Upon more careful inspection of this category we find the USDA has decided that protein foods should include: 1) meat, 2) poultry, 3) fish, 4) eggs, 5) nuts and seeds and 6) dry beans and peas.  I have little disagreement that meat, poultry, fish and eggs are good sources of protein.  However, digging a little bit deeper, we soon find that the USDA tells us that these six protein food groups are equivalent and can be used interchangeably with one another (61) – meaning that animal protein sources (meats, poultry, fish and eggs) are nutritionally comparable to plant protein sources (nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas).  OK? It gets better still.  I quote the USDA My Plate recommendations:

“Dry beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils.  These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc.  They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients.  Many people consider dry beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat.” (61).

The Paleo Diet

OK let’s let the data speak for itself and really see how “dry beans and peas” stack up to meats, poultry, fish and eggs in terms of protein, iron and zinc as alluded to by the USDA.  In the figure below [data from (66)] you can see that on a calorie by calorie basis, legumes are utter lightweights when compared to the protein content of lean poultry, beef, pork and seafood. Nuts and seeds fare even worse.  Beans, peas and other legumes contain 66 % less protein than either lean chicken or turkey, and 61 % less protein than lean beef, pork and seafood.  What the USDA doesn’t tell us is that our bodies don’t process bean and legume proteins nearly as efficiently as plant proteins – meaning that the proteins found in beans, peas and other legumes have poor digestibility.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations have devised a protein quality index known as the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).  This index reveals that beans and other legumes maintain second-rate PDCAAS ratings which average about 20 to 25 % lower than animal protein ratings (14).  So to add insult to injury legumes and beans not only contain about three times less protein than animal foods, but what little protein they do have is poorly digested.  Their poor PDCAAS scores stem from a variety of antinutrients which impair protein absorption (20, 29, 44) and from low levels of two essential amino acids (cysteine and methionine) (66).  I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how the USDA concluded that legumes are, “excellent sources of plant protein . . . similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients.

Now let’s take a look at the average zinc and iron content of eight commonly eaten legumes (green peas, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans [chick peas], black-eyed peas, mung beans and soybeans).  In the two figures below, I have contrasted the average iron and zinc content [data from (66)] of these eight legumes to lean chicken, turkey, beef, pork and seafood.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet

Notice that the iron content of legumes appears to be similar to seafood and about twice as high as in lean meats and eggs.  Once again, as was the case with legume protein, this data is misleading because it doesn’t tell us how legume iron is handled in our bodies.  Experimental human studies from Dr. Cook’s laboratory in Switzerland and (30) from Dr. Hallberg’s research group in Sweden (26) have shown that only about 20 to 25 % of the iron in legumes is available for absorption because it is bound to phytate.  So in reality, the high iron content of legumes (2.2 mg/100 kcal) plummets by 75 – 80 %, thereby making legumes a very poor source of iron compared to animal foods.  A similar situation occurs with zinc, as phytate and other antinutrients in legumes severely reduce its absorption in our bodies (13, 19, 57).  Given that this information has been known for more than 30 years, it absolutely defies logic how the USDA could misinform the American public by declaring that, “These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc.  They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients.” 

Antinutrients in Beans and Legumes

From the picture I have painted so far, you can see how misleading it can be to evaluate the nutritional and health effects of beans and other legumes by simply analyzing their nutrient content on paper, as the USDA has done.  Before we can pass nutritional judgment on any food, it is absolutely essential to determine how it actually acts within our bodies.  Beans are not good sources of either zinc or iron, and they have low protein digestibility because these legumes are chock full of antinutrients that impair our body’s ability to absorb and assimilate potential nutrients found in these foods.

As with whole grains, the primary purpose of most antinutrients in legumes is to discourage predation and prevent destruction of the plant’s reproductive materials (e.g. its seeds) by microorganisms, insects, birds, rodents and large mammals (10, 25).  We most frequently refer to legume seeds as beans, but don’t forget that peanuts are not really nuts at all, but rather are legumes.  In the table below I have listed some of the more commonly known legume seeds along with their scientific names.

Table of Commonly Consumed Legumes

The Paleo Diet

Part of the reason for doing this is to point out that many different versions of the beans we frequently eat actually are the exact same species – and as such contain comparable concentrations of toxic antinutrients.  Notice how many times you see the scientific name, Phaseolus vulgaris, repeated in the table above.  If you enjoy Mexican food then you have probably tasted Phaseolus vulgaris as either refried beans or black beans, since these two beans are one in the same species, differing only by color.  Great northern beans, green beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans and white kidney beans also are members of the same species, Phaseolus vulgaris.  I bring this information up because all beans that are members of Phaseolus vulgaris contain some of the highest concentrations of antinutrients known.

The list of antinutrients found in legumes, beans and soy is seemingly endless and includes: lectins, saponins, phytate, polyphenols (tannins, isoflavones), protease inhibitors, raffinose oligosaccharides, cyanogenetic glycosides, and favism glycosides.  I know that this list appears somewhat formidable at first because of all the scientific terms, but don’t be worried – the concepts underlying how these toxins may impair our health are easily understood.  Let’s briefly go through this list so you can clearly understand why you should avoid legumes.


All beans and legumes are concentrated sources of lectins.    Lectins are potent antinutrients that plants have evolved as toxins to ward off predators (10).  You remember from earlier in this chapter that raw or undercooked kidney beans caused severe cases of food poisoning in humans and were lethally toxic in rats.  Although several kidney bean antinutrients probably contributed to these poisonous effects, animal experiments indicate that a specific lectin found in kidney beans was the major culprit (2, 44).  Kidney beans and all other varieties of beans (black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, string beans, navy beans etc.) within the Phaseolus vulgaris species contain a lectin called phytohemagglutinin (PHA).  The more PHA we ingest, the more ill we become.  This is why raw beans are so toxic – they contain much higher concentrations of PHA than cooked beans (4, 23. 46).  However, cooking doesn’t completely eliminate PHA, and even small amounts of this lectin are known to produce adverse health effects, providing they can penetrate our gut barrier.

The trick with lectins is that they must bypass our intestinal wall and enter into our bloodstream if they are to wreak havoc within our bodies. So far, no human studies of PHA have ever been conducted.  However, in laboratory animals, PHA easily breeches the gut barrier and enters into the bloodstream where it may travel to many organs and tissues and disrupt normal cell function and cause disease (45, 49).  Human and animal tissue experiments reveal that PHA and other food lectins can cause a “leaky gut” and enter circulation (24, 34, 35, 45, 47, 49, 64, 65) .  A leaky gut represents one of the first steps implicated in many autoimmune diseases (67).  Impaired intestinal integrity produced by dietary lectins may also my cause low level inflammation in our bloodstreams (15, 43, 48, 62) – a necessary step for atherosclerosis (the artery clogging process) and cancer.

Besides  kidney beans and other bean varieties within Phaseolus vulgaris species, all other legumes contain lectins with varying degrees of toxicity ranging from mild to lethal.   Soybean lectin (SBA) is also known to impair intestinal permeability and cause a leaky gut (1, 35).  Peanut lectin (PNA) is the only legume lectin to have been tested in living humans by Dr. Rhodes’ research group in London.  Within less than an hour after ingestion in healthy normal subjects, PNA entered their bloodstreams (64) – whether the peanuts were cooked or not.   Later I will show you how peanuts and PNA are potent initiators of atherosclerosis.

The lectins found in peas (PSA) and lentils (LCA) seem to be much less toxic than PHA, SBA or PNA, however they are not completely without adverse effects in tissue and animal experiments (9, 21, 25, 38 ).  Unfortunately, no long term lectin experiments have ever been conducted in humans.  Nevertheless, from animal and tissue studies, we know that these antinutrients damage the intestinal barrier, impair growth, alter normal immune function and cause inflammation.


The term, saponin, is derived from the word soap.  Saponins are antinutrients found in almost all legumes and have soap-like properties that punch holes in the membranes lining the exterior of all cells.  As was the case with lectins, this effect is dose dependent – meaning that the more saponins you ingest, the greater will be the damage to your body’s cells.  Our first line of defense against any antinutrient is our gut barrier.  Human tissue and animal studies confirm that legume saponins can easily disrupt the cells lining our intestines and rapidly make their way into our bloodstream (1, 16, 17, 18, 32 ).  Once in the bloodstream in sufficient quantities, saponins can then cause ruptures in our red blood cells in a process known as hemolysis which can then temporarily impair our blood’s oxygen carrying capacity (3).  In the long term, the major threat to our health from legume saponins stems not from hemolysis (red blood cell damage) but rather from their ability to increase intestinal permeability (3, 16, 17, 18, 32)  A leaky gut likely promotes low level inflammation because it allows toxins and bacteria in our guts to interact with our immune system.  This process is known to be is a necessary first step in autoimmune diseases (67) and may promote the inflammation  necessary for heart disease and and the metabolic syndrome to develop and progress (68).

The other major problem with legume saponins is that cooking does not destroy them.  In fact, even after extended boiling for two hours, 85-100 % of the original saponins in most beans and legumes remain intact (55).   On the other hand, by eating fermented soy products such as tofu and tempeh, or sprouted beans you can lower your saponin intake (39).  The table below shows you the saponin content of some common beans, legumes and soy products.

Saponin Content of Selected Beans, Legumes and Soy Products

The Paleo Diet

Consumers beware! Notice that the concentration of saponins in soy protein isolates is dangerously high.  If you are an athlete or anyone else trying to increase your protein intake by supplementing with soy protein isolates, I suggest that you reconsider.  A much healthier strategy would be to eat more meats, fish and seafood.  These protein packed foods taste a whole lot better than artificial soy isolates and are much better for your body.  If we only eat legumes occasionally,  saponin damage to our intestines will quickly repair itself, however when legumes or soy products are consumed in high amounts as staples or daily supplements, the risk for a leaky gut and the diseases associated with it is greatly increased.


We’ve already discussed this antinutrient in great detail, so there is really not much else to say.  Because phytate prevents the full absorption of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and copper present in legumes and whole grains, then reliance upon these plant foods frequently causes multiple nutritional deficiencies in adults, children and even nursing infants.  Boiling and cooking don’t seem to have much effect upon the phytate content of legumes, whereas sprouting and fermentation can moderately reduce phytate concentrations. Also, vitamin C counteracts phytate’ s inhibitory effects on mineral absorption.  Nevertheless, the best tactic to reduce phytate in your diet is to adopt The Paleo Diet – humanity’s original legume and grain free diet.

Polyphenols: Tannins and Isoflavones

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that protect plants from UV sunlight damage as well as from insects, pests and other microorganisms.  Just like sunscreens protect our skin from UV damage, polyphenols are one of the compounds plants have evolved to escape the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, along with damage caused by animal and microorganism predators.  Polyphenols come in many different varieties and forms and are common throughout the plant kingdom.  When we eat these compounds, they seem to have both healthful and detrimental effects in our bodies.  For instance, resveratrol is a polyphenol found in red wine that may increase lifespan in mice and slow or prevent many diseases.    On the other hand, at least two types of polyphenols (tannins and isoflavones) within beans, soy and other legumes may have adverse effects in our bodies (59).

Tannins are bitter tasting polyphenols and give wine its astringent qualities.  As with all antinutrients, the more tannin you ingest, the greater is the potential to disrupt your health.   Tannins are similar to phytate in that they reduce protein digestibility and bind iron and other minerals, thereby preventing their normal absorption (29, 59).  Some, but not all tannins damage our intestines causing a “leaky gut” (59).   By now you can see that legumes, beans and soy represent a triple threat to our intestinal integrity since three separate antinutrients (lectins, saponins, and tannins) all work together to encourage a leaky gut. Let’s move on to the next category of polyphenols.

Isoflavones are some of nature’s weirder plant compounds in that they act like female hormones in our bodies.  Certain isoflavones which are concentrated in soybeans and soy products are called phytoestrogens – literally meaning, “plant estrogens”.  I’ve previously mentioned that isoflavones from soy products can cause goiters (an enlargement of the thyroid gland), particularly if your blood levels of iodine are low.  Two phytoestrogens in soy called genistein and daidzen produce goiters in experimental animals.  You don’t have to develop full blown goiters by these soy isoflavones to impair your health.  In a study of elderly subjects, Dr. Ishizuki (31) and colleagues demonstrated that when subjects (average age, 61 years) were given 30 grams of soy daily for three months they developed symptoms of low thyroid function (malaise, lethargy, and constipation), and half of these people ended up with goiters.

For women, regular intake of soy or soy isoflavones may disrupt certain hormones that regulate the normal menstrual cycle.  In a meta analysis of 47 studies, Dr. Hooper and co-workers (28) demonstrated that soy or soy isoflavones consumption caused two female hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), to fall by 20 %.  The authors concluded, “The clinical implications of these modest hormonal changes remain to be determined.”

I wouldn’t necessary agree with this conclusion, nor would I call a 20 % reduction in both FSH and LH “modest”.  In one study, seven of nine women who consumed vegetarian diets (containing significant quantities of legumes) for only six weeks stopped ovulating (69).  One of the hormonal changes reported in this study, concurrent with the cessation of normal periods, was a significant decline in luteinizing hormone (LH).  Because western vegetarian diets almost always contain lots of soy and hence soy isoflavones, it is entirely possible that soy isoflavones were directly responsible for the declines in LH and the disruption of normal menstrual periods documented in this study.

I have received email from women all over the world who’s menstrual and infertility problems subsided after adopting The Paleo Diet (see Chapter 13). Their stories paint a credible picture that modern day Paleo Diets contain multiple nutritional elements that may improve or eliminate female reproductive and menstrual problems.  Unfortunately scientific validation of these women’s experiences still lies in the future.

Perhaps the most worrisome effects of soy isoflavones may occur in developing fetuses with iodine deficient mothers and in infants receiving soy formula.  A recent (2007) paper by Dr. Gustavo Roman (54) at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center has implicated soy isoflavones as risk factors for autism via their ability to impair normal iodine metabolism and thyroid function.  Specifically, the soy isoflavone known as genistein may inhibit a key iodine based enzyme required for normal brain development.  Pregnant women with borderline iodine status can become iodine deficient by consuming a high soy diet.  Their deficiency may then be conveyed to their developing fetus which in turn impairs growth in fetal brain cells known to be involved in autism.  Infants born with iodine deficiencies are made worse if they are fed a soy formula.  Once again, the evolutionary lesson repeats itself.  If a food or nutrient generally was not a part of our ancestral diet, it has a high probability of disrupting our health and that of our children.

Protease Inhibitors

Unless you are a biologist by trade or are involved in a very narrow area of human nutrition, very few people on the planet know about protease inhibitors.  But I can tell you that when you eat beans, soy or other legumes you should be as aware of protease inhibitors as you are of a radar trap on the freeway – that is – if you don’t want to get a ticket or eat foods that can have unfavorably effects upon your health.

When we eat any protein, we have enzymes in our intestines which break protein into its component amino acids.  These enzymes are called proteases and must be operating normally for our bodies to properly assimilate dietary proteins.  Almost all legumes are concentrated sources of antinutrients called protease inhibitors which prevent our gut enzymes from degrading protein into amino acids.  Protease inhibitors found in beans, soy, peanuts and other legumes are part of the reason why legume proteins have lower bioavailability than meat proteins (20).  In experimental animals ingestion of protease inhibitors in high amounts depresses normal growth and causes pancreatic enlargement (21, 39, 41).  Heating and cooking effectively destroys about 80 % of protease inhibitors found in most legumes (5, 11), so the dietary concentrations of these antinutrients found in beans and soy are thought to have little harmful effects in our bodies.  Nevertheless, at least one important adverse effect of protease inhibitors may have been overlooked.

When the gut’s normal protein degrading enzymes are inhibited by legume protease inhibitors, the pancreas works harder and compensates by secreting more protein degrading enzymes.  Consequently, consumption of protease inhibitors causes levels of protein degrading enzymes to rise within our intestines.  One enzyme in particular, called trypsin, increases significantly.  The rise in trypsin concentrations inside our gut is not without consequence, because elevated trypsin levels increase intestinal permeability in animal experiments (53).  Once again we see yet another antinutrient found in legumes that contribute to a leaky gut, which as I have explained early is not without consequence.

Raffinose Oligosaccharides

Here’s another big scientific term for a little problem almost every one of us has had to deal with at one time or another after we ate beans.  Beans cause gas or flatulence.  Almost all legumes contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides.  In particular, two complex sugars (raffinose and stachyose) are the culprits and are the elements in beans that give us gas (6).  We lack the gut enzymes to breakdown these complex sugars into simpler sugars.  Consequently, bacteria in our intestines metabolize these oligosaccharides into a variety of gases (hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane).  Beans don’t affect us all equally.  Some people experience extreme digestive discomfort with diarrhea, nausea, intestinal rumbling and flatulence, whereas others are almost symptomless (6).  These differences among people seem to be caused by varying types of gut flora (microorganisms).

Cyanogenetic Glycosides

Upon digestion, antinutrients in lima beans called cyanogenetic glycosides are turned into the lethal poison, hydrogen cyanide, in our intestines.  Fortunately, cooking eliminates most of the hydrogen cyanide in lima beans.  Nevertheless a number of fatal poisonings have been reported in the medical literature from people eating raw or undercooked lima beans (70).

Although most of us would never consider eating raw lima beans, the problem doesn’t end here.  Upon cooking most of the hydrogen cyanide in lima beans is converted into a compound called thiocyanate which you can add to soy isoflavones as dietary antinutrients that impair iodine metabolism and cause goiter (70).  In iodine deficient children, these so-called goitrogens are suspect dietary agents underlying autism (54).

Favism  Glycosides

Unless you are a bean connoisseur, most of us in the United States have never tasted broad beans which are also known as fava or faba beans.  In Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African countries broad beans are more popular.  Unfortunately, for many people in these countries, particularly young children, consumption of fava beans can be lethal.  It has been intuitively known for centuries that fava bean consumption was fatal in certain people.  However, the biochemistry of the disease (called favism) has only been worked out in the past 50 years or so (7).

Favism can only occur in people with a genetic defect called G6PD deficiency.  This mutation is the most common human enzyme defect – being present in more than 400 million people worldwide.   It is thought to confer protection against malaria.  People whose genetic background can be traced to Italy, Greece, the Middle East or North Africa are at a much higher risk for carrying this mutation.  If you or your children don’t know if you have the genes causing favism, a simple blood test available at most hospitals and medical clinics can diagnose this problem.  Consumption of fava beans in genetically susceptible people causes a massive rupturing of red blood cells called hemolytic anemia and may frequently be fatal in small children unless blood transfusions are made immediately (7, 71).  Not all people with G6PD deficiency experience favism symptoms after they eat broad beans; however if your family background is from the Mediterranean region you may be particularly susceptible.

Although it is not completely known how broad bean consumption causes favism, three antinutrient glycosides (divicine, isouramil and convicine) found in these legumes likely do the damage (72).  These compounds enter our bloodstreams, and in people with the G6PD mutations interact with red blood cells in a manner that causes them to rupture.   So, you can now add fava beans along with lima beans to the list of legumes which are lethally toxic.

Peanuts and Heart Disease

What’s wrong with Peanut Oil and Peanuts?  Most nutritional experts would tell us that they are heart healthy foods because they contain little saturated fat and most of their fat is made up of cholesterol lowering monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Hence, on the surface, you might think that peanut oil would probably be helpful in preventing the artery clogging process (atherosclerosis) that underlies heart disease.  Your thoughts were not much different from those of nutritional scientists – that is until they actually tested peanuts and peanut oil in laboratory animals.  Starting in the 1960’s and continuing into the 1980’s scientists unexpectedly found peanut oil to be highly atherogenic, causing arterial plaques to form in rabbits, rats and primates (73-78) – only a single study (79) showed otherwise.  Peanut oil was found to be so atherogenic that it continues to be routinely fed to rabbits to produce atherosclerosis to study the disease itself.

Initially, it was unclear how a seemingly healthful oil could be so toxic in such a wide variety of animals.  Dr. David Kritchevsky and co-workers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia were able to show with a series of experiments that peanut oil lectin (PNA) was most likely responsible for it artery clogging properties (36, 37).  Lectins are large protein molecules and most scientists had presumed that digestive enzymes in the gut would degrade it into its component amino acids.  Consequently, it was assumed that the intact lectin molecule would not be able to get into the bloodstream to do its dirty work.  But they were wrong.  It turned out that lectins were highly resistant to the gut’s protein shearing enzymes.  An experiment conducted by Dr. Wang and colleagues and published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet (64) revealed that PNA got into the bloodstream intact in as little 1-4 hours after subjects ate a handful of roasted, salted peanuts.   Even though the concentrations of PNA in the subject’s blood were quite low, they were still at concentrations known to cause atherosclerosis in experimental animals.  Lectins are a lot like super glue – it doesn’t take much.  Because these proteins contain carbohydrates, they can bind to a wide variety of cells in the body, including the cells lining the arteries.  And indeed, it was found that PNA did its damage to the arteries by binding to a specific sugar receptor (58).  So, the practical point here is to stay away from both peanuts and peanut oil and all legumes.


I’d like to make a final departing comment before we leave the topic of beans and legumes.  As you adopt The Paleo Diet or any diet, listen to your body.  If a food or food type doesn’t agree with you or makes you feel ill or unwell, don’t eat it.  I should have listened to my own advice 25 years ago when I was experimenting with vegetarian diets.  Whenever I ate beans or legumes, I experienced digestive upset, gas and frequently had diarrhea.   Since embracing The Paleo Diet almost 20 years ago, these symptoms have become a thing of the past.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


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43. Muraille E, Pajak B, Urbain J, Leo O. Carbohydrate-bearing cell surface receptors involved in innate immunity: interleukin-12 induction by mitogenic and nonmitogenic lectins. Cell Immunol. 1999 Jan 10;191(1):1-9.

44. Pusztai A, Clarke EM, Grant G, King TP. The toxicity of Phaseolus vulgaris lectins. Nitrogen balance and immunochemical studies. J Sci Food Agric. 1981 Oct;32(10):1037-46.

45. Pusztai A, Greer F & Grant G. Specific uptake of dietary lectins into the systemic circulation of rats. Biochemical Society Transcations. 1989;17, 527-528

46. Pusztai A, Grant G.  Assessment of lectin inactivation by heat and digestion. In: Methods in Molecular Medicine: Vol. 9: Lectin methods and protocols.  J M Rhodes, JM, J D Milton JD (Eds). Humana Press Inc. Totowa, NJ, 1998.

47. Pusztai A, Ewen SW, Grant G, Brown DS, Stewart JC, Peumans WJ, Van Damme EJ, Bardocz S. Antinutritive effects of wheat-germ agglutinin and other N-acetylglucosamine-specific lectins. Br J Nutr. 1993 Jul;70(1):313-21

48. Pusztai A.. Dietary lectins are metabolic signals for the gut and modulate immune and hormone functions. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1993;47: 691-99.

49. Pusztai A, Ewen  SWB, Grant G, Peumans WJ, Van Damme EJM, Rubio LA, Bardocz S. Plant (food) lectins as signal molecules: Effects on the morphology and bacterial ecology of the small intestine.  In Lectin Reviews, Volume I , pp. 1-15 [D.C. Kilpatrick, E. Van Driessche, T.C. Bog-Hansen, editors].  St. Louis: Sigma, 1991.

50. Pusztai A, Grant G, Spencer RJ, Duguid TJ, Brown DS, Ewen, SWB, Peumans WJ, Van Damme EJM, Bardocz S.  Kidney bean lectin-induced Escherichia coli overgrowth in the small intestine is blocked by GNA, a mannose-specific lectin. Journal of Applied Bacteriology. 1993;75: 360-68.

51. Rattray EAS, Palmer R, Pusztai A. Toxicity of kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) to conventional and gnotobiotic rats. Journal of the Science of  Food and Agriculture. 1974; 25:1035-40.

52. Rodhouse JC, Haugh CA, Roberts D, Gilbert RJ. Red kidney bean poisoning in the UK: an analysis of 50 suspected incidents between 1976 and 1989. Epidemiol Infect. 1990 Dec;105(3):485-91.

53. Róka R, Demaude J, Cenac N, Ferrier L, Salvador-Cartier C, Garcia-Villar R, Fioramonti J, Bueno L. Colonic luminal proteases activate colonocyte proteinase-activated receptor-2 and regulate paracellular permeability in mice. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2007 Jan;19(1):57-65.

54. Román GC. Autism: transient in utero hypothyroxinemia related to maternal flavonoid ingestion during pregnancy and to other environmental antithyroid agents. J Neurol Sci. 2007 Nov 15;262(1-2):15-26

55. Ruiz RG, Price KR, Arthur AE, Rose ME, Rhodes MJ, Fenwick RG.  Effect of soaking and cooking on saponin content and composition of chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) and lentils (Lens culinaris). J Agric Food Chem 1996;44:1526-30.

56. Ryder SD, Smith JA, Rhodes JM.  Peanut lectin: a mitogen for normal human colonic epithelium and human HT29 colorectal cancer cells. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 1992;84:1410-16.

57. Sandberg AS. Bioavailability of minerals in legumes. Br J Nutr. 2002 Dec;88 Suppl 3:S281-5.

58. Sanford GL, Harris-Hooker S.  Stimulation of vascular proliferation by beta-galactoside specific lectins. FASEB J 1990;4:2912-2918.

59. Singleton VL. Naturally occurring food toxicants: phenolic substances of plant origin. Adv Food Res. 1981;27:149-242.

60. Tuxen MK, Nielsen HV, Birgens H.  [Poisoning by kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)]. Ugeskr Laeger. 1991 Dec 16;153(51):3628-9.

61.  U.S.D.A. Choose My Plate.

62. van den Bourne BE, Kijkmans BA, de Rooij HH, le Cessie S, Verweij CL. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine equally affect tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin 6, and interferon-gamma production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Journal of Rheumatology. 1997;24: 55-60.

63. Venter FS, Thiel PG. Red kidney beans–to eat or not to eat? S Afr Med J. 1995 Apr;85(4):250-2.

64. Wang Q, Yu LG, Campbell BJ, Milton JD, Rhodes JM. Identification of intact peanut lectin in peripheral venous blood. Lancet. 1998;352:1831-2

65. Wilson AB, King TP, Clarke EMW, Pusztai A.   Kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) lectin-induced lesions in the small intestine. II. Microbiological studies. Journal of  Comparitive Pathology. 1980; 90:597-602.

66. Nutritionist Pro Dietary Software. http://www.nutritionistpro.com/

67. Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):71-8

68. Piya MK, Harte AL, McTernan PG. Metabolic endotoxaemia: is it more than just a gut feeling? Curr Opin Lipidol. 2013 Feb;24(1):78-85.

69. Pirke KM, Schweiger U, Laessle R, Dickhaut B, Schweiger M, Waechtler M. Dieting influences the menstrual cycle: vegetarian versus nonvegetarian diet. Fertil Steril. 1986 Dec;46(6):1083-8

70. Conn EE. Cyanogenic glycosides.  In:  Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology. New Series. Volume 8. Secondary plant products [Bell, A.E.; Charlwood, B.V. (Editors)]. 1980 pp. 461-492

71. Schuurman M, van Waardenburg D, Da Costa J, Niemarkt H, Leroy P.Severe hemolysis and methemoglobinemia following fava beans ingestion in glucose-6-phosphatase dehydrogenase deficiency: case report and literature review. Eur J Pediatr. 2009 Jul;168(7):779-82

72. Arese P, Bosia A, Naitana A, Gaetani S, D’Aquino M, Gaetani GF. Effect of divicine and isouramil on red cell metabolism in normal and G6PD-deficient (Mediterranean variant) subjects. Possible role in the genesis of favism. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1981;55:725-46

73. Gresham GA et al.  The independent production of atherosclerosis and thrombosis in the rat. Br J Exp Pathol 1960;41:395-402.

74. Scott RF et al.  Short term feeding of unsaturated vs. satruated fat in the production of atherosclerosis and thrombosis in the rat. Exp Mol Pathol 1964;3:421-443.

75. Wissler RW et al. Aortic lesions and blood lipids in monkeys fed three food fats. Fed Proc 1967;26:371.

76. Kritchevsky D et al.  Influence of native and randomized peanut oil on lipid metabolism and aortic sudanophilia in the vervet monkey. Atherosclerosis 1982;42:53-58.

77. Kritchevsky D et al. Lipid metabolism and experimental atherosclerosis in baboons– influence of cholesterol free, semi-synthetic diets. Am J Clin Nutr 1974;27:29-50.

78. Boyle EM et al.  Atherosclerosis. Ann Thorac Surg 1997;64:S47-56.

79. Alderson LM et al.  Peanut oil reduces diet-induced atherosclerosis in cynomolgus monkeys.   Arteriosclerosis 1986;6:465-74.

Betaine | The Paleo Diet
The modern Paleo Diet is focused on lean meats, but we love vegetables too. However, many Westerners need to beef up their vegetable intake because over 87% of adults are not eating enough of them each day.1 Although, the Paleo Diet favors foods with a lower glycemic impact, 2 you can’t beat the nutritional benefits of beets. They are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, as well as carotene and B complex.3 Beets provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detox support in the body. They also support healthy bile flow,4 stimulate liver cell function, and provide a protective effect for the liver and bile ducts.5

Beets are a great source of betaine, also called betaine anhydrous or trimethylglycine (TMG). Betaine is a substance that’s made in the body that’s required for healthy liver function, cellular reproduction, and to make carnitine.6 Further, there is a growing body of evidence that betaine is an important nutrient for the prevention of chronic disease.7 It is also a metabolite of choline8 and an essential biochemical component of the methionine-homocysteine cycle.9

Specifically, betaine also plays a role in reducing levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood.10 Homocysteine is a toxic substance in the body that can lead to osteoporosis and is an indicator of an increased risk of heart disease.11

Beets are a great alternative for endurance athletes looking for a nutrient dense option for post workout food to replenish from workouts.12 Studies have shown that eating beets prior to exercise, led to a 16% increase in workout times.13 They are also rich in antioxidants14 to aid in recovery between exercise sessions. Whether you are an avid exerciser or not, adding beets to your Paleo Diet is a win-win as they are a nutritional powerhouse.

Although typically eaten cooked, beets can also be eaten raw. Thinly slice or grate and serve over dressed lettuce greens. To roast whole beets, place them in a covered roasting pan for 45-60 minutes (until you can pierce them with a fork) in a 375 °F oven. Once cooked, the skin will easily peel away with your fingers.

This hearty, Paleo Roasted Beet and Tomato Soup offers a simple way to introduce cooked beets into your Paleo Diet.  It is a festive, bright dish to commence any holiday meal or as an accompaniment to your favorite Paleo sandwich.

Paleo Roasted Red Beet & Tomato Soup

Paleo Soup | The Paleo Diet

Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans of no salt added organic diced tomatoes or homemade canned tomatoes
  • 1 large roasted, peeled, red beet (about 2 cups cubed)
  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Sauté the red onion and carrot in the coconut oil until the onions turn translucent and the carrot is soft.
  2. In a blender, combine the diced tomatoes, the cubed roasted beet, and the cooked onion mixture.
  3. Blend until very smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture into a soup pot.
  5. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, season with black pepper to taste and serve!


1. Available at: http://epi.grants.cancer.gov/diet/usualintakes/pop/2007-10/. Accessed on November 8, 2015.

2. Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet Revised: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

3. Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2348/2. Accessed on November 8, 2015.

4. Gu, X., and D. Li. “Fat nutrition and metabolism in piglets: a review.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 109.1 (2003): 151-170.

5. Kanbak, Güngör, Mine İnal, and Cengiz Bayçu. “Ethanol‐induced hepatotoxicity and protective effect of betaine.” Cell biochemistry and function 19.4 (2001): 281-285.

6. Craig, Stuart AS. “Betaine in human nutrition.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 80.3 (2004): 539-549.

7. Craig, Stuart AS. “Betaine in human nutrition.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 80.3 (2004): 539-549.

8. Abdelmalek, Manal F., et al. “Betaine, a promising new agent for patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis: results of a pilot study.” The American journal of gastroenterology 96.9 (2001): 2711-2717.

9. Craig SA. Betaine in human nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 80: 539–549, 2004.

10. Olthof, Margreet R., et al. “Low dose betaine supplementation leads to immediate and long term lowering of plasma homocysteine in healthy men and women.” The Journal of nutrition 133.12 (2003): 4135-4138.

11. Homocysteine Studies Collaboration. “Homocysteine and risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke: a meta-analysis.” Jama 288.16 (2002): 2015-2022.

12. Lomangino, Kevin. “Moving With the Beet: Can It Enhance Athletic Performance?.” Clinical Nutrition Insight 38.9 (2012): 6-7.

13. Bailey, Stephen J., et al. “Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans.” Journal of Applied Physiology 107.4 (2009): 1144-1155.

14. Trejo-Tapia, G., et al. “Effect of screening and subculture on the production of betaxanthins in Beta vulgaris L. var.‘Dark Detroit’callus culture.” Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies 9.1 (2008): 32-36.

Diabetes | The Paleo Diet

The sea of candies and chocolates will continue to flood supermarket shelves from now through Valentine’s Day. Consumers often think, “It is only one day of the year, why not indulge?” The truth is it is not just one day of the year, but rather one of many days, including all holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, that center around sweets and treats. Today’s food environments exploit people’s biological, psychological, social, and economic vulnerabilities, encouraging them to eat unhealthy foods.1 The obesity and type two diabetes pandemic prevails, with 23.6 million people in the United States, who struggle with Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.2 A lackadaisical approach to nutrition continues to prove unsuccessful in achieving one’s best health.

We are embarking on the season of weight gain.3  On average, weight gain during the 6-weeks from Thanksgiving through New Year averages only 0.37 kg. However, weight gain is greater among individuals who are overweight or obese, with 14% gaining over 2.3 kg during the holidays.4 In addition, weight gain during the holiday season accounts for 51% of annual weight gain among individuals.5 It’s no wonder that so many people hope to lose their excess weight in the New Year, which turns out to be an ill-fated resolution.6 Be prudent this year and avoid adding weight during the holidays to maintain your long-term health and a smaller waistline.

The old school of thought many parents subscribed to suggested kids should be allowed to eat whatever they want because they don’t need to worry about their weight. Children are in fact not immune to the destructive nature of diets high in refined sugars and excess carbohydrates. Sadly, during the past two decades, the prevalence of obesity in children has risen greatly worldwide.7 Childhood obesity has contributed to an increased incidence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome among children.8 Enjoying a few pieces of candy on Halloween isn’t the most detrimental to a child’s body, but eating a few pieces each day until it runs out won’t instill an understanding of the adverse effects of sugar and chemicals like high fructose corn syrup in your child.

We are constantly assaulted with processed, refined sugar containing foods from the fresh baked pastries lurking in the display while you order coffee to the snacks offered at your child’s soccer match. The Paleo Diet permits the 85:15 rule, which provides flexibility to make choices that work best for your modern lifestyle and palette. The challenge is how to limit yourself and your children to three non-Paleo compliant meals per week during the holiday season.

Practice Mindfulness

It’s easy to get distracted at holiday parties, leading many to make unhealthful food choices and indulge in too much food and alcohol. Research indicates mindful eating may be an effective approach for weight management and glycemic control.9 Make a conscious choice for what goes into your mouth – those chocolates won’t magically appear in your stomach. Take a few deep breaths listen to your body to recognize when you are about 80% full to avoid overeating.

Be Accountable

The frosted Halloween cupcakes and sugar cookies your co-workers brought to the breakroom sure are tempting. But how do you balance them with last night’s pasta dinner and tomorrow’s pizza and pumpkin beer party? Be honest with yourself about the choices you make and plan for what lies in the week ahead. Hold yourself accountable and if you need to deviate from a strict Paleo path, stay within three non-compliant meals per week. Keep in mind that you are faced daily with a slippery slope of options you may regret choosing.

Indulge Responsibly

The foundation of the Paleo diet is centered on consuming whole, real foods. However, it is not about restriction and suffering. During the holidays and special occasions you can enjoy your celebratory treats, especially when you stick to the 85:15 rule. Seek out the highest quality ingredients; preferably indulging in a Paleo-friendly, homemade sweet, that has the lowest glycemic load.

Cheers to your health as we embark upon the holiday season!


1. Batch, Jennifer A., and Louise A. Baur. “Management and prevention of obesity and its complications in children and adolescents.” The Lancet (2015).

2. Bliss, Amanda K., and Sanjay Gupta. “High fructose corn syrup.” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 23.3 (2011): 228-229.

3. Bliss, Amanda K., and Sanjay Gupta. “High fructose corn syrup.” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 23.3 (2011): 228-229.

4. Roberts, Susan B. “Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?.” Nutrition reviews 58.12 (2000): 378-379.

5. Roberts, Susan B. “Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?.” Nutrition reviews 58.12 (2000): 378-379.

6. Kassirer, Jerome P., and Marcia Angell. “Losing weight—an ill-fated New Year’s resolution.” New England Journal of Medicine 338.1 (1998): 52-54.

7. Ebbeling, Cara B., Dorota B. Pawlak, and David S. Ludwig. “Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure.” The lancet 360.9331 (2002): 473-482.

8. Boney, Charlotte M., et al. “Metabolic syndrome in childhood: association with birth weight, maternal obesity, and gestational diabetes mellitus.” Pediatrics115.3 (2005): e290-e296.

9. Miller, Carla K., et al. “Comparative effectiveness of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a pilot study.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics112.11 (2012): 1835-1842.


Gluten Free | The Paleo Diet

Last week, The New York Times published an op-ed by Roger Cohen, its International Affairs and Diplomacy correspondent, regarding…wait for it – gluten!1 Has gluten become the nefarious “sticking point” that underlies our most critical diplomatic issues? Or was this just another of Cohen’s haughty rants against people who purchase organic food, implement health-optimizing diets, and keep abreast of nutrition science research? Spoiler alert – it’s the latter.

The gist of Cohen’s latest article, “This Column is Gluten-Free,” is that wheat has gotten a bad rap, despite graciously feeding the world for the past 12,000 years. Cohen acknowledges that gluten is harmful for the roughly 1% of the population that has celiac disease, but what about the remainder of the estimated 30% of Americans who are cutting back on gluten or going gluten-free?2

Does non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) exist? Is there evidence that gluten can be harmful for the general population? According to Cohen, people who eschew gluten (celiac patients excluded) are “self-indulgent” narcissists with imaginary food intolerances. “Having a special dietary requirement,” Cohen asserts, “is one way to feel special in the prevailing ‘me’ culture.”

Narcissism seems to be Cohen’s favorite buzzword when describing nutrition-motivated people, particularly those who buy organic food and avoid gluten. In this capacity, he uses the n-word no less than three times in his latest article, and in a previously article, he scolds the “affluent narcissism” of the upper middle class, people who purchase organic food while the poor “get a lot more nutrients from the two regular carrots they can buy for the price of one organic carrot.”3

This gets to the crux of Cohen’s ethos. He takes issue with individualism and self-determination, preferring a social structure whereby the balance of power is significantly tilted toward the state. In yet another recent article, he comments on a Pew Global Attitudes survey for which Americans and Europeans were asked which is more important,

  1. “freedom to pursue life’s goals without state interference,” or
  2. “state guarantees that nobody is in need.”

Much to Cohen’s dismay, 58% of Americans say the former is more important (compared to 62% of Europeans who prefer the latter).4 He then suggests the government should be more empowered to dictate how people eat, starting with a “coordinated policy action” designed to reduce sugar consumption, but where would it end?

What if the government decided that gluten is only dangerous for those with celiac disease? Could it outlaw a generalized form of “gluten-free” labeling? After all, because the US government supports GMO foods and deems them absolutely safe, it has repeatedly thwarted legislative attempts to implement mandatory GMO labeling. Not surprisingly, Cohen also strongly supports GMO foods:

“To feed a planet of 9 billion people,” he insists, “we are going to need high yields not low yields; we are going to need genetically modified crops; we are going to need pesticides and fertilizers and other elements of the industrialized food processes that have led mankind to be better fed and live longer than at any time in history.”5

Feeding the poor is a noble goal, even with subsistence-level nutrition, but so is health optimization for individuals, which is a primary goal of nutrition science research. These goals, however, are not incompatible; they are complementary. Nevertheless, Cohen’s steadfast resolve to restore wheat’s “amber waves” reputation prevents him from critically assessing and/or acknowledging the scientific research on gluten, the dangers of which extend far beyond just celiac patients.

Just last month, for example, researchers at the National Institutes of Health published a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial on people who don’t have celiac disease but believe themselves to be gluten sensitive. The results? “The severity of overall symptoms increased significantly during 1 week of intake of small amounts of gluten, compared with placebo.”6

For further reading on the science behind how gluten can damage the gut and compromise health, check out Trevor Connor’s excellent 5-article review, “The Wheat Series.” Nutrition is always vulnerable to politicization, but rather than choosing sides, why not seek mutually beneficial solutions to complex, interdependent challenges? Being kind and respectful also helps immensely (leave the diet-shaming for the narcissists).


1. Cohen, R. (October 19, 2015). This Column is Gluten-Free. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/20/opinion/this-column-is-gluten-free.html?_r=0

2. Strom, S. (February 17, 2014). A Big Bet on Gluten-Free. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/business/food-industry-wagers-big-on-gluten-free.html

3. Cohen, R. (September 6, 2012). The Organic Fable. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/opinion/roger-cohen-the-organic-fable.html

4. Cohen, R. (August 5, 2015). Incurable American Excess. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/opinion/roger-cohen-incurable-american-excess.html

5. Cohen, R. (August 5, 2015). Incurable American Excess. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/opinion/roger-cohen-incurable-american-excess.html

6. Di Sabatino, A., et al. (September 2015). Small Amounts of Gluten in Subjects With Suspected Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol, 13(9). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25701700

Leptin Resistance | The Paleo Diet

What’s all the buzz about leptin? With over half the American population trying desperately to lose weight,1 it’s no wonder we’ve become fascinated with a hormone that prompts us to think obesity or starvation.

Robert H. Lustig, MD, professor of pediatrics at UCSF and a member of the Endocrine Society’s Obesity Task Force explains “Leptin is a protein that’s made in the fat cells, circulates in the bloodstream, and goes to the brain; it’s the way your fat cells tell your brain that your energy thermostat is set right…and you have enough energy stored in your fat cells to engage in normal, relatively expensive metabolic processes.” Dr. Lustig goes on to discuss that levels are likely genetically set for each person. When an unbalance occurs exceeding your leptin threshold, the brain responds to the energy sufficiency, allowing you to “burn energy at a normal rate, eat food at a normal amount, engage in exercise at a normal rate, and you can engage in expensive processes, like puberty and pregnancy.”2

When the body doesn’t respond to the signal, it cannot stimulate your metabolism or suppress your appetite, inducing leptin resistance. This can make losing weight difficult if not impossible. With insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and ultimately a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes on the rise, so too are the number of individuals diagnosed with leptin resistance.

The Standard American Diet (SAD), leading a predominantly sedentary lifestyle, too much stress, and not enough sleep all contribute to leptin resistance.3 Assessing whether leptin resistance is contributing to shedding stubborn pounds once and for all, shouldn’t start with the notion of a magic bullet, but an overhaul of lifestyle.

Sure, it’s easy to find leptin supplements online that promise the oomph you need to kickstart your new weight loss regime. But are they effective? Not according to research.

Because leptin is a digestible protein that doesn’t enter the bloodstream, the body just breaks it up. Further, leptin supplements sold online don’t actually contain leptin, but rather ingredients that are purported to help improve leptin functioning or feelings of fullness.4

So what’s the answer? As always, we need to go back to basics and look at the problem, rather than the symptom.

Leptin and insulin communicate and work in conjunction with other hormones to control our energy balance and as insulin levels rise, so do leptin levels. If we start by following a balanced, Paleo eating plan, which prevents blood sugar spike to begin with, we regulate our blood sugar and leptin release, reducing our chances of developing leptin and insulin resistance.

The takeaway: stop doing your body a disservice. Ask yourself:

  1. Am I eating right?
  2. Are my macronutrients balanced?
  3. Is my food timing in check?
  4. Am I exercising regularly?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of these questions, you may be hindering your weight loss and setting yourself up for additional adverse effects, like increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other metabolic diseases.

“With obesity, leptin cannot tell our brain to stop eating, but it can still tell our brain to increase the activity of the cardiovascular system,” said Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele, physiologist in the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. 5

Researchers have also shown that fat-derived leptin directly activates aldosterone synthase expression in the adrenal glands, resulting in production of more of the steroid hormone aldosterone. Increased aldosterone directly effects blood pressure by regulating salt-water balance in the body, contributes to widespread inflammation, blood vessel stiffness and scarring, enlargement and stiffness of the heart, and impaired insulin sensitivity. High levels of aldosterone are an obesity hallmark and a leading cause of metabolic and cardiovascular problems6

Avoid widespread inflammation. Stop insulin resistance in its tracks. Keep blood sugar low. These three key health tenants fit the bill and are easily achieved by following a Paleo diet. Add a little patience into the mix and avoid the urge for ‘get results fast!’ and Viola! We give our bodies the time to calm inflammation, shed the extra weight, and reset its hormonal cascade.

Take action now, before you need medical intervention!


1. “Americans’ Desire to Shed Pounds Outweighs Effort.” Gallup.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

2. “Leptin Hormone & Supplements: Do They Work for Obesity & Weight Loss?” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

3. Galland, M.D. Leo. “Leptin: How to Make This Fat-Burning Hormone Work for You.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

4. “The Facts on Leptin: FAQ.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

5. “Satiety Hormone Leptin Plays a Direct Role in Cardiovascular Disease in Obesity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

6. Anne-Cécile Huby, Galina Antonova, Jake Groenendyk, Celso E. Gomez-Sanchez, Wendy B. Bollag, Jessica A. Filosa, Eric J. Belin de Chantemèle. The Adipocyte-Derived Hormone Leptin is a Direct Regulator of Aldosterone Secretion, Which Promotes Endothelial Dysfunction and Cardiac Fibrosis. Circulation, 2015; CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018226 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018226

Eating Disorder | The Paleo Diet

There are currently 30 million people in the United States alone who suffer from eating disorders,1 where the related science and mental health are overlooked in their diagnoses.2 3 A new study, published by the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, found new evidence of an association between the gut microbiota and the eating disorder anorexia.4

Researchers (and more mainstream sources) are beginning to understand just how much impact our gut has on nearly everything in our body – including our brain.5 6 7 Since nearly 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract – what’s going on in your gut – may be causing what’s going on inside your brain.8

Montiel-castro AJ, González-cervantes RM, Bravo-ruiseco G, Pacheco-lópez G. The microbiota-gut-brain axis: neurobehavioral correlates, health and sociality. Front Integr Neurosci. 2013;7:70.

Holzer P, Farzi A. Neuropeptides and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:195-219.

The researchers’ findings were remarkable. Individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa have not only one of the highest mortality rates,9 but also have very different microbial populations residing inside their guts, compared with healthy populations.10 How does this relate to a Paleo diet? Quite simply – what you eat plays a huge role in influencing your microbial population.11

There are of course a host of other factors, excluding diet that can influence your microbiome, but for our purposes, think of it as a basic equation: Bad food = bad microbial population in your gut = depression and anxiety, among other conditions. Good food = the opposite.

This is certainly an over-simplification, but for practical purposes, it works well. I’ll preface this with the importance of keeping your health and wellness in perspective and go from one extreme to another. A Paleo approach is meant to guide your lifestyle, not consume it. Since a Paleo diet focuses upon food qualitynot calories – it is oftentimes a good antidote to those who have food restriction behaviors.

If you were to go back to the 1950s, and tell a scientist or member of the general populace that what we have in our guts, in terms of microbes, would affect our weight or behavior – they would have escorted you away to a psychiatric ward. But, in the fascinating world of present day modern science, studies have shown the gut microbiome is indeed linked to weight gain, behavior, and even attention deficit disorders like ADHD.12 13 14 15 It’s not all so farfetched after all.

In the context of eating disorders, the microbiome is basically that of a spiral. The worse you eat, the worse your microbe population becomes, and the worse your mood and behavior fairs. Again, this is an oversimplification, but the analogy works. In a life filled with constant stressors, unpredictability, and other problems, if you follow the simple paradigm to make positive changes to our health and lifestyle, we can take back control.

A Paleo diet will provide your body with a wide array of beneficial nutrients that allow your gut bacteria to thrive, not hurt you. The human microbiome is basically an interface between our genes and our history of environmental exposures. Eating a healthy diet can only positively influence your gut microbiome.16

The science is far from definitive yet, but explorations of our microbiome continue to provide the chance of providing new answers into our own neurodevelopment – and behavior. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, know that you are not alone and that healing your relationship with food and your body is possible, and professional counseling to help you overcome it is available.

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727). SAMSHA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.


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2. Bulik CM, Tozzi F. Genetics in eating disorders: state of the science. CNS Spectr. 2004;9(7):511-5.

3. Wilson GT. Eating disorders, obesity and addiction. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2010;18(5):341-51.

4. Kleiman SC, Watson HJ, Bulik-sullivan EC, et al. The Intestinal Microbiota in Acute Anorexia Nervosa and During Renourishment: Relationship to Depression, Anxiety, and Eating Disorder Psychopathology. Psychosom Med. 2015.

5. Gareau MG. Microbiota-gut-brain axis and cognitive function. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:357-71.

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8. Kato S. Role of serotonin 5-HT₃ receptors in intestinal inflammation. Biol Pharm Bull. 2013;36(9):1406-9.

9. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.

10. Available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151005121310.htm. Accessed October 8, 2015.

11. Conlon MA, Bird AR. The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. Nutrients. 2015;7(1):17-44.

12. Petra AI, Panagiotidou S, Hatziagelaki E, Stewart JM, Conti P, Theoharides TC. Gut-Microbiota-Brain Axis and Its Effect on Neuropsychiatric Disorders With Suspected Immune Dysregulation. Clin Ther. 2015;37(5):984-95.

13. Turnbaugh PJ, Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Knight R, Gordon JI. The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice. Sci Transl Med. 2009;1(6):6ra14.

14. Sweeney TE, Morton JM. The human gut microbiome: a review of the effect of obesity and surgically induced weight loss. JAMA Surg. 2013;148(6):563-9.

15. Sampson TR, Mazmanian SK. Control of brain development, function, and behavior by the microbiome. Cell Host Microbe. 2015;17(5):565-76.

16. Gonzalez A, Stombaugh J, Lozupone C, Turnbaugh PJ, Gordon JI, Knight R. The mind-body-microbial continuum. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011;13(1):55-62.

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