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A Brief History of the Contemporary Paleo Diet Movement | The Paleo Diet


In order to appreciate any concept, including the Paleo Diet, it is important to recognize its history and how it came to be. Most of you are aware that Paleo and particularly Paleo diets have recently become very hot, on trend topics.

These ideas have become household words in the past few years; however it hasn’t always been this way. Below is a graph from Google Trends for the words “ the Paleo diet” (Figure 1).  It’s fairly clear from Figure 1 that, except for the past four years, the Paleo diet was virtually unknown to all but dedicated fans. Fortunately, I’ve been in the middle of this worldwide movement from nearly its very beginnings. So, I can personally tell you how it all began and my involvement in it.

Google Trends | The Paleo Diet Over Time

Figure 1. Google Trends. 25 June 2015.

Last October, I approached my 64th birthday with just a little trepidation because I was part of the 60’s generation whose mantra was not to trust anyone over 30, and now I’m twice that age.  As I look back over my life, I can pinpoint a few key events which led me to discover and appreciate what is now almost universally known as the Paleo diet.

I came of age as a track and field athlete at the University of Nevada, Reno in the late 60s and early 70s, and as such was always interested in diet, fitness and athletic performance. Later as a lifeguard at Lake Tahoe, my friends and I read all of the now classic vegetarian diet/health books such as Francis Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet, Paivo Airola’s Are You Confused? and Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat among others. I even attended a Dick Gregory lecture in Seattle and got to shake this famous comedian’s hand.

My lifeguard friends and I experimented with vegan diets, fasting, and all kinds of vitamins and supplements. Almost everyone seemed to own a juicer. Each summer, instead of shying away from the sun and using sunscreens, we all tried to get the deepest tans possible. We swam in Tahoe’s icy, invigorating, non-chlorinated waters, and decades before Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Frees were the rage, we ran barefoot in the sand along Sand Harbor’s pristine shoreline.

Those 20 memorable summers as a lifeguard at Tahoe heightened my awareness of the outdoor, natural world, sunshine, health, fitness and diet. As my lifeguarding days drew to a close in 1991, Lorrie and I had just begun to eat Paleo. Here’s how it began.


I completed my Ph.D. in exercise physiology at the University of Utah in the spring of 1981 and promptly hired as a young assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University. For the first 5-10 years of my career, my research focused mainly upon how diet and exercise affected fitness and athletic performance. I still hadn’t discovered Paleo, but read widely and had a considerable interest in anthropology.

In the spring of 1987, I happened upon Boyd Eaton’s (M.D.) now classic scientific paper Paleolithic Nutrition: a Consideration of its Nature and Current Implications which was published two years earlier in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.7 This article made a lasting impression upon me and was the single factor which caused me to focus my research interests upon ancestral human diets from that point forward.

For me, one of the surprising points that Dr. Eaton made in a subsequent paper was that cereal grains were rarely or never consumed by pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers.6  In the days and months after reading Boyd’s groundbreaking paper,7 I became absolutely engrossed in studying ancestral human diets and voraciously read everything I could about the topic. At first, I simply filed all of these scientific papers and documents into a single file folder I labeled “Paleolithic Nutrition.” Early on I realized that this strategy wouldn’t work because of the enormous volume and diversity of topics that materialized.

As I read more and more, patterns began to emerge. Stone Age people did not drink milk or consume dairy products. So, I created a file folder labeled “Dairy.” They also didn’t eat cereal grains, so I created a single file folder called “Cereal Grains.” However, just like the single folder I had originally created for “Paleolithic Nutrition,” it soon became apparent that the topic of cereal grains and their potential for adversely affecting health was an enormous topic that ultimately would require a huge number of file folders.

Over the course of the next seven or eight years, I collected more than 25,000 scientific papers and filled five large filing cabinets – each with hundreds of categories dealing with all aspects of Paleo diet and Paleo lifestyle. In 1994, I eventually mustered enough courage to telephone (no one used email then) the man who was responsible for my collection of articles on anything and everything related to Paleo. Dr. Eaton is a true gentleman and scholar in every sense of the word.  We spoke for almost an hour on that very first telephone call, and he gave me one of the greatest compliments of my life at the end of the conversation when he said, “It sounds to me like you know more about this than I do.”

Boyd and I eventually met in 1995, and two years later he invited me to speak with him at an international conference on fitness and diet organized by Dr. Artemis Simopoulos in Athens, Greece. Artemis was a wonderful hostess for the conference, and during my two week stay in Greece we had many conversations about diet and health. I mentioned that I had written a partially completed manuscript on the nutritional shortcomings of cereal grains. About a year later she asked me if I could complete the paper and submit it for publication in a scientific journal she edited.  I did, and that paper, Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double Edged Sword, published in 199934 launched my published career in Paleo diets.

The Paleo Diet concept is now taken seriously in the scientific world thanks in part to Boyd Eaton’s pioneering work. There is no doubt in my mind that without Dr. Eaton’s influential 1985 New England Journal of Medicine paper,7 Paleo would continue to be an obscure word known mainly to anthropologists and would not have become the household term now recognized by millions. The Paleo Diet and Paleo lifestyle are clearly much larger than either my writings or Boyd Eaton’s. Hundreds if not thousands of scientists, physicians and people from all walks of life are responsible for creating this incredibly powerful idea that can be used to bring order and wisdom to dietary and lifestyle questions and issues.

Some of the key players who came before Dr. Eaton in the Paleo diet and lifestyle world require no introductions. Charles Darwin’s Origins of the Species was published in 1859 and started it all. It still amazes me that the most powerful idea in all of biology (evolution via natural selection) generally had not been applied to nutritional thought until 126 years later with Dr. Eaton’s classic paper.7  Theodosius Dobzhansky, a well-known Ukranian evolutionary biologist said, “Nothing in biology makes sense, except under the light of evolution.” Indeed, his statement could easily be reworked to “Nothing in nutrition makes sense, except under the light of evolution.5 A similar quote could also be applied to a multitude of lifestyle issues.

One way in which we can look at how and where the Paleo diet and Paleo lifestyle concepts arose would be to examine the contributions of a few of the key players who came both before and after Dr. Eaton’s landmark paper. Obviously, Charles Darwin started it all, but a number of noteworthy people had already recognized the value of ancestral dietary patterns decades before the publication of Boyd’s article.

Perhaps the very first book to achieve notoriety about non-western diets and disease was Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects, first published in 1939.23 Dr. Price, a U.S. dentist, extensively traveled the world in the 1920s and 30s and made detailed observations about diet and health in numerous non-westernized populations including Amazon Indians, Alaskan Eskimos, Australian Aborigines, Canadian Indians, Polynesians and African tribal populations among many others. This book is a real treasure and contains hundreds of photographs of non-westernized people in exquisite health taken in an era when modern processed foods were not universally available. Dr. Price noted that wherever and whenever modern diets were adopted by non-westernized cultures, their health declined. His statement was just as true then as it is today.

An intriguing aspect of early books like Dr. Price’s is that frequently the diet/health observations were correct but the underlying mechanisms about how diet and lifestyle specifically affected health were either unknown or poorly understood.  In the early part of the 20th century before population wide vaccination programs existed, tuberculosis remained a major public health problem responsible for millions of deaths worldwide.  In his book,23 Dr. Price noted that in Europe, heliotherapy (sunbathing) was being effectively used to treat tuberculosis. At the time and even decades later, these kinds of observations were commonly ridiculed by the “best medical minds” because they seemed ludicrous and had no known physiological basis. Let’s fast forward 65 years and put this 1930s observation under new light.

Discoveries made just in the past 5-7 years now show that sunlight exposure might be one of the best strategies to prevent or cure tuberculosis infections.10, 19, 27, 31, 35, 36  When you sunbathe, ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes vitamin D to be produced in your skin. The more sun you get, the more vitamin D is produced. Blood concentrations of vitamin D regulate the synthesis of a recently identified substance called cathelicidin which turns out to be one of the most potent antimicrobial (bacteria killing) peptides that our bodies produce. Cathelicidin shows specific killing activity against bacteria that cause tuberculosis,31, 35, 36 and epidemiological (population) studies confirm vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for tuberculosis.10, 19, 37  Most of us have been vaccinated against tuberculosis, so we really don’t need to worry about this disease.

Although Dr. Price’s book23 was advanced for its time, the evolutionary basis for optimal nutrition and healthy lifestyles still lay decades in the future. Other early popular books touching upon ancestral diets and health include:  Arnold DeVries’s Primitive Man and His Food (1952),4 Walter Voegtlin’s The Stone Age Diet (1975),30 Leon Chaitow’s, Stone Age Diet (1987),2 and Boyd Eaton’s The Paleolithic Prescription (1988).8

All of these books are long out of print and except for Boyd’s volume; these books simply fizzled and faded into obscurity because they didn’t have the bigger picture right. Without the evolutionary template correctly in place, these early books were incomplete and inconclusive.  At the time, scientists and the public at large still weren’t quite ready for Paleo diets and Paleo lifestyles.

Prior to the publication of Dr. Eaton’s 1985 paper,7 a few scientists had independently recognized the evolutionary underpinnings for healthful diets and lifestyle, but their work was published in obscure scientific journals that received little or no public notoriety.1, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32, 37 After publication of Boyd Eaton’s influential paper in the New England Journal of Medicine,7 a number of events ultimately set the stage for the worldwide recognition of the Paleo diet as well as the evolutionary basis for modern day Paleo lifestyles.


The basic foundation and logic for the Paleo diet concept lies in a recently recognized discipline called Darwinian Medicine. Following in the footsteps of Boyd’s landmark paper,7 came another revolutionary scientific publication in the Quarterly Review of Biology (1991) by Drs. George Williams and Randy Neese from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.33  The title of this paper was, “The Dawn of Darwinian Medicine.

As you can imagine from its title, it represented the very first scientific publication addressing how our ancestral evolutionary experience affects the manner in which we view and treat modern diseases. Although this paper is now more than 20 years old, its message is finally being filtered down to many physicians, their patients and the public at large.20

Here’s a quote from this paper that sums up Darwinian Medicine, “Human biology is designed for Stone Age conditions. Modern environments may cause many diseases.” Also, another enlightening quote that is totally relevant to this book: “it provides new insights into the causes of medical disorders.” For instance, cough, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, pain, nausea and anxiety are widespread medical problems. Many orthodox physicians focus upon relieving short term distress by prescribing pharmaceuticals to block these responses. Darwinian Medicine would say these responses are not necessarily harmful, but rather signify the body’s effort to remedy a problem. In most situations coughing when you are sick is a natural and healthy response because it helps to purge disease causing microbes from your throat and lungs.

Similarly fever increases your body temperature which helps to destroy pathogens that have infected your body. Medications that suppress coughs and block fever may relieve symptoms but may actually prolong the illness. Obviously, certain extreme situations necessitate a balanced approach between our body’s evolutionary response to disease and modern medicine. For example, blocking fever can prevent febrile seizures and stopping vomiting can prevent severe dehydration.

The message is clear. We need to balance our hunter gatherer genetic legacy with the best technology of our modern world.


Having been a faculty member at a Division I Research University for 32 years, I can tell you that your personal experience with the Paleo diet and a dollar will buy you a single cup of coffee in the scientific community. In other words:  no matter how much weight you have dropped on the Paleo diet; no matter how much your blood chemistry has improved; nor how much better you feel, the medical and scientific community will, by and large, not listen to you. Your real world experiences have little or no traction in the academic community of science and medicine.   What they require is not your personal experience (anecdotal evidence), but rather experimental evidence based upon one of the following four scientific methods:  1) animal studies, 2) tissue or organ studies, 3) epidemiological [population] studies or 4) randomized controlled human trials.

When I first published The Paleo Diet in 2002 thousands of indirect experimental studies had supported its general principles in promoting weight loss, improving overall health and curing disease. For instance, a multitude of well controlled experimental studies had already confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that low glycemic load diets improved health and promoted weight loss. The Paleo diet is a low glycemic load diet.  Similarly, high protein diets were shown to be the most effective strategy to improve blood chemistry and help you lose weight. Yet again, the Paleo diet is a high protein diet.

Even in 2002, when The Paleo Diet first came into print, you would have been hard pressed to find a single nutritionist who would disagree with the notion that omega 3 fats improved health and well being in almost every conceivable way. Do I need to repeat myself? The Paleo diet is a diet rich in omega 3 fats.

By 2002 when my first book came into print, the thousands of scientific papers were independently verified that certain individual aspects of the Paleo diet normalized body weight and improved health and wellbeing. Nevertheless, at that time, not a single study had yet examined all of the combined nutritional characteristics of the Paleo diet.

Was a diet high in animal protein, omega 3 fats, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and low in salt, refined sugars, cereal grains, dairy products, vegetable oils and processed foods healthy? Was it more healthful than the officially sanctioned USDA My Plate Diet or even the highly touted Mediterranean diet? The direct scientific answers to these questions had yet to be answered in 2002.

Fortunately, in the past eight years a number of scientists worldwide have dared to test contemporary versions of humanity’s original diet against supposed “healthful diets” as seen in Table 1 below.

One of the key figures behind this ground breaking research is my friend and colleague, Dr. Staffan Lindeberg (M.D., Ph.D.) from Lund University in Sweden. Staffan became interested in Paleo diets almost 25 years ago through his medical studies of the Kitavans,14-17 a non-westernized group of 2,250 people living on remote islands near Papua New Guinea. The Kitavans obtain virtually all of their food from either the land or the sea and have little contact with the modern world. Common western foods such as cereals, dairy, refined sugars, vegetable oils and processed foods are nearly absent from their diets.14-17 Predictably, these people represent the epitome of health compared to the average citizen living in the western world.  None of them are overweight, and heart disease and stroke are extremely rare. High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are non-existent,14-17 and acne is not present among their children or teenagers.38 I doubt that you could round up a random group of 2,000 western people anywhere on the planet without encountering high rates of all of these diseases which are rare or not present in the Kitavans.

In the late 1990s I first began corresponding with Dr. Lindeberg on the then youthful internet.  We soon discovered that we had read almost all of the same scientific papers and were interested in almost all of the same diet/health topics. One study that stood out to both of us was an incredible experiment performed by Dr. Kerin O’Dea at the University of Melbourne and published in the Journal, Diabetes in 1984.21 In this study Dr. O’Dea gathered together 10 middle aged Australian Aborigines who had been born in the “Outback.” They had lived their early days primarily as hunter-gatherers until they had no choice but to finally settle into a rural community with access to western goods. Predictably, all 10 subjects eventually became overweight and developed type 2 diabetes as they adopted western sedentary lifestyles in the community of Mowwanjum in the northern Kimberley region of Western Australia.  However, inherent in their upbringing was the knowledge to live and survive in this seemingly desolate land without any of the trappings of the modern world.

Dr. O’Dea requested these 10 middle aged subjects to revert to their former lives as hunter-gatherers for a seven week period. All agreed and traveled back into the isolated land from which they originated. Their daily sustenance came only from native foods that could be foraged, hunted or gathered. Instead of white bread, corn, sugar, powdered milk and canned foods, they began to eat the traditional fresh foods of their ancestral past: kangaroos, birds, crocodiles, turtles, shellfish, yams, figs, yabbies (freshwater crayfish), freshwater bream and bush honey.   At the experiment’s conclusion, the results were spectacular, but not altogether unexpected given what was known about Paleo diets, even then. The average weight loss in the group was 16.5 lbs; blood cholesterol dropped by 12% and triglycerides were reduced by a whopping 72%. Insulin and glucose metabolism became normal, and their diabetes effectively disappeared.

Dr. Lindeberg and I both realized that this type of experiment would probably never be repeated simply because the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is nearly extinct, and very few contemporary people have the knowledge or skills to live entirely off the land. Back in those early days of our friendship, we both had the same vision. This experiment should be conducted in a slightly different manner but not with westernized, former hunter-gatherers. Why not take a group of typically unhealthy westerners and put them on commonly available contemporary foods that mimic the nutritional characteristics of hunter-gatherer diets? Wow, what a great idea! We both knew that this experiment was precisely what Dr. Eaton had in mind with his inspirational paper way back in 1985.7


It took nearly 22 years for Dr. Eaton’s dream of experimentally testing modern day Paleo diets to come true, but it finally happened with the publication of a paper by Dr. Lindeberg’s research group in 2007.18 Staffan followed this publication with two additional papers in 200911 and 2010.13 Good ideas catch on, and two other independent research groups around the world followed suit with similar results – the first in 2008 by Dr. Osterdahl and co-workers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden22 and the next in 2009 by my friend and colleague Dr. Lynda Frasseto (M.D.) from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.9

Although science may move slowly, it eventually does move forward as old ideas are replaced with new and better thoughts and information. I can assure you that this fundamental diet and lifestyle concept based upon evolutionary biology is not a fad and will not fade away.

In his first study in 200718 Dr. Lindeberg and associates placed 29 patients with type 2 diabetes and heart disease on either a Paleo diet or a Mediterranean diet based upon whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, fish, oils, and margarines. Note the Paleo diet excludes grains, dairy products, and margarines while encouraging greater consumption of meat and fish. After 12 weeks on either diet blood glucose tolerance (a risk factor for heart disease) improved in both groups, but was better in the Paleo dieters.

In a 2010 follow-up publication,18 of this same experiment the Paleo diet was shown to be more satiating on a calorie by calorie basis than the Mediterranean diet because it caused greater changes in leptin, a hormone which regulates appetite and bodyweight.

In the second ever study (2008) of Paleo diets, Dr. Osterdahl and co-workers put 14 healthy subjects on a Paleo diet. After only three weeks the subjects lost weight, reduced their waist size and experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, and plasminogen activator inhibitor (a substance in blood which promotes clotting and accelerates artery clogging). Because no control group was employed in this study, some scientists would argue that the beneficial changes might not necessarily be due to the Paleo diet. However, as you shortly will see, a better controlled experiment showed similar results.

In 2009, Dr. Frasetto and co-workers put nine inactive subjects on a Paleo diet for just 10 days.9 In this experiment, the Paleo diet was exactly matched in calories with the subjects’ usual diet.  Almost anytime people eat diets that are calorically reduced, no matter what foods are involved, they exhibit beneficial health effects. So the beauty of this experiment was that any therapeutic changes in the subjects’ health could not be credited to reductions in calories, but rather to changes in the types of food eaten. While on the Paleo diet either eight or all nine participants  experienced improvements in blood pressure, arterial function, insulin, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. What is most amazing about this experiment is how rapidly so many markers of health improved, and that they occurred in every single patient.

In an even more convincing recent (2009) experiment, Dr. Lindeberg and colleagues compared the effects of a Paleo diet to a diabetes diet generally recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes.11 The diabetes diet was intended to reduce total fat by increasing whole grain bread and cereals, low fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables while restricting animal foods. In contrast, the Paleo diet was lower in cereals, dairy products, potatoes, beans, and bakery foods, but higher in fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs compared to the diabetes diet. The strength of this experiment was its cross over design in which all 13 diabetes patients first ate one diet for three months and then crossed over and ate the other diet for three months. Compared to the diabetes diet, the Paleo diet resulted in improved weight loss, waist size, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a marker for long term blood glucose control).    From an experimental design perspective, this trial represents a powerful example of the Paleo diet’s effectiveness in treating people with serious health problems.

From 2007 until 2010 only five experimental studies tested contemporary “Paleo” diets in humans (Table 1).  However since then, interest in experimentally testing these diets has grown concurrently (Table 1) with the general public’s explosive awareness of the Paleo Diet concept (Figure 1). Except for a single study, human trials testing modern day Paleo Diets have shown them to be therapeutic and generally more effective in reducing body weight and ameliorating symptoms of the metabolic syndrome (Table 1) than conventional western diets, type 2 diabetic diets, the Mediterranean diet, and the American Heart Association (AHA) diet (Table 1).   Further, contemporary “Paleo diets” are nutritionally more dense in the 13 vitamins and minerals most lacking in the typical U.S. diet when contrasted to the USDA my Plate recommendations,39, 40 the Mediterranean diet, and vegan/vegetarian diets.

Table 1.  Paleo Diet References: Direct Human/Animal Experimental and Epidemiological Studies in chronological order (oldest to most recent).



  1. O’Dea K: Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes 1984, 33(6):596-603.


  1. Jonsson T, Ahren B, Pacini G, Sundler F, Wierup N, Steen S, Sjoberg T, Ugander M, Frostegard J, Goransson Lindeberg S: A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006, 3:39.


  1. Lindeberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, Ahren B: A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia 2007, 50(9):1795-1807.


  1. Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wandell PE: Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008, 62(5):682-685.


  1. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström M, Lindeberg S. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35
  2. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009.


  1. Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7(1):85


  1. Carter P, Achana F, Troughton J, Gray LJ, Khunti K, Davies MJ. A Mediterranean diet improves HbA1c but not fasting blood glucose compared to alternative dietary strategies: a network meta-analysis. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014 Jun;27(3):280-97
  2. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Lindeberg S, Hallberg AC.Subjective satiety and other experiences of a Paleolithic diet compared to a diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr J. 2013 Jul 29;12:105. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-105.
  3. Ryberg M, Sandberg S, Mellberg C, Stegle O, Lindahl B, Larsson C, Hauksson J, Olsson T. A Palaeolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women. J Intern Med. 2013 Jul;274(1):67-76
  4. Frassetto LA, Shi L, Schloetter M, Sebastian A, Remer T. Established dietary estimates of net acid production do not predict measured net acid excretion in patients with Type 2 diabetes on Paleolithic-Hunter-Gatherer-type diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;67(9):899-903


  1. Fontes-Villalba M, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Frassetto LA, Sundquist J, Sundquist K, Carrera-Bastos P, Fika-Hernándo M, Picazo Ó, Lindeberg S. A healthy diet with and without cereal grains and dairy products in patients with type 2 diabetes: study protocol for a random-order cross-over pilot study–Alimentation and Diabetes in Lanzarote–ADILAN.Trials. 2014 Jan 2;15:2. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-15-2.
  2. Bisht B, Darling WG, Grossmann RE, Shivapour ET, Lutgendorf SK, Snetselaar LG, Hall MJ, Zimmerman MB, Wahls TL. A multimodal intervention for patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: Feasibility and effect on fatigue. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jan 29. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. Mellberg C, Sandberg S, Ryberg M, Eriksson M, Brage S, Larsson C, Olsson T, Lindahl B. Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;68(3):350-7.
  4. Smith, M, Trexler E, Sommer A, Starkoff B, Devor S.teven (2014) Unrestricted Paleolithic Diet is associated with unfavorable changes to blood lipids in healthy subjects. Int J Exer Sci 2014, 7(2) : 128-139.
  5. Talreja D, Buchanan H, Talreja R, Heiby L, Thomas B, Wetmore J, Pourfarzib R, Winegar D. Impact of a Paleolithic diet on modifiable CV risk factors. Journal of Clinical Lipidology, Volume 8, Issue3, Page 341, May 2014.
  6. Boers I, Muskiet FA, Berkelaar E, Schur E, Penders R, Hoenderdos K, Wichers HJ, Jong MC. Favourable effects of consuming a Palaeolithic-type diet on characteristics of the metabolic syndrom. A randomized controlled pilot-study. Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Oct 11;13:160. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-13-160.
  7. Stomby A, Simonyte K, Mellberg C, Ryberg M, Stimson RH, Larsson C, Lindahl B, Andrew R, Walker BR, Olsson T. Diet-induced weight loss has chronic tissue-specific effects on glucocorticoid metabolism in overweight postmenopausal women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Oct 28. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2014.188. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Whalen KA, McCullough M, Flanders WD, Hartman TJ, Judd S, Bostick RM. Paleolithic and mediterranean diet pattern scores and risk of incident, sporadic colorectal adenomas. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Dec 1;180(11):1088-97. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu235. Epub 2014 Oct 17.
  9. Toth C, Clemens Z. Type 1 diabetes mellitus successfully managed with the Paleolithic ketogenic diet. Int J Case Pep Images. 2014 5(10):699-703.


  1. Talreja A, Talreja S, Talreja R,Talreja D. The VA Beach Diet Study: An investigation of  the effects  of plant-based, Mediterranean, Paleolithic, and Dash Diets on cardiovascular disease risk. J Am Coll Cardiol Intv. 2015;8(2_S):S41-S41.  doi:10.1016/j.jcin.2014.12.161
  2. Bligh HF, Godsland IF, Frost G, Hunter KJ, Murray P, MacAulay K, Hyliands D, Talbot DC, Casey J, Mulder TP, Berry MJ.Plant-rich mixed meals based on Palaeolithic diet principles have a dramatic impact on incretin, peptide YY and satiety response, but show little effect on glucose and insulin homeostasis: an acute-effects randomised study.Br J Nutr. 2015 Feb 28;113(4):574-84.
  3. London DS, Beezhold B. A phytochemical-rich diet may explain the absence of age-related decline in visual acuity of Amazonian hunter-gatherers in Ecuador. Nutr Res. 2015 Feb;35(2):107-17.
  4. Masharani U, Sherchan P, Schloetter M, Stratford S, Xiao A, Sebastian A, Nolte Kennedy M, Frassetto L. Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Apr 1. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.39. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Tóth, C, and Zsófia, C. “Gilbert’s Syndrome successfully treated with the Paleolithic ketogenic diet.” Am J Med Case Reports. 2015 3(4). //pubs.sciepub.com/ajmcr/3/4/9/
  6. Pastore RL, Brooks JT, Carbone JW. Paleolithic nutrition improves plasma lipid concentrations of hypercholesterolemic adults to a greater extent than traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations. Nutr Res. 2015; 35:474-479.





[1]Abrams, HL. The relevance of Paleolithic diet in determining contemporary nutritional needs. J Applied Nutr 1979;31: 43-59.

[2]Chaitow, L. Stone Age Diet. London, Macdonal & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1987.

[3]Cordain L, Lindeberg S, Hurtado M, Hill K, Eaton SB, Brand-Miller J. Acne vulgaris: a disease of Western civilization. Arch Dermatol. 2002 Dec;138(12):1584-90.

[4]DeVries, A. Primitive Man and His Food. Chicago, Chandler Book Company, 1952.

[5]Dobzhansky T. Am Biol Teacher. 1973 March; 35:125-129.

[6]Eaton SB, et al. Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective. Am J Med 1988;84:739-49.

[7]Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med 1985;312:283-9.

[8]Eaton SB, Shostak M, Konner M. The Paleolithic Prescription. New York, Harper & Row, 1988.

[9]Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009.

[10]Ho-Pham LT, Nguyen ND, Nguyen TT, Nguyen DH, Bui PK, Nguyen VN, Nguyen TV. Association between vitamin D insufficiency and tuberculosis in a Vietnamese population. BMC Infect Dis. 2010 Oct 25;10:306.

[11]Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström M, Lindeberg S. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35

[12]Jonsson T, Ahren B, Pacini G, Sundler F, Wierup N, Steen S, Sjoberg T, Ugander M, Frostegard J, Goransson Lindeberg S: A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006, 3:39.

[13]Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7(1):85

[14]Lindeberg S, Lundh B: Apparent absence of stroke and ischaemic heart disease in a traditional Melanesian island: a clinical study in Kitava. J Intern Med 1993, 233(3):269-275.

[15]Lindeberg S, Nilsson-Ehle P, Terént A, Vessby B, Scherstén B. Cardiovascular risk factors in a Melanesian population apparently free from stroke and ischaemic heart disease: the Kitava study. J Intern Med. 1994 Sep;236(3):331-40.

[16]Lindeberg S, Berntorp E, Carlsson R, Eliasson M, Marckmann P. Haemostatic variables in Pacific Islanders apparently free from stroke and ischaemic heart disease–the Kitava Study. Thromb Haemost. 1997 Jan;77(1):94-8.

[17]Lindeberg S, Eliasson M, Lindahl B, Ahrén B: Low serum insulin in traditional Pacific Islanders–the Kitava Study. Metabolism 1999, 48(10):1216-1219.

[18]Lindeberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, Ahren B: A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia 2007, 50(9):1795-1807.

[19]Nnoaham KE, Clarke A. Low serum vitamin D levels and tuberculosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Epidemiol. 2008 Feb;37(1):113-9.

[20]Nesse RM, Stearns SC, Omenn GS. Medicine needs evolution. Science 2006;311:1071.

[21]O’Dea K: Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes 1984, 33(6):596-603.

[22]Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wandell PE: Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008, 62(5):682-685.

[23]Price WA. Nutrition and physical degeneration; a comparison of primitive and modern diets and their effects. P.B. Hoeber, Inc., New York, 1939.

[24]Pritchard JK. How we are evolving. Sci Am. 2010 Oct;303(4):40-47.

[24]Shatin R. Man and his cultigens. Scientific Australian 1964;1:34-39

[26]Shatin R. The transition from food-gathering to food-production in evolution and disease. Vitalstoffe Zivilisationskrankheitein 1967;12:104-107.

[27]Talat N, Perry S, Parsonnet J, Dawood G, Hussain R. Vitamin d deficiency and tuberculosis progression. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 May;16(5):853-5.

[28]Truswell AS. Diet and nutrition of hunter-gatherers. In: Health and disease in tribal societies. New York: Elsevier; 1977:213-21.

[29]Truswell AS. Human Nutritional Problems at Four Stages of Technical Development. Reprint. Queen Elizabeth College (University of London), Inaugural Lecture, May, 1972.

[30]Voegtlin, WL. The Stone Age Diet. New York, Vantage Press, 1975.

[31]Yamshchikov AV, Kurbatova EV, Kumari M, Blumberg HM, Ziegler TR, Ray SM, Tangpricha V. Vitamin D status and antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin (LL-37) concentrations in patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Sep;92(3):603-11.

[32]Yudkin, J. Archaeology and the nutritionist. In: The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals, PJ Ucko, GW Dimbleby (Eds.), Chicago, Aldine Publishing Co, 1969, pp. 547-552.

[33]Williams GC, Nesse RM. The dawn of Darwinian medicine. Q Rev Biol. 1991 Mar;66(1):1-22.

[34]Cordain L. Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics. 1999;84:19-73.

[35]Afsal K, Harishankar M, Banurekha VV, Meenakshi N, Parthasarathy RT, Selvaraj P.Effect of 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 on cathelicidin expression in patients with and without cavitary tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2014 Dec;94(6):599-605.

[36]Selvaraj P. Vitamin D, vitamin D receptor, and cathelicidin in the treatment of tuberculosis. Vitam Horm. 2011;86:307-25.

[37]Abrams HL. A dischronic perview of wheat in hominid nutrition. J Appl Nutr 1978;30:41-43.

[38]Cordain L, Lindeberg S, Hurtado M, Hill K, Eaton SB, Brand-Miller J. Acne vulgaris: A disease of civilization. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138: 1584-90.

[39]Cordain L. The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. J Am Neutraceut Assoc 2002; 5:15-24.

[40]Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:341-54.

Add Salt and Stop Gaining Weight? | The Paleo Diet

“In a study that seems to defy conventional dietary wisdom, scientists have found that adding high salt to a high-fat diet actually prevents weight gain in mice.”1

So, after all this time, is adding salt to the diet not really as consequential as we thought?  Can we just douse our food with it, eat whatever foods we fancy and then magically stay lean and fit? Let’s investigate.

The researchers hypothesized that fat and salt, both tasty and easy to overeat, would collectively increase food consumption and promote weight gain. They tested the hypothesis by feeding groups of mice different diets: normal or high-fat chow with varying levels of salt. To their surprise, the mice on the high-fat diet with the lowest salt gained the most weight.

But how can this be? Don’t we need to eat a diet lower in fat and salt, per USDA recommendations,2 in order to be as healthy as possible?

“Our findings, in conjunction with other studies, are showing that there is a wide range of dietary efficiency, or absorption of calories, in the populations, and that may contribute to resistance or sensitivity to weight gain”, says Michael Lutter, MD, PhD, co-senior study author and UI assistant professor of psychiatry.

Well, that certainly makes sense. Humans certainly are not all cut from the same cloth. We have to factor in genetic variability, and nature versus nurture, in terms of what we we’re fed growing up and whether our upbringing favored activity and exercise.

Furthermore, we need to consider what we are eating in the grand scheme of things. How does this affect our macronutrient ratios and consequently what is our body using for its fuel source? For example, if we eat a ‘healthy’ diet with many servings of natural fruit during the day, we provide our body with a constant, steady stream of carbohydrates. This prevents the body from tapping into stored fat which requires the body to put forth significantly more effort. If, however, we begin the process of becoming fat adapted, we force the body to do the latter and turn to fat as its primary fuel source.3

Many of us who are already in sync with the recommendations of a real Paleo diet are comfortable with the recommendation to eat a diet higher in fat. But, the mention of adding salt really throws us a curve ball! After all, added salt is linked to a host of negative side effects including high blood pressure, osteoporosis and kidney stones, stomach cancer, stroke, Menierre’s Syndrome, insomnia, motion sickness, asthma and exercise induced asthma.4

A brief glance at our colleagues, friends and family’s food habits, provide all the proof we need that the typical American is following a diet far too high in sodium. It’s a fair bet most could do with, at the very least, weaning off the salt, by cutting back on the salt shaker and simultaneously omitting processed foodstuffs. But, this begs the question, how should athletes balance their Paleo diets and replace electrolytes through sweat?

Rehydrating with pure water without also replenishing salts can be potentially fatal and lead to hyponatremia, a condition that can occur when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Drinking too much water during endurance sports causes the sodium in your body to become diluted. When this happens, your body’s water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life threatening.5 Other side effects may include lightheadedness, fatigue, headaches and constipation.

Moreover, on a low carb diet where the body becomes reliant on fat as its fuel, more salt is used in the process when insulin levels go down and the body starts shedding excess sodium and water along with it. On a high carb diet, insulin signals the cells to store fat and the kidneys to hold on to sodium, which is why people often get rid of excess bloat within a few days of low-carb eating.6

But again, if sodium is a crucial electrolyte in the body, how do we replace it? Presuming you’re following a healthy, high in fat, but void of refined, processed carbs and with adequate wild proteins and local veggies Paleo diet, adding a few pinches of salt to a recovery drink is permitted7 and may, in some instances, be a part of preventing weight gain. The general takeaway is not to simply add salt and watch the pounds melt away. Rather, train your body to become fat adapted in conjunction with following a real Paleo approach.

These findings “may lead to the developments of new anti-obesity treatments” and “may support continued and nuanced discussions of public policies regarding dietary nutrient recommendations.”

Let’s hope the new treatments go beyond a new pill or surgery, and the recommendations are evidenced by science versus the current guidelines deterring us as a society to truly follow a path to optimal health!



[1] ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.

[2] “Dietary Guidelines.” Dietary Guidelines. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.

[3] Volek, Jeff, Stephen D. Phinney, Eric Kossoff, Jacqueline A. Eberstein, and Jimmy Moore. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable. Lexington, KY: Beyond Obesity, 2011. Print.

[4] “Sea Salt: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” The Paleo Diet. N.p., 20 Apr. 2014. Web. 15 June 2015.

[5] “Hyponatremia.” – Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.

[6] “Insulin’s Impact on Renal Sodium Transport and Blood Pressure in Health, Obesity, and Diabetes.” Insulin’s Impact on Renal Sodium Transport and Blood Pressure in Health, Obesity, and Diabetes. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.

[7] Cordain, Loren, and Joe Friel. “Stages III, IV, V: Eating After Exercise.” The Paleo Diet for Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. New York: Rodale, 2012. 56-57. Print.

4 Paleo Cornerstones to Increase Your Metabolism | The Paleo Diet

Many individuals who are desperate to lose weight do not realize that they can – and should – eat lots of calories.1, 2, 3 Crash diets do not work, when it comes to long term fat loss.4, 5 In fact, they usually have the opposite effect – weight and fat gain.6, 7, 8 There are, however, some very easy tricks to incorporate into your routine to help ramp up your metabolism.

However, as a disclaimer, if you’re after a quick fix to mimic the effects of steroids or other illegal drugs, you’ll be looking at a harsh reality dead in the eyes. These drugs are dangerous, and are illegal for a reason.

Follow these simple, easy steps to hone in on the last 10% to push you over the edge and help you lose those few extra stubborn pounds!

4 Paleo Cornerstones to Increase Your Metabolism | The Paleo Diet

Mullur, Rashmi, Yan-Yun Liu, and Gregory A. Brent. “Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism.” Physiological Reviews. American Physiological Society, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 2 June 2015.


Make sure you are eating plenty of calories. Skip the starvation diets and/or “cleanses” please. Secondly, make sure that you are including “good” calories, and leaving out “bad” ones. This means making your diet as nutrient dense as possible, which the Paleo diet will accomplish for you automatically (I told you this was easy!). Leaving out the “bad” calories can be trickier, but you simply choose between avoiding ice cream and achieving their weight loss goal, or downing a pint and keeping those extra pounds. Ultimately, the choice is yours.


Of these quality calories, protein is probably the most important.9, 10 Most of us do not eat enough protein, and the more protein we eat, the more satiated we will be and the more muscle we can build – both important cornerstones of true weight loss.11, 12 Thermogenesis requires adequate protein – as does muscle growth.13 Without protein, you will never become leaner and meaner.


The next step (which is so commonly overlooked) is indulging in lots of healthy fats.14 This means extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and other Paleo Diet staples.


One of the biggest secrets to fat loss, is so simple, and yet so overlooked. As I’ve previously written, getting enough sleep is absolutely vital to fat loss.15 In fact, sleep deprivation will cause fat gain!16 Getting an appropriate amount of sleep may be the most unrecognized and underreported secret to fat loss – and yet so many of us struggle to achieve it.17 Why is this? Examine your lifestyle and see what you can strip away (another secret to fat loss – eliminate activities and stressors – don’t add them!)

So to review, boost your metabolism and get rid of stubborn body fat by getting enough calories (quality here is vital), eat plenty of quality proteins and fats, and get lots of high quality sleep (8-9 hours per night). These four Paleo cornerstones will ramp up your metabolism and help you lose body fat.

4 Paleo Cornerstones to Increase Your Metabolism

Mullur, Rashmi, Yan-Yun Liu, and Gregory A. Brent. “Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism.” Physiological Reviews. American Physiological Society, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 2 June 2015.

Perhaps two more key notes should be mentioned here. The first is to avoid sugar at all costs. Sugar is your enemy when it comes to fat loss.18 1-2 servings of fruit are all you usually need, and it’s vital (if you want to lose fat) to keep your carbohydrate intake to starchier sources, like sweet potatoes.

The second key is to give it time! Weight loss does not happen overnight – it really does take patience. I have had so many clients who have given up after a week of not achieving their goal, which is truly heartbreaking. I know that if they were to simply hold on for another few weeks, they would see very good results, and stick with it.

A Paleo diet and lifestyle will provide you with all the tools you need to maximize your metabolism and lose weight.19, 20 If you have very complex metabolic or health issues to deal with, you may need to see a doctor or practitioner, but this isn’t always necessary.

Go home, get rid of all the processed and man-made foods from your house, keep exercising and sleeping, and reap the rewards of a Paleo-driven, fuel-efficient metabolism!



[1] Purnell JQ. Obesity: Calories or content: what is the best weight-loss diet?. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2009;5(8):419-20.

[2] Finer N. Low-calorie diets and sustained weight loss. Obes Res. 2001;9 Suppl 4:290S-294S.

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

[4] Kline GA, Pedersen SD. Errors in patient perception of caloric deficit required for weight loss–observations from the Diet Plate Trial. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010;12(5):455-7.

[5] Kelley DE, Wing R, Buonocore C, Sturis J, Polonsky K, Fitzsimmons M. Relative effects of calorie restriction and weight loss in noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1993;77(5):1287-93.

[6] Shah M, Miller DS, Geissler CA. Lower metabolic rates of post-obese versus lean women: Thermogenesis, basal metabolic rate and genetics. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1988 Sep;42(9):741-52.

[7] Bray GA: Effect of caloric restriction on energy expenditure in obese patients. Lancet 1969; 2:397-398

[8] Keys, Ancel. The Biology of Human Starvation: Volume I. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1950. Print.

[9] Westerterp-plantenga MS, Lemmens SG, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. Br J Nutr. 2012;108 Suppl 2:S105-12.

[10] Brehm BJ, D’alessio DA. Benefits of high-protein weight loss diets: enough evidence for practice?. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2008;15(5):416-21.

[11] Westerterp-plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen A, Tomé D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21-41.

[12] Clifton PM, Keogh JB, Noakes M. Long-term effects of a high-protein weight-loss diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(1):23-9.

[13] Acheson KJ, Blondel-lubrano A, Oguey-araymon S, et al. Protein choices targeting thermogenesis and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(3):525-34.

[14] Brehm BJ, Seeley RJ, Daniels SR, D’alessio DA. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88(4):1617-23.

[15] Available at: //thepaleodiet.com/sleep-loss-making-fat/. Accessed May 30, 2015.

[16] Spivey A. Lose sleep, gain weight: another piece of the obesity puzzle. Environ Health Perspect. 2010;118(1):A28-33.

[17] Durmer JS, Dinges DF. Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Semin Neurol. 2005;25(1):117-29.

[18] Kuo LE, Czarnecka M, Kitlinska JB, Tilan JU, Kvetnanský R, Zukowska Z. Chronic stress, combined with a high-fat/high-sugar diet, shifts sympathetic signaling toward neuropeptide Y and leads to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1148:232-7.

[19] Boers I, Muskiet FA, Berkelaar E, et al. Favourable effects of consuming a Palaeolithic-type diet on characteristics of the metabolic syndrome: a randomized controlled pilot-study. Lipids Health Dis. 2014;13:160.

[20] Masharani U, Sherchan P, Schloetter M, et al. Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015;

Did All Hunter-Gatherers Really Have a Lean Body Type? | The Paleo Diet

Whether you’re looking at an illustration of a hunter-gatherer in the Paleolithic era with a spear or a photo of modern day advocate in such great shape, they appear to be the perfect specimen of a human, one thing often remains the same:  the idea that all hunter-gatherers were lean, mean machines.

But is this theory really all that accurate?

Were there no cavewomen with curves?  Or portly cavemen that had a bit of a pouch from overdoing it a little on the honey?  (Not-that-funny-jokes aside, sugar consumption is one of the primary causes of extra weight. Top that with not eating fat either, forget about it!)

According to newly presented research,1 fragmentary fossils suggest our genus has come in different shapes and sizes since its origins over two million years ago.

We’re all familiar with how humans as a species have grown taller, wiser and become more adept at decision making as our brains grew, but the idea that our body shape may have its roots date further back in history than Great Aunt Martha and her voluptuous thighs and bum isn’t something that’s discussed that often.

How much does what we eat really factor into the shape of our bodies?  Dr. Jay T. Stock,2 co-authored a study from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology that compared measurements of fossils from sites in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Georgia. He found significant regional variation in the size of early humans during the Pleistocene, noting “we can now start thinking about what regional conditions drove the emergence of this diversity, rather than seeing body size as a fixed and fundamental characteristic of a species.”

So, does that mean we should shrug our shoulders, throw in the towel and sigh with disappointment that we’re destined to never achieve that taut tummy or toned thighs we’ve always coveted? Not by a long shot!

What you eat factors in tremendously to how you look.  In my experience working with clients over the years, I’d wager to guess that nutrition can play as much as 80% of the role in whether or not an individual resembles the stereotypical hunter gatherer…or the stereotypical modern day American!

While genetics obviously factor into what you look like, we can still control the amount of foods we ingest and our movement. For example, there may be foods we can tolerate better than others based upon our ethnic roots, or our ability to build up endurance to run long distances.

By relying on a sound, true Paleo diet approach, you can reach your own personal best lean body size that combines what nature provided you with and what you choose to nurture yourself.

If you’re 5’6” and 45 years old, you’re not going to get any taller and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do on that end. But if you’re also tipping the scales at 200 pounds at that very same height, you’ve got an incredible opportunity to change your fate (and your body size and shape) by choosing the path to better health, simply by what you’re putting in your mouth.

So, carry on being a hunter-gatherer, even if it is 2015 and you’re not exactly doing the hunting and gathering yourself. Lean body coming soon!


[1] University of Cambridge. (2015, March 26). Earliest humans had diverse range of body types, just as we do today. Science Daily. Retrieved April 13, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150326204642.htm

[2] Manuel Will, Jay T. Stock. Spatial and temporal variation of body size among early Homo. Journal of Human Evolution, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.02.009

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Congratulations to the winner of The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook Giveaway, Karla! Thanks for sharing your inspired journey with us!

“I began the Paleo Diet with my daughter January 8, 2013 and within 2 weeks I had more energy, my mind felt clearer, I no longer had constant sinus drainage and nasal stuffiness, my digestive problems resolved and I didn’t feel bloated. I then segued to the autoimmune protocol due to having Rheumatoid Arthritis and my SED rate dropped dramatically (per lab tests) to the point where I went off Methotrexate (which wasn’t working anyway) and didn’t have to go on Humira. I virtually eliminated my R.A. joint pain and swelling.

My daughter who was 17 at time experienced loss of belly fat, more energy and though she had been on Solodyn for her acne for years, never really eliminating it, she experienced a dramatic reduction of her acne for the first time. But the most amazing change she experienced was no longer having exercise induced asthma, which was huge since she is a competition dancer and had to use an inhaler 30 minutes prior to dancing but still had the fear of experiencing an attack. The Paleo Diet gave her freedom and gave me a life back.”


The BEST Fat Loss Diet in The World | The Paleo Diet

It’s officially 2015, the New Year is upon us and with it many resolutions to lose weight and get into shape. With so many magazines and websites filled with latest fad diets, how do you know what diet really works best? The good news is the scientific research is actually quite clear with respect to the ‘best diet’ for not only promoting fat loss but also improving your overall health.

A low-carb diet (LC), or its cousin the very low-carb ketogenic diet (VLCK), are head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to promoting weight loss and upgrading your health. A low-carb diet is typically classified as a diet consisting of 100g of carbs or less per day, whereas a very low-carb ketogenic diet is generally 50g of carbs or less. (It’s called a ketogenic diet due to the ketone body by-products produced when the body switches over to primarily fat- burning for fuel.)

Practically, adopting a LC or VLCK diet entails decreasing your intake of starchy carbohydrates while increasing your consumption of tasty lean proteins, healthy fats, nutrient-dense veggies and whole fruits.

For some this might be a whole new approach to eating, for others something you’ve experimented with in the past. How do low-carb and very low-carb ketogenic diets work to promote weight loss? There are numerous physiological mechanisms at play. Let’s take a closer look.

A low-carb diet dramatically improves your blood sugar control and the function of your blood sugar hormone insulin.1 After you eat a meal, insulin’s job is to get the sugars from your bloodstream into your cells.  The more overweight or out of shape you are, the greater the amount of insulin your body produces to get the job done. This leads to higher insulin levels in the blood, which directly blocks your capacity to burn fat via the hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) enzyme. This person would be called insulin insensitive and if the condition persisted they would eventually become insulin resistant and develop type-II diabetes.

How does this relate to carbohydrates? Carbohydrates exert the greatest impact on your insulin output, therefore by reducing your carb intake (and increasing your consumption of healthy proteins and fats) you’ll improve your body’s insulin sensitivity or efficiency at shuttling the food you eat into your cells where it can be used for energy.

A recent meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition of 1,400 people adopting a very low-carb diet showed significant reductions in bodyweight, as well as lower triglycerides and improved good HDL cholesterol.2 Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine of 322 obese patients revealed that the low-carb group on an unrestricted calorie diet lost more weight than subjects on a calorie-restricted low fat diet, or a Mediterranean diet.3 The beauty of a low-carb diet for weight loss is that you don’t have to bother counting calories and you’ll still see results.

It’s not just the hormone insulin contributing to all the positive outcomes. Low-carb diets increase your body’s satiety signals via the increase in protein consumption and improved efficiency of the satiety hormone leptin.4,5 Low-carb diets also trigger greater lipolysis – the breakdown of body-fat – as your body shifts to burning fat as a primary fuel source.6 There is also an increase in the metabolic cost of producing glucose (gluconeogenesis) when on a low-carb diet, which requires your body to burn more energy and translates into a slimmer waistline and better health for clients.7

A Paleo dietary approach fits perfectly with a low-carb or very low-carb ketogenic diet due to the inherently higher intake of lean proteins, healthy fats, and abundant vegetables.  The natural elimination of grains on a Paleo diet quickly and easily reduces your total carb intake (although it’s important to remember that not all Paleo diets need to be low-carb, particularly in athletes). The goods news is you’re replacing the nutrient poor starchy grains with nutrient-dense veggies and fruits. This promotes not only superior weight loss but better overall health.

The latest research shows a low-carb diet also comes with a myriad of other health benefits, such as; improved blood pressure, triglycerides, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and reduced inflammation.8,9,10 These are profound and dramatic changes that stem from simply eating more in-tune with how your body has evolved. (Not even best drugs in the world could improve these parameters so significantly!)

So, why isn’t everyone who is overweight or out of shape on a low-carb Paleo diet? Unfortunately, even many old diet and nutrition myths still persist in doctor’s and dietician’s offices across the country.

One of the most common mistakes is avoiding saturated fats for fear they will worsen a patient’s cardiovascular health. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, studies continue to pour out of the scientific literature confirming that your dietary intake of saturated fat does NOT impact your blood levels. In fact, the study goes on to show that carbohydrates are the real culprits (if you are overweight or out of shape), increasing blood levels of saturated fats alongside a key marker associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type-2 diabetes.11 In short, cut the carbs to get your health and bodyweight back on track.

Now that you know why a low-carb diet is best way to lose weight and improve your health, the next step is implementing the diet into your day-to-day routine.

If you are new to the Paleo diet or have a lot of weight to lose, start out slow and scale up. Remember, whether you’re just starting out or have been following Paleo for sometime, our 85:15 Rule permits the inclusion of three ‘cheat’ meals per week, where you can loosen the rules, not feel too restricted, and ease into the Paleo lifestyle.

Here is a sample day of meals for beginners with recipes to get you started!

By following this approach many will lose weight gradually, feel satiated and content, and not compromise health or performance at work or in the gym.

Make 2015 a year to remember, transform your body and mind with a low-carb Paleo diet and unlock your weight loss and performance potential.


[1]Ballard, K et al.Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves insulin sensitiv­ity, blood pressure, microvascular function, and cellular adhesion markers in individuals taking statins.Nutr Res.2013 Nov;33(11):905-12.

[2]Bueno, N et al.Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v.low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.Br J Nutr.2013 Oct;110(7):1178-87.

[3]Shai I, Schwarzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med 2008;359:229-41.

[4]Veldhorst M., Smeets A., Soenen S., Hochstenbach-Waelen A., Hursel R., Diepvens K., Lejeune M., Luscombe-Marsh N., Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein-induced satiety: Effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiol. Behav. 2008;94:300–307.

[5]Sumithran P., Prendergast L.A., Delbridge E., Purcell K., Shulkes A., Kriketos A., Proietto J. Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2013;67:759–764

[6]Cahill G.F., Jr. Fuel metabolism in starvation. Annu. Rev. Nutr. 2006;26:1–22.

[7]Tagliabue A., Bertoli S., Trentani C., Borrelli P., Veggiotti P. Effects of the ketogenic diet on nutritional status, resting energy expenditure, and substrate oxidation in patients with medically refractory epilepsy: A 6-month prospective observational study. Clin. Nutr. 2012;31:246–249.

[8]Perez-Guisado, J.Munoz-Serrano A.A pilot study of the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet: an effective therapy for the metabolic syndrome.J Med Food.2011 Jul-Aug;14(7-8):681-7.

[9]Crane P.et al.Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia.NEJM.Sept 2013 Vol 369.

[10]Heilbronn LK et al. Energy restriction and weight loss on very low-fat diets reduce C-reacctive protein concentrations in obese, healthy women. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2001;21:968-970.

[11]Volk B et al. Effects of Step-Wise Increases in Dietary Carbohydrate on Circulating Saturated Fatty Acids and Palmitoleic Acid in Adults with Metabolic Syndrome. Plus ONE 2014, Nov 21:1-16.

Your Dietary Fix for Stress: Paleo Diet or Nordic Diet | The Paleo Diet

In November of 2014, the International Journal of Obesity published a study conducted by Swedish researchers comparing Paleo-inspired diets with those based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR).1 The NNR are comparable to the USDA’s dietary guidelines, emphasizing low-fat dairy and cereal grains and recommending a macronutrient distribution of 55-60% of calories from carbohydrates, 25-30% from fat, and 15% from protein. The macronutrient distribution used in this study to represent the Paleo diet was 30% carbohydrates, 40% fat, and 30% protein.

The researchers grouped 49 overweight or obese postmenopausal women into the Paleo and NNR groups, tracking their progress over two years. They were primarily serving how these diets influence glucocorticoid metabolism. Glucocorticoids are stress hormones that modulate various metabolic, inflammatory, and cardiovascular processes.2 Abnormal glucocorticoid metabolism is associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.

Cortisol, the principal active glucocorticoid, is secreted by the adrenal glands and converted to cortisone, the inert form.3 One of the enzymes responsible for this conversion is called 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1). Obese individuals demonstrate increased activity of 11β-HSD1 in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT), which is fatty tissue directly under the skin. The researchers hypothesized that diet-induced weight loss results in decreased expression of 11β-HSD1 in SAT and thus a reversal of the abnormal glucocorticoid metabolism common to obese patients.

The study’s participants were observed at baseline, after 6 months, and after 24 months. Both groups lost weight and decreased BMI, waistline measurements, and total body fat throughout the study. The Paleo group had greater reductions after 6 months, but after 24 months there were no significant differences between the groups. Both groups also demonstrated decreased activity of 11β-HSD1 in SAT. The researchers noted, “We did not find any major difference between diets on glucocorticoid metabolism.”4

So what does this study tell us? The Paleo diet performed better than NNR after 6 months, but after two years, it seems neither diet had any advantages over the other. It’s important, however, to look closer at the structure of the study. Every two months, participants attended sessions with dietitians to ensure compliance with their respective diets. Food journals and urine samples were used for monitoring and measuring food intake. An anomaly, however, pointed out by the researchers, was that urinary nitrogen levels were not higher in the Paleo group (as they should have been) at any time during the study, “indicating that the actual intake of protein was similar in both diet groups.”5 The Paleo group, however, was instructed to eat 30% of calories as protein, double the amount of the NNR group.

Also, Paleo participants were instructed to eat 40% of calories as fat, “with a high proportion of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs).” An authentic Paleo diet, however, would have higher proportion of saturated fatty acids and MUFAs, with only very small amounts of PUFAs. So, the “Paleo diet” and the low-fat, high-carb, grain-centric diet fared similarly, but were Paleo participants following an authentic Paleo diet? This seems doubtful. Nevertheless, this study represents an important advance in our understanding of how diets influence stress hormones. Follow-up studies will hopefully ensure greater compliance to authentic Paleo diets.

Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.

Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.


[1] Stomby, A., et al. (October 2014). Diet-induced weight loss has chronic tissue-specific effects on glucocorticoid metabolism in overweight postmenopausal women. International Journal of Obesity. Retrieved from //www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ijo2014188a.html

[2] Wang, M. (February 2005). The role of glucocorticoid action in the pathophysiology of the Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2(3). Retrieved from //www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/3

[3] Ibid, Wang.

[4] Ibid, Stomby.

[5] Ibid, Stomby.

Tips to Jumpstart Paleo New Year

Did you find yourself eating differently during the holiday season and have resolved to make drastic changes at the beginning of the year?  Forget about juicing, cleansing and detoxing for a quick fix to jump-start your resolution to trim your waistline and purify your body. There is little scientific evidence to support temporary measures have an impact on your overall wellness long term.

The truth is our bodies are continuously processing toxins (both environmental and dietary), chemicals, and waste products.1 It is a day-to-day undertaking involving the liver, kidneys, and spleen, rather than something you can undertake for an intense period.2 If you are looking to recover from the lifestyle implications of your holiday choices, return to the basic principles of the Paleo lifestyle, which focus on a consistent, long-term approach to optimizing metabolic and physiological health.3

Negative side effects are routinely experienced on calorie and fat/protein restricted programs, including low energy, low blood sugar, muscle aches, fatigue, lightheadedness, and nausea. Specifically, some programs allow for only fruit and vegetable juices to be consumed for up to a week at a time. The negative effects from consuming significant amounts of fructose, especially without fiber, fat, and protein, include rapid stimulation of lipogenesis and triglyceride accumulation, which in turn contributes to reduced insulin sensitivity and hepatic insulin resistance/glucose intolerance.4

Although purification naturally occurs on a daily basis, we can support the body’s pathways to function most efficiently. Focus on the following guidelines, as a part of your Paleo Diet, to feel energized and strong at the start of the year.


Broth a great way to stay hydrated, which keeps the circulatory and lymphatic system functioning optimally.5 Bone broth is rich in minerals6 and has been linked to healing the digestive tract and is rich in collagen, glucosamine, and gelatin. You can add a small amount of coconut oil, to aid in blood sugar regulation and minimize the risk of insulin resistance.7


Glutathione is an essential antioxidant naturally produced by the body8 to facilitate cell reactions,9 is quickly depleted by a poor diet, stress, illness, pollutants, and even aging. Sulfur-rich foods like garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.) are especially high in glutathione.10


Betaine protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress and participates in the methionine cycle.11 Betaine can be obtained in the highest concentrations from both spinach and beets.12 Raw beets can be sliced thinly or grated over a raw spinach salad for a betaine-rich combination and a vibrant addition to your Paleo dishes.

Stephanie Vuolo

Stephanie Vuolo | The Paleo Diet Team

Stephanie Vuolo is a Certified Nutritional Therapist, an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer, and a Certified CrossFit Level 1 Coach. She has a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. She is a former contributor to Discovery Communications/TLC Blog, Parentables.

Stephanie lives in Seattle, WA, where she is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for how diet and lifestyle can contribute to overall wellness and longevity. She has been raising her young daughter on the Paleo Diet since birth. You can visit her website at www.primarilypaleo.com.


[1] Available at: //www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/. Accessed December 16, 2014.

[2] Dorfman, Kelly. “Improving Detoxification Pathways.” New Developments 2.3 (1997): 4.

[3] Frassetto, Lynda A., et al. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.” European journal of clinical nutrition 63.8 (2009): 947-955.

[4] Basciano, Heather, Lisa Federico, and Khosrow Adeli. “Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia.” Nutrition & metabolism 2.1 (2005): 5.

[5] Jones, JUDY M., L. A. Wentzell, and DANIEL P. Toews. “Posterior lymph heart pressure and rate and lymph flow in the toad Bufo marinus in response to hydrated and dehydrated conditions.” Journal of experimental biology 169.1 (1992): 207-220.

[6] Roberts, Sam J., et al. “The taphonomy of cooked bone: characterizing boiling and its physico–chemical effects.” Archaeometry 44.3 (2002): 485-494.

[7] Kochikuzhyil BM, Devi K, Fattepur SR. “Effect of saturated fatty acid-rich dietary vegetable oils on lipid profile, antioxidant enzymes and glucose tolerance in diabetic rats.” Indian J Pharmacol. 2010 Jun;42(3):142-5.

[8] Wu, Guoyao, et al. “Glutathione metabolism and its implications for health.” The Journal of nutrition 134.3 (2004): 489-492.

[9] Available at: //www.readisorb.com/science/methionine_cycle_and_glutathio.html. Accessed on December 16, 2014.

[10] Nuttall, S. L., et al. “Glutathione: in sickness and in health.” The lancet351.9103 (1998): 645-646.

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

[12] Available at: //nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000145000000000000000-1w.html. Accessed on December 16, 2014.

Stop Counting Calories, Start Assessing Quality | The Paleo Diet

In the new paper soon-to-be published by Public Health Nutrition, a Cambridge University Press journal, doctors Sean Lucan and James DiNicolantonio question prevailing ideas on obesity and weight gain, with respect to calorie counting, while arguing for a more qualitative, rather than quantitative, approach to nutrition.1 Dr. Lucan is a practicing family physician and researcher whose work focuses on urban food environments and how they influence dietary behavior. Dr. DiNicolantonio is a cardiovascular research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. We caught up with Dr. DiNicolantonio to discuss his new paper and ask his views on calories, food quality, the Paleo Diet, and more.

In their paper, the doctors observed that most public health initiatives addressing obesity approach the problem arithmetically. In other words, make a balance sheet, add calories in, deduct calories out, and whenever there’s a deficit, weight loss should occur. This approach can also be summarized as “eat less, move more.” Research shows, however, that caloric intake and caloric expenditure are coupled, and thus consuming fewer calories “will necessarily result in a compensatory drive to reduce calories expended.”2 People who cut calories often fail to lose weight because they get tired and hungry, and this hunger drives them toward higher-calorie foods. Maintaining caloric deficit, the doctors argue, “is practically and biologically implausible.”

So what makes us gain weight? Is a calorie a calorie? In other words, do 100 calories of salmon have the same physiological impact as 100 calories of sugar or 100 calories of bread? In fact, different foods have substantially different effects on key hormones related to satiety, food consumption, weight maintenance, and body composition, particularly ghrelin (an appetite-stimulating hormone) and leptin (an appetite-suppressing hormone). Long-term overconsumption of refined and rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, the doctors explain, may promote leptin resistance, a condition they characterize as “a neurohormonal drive to ‘eat more’ and ‘move less.’”

We asked if sugar, in all its guises, is driving the obesity epidemic. “Refined/rapidly absorbable carbohydrates as well as added sugars (sucrose, also known as table sugar, and high fructose corn syrup) as well as free sugars, honey, 100% fruit juice, and syrups (agave syrup for example) are the primary drivers of obesity,” said DiNicolantonio.

Many people are surprised to learn that fruit juice is so metabolically destructive. Dr. DiNicolantonio refers to fruit juice as “soda without the buzz,” echoing Dr. Loren Cordain’s claims that fruit juice is “liquid candy” following the report fruit smoothies were equally as unhealthy as soda beverages. “Fruit juice actually has a higher fructose to glucose ratio than most sodas,” said DiNicolantino. “The rapidly absorbable sugar that is provided outweighs any small benefit provided from vitamins and minerals supplied in fruit juice.”

We also asked Dr. DiNicolantonio for his thoughts on the Paleo Diet. He observed that there are “good” and “bad” interpretations of Paleo. The bad interpretations, or more accurately, misinterpretations, would be those including highly processed animal foods or otherwise inferior quality animal products. “Then there is good/healthy Paleo,” he explained, “which is someone who is consuming animal products from animals set to pasture and never grain finished.”

In his paper, DiNicolantonio argues that with respect to calories, quality is far more important than quantity. He feels the same way about Paleo—quality predominates. “In essence, you can eat animal foods and be healthy, or you can eat them and be unhealthy. It depends on how the animal is bred and fed, as well as how the person is cooking the animal products.”

So if you’re trying to lose weight, quantitative strategies like caloric restriction probably won’t help. The Paleo Diet, on the other hand, is a scientifically vetted, evolutionary approach to health and wellness, including reduced body weight. The Paleo Diet works because it’s fundamentally a qualitative strategy, focusing on nutrient and ingredient quality rather than quantity consumed.

Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.

Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.


[1] Lucan, S and DiNicolantonio, J. (Embargo: November 24, 2014). How calorie-focused thinking about obesity and related diseases may mislead and harm public health. Public Health Nutrition. doi:10.1017/S1368980014002559

[2] Ibid.

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

The scientific basis behind the recommendation to cut out sweets for weight loss and overall health benefit is often overlooked.1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Did you know that the more sugar you consume, the more you come to crave it?6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Or how about that eating sweet foods causes a reward in the brain and mesolimbic dopamine pathway?11, 12, 13, 14

The science behind sweet is surprisingly complex, and also paints these foods in a fairly negative light.15, 16, 17, 18 Gambling, shopping, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol – are all common addictions supported by salient science.19 But food and sugar addiction is still questioned – even though our world’s population has never been fatter than we are right now.20, 21, 22 Oftentimes, we see clients turn to artificial sweeteners. And while these may be good as a “methadone” to getting off of sugar, they actually tend to result in weight gain, not weight loss.23, 24, 25

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

Yang, Qing. “Images in This Article.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Nov. 0005. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

Ahmed, Jessica, […] Robert Preissner. Oxford University Press. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

There are a multitude of reasons to avoid both sugar and artificial sweeteners.26, 27, 28 The body responds to sweet food with a need for more sweet food, and ignores foods that will contain more nutrients, and have more satiety.29 If we look at something like fructose specifically, some researchers have pointed out fructose is nearly equal to alcohol, in both societal function, hedonic and neuronal response, among others.30, 31

Molecularly, the structure of artificial sweeteners is interesting.32, 33 These creations have only existed for a little over 100 years, so we know very little about how our genome responds to them, at least in the long term.34, 35, 36

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

Yang, Qing. “Images in This Article.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Nov. 0005. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

In 2008, only 15% of the population consumed artificial sweeteners, but that number has increased every year since. The number of products containing artificial sweeteners has also increased substantially, from 369 in 1998 to 2,346 in 2010. Interestingly, table sugar and glucose activate human taste pathways differently than artificial sweeteners.37

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings |The Paleo Diet

“Download PDFs.” Altered Processing of Sweet Taste in the Brain of Diet Soda Drinkers. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

Sucrose elicts a stronger brain response in the following regions: the anterior insula, frontal operculum, striatum and anterior cingulate.38 Sugar also stimulates the dopaminergic midbrain areas in relation to the behavioral pleasantness response.39 Your brain can tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and sugar, but does that mean that artificial sweeteners are better for us?

Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings | The Paleo Diet

“Download PDFs.” Altered Processing of Sweet Taste in the Brain of Diet Soda Drinkers. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

The answer: No.40 41 The link between artificial sweetener consumption and obesity is an interesting one.42 Presumably, non-nutritive sweeteners would be a better alternative. However, there are alterations in reward processing of sweet taste in individuals who regularly consume diet soda.43 The more the reward process is altered, the more diet soda is consumed.44

Addictive drugs cause increases in extracellular dopamine in the brain’s “pleasure center,” the nucleus accumbens.45 When you consume sugar, binging on the substance releases dopamine, similarly to addictive drugs.46 The brain responds to chronic high sugar consumption by altering its own dopamine receptors.47 The sugar-opiate similarities are fascinating, and even work at a genetic level.48 In fact, research shows sugar-dependent rats have alterations in dopamine and opioid mRNA levels, similar to morphine-dependent rats.49

The best way to combat sugar cravings and live a healthier life? Consume a Paleo Diet. You will be loading up on nutrient dense foods, and avoiding large amounts of sugar. You will also be cutting out artificial sweeteners entirely. By resetting your taste for sweet foods, a little fruit here and there, will go a long way, to satisfying your sweet tooth. And if you must indulge, aim for some very dark, organic, chocolate. Enjoy the slimmer, trimmer, version of yourself, as a result.


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[2] Kasim-karakas SE, Almario RU, Cunningham W. Effects of protein versus simple sugar intake on weight loss in polycystic ovary syndrome (according to the National Institutes of Health criteria). Fertil Steril. 2009;92(1):262-70.

[3] Drewnowski A, Bellisle F. Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):651-61.

[4] Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010;55(1):37-43.

[5] Malik VS, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(4):1084-102.

[6] Avena NM, Bocarsly ME, Hoebel BG. Animal models of sugar and fat bingeing: relationship to food addiction and increased body weight. Methods Mol Biol. 2012;829:351-65.

[7] Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Sugar bingeing in rats. Curr Protoc Neurosci. 2006;Chapter 9:Unit9.23C.

[8] Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG. Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Neuroscience. 2005;134(3):737-44.

[9] Blum K, Thanos PK, Gold MS. Dopamine and glucose, obesity, and reward deficiency syndrome. Front Psychol. 2014;5:919.

[10] Swiecicki L, Scinska A, Bzinkowska D, et al. Intensity and pleasantness of sucrose taste in patients with winter depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2014;

[11] Berridge KC. ‘Liking’ and ‘wanting’ food rewards: brain substrates and roles in eating disorders. Physiol Behav. 2009;97(5):537-50.

[12] Wise RA. Role of brain dopamine in food reward and reinforcement. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci. 2006;361(1471):1149-58.

[13] Blum K, Gardner E, Oscar-berman M, Gold M. “Liking” and “wanting” linked to Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS): hypothesizing differential responsivity in brain reward circuitry. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(1):113-8.

[14] Murray S, Tulloch A, Gold MS, Avena NM. Hormonal and neural mechanisms of food reward, eating behaviour and obesity. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014;10(9):540-52.

[15] Tandel KR. Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2011;2(4):236-43.

[16] Bellisle F, Drewnowski A. Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61(6):691-700.

[17] Caffaro CE, Hirschberg CB. Nucleotide sugar transporters of the Golgi apparatus: from basic science to diseases. Acc Chem Res. 2006;39(11):805-12.

[18] Willett WC, Ludwig DS. Science souring on sugar. BMJ. 2013;346:e8077.

[19] Grant JE, Potenza MN, Weinstein A, Gorelick DA. Introduction to behavioral addictions. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2010;36(5):233-41.

[20] Ziauddeen H, Fletcher PC. Is food addiction a valid and useful concept?. Obes Rev. 2013;14(1):19-28.

[21] Corsica JA, Pelchat ML. Food addiction: true or false?. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2010;26(2):165-9.

[22] Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, et al. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):804-14.

[23] 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.

[24] Mattes RD, Popkin BM. Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(1):1-14.

[25] Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16(8):1894-900.

[26] Popkin BM, Nielsen SJ. The sweetening of the world’s diet. Obes Res. 2003;11(11):1325-32.

[27] Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-24.

[28] Fried SK, Rao SP. Sugars, hypertriglyceridemia, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(4):873S-880S.

[29] Cantley LC. Cancer, metabolism, fructose, artificial sweeteners, and going cold turkey on sugar. BMC Biol. 2014;12:8.

[30] Lustig RH. Fructose: metabolic, hedonic, and societal parallels with ethanol. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(9):1307-21.

[31] Lustig RH. Fructose: it’s “alcohol without the buzz”. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(2):226-35.

[32] Leban I, Rudan-tasic D, Lah N, Klofutar C. Structures of artificial sweeteners–cyclamic acid and sodium cyclamate with other cyclamates. Acta Crystallogr, B. 2007;63(Pt 3):418-25.

[33] Ahmed J, Preissner S, Dunkel M, Worth CL, Eckert A, Preissner R. SuperSweet–a resource on natural and artificial sweetening agents. Nucleic Acids Res. 2011;39(Database issue):D377-82.

[34] Brown RJ, De banate MA, Rother KI. Artificial sweeteners: a systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2010;5(4):305-12.

[35] Cong WN, Wang R, Cai H, et al. Long-term artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium treatment alters neurometabolic functions in C57BL/6J mice. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(8):e70257.

[36] Stellman SD, Garfinkel L. Artificial sweetener use and one-year weight change among women. Prev Med. 1986;15(2):195-202.

[37] Frank GK, Oberndorfer TA, Simmons AN, et al. Sucrose activates human taste pathways differently from artificial sweetener. Neuroimage. 2008;39(4):1559-69.

[38] Chambers ES, Bridge MW, Jones DA. Carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth: effects on exercise performance and brain activity. J Physiol (Lond). 2009;587(Pt 8):1779-94.

[39] Thornley S, Russell B, Kydd R. Carbohydrate reward and psychosis: an explanation for neuroleptic induced weight gain and path to improved mental health?. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2011;9(2):370-5.

[40] Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;

[41] Gardner C, Wylie-rosett J, Gidding SS, et al. Nonnutritive sweeteners: current use and health perspectives: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2012;35(8):1798-808.

[42] Davidson TL, Martin AA, Clark K, Swithers SE. Intake of high-intensity sweeteners alters the ability of sweet taste to signal caloric consequences: implications for the learned control of energy and body weight regulation. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2011;64(7):1430-41.

[43] Green E, Murphy C. Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Physiol Behav. 2012;107(4):560-7.

[44] Smeets PA, Weijzen P, De graaf C, Viergever MA. Consumption of caloric and non-caloric versions of a soft drink differentially affects brain activation during tasting. Neuroimage. 2011;54(2):1367-74.

[45] Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(1):20-39.

[46] Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG. Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Neuroscience. 2005;134(3):737-44.

[47] Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Underweight rats have enhanced dopamine release and blunted acetylcholine response in the nucleus accumbens while bingeing on sucrose. Neuroscience. 2008;156(4):865-71.

[48] Mysels DJ, Sullivan MA. The relationship between opioid and sugar intake: review of evidence and clinical applications. J Opioid Manag. 2010;6(6):445-52.

[49] Spangler R, Wittkowski KM, Goddard NL, Avena NM, Hoebel BG, Leibowitz SF. Opiate-like effects of sugar on gene expression in reward areas of the rat brain. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2004;124(2):134-42.

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