The Paleo Diet: Designed by Nature, Built By Science
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The Paleo Diet: Designed by Nature, Built By Science

By Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer
December 18, 2019
The Paleo Diet: Designed by Nature, Built By Science image

The Paleo Diet® is a way of eating that mimics the eating habits of our ancient ancestors.

While it sounds simple — and it is — there's a lot of research that supports Paleolithic nutrition as the best, nutrient-dense diet out there.

That's why we call it "the human diet."

Here's why science shows that eating Paleo can increase energy, prevent disease, and help you feel healthy and vibrant again.

The science behind The Paleo Diet

The basic argument for following The Paleo Diet is that, for the majority of humanity’s time on this earth, this is how we ate. This way of eating ultimately shaped our genetics, which can be seen in the way that we, as humans, respond to the foods we eat. In other words, the right diet can help us fight disease, and feel as healthy and vibrant as nature intended.

There has been a massive change in the food supply since these Paleolithic times, starting with the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, the advent of dairy farming 5,000 years ago, and the more recent industrial revolution. Our genetic makeup simply cannot keep pace with these accelerated changes in our food supply.

While humans do adapt, as in the case of some recent genetic mutations such as the adult lactase persistence(ALP) gene, these changes take a very long time, resulting in an incongruence between our physiology and the foods eaten on a typical modern diet in the Western world.

Even if all humans adapted quickly enough to tolerate dietary lectins and anti-nutrients found in grains, there is no benefit to their consumption. That's why reducing or eliminating them from our diet just makes sense.

Instead, The Paleo Diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, seafood, and nuts — nutrient-dense foods filled with essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need to thrive.

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The Paleo Diet improves vitamin and mineral intake

One common criticism of The Paleo Diet typically is that eliminating foods like grains, legumes, starchy tubers, and dairy leads to nutrient deficiencies. This couldn't be farther from the truth!

In the early 1990s, when we first recommended The Paleo Diet to help auto-immune patients by eliminating high lectin-containing foods, we asked this same question. We wanted to be sure that excluding certain food groups would not lead to any nutrient deficiencies. In fact, we learned the opposite: following The Paleo Diet actually improved the nutrient content of the most deficient vitamins and minerals in a typical Western diet.

Research shows that The Paleo Diet is more nutrient-dense than any other diet — including the Mediterranean diet. So, if you hear criticisms saying that The Paleo Diet creates nutrient deficiencies, you can be assured that they are wrong.

The Paleo Diet prevents metabolic syndrome

Many modern foods have a high glycemic load, which abnormally elevates blood sugar levels.

This is why metabolic syndrome is so rampant today. When insulin sensitivity worsens, it can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. Poor dietary habits have now caused this syndrome in as much as a third of U.S. adults.

Metabolic syndrome consists of a multitude of conditions that, together, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. They include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The low glycemic load and high fiber intake of the foods consumed on The Paleo Diet prevent and even reverse this increasingly problematic health issue.

Learn more about The Paleo Diet

Critics of The Paleo Diet also like to claim there is little research supporting these recommendations. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Dr. Cordain referenced over 900 sources in writing his book, The Paleo Answer, most of which are peer-reviewed journal articles. These references combine research that supports the benefits of consuming foods included on The Paleo Diet, as well as the negative consequences of foods not on The Paleo Diet.

As the popularity of the diet has grown, more and more experimental studies have been conducted to examine the effects of adopting a Paleolithic way of eating.

If you want to learn more, we have a host of articles and information on our site that delve into the science of why this diet works. You'll discover why following The Paleo Diet will help you to control your blood sugar levels, avoid metabolic syndrome, and eat nutrient-dense foods that fight inflammation and autoimmune conditions. We can confidently state that no other way of eating can do this better than The Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet Team is here to help you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle; we invite you to interact with us via our website or social media platforms to help answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, here’s a good place to start.

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Paleo Leadership
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Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.