Long Term Scientific Verification of The Paleo Diet

Scientific Verification of Paleolithic Diets

I would like to report some good news for The Paleo Diet community. We now have the first long term, 2 Year Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to show The Paleo Diet to be superior health wise to low fat, high carbohydrate diets.11 This study, “Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial”  adds to the increasing body of scientific literature to substantiate the therapeutic health effects of contemporary Paleo diets tested experimentally in humans.1-10

Past criticism of The Paleo Diet by the U.S. News and World Reports, which rated the Paleo Diet dead last among 32 popular diets, indicated that the Paleo Diet had not been adequately tested in the long term in the scientific and medical literature. This criticism is unfounded given this new study11 which corroborates the numerous experimental studies demonstrating the various therapeutic health effects of The Paleo Diet.1-10 The criticism is also hypocritical given that the majority of the popular diets listed in the USNWR rankings have never been tested in the long term, nor have they even been examined in the medical literature.

Experimental human studies have shown the Paleo Diet to be superior health-wise to diabetic diets in a randomized crossover trials2, 10 and to Mediterranean diets.4, 5 Further, The Paleo Diet is nutritionally superior to the USDA My Plate (formerly the My Pyramid) diet in the 13 nutrients most lacking in the US diet.12, 13

In this new study11 The Paleo Diet proved superior to a low fat, high carbohydrate diet for weight loss at 6, 12 and 18 months, for body fat, waist circumference and sagittal, abdominal diameter at 6 months. Further, The Paleo Diet caused greater improvements in blood triglycerides after 2 years than the low fat, high carbohydrate diet.

It should be noted that because the sample size in this study at 24 months (27 subjects in the Paleo group, 22 subjects in the low fat, high carbohydrate group) was relatively small, it lacked the statistical power to detect non-significant therapeutic changes that occurred in the Paleo Diet group relative to the low carbohydrate group. Specifically, improvements occurred in the following variables for the Paleo Diet: 1) systolic blood pressure (p=0.29), 2) blood cholesterol (p=0.23), 3) LDL cholesterol (p=0.29).

Finally, it should be noted that consumption of The Paleo Diet resulted in important dietary characteristics which improved significantly (p<0.05) after 2 years: these variables included: increases in dietary protein, reductions in dietary carbohydrate, increases in monounsaturated fat, increases in polyunsaturated fats, increases in omega 3 fatty acids, reductions in omega 6 fatty acids, and reductions in dietary cholesterol. All of these nutritional changes are known to have multiple positive health effects that reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome diseases, cancer and autoimmunity. Future studies12 will help to further establish how contemporary Paleo diets may improve health and well being.


Loren Cordain, Professor Emeritus


1. 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.

2. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, Söderström M, Lindeberg S. 3. 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

3. 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

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Mellberg, C., Sandberg, S., Ryberg, M., Eriksson, M., Brage, S., Larsson, C., et al. (2014). Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.290 //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24473459.

11. 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

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

13. Fontes-Villalba M, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Frassetto LA, Sundquist J, Sundquist K, Carrera-Bastos P, Fika-Hernándo M, Picazo O, 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(1):2

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“11” Comments

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  8. Haters can hate. Studies can be done for eternity. I do Paleo, my chronic high blood pressure is gone, as normal as a healthy 20 years old’s BP, medications being dropped. Sense of well being is through the roof, mental attitude better than it has been in years. Fat is rolling off, lean mass is replacing it. I have more energy now than I did in my 20’s (I am 50). Joint pain, even post workout, gone. Blood work vastly improved.

    Sound familiar? It should. People that live this lifestyle report the very same effects over and over and over again. Study all you want, hate all you want, my personal study is done, and the Paleo benefits for me are medically measurable. From firsthand experience, it works, that’s a fact, not conjecture. Nuff’ said, now all you haters go eat something gluten filled! LOL

  9. I don’t normally respond to such negativity but feel I must speak. I am 71 years old, have been eating (almost strictly) Paleo for nearly 5 years now. I am off all 10 of my prescription medications, have lost 70 pounds and maintained that healthy body weight for 4 years, have increased energy and am extremely healthy. I don’t have food cravings and very seldom require a snack between meals. What more could I ask for? Thanks to those who brought Paleo eating out of the closet.

  10. I am a long time fan of the Paleo diet myself. If anything, I try not to get to tied-up in what people say about it and overall, I just plain love good clean food and eating Paleo gives me all the fuel I need to feel good and be healthy.

    At 43ish years old, I am often told that I am in better shape than most guys my age and I contribute this not only to consistent exercise, but more so to eating the Paleo way.

    Thanks for sharing the comparisons here!


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  12. The scientists can debate and argue all they want about the details of each and every study…But, for those of that are following Paleo, we have all the proof we need. We feel better, our bodies perform better, illnesses and chronic conditions are disappearing, and we are coming off of prescription medications. I have suffered for much of my adult life with PCOS, infertility issues, Insulin Resistance, chronic fatigue, weight issues, join pains, migraines, high cholesterol and insomnia to name a few. I have been on Paleo for only a short time and my symptoms are all subsiding or disappearing and I have lost weight (which has never been easier for me). The results will speak for themselves!

  13. This is a common problem with diet studies, that macronutrients goals are not met. As people we seem to find it in general difficult to eat in a very particular, prescribed way (except maybe our very own way :-). As this is the general rule with food studies, isn’t it fair to say that these diets are then being evaluated on equal grounds? Except of course if the real macro nutrient profile of the dieters is far from what is actually being studied (e.g. eating too much fat in a low fat study)
    In this particular case it was the protein requirement that wasn’t met for the paleo diet, which only means to me that the results could have been better for the paleo diet. But it still won the comparison!

  14. Charles Grashow, you definitely have a gripe against the paleo diet and want to discredit any way you can. Well it won’t work. Eating real food and not the adulterated crap we get in our supermarkets will always be better for our health. I don’t care if it is called the paleo diet or something else like grandma’s diet, all I care about is eating healthily. And no amount of scientific mumbo jumbo is going to get me to think otherwise.

  15. As to this study

    Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study

    Take a look at figure 1
    At the end of 6 months ALL of the Cardiovascular risk factors were virtually the same!

    Look at Table 5
    The paleo dieters ate MORE fruit and less saturated fat!

    Proves what??

    • Take some time to read the experimental procedure; subjects were subject to one diet the first 3 months, then instructed to switch diets for the last 3.
      What’s important in figure 1 is that at 3 months, before the test subjects SWITCHED diets, there is a significant difference, and this difference LEVELED OUT after they switch back. Therefore, this is actually proof that a paleo diet can start to be beneficial whether you start earlier or later, and that maintenance of the diet is required to maintain the health effects.

      In table 5, it is to show the difference in the diets’ macronutrient intake. I believe that the diet is effective, although the kcal should have been the same to prove one diet over the other.

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