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The Paleo Diet Benefits

There are many benefits to eating the way we were designed to eat. However, perhaps the best way to summarize it is to discuss the consequences of eating a Western diet. This highly processed diet has been shown to lead to low-grade inflammation, which is at the heart of most chronic illness.

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The Paleo Diet®, also called an “evolutionary diet,” is centered around the idea that for optimal health we should eat foods that are as close to what our ancestors ate during the time of human evolution. The benefits of eating the diet our bodies were designed to eat are almost too numerous to list. However, this interview with Dr. Loren Cordain, the founder of the diet, is a good start.

Any of us who own a car understand the importance of using the right fuel and motor oil for our vehicles—the consequences of putting diesel fuel in a gasoline-powered car can be catastrophic. The same goes for putting the wrong foods in our bodies. Perhaps the best way to show the benefits of the Paleo Diet is to show the consequences of not eating this evolutionary diet.

Simply put, the typical Western diet is an inflammatory diet. That means it causes chronic and inappropriate low-grade inflammation as well as intestinal permeability which puts a strain on the immune system. This inappropriate inflammation should not be underestimated. As we continue to better understand the mechanisms behind most chronic illness, the one commonality found by researchers is that they are all preceded by inflammation.

To give a few examples, almost every autoimmune disease is associated with an inappropriate rise in the concentrations of TH17—a highly inflammatory immune cell. Likewise, we now know that atherosclerosis is caused by the build-up of a particular type of inflammatory immune cell called macrophages. Even cancer has been linked to inflammation, as well as to several dietary attributes of a Western diet, such as the high consumption of processed sugar and salt.

The Western diet is loaded with simple sugars, which have been linked to a variety of inflammatory conditions including heart disease and neurological disorders. Overconsumption of sugar also results in a high glycemic load which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. A Paleo Diet is a low glycemic load diet that significantly reduces simple sugars.

Several of the most beneficial aspects of the Paleo Diet are unknown to many people; for example, the sodium-to-potassium ratio and omega-3-to-omega-6 ratio. High salt, paired with low potassium, has many inflammatory consequences that are linked to a variety of conditions including cancer, autoimmunity, and even osteoporosis. Likewise, a diet higher in omega-3s relative to omega-6 fatty acids is known to be anti-inflammatory.

Together with both of these ratios is the acid-base balance of our diet. A Western diet is an acidic diet that has many negative health consequences.

Unlike the Western diet, the Paleo Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that helps avoid instead of promote these varied chronic illnesses. Again and again, it has been shown that these “Diseases of Civilization” are virtually unknown in studied hunter-gatherer societies.

But the benefits of the Paleo Diet go beyond just avoiding illness. Eating the foods our bodies were designed to eat allow our bodies to function optimally – that means improved skin, hair, and nail quality, less nasal congestion, less brain fog, better overall energy, and improved aging.

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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 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.

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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.