In January I wrote about the best diets. This was based on the U.S. News & World Report's second ranking of many popular diets. As noted earlier (see blog posting, January 15, 2012), they asked a group of 22 experts in their fields to rate the various diets. So what did these experts decide was the worse diet? One of the worse diets to be on is the Paleo Diet. Perhaps you haven't heard of it. Well it seems popular among those focused on physical fitness and many people interested in fitness go on this diet at the recommendation of some physical fitness expert. Odd that a person interested in fitness and health would go on a diet rated as the worse diet to be on. The diet is based on what a cave man ate.
Foods to Eat:
Meat:. Since cave men were hunters, meat is definitely allowed.
Fruits and Vegetables: Cave men were also gatherers so plant foods such as vegetables and fruit are allowed.
Foods to Avoid:
A main feature of this diet is the lack of grains or dairy. Apparently, the diet is based on what a cave man ate and since a cave man didn't eat grains or dairy, these are missing from the Paleo Diet.
Grains: Breads, cereals, anything made from grains is on the "NO" list. The idea is that refined carbs and sugars are the cause of many of our health problems. This logic doesn't really explain why whole grains would be banned as there are not a refined carb or loaded with sugar. But cave men weren't farmers so didn't grow grains. For this reason, grains are banned.
Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt are on the "no" list because cave man didn't eat them so neither should you.
What About the Nutritional Value of the Paleo Diet? So how does this diet stack up nutritionally? Not very well. There are some good points. With all the fruits and vegetables it can be a diet with adequate fiber. Depending on the mix of foods, it probably will be lower in sodium than the typical American diet. However, without the dairy it is a diet below recommended levels of calcium and provides virtually no vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D in our diets is dairy foods such as milk and most yogurts which are fortified with vitamin D.
Diet Rating: The experts gave this diet only 2 stars (out of 5) for weight loss, short term and long term weight loss. There just wasn't any good research that indicated the Paleo Diet offered sustainable long term weight loss. The diet was also ranked poor (2 stars) as being easy to follow. When one restricts entire food groups such as grains and dairy, it makes it hard to follow. Because entire food groups are left out, the risk of nutritional deficiencies such as a calcium or vitamin D deficiency are real concerns. The experts also scored this diet as poor (2 stars) for safety. They ranked the diet as "somewhat unsafe".
Another commenter on the Paleo Diet is Dr. Donohue. He writes a medical column in our local newspaper and is syndicated nationally. A reader asked him (Free Lance Star, May 12, 2011): "What do you think of the Paleo diet? My 38 year old daughter follows it. Her fitness expert talked her into it." Dr. Donohue noted that cave man didn't have long lives. To him the diet was a step backward in time.
Given the poor rankings of this diet, its poor safety ranking, its potential for nutritional deficiencies, it certainly is an odd diet for those interested in physical fitness to be on and an even odder diet for physical fitness "experts" to be pushing others to try.