How to live longer: The ‘prehistoric’ diet to ward off obesity and disease

The paleo diet is one form of diet whose aim is to help the individual who undertakes it to lose weight. Invented in the 1970s by Doctor Walter Voegtlin, the aim of the paleo diet is to replicate how humans used to eat in the Palaeolithic era that occurred around two and a half million years ago. The reasoning of the diet is that the human body is mismatched to modern diets that have emerged with farming practices. It is this mismatch that is believed to be a contributing factor in the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease.

As well as helping individuals lose weight, a paleo diet also claims to be useful in planning meals.

If a person wants to start the paleo diet, there are a number of foods they need to stick to and some they need to avoid.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, and oils are all part of what to include in the paleo diet.

In contrast an individual undertaking the diet must avoid grains, legumes such as beans, dairy products, refined sugar, salt, potatoes, and highly processed foods.

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Whether the paleo diet works and is beneficial in the long-run is a subject of debate with limited research on the topic and limited long-term data on those who follow the diet over decades.

One study conducted by researchers in 2007 compared the paleo diet to the Mediterranean diet with the focusing on glucose tolerance, insulin levels, weight, and waist circumference.

With regard to weight loss, scientists found that participants lost around five kilograms over 12 weeks on the paleo diet.

In contrast, those on the Mediterranean diet lost just under four kilograms during the same 12-week period.


While the weight loss difference between the two diets was not considered significant, the change in waist size was with those on the paleo diet losing just over two inches of waist compared to the one lost by those on the Mediterranean diet.

The researchers also investigated what degree the paleo diet could affect glucose tolerance, a marker for insulin resistance and diabetes.

In this regard the paleo performed well compared to the Mediterranean as only the former saw an improvement in glucose tolerance.

The conclusion from this study was that the paleo diet was useful at helping someone lose weight and increase their glucose tolerance.

This ability to help an individual lose weight is reflected across multiple studies conducted in the 2000s and early 2010s with individuals losing between two and just under five kilos depending on the length of the diet.

Benefits of the paleo diet weren’t just limited to a reduction in weight, a 2009 study found that paleo diet could be useful in helping someone reduce their levels of cholesterol.

Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, results showed that levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol fell by 22 percent while blood pressure also decreased.

However, due to the paleo diet forcing an individual to avoid some veg and dairy, there was the potential for adverse effects to be present.

With regard to the safety of the paleo diet, there have been no reports of serious adverse effects during the conduction of the diet in the studies.

However, more research is still required in order to identify if there are any long-term impacts of the paleo diet.

Other diets that can help an individual lose weight include the DASH, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, low-carb and plant-based diet.

For more information on diets, contact the NHS or consult with your GP.

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