A paleo diet is a way of eating that follows the dietary patterns of early humans. This is believed to be beneficial for preventing disease, including obesity and heart disease.
The diet restricts most grains, legumes and dairy products. It also limits salt and sugar.
A new research paper has discovered that The Paleo Diet is the healthiest way of eating among 11 of the most popular diets. A modern Paleo diet includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. The study found that The Paleo diet is the most effective way of eating to simultaneously reduce inflammation, improve blood lipid profiles, and control blood sugar. The peer-reviewed study published in a respected nutrition journal ranks The Paleo Diet over Mediterranean, DASH, and plant-based diets for improving markers of these health conditions.
The peer-reviewed study, published in Nutrients was a large-scale meta-analysis, often considered the gold standard for generating scientific consensus because it shows how much the scientific body of evidence supporting The Paleo diet has grown over the past 20 years. These science-backed results contradict popular online diet rankings and common recommendations by dietitians, warranting a re-evaluation of The Paleo diet and its place in the practice of healthy nutrition.
The study, Dietary Patterns and Non-Communicable Disease Biomarkers: A Network Meta-Analysis and Nutritional Geometry Approach by S. Liang et. al., considered 4,008 previously published studies to compare the health impacts of many of the most popular diets, including:
- Mediterranean diet
- The Paleo Diet
- DASH diet
- Plant-based diet
- Dietary guidelines diet (diets based on a variety of current government recommendations)
- Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (e.g., ketogenic diet)
- A typical Western diet
The study drew two important conclusions:
- The Paleo diet performed best at improving the markers of chronic disease. Merging all the scores, The Paleo Diet was the healthiest diet with an overall SUCRA score of 67%, DASH at 62%, and Mediterranean at 57%. The Western diet ranked worst at 36%. SUCRA is a statistical scoring mechanism widely used by researchers to compare the relative effectiveness of treatments.
- The study shows that specific food choices are the most important factor for improving health. Focusing on macronutrients alone, like following a low-fat diet or a low-carb diet, is not nearly as effective at improving health. A focus on specific foods is the common theme of the three topped-ranked diets in this study—The Paleo diet, the DASH diet, and the Mediterranean diet. These three diets were shown to be healthiest, revealing that healthy nutrition is about choosing the right foods—natural, human-friendly foods that are less processed—and not focusing on their fat or carbohydrate content.
Other important findings:
- Plant-based diets and diets based on current government guidelines (e.g., USDA MyPlate guidelines) are much less healthy than higher-ranked diets in the study. Government guidelines scored at 48.5% while plant-based diets scored at 49.3%.
- The Paleo diet is strongly anti-inflammatory, earning the highest SUCRA score of 87% for reducing inflammation markers compared with DASH (71%) and Mediterranean (58.1%). The Mediterranean diet recommends several foods associated with inflammation.
- While The Paleo diet was ranked the healthiest diet overall, it was not the best ranked for all the specific biomarkers. The Mediterranean diet topped the list for improving lipid profiles like good and bad cholesterol while The Paleo Diet ranked just below a low-carb/high-fat diet (like the ketogenic diet) for glycemic control.
This new research joins seven other previously published meta-analysis studies and more than 500 peer-reviewed studies in supporting the health claims of The Paleo diet.