The Paleo Diet Linked to Significant Nutrient Deficiencies, New Study Finds

 

paleo diet

Diet fads come and go. The paleo diet is one that has earned its share of devotees in recent years. But can it last?

A spin-off of the gluten-free craze and our constant quest for healthier, cleaner foods, paleo eating mimics the scaled down diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, even though virtually none of the food we grow or eat today even closely resemble those of our primal relatives. The paleo diet advocates the removal of processed foods–a healthy boost no matter what the rest of your diet looks like. Processed foods are typically high in sugars and carbohydrates that have been connected with chronic health issues and weight gain.

For the converts, eschewing processed foods along with grains, legumes, starchy fruits and vegetables, and instead loading up on (healthy) fats and lean meats can quickly lead to weight loss, one of the paleo diet’s most notable benefits, finds a recent study.

Published in the current issue of the journal Nutrients, researchers noted that study participants who gave up grains, dairy, corn, potatoes, and beans lost 4.3 percent of their body weight and 3.8 percent of waist circumference in four weeks.

The weight loss is linked with the reduction of carbohydrates and the increase in protein, according to the researchers.

“This supports previous findings that lower carbohydrate diets are associated with greater losses of fat mass over a short term period,” the study authors wrote.

The weight loss can be an attractive element to new subscribers of the paleo diet. And the thought of gaining it all back because of a slice of bread may keep people committed, but that, says the researchers, may be problematic, too.

According to the same study, the paleo diet may also lead to major nutrient deficiencies, particularly if the diet is strictly adhered to long-term.

Lengthy avoidance of certain carbohydrates, namely vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, that humans have evolved to eat and absorb many vital nutrients from, may lead to significantly lower levels of key vitamins and minerals. According to the researchers, while the study participants lost weight, they also saw a decrease in key nutrients including iodine, sodium, and calcium, as well as “significant reductions” in thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, folic acid and iron.

The researchers say the findings warrant more study into the long-term effects of the paleo diet, and certainly it seems the weight loss benefit may be a short-term gain with long-term consequences. In the meantime, be sure to take a multivitamin.

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paleo image via Shutterstock

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.