Eight-week paleo diet may aid cardiovascular disease, study suggests

Camille Bienvenu
Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Eight-week paleo diet may aid cardiovascular disease, study suggests
Researchers from the Laboratory of Integrative Psychology at the University of Houston, Texas, found that eating a Paleo diet for a relatively short amount of time could potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, one of the most serious diabetes complications.

The preliminary findings for this study, which have recently been presented at the American Physiological Society's Inflammation, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease conference, show that the diet demonstrates heart health benefits after only eight weeks.

Lead researcher Chad Dolan and colleagues investigated whether swapping from a Western diet to a Paleo diet - consisting in consuming foods we are allegedly designed to eat from an evolutionary standpoint - could significantly aid heart health.

The Paleo diet, or "caveman" diet, is based on foods believed to have been consumed by our hunter-gathered ancestors. It includes a high amount of vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish, lean meats, and plant-based oils.

In short, if well formulated, the Paleo diet resembles a low-carbohydrate diet as it cuts out all processed foods, grains, refined sugar and starches. However, Paleo advocators also advise against dairy products, coffee and alcohol.

This way of eating has been met with much criticism. Another news study has, for example, recently suggested that the diet did not benefit type 2 diabetes.

When it comes to heart health, however, the early results of this study indicate that healthy adults who made the switch to the Paleo diet experienced an increase in levels of an important anti-inflammatory cytokine molecule known as Interleukin-10 (IL-10).

Low levels of IL-10 are linked to a greater risk of heart attack while higher IL-10 levels -seen with the Paleo diet – may lower inflammation, protect blood vessels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease overall.

The researchers made the discovery after randomizing eight healthy adults who normally consumed a Western diet high in saturated fats and processed foods, and low in fruits, vegetables and fish.

The subjects were then asked to adhere to the Paleo diet ad libitum (where they could eat as much as they wished) for eight weeks. To ensure findings were consistent and reliable, participants were given counseling as well as a Paleo diet menu and recipe guide to help them stick to the right food choices.

Blood samples taken from the participants before and after the diet change revealed an average 35 per cent increase in levels of the protective molecule IL-10.

Although the study was not designed to promote weight loss, the research team also noted a reduction in participants calorie intake and weight after following the Paleo diet for eight weeks.

Whilst the study shows promise, it should be noted that the current research had a very small number of participants and larger studies would be needed to confirm the benefits.
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