Benefits of a paleo diet

The paleo diet can provide a wide range of benefits for people with diabetes, which derive from eating real, natural foods and cutting out processed food.

The most standout benefit is weight loss, which may be achieved through lower carbohydrate and sugar intake on the diet.

Other common benefits of the paleo diet include:

  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Improved heart health
  • More energy
  • Less inflammation

You should speak to your doctor if you are considering adopting the paleo diet to make sure it is suitable for you and won’t affect any medication you might be taking.

Weight loss

The core aspect of a paleo diet is eating unprocessed food. This typically means that a paleo diet tends to be low in carbohydrate as it excludes foods such as grains which require processing.

In combination with removing processed foods and avoiding high-carb foods that adversely impact your blood sugar levels, the paleo diet can help reduce body fat and consequently lead to weight loss.

In 2014 a paleo diet was shown to beneficial effects regarding fat mass, abdominal obesity and triglyceride levels in obese postmenopausal women [347]. Meanwhile, a 2016 study found that healthy women who were randomised to a paleo diet achieved greater weight loss compared to those following a typical low-fat diet [348].

Research hasn’t been unanimous, though. A 2016 study by Australian researchers reported there was no convincing evidence that the paleo diet led to weight loss in a cohort of adults with type 2 diabetes.

Increased insulin sensitivity

Because most paleo foods are relatively low-carb, there is often lower demand on the pancreas to produce insulin.

Research has shown the paleo diet can decrease insulin secretion and therefore improve the effectiveness of insulin [349]. This reduces insulin resistance, the driving force of type 2 diabetes, and may allow some people to reduce the amount of medication needed.

Improved heart health

Several studies have reported the paleo diet can have benefits for heart health. This is particularly useful for people with diabetes as heart disease is one of the most common diabetes-related complications.

Benefits may include improved total cholesterol. In 2015 scientists discovered that the paleo diet significantly lowered total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and increased HDL compared to a standard diet [350].

More energy

Eating foods low on the Glycemic Index (GI) as part of a paleo diet means you will avoid the drop in energy that normally occurs shortly after high GI and sugary foods.

The All Blacks’ strength and conditioning coach Dr Nicholas Gill made his players convert to a paleo diet prior to winning the 2015 World Cup, and he was convinced the diet gave his players more energy and boosted their performance.

Lower inflammation

Too much inflammation in the body can increase the risk of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, but eating low-carb, low GI foods – particularly omega-3 fatty acids - can protect against excess inflammation.

There isn’t much research on the paleo diet on inflammation, but a 2016 report from the American Physiological Society reported switching from a calorie-heavy Western diet to a paleo diet resulted in changes in biomarkers of inflammation [351]. More research is needed to confirm whether the diet can actually protect against inflammation, however.

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