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Heart Health

01 August 2019

The Paleo diet could be bad for your heart, study finds

The Paleolithic diet, or Paleo diet for short, has been found to contain high levels of a marker tied to heart disease.

New research suggests that the Paleo diet may be linked to heart disease. The Paleo diet has gained popularity due to the fact that it has been proven to help people lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time. 

The diet

The diet, which is based on what humans from the Paleolithic era used to eat, consists of a high amount of fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds with no whole grains, dairy or legumes.

Although the diet has the potential for weight loss, there are still a number of uncertainties about health as there is not enough research regarding nutrient deficiencies, long-term side-effects and diseases.

Now, a study has found that this diet could pose a massive risk to your heart health due to the fact that the individuals on the diet don't consume whole grains, a great source of dietary fibre, which helps reduce cardiovascular problems.

The study

The study  published in European Journal of Nutrition and led by Angela Genoni, Ph.D., was a joint study with investigators from four institutions in Australia, namely: the School of Medical and Health Sciences and the School of Science, both at Edith Cowan University; the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University; PathWest Laboratory Medicine; and CSIRO Health and Biosecurity.

The study worked with a total of 91 participants, 44 who followed Paleo diets and 47 following typical diets that adhered to national dietary recommendations, known as the control group. Over a year, there was a follow-up, where researchers assessed the diets of the patients, collected biological samples and compared the results between the Paleo group and the control group. 

In order to ensure accuracy in their results, the investigators then split the Paleo group into two further groups, focusing on their preferences: 22 stricter Paleolithic participants including individuals who ate less than one serving per day of grains and dairy, and pseudo Paleolithic participants including individuals who ate more than one serving of grains and dairy per day.

Findings

Research found that across the Paleo groups, individuals presented heightened blood levels of a compound associated with heart disease, trimethylamine N-oxide. This compound is formed in the gut, and the levels of the compound largely depend on the bacteria that populate the gut.

Lead researcher, Angela Genoni, Ph.D., said, "Many Paleo diet proponents claim the diet is beneficial to gut health, but this research suggests that, when it comes to the production of [trimethylamine N-oxide] in the gut, the Paleo diet could be having an adverse impact in terms of heart health.

Furthermore, she continued to say, "We also found that population of beneficial bacterial species were lower in the Paleolithic groups associated with the reduced carbohydrate intake, which may have consequences for other chronic diseases over the long term."

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