Are there any benefits to the paleo diet?

What is the paleo diet, and is it better than any other diet?
22 November 2022


A paleo diet meal



Is there any scientific or evolutionary backing to things like the paleo diet? What does that actually mean, that term?


Emma - So the idea of the paleo diet is that the optimal diet for humans to eat and the one that we probably ate for most of our evolutionary history as a species, which is something like 300,000 years is what hunter gatherers would eat. So you would think of wild hunted game. So they have low body fat compared to domesticated species, for example. So very lean meat, not eating things like pulses and grasses, things like that. Going for wild foods. Not the kind of domesticated things that are the foundation of our diet today.

Chris - But it still would critically contain meat.

Emma - Yes and I guess there's different versions of the diet depending on who you ask. The big problem here, well there's various big problems here. So one is that there is not a single diet that even contemporary hunter gatherers eat, let alone hunter gatherers in the past. There's been climate changes, we find hunter gatherers everywhere from the tropics right up into the Arctic, and of course they're eating very different diets. So there is no one diet that humans are adapted for. It's also the case that we are adapted to eat some of the foods that we have domesticated since the adoption of agriculture. We can see evidence for adaptation to consuming milk, for example, and also changes in our carbohydrate metabolism that are linked to that. And equally we know if we look in the archeological record, we can see evidence of even Neanderthals gathering grasses and wild grains and eating those. So it's not so simple as there's one diet that humans are adapted for, or that certain types of food are necessarily good or bad. And really we have to take a much more pragmatic and holistic approach to our diet and think about other factors as well, like exercise, the amount of energy we are using. That will affect how much food and what kinds of resources our body needs. So we can't really single out diet on its own to really know what's going to be healthy and best for our bodies.


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