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  • Nancy M. Varela-Gastelum

Paleo/Paleolithic Diets

Nancy M. Varela-Gastelum, HK BioTek Intern

A Paleo, or Paleolithic, diet plan is based on eating foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The goal of the paleo diet is to return to a way of eating parallel to what early humans ate and is based on the idea that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet, an idea known as the discordance hypothesis. Farming changed what people ate and established dairy, grains, and legumes as additional staples in the human diet. This mismatch is believed to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease today.

Typical paleo diets include lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds, foods that in the past could have been obtained by hunting and gathering. Paleo diets limit the foods that have become common when farming emerged 10,000 years ago, like dairy products, legumes, and grains. At the same time, Paleo diets emphasize drinking water and being physically active everyday. You may like the paleo diet if you are trying to lose and maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar, feel fuller, or undergo a detoxification plan.

When compared to diets like Mediterranean diet and diabetes diet, the paleo diet may provide benefits like more weight loss, improved glucose tolerance, better blood pressure control, lower triglycerides, and better appetite management. However, because modern day farming had made grains, legumes, and dairy so accessible, undergoing a paleo diet can be a more expensive diet.

Arguments have risen for a more complex understanding of the evolution of human nutritional needs rather than the overly simplified elimination of certain over-farmed foods, as seen with the Paleo diet. The first being that there was indeed variation in diet based off of geography, climate/food availability that would have shaped the evolution of human nutritional needs. Secondly, archaeological research has shown that early human diets may have included wild grains before the introduction of farming. This means that some early human populations may have the access to dairy, grains, and legumes even before modern farming. Lastly, genetic diet-related changes such as an increase in the number of genes related to the breakdown of dietary starches were observed after the Paleolithic era. So the human genome continued to change and adapt to the resources that were available.


As with any major change to your health and diet, you should always consult with your doctor before undergoing changes. To help fill the nutrition gaps, a supplement plan maybe needed and recommended by a physician. Paleo diets lack calcium and vitamin D so it is important to supplement with broccoli and dark leafy greens, or nutritional supplements.


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