Paleolithic diet healthier for overweight women, Swedish study finds

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22 Jan 2018 --- Overweight women after menopause who follow a Paleolithic diet can maintain weight loss in the long term, according to a study at Umeå University in Sweden. Further findings show that the diet also causes the levels of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases to decrease.

The Paleolithic diet is characterized by a high intake of protein and unsaturated fats and has a low glycemic index. The diet consists mainly of vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, shellfish, seeds, nuts, oils and fruit. It excludes cereals, milk, refined sugars and added salt. Along with the ketogenic diet and diets based on intermittent fasting, the Paleolithic diet has gained widespread popularity and is increasingly becoming the subjects of diverse research. 

According to Innova Market Insights, products describing themselves with the term “paleo” are on the rise. In 2017, the market researcher noted that the trend seems particularly embedded in the health and fitness sectors. For example, in the sports nutrition category, launches of paleo products increased 12 percent from 2015 to 2016 and 4.5 percent in the active health category. During the same period, launches of paleo sports bars increased by 13 percent, and a huge YOY growth of 26 percent was seen in the “high source of protein” category.
 

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Made Good Almond Apricot Paleo Fruit And Nut Bar

The trend is penetrating other areas too. Paleo product launches in the breakfast cereals category rose by 4 percent from 2015 to 2016, while launches of gluten free products describing themselves as paleo rose by 9 percent.

Speaking on the Swedish research, Caroline Blomquist, a doctoral student at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University, says: “The results are remarkable. Despite giving the women free reigns to an unlimited intake, the weight loss was stable after two years. A more significant fact than weight loss was the evident improvement in levels of fat in the blood, and signs of reduced inflammation.”

In her doctoral dissertation, Blomquist has spent two years following a group of 70 postmenopausal women with a body mass index exceeding 27, that is, overweight women after menopause. Half of the women held a diet according to Nordic Nutrition Recommendations while the other half followed a Paleolithic diet. Neither groups had any specific restrictions on the amount they were allowed to consume, the restrictions solely revolved around the composition of the diet. The follow-ups took place after six months and again after two years.

The results show that both groups lost weight. The women who had kept to a Paleolithic diet on average dropped from 87 to 78 kilos, compared with a drop from 86 to 80 kilos for the group that followed the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. The weight loss in both dietary groups also contributed to reduced inflammation in both fat tissue and in the circulation.

The women who followed the Paleolithic diet had a significant reduction in unhealthy abdominal fat. In particular, evidently reduced levels of certain fatty acids and blood fats could be seen, which is of importance to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. You could also see that the enzymes involved in fat storage were less active in the Paleolithic group.

“In conclusion, the study shows that the Paleolithic diet with a high proportion of unsaturated fats was healthier for this group of women, even if the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations also had positive health effects,” says Caroline Blomquist.

Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of obesity, for instance, due to the reduction of estrogen production in combination with an elevated energy intake and reduced physical activity.