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The Paleo Diet

The main idea behind the paleo diet is that our modern lifestyle is at odds with the circumstances that humans as a species evolved to cope with - our bodies simply aren't equipped to handle junk-food-heavy diets and large periods of sedentary behavior. The paleo diet aims to understand and address the underlying causes of weight gain rather than simply attacking the problem. The paleo diet is said to fight inflammation, ward off disease, increase the effectiveness of exercise, and, of course, help you lose weight.

The paleo diet emphasizes a multi-pronged approach to weight loss, all of which is centered around modifying one's diet and lifestyle so that it more closely matches what ancient humans would have been doing. There is a strong focus on nutrient-dense foods, which are lacking in today's typical Western diet. These foods are not only healthier choices in general, but can also help cut down on cravings caused by nutrient deficiencies. The paleo diet prohibits foods that would not have been part of an ancient human's typical diet, such as grains, dairy, sugars, beans, and industrial seed oils. However, proponents of the diet note that one should still watch their eating habits, as not everything that's paleo-approved is necessarily healthy.

Like most other diets, paleo takes calories into consideration, though calories consumed from paleo-friendly foods are thought to "count for less" because they are unprocessed and thus require more energy for the body to break them down. Another key element of the paleo program is increased movement and activity. The focus here is less on short bouts of intense exercise and more on increasing overall activity levels by setting aside time for walks, taking the stairs, etc.

Scientific Studies:

The paleo diet, while popular, has yet to receive much attention from the scientific community. However, while smaller and less rigorous than those from some other diets, the studies that have been conducted thus far suggest that there is a real possibility that the paleo diet conveys multiple benefits.

A 2009 article from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the benefits conveyed by the consumption of a paleolithic-style diet. 9 volunteers who were sedentary but not obese participated. They ate their typical diets for 3 days, then spent 7 days on a "ramp-up" diet with increased potassium and fiber, and then spent 10 days on a true paleo diet featuring lean meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Because the participants were already at a healthy weight, the diets were adjusted over time to prevent them from losing too many pounds. At the end of the end of the trial, the paleo diet had resulted in significant reductions in blood pressure, insulin, and bad cholesterol in almost all of the volunteers.

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