New research suggests that the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet may improve cholesterol levels to a better extent than a traditional heart-health eating plan.
The Paleo diet consists of foods that our ancestors hunted and gathered in the pre-agricultural era—animal proteins (meat, fish and some poultry), vegetables, berries, seeds and nuts. Most conspicuously missing from this list are all dairy, grains, legumes (like peanuts and soy), starches, alcohol, sugar and processed foods.
Results showed that four months on the Paleo diet significantly lowered total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol, relative to both baseline and the low-fat, whole-grain diet.
The Paleo diet flies in the face of conventional diet recommendations aimed at lowering cholesterol and enhancing heart health—namely diets low in fat and high in whole grains.
In this study, researchers hypothesized that a grain-free Paleo diet would lead to weight loss and a healthier cholesterol profile compared to a grain-based diet.
Twenty volunteers (10 male and 10 female) aged 40 to 62 with high cholesterol (unmedicated) took part in the study. They adhered to a traditional heart-healthy diet for four months, followed by a Paleo diet for four months.
The researchers stated, “Paleolithic nutrition offers promising potential for nutritional management of [high cholesterol] in adults whose lipid profiles have not improved after following more traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations.”