JUL 23, 2019 10:50 AM PDT

Paleo Diet Alters Microbiome, May Harm Heart

WRITTEN BY: Abbie Arce

New findings have raised concerns over the Paleolithic or Paleo diet. Recent research into the diet suggests that it lacks key nutritional components related to good health. This lack of dietary diversity may be responsible for a raised level of a biomarker linked to heart disease.

The Paleo diet consists of many portions of meat, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. The idea is to consume the diets we have evolved for by emulating what our ancestors consumed. As such, it requires followers to cut out dairy, whole wheat, and legumes.

Although some studies suggest there may be health benefits the following such a diet, these claims remain controversial. Although one study indicated a Paleo diet could raise blood levels of protective molecules, other studies suggest an increase in diabetes risk.

In a new study, researchers collected data from 91 participants. Of the group, 44 volunteers followed Paleo diets, and the remaining 47 served as a control. Those in the control group all consumed foods that met Australia’s national dietary recommendations.

In addition to assessing their diets, researchers collected biological samples from all participants. Researchers worked with individuals for one year.

What they found was heightened levels of trimethylamine N-oxide, a compound that specialists associate with heart disease amongst the Paleo group. They also discovered that these individuals have less beneficial bacteria in the gut. It also seemed to raise the levels of one bacteria in the gut, Hungatella which produces trimethylamine N-oxide. It’s no surprise that reduced carbohydrate in the Paleo group influenced the microbiome. That said, more research is required to know if that influence will contribute to chronic diseases over time.

Those who consume the Paleo diet take in more servings of red meat daily. This provides the body with the compounds to produce trimethylamine N-oxide. The increased intake of red meat coupled with the lack of carbohydrates, trimethylamine N-oxide levels are quickly increased. 

Researchers also note that followers of the Paleo diet consume twice the recommended level of saturated fats which are known to contribute to poor health in the heart.  

Persons following the Paleo diet need to be made aware of the potential risks to heart health. 

The above video, from the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, discusses some problems with the diet that followers may not have considered. 


Sources: European Journal of NutritionUCLA Center for Human Nutrition

About the Author
High School
Abbie is an AFAA certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with an interest in all things health-science. She has recently graduated with her BS in Applied Sport and Exercise Science from Barry University in Miami. Next, she intends to earn an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology.
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