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  • Writer's pictureBeth Chiodo, MS, RD, LDN

New Study on Paleo Diet and Heart Health

A new study recently published questioned whether the paleo diet is the best for heart health when followed long-term.

If you aren’t familiar, the paleo diet functions under the premise that humans haven’t adapted to a modern diet and would do better consuming what our paleolithic ancestors did. This includes foods like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, fruits, and vegetables while cutting out processed food, grains, legumes, and dairy products.

The paleo diet is promoted for gut health, but there has been little evidence available on the long-term impact of this diet as well as what impact it could have on the risk of overall cardiovascular disease.

Researchers looked at 44 people who were self-reported followers of the Paleo diet for longer than a year and compared them to 47 people who followed a diet typical of national recommendations. Diets were assessed by dietitians and stool samples were collected and assessed for short chain fatty acids, microbial composition, and serum levels of something called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a gut-derived metabolite associated with cardiovascular disease.

Research participants who were included in the study followed the paleo diet for an average of 1 to 3 years. They found that individuals who followed the paleo diet had higher total cholesterol and higher stool concentrations of TMAO, which are associated with servings of red meat and inversely associated with grain intake. The study also found that the microbiota of individuals following the paleo diet was different than those of the control group, and may contribute to higher TMAO concentrations.

Although more research is needed, the data suggests that adherence to the Paleo diet long-term may not be beneficial for gut health and overall cardiovascular health. Research is

pointing to the need for an adequate intake of fiber and resistant starch to populate the microbiome and promote overall long term health and wellness.

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