Turning Back the Hands of Time: The Paleo Diet

Diets come and diets go, but like an old pair of jeans out of style… if you wait long enough it’s sure to come back. With the Paleo movement sweeping across the nation, the ancient diet followed by early humans is making a comeback. The Paleo Diet, also called Stone Age or Caveman Diet, suggests following a meal plan with foods people were eating millions of years ago. Although there may be health benefits to following the Paleo diet such as possibly losing weight and avoiding hyperglycemia, like any meal plan with restrictions, knowing there is substantial data to support a claim is just as, if not more important. Ask yourself will people’s weight yo yo after “cheating” on their Hunter Gatherer Diet?

Principles of The Paleo Diet

To understand the theory of the Paleo diet, we must first turn back the hands of time. For millions of years, the human diet consisted of only meat, fish, poultry, and the leaves, roots, and fruits of plants. The Paleo diet (short for Paleolithic) is based on the claim that a healthy diet should consist of only the foods that can be hunted, fished and gathered during the Paleolithic era. The basics of the meal plan are that if the cavemen did not eat it, then you shouldn’t either. Proponents of the diet believe that evolution has led us to eat foods our bodies are not adapted to neither process nor digest. Fast-forward to modern day when conditions like obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are at an all time high. Advocates claim that since people in that era rarely had metabolic disturbances, one can now prevent chronic diseases, control blood sugar spikes and lead a healthier life following this diet.

What Can You Eat?

Swearing off refined sugar, dairy, legumes and grains?? To many, the Paleo diet may seem extremely restrictive.  You won’t find any refined sugars, added salt, processed foods and packaged snacks in this meal plan (I agree this can be healthy if whole grains, legumes and dairy were included). While the diet will differ slightly with personal modifications, the general Paleo plan consists of whole, unprocessed foods like lean meat, eggs, seafood, non-starchy vegetables — and some but not a ton of fruit, nuts and seeds. (Since it is encouraged to eat grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and eggs and fresh fruits and vegetables, keep in mind that following the Paleo diet can be rather expensive for the average person).

Some foods to avoid include the following: grains such as rice, refined carbohydrates like flour and cereals (no oat bran or Kashi), dairy, beans, peanuts, processed meats like hot dogs and chicken nuggets, soda, fruit juice, caffeine, alcohol.

Food for Thought

Although proponents of the diet claim that cavemen did not develop such chronic diseases, there is no evidence to support this claim. While the meal plan does restrict refined sugars and grains (both of which can contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes if eaten in excess while following a sedentary lifestyle), it is important to remember that several diets are founded on the basis that one should include more fruits and veggies, whole and unprocessed foods. I believe it is Dr. Oz who puts patients on vegan diets to reverse diabetes and there are also many books recommending this as well. Keep in mind that the recommendation for a healthy diet also includes whole grains, dairy and legumes. Eliminating certain food groups, as suggested by the Paleo plan draws attention to potential nutrient deficiencies. For example, by avoiding dairy, individuals who follow a Paelo diet may develop osteoporosis if they lived long enough. That’s another question to ask. What was the average lifespan of a caveman? Did they ever get old enough to diagnose weak bones or did they die of malnutrition or by animal attack before osteoporosis set in? Oddly, while reading the meal plan for a Paleo diet, I see shrimp, chicken and beef. Did cave men and women really eat these three proteins in one day? I think it may be fair to say they ate beef one week and venison another. If they ate shrimp one week, they were probably spearing fish the next. Finally, did cave people know how to steam?? There are so many questions that make me think twice about this theory.

Lost In Translation

Don’t miss the message here. Less is more. Less processed, more healthy fats, less to eat and more movement. Any effort to eat foods directly sourced from our earth, to eat only lean free-range grass fed animals, and to cook your own meals is the way to go. Just don’t forget grains such as amaranth and barely, beans such as lentil and dairy such as delicious French Brie. These foods contain macro and micronutrients. I don’t think a French person would ever agree to this diet, yet people love to think the French are savvy with their food philosophy.  Also, I personally don’t think the Paleo diet is America’s answer to our health crisis, but if this concepts helps you to feel good and control your sugar, that is a step in the right direction.

The Cave versus Industry

In our society, we must recognize, diet is only half the battle. Industrialization has led us to lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Cave people were fit because they moved everyday for survival. We drive and tap our iPhones for success rather than survival. Cave people only ate what was available so that may have been no food or just berries for days. That kept them trim, but was it healthy? Today we have government subsidies for cheap food to prevent people from starving, and in return it has lead us to eat poor quality, processed food. In addition, our minds are brainwashed with marketing and ironically, it is cheaper to buy a super sized soda than that of a smaller soda (ounce for ounce). So if the Paleo helps you to be healthier, by all means be healthier. Just recognize that the restrictions in any diet are questionable and not necessarily supported by science or history. And remember, restrictions lead to binging, so be careful. Diets don’t work in isolation; rather lifestyle changes that are realistic and behaviorally based are the way go!

The Epidemic of Diabetes

Hydrate with water, not soda

Regardless of weight and age, America is heading towards a Diabetes epidemic. Americans must change their lifestyles by moving more, and eating less.

Diabetes does not discriminate based on overall weight. America needs to focus on decreasing belly fat, specifically, eating less processed food and moving more.

 

Based on the study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, Diabetes is increasing in our teen population. There was a 14% increase in prediabetes and diabetes in a ten year period. In 1999 – 2000, there was a 9% incidence of prediabetes and diabetes in teenagers between ages 12- 19. In 2007- 2008, there was a 23 % incidence of prediabetes and diabetes. This is more than two fold. However, the study also revealed this was regardless of weight. Across the weight spectrum, all teens had an increase in the incidence of Diabetes. In my mind, this is a Diabetes Epidemic not an obesity epidemic.

Obesity did not increase in our youth during this ten year period from 1999 – to 2008. One study from the NHANES reports an actual decrease in teen obesity, despite an increase in prediabetes and diabetes. Also, half of the participants in the study had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which means everyone needs intervention.

So what is the intervention? It depends on who you ask but the many agree America must move more, eat less processed food, and practice stress relief. America is eating too much and not moving enough. We are a culture of convenience. People need to eat because they are hungry rather than bored. We need to eliminate highly processed food such as chips and soda. We need to feel full with fiber and drink for hydration. Simple solutions are to replace chips with fiber rich berries and soda with bubbly water like Perrier. Ideally, we need to decrease insulin resistance and belly bulge (aka abdominal obesity).

The study admits to flaws. One of the flaws is the tool BMI – Body Mass Index. This measurement tool uses overall weight and height, not accounting for muscle mass and frame. Football players are considered obese when using BMI. A better tool to assess for obesity, belly fat, insulin resistance and or risk for diabetes would be the waist to height ratio. This tool would not qualify the typical football player as obese.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to share some of these thoughts with the HLN audience. Click here to see the clip.

 

May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors among US adolescents, 1999−2008. Pediatrics. 2012;peds.2011-1082.

The Truth Behind Coffee

The Truth Behind Coffee

For many, there’s nothing like a cup of coffee to start the day. As one of the most widely consumed
beverages in the world, it has long been debated that consuming coffee can lead to health problems.
These misconceptions can often lead to confusion about whether one can enjoy coffee as part of
a healthy diet. As an avid coffee drinker myself, with all the misconceptions about coffee, it is
necessary to dispel the misconceptions, and discover the truth behind coffee.

What are 3 of the most common misconceptions about coffee and health?

There is a misconception that coffee causes heart disease, should be omitted during pregnancy
and may influence the development of breast cancer. However, recent research reveals that
despite coffee consumption being associated with increased blood pressure and plasma
homocysteine levels, it is not directly related to heart disease. As for omitting coffee during
pregnancy, although women are often advised to follow this by their obstetrician or gynecologist,
studies show that coffee intake equal to 3 cups or 300 mg coffee daily does not increase risk for
impaired fetal growth. Moreover, according to the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and
Health Study, there is no correlation between coffee intake and increased breast cancer risk. In
fact, coffee may even help to prevent breast cancer. While there may be minimal associations and
even benefits to drinking coffee, it is not recommended to start drinking coffee, if you don’t
already.

Can drinking too much coffee cause heart problems?

Recent research reports coffee drinkers are not at a greater risk for heart disease. While a mild
stimulant in coffee, caffeine, has been shown to increase heart rate, blood pressure, homocysteine
levels, and cholesterol levels, most people do not experience heart problems from drinking coffee—
even if they consume up to 6 cups daily. If you have heart disease or heart problems, it is best to
consult your doctor about drinking coffee.

In addition, it is important to pay attention to what is being added to the coffee; whether it is
whole milk, sugar or even whip cream. Remember, in this day and age specialty coffee drinks are
extremely popular and research studies black coffee, not Frappuccino’s.

What are the top 5 benefits of drinking coffee?

An increase in coffee consumption is typically associated with a lowered risk of Diabetes Type II,
but does not prevent Diabetes Type II. Research also suggests coffee consumption may help prevent
Parkinson’s disease, liver disease (cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma), reduce the risk of
Alzheimer’s disease, and improve endurance performance in physical activities such as cycling and
running.

Is there such a thing as drinking too much coffee?

Typically, I educate my clients to keep their intake at 2 or less cups a day. More than 2 cups of coffee
can be counter-productive during a fitness workout. Recent studies indicate that there have been
no harmful effects with intakes at 4 cups equivalent. For adults consuming moderate amounts
of coffee (3-4 cups/d providing 300-400 mg/d of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks
and some evidence of health benefits. In addition, currently available evidence suggests that it
may be prudent for pregnant women to limit coffee to 3 cups/day ( prevent any increased probability of spontaneous abortion or impaired fetal growth. People with
hypertension, children, adolescents, and the elderly, may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects
of caffeine.

Do the benefits differ between decaf and regular coffee?

In terms of Diabetes, other than the difference of 2-4 mg caffeine between regular and decaf,
there are no beneficial differences between the two. Surprisingly however, decaf coffee has been
associated with acid reflux and gastric ulcers.

Mom Dishes It Out

So with heightened nerves, I have entered two new worlds. One being the MAC Book Pro and the other, the world of Twitter. You can follow me at @MomDishesItOut. I will be tweeting about Mom things concerning raising our kids and food. My new mommy blog is useable www.MomDishesItout.com but not too pretty yet. Give me a few days and the new blog will be as yummy as a Magnolia’s cupcake. Cheers!!

Are you game for September 17th?

Don’t forget to register for Women’s Health “Are You Game?” on September 17th. Laura Cipullo RD, CDE and Martha McKittrick, RD, CDE will be offering free nutrition counseling that day in addition to all of the other cool wellness events. Get the details and register at: .