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Is the Paleo Diet Too High in Cholesterol?

Food items under a paleo-friendly breakfast planThe Paleolithic diet, also known as the paleo diet or the modern-day caveman diet, has been the subject of many of our posts over the last year. This way of eating is based on a very simple foundation: people today would not be experiencing as many health issues if they ate more like our ancient ancestors. More specifically, this diet calls for the elimination of many of the foods which have become a staple in the human diet since the agricultural revolution (sugar, dairy products, grains, and processed oils). Instead, people on the paleo diet are encouraged to go for free-range, grass-fed meats and organic fruits and vegetables.

Of course, with its rise in popularity, the paleo diet has also seen its fair share of criticism. One of these is that many people are skeptical of how a diet which is built on eating so much meat can help support optimal health. However, many paleo dieters also stay quite active or have fairly rigorous workout schedules, so they have had no problem following a diet that provides them with plenty of protein.

New Study Presented at the American College of Sports Medicine

A new clinical study could provide some more ammo for the critics of the paleo diet. The results of this study, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine this month, showed that LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels had increased significantly in adults who had adopted the paleo diet for a 10 week period. The research team also pointed out that all of the study participants maintained a strenuous fitness routine throughout these ten weeks.

Forty-three adults with no medical history of metabolic disease were enrolled for this high cholesterol clinical trial. At the beginning of the study period, clinical investigators instructed them to eat a paleo diet that consisted of meat, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts for the next 10 weeks. However, the participants were given the freedom to decide what type of meals that they would put together each day.

(The participants were also required to participate in regular CrossFit sessions for the 10 weeks).

The Positive and Negative Effects on the Paleo Diet

After the study period was concluded, the research team was tasked with taking measurements of body fat, cholesterol, fitness levels, and oxygen intake potential. Body fat levels had decreased significantly from an average of 24.3% body fat to 20.6%. Also, their aerobic fitness levels and VO2max saw significant improvement over the study period.

Despite these beneficial results, the participants’ blood lipid levels had gotten worse. LDL cholesterol levels increased by more than 12 percent, and total cholesterol levels increased by 6 percent. It is important to remember that genetics play a very big role in determining a person’s overall lipid levels.

Embracing the Metabolic Benefits of this Modern Day Caveman Diet

In conclusion, the research team had this to say about the results of this study: “Our results demonstrate an ad libitum Paleo diet intervention is associated with deleterious changes to blood lipids in healthy subjects, even as subjects simultaneously improved body composition and VO2max. Future research should continue to focus on determining recommendations that embrace the metabolic benefit associated with the Paleo diet, while minimizing any deleterious impact on blood lipids in a healthy population.”

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