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Is Paleo Diet Good For Diabetics 2023? Benefits & Potential Risks
The Paleolithic diet, also known as the Paleo diet, is a popular diet based on foods similar to those eaten during the Paleolithic era, from about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.
Also called the Stone Age, hunter-gatherer, or caveman diet, the Paleo diet promotes foods that our prehistoric ancestors may have found while hunting or gathering. Recommended foods include lean, especially grass-fed, meats, and fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
There are variations of the Paleo eating plan, but it generally limits foods that became available after the advent of farming approximately 10,000 years ago, such as dairy, grains, and legumes, in addition to more modern processed foods.
Since restricting carbohydrates is sometimes recommended for blood sugar stabilization, is the Paleo diet good for diabetics?
Is The Paleo Diet Good For Diabetes?
Some researchers have theorized that the Paleolithic diet should best support human health since we evolved to subsist on it. The diet eliminates many modern foods known to be detrimental to health, especially for those with diabetes, including fatty meats, saturated fat, added salt, and refined sugar.
There is some research on the Paleolithic diet showing promising effects on diabetes. Some studies have shown that subjects given Paleo diets, including those with type 2 diabetes, reduced their calorie intake, lowered their weight, and improved their blood sugar and insulin levels.
Most Paleo plans also limit the number of other foods, including all dairy and grain products, starchy vegetable supplements like potatoes, dried fruits, most baking flours, certain cooking oils, coffee, tea, and alcohol.
Based on models of prehistoric humans and their environments, researchers estimated that prehistoric Paleolithic diets provided around 25-29% of their calories from protein, 39-40% from carbohydrates, and 30-39% from fat. These ranges are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than current estimates of intake in most affluent countries.
While most modern Paleo eating plans don’t specify the exact macronutrient breakdown, they are typically high in protein, moderate in fat, and low to moderate in carbohydrates, emphasizing nutrient-rich foods. The effects of the Paleo diet on glycemic control and improved insulin sensitivity have yet to be proven. However, Paleo eating plans may benefit people trying to lose weight.
Benefits Of Paleo Diet For Diabetics
One study showed you that subjects with heart disease and oral glucose tolerance test to see glucose intolerance ate fewer calories on an unlimited-calorie Paleo diet than on a Mediterranean-like diet. The Paleo diet has been associated with increased satiety, which may explain the lower calorie intake.
Researchers have theorized that the higher protein and fat intake and the high fiber content of Paleo diets may help with appetite regulation.
Another study found that subjects with type 2 diabetes had significantly more weight loss, with decreased body mass index and waist circumference, on a Paleo diet compared with a traditional diabetic diet.
A review of randomized controlled trials supported the finding that the Paleo diet leads to short-term improvements in weight, body mass index, and waist circumference.
Blood Sugar Control
A Paleolithic-style diet may benefit those with diabetes who struggle with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. The lower carbohydrate and lipid metabolism content of the diabetes diet may benefit glucose tolerance control in people with diabetes.
Research has found that following a low-carb diet improved blood sugars and Hemoglobin A1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Paleo-healthy diets eliminate most low-fiber, refined carbohydrate sources, which may help people with diabetes control their blood sugar and insulin levels.
Some research has found that people with diabetes following a Paleo diet improved their insulin sensitivity and reduced their Hemoglobin A1c levels, indicating lower average blood sugar levels over the previous few months.
Chronic Disease Risk
Since people with diabetes have an elevated risk of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, reducing these risks is critical.
The Paleo diet’s emphasis on fruits and vegetables is a point in its favor, as high fruit and vegetable intake has been associated with a lower risk of multiple chronic diseases, including cardiovascular risk factors compared with type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Eating Paleo may also provide a higher intake of healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats from nuts and allowed oils and omega-3 fatty acids from fish.
In a large observational study of women with type 2 diabetes, higher consumption of omega-3s from seafood was associated with lower cardiovascular risk factors and total mortality. Higher intake of monounsaturated fatty acids has been associated with improved fasting blood glucose levels and other metabolic risk factors in people with diabetes.
The Paleo diet eliminates most sources of ultra-processed foods, which have been linked to higher rates of multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as overall mortality.
Another benefit of the Paleo diet is its lower sodium content due to avoiding salty processed food and added table salt. Higher sodium intake is linked with elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular events.
Some studies of Paleo diets have found improved high blood pressure and lipid profiles. One review of randomized controlled trials found significant improvements in subjects’ markers of metabolic syndrome when following Paleo diets, including improved diastolic blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and waist circumference.
Note: It’s important to check with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist before trying a Paleo diet to see if there are any contraindications, particularly if you’re taking insulin or other medications that may need adjustment. b
Potential Side Effects When Using The Paleo Diet
Difficult To Follow
It’s difficult to follow and prepare the Paleo diet, including the higher cost of following a restricted diet emphasizing fresh foods naturally rich.
Concerns About Environmental Impact
Due to its high animal protein content, the carbon footprint of the Paleo diet has been estimated to be higher than that of other common diets like the Mediterranean diet.
High Animal Protein Intake
Health concerns due to high animal protein intake, especially red meat.
Many studies have linked eating more animal protein to chronic health conditions and mortality. One large, long-term observational study found that higher animal protein intake was associated with increased cardiovascular disease-related mortality, while higher plant protein intake was linked with lower all-cause mortality.
Red meat intake, in particular, has been associated with an increased risk of diabetes.
Lack Of Nutrient-Dense Foods
Elimination of a large number of nutrient-dense foods, including all dairy, grains, and legumes.
- Dairy provides calcium and vitamin D, critical nutrients notably lacking in the Paleo diet.
- Legumes, a good source of minerals and fiber, have been linked to chronic disease prevention.
Whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, minerals, fiber, and beneficial antioxidant compounds and have been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and lower blood glucose levels.
Healthy Paleo Foods For Diabetes
Many of the whole foods recommended on the Paleo diet are high in crucial nutrients and have been associated with health benefits. Beneficial unprocessed foods allowed on the Paleo diet include
- Fish rich in omega-3 fats, like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines
- Oil-rich in monounsaturated fat, like olive oil
The Bottom Line
The Paleo diet may offer health benefits for diabetes management, including weight loss and improved blood sugar control and produced insulin. However, further studies are needed to establish these effects.
Other positive aspects of the diet include its emphasis on whole foods rich in nutrients and its elimination of highly processed, nutrient-poor foods linked to adverse health effects, particularly those high in refined carbohydrates and sodium.
Most studies on the Paleo diet have been short-term, so the long-term effects of the diet are still unknown.
Drawbacks of following the Paleo diet include difficulties in adhering to the eating plan, its higher cost and environmental impact, and health concerns due to its high animal protein content and lower provision of critical nutrients and antioxidant compounds due to its elimination of dairy, whole grains, and legumes. Other diets, such as the mediterraneans diet, may offer similar benefits with a greater variety of healthful options.
+ 16 sources
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