In a recent study, researchers found that people who follow the paleo diet have twice the amount of a key blood biomarker linked closely to heart disease.
The research was conducted by a team from Edith Cowan University (ECU).
The controversial Paleo (or ‘caveman’) diet advocates eating meat, vegetables, nuts and limited fruit, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy, salt, refined sugar and processed oils.
With the diet’s growing popularity, it is important to understand the impact it could have on overall health.
In the study, the team compared 44 people on the diet with 47 following a Paleo diet.
They measured the amount of trimethylamine-n-oxide (TMAO) in participants’ blood.
High levels of TMAO, an organic compound produced in the gut, are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, which kills one Australian every 12 minutes.
The team found that when it comes to the production of TMAO in the gut, the Paleo diet could be having an adverse impact in terms of heart health.
They also found that populations of beneficial bacterial species were lower in the Paleolithic groups, linked to the reduced carbohydrate intake, which may have consequences for other chronic diseases over the long term.
The team says the reason TMAO was so elevated in people on the Paleo diet appeared to be the lack of whole grains in their diet.
The Paleo diet excludes all grains and whole grains are an important source of resistant starch and many other fermentable fibers that are vital to the health of the gut microbiome.
The team found the lack of whole grains was linked to TMAO levels, which may provide a link between the reduced risks of heart disease we see in populations with high intakes of whole grains.
Additionally, the Paleo diet includes greater servings per day of red meat, which provides the precursor compounds to produce TMAO, and Paleo followers consumed twice the recommended level of saturated fats, which is cause for concern.
One author of the study is Dr. Angela Genoni.
The study is published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
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