The Paleolithic diet (also called the paleo diet, caveman diet or stone-age diet) is based mainly on foods presumed to have been available to Paleolithic humans. Wide variability exists in the way the diet is interpreted. However, the diet typically includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat while excluding foods such as dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, and alcohol or coffee. The diet is based on avoiding not just modern processed foods, but rather the foods that humans began eating after the Neolithic Revolution when humans transitioned from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled agriculture. The ideas behind the diet can be traced to Walter Voegtlin, and were popularized in the best-selling books of Loren Cordain.
Like other fad diets, the Paleo diet is promoted as a way of improving health. There is some evidence that following this diet may lead to improvements in terms of body composition and metabolic effects as compared to the typical Western diet or as compared to diets recommended by national nutritional guidelines. Following the Paleo diet can lead to an inadequate calcium intake.
The digestive abilities of modern humans are different from those of Paleolithic humans, undermining the diet’s core premise. During the 2.6 million year long Paleolithic era, the highly variable climate and worldwide spread of human population meant that humans were, by necessity, nutritionally adaptable; in contrast, supporters of the diet assume that human digestion has remained essentially unchanged over time.
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