Paleo Diet Effect on Athletes

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Judging from the article abstract below, it looks like the researchers didn’t find any major impact of the paleo diet on athletic performance, compared to “healthy” control diets. The title of the scientific report is “Paleolithic Diet-Effect on the Health Status and Performance of Athletes?” That sure made me think they were going to look at athletic performance. Here’s one of two sentences in the abstract that refer to athletic performance: “Lower positive impact of paleo diet on performance was observed it the group without exercise.” What does that even mean? Looks like even scientific journals are using click-bait now.

Before you read the abstract, remember that higher blood triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol are linked in some studies to cardiovascular disease. Also, lower plasma glucose (sugar) and insulin levels are linked in some studies to less risk of cardiovascular disease. So the paleo diet may be healthful since it shifts those numbers in the right direction.

The aim of this meta-analysis was to review the impact of a Paleolithic diet (PD) on selected health indicators (body composition, lipid profile, blood pressure, and carbohydrate metabolism) in the short and long term of nutrition intervention in healthy and unhealthy adults. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of 21 full-text original human studies was conducted. Both the PD and a variety of healthy diets (control diets (CDs)) caused reduction in anthropometric parameters, both in the short and long term. For many indicators, such as weight (body mass (BM)), body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference (WC), impact was stronger and especially found in the short term. All diets caused a decrease in total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG), albeit the impact of PD was stronger. Among long-term studies, only PD cased a decline in TC and LDL-C. Impact on blood pressure was observed mainly in the short term. PD caused a decrease in fasting plasma (fP) glucose, fP insulin, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in the short run, contrary to CD. In the long term, only PD caused a decrease in fP glucose and fP insulin. Lower positive impact of PD on performance was observed in the group without exercise. Positive effects of the PD on health and the lack of experiments among professional athletes require longer-term interventions to determine the effect of the Paleo diet on athletic performance.


Click for the full text article. The article title and abstract were so poorly written that I’m not wasting time on the full text. Let me know if you find anything interesting. Furthermore, this “research” was a meta-analysis, so I’m even more skeptical about any conclusions on athletic performance.

Steve Parker, M.D.

One response to “Paleo Diet Effect on Athletes

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