Is the “caveman diet” a viable weight loss plan?
What can you and can’t you do?
Paleo is based on the diet our ancestors would have eaten before agriculture became a major food source and grains were cultivated for food. On the paleo diet, grains and most carbohydrates are off the menu – including rice, pasta, bread and white potatoes. Processed foods, dairy and refined sugar are also prohibited, and it has been suggested that those on the diet should avoid meat from grain-fed animals and only eat grass-fed or wild meat, which can make the diet fairly expensive. Proteins and unlimited vegetables, herbs and spices are the key to this diet.
How does it work?
The logic of the diet is that while humans have lived on Earth for about 150,000 years, agriculture is only about 10,000 years old – meaning that we haven’t evolved to process the diet we currently eat. Its major benefit is that it effectively cuts out all junk food, as you can’t have chocolate, crisps, cakes, anything processed or anything containing sugar (except fruit). However it is worth remembering that there are no accurate records of human diets during the Palaeolithic era, so the rules of the diet are largely based on educated guesses rather than scientific evidence.
Who does it suit?
The paleo diet would likely appeal to those who dislike calorie counting, as you can eat as much as you like of the allowed foods. Foodies are also more likely to stick to it, as it encourages the addition of organic vegetables and grass-fed meat. The diet is probably not suitable for vegetarians due to the high meat content, although adaptions have been made.
Is it worth it?
The diet can be effective, but you’ll struggle to find a GP who’ll recommend it, as it goes against the NHS’ current dietary guidelines which promote a diet which is one-third grains and carbohydrates. Arguments about the long-term effectiveness exist on both sides of the fence, but the truth is there is no scientific evidence to indicate whether or not sustained weight loss is possible.