Paleo diet’s side effects probed

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Despite growing in popularity, the Paleo diet causes more negative side effects than traditional diets according to research from Edith Cowan University.

The Australian-first study involved 39 healthy women, with half eating a Paleo diet while the rest were assigned the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) diet over a four-week period.

More than one in five women who ate the Paleo diet reported instances of diarrhoea, compared with none of the AGHE group.

The Paleo group also reported higher rates of tiredness, and trouble sleeping.

The research follows another ECU study released earlier this year that found the Paleo diet to be more effective for weight loss than the AGHE.

Negative side effects

Associate Professor Amanda Devine said that while more research was needed to determine the exact causes, the side effects may be a result of the Paleo diet cutting out dairy foods and grains.

“We know that whole grains are a great source of dietary fibre, and a lack of fibre can impact the microbes in your gut, which could in turn cause problems like diarrhoea,” she said.

“Similarly, dairy products contain the amino acid tryptophan which increases sleep-inducing compounds serotonin and melatonin which helps regulate sleeping patterns. So removing dairy from your diet could adversely affect your sleep.”

More than half of the Paleo group also reported that the diet increased their average cost of groceries, compared to only six per cent of the AGHE group.

Long term implications

Lead researcher Angela Genoni said work was now underway on a new research project examining the long-term impact of following the Paleo diet, particularly on gut health.

“Removing entire food groups like dairy and grains from your diet is likely to impact overall health,” she said.

“This is why we are recruiting for a larger study involving participants that will look at the long-term effects of adhering to a Paleo diet.”

Compliance, palatability and feasibility of Paleolithic and AGHE diets in healthy women: a 4wk dietary intervention was published in Nutrients.