A Look at Paleo & Gene Expression
Remember when I was asking “Which dietary theory is right?” I promised to examine some popular theories here in this blog; so here we go. I wanted to start with Paleo for a couple of reasons. First, it’s extremely popular right now! And, second, I think it has real merit.
Paleo is not just about meat, meat, & more meat. Nor is it about making all sorts of baked goods that kind of seem just like the pies, cinnamon rolls, & ice creams our grandmas used to make, but without using any grain. (If you look at some websites, you might get that impression, though.)
I personally have met several people who are having great success with this type of eating plan. It can be a perfect way to address food allergies, especially gluten & dairy intolerance, and weight issues while optimizing phyto-nutrient (nutrition from plants) intake. This is because when done properly, a paleo-type diet emphasizes vegetables, particularly green ones, while cutting out many of the common offenders in the SAD (Standard American Diet)–processed foods and refined carbohydrates.
When I first became familiar with “paleolithic nutrition,” I was wary of the premise. Like some of you readers, I do not believe in evolution. Even before I believed in God, I did not think evolution seemed plausible. (True, I am not a scientist. But I have done enough research and read & listened to enough brilliant scientists who believe as I do that I’m content to carry on–but that’s another topic.) Paleo dietary theory is absolutely based on evolutionary theory, and the idea that current human genetic make-up is really that of a “hunter-gatherer.” “DNA evidence shows that genetically, humans have hardly changed at all (to be specific, the human genome has changed less than 0.02 percent) in 40,000 years.” This quote is from The Paleo Diet, by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. page 9. Further, according to proponents of this way of eating, the advent of agriculture pretty much spoiled our diets.
You might think that this is really just a low-carb diet, though. It is not! There are some important distinctions here. The main goal of paleo eating, as I understand it, is to switch our bodies from burning carbohydrates for fuel to burning fat and manufacturing ketones. Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, says that fat is really our preferred fuel. (Mark Sisson is an excellent speaker, by the way, so definitely check out his website by clicking on this link.) Eating in such a way will ultimately allow us to reprogram our genes, improving blood glucose markers, decreasing hunger & inflammatory markers, & improving our immune systems.
Another distinctive about primal eating is the absence of calorie counting or restriction. Eating lots of vegetables always helps nourish our bodies while taking in plenty of fiber and leveling blood sugar. In any decent eating plan, limiting their consumption is unnecessary,in my opinion. This way of eating also emphasizes the consumption of very healthy fats, like the fat found in walnuts & fish.
As I said, I’ve seen some great success stories with Paleo eating. It is very similar to the way I eat myself. However, I’ve also seen & heard some good evidence to support some people eating grains & responsibly produced dairy products. So, while I’d never say, “everyone should eat Paleo!” If you want to give it a try, go for it! Just be award of how your body is responding. And, as always, if you are experiencing any important health issues or are on any medication, work with your doctor.