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Effects of a paleolithic diet

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Study involves people with increased risk of cardiovascular disease

The Louis Bolk Institute has carried out an innovative study (2011-2013) into the health effects of a paleolithic diet. The study involved 34 participants, all of whom had increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and/or diabetes. For two weeks all their meals were prepared by a catering service collaborating with top chef Erik van Veluwen. One half of the group received meals based entirely on ‘primal foods’ (such as fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and nuts). The other half – the control group – received meals prepared according to the guidelines of the National Nutrition Centre. This enabled us to examine whether the specific composition of the paleolithic diet has any effect on the medical conditions that form the metabolic syndrome. The results are published in the scientific journal Lipids in Health and Disease (October 2014). The English summary is available at our website. Please read the related press release as well.

Metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical conditions that increase the risk of developing CVD, diabetes and related complications. These conditions include high blood pressure, increased waist circumference, high blood glucose and high cholesterol levels. In recent years the percentage of people suffering from metabolic syndrome has increased dramatically. Changes in diet and lifestyle could have a positive effect on all aspects of the metabolic syndrome.

Primal food: the paleolithic diet

Modern humans originated about 160,000 years ago, in the Paleolithic Age. They were the result of millions of years of evolution, an interplay between genetic characteristics and the environment. Our genetic composition has not changed much since then – hence the idea that our bodies are still best adapted to the lifestyle and diet of hunter-gatherers. With the development of agriculture, and particularly since the industrial revolution, our living conditions have changed dramatically. What we eat today is completely different from the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. But human evolution has not kept pace with these changes. The present discussion is whether the recent changes in our lifestyle and diet are responsible for the epidemic of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, CVD and other diseases of affluence. The paleolithic diet, which was the subject of our study, is based on lean meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, eggs, roots and nuts. This diet (popularly known as the paleo diet, caveman diet or Stone Age diet) excludes dairy products, grains, refined sugars and fats, sweets, soft drinks, and added salt.

We conducted this study in collaboration with Groningen University, Wageningen University, the University of Girona (Spain) and Scriptum.  This study is also presented in a recent book and short film published by the InnovationNetwork Foundation.

Read more about the book ‘Oergezond met Oerdis’ (‘Primal food, healthy fare’).

Order the book ‘Oergezond met Oerdis’(in Dutch).

Watch the video about paleolithic diets (in Dutch).

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Peter Voshol

Researcher Health and Nutrition