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Does the Caveman Diet Work?

by
author image Tammy Dray
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.
Does the Caveman Diet Work?
The caveman diet contains lots of meat. Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

The caveman diet is also known as the Paleolithic diet or the Stone Age diet. The caveman diet emphasizes the eating meats and fish, with a complement of other natural, unprocessed foods on the side. Although some people following Paleo diets choose to eat only raw foods, this is not a requirement of the caveman diet.

Eating Principles

The caveman diet is based on only a few simple principles. Rather than having calorie restrictions, the diet requires you to eliminate all processed foods and all grains. If your goal is to find an easy-to-follow diet, the caveman might work for you. The caveman diet only allows foods that would have been available to the hunter-gatherer societies of the past. These include meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, insects and herbs. Dairy products are not allowed.

Weight Loss

If your goal is weight loss, the caveman diet may help. According to a 2005 report in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” a diet high in proteins is more effective for weight loss than one high in carbohydrates. Restricting processed foods and sugars -- both of which are banned in the caveman diet -- also contributes to weight loss. The caveman diet also encourages eating plenty of nonstarchy vegetables and fruits, both of which contain fiber. Fiber fills you up so you end up eating fewer calories, improving your weight loss.

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Health Benefits

The caveman diet may work to treat a number of health problems. The caveman diet is low in sodium, sugars and usually calories. A reduction of these three elements could help with a number of health problems, including diabetes, according to 2010 research by the University of California.

Criticism

One of the major problems with Paleo diets is that scientists can’t agree on what human ancestors really ate. Although they did follow a high-protein, low-grain diet, the percentages probably varied widely depending on the society, living area and other factors. Modern hunter-gatherer societies could provide a clue as to what primitive people ate, but even there, numbers vary widely. According to a 2009 article in “The New Yorker,” the Nunamiut tribe from Alaska has a diet that is 99 percent protein, while the Gwi tribe in Africa has an intake of about 26 percent protein. Both tribes are hunter-gatherers.

Possible Problems

The caveman diet may lead to excessive fat intake, which can lead to a host of health problems. The American Heart Association explains that high fat diets often restrict high-carb and high-fiber foods -- such as grains that are restricted in the caveman diet. These foods add important nutrients to your diet and lower cholesterol. The high intake of protein on this diet may lead to kidney problems heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. People who can't use excess protein effectively may be at higher risk of kidney trouble, osteoporosis and liver disorders. The AHA warns that excess fat intake increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

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