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Is There a Risk of Pancreatitis With the Paleo Diet?

by
author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
Is There a Risk of Pancreatitis With the Paleo Diet?
A handful of almonds on a table. Photo Credit GooDween123/iStock/Getty Images

The diet industry is booming with specialized diets -- plans that promise weight loss or an improvement in your health by following a strict and sometimes restrictive diet. One such diet is the Paleo, or Caveman diet, a diet based on the foods consumed during the Paleolithic era of human history. Proponents of the diet claim it can reduce the risk of health issues that affect many Americans today, including metabolic disorders and diabetes. However, scientific data supporting the diet's health claims remains scarce, and the high-fat nature of the Paleo diet might increase the risk of pancreatitis in some cases.

About the Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is based on the idea that you should consume a diet similar to those of humans living in the Paleolithic age. The diet includes a heavy emphasis on consuming animal products -- including eggs and a range of meats -- supplemented with vegetables, nuts and fruits. The majority of your calorie intake on the Paleo diet is from animal fat and protein, with only a small amount of your daily energy intake coming from carbohydrates. Since most of the fat consumed on the Paleo diet comes from animal, rather than plant, sources, individuals following the Paleo diet consume large amounts of saturated fat.

Effect on Your Pancreas

Following a high-fat diet, such as the Paleo diet, might harm your pancreas and potentially increase your risk of pancreatitis, a condition characterized by excess inflammation in your pancreas. Consuming large amounts of saturated fat increases the levels of triglycerides -- fat molecules -- in your bloodstream, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. High blood triglycerides prove inflammatory to your pancreas and can eventually lead to pancreatitis. As a result, individuals with pancreatitis typically follow low-fat diets, and should therefore avoid the Paleo diet.

Other Concerns

The restrictive nature of the Paleo diet might further harm your pancreas and potentially contribute to pancreatitis. Your pancreas relies on a number of nutrients from your diet, and deficiencies of several vitamins -- including vitamins A, B, C, E and D -- may prove detrimental for individuals with pancreatitis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Because the Paleo diet limits your intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts, which would normally provide sources of these vitamins, following the Paleo diet might lead to nutritional deficiencies that might negatively affect your pancreas, as well as your overall health.

Considerations

If you're interested in following the Paleo diet, you must first consult your physician. In addition to the risk of developing pancreatitis while on the diet, following the Paleo diet might worsen an existing pancreas condition and harm your health. Your doctor can perform a medical evaluation to assess your current health and recommend a balanced diet that incorporates the positive aspects of the Paleo diet -- such as limiting processed food consumption -- without increasing your risk of pancreatitis.

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