US News and World Report apparently does an annual review of all the popular diet plans. This year's just came out.
I noticed, with dismay, that the Paleo Diet is ranked 20 out of 20.
The criticisms are pretty stupid: "you're missing nutrients by not eating grains, all that fat is bad, we don't know if it is good for diabetes, blah blah blah."
The biggest error in this report is that is assesses all these diets based on current dietary guidelines. That's a bit like deciding ahead of time that a Granny Smith is the best possible fruit, and then making guidelines off of that, and then assessing all other fruit. Of course a blackberry would fail in that comparison. But a blackberry is very, very good for you, probably better than an apple.
I digress. I could rant all day. But I'll let Dr. Loren Cordain, professor of clinical nutrition at Colorado State University handle this one. His rebuttal is here. It's a bit long, but it's worth it.
I have highlighted his specific responses to US News criticism of the diet. Clearly, the US News people or their "experts" simply aren't up on their research:
The writer of this article suggests that the Paleo Diet has only been scientifically tested in “one tiny study”. This quote is incorrect as five studies (1-7); four since 2007, have experimentally tested contemporary versions of ancestral human diets and have found them to be superior to Mediterranean diets, diabetic diets and typical western diets in regards to weight loss, cardiovascular disease risk factors and risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Specific responses to criticisms from the US News report:
“Will you lose weight? No way to tell.”
Obviously, the author of this article did not read either the study by O’Dea (6) or the more powerful three month crossover experiment by Jonsson and colleagues (9) which demonstrated the superior weight loss potential of high protein, low glycemic load Paleo diets. A 2010 randomized trial involving 773 subjects and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (8) confirmed that high protein, low glycemic index diets were the most effective strategy to keep weight off. The same beneficial effects of high protein, low glycemic index diets were dramatically demonstrated in largest nutritional trial, The DiOGenes Study (9), ever conducted in a sample of 827 children.
“And all that fat would worry most experts.”
This statement represents a “scare tactic” unsubstantiated by the data. As I, and almost the entire nutritional community, have previously pointed out, it is not the quantity of fat which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease or cancer, or any other health problem, but rather the quality. Contemporary Paleo Diets contain high concentrations of healthful omega 3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that actually reduce the risk for chronic disease (10-18).
“Can it prevent or control diabetes? Unknown.”
Here is another example of irresponsible and biased journalism which doesn’t let the facts speak for themselves. Obviously, the author did not read the study by O’dea (6) or Jonsson et al. (2) which showed dramatic improvements in type 2 diabetics consuming Paleo diets.
“Most diabetes experts recommend a diet that includes whole grains and dairy products.”
If the truth be known, in a randomized controlled trial, 24 8-y-old boys were asked to take 53 g of protein as milk or meat daily (19). After only 7 days on the high milk diet, the boys became insulin resistant. This is a condition that precedes the development of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, In the meat-group, there was no increase in insulin and insulin resistance. Further, in the Jonsson et al. study (2) milk and grain free diets were shown to have superior results in improving disease symptoms in type 2 diabetics.
“Are there health risks? Possibly. By shunning dairy and grains, you’re at risk of missing out on a lot of nutrients.”
Once again, this statement shows the writer’s ignorance and blatant disregard for the facts. Because contemporary ancestral diets exclude processed foods, dairy and grains, they are actually more nutrient (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) dense than government recommended diets such as the food pyramid. I have pointed out these facts in a paper I published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2005 (13)
“Also, if you’re not careful about making lean meat choices, you’ll quickly ratchet up your risk for heart problems” .
Actually, the most recent comprehensive meta analyses do not show fresh meat consumption whether fat or lean to be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (20-25), only processed meats such as salami, bologna, bacon and sausages (20).
There are 25 separate peer reviewed scientific studies cited in his response, as compared to 0 studies in the US News report to substantiate any of the criteria they used to judge these diets.
Ultimately, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In general the clinical nutrition section of the academic and medical fields is pretty set in their ways. There are not only clinical studies, as referenced above, that indicate that dominant diet paradigms may not be all that good. There are also excellent piece for the layman that are in the same vein - like Gary Taubes, (won the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996-97. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy) or Dr. Robert Lustig(UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology).
What I keep seeing from the establishment is that low-fat high-carb grain heavy diets are still tops. I just don't buy it - and the science is there to back up that position. See above. Time to think different, people. Stop looking for nails to hit and start looking for ways to help people.