There's a new Swedish paleo diet study out: A Palaeolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women. The title sounds promising, but my first reaction to it, sadly, not so much about the potential findings, but, what exactly is this paleo-TYPE diet?? It would appear to be based loosely on Cordain's original Paleo Diet (I hear that's trademarked).
This was a small study, 10 women, no control group, lasting only 5 weeks. There were some benefits including around 10 lbs average weight loss and almost 50% reduction in liver fat. This shall be for another blog post. But what diet was tested? Here's the diet description from the full text:
Participants were given prepared meal portions that were intended to provide an average intake of about 30 energy percentage (E%) protein, 40 E% fat (mostly unsaturated) and 30 E% carbohydrates for breakfast, lunch and dinner, together with 40 g nuts (walnuts and sweet almonds) on a daily basis for 5 weeks.
All meals were prepared by the food service ... The diet included lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (including root vegetables), eggs and nuts. Dairy products, cereals, beans, refined fats and sugar, added salt, bakery products and soft drinks were excluded. Participants were instructed to complement the provided food with other included food items from the list, ad libitum. ... They were also advised to use only rapeseed [canola] or olive oil in food preparation. The recommended alcohol intake was less than two glasses of red wine per week.
There are likely a few others, but so far we have Lindeberg, Frasetto and now Ryberg paleo studies. The nutritional comparisons are shown here.
The descriptions of Lindeberg's and Ryberg's paleo diets are the same (both Swedish, no surprise!), while Frasetto's is notably higher in carb including more honey and high sugar fruit such as pineapple -- there was more attention paid to potassium content as well. The Ryberg diet is a bit higher in fat, but at 40% prescribed and 44% (median) actual, it is still rather low in fat compared to what is espoused in various paleo diet books by various advocates. Indeed two of these diets would qualify as "officially" low fat by the 30% standard, and all three diets are at the sub-10% target set out by the so-called saturated lipophobes. PUFA contents ranging from 7 to 13% of total dietary intake are quite high and the results in each of these studies must be considered when PUFA is a revived finger pointing target of late.
All of these diets counsel elimination of all dairy. No Kerrygold popsicles, yogurt smoothies, certainly no sour cream and Philly cream cheese. No coconut breaded offal parmigiana or artificially sweetened whey protein peanut butter concoctions from the "ancestral education video" non-profiteer here. Whether intentional (as in the current study) or not, the saturated fat content of the tested diets beats the so-called "misguided" recommendation of 10% tops, and speaking of coconut, you don't hear any of that! At the very least, these studies CANNOT be seen as any sort of "vindication" of sat fats or free pass. Neither are they endorsements for the most popular paleo and paleo-inspired diets. Having been used by such folks as Nora Gedgaudas and Paul & Shou Ching Jaminet in support of their dietary recommendations, Lindeberg's diet comes in very low fat by comparison. I've become increasingly disappointed with Paul's recent attempts to score "authentic paleo" points with evermore imaginative claims reconciling PHD with paleo. We don't know. It wasn't the same for all paleos. We couldn't recreate it with modern foods if we wanted to. We have NO way to know what their true state of health was, and thus if we should even be attempting to emulate their ways.
Which leaves us where? I exchanged tweets with Robb Wolf regarding this study. He seemed no more hopeful that "paleo" would be defined in the clinical trial realm than it is in practiced. Which makes the label all the more confusing and, IMO, ultimately meaningless. More thoughts to come in my post on the study per se ... But these studies are increasingly demonstrating that lower-to-low fat relatively higher PUFA diets, per USDA recs, may just not be a problem! Nobody has as yet denounced any of these studies as not "real" paleo, as the LCers are wont to do when a study doesn't demonstrate the supposed superiority of the low carb diet.