According to a recent study published in the ‘European Journal of Nutrition, people who follow the paleo diet may be at an increased risk of heart disease. The paleo or Caveman diet includes consuming vegetables, meat, nuts, and limited fruits. It excludes dairy, salt, refined sugar, legumes, grains, and processed oils. The research compared 44 people on a diet with 47 following a traditional Australian diet, wherein the researchers then analyzed the impact of the diet on gut bacteria. The researchers also measured the amount of trimethylamine-n-oxide (TMAO) in participants’ blood. TMAO is an organic compound produced in the gut.
As per the study’s findings, people who follow the paleo diet were found to have twice the amount of the key blood biomarker, which is closely associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Angela Genoni, said that it was essential to understand the impact of the diet on one’s overall health due to its growing popularity.
“Many Paleo diet proponents claim the diet is beneficial to gut health, but this research suggests that when it comes to the production of TMAO in the gut, the Paleo diet could be hurting heart health,” she said.
“We also found that populations of beneficial bacterial species were lower in the Paleolithic groups, associated with the reduced carbohydrate intake, which may have consequences for other chronic diseases over the long term.” She said TMAO was so elevated in people on the Paleo diet because of the lack of whole grains.
“We found the lack of whole grains was associated with TMAO levels, which may provide a link between the reduced risks of cardiovascular disease we see in populations with high intakes of whole grains,” she said. The researchers in the Paleo group also found higher concentrations of the bacteria that produce TMAO. “The Paleo diet excludes all grains, and we know that whole grains are a fantastic source of resistant starch and many other fermentable fibers that are vital to the health of your gut microbiome,”
Dr. Genoni said. “Because TMAO is produced in the gut, a lack of whole grains might change the populations of bacteria enough to enable higher production of this compound. “Additionally, the Paleo diet includes greater servings per day of red meat, which provides the precursor compounds to produce TMAO, and Paleo followers consumed twice the recommended level of saturated fats, which is cause for concern,” she said.