Dangers of the Paleo Diet (Part 3)

I hope you had a blast reading the first two installments.  Please enjoy the last installment in this series. If you missed the first two parts, you can find them here:

  1. Dangers of the Paleo Diet (Part 1)
  2. Dangers of the Paleo Diet (Part 2)


I highly recommend reading the following books, to further educate yourself on the topic of FAT, ANIMAL FOOD CONSUMPTION and CONSUMING A STARCH RICH DIET (you know that I am not scared of carbs :)–I eat them every day!):

And don’t be afraid, none of them talk about evolution or creationism! 😉

If you are one of the people who either wants to quick the Paleo diet to live in optimal health and keep your weight off, or simply want to learn the right way of doing plant-based living (whole foods, junk and oil free, devoid of processed sugars), you should sign up for the next Vegalicious Boot Camp, or get a copy of DIY manuals we use in the program.

True Stories

So that you truly realize just how real the dangers of fad diets like the Paleo are, here are a couple of comments left by Vegalicious readers on the topic:

Amanda W.

I remember back when I was on the Atkins bandwagon, I read Dr. Atkins’ book. He based his whole argument of high fat/protein and low carb on a ludicrous statement. He said that people HAD TO eat like that “before the onset of agriculture.” I sat back in my chair and thought… What the heck?? If the was no agriculture, the wouldn’t be able to breathe! Not only that, It was an entirely made up reasoning with absolutely NO WAY to scientifically prove it. Paleo and Atkins make no logical sense. And for what it’s worth, I lost 19 lbs. on “fAtkins”, but also permanently lost a whole diopter of vision in my right eye. So not worth it!


I went on the Atkins diet many years ago and, after feeling good in the very beginning, I ended up feeling terrible. I followed a similar diet a few years ago, with the addition of veggies, and felt bad after having started out feeling good. Of all the diets that I have been on, following these diets are when I felt the worse. Now I eat mostly vegan and high raw, and I feel much better. My body is still healing from all the damage that I did to it over the years but it is healing.

 Now onward with the article.

This part will take you about 6 minutes to read

Tandi Hartle received her Bachelors degree in Natural Health Science from the University of Natural Medicine and then went on to get a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University.  Tandi has also received certificates in Nutritional Herbology, Aromatherapy, and Raw Culinary Arts.  She is the author of “America’s Health Crisis” and her work has been published in Natural News.  She is a highly sought after lecturer and speaker and has presented for Utah Valley University, New Mexico Midwives Association, Balance Wellness Center, and Vitality Natural Foods.   Her research is focused on how plant based foods affect the physiological aspects of healing. 


Celiac and Paleo

image source: www.gnet.org

Celiac disease has become the poster child of low carb and Paleo proponents. They claim that the rise in celiac disease proves that we are not designed to eat grains of any kind and that they are bad for everyone.  There is no scientific evidence or any legitimate proof that celiac is on the rise because we aren’t meant to eat grains—this is just a personal opinion of low-carb promoters and is not based in fact.

They use research conducted on celiacs and extrapolate that to humans in general—you cannot do that.  Celiac disease diagnosis is on the rise for many reasons: increased awareness, better diagnostic techniques, and some has to do with our modern society which I won’t go into in this article but it has nothing to do with the idea that humans aren’t meant to eat grains.

An article written in The Physician and Sports Medicine in 2008 stated there is a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke and even some forms of cancer in individuals who have the highest consumption of whole grain foods as opposed to those who eat very little to no whole grain foods.  Research continues to show the importance of a whole food diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and yet fad diet gurus continue to try to convince readers that whole grains are unhealthy. (12) 

A simple internet search will pull up dozens of peer-reviewed research studies on the benefits of whole grain consumption, even cereal companies are taking advantage of this research as they are now allowed to put “lowers cholesterol” right on their packaging because research supports these claims.   

Refined grains are not healthy and I think that has been well established, but we need to separate the effects of whole grains from refined products. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported dietary habits of 2,834 men and women enrolled in The Framingham Heart Offspring and Third Generation study.  The study used MDCT scans to determine the VAT or visceral adipose tissue and SAT or subcutaneous adipose tissue volumes in the participants.  It is important to understand that a higher level of visceral fat (fat that surrounds the abdominal organs) is linked to higher risks of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and other health problems. 

Paul Jacques, DSc, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA explained the results found in this study: “Not surprisingly, when we compared the relationship of both visceral fat tissue and subcutaneous fat tissue to whole and refined grain intake, we saw a more striking association with visceral fat.”  He went on to explain that this strong association between refined grain intake and increased visceral fat remained even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors that play a role in visceral fat as well such as smoking, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, calories consumed from fat and physical activity. 

This study also found that if refined grain consumption exceeded 4 servings per day no benefits were seen. Therefore, a combination of whole grain and refined grain consumption does not provide a benefit.  The researchers concluded that whole grains must replace refined grain in the diet, not simply be an addition to a processed food diet. 

Science or Emotional Fiction? 

image source: blog.peopleclues.com

There is something romantic about the idea of “returning to nature” or “returning to ancient traditions” in our fast paced, nature disconnected society.  Many authors have toyed with the sentimental emotions of readers by creating romantic ideas about the past, enticing us into the desire to follow these traditions.  The problem with this is that much of this flies in the face of current understanding of human physiology and nutrition.  Authors use the limited scientific research funded by special interest groups out there that does support their ideas to lull unsuspecting readers into a false sense of security about the dangers of these diets.

Most readers don’t even take the time to find out that the recent study stating saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease was funded by the National Dairy Council…  This trend of special interest groups funding research to state that their unhealthy products aren’t unhealthy is not new and these low-carb, paleo, hunter-gatherer style diet promoters are notorious for using these conflict of interest studies to back up their claims and say that the Institute of Medicine and any other organization is wrong about what promotes health.  While I agree these government organizations still have a ways to go in promoting a truly healthy diet, the basic science behind recommending avoiding saturated fat and other animal based foods is based on sound research. 

Saturated Fat–a Yummy Feast? 

image source: angrytrainerfitness.com

Let’s move on to the claims about Saturated fat being okay to consume in large quantities. 

Saturated fat consumption causes an increase in platelet aggregation and increased viscosity of the blood. (13) Consumption of saturated fat causes the blood to become thick and the platelets stick together.  This is one of the aspects of saturated fat consumption that increases cardiovascular disease, leads to poor circulation and other health problems.

  • C reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation in the body which has been strongly correlated with autoimmune diseases and heart disease in a recent study, is the single most important factor found in elevated CRP levels was saturated fat consumption. (14)

  • This inflammation caused by saturated fat intake aggravates autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.

  • A study in Nutrition 2006 found that consumption of more than 10% saturated fat led to twice the risk of elevated CRP levels compared to those who consumed less fat.

  • A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that the progression of coronary artery disease was STRONGLY correlated with long chain saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids. (15)

  • In another study, published in the European Journal of Medical Research, you will read, “Saturated fatty acids are very potent in increasing LDL-cholesterol concentration in plasma a dangerous risk factor for early CHD.” 

Another quote from the paper by the food and nutrition board: 

“Therefore, neither an Adequate Intake nor RDA is set for saturated fatty acids. There is a positive linear trend between total saturated fatty acid intake and total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration and increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A UL [upper limit] is not set for saturated fatty acids because any incremental increase in saturated fatty acid intake increases CHD risk.” (16)

According to the Dietary Reference Intake by the Food and Nutrition Board:

“Saturated fatty acids are synthesized by the body to provide an adequate level needed for their physiological and structural functions; saturated fats have no known role in preventing chronic diseases.”

Saturated fat is not an essential fat, meaning we do not need to consume it and it does not play any role in preventing disease. (17, 18, 19) 

I know many low-carb diet gurus say that saturated fat is not bad and they point to the research funded by the National Dairy Council to back up their claims but the reality is that the large body of evidence not funded by special interest groups paints an entirely different picture.  As shown earlier, even the Maasai, completely untouched by modern farming practices consuming wild game still develop atherosclerosis they just don’t live long enough to die from it! 


Humans throughout history have predominantly consumed a plant-based diet as the majority of their calorie intake.  We are not physiologically designed to maintain omnivorous diets although we may have the capacity to digest them, however  poorly we do digest them, and assimilate nutrients.  This is not an indication that these diets are best for optimal health.  It is critically important that we begin to move toward the plant-based diet we are physiologically designed to eat to enjoy long-lasting health and longevity rather than fall for the latest romanticized fad.


If you would like to share this article with friends or family, you can download a printable PDF of it. The document includes none of my introductions or comments, and only Tandi’s article. Click on the link to download.


12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20048469

13. Ann Nutr Metab. 1986;30(4):250-60

14. Nutrition. 2006 Sep;22(9):865-71. Epub 2006 Jul 10

15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8694021

16. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10490&page=769#.

17. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx

18. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/index-eng.php#rvm

19. http://www.iom.edu/Global/News%20Announcements/~/media/C5CD2DD7840544979A549EC47E56A02B.ashx

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  • Laura

    I don’t know if you are still talking about this, but my daughter has bought into the whole Paleo nonsense completely. She has my grandkids, ages 2,3,and 5 on it as well. What are the risks? She is extremely vigilant about no carbs, gives them a glass of unpastuerized milk a day and some cheese. Limited fruit and some vegetable with meat.Is it bad enough for them that I should make a thing about it?

    • Laura, i am so sorry to hear about that. That diet is pretty dangerous, especially long term. Recent studies are showing more and more how health threatening high meat consumption is. Get your daughter this book http://astore.amazon.com/vega-licious-20/detail/1940363098–it is packed with science and pray she is open to see the truth. Carbs is what human diet is supposed to be made of. Not processed junk, but good grains, fruits, veggies and green.

      It is bad for them. Really bad. But I would not make a big thing about it–it might alienate her. Instead watch some documentaries together, and read some books on the topic. Here is another great book about this http://astore.amazon.com/vega-licious-20/detail/1609613937 and this video is pretty great: http://youtu.be/kOfF_r2R8QM

      Be patient with her. Create fun, healthy recipes together. Enjoy time talking. But surely, do not become too harsh with her if you want to help her change her mind.

      Wishing you the best.

      • Laura

        Thank you so much. I really appreciate the advice. I’ll give it a try.

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  • Brian

    I really believe in the Paleo diet. When I followed this recipe, I got the positive results that I could only have dreamed of.


    You just can’t deny the effects that it has had on most people that have tried it.

    • Jackie

      Yeah…give us an update in 5 years…should be interesting. I’d love to know your cholestral numbers, weight, and other measurable numbers. No one I know who follows this diet is very healthy. Too much animal protein makes me ill. So, wheres your proof?

  • Devi

    Hey Elena,
    I totally loved the 3 parts to this topic. I’m glad I read it coz at one point I was avoiding carbs as well. I’m happy to say I’m on a healthier balanced diet now after I’ve been following your blog for few months. I had question about whole grains. The only ones I know of are brown rice and quinoa. Are there any other that you would recommend we include to add variety to what we eat?

    • Devi, we LOVE our carbs 🙂

      And yes, we like oats, buckwheat, some people like amaranth–I am not crazy about it cooked, but do like it popped (do a search on a popped bars recipe on my blog–YUM!).

      bulgur (cracked wheat)



      and there are more that we have not tried yet.

      • Devi

        Oh awesome!! Thanks Elena! I’m going to try the amaranth bars…they looked delicious and fun! 🙂

      • Devi

        So I had a question. I have some brown rice or quinoa or some form of good carb during breakfast and lunch. But I try to avoid it at night. Basically for dinner I have a huge helping of green smoothie and then if i’m still hungry I’ll eat something, but not too much carbs at night. I’m wondering if it makes sense or am I still doing something that’s based on the no-carb myth? (Definitely going to try Farro one of these days :))

        • Yep, still in the carb myth world 🙂

          • Devi

            Oh man! glad to have that cleared out! Don’t know what other myths i’ve gotten sucked into..dealing with it one at a time.. 😉 Thanks as always!