Losing weight is easier on the paleo diet than the widely praised Mediterranean diet. Swedish researchers at the University of Lund discovered that men who were allowed to eat as much as they wanted consumed 1823 kcal per day on a Mediterranean diet – but on the paleo diet they could only manage 1388 kcal.
Paleo diet advocates reason that our genetic makeup has probably not changed much since the Stone Age, and that our body therefore is likely to react optimally to a diet that would have been normal at that time. So that means: large quantities of lean meat, fish, fruit and vegetables – but no dairy, grains, rice, beans, sugar, soft drinks, cookies, sweets or beer. Nuts, olive oil, potatoes and eggs are allowed but in moderation.
The Mediterranean diet on the other hand consists of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruit and vegetables.
The Swedes did an experiment with 29 men who had survived a heart attack. The men were overweight and diabetic, or on the way to becoming so. The researchers got 14 of the men to follow the paleo diet for 12 weeks, and put 15 of the men on a Mediterranean diet. As you can see below, the energy intake of the paleo group was much lower.
The biggest difference between the Mediterranean and the paleo diet is in the carbohydrates. The paleo diet contains far fewer carbs and the glycaemic load was much less too. The absolute protein intake was the same in both groups, but forms a higher percentage of the paleo diet.
"A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet", the Swedes conclude. "This aspect of a Paleolithic diet is vital to any diet intended to facilitate weight-loss in obese patients and thereby mitigate effects of associated diseases, such as ischemic heart disease and diabetes type 2."
The amount of leptin went down in the paleo group. The researchers suspect that the reduced carbohydrate intake made the paleo dieters' bodies more sensitive to this hormone.
Another big difference between the diets was the calcium intake. The Mediterranean group consumed a daily 772 mg, the paleo group only 374 mg. But the researchers think that the paleo diet results in less acid blood, however. The body takes calcium out of the bones to neutralise this acid. This happens less in the paleo group, so the need for calcium is also less. The researchers believe.
Nutr Metab (Lond) 2010, 7:85.