New European research suggests that the Paleo diet could be an effective and healthy way for women to lose weight post-menopause — and keep it off long-term.
Carried out by Caroline Blomquist, a doctoral student at Umeå University, Sweden, the study followed 70 post-menopausal women for a two-year period, looking at the effect of two different diets on weight loss.
All of the women had a body mass index higher than 27, classing them as overweight.
Half of the women followed a diet according to Nordic nutrition recommendations, which is high in cereals, bread, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables, low in fats and sweets, and includes a moderate amount of dairy, meat, fish, eggs, and beans.
The other half of the participants followed the popular Paleo Diet, which recommends plenty of fruit and vegetables and a high intake of protein and unsaturated fats, such as lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, shellfish, seeds, nuts, oils. Unlike the Nordic diet, the Paleo diet excludes cereals, milk, refined sugars and added salt.
Neither group had any restrictions on the amount they were allowed to eat, they were only asked to make sure they followed the specific composition of the diet.
After carrying out a follow-up at six months and again after two years, Blomquist found that although both groups lost weight, those who followed the Paleo diet lost more, on average dropping from 87 to 78 kilos, with the weight loss still stable at the two-year follow-up.
The group that followed the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations dropped an average of 86 to 80 kilos.
Both groups showed a reduction in the levels of certain fatty acids and blood fats, which are important risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, although the women who followed the Paleo Diet had a significant reduction in unhealthy abdominal fat, with the enzymes involved in fat storage also less active in the this group.
Blomquist described the results as “remarkable” and concluded that “the study shows that the Paleo Diet with a high proportion of unsaturated fats was healthier for this group of women, even if the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations also had positive health effects.” The results are also significant as postmenopausal women have an increased risk of obesity, partly caused by a reduction in estrogen production in combination with an elevated energy intake and reduced physical activity.