Touted as a healthy alternative to the standard American diet of processed foods, the Paleo diet is a trend-turned-lifestyle for many people. You know the type — the kind who exercise five times a week, poop like clockwork and make sure everyone knows it. They report feeling energized by eating meats and veggies and avoiding grains and dairy.
But eating like a caveman might not be a total cure-all. A new study published in the journal Nutrients reveals that those who subsist on all-Paleo fare run the risk of being deficient in several key nutrients.
The study: Researchers recruited 39 adult women as participants. Twenty-two of the women followed a Paleo diet for four weeks; the other 17 followed a diet consistent with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Participants were weighed before and after the study.
The results: Women who went on the Paleo diet lost an average of 7 pounds — roughly 4.4 pounds more than women who followed the AGHE — but both groups ended up losing weight and having a smaller waist circumference at the end of the four-week study. This was not surprising, as researchers have long known that cutting down on carbohydrates can lead to weight loss.
But researchers also found Paleo dieters had low levels of thiamin, riboflavin and calcium. Paleo dieters were consuming only 0.96 mg of thiamin, 1.47 mg of riboflavin, and 355.4 mg of calcium per day, all significantly less than their peers who were eating AGHE diets. According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended daily intake for these nutrients is 1.1 mg of thiamin, 1.1 mg riboflavin, and 1,000 mg calcium.
While the thiamin and riboflavin levels aren't far off from NIH recommendations, at 355 mg/day, the calcium level is quite low. And other research has also linked the Paleo diet to calcium deficiency.
Calcium is essential for strong bones, a functional brain, and a host of other important bodily functions. By cutting out milk, cheese and other dairy products, Paleo dieters miss out on a natural source of calcium.
Might be time to make like a mouse and get your paws on some cheese, Paleo peeps.
For those who avoid dairy, collard greens, spinach and bok choy are all decent sources of calcium, too, according to Health. Just know: You'll have to eat a whopping 14 servings of bok choy to get to the daily recommended intake.