Over the weekend I had the honor of presenting at the annual BioCeuticals Research Symposium held in Sydney. I was invited to share preliminary data from my PhD, investigating the use of pre- and probiotics in chronic kidney disease. The sold out symposium included over 350 delegates from the medical, nutritional, naturopathy and pharmaceutical fields. The purpose of the symposium was to bring together academic and clinical researchers with shared interest in advancing the medical paradigm with sustainable, safe and effective natural therapies.
The four international keynote speakers explored a holistic approach to healthcare, the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the evolutionary basis of our diets, and the role of insulin resistance in malignancies.
In addition to the Pete Evans (celebrity chef from My Kitchen Rules) inspired lunch, the highlight of the symposium was hearing from Prof Loren Cordain, the father of the Paleo diet.
I doubt there is a dietitian/nutrition who hasn’t heard of the Paleo diet that is currently sweeping the Nation; in fact Brisbane is now home to a number of “Paleo cafes”. Essentially the diet is high in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, fish/seafood, “healthful” oils, nuts and seeds with the exclusion of grains, legumes and dairy.
Walking into Prof Cordain’s plenary, somewhat a skeptic of the Paleo diet, I was armed with questions. To my surprise, Prof Cordain openly addressed each of my concerns (particularly the exclusion of dairy and legumes).
Prof Cordain began his 90min presentation with the evolution of our diet to which I sat intrigued. This introduction led into the “industrial diet”, and how it disrupted the 7 core nutritional components that underlie most chronic disease in Western countries, including the glycemic load, fatty acid balance, trace nutrient density, acid/base balance, sodium/potassium balance and fibre content. Cordain followed this hypothesis with some interesting data suggesting the Paleo diet, in comparison to the USDA’s nutrition guidelines, has a lower glycemic load, saturated fat and sodium profile as well being higher in fibre, MUFAs, omega 3, potassium and all other trace nutrients.1
With respect to dairy restriction, I was impressed that Cordain was up front with the diet’s inability to meet the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for calcium. He justified the adequacy of the diet, nonetheless, with experimental evidence suggesting the calcium output, and therefore the RDI, would be lower in a more alkaline, higher protein Paelo environment. Irrespective, without human trials I was not convinced.
The exclusion of legumes was another controversial topic and I felt this was the weakest of the arguments presented with respect to scientific validity. When I addressed this with Cordain following his presentation, yes I heckled him in the lunch line, I was reassured by his seemingly less black and white view with his permission to “still have the occasional chilli”.
In summary, while I still believe the Mediterranean diet is the “gold standard” of diets, thanks to my encounter with Prof Cordain, I am now less concerned by the Paelo craze (particularly if coinciding a calcium supplement), and believe any step towards a less processed diet is a step in the right direction.
For more information on this topic I recommend you read Prof Cordain’s publication in the peer reviewed, international recognized, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (1)
1. Cordain, L., et al. (2005). “Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81(2): 341-354