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Paleo diet dramatically lowers stroke risk: Twice as effective for weight loss

High protein diets like Paleo reduce stroke risk: Twice as effective for weight loss
Photo: Samantha Chang

A high-protein diet like the Paleo diet can dramatically reduce your risk of having a stroke, according to a new study conducted at the Nanjing University School of Medicine in China.

People who ate the most protein (especially from fish) were 20 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than with those who ate little or no protein, said Dr. Xinfeng Liu, who led the study. The results were recently reported in the medical journal Neurology.

Liu found that for every additional 20 grams of protein a person ate per day, their risk of stroke plummeted 26 percent. "If everyone's protein intake were at this level, that would translate to more than 1.4 million fewer deaths from stroke each year worldwide, plus a decreased level of disability from stroke," said Dr. Liu.

Liu and his team drew their conclusions after reviewing seven studies involving 254,489 participants over the span of 14 years. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability.

A stroke happens when a blood clot travels to, or forms in a part of, the brain. A stroke deprives your brain of oxygen, which often leads to brain damage.

Paleo Diet Reduces Inflammation, Which Fuels Disease

The Nanjing University study results bolsters the health claims of Paleo proponents, who say the Paleo diet prevents stroke, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer's, in addition to enhancing weight loss.

The Paleo diet is the most popular diet around today, and boasts a huge celebrity following, including Tim McGraw, Matthew McConaughey, Kellan Lutz, Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, and supermodel Adriana Lima. Many Los Angeles Lakers stars are Paleos, as is Miami Heat guard Ray Allen.

The high-protein Paleo diet has been touted for its capacity to promote weight loss, but the diet's creator, Dr. Loren Cordain, said the eating plan was intended to prevent disease.

"The idea we had had little to do with weight control,” said Dr. Cordain, author of The Paleo Answer. “We were more interested in cardiovascular effects, cancer, acne and myopia. It is a lifelong way of eating to reduce the risk of chronic disease.”

Dr. Cordain, who also wrote The Paleo Diet Cookbook, said marketing the Paleo diet as a weight-loss tool was his editor's idea, to make the diet appeal to a larger audience. Despite his initial reluctance to push the Paleo diet as a weight loss plan, recent studies show it beats almost every other diet for weight loss.

Paleo Diet Proven Twice as Effective for Weight Loss

A new report published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that Paleo dieters lost more than twice as much weight as low-fat diets. A two-year study conducted by scientists at Cambridge University and Umeå University in Sweden tracked 70 overweight, post-menopausal women who either followed a low-fat diet or a lower-carb (and higher-fat) Paleo diet.

Study participants were measured for weight, cholesterol and blood sugars after six months on their respective diets, and again after two years. The results showed the Paleo dieters lost more than twice as much weight (14 pounds) as the low-fat dieters (5.7 pounds). In previous studies, the Paleo diet has routinely beaten low-fat diets at controlling cholesterol and diabetes.

The results are noteworthy because older women — especially those who are post-menopausal — have historically reported having a hard time losing weight, especially from their mid-sections, due to slower metabolisms and hormone disruptions.

The Paleo diet works especially well for women because it reduces the blood sugar spikes and hormone surges that fuel overeating, mood swings and weight gain, said Nell Stephenson, author of Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean.

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