Because I love my wife and want to spend many more years with her I go to my doctor every November for my annual physical. About a week before the physical I go to a lab to get blood drawn (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Lipid Panel, and Hemogram). The health care group I use is fairly sophisticated so I can see the results of the blood work less than 24 hours after the blood was drawn. If you ever wondered how a Paleo Diet would impact your health I can sum it up in one word: fantastic!
You’ve probably read articles or blog posts from people who claimed that the Paleo Diet caused them to lose weight, gain energy and give them a general feeling of awesomeness—but this is just anecdotal evidence and it doesn’t do much for me. I live in a world of facts. Many diet programs lead to weight loss, but often at the expense of overall health. The placebo effect easily explains the “increased energy” that many people claim comes for their new diet plan. I’ve been on the Paleo Diet for a little over three months and, yes, I have experienced weight loss, increased energy and a significant decrease in recovery time after strenuous exercise—but what impresses me the most are the results of my blood tests!
Before I explain the results I need to set the stage first. Thirteen years ago I was a morbidly obese workaholic and was experiencing more health problems than time would allow me explain here. The doctor I had at the time was a nice guy, but he was content to load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. Somehow I came across of copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and it changed my life! I took up cycling, weight lifting and kayaking—and in just a few months I dropped most of my excess weight (and also dropped most of the prescriptions). As I became an endurance athlete I started eating healthier foods and have basically followed the Atkins’ Diet until three months ago.
Switching from the Atkins’ Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was easy.
In the past few months on the Paleo Diet I’ve eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, sausage and bacon (mmm…bacon). In fact, about one-third of my calories now come from fats and protein. So, you have to wonder, what did eating all that meat do to my blood work? Drum roll please… not only did my cholesterol and triglyceride levels drop, but so did my fasting blood sugar level! None of these things were a problem with me before, but the point is that the numbers got even better on the Paleo Diet!
In the spirit of full disclosure I believe that the testing of cholesterol levels is probably the most worthless thing your doctor does (well, except for hanging up that stupid “Food Pyramid” chart in the waiting room). As a group physicians are among the brightest people in the country—but, in general, what they don’t know about nutrition could fill volumes! If your doctor wants to measure something that really impacts your health have them check your homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid—high homocysteine levels lead to vascular inflammation and is associated with low levels of vitamin B6, B12, and folate (more about this in a future article).