The diet made famous by My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans has now been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
The popular paleo diet encourages its loyal followers to cut out grains, legumes, refined sugars and dairy and eat plenty of meat, seafood, nuts and starchy vegetables.
However, researchers at Perth’s Edith Cowan University say the increased portions of red meat in the diet results in higher levels of a biomarker linked to heart disease.
An AAP report published by SBS says researchers compared the gut health of 44 people on the paleo diet with that of 47 people on a traditional Australian diet and measured blood levels of trimethylamine-n-oxide (TMAO), an organic compound produced in the gut.
Diet is a well-known risk factor in developing heart disease and high levels of TMAO have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in the past.
The study’s findings further link the importance of gut health with our overall wellbeing.
The study’s head researcher Angela Genoni told the AAP the body uses starch and other fermentable fibres to balance gut microbiome and that a lack of starch from grains in people who follow the paleo diet could explain the increased TMAO levels.
“Because TMAO is produced in the gut, a lack of whole grains might change the populations of bacteria enough to enable higher production of this compound,” she said.
“Additionally, the paleo diet includes greater servings per day of red meat, which provides the precursor compounds to produce TMAO.”
Evans has long hailed the benefits of the paleo diet and has credited it with turning around his own health.
He’s the author of two cook books specifically curated for paleo recipes and released the highly controversial film The Magic Pill in 2017, which claimed people could be cured of serious medical conditions just by following a healthy diet.
It lead to widespread backlash from health experts, including former Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon, who accused the celebrity chef of putting people in harm’s way with unproven health claims and “pseudoscience”.
“It’s entirely inappropriate that a media personality claims any authority on speaking on health prevention,” Gannon told Starts at 60.
“Doctors don’t need to be told how to practice medicine by TV celebrities who engage occasionally in their fantasy world of pseudoscience.
“I think we all should stick to what we’re good at. As a medical scientist and someone who is a constant consumer of evidence on health prevention, I’ll stick to my expertise and I think television personalities should stick to their obvious talents in the kitchen.”
While a healthy diet is imperative to good health and prevention, experts say claims that diet alone can cure cancer and other life-threatening illnesses are dangerous and could put people’s health in further jeopardy.