Could the Paleo Diet Improve Oral Health?

If you pay attention to popular health trends, you’ve probably heard of the latest diet craze that has rapidly increased in popularity across the nation.  The paleolithic diet (AKA the paleo diet for short) is a nutritional plan that is based on the ancient diet of the hunter-gatherer population during the Paleolithic era, or Stone Age.  This period lasted nearly 2.5 million years and ended approximately 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets.  The diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, eliminating grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.  When the diet is adopted, advocates insist that there are many health benefits, including a reduction in risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and most chronic degenerative diseases.  Additionally, it is said to help individuals lose weight, improve athletic performance, improve acne, increase energy, improve mental outlook and clarity, and increase libido.  There are of course several industry experts who dispute the benefits of the diet, making it controversial in the health world, however a recent study has just been published that suggests that another benefit of the paleo diet can be added to the laundry list; improved oral health.

According to the Medical News Today article, “Modern Diet Is Rotting Our Teeth,” researchers have concluded that humans today have less diverse oral bacteria than historic populations, leading to chronic oral disease, and diet is largely to blame.  The study was recently published in Nature Genetics, and authors say that through the analysis of the DNA of calcified bacteria on the teeth of humans through history, they have been able to draw conclusions about the health consequences of the evolving diet from the Stone Age to modern times.  The scientists were able to extract DNA from calcified dental plaque from 34 prehistoric human skeletons ranging from the prehistoric hunter-gatherers, through the Bronze Age when farming was established, then to Medieval times, and finishing in the Industrial Revolution when food sources began to be manufactured.  Study leader, Professor Alan Cooper, from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), claims that the “composition of oral bacteria changed markedly with the introduction of farming, and again around 150 years ago.” The introduction of processed sugar and flour in the Industrial Revolution apparently allows cavity-causing strains of bacteria to dominate, creating what Cooper calls a permanent disease state.  Scientists involved insist that this study provides a new opportunity to understand and track the origins of diseases that humans still suffer from today.  This new knowledge may allow for better understanding, and therefore treatment of such diseases, implying that this type of research could have a large impact on all medical fields.  While the dietary guidelines of the paleo diet are quite rigid, I can understand why so many are trying to improve their overall health with this new trend.  Could be that the Caveman diet is the secret to a long and healthy life.  What do you think? Would you be willing to give it a shot?

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