Is the paleo diet healthy? It’s complicated. 

While some studies have suggested that the paleo diet—which focuses on “caveman” foods such as meat, produce, and nuts—may have health benefits, experts quoted in a November 12, 2020 Today article argue that the evidence is murky.

For example, while a 2015 study found that people eating paleo diets saw more weight loss and other metabolic benefits compared to people whose diets included dairy, legumes, and grains, the story may be more complicated, according to Deirdre Tobias, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She said that the people on non-paleo diets were eating somewhat high amounts of processed foods, and everyone participating in the study had risk factors for metabolic problems—making it difficult to tease out whether any improvements could truly be attributed to paleo eating.

“Was it instead that those benefits came from cutting out processed foods and ramping up fruits and vegetables?” Tobias asked. “Because there are so many aspects of the diets being altered, it is virtually impossible to attribute any one component of the patterns to its success.”

Tobias cautioned that those adopting a paleo diet should avoid increasing their consumption of red meat, which has been linked to increased risk of heart problems and cancer.

She also noted that there is no evidence that the paleo diet provides greater long-term health benefits than diets that have been more scrutinized, such as the Mediterranean diet or plant-based diets.

Read the Today article: Is the paleo diet healthy? Here’s everything you need to know