Paleo Diet and Type 2 Diabetes


Dr. Loren Cordain is renowned on diets and diseases and has written more than 100 articles on nutrition and health. His book, the Paleo Diet has become popular in the United and all over the world. Also called “The Caveman’s Diet,” the paleo diet resembles consuming foods as humans did during the Paleolithic Era when human beings lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The diet focuses on easy-to-find foods such as seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts and grass-fed meats. Overall, the paleo diet is a higher-protein diet and emphasizes lower glycemic foods. Other components of the diet include

  • Higher fiber consumption
  • Higher potassium and lower sodium intake
  • Increased intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Moderate to high fat intake of mono- and polyunsaturated fats

Why do some people like the Paleo Diet?

Some prefer the paleo diet because, since the introduction of agriculture and animal domestication 10,000 years ago, humans’ metabolic and physiological processes haven’t fully evolved to the relatively recent mass production and processing of foods. They also believe humans are more suited to the paleolithic way of eating and civilization’s current way of consuming food leads to chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Does the Paleo Diet Help People with Type 2 Diabetes?

Some studies suggest there are benefits for people with type 2 who are on the paleo diet, however, there are few peer-reviewed studies of its long-term impact. In the recent consensus report on nutrition by the American Diabetes Association, showed mixed results for people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Common conclusions based on current research show the paleo diets benefits are:

  • Weight Loss and reduced body mass index (BMI)
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Lower A1c
  • Decreased weight circumference
  • Improved appetite control

Other studies showed that the paleo diet leads to improvements in overall health and significantly reduces the risk of developing some health conditions, including metabolic syndrome and heart disease. 

This diet does not include grains, hydrogenated oils, dairy products, refined sugars, soy and preservatives and includes lean meats and healthy fats. Of course, as you can imagine, cereals and sugars were not used except for honey. You can see that, in general terms, it was a very natural feeding plan.

Foods Not Included in the Paleo Diet

Compared to the standard diabetes diet, which includes whole-grained foods, the paleo diet eliminates the following:

  • Whole grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • Salt
  • Potatoes
  • Starchy vegetables and fruits
  • Processed foods
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils, peanuts and peas
  • Canola, sunflower, soy, corn and safflower oils
  • Most dairy products.
    • This is in a constant debate because while the paleo diet excludes dairy from animals because hunter-gatherers didn’t milk cows. This includes milk, butter and yogurt. However, some consume dairy products if it comes from grass-fed cows or is unpasteurized. It should be noted that calcium is an important mineral often found in dairy products. Calcium promotes bone health. Eggs are allowed on this diet.

Should You Go on This Diet?

That depends on your overall health goals. Before starting the paleo diet, or any new diet, you need to consult with a nutrition professional or your doctor. No single diet works for due to one’s individual requirements. While the diet certainly has its benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, long-term studies have yet to be conducted to evaluate its overall impact on the health of those with type 2 diabetes.  


WRITTEN BY Mariana Gómez , POSTED 09/10/19, UPDATED 12/13/22

Mariana is a psychologist and diabetes educator. She is the creator of Dulcesitosparami, one of the first online spaces for people with type 1 diabetes in Mexico. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes more than 30 years ago and is the mother of a teenager.