High-Protein ‘Paleo’ Diet May Reduce Fatty Acids Associated With Insulin Resistance

Raw salmon filets
Raw salmon filets
The "Paleolithic-type" diet may have long-term health benefits related to obesity.

BOSTON — Postmenopausal women assigned to a high-protein “Paleolithic-type” diet saw greater reductions in fatty acids associated with insulin resistance than women assigned to a low-fat diet.

Women on the Paleolithic-type diet, commonly known as the Paleo diet, experienced health benefits even though weight loss was similar in both groups, researchers noted.

The diet, which was 30% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 40% fats, reduced intake of saturated fatty acids by 19% and increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids by 47%.

“A Paleolithic-type diet reduced specific fatty acids in the blood more distinctly than a control diet despite similar weight loss,” said Caroline Blomquist, a doctoral student in the department of public health and clinical medicine at Umeå University in Sweden. “The Paleolithic-type diet may have long-term beneficial effects on obesity-related disorders such as insulin resistance and cardiovascular diseases.”

She discussed the results of a 24-month study at ENDO 2016.

After menopause, women are at increased risk for abdominal adiposity, which is associated with a reduction in insulin resistance and cardiovascular diseases. Blomquist said it is of particular interest to find a diet for these women that helps them avoid obesity and metabolic dysregulation.

Seventy obese postmenopausal women (BMI, 32.6) were randomly assigned to either the high-protein Paleolithic-type diet or a low-fat diet that included 15% protein, 55% carbohydrates, and 30% fat.

The Paleolithic-type diet was based on lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and berries. Additional fat sources included rapeseed, olive oils, and avocado. Dairy products, cereals, added salt, and refined fats and sugar were excluded.

Both diet groups participated in 12 group sessions with a dietitian and kept ongoing records of food intake.

At 24 months, researchers found that, in the Paleolithic-type diet group, intake of saturated fatty acids decreased by 19% and intake of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids increased by 47%.

Blomquist said that delta-6 and delta-9 desaturase activities decreased significantly more in the Paleolithic-type diet group than in the low-fat diet group after 24 months. Fatty acids associated with insulin resistance, including 14:0, 16:1, 18:3n-6, and 20:3n-6, all decreased in the Paleolithic-type diet group after 24 months.


  1. Blomquist C, Chorell E, Ryberg M, et al. SUN-575: Beneficial effects on fatty acid composition and indices of fatty acid desaturase activity with a Paleolithic-type diet during a two-year intervention in obese postmenopausal women. Presented at: ENDO 2016; April 1-4, 2016; Boston, MA.