Purpose: To assess the association between a score appraising adherence to the PaleoDiet and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in a Mediterranean cohort.
Methods: We included 18,210 participants from the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) cohort study. The PaleoDiet score comprised six food groups promoted within this diet (fruit, nuts, vegetables, eggs, meat and fish) and five food groups whose consumption is discouraged (cereals and grains, dairy products, legumes, culinary ingredients, and processed/ultra-processed foods). CVD was defined as acute myocardial infarction with or without ST elevation, non-fatal stroke and cardiovascular death. Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for potential confounders were fitted to assess the association between the PaleoDiet score and CVD risk, and the PaleoDiet and MedDiet indices to explore differences between both diets.
Results: During 12.2 years of follow-up, 165 incident CVD cases were confirmed. A significant inverse association was found between the PaleoDiet score and CVD (HR Q5 vs. Q1: 0.45, 95% CI 0.27-0.76, P for trend = 0.007). A weaker association that became non-significant was observed when the item for low consumption of ultra-processed foods was removed from the score. Joint analysis of PaleoDiet and MedDiet Trichopoulou scores suggested that the inverse association between PaleoDiet and CVD was mainly present when adherence to the MedDiet was also high (HR for high adherence vs low adherence to both diet scores: 0.22, 95% CI 0.08-0.64).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the PaleoDiet may have cardiovascular benefits in participants from a Mediterranean country. Avoidance of ultra-processed foods seems to play a key role in this inverse association.