Diabetes expert warns Paleo Diet is dangerous and increases weight gain

February 18, 2016, University of Melbourne
The mice involved in the study were fed a special diet. Those on a diet mimicking the Paleo diet gained weight. Credit: The University of Melbourne.

A new study has revealed following a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for just eight weeks can lead to rapid weight gain and health complications.

The surprise finding, detailed in a paper in Nature journal Nutrition and Diabetes, has prompted University of Melbourne researchers to issue a warning about putting faith in so-called fad diets with little or no scientific evidence.

Lead author, Associate Prof Sof Andrikopoulos says this type of , exemplified in many forms of the popular Paleo diet, is not recommended - particularly for people who are already overweight and lead sedentary lifestyles.

He says mass media hype around these diets, particularly driven by celebrity chefs, celebrity weight-loss stories in the tabloid media and reality TV shows, are leading to more people trying fad diets backed by little evidence. In people with pre-diabetes or diabetes, the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet could be particularly risky, he said.

"Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are becoming more popular, but there is no that these diets work. In fact, if you put an inactive individual on this type of diet, the chances are that person will gain weight," Assoc Prof Andrikopoulos, President of the Australian Diabetes Society, said.

"There is a very important public health message here. You need to be very careful with fad diets, always seek professional advice for weight management and always aim for diets backed by evidence."

Researchers at the University of Melbourne's originally sought to test whether high-fat and low-carbohydrate foods would benefit the health of people with pre-diabetes.

They took two groups of overweight mice with pre-diabetes symptoms and put one group on the LCHF diet. The other group ate their normal diet. The mice were switched from a three per cent fat diet to a 60 per cent fat diet. Their carbs were reduced to only 20 per cent.

After eight weeks, the group on the LCHF gained more weight, their glucose intolerance worsened, and their insulin levels rose. The group gained 15 per cent of their body weight. Their fat mass doubled from 2 per cent to almost 4 per cent.

"To put that in perspective, for a 100 kilogram person, that's the equivalent of 15 kilograms in two months. That's extreme weight gain," Assoc Prof Andrikopoulos said.

"This level of will increase blood pressure and increase your risk of anxiety and depression and may cause bone issues and arthritis. For someone who is already overweight, this diet would only further increase blood sugar and insulin levels and could actually pre-dispose them to diabetes.

"We are told to eat zero carbs and lots of fat on the Paleo diet. Our model tried to mimic that, but we didn't see any improvements in weight or symptoms. In fact, they got worse. The bottom line is it's not good to eat too much fat."

Prof Andrikopoulos says the Mediterranean diet is the best for people with pre-diabetes or diabetes.

"It's backed by evidence and is a low-refined sugar diet with healthy oils and fats from fish and extra virgin olive oil, legumes and protein."

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4 comments

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chris051067
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2016
WTF? A study done on mice forced to eat a human Paleolithic Diet? I wonder how healthy my dog would be if I put her on a vegan diet? For me the Paleo diet resulted in a 20 lb weight loss and reversal of my autoimmune disease. I was able to get off all medications and my bloodwork has never been better (Cholesterol, tryglycerides, glucose everything perfect). Please stop feeding the masses misinformation. This study goes in direct conflict with just about all other studies I have seen on no grain, low carb, whole food diets.
cosmicaug
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2016
chris051067 writes:
WTF? A study done on mice forced to eat a human Paleolithic Diet?


No, not really. If you look at the actual study (which is open access, has the digital object identifier, 10.1038/nutd.2016.2, and which used a strain of mice predisposed to obesity & type II diabetes), the human equivalent to the mouse diet they are testing would be a diet consisting entirely of bacon and supplemented with small amounts of cake frosting (toss in a multivitamin too). Quoting the article:
The carbohydrate content of the LCHFD was exclusively derived from simple sugar (sucrose: 106 g kg−1). The fat content of this diet was derived from 55% saturated, 37% monounsaturated and 8% polyunsaturated fats, by weight.


Not even Atkins dieters would eat like that (much less the paleo nuts).

The way that this press release is written to misrepresent this study is unconscionable.
drj27
not rated yet Feb 20, 2016
This study is useless, look at the different "chows" they used. The low carb has 106g of sucrose per kg. Hardly low carb and the scientist has not studied the work of Fick, which disproved the calorie theory in 1893!
cosmicaug
not rated yet Feb 20, 2016
drj27 wrote:
This study is useless, look at the different "chows" they used. The low carb has 106g of sucrose per kg. Hardly low carb and the scientist has not studied the work of Fick, which disproved the calorie theory in 1893!


You are correct with regard to the study being useless (as something to extrapolate to humans —for other things it may be useful). You are incorrect about it lacking a low carbohydrate condition. In fact, it uses a very low carbohydrate condition. You saw the sucrose number and focused on the fact that it seems like a large number (by ketogenic diet standards) but you failed to notice that it is 106 g per kilogram of dry chow (the rest being dominated by fat). Elsewhere, the math is done already for you and it tells you that this is 6% of the energy in the diet. If you extrapolated it to a 2000 kilocalorie diet this amounts to 120 kilocalories which, at 4 kilocalories per gram of carbohydrate amounts to 30 grams of carbohydrates.

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