Will Your Paleo Diet Actually Make You Fat?

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A new study done by researchers from the University of Melbourne and published three days ago in the Nature Nutrition and Diabetes journal is one of the first studies to factually demonstrate that eating a paleo diet will actually lead to an increase in weight gain and speed up the appearance of pre-diabetes symptoms.

For years, the paleo diet has been the sweetheart of the weight loss community, as well as celebrities like Jessica Biel, Aaron Rodgers, Miley Cyrus and Matthew McConaughey. And on paper, this low-carb, high-fat diet really does make sense. It is supposed to be a diet that would be available to the Paleolithic people, who shared the vast majority of our genetics and whose bodies were pretty much the same as ours. Because of this, the food they ate back then is supposed to be the food that we should eat today as well, only we corrupted it by starting to grow food and modify it in order to increase yield and ensure it does not get spoiled.

Some early definitions of this diet were given back in 1975 in a book by Walter Voegtlin and they were elaborated upon in 1985 by Melvin Konner and Stanley Boyd Eaton. However, it was not until 2002 and Loren Cordain’s book The Paleo Diet that people started taking notice. Since then, its popularity has grown immensely and it is definitely one of the longest enduring diet fads.

According to it, people should not only avoid modern, processed foods, but also those which we as a species started eating after the Neolithic Revolution (i.e. when we started doing agriculture). Because of this, if you wish to eat a paleo diet, you are allowed to eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, seeds, nuts and healthy fats and you have to avoid dairy products, grains, processed foods and especially sugars, starches, legumes and alcohol. To be more precise, you are supposed to get 55 percent of your daily calories from lean meat and seafood, 15 percent from fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts and the rest from the remaining approved food groups.

The health benefits of switching to paleo diet are supposedly mind-boggling, from weight loss, improved immune system, reduced pain from autoimmune responses to improvement in the cardio vascular health and even blood lipids. In short, it has been suggested for a long time that the paleo diet will reduce the risks of developing diabetes and that it might even be used as first-line treatment for people who already have diabetes.

2Well, according to this new study, most of this is just not true. Namely, as we said, the team from the University of Melbourne have demonstrated that eating a paleo diet can lead to rapid weight gain and accelerated appearance of pre-diabetes symptoms.

The study was conducted on New Zealand Obese (NZO) mice, one group of which was fed regular diet and the other the paleo diet (i.e. low on carbohydrates and high on fat). The body weight, blood glucose and food intake of both groups of mice were assessed on weekly basis. Other tests were also done to determine tolerance to oral glucose, β-Cell mass and other factors that play a role in diabetes.

The results showed that the mice fed paleo diet showed somewhat lowered plasma triglyceride levels but increased weight gain as well as fat tissue accumulations in the body. They also showed increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased glucose intolerance. They also failed to show improvement in insulin secretory function and β-Cell mass. In short, the study proved that paleo diet does nothing beneficial when it comes to losing weight and controlling diabetes factors. In fact, it only makes things worse.

We feel we should also mention another study of the DNA of Paleolithic people which has shown that we have managed to evolve from our days as hunter-gatherers, with a number of gene variants that have changed the way we digest fats, fend off diseases and survive certain deficiencies that come with agricultural diets.

In conclusion, we would urge you never to go for a fad just because it is a fad, even if it is one that has been going on for years. Stay informed, check up on SCIENTIFIC sources of information and above everything else, be smart.


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