It seems like every year there is a new book being published extolling the virtues of the cant miss new diet that is guaranteed to help you lose weight fast. One of the most recent fad diet to be added to the growing list is the paleo diet. It generally involves consuming a diet that is high in fatty foods like meat and nuts but low in carbohydrates from grains like bread. It was originally suggested by the diets creator that a person’s daily calories should be 55% from seafood and meats, and 15% of the calories from each fruits, nuts, and vegetables. While there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence and celebrity endorsements for this diet as a way to lose weight, there is no scientific evidence to back up the claims, which is the case with most fad diets. Now, a recent study in mice has uncovered some troubling data about this high fat, low carb diet.
The study, published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, took groups of mice that were pre-diabetic (but didn’t have full blown diabetes yet) and fed them two different diets. One group of mice was fed the normal diet with 20% of the calories coming from protein, 70% from carbs, and 10% from fat. The other group was fed a diet resembling the paleo diet in composition with 13% of the calories coming from protein, 81% coming from fat, and 6% from carbs. The carbs in the paleo like-diet were in the form of sucrose, a simple sugar that you would find in fruits and veggies. The mice were fed these special diets for 9 weeks and their body weight, food intake, blood glucose, and insulin levels were all measured weekly. By measuring the food intake of each mouse, the researchers were able to control for the fact that each of the animals may not eat the same amount.
When the group looked at their data something startling jumped out at them. The mice on the paleo diet had gained 15% extra weight, equivalent to a 200-pound person gaining 30 pounds in two months. The mice also had worse glucose intolerance (meaning their pre-diabetes was worse) and their insulin levels increased (meaning their body no longer responded to it so they had to produce more). The results were startling and show that fad diets will make claims about weight loss that have no scientific evidence to support them. Anyone with diabetes or pre-diabetes would run a risk of worsening their disease by consuming food conforming to the paleo diet. While the paleo diet doesn’t recommend eating lots of fatty foods like butter, oil and cheese, it does recommend eating lots of meat and nuts, both of which are very high in fat. The best weight loss program is one consisting of healthy eating (low fat food, low sugar, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein) and daily exercise. Fad diets are gimmicks people try to sell to make weight loss easier because people don’t like to exercise, so stop trying to eat like cavemen, stop only having smoothies, and stop fasting or taking expensive fiber pills. Eat healthy and exercise and you will start losing weight and more importantly you will be healthy.
Image credit: Nadine Schaeffer