New research from the Journal of Nutrition and Diabetes reports that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets like the Paleo Diet cause extreme weight gain, and have no benefit for improving diabetes symptoms.
With hundreds of fad diets and weight-loss plans backed by celebrities and shocking before-and-after snapshots, it’s is difficult to determine which ones are legitimate and which ones are not. The Paleo diet (also known as the caveman diet or stone-age diet), is a very popular fad diet based on the foods assumed to have been eaten by early humans during the Palaeolithic era. This diet focuses on eating foods high in fat (like fish, nuts, oils) and low in carbohydrates (like grains or legumes) and boasts about its weight-loss potential. A low-carb diet has also be reported to improve insulin secretion for those with diabetes and can stop the progression of diabetes. The Paleo diet is supported by many people but there is no scientific evidence that this diet can improve weight loss, especially in individuals with pre-diabetes or diabetes.
A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition and Diabetes reported this diet actually increases weight gain and causes a faster and more severe development of diabetes. Researchers used overweight mice who showed pre-diabetic symptoms and divided the mice into 2 groups, each with their own meal plan. For 8 weeks, one group was fed a normal rodent diet while the other group was fed a high-fat, low-carb diet. At the end of the 8 weeks, the high-fat, low-carb diet group of mice had a severe increase weight gain and fat tissue mass. They gained 15% of their body weight within the 8 weeks, the equivalent of a 100 kg person gaining 15 kg in only 2 months. These mice also showed no improvement in insulin release and therefore no lowering of blood-sugar levels.
Additionally, mice who were fed the high-fat, low-carb diets were given the normal rodent diet after the 8 weeks and showed rapid development of diabetes, much more severe than what was observed in mice on the normal diet. These results demonstrate that diabetes progression is only avoided during a low-carb diet, and once the diet is done, there is a more severe development of diabetes.
Like other fad diets which are highly-praised, this diet promises weight loss benefits but evidence shows that the Paleo Diet can cause extreme weight gain. A severe increase in weight has been linked with increases in blood pressure, risks of anxiety and depression, and the onset of arthritis. Because of this, researchers of this study do not recommend high-fat, low-carb diets like the Paleo diet, especially for those who are already overweight and lead inactive lifestyles. They also advise that anyone interested in trying a new diet should seek professional advice and carefully research diets to ensure they are backed by scientific evidence.
Lamont BJ, Waters MF, Andrikopoulos S. “A low-carbohydrate high-fat diet increases weight gain and does not improve glucose tolerance, insulin secretion or β-cell mass in NZO mice.” Nutrition and Diabetes. 2016: 6, e194; doi:10.1038/nutd.2016.2
Written by Alexandra Lostun, BSc