The unexpected findings explained in a paper in a nature journal, Nutrition and Diabetes, has led University of Melbourne researchers to come out with a warning concerning putting confidence in bogus fad diets with little or no scientific evidence.
Lead author, associate professor Sof Andrikopoulos states that the Paleo diet is not recommended, in particular for individuals who are ready overweight or lead sedentary lifestyles.
He goes on to blame the mass media hype around these diets, by celebrity chefs, celebrity weight loss stories is the tabloids, and reality TV shows, are leading individuals to try fad diets back by little or no scientific evidence. Especially in individuals with pre-diabetes or diabetes, the low carb, hi fat (LCHF) diet could be very risky, he said.
“Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are becoming more popular, but there is no scientific evidence 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,” Associate 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.”
University of Melbourne researchers’ original intent was to test the benefit of eating high fat, low carbohydrate foods with pre-diabetics.
The scientists took two groups of overweight mice with pre-diabetic symptoms and put one group on the LCHF diet. The other group was put on a normal diet. The diet was changed from 3% fat diet to a 60% fat diet. After an eight-week period, the mice on the LCHF gain more weight, glucose intolerance worsened, and insulin levels increased. The Paleo diet group gained 15% of their body weight fat mass increased from 2% to fewer than 4%.
“To put that in perspective, for a 100 kilogram/220 pound person, that’s the equivalent of 15 kilograms/33 pounds something in two months. That’s extreme weight gain,” Associate Professor Andrikopoulos said.
“This level of weight gain will increase blood pressure and increase your risk, someone who is already overweight, this diet would only further increase blood sugar and insulin levels and could actually predispose 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.”
Professor Andrikopoulos states that the Mediterranean diet is the preferred diet 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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A low-carbohydrate high-fat diet increases weight gain and does not improve glucose tolerance, insulin secretion or β-cell mass in NZO mice, B. J. Lamont et al., Nutrition and Diabetes, doi:10.1038/nutd.2016.2, published online 15 February 2016.
University of Melbourne news release, accessed 19 February 2016, via EurekAlert.
Additional source: BHF, Is the paleo diet a good way to lose weight?, accessed 19 February 2016.
Additional source: The Paleo Diet, What to eat on the paleo diet, accessed 19 February 2016.
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