Paleo Diet Leads to Weight Gain, Study Finds

A low-carb, high-fat diet can lead to rapid weight gain, according to a new study from the University of Melbourne.

The paleolithic or "paleo" diet has gained significant traction in the health and fitness community over the last several years, but experts say there isn't enough research to support the diet - which can especially be harmful for people who are already overweight and lead sedentary lifestyles.

"Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are becoming more popular, but there is no scientific evidence that these diets work," said Sof Andrikopoulos, lead author of the study. "In fact, if you put an inactive individual on this type of diet, the chances are that person will gain weight."

In people with pre-diabetes or diabetes, the paleo diet can be very risky, Andrikopoulos said.

Weight gain, fat mass increase, and insulin spikes

The study included two groups of overweight mice with pre-diabetes symptoms. One group ate a low-carb, high-fat diet, while the other ate normally. After eight weeks, the paleo-eating mice gained 15 percent of their body weight, their fat mass doubled, and their insulin levels rose.

While a low-carb diet can be helpful for people with diabetes, too much dietary fat - even from healthy sources - can increase blood pressure, raise blood sugar and interfere with insulin stability, Andrikopoulos explained:

"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."

As an alternative to eating paleo, Andrikopoulos said the Mediterranean diet is a healthier option for diabetics.

"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."

Source: University of Melbourne

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