What’s Happening: No, Paleo Doesn’t Make you Fat

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By now, you’ve probably already heard about a new study apparently proving that eating Paleo causes weight gain. (You can read the study here, if you want to be more educated than the people who wrote the headlines about it). So we can all go back to dry toast with low-fat cheese and throw the bacon out the window, right?

But hold on for one red hot second and look past the headlines: this wasn’t actually a study on the Paleo diet. In reality, this was a study on a high-fat, low-carb diet. You can do a high-fat, low-carb version of Paleo, but just eating a low-carb, high-fat diet doesn’t make your diet Paleo. And this one definitely wasn’t.

The study was done in two groups of overweight mice with symptoms of prediabetes. The mice ate one of two diets:

  • 10% of calories from fat, 70% carbs, 20% protein (high-carb, low-fat, abbreviated HCLF).
  • 81% calories from fat, 6% carbs, 13% protein (high-fat, low-carb, abbreviated HFLC).

The high-fat group gained about 15% of their body weight, and a significant chunk of fat mass. Their blood sugar control and insulin resistance got worse.

But the “high-fat, low-carb” diet doesn’t imitate the way most Paleo folks eat at all. For one thing, it’s not just “low-carb.” It’s flat-out epileptic-children ketogenic – you can do that with Paleo, but most people don’t. This isn’t a good representation of what the vast majority of people eating Paleo actually eat.

Veggie scramble

Low-carb Paleo typically includes at least some vegetables. This study diet didn’t.

Oh, and then there’s this, quoted straight from the study text:

“The carbohydrate content of the LCHFD [Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet] was exclusively derived from simple sugar”

In other word, precisely 0% of the carbs were from fruits or vegetables, which makes this totally unrepresentative of the way most LCHF Paleo-style eaters actually eat, even if they’re going to an 80% fat extreme (which most of us don’t). 100% of the carbs were from simple sugar. For a human, that would be about 8 teaspoons of sugar per day.

So how did anyone look at this diet and conclude it had anything to do with Paleo? It looks like the authors just had a bone to pick or wanted to get more popular attention by piggybacking on the Paleo name. In one press release, they said that:

“We are told to eat zero carbs and lots of fat on the Paleo diet.”

Wrong! That is not what anyone tells you to eat on a Paleo diet, and it’s not clear how anyone would get that impression. It’s not in Loren Cordain’s original book The Paleo Diet; it’s not recommended even by low-carb advocates like Mark Sisson; it’s definitely not going on in most Paleo recipes. Either the reporters or the researchers or both are very, very confused about what a Paleo diet actually involves.

So, do you eat a diet ultra-high in fat, ultra-low in carbs, and literally devoid of all vegetable matter, but with 8 daily teaspoons of sugar randomly sprinkled over your lard and butter? If so, this study might give you reason for concern. If not, then this so-called “Paleo diet” probably doesn’t resemble your diet at all, and there’s no reason to worry about it.

OK, so enough about that. What about the rest of the recent news?

  • What a Toothache can Teach Us About Fitness: are you avoiding short-term discomfort at the cost of serious long-term pain? The same could reasonably apply to diet – or just about anything else, really. (Breaking Muscle)

For the politically-minded, there’s good news and bad news.

Kind of makes you wonder why none of the presidential debates so far have even really touched on food policy.

If you could ask one food-related question of all the presidential candidates, what would you ask? What would you want to hear in response? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

P.S. Have a look at Paleo Restart, our 30-day program. It lets you jump into Paleo, lose weight and start feeling great.

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