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Paleo, Do We Have a Problem?

Diabetes experts warn against one of the popular dietary lifestyles.

Lots of meat, healthy fats, veggies, and no dairy, grains, or processed sugar of any kind—those are the main principles of the highly popular Paleo diet, which loyal followers credit for everything from losing weight to curing adult acne. With celebs like Jessica Biel and Kobe Bryant embracing the dietary lifestyle, you would think it's a foolproof way to slim down and stay healthy. But not necessarily, says a new study out of the University of Melbourne; it's far from being one of the best 50 zero belly tips ever

A study published in the nature journal Nutrition and Diabetes reveals that researchers found Paleo-esque diets to be a problem for the pre-diabetes mice they tested. Here's how it went down: One group of rodents went from a diet of 3% fat to a diet with 60% more fat and only 20% carbs. The other group ate their normal diet. Although the researchers were testing to see if a high-fat, low-carb diet would be beneficial for those with pre-diabetes (translation: checking to see if a Paleo-like diet could help), they actually found the opposite. The high-fat, low-carb group actually gained more weight than the constant group after eight weeks, doubling their fat mass from 2% to 4%. Their insulin levels rose, and they also had worse glucose intolerance.

"This level of weight gain will increase blood pressure and increase your risk of anxiety and depression and may cause bone issues and arthritis," said Professor Sof Andrikopoulos, lead author of the study. "For someone who is already overweight, this diet would only further increase blood sugar and insulin levels—and could actually predispose them to diabetes."

The mice examined in the study were, however, sedentary. Any healthy weight-loss program should incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise several times a week, along with a healthy diet. And as with any eating plan, moderation is key; going overboard on one type of any food group will most certainly be a cause for weight gain.

Although a paleo diet includes an abundance of vegetables—at least one serving at every meal—it also is high in protein, fat, and saturated fat from lots of meat. (For more information, check out the 14 Best & Worst Paleo Weight-Loss Foods) Professor Andrikopoulos recommends people with diabetes or prediabetes eat a more Mediterranean-based diet, instead. "[A Mediterranean-based diet] is backed by evidence and is a low-sugar diet with healthy oils and fats from fish and extra virgin olive oil, legumes, and protein," he says.

Whether or not a Paleo diet is worth the hype will continue being scrutinized, so the verdict is still out. As always, though, consult your doctor before embarking on any weight-loss plan to decide what works best for your overall health.