Paleo diet can be dangerous to your health, study shows

Pitfalls of low-carb high-fat regimens; botox-like injection for knee pain; benefits of fish outweigh mercury fears for mums-to-be

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 5:01pm

Diabetes expert warns paleo diet is dangerous and leads to weight gain

Bad news for followers of the popular diet known as “paleo”: a new study has revealed that following a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for just eight weeks can lead to rapid weight gain and health complications. The study’s lead author, associate professor Sof Andrikopoulos of the University of Melbourne, says this type of diet, exemplified in many forms of the popular paleo diet, is not recommended – particularly for people who are already overweight and lead sedentary lifestyles.

“There is no scientific evidence that low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets work. In fact, if you put an inactive individual on this type of diet, the chances are that person will gain weight,” says Andrikopoulos, president of the Australian Diabetes Society. The researchers took two groups of overweight mice with pre-diabetes symptoms and put one group on a low-carb, high-fat diet. The other group ate their normal diet. The mice were switched from a three per cent fat diet to a 60 per cent fat diet. Their carbs were reduced to only 20 per cent. After eight weeks, the group on the paleo diet gained 15 per cent of their body weight and their fat mass doubled from 2 per cent to almost 4 per cent. Their glucose intolerance also worsened and their insulin levels rose. “To put that in perspective, for a 100-kilogram person, that’s the equivalent of 15 kilograms in two months. That’s extreme weight gain,” says Andrikopoulos. “This level of weight gain will increase blood pressure and increase your risk of anxiety and depression and may cause arthritis. For someone who is already overweight, this diet would only further increase blood sugar and insulin levels and could actually predispose them to diabetes.”

Researchers use Botox-like injection to treat runners and cyclists with knee pain

A painful knee condition that affects more than one in eight active people has been treated effectively with a botulinum toxin injection and physiotherapy. This offers hope for sufferers of the condition which current treatment methods – including physiotherapy, the use of anti-inflammatories and steroid injections – don’t seem to help much. Researchers from Imperial College London and Fortius Clinic carried out a trial involving 45 patients with what they term lateral patellofemoral overload syndrome. Sufferers, often runners and cyclists, experience pain in the front and side of the knee joint. The trial involved an injection of Dysport, which like Botox is a type of botulinum toxin, into a muscle under ultrasound guidance, at the front and outside of the hip, followed by personalised physiotherapy sessions. Sixty nine per cent of patients required no further medical interventions, and had complete pain relief when followed up five years later. With conventional treatment, previous studies have shown 80 per cent of patients still experience ongoing symptoms, with 74 per cent experiencing reduced activity levels. Physiotherapist Jo Stephen, co-author of the study from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London and Fortius, says: “As a physiotherapist it can be incredibly frustrating to run out of treatment options for patients with this painful condition. Many athletes who took part in this study had exhausted all other treatment options and this was their last resort. We are really excited that our approach is showing positive results for patients, which could have implications for active people around the world.”

Study supports fish consumption during pregnancy

Mothers-to-be who are wary about eating fish, take heart: the detrimental effects of low-level exposure to mercury may be outweighed by the beneficial effects of fish consumption, new research shows. The study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre found little evidence of harm in infants whose mothers had low fish consumption and low mercury exposure. In fact, infants of mothers with higher mercury exposure during pregnancy and who consumed more fish had better attention and needed less special handling during a newborn exam. This likely was due to the beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish, the researchers say. The neurobehaviour of 344 five-week-old infants was assessed using a standard neurobehavioural scale. Gestational mercury exposure was measured in maternal blood and infant umbilical cord blood. The researchers also collected fish consumption information from the mothers. Eighty-four per cent of mothers reported eating fish during pregnancy but only about 60 grams per week on average. Those infants with higher prenatal mercury exposure showed asymmetric, or unequal reflexes. But when fish consumption was taken into account, those whose mothers consumed more fish had better attention and needed less special handling. Fish with the lowest mercury levels include salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod. Avoid fish with the highest mercury levels, such as tilefish, shark, swordfish, and mackerel.