Monthly Archives: February 2016

How Bad for You Is the Paleo Diet, Really?

Could the Paleo diet—often touted by CrossFitters and super fit celebs like Jessica Biel and Megan Fox—be really bad for your health? That’s the buzz this week surrounding new research published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.

For the study, scientists at the University of Melbourne divided their subjects—overweight, prediabietic mice—into two groups: One group was put on a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet, while the other was fed standard rodent fare.

At the end of nine weeks, the LCHF group had gained more weight, developed poorer glucose tolerance, and higher insulin levels. In fact, the mice in that group actually gained 15% of their body weight. “That’s extreme weight gain,” lead author Professor Sof Andrikopoulos said in a press release. “This level of weight gain will increase blood pressure and increase your risk of anxiety and depression and may cause bone issues and arthritis.”

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Andrikopoulos went on to liken the rodents’ LCHF diet to caveman-style eating—and ever since, the media has been spinning dire warnings about the Paleo diet making people fat and sick.

But let’s back up for a minute. First of all, the study was done on mice and we, of course, are not mice. Secondly, the study text doesn’t mention the word “Paleo” at all. And third, the LCHF diet in the study was not just high-fat but very high-fat—81% of total calories came from fat, more than half of which was saturated.

Granted, Paleo is a type of low-carb, higher-fat diet. But people who follow it don’t necessarily load up on lard. Human beings who eat in the spirit of our cave-dwelling ancestors can choose chicken and lean cuts of beef over bacon and pork belly. A more accurate depiction of Paleo is a nutritional regimen centered around pasture-raised meat, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oils.

RELATED: The Paleo Diet: Everything You Need to Know

“To even suggest that a single mouse study can be extrapolated to show causality in humans is just bad science,” says Loren Cordain, PhD, a professor emeritus at Colorado State University and author of The Paleo Diet. “The study totally lacks the criteria and objectivity by which most of the scientific, nutritional community uses to establish cause and effect between diet and disease.”

Cordain points out that much of the popular press coverage of this new research “ignores the most recent human meta-analysis showing the health and weight loss efficacy of randomized controlled trials evaluating contemporary Paleo diets.”

The review he’s referring to was published last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers analyzed four studies and concluded that, at least in the short-term, Paleo diets reduced waist circumference, triglycerides, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar.

RELATED: 38 Popular Diets Ranked from Best to Worst

But until we have longer-term human studies, the smartest move may be following the diet that makes you feel good—whether that’s Paleo, Mediterranean, vegetarian, veggan, or simply eating clean.



The New Way of Eating Vegan (And Why It's Pissing People Off)

Nope, there’s no typo in “veggan.” As you undoubtedly know, vegans (one g) are people who don’t eat any animal products at all: No meat, fish, dairy, eggs—even honey is off limits.

But veggans? They are vegans who eat eggs.

This movement within a movement appears to be gaining steam. A search for #veggan on Instagram yields more than 5,000 posts. Many are recipes, though some, as you might’ve guessed, are vegans ranting against veggans, usually in ALL CAPS.

RELATED: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Going Vegan

So what’s the story with veggans?

“As people become more interested and aware of how food affects both their health as well as the environment, plant-based diets, including veganism, are becoming more and more popular and mainstream,” Alissa Rumsey, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Yahoo Health. “Veganism may be appealing to people, but many find that it is too restrictive.”

So if you’re worried about getting enough protein, the veggan diet could be a better choice for you. Food writer Vicky Anne Hadley had been eating veggan for two years before she realized it was a thing. When the Daily Mail quoted her in a story about the veggan trend, she explained to her Instagram followers, “I like the vegan diet but I work out a lot and want to get enough protein in my diet so I also sometimes eat eggs as I enjoy them.”

RELATED: 14 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources 

Of course, vegans argue that there are plenty of ways to eat protein without eating animal products—from chickpeas to quinoa to nut butters. But no matter how you get the essential nutrient, it’s fun to speculate about the next trendy group: #seagans?


Why Trash Talking Sugary Food Makes You Want It Even More

When you were a kid and your mom told you not to touch something, what was the first thing you wanted to do? Touch it, right? Now apply that theory to your eating habits. If someone tells you to steer clear of the cookie jar because those little morsels of goodness are chock-full of calories, aren’t you even more tempted to grab one (or three)? Rest assured, you’re not the only one.

RELATED: 16 Easy, Guilt-Free Cookie Recipes

In a series of three studies, researchers at Arizona State University found that when dieters were exposed to negative messages about food (think: “Sugary snacks are bad for you”), they craved unhealthy food more. (Yep, you read that right.)

In the first study, folks who read a negative message about dessert had more positive thoughts about these bad-for-you foods than folks who were exposed to a positive or neutral message. In the next study, dieters read either a positive or negative message about sugar-laden snacks; then watched a video while noshing on cookies. The result: The negative-message group ate 39% more cookies than those who read a positive message. And in the final study, dieters who viewed a message that listed both the pros and cons of their snacks choose fewer unhealthy ones than dieters who read a strictly negative message.

RELATED: 20 Snacks That Burn Fat

“We think dieters increase their interest in and consume more unhealthy foods after seeing one-sided negative messages because they feel like their freedom to control their food choices is threatened,” explains Nguyen Pham, one of the study’s researchers. This is why Pham recommends using a mix of positive and negative messaging—such as “Dessert tastes good, but is bad for my health”—to help keep your consumption in check.

“Dieters do not see double-sided messages about unhealthy foods as a threat to their freedom,” she says. “Instead, they view these messages as providing even more freedom of choice. As a result, they are more likely to comply with the messages and choose less unhealthy foods.”

RELATED: 26 Weight-Loss Myths You SHouldn’t Believe

So the next time you are about to police your (or a friend’s ) food choices, try this mental trick instead. It may just provide you with the resolve you need to walk away.