High Protein Diet (Paleo) Fails to Balance Blood Sugar

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The Real Effects

The Paleo Diet has many great merits, such as encouraging whole, seasonal, non-processed foods, healthy fats and pasture-raised and grass-fed meats. However, it seems that within the Paleo community there are many discrepancies and continued refinements that are being made.

Eating a high-protein diet, like Paleo, has become a holy grail of sorts for losing weight and addressing blood sugar concerns, but a new study suggests that a high-protein diet may have the opposite effect.

The study asked 34 post-menopausal, non-diabetic, obese women to be divided up into three groups — each with a different meal plan. The researchers found that the group that ate a high-protein diet did not achieve the same metabolic benefits as the group that ate a diet with recommended protein levels.

  1. The first group of women ate a diet that would maintain their current weight.
  2. The second group ate a weight loss diet that limited their protein intake to the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a woman who weighs 154 pounds, that is about 56 grams of protein.
  3. The third group also ate a weight loss diet, but increased their protein intake. They ate 1.2 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight. For a 154 pound women, that would be 84 grams of protein.

The women were monitored for 28 weeks. The researchers provided all of the meals, so the protein, carb and fat intake were tightly controlled.

One of the promises of a high-protein diet is that the cells become more sensitive to insulin, which means the cells should uptake and utilize sugar more efficiently – rather than storing the sugar as fat.

While both the RDA-limited protein group and the higher-protein group lost the same amount of weight, the RDA-limited protein group saw a 25-30% improvement in insulin sensitivity, which is linked to a reduced risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Surprisingly, the high-protein group saw zero improvements in insulin sensitivity, and while they lost the same weight, there were no metabolic improvements and thus no decreased risk for diabetes or heart disease from the high-protein diet. (1,2)

Don’t Eat Extreme Diets

During the Upper Paleolithic era, which started some 40,000 years ago, the hunter-gatherer diet was actually quite more diverse than many Paleo Diet experts claim, according to anthropologists. According to Harvard professor Daniel Leiberman’s book, The Story of the Human Body, hunter-gatherers ate a diverse diet that consisted of wild cereals, legumes, nuts, fruits and animals they hunted. Their diets were not very extreme at all, and definitely not a high-protein diet. In fact, today’s Paleo Diet is very similar to the much-criticized RDA dietary suggestions.  

As you will see below, the real Paleo Diet is actually quite intelligent and, in fact, what most of us are currently eating.

Hunter-Gatherers Diet Compared to RDA (3)

rdavs hunter gatherers chart
the protein solution

Extreme diets such as high-protein, low-fat, high-fat diets are generally not sustainable. While modern humans cannot seem to get off the extreme swings of the dietary pendulum, nature has been feeding us in a very balanced way for millions of years.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is protein deficiency, which is a very common issue. I wrote an entire eBook on this very topic, called The Protein Solution: Combat the Hidden Signs of Protein Deficiency.

References

  1. http://www.cell.com/cell-reports/abstract/S2211-1247(16)31286-4?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2211124716312864%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_161429.html
  3. Lieberman, D. The Story of the Human Body.Pantheon Books. NewYork p. 224

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