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Paleo Diet Increases Weight Gain

Following a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for just 8 weeks can lead to rapid weight gain and health complications, according to research published in Nutrition and Diabetes (

Lead author, A/Prof Sof Andrikopoulos of The University of Melbourne, says this type of diet, exemplified in many forms of the Paleo diet, is not recommended, particularly for people who are already overweight and lead sedentary lifestyles.

“Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are becoming more popular, but there is no scientific evidence that these diets work. In fact, if you put an inactive individual on this type of diet, the chances are that person will gain weight,” said Andrikopoulos, who is President of the Australian Diabetes Society.

The research tested whether high-fat and low-carbohydrate (LCHF ) foods would benefit the health of people with pre-diabetes. The research team took two groups of overweight mice with pre-diabetes symptoms and put one group on the LCHF diet. The control group ate a normal diet.

After 8 weeks, the group on the LCHF gained more weight, their glucose intolerance worsened and their insulin levels rose. The paleo diet group gained 15% of their body weight and their fat mass doubled from 2% to almost 4%.

“To put that in perspective, for a 100 kg person, that’s the equivalent of 15 kg in 2 months. That’s extreme weight gain,” Andrikopoulos said.

“This level of weight gain will increase blood pressure and increase your risk of anxiety and depression, and may cause bone issues and 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.

“We are told to eat zero carbs and lots of fat on the Paleo diet. Our model tried to mimic that, but we didn’t see any improvements in weight or symptoms. In fact, they got worse. The bottom line is it’s not good to eat too much fat.”

Andrikopoulos says the Mediterranean diet is the best for people with pre-diabetes or diabetes. “It’s backed by evidence and is a low refined sugar diet with healthy oils and fats from fish and extra virgin olive oil, legumes and protein.”