Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Diabetics Should Pause Paleo Diet

People with Type 2 diabetes should be wary of social media hype about the benefits of going on the paleo diet as there have been no trials lasting beyond 12 weeks involving type 2 diabetes sufferers.

“There have been only two trials worldwide of people with Type 2 diabetes on what looks to be a paleo diet,” said A/Prof Sof Andrikopoulos of The University of Melbourne’s Department of Medicine.“Both studies had fewer than 20 participants, one had no control diet, and at 12 weeks or less, neither study lasted long enough for us to draw solid conclusions about the impact on weight or glycaemic control.”

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Andrikopoulos recommended people with Type 2 diabetes seek advice from their GPs, registered dietitians and diabetes organisations. “Most paleo diets insist on avoiding refined sugar and processed food, which is consistent with dietary guidelines worldwide,” he said. “But when you start cutting out whole grains and dairy, which are absent from many forms of the paleo diet, you may forego important sources of fibre and calcium.

“And high-fat, zero-carb diets promoted by some celebrities make this worse as they can lead to rapid weight gain, as well as increase your risk of heart disease.”

Andrikopoulos, who is also President of the Australian Diabetes Society, says people with diabetes benefited most from regular exercise and the Mediterranean diet – olive oil, fats from fish, legumes and low in refined sugar. “While it’s tempting to emulate celebrities who look great and can spend a lot of time at the gym, if you’re already overweight or you live a sedentary life, it may be quite risky to adopt a high-fat diet… and if you have diabetes, it’s downright dangerous.