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Diets that suppress hunger make weight loss easier: Plant-based Paleo debate

Got carrots?
Got carrots?
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In recent years, the Paleo diet has come out of the cave and attracted praise from many dieters when it comes to curbing cravings. A group of researchers at the Imperial College of London decided to test the caveman diet when it comes to its appetite-suppressing abilities. And the results have caused some to question what really constitutes a true Paleo diet, reported the Medical Daily on Sunday.

"Understanding how a paleo-like diet impacts the colon's microbiota and the signals those bacteria produce to release hormones that reduce appetite may give us new insight that we can adapt in the modern world," said the study’s lead author, Gary Frost. However, they based their test not on the protein-rich Paleo model but on a plant-based approach.

To acquire those insights, the researchers contrasted the fecal samples of three humans who followed a modern vegetarian diet to those of baboons whose diets resembled plant-based ancestors. They assumed that the baboon samples would win for indicators of suppressed hunger.

But that assumption was wrong. Instead, the researchers reported that the vegetarian diet contained the highest levels of appetite suppressants. So does that mean that Paleo diets don't work as well as for weight loss as claimed?

Not necessarily, says nutrition expert Keri Gans, author of "The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You." In a column in Shape, she points out that Paleo dieters "report eating lots of meat, not mostly a 'plant-based' diet."

As a result, Keri cites study co-author Timothy Barraclough, who highlighted the benefits of protein for curbing cravings and hence facilitating weight loss. He stated: "This hints that protein might play a greater role in appetite suppression than the breakdown of starch or fiber."

Paleo guru Robb Wolf emphasizes the benefits of protein in his definition of the caveman diet. Author of "The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet," Robb recommends that those using the Paleo diet for weight loss aim for four to eight ounces of lean protein such as poultry, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats such as avocado and unsalted nuts.

We asked William Lagkos, who has a Ph.D in nutritional biochemistry and physiology with a focus on obesity, to offers his insights. He is the author of "The poor, misunderstood calorie: calories proper." In his view, consuming a true Paleo-style low carb diet high both in protein and healthy fats trumps low-fat plant-based plans.

"There is a large body of evidence showing that in obese populations, low carbohydrate diets based on healthful whole foods induce a spontaneous reduction in appetite that is at least as great, and sometimes more so, than what low fat dieters are able to achieve," William told me. "Low carbohydrate diets appear to be particularly satiating in obese populations."

He bases his own diet on the most recent research on what works best for both health and weight maintenance. "My diet includes your typical animal protein sources like steak and eggs, but I also include organ meats like liver every so often," he told us.

Also high on the list: Brain food from the ocean, such as salmon. In addition to vegetables, Williams eats nuts, berries and "occasionally homemade ferments like sauerkraut." And we can all cheer his personal favorites: "Coffee, dark chocolate, and red wine."

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