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Paleo and low carb diets promote fitness and weight loss, prevent colon cancer

Find out about Paleo power for runners.
Find out about Paleo power for runners.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Carb-loading is a time-honored tradition for athletes, with pasta parties held the night prior to a marathon or triathlon. But an increasingly vocal pack of Paleo runners and exercisers are kick-starting their endurance with steak and bacon rather than cereal and bread, reported Runners World on July 18. They say that the low carb diet shown to promote weight loss also powers their energy.

"Paleo has a lot of very good things going for it," praised Heather Mangieri, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She approves of the emphasis on unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and grass-fed meat. In addition, Mangieri agrees with the Paleo approach's exclusion of sugar.

But eliminating all grains and dairy is where most registered dietitians such as Mangieri draw the line. She disagrees with researchers who say that consuming those food groups cause problems. Instead, she and many other nutrition specialists like the Mediterranean approach, which includes both grains and dairy as well as legumes.

However, caveman diet guru Loren Cordain, who has authored several Paleo books, points to research indicating that such foods adversely impact your body's ability to absorb nutrients. He also contends that they cause minerals to leach from your bones.

Sports nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald, author of "Diet Cults," recommends Paleo runners reduce their intake of animal protein choices such as steak. "I would encourage runners interested in the Paleo diet to eat more fish and poultry and less red meat–and as little processed meat as possible," he advised.

But a new study shows that runners who are eating steak and cutting carbohydrates may get more mileage when it comes to their health. Researchers found that low carb high protein diets help to prevent colon cancer, reported HealthCanal News on July 18.

Conducted at the University of Toronto, the study revealed that gut bacteria is linked to one of the most common types of colon cancer. By following a low carb diet, you can reduce your risk dramatically.

"Our results suggest that a diet low in carbohydrates could benefit those with a genetic predisposition to colon cancer," revealed Alberto Martin, a professor in the department of immunology. His research is unique in showing the relationships of the factors involved.

"About 20 per cent of colon cancers thrive on mutations in genes involved in DNA mismatch repair. For this type of cancer, our study offers an explanation for the interplay among genetics, diet and intestinal microbiota," noted Martin.

Although the research was conducted on laboratory mice, the high protein low carb diet can be replicated by people. It's the opposite of the typical Western diet that's high in starchy carbohydrates such as bread and sugar.

The newest diet studies also show that going against the grain is the best approach for weight loss. Ketogenic diet expert Dr. Stephen Phinney has researched low carb high fat diets for year. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Phinney stated that the approach repeatedly has trumped high carb low fat plans for conquering obesity as well as diabetes.

"Given both the healthcare costs and the medical risks associated with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, plus the immediate improvements (if not complete remission) in these diseases with a well-formulated ketogenic diet, this diet should be the primary (aka first) therapy that doctors and dietitians recommend," he emphasized. He also supports the argument of athletes who advocate Paleo and low carb diets for powering their exercise.

"The concept that humans 'need a certain amount of dietary carbs for proper function of the body' has no basis in science," he declared. "It is a myth perpetuated by the USDA and the dietetic establishment."

Dr. Phinney cites several case studies of athletes who used high fat low carb diets successfully. "Low carb athlete Sami Inkinen at age 39 recently won the Wildflower Triathlon against a field of almost 1500." In addition, four of the top six men and women at last year's Western States Endurance Run (100 miles on mountain trails from Lake Tahoe to Auburn) followed low-carb diets.

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