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Paleo low carb diets earn weight loss recognition: Amount of fat debated

Should athletes follow Paleo or high fat diets?
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

What does it take for a diet to go from a temporary trend to a permanent place in the weight loss world? For those who value the dictionary, the Paleo diet just achieved the honor as the Oxford University Press announced it's adding the plan to its entries, reported TVNZ News on August 14.

To earn a place in the online Oxford Dictionary, the Paleo diet had to be mentioned so many times that editors viewed it as an essential definition. And it's not easy to qualify: Editors analyze more than 150 million English words to determine the winners.

"These are words that are common enough that you are likely to encounter them, and may have to look up their meanings," explained Oxford Dictionaries editor Katherine Martin. And if you're considering trying the Paleo diet, you may want to remember the meaning of this new entry: YOLO (You only live once).

For those who think that the Paleo diet only came into existence in the last year: Buzzzzz (you're wrong). Dr. Loren Cordain's ground-breaking book series, "The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight," began in 2001. The original guide has since sold more than 100,000 copies.

Dr. Cordain feels that the Paleo diet has the potential to change the planet's health. In an exclusive interview, he described the caveman diet as "a diet that could maximize health and well being and reduce the risk for the chronic diseases of civilization which now run rampant throughout the U.S. and the western world. Overweight and obese people will find it difficult or impossible to maintain their current overweight and obese status when consuming real living foods such as steamed broccoli, fresh salads, salmon and grass produced meats."

Helping to push the Paleo low carb diet's recent popularity: Athletes such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. James in particular has received attention for following the Paleo principles of eliminating grains and losing weight - and some are saying he's shed too many pounds, reported the Hamilton Spectator on August 14.

Paleo diets, high fat low carb ketogenic diets and most variations on low carb diets slash starchy carbohydrates such as pasta and white potatoes. And Nanci Guest, a sports nutrition expert who specializes in guiding both elite amateur and professional athletes to fine-tune their diets, disagrees with the approach.

"It's unhealthy for athletes," said Guest, currently a PhD candidate studying genetics and high-performance athletes at the University of Toronto. "There are some proponents out there that feel that if you stay on a high-fat diet long enough, that you can adapt to using fat as a primary fuel," she said.

Guest feels that the approach is "extremely risky, and more often than not, we see fatigue, we see a decrease in performance, immunity issues. Carbohydrates are an athlete's best friend," she added.

Professor Tim Noakes, who specializes in sports science, offers a different view. He advised that athletes base their diet prior to an event such as a marathon based on whether they are carb-adapted or fat-adapted in an August 15 podcast.

"If you are carbohydrate adapted, you must continue to eat your carbohydrates," he said, recommending 500 grams. However, if you are fat-adapted, continue your normal diet until the final day, at which point you can increase to 200 grams of carbohydrates.

Some dieters on Paleo diets use the ketogenic approach. It involves increasing the fat content, consuming a moderate amount of protein and cutting carbohydrates. This Paleo high fat diet has been used by Jack Osbourne to manage his multiple sclerosis.

In an exclusive interview, Paleo diet expert Robb Wolf noted that ketogenic Paleo diets can be used to jump-start weight loss. They also "can be particularly helpful for a number of medical conditions ranging from epilepsy to Parkinson’s to Alzheimers. The military is even researching the benefits of a ketogenic diet for traumatic brain injury, so I see the KD as a fantastic tool to have in our tool-box," he added.

If you do decide to try a ketogenic Paleo diet, emphasize healthy sources of fat. Avocado, olive oil, seeds and nuts, for example, can help with satiety as well as general health.