Many nutrition experts embrace the low-carb Paleo diet because it promotes rapid weight loss and prevents — and even reverses — diseases like type 2 diabetes by reducing inflammation.
"We put our diet more in line with the evolutionary pressures that shaped our current genetics, which in turn positively influences health and well-being," Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University, told ABC News.
Reduces Pro-Inflammatory Blood Sugar Spikes
Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, said the Paleo eating plan dramatically reduces the blood-sugar surges that fuel inflammation — which, in turn, cause weight gain and disease. The Paleo diet also has a healthy balance of proteins, high-quality fats and carbs so you feel consistent energy throughout the day, said Cordain.
The Paleo diet emphasizes high-quality animal proteins, healthy fats, vegetables and fruits, and excludes gluten, sugar, dairy, legumes, starches, alcohol and processed foods.
Proponents say the Paleo diet produces rapid weight loss without deprivation, and prevents cancer, diabetes, epileptic seizures, heart disease, and even Alzheimer's.
The low-carb Paleo diet is the most popular diet around today, and has gained a huge celebrity following, including NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen, and actors Matthew McConaughey, Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, and Kellan Lutz. Even Victoria's Secret supermodel Adriana Lima is a Paleo fan.
However, the Paleo diet isn't without critics. "Our ancestors ate this way and didn't have many of the chronic diseases we do, but that doesn't mean the food they ate is the reason why," said Dr. Christopher Ochner, a research associate at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center.
"Drawing that conclusion would be like saying we live three times longer than our Paleolithic ancestors because we eat fast food."
Vegan biochemist T. Colin Campbell, author of The Low-Carb Fraud, has also criticized the low-carb Paleo, ketogenic, and Atkins diets as short-term weight-loss fixes that do more harm than good in the long run.
"Population studies consistently show that low-carb diets lead to higher rates of heart disease, cancers, and other degenerative diseases," Campbell told Elle. "A low-carb diet is great for losing body weight, but in the long term, low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diets cause high cholesterol."
'Fat Is Your Friend'
But low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) advocates slammed Campbell's controversial comments, saying they are not supported by scientific research.
If anything, many leading medical experts now agree that low-carb, high-fat diets like the Paleo, Atkins, and ketogenic diets prevent almost all degenerative diseases known to man. It is the consumption of a high-carb diet (especially one high in sugar) that has fueled the global tsunami of obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's and heart disease.
Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, says a low-carb, high fat ketogenic diet prevents and even reverses Alzheimer's and ADHD. "Fat is your friend," said Dr. Perlmutter. "The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low-carbohydrate diet."
Cardiologist Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, said low-carb diets have been proven to reverse type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
And obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Duke University Obesity Clinic, has seen thousands of patients experience dramatic weight loss on the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic, Paleo, and Atkins diets.
"I tell my patients not to fear the fat," said Dr. Westman, author of New Atkins For a New You. "Eat lots of fat. Fat makes you feel full. There's no problem with fat. In fact, saturated fat — the fat that we've been taught not to eat — raises your good cholesterol best of all the foods you can eat."