Paleo Diet Debunked: New Study Reveals How Eating Carbs Can Help You Live Longer

If you enjoy carbs and feel sad eschewing that piece of sourdough toast for protein so that you can continue following the recommended Paleo diet, you may now rejoice. A major new study has revealed that eating more carbs can actually help you live longer. This is the first study to reveal how macronutrients will interact with one another when it comes to influencing our FGF21 levels.

The new study from researchers at the Charles Perkins Center has just been published in the journal Cell Metabolism and reveals the importance of Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 (FGF21). FGF21 is a hormone that is produced mainly in the liver and is known as our “fountain of youth” hormone.

The University of Sydney’s Dr. Samantha Solon-Biet explained that consuming foods that are low in protein and high in carbohydrates will give “a lot of beneficial effects” to an individual’s mid and late-life health.

“There’s been a lot of interest in this hormone called Fibroblast Growth Factor 21, and we know this can be influenced by diet. In fact, the hormone is now being called a miracle hormone or a ‘fountain of youth’ hormone. The reason why FGF21 is so interesting is because high levels of this hormone has been shown to play a huge role in driving things like appetite, improving metabolic health and immunity, and can even extend lifespan in mice.”

Mediterranean diet healther than Palaeo diet
Eating a Mediterranean diet will help you live longer than a Palaeo diet. [Photo by Uncredited/TGPRN CALIFORNIA WALNUT COMMISSION/Associated Press]

Dr. Solon-Biet was quick to point out that they had also published work earlier this year showing that the same beneficial effects of a high carbohydrate, low protein diet was also applicable to humans.

“This particular diet has also been associated with improved markers of health. For example, improved blood pressure, insulin levels, glucose levels, blood lipid levels and all these beneficial effects.”

If we are to forgo a Paleo diet, what ratio of carbohydrates to protein should humans be eating for optimal health? Dr. Solon-Biet has said that the ratio should be 10:1.

So, rather than a Paleo diet, it has been found that the Okinawan diet is one of the healthiest in the world, with Okinawan people enjoying a much longer life expectancy than most in the world. What makes up the Okinawan diet? The protein that is consumed would be fish and lean meats and the carbohydrates would be a healthy variety of foods that are high in fiber, along with plenty of vegetables.

Mediterranean diets, too, would be a positive step. Legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and nuts are all healthy additions to one’s diet that are in keeping with this study.

When consuming larger amounts of protein, you may create more muscle mass and reduce your body fat, but evidence from this study points to a shorter life expectancy in such a case.

“This research showed us that people need to make a decision. It’s a matter of either be young and fit but live a shorter life, or live a longer life, but be a bit chubby towards the end.”

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall eschew the Palaeo diet for carbohydrates
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall making bread in Wales. [Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images]

One interesting aspect of this study showed that consuming a diet high in carbohydrates increased FGF21 levels, but this was compensated for as more excess energy was burned. But upon entering starvation mode, FGF21 helped to conserve energy. FGF21 is elevated in extreme cases, such as starvation and obesity or whether one has a large or small intake of food in their diet.

In case people are worrying that they may have been strictly following a Paleo diet already, it is possible to consume a diet higher in protein in your younger years and then switch to one higher in carbohydrates as you mature, and this could help you to increase your lifespan also.

After reading about this latest study, how do you feel about the Paleo diet? Would you continue it or not and why?

[Image by Larry Crowe/AP Images]