The Paleo Diet and the Dimona Study

While the debate rages in the Paleo community as to whether or not ”safe starches” are okay to eat, or if low carb is the way to go on the Paleo diet, the “Dimona Study” from Israel, shows pretty conclusively that a low carbohydrate diet works better for weight loss than the Mediterranean diet or a low fat diet.

The study followed 322 workers at the Nuclear Research Center in the Negev Desert, near Dimona and was conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The study also found that consuming a low carbohydrate diet increased good cholesterol and reduced the fats in the blood. From Ha’aretz:

…..It showed that for losing weight in the short term, which the researchers put at six months, a low-carbohydrate diet, based on meat, fish and eggs - in short, a refined version of the famous Atkins Diet - led to the highest weight loss, with an average drop of 6.4 kilograms.

The “Mediterranean” diet, which was characterized by two portions of fish a week and regular consumption of olive oil and nuts, led to an average weight loss of 4.9 kilograms over the period, while the traditional low-fat diet based on pasta, rice and potatoes led to an average weight loss of 4.7 kilos.

This difference held up over the longer term - two years - as well. Over the two years, during which many of those examined put back on some of the weight they’d lost, the low-carb diet still won out, with low-carb eaters losing an average of 4.7 kilos, while the Mediterranean eaters lost 4.4 kilos and the low-fat, high-carb dieters lost only 2.9 kilos.

The low-carb and Mediterranean diets also led to substantial improvements in blood test results, raising the subjects’ HDL (“good” cholesterol ) levels, while lowering their triglyceride (fat ) levels and reducing their insulin excretion and glucose levels during a fast.

So for the short or long term, a low carb diet is superior for weight loss, with the Mediterranean diet coming in second and the low fat diet third. Not too surprising, since we know that fat does not make you fat. What is also important is that the low carb and Mediterranean diets improved cholesterol levels.

Vegetables at Pikes Market, Seattle WA. The best overall indicator of weight loss on all diets was an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Photo by Eric Hunt. Image courtesy of

The researchers’ analysis showed that the food groups that statistically predicted success in losing weight over six months were different among the three diets. In the low-carb diets, the highest losers ate more vegetables; in the Mediterranean diet, the highest losers ate more unprocessed legumes, such as chick peas, and more milk products; while for the low-fat dieters, reducing the consumption of sweets and cake were the best predictors of weight loss.

For those trying to keep weight off over the long term, all three types of dieters benefited from increasing consumption of vegetables and meat while reducing consumption of eggs, processed legumes and soft drinks.

More specifically, low-carb dieters benefited most from eating more meat and reducing consumption of drinks other than water; the Mediterraneans did best with lowering consumption of processed legumes, eggs, bread, potatoes and pasta; and low-fat dieters did best by eating more vegetables and lowering consumption of processed legumes.

“What’s common to all three diets is the recommendation to dramatically increase the consumption of vegetables and reduce consumption of processed foods and snacks,” Shai said. “Beyond that, it’s recommended to choose different strategies in accordance with the diet that’s chosen.”

That the common denominator for success was the reduction of processed foods is no surprise. Whether one is Paleo, a vegetarian or any shade in between, it is important to lose the refined, processed junk foods. A change of that sort would also result in significantly improved health, even on a nutrient poor vegan diet, at least for a time.

Since the Paleo diet leaves out the all processed foods and the Dimona Study verifies the importance of doing so, one could infer that a low carbohydrate, Paleo type diet could work for weight loss.  It also interesting to note that those that did best on the Mediterranean diet, reduced the amount of carbohydrates they consumed. Wouldn’t that make that a make it a lower carb Mediterranean diet? Too bad we don’t know precisely what people ate each day!

The BGU team’s research had previously resulted in other findings. For example, in 2010, in a study published in the journal, Circulation, it was found that all three diets reduced the plaque that accumulates in blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In another study - linked to this research and conducted by Shai, along with Prof. Assaf Rudich of BGU, researchers from the nuclear research center in Dimona and from Leipzig University in Germany - it was found that the body “remembers” a diet even when the subject has lost all the weight that diet took off and starts gaining weight again.

Though both insulin and leptin - a hormone excreted by fatty tissue - starts to increase as the person gains weight, other blood markers continue to improve, preserving the medical condition of those who continue to eat healthy food, even if they gain weight.

Since the body “remembers” the positive health markers even when gaining weight could mean that one can be healthy and overweight, as long as the junk food is not reintroduced.

That is an interesting finding - that the body “remembers” a diet and remains healthy even when the some of the weight is gained back. The all important common denominator? No junk food!

For those following the Paleo Diet, the Dimona Study is really old news. Studies like this are becoming more and more common and are showing that the western way of eating - foods high in refined carbohydrates and damaged fats - are not only damaging to our health, but also prevents weight loss. It looks like the paradigm is shifting toward more sensible recommendations when it comes down to what we eat. And it is obvious that, for weight loss, at least, a low carbohydrate plan, like the Paleo diet, is a winner!


What diets did you follow, in your journey to good health and weight loss? Did you try a low fat diet (I did!) or the Mediterranean diet? How long did it take you to realize that these plans were not working? Please post your comments below. And please share and like

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One Response to The Paleo Diet and the Dimona Study

  1. Diet Information March 13, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Thanks so much for this very informative post. I just read a blog that talks about Paleo diet. And I think it really is indeed a good idea. I learned that one of the ideas of Paleo diet is avoiding packed food, and I strongly agree with that. Packed food contains a lot of preservatives that are harmful to our body.