Original Human 'Stone Age' Diet
Is Good For People With Diabetes
Foods of the kind that were consumed during human
evolution may be the best choice to control diabetes type 2. A
study from Lund University, Sweden, found a markedly improved
capacity to handle carbohydrates after eating such foods for three
During 2.5 million years of human evolution, before the advent of
agriculture, our ancestors were consuming fruit, vegetables, nuts,
lean meat and fish. In contrast, cereals, dairy products, refined
fat and sugar, which now provide most of the calories for modern
humans, have been staple foods for a relatively short time.
Staffan Lindeberg at the Department of Medicine, Lund University,
has been studying health effects of the original human diet for
many years. In earlier studies his research team have noted a
remarkable absence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes among
the traditional population of Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua
New Guinea, where modern agrarian-based food is unavailable.
In a clinical study in Sweden, the research group has now compared
14 patients who were advised to consume an ‘ancient’
(Paleolithic, ‘Old stone Age’) diet for three months
with 15 patients who were recommended to follow a Mediterranean-like
prudent diet with whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy products,
fruit, vegetables and refined fats generally considered healthy.
All patients had increased blood sugar after carbohydrate intake
(glucose intolerance), and most of them had overt diabetes type
2. In addition, all had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease.
Patients in the Paleolithic group were recommended to eat lean
meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, root vegetables and nuts, and to
avoid grains, dairy foods and salt.
The main result was that the blood sugar rise in response to
carbohydrate intake was markedly lower after 12 weeks in the Paleolithic
group (–26%), while it barely changed in the Mediterranean
group (–7%). At the end of the study, all patients in the
Paleolithic group had normal blood glucose.
The improved glucose tolerance in the Paleolithic group was unrelated
to changes in weight or waist circumference, although waist decreased
slightly more in that group. Hence, the research group concludes
that something more than caloric intake and weight loss was responsible
for the improved handling of dietary carbohydrate. The main difference
between the groups was a much lower intake of grains and dairy
products and a higher fruit intake in the Paleolithic group. Substances
in grains and dairy products have been shown to interfere with
the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat in various studies.
"If you want to prevent or treat diabetes type 2, it may
be more efficient to avoid some of our modern foods than to count
calories or carbohydrate," says Staffan Lindeberg.
This is the first controlled study of a Paleolithic diet in humans.