Thursday, November 08, 2007 by: Keith Heimpel
(NewsTarget) If you watch television, you’re a modern homo sapiens, with at least one sedentary habit. Despite its unhealthy drawbacks, T.V. can be very informative, especially when keeping abreast of pop-culture. The phrase, “It’s so simple a caveman can do it,” is one such example. If you pay attention to this advertisement, you’ll also know how the caveman feels about being labeled a simpleton. Now, in the first controlled study of a Paleolithic (stone age) diet in humans, Lund University, Sweden, heralds the simple diet of the caveman as the “best choice to control diabetes 2”.
This caveman or hunter-gather diet, as it is often called, is nothing new. One of the first suggestions that following a diet similar to that of the late Paleolithic period would improve a person's health was made in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 by S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner.
Our ancestor, the caveman was consuming fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats and fish over a span of 2.5 million years of human evolution, before the emergence of agriculture. The modern staples: cereals, dairy products, refined fat and sugar, have made up the bulk of our population’s calories for only 10,000 years at the most. The switch from the Paleolithic diet to our modern agrarian foods took place over a mere 2000 years, a relatively brief period of time in the history of our species.
Hunter-gatherers flourished over a 100,000 plus generation span. Agriculture was invented 500 generations ago. 10 generations have lived since the start of the industrial age. Only two generations have grown up with highly processed fast foods. In a subsequent article in 1988, Eaton puts this timeline into prospective, “The problem is that our genes don't know it, they are programming us today in much the same way they have been programming humans for at least 40,000 years. Genetically, our bodies now are virtually the same as they were then."
There are modern human populations today which never made the switch. Dr. Staffan Lindeberg, of the Department of Medicine, Lund University notes from earlier studies by his research group, “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 their recent clinical study, the researchers have now compared 14 patients who were advised to consume a Paleolithic diet for three months with 15 patients who were recommended to follow a Mediterranean diet (considered to be the healthiest modern food choice) with whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables and refined fats generally considered healthy. All participants “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.” Those in the Paleolithic group were recommended to eat lean fruits, vegetables, root vegetables and nuts, meats, fish, and to avoid grains, dairy foods and salt.
The following results are verbatim from Science Daily, which adapted them directly from a press release issued by Lund University. “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.
I enjoy the Science Channel and the National Geographics Channel, especially those programs on early man. Now, I’ll look for them on the Food Network, but until then you can read more about the Paleolithic Diet at wikipedia.org.
Think about this study the next time you see that commercial.