Category Archives: Paleo diet

Radiologist With Type 1 Diabetes Thrives on Very Low Carb Diet

"Put down the bread and no one will get hurt!"

“Put down the bread and no one will get hurt!”

ABC Radio provides the audio and transcript of an interview with Dr. Troy Stapleton, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 41. Dr. Stapleton lives in Queensland, Australia. At the time of his diagnosis…

I was advised to eat seven serves of bread and cereals, two to three serves dairy, fruit, starchy vegetables, and to balance that intake with insulin. If you add up all those serves, they were recommending a diet of up to about 240 grams of carbohydrates a day, and to balance it with insulin. I was going to be the best patient, and there has been some important trials that show that if you do control your blood glucose well then you can reduce your incidence of the complications.

Dr. Stapleton believes we evolved on a very low carbohydrate diet; the Agricultural Revolution led to our current high carb consumption. He was concerned about the risk of hypoglycemia with standard diabetic diets.

There was a different approach where essentially you went on a very low carbohydrate diet, this made a little bit of sense to me. Why would I eat carbohydrates and then have to balance it with insulin?

Here’s what the diabetes educators told him:

What they say is you need to estimate the amount of carbohydrate you’re going to eat, and then you need to match that carbohydrate dose essentially with an insulin dose. So you sort of look at your food and you go, okay, I’m having 30 grams of carbohydrate and I need one unit of insulin per 15 grams of carbohydrate, so two units. It sounds really quite straightforward, except that it’s very, very difficult to estimate accurately the amount of carbohydrate you’re eating. The information on the packets can be out by 20%. Most people say that your error rate can be around 50%.

And then of course it changes with what you’ve eaten. So if you eat carbohydrates with fat and then you get delayed absorption, then that glucose load will come in, and then the type of carbohydrates will alter how quickly it comes in to your bloodstream. And then of course your insulin dose will vary, your absorption rate will vary by about 30%. Once you think through all the variables, it’s just not possible. You will be able to bring your blood glucose under control, but a lot of the time what happens is you get a spike in your glucose level immediately after a meal, and that does damage to the endothelium of your blood vessels…

Norman Swan: The lining.

Troy Stapleton: That’s correct, it causes an oxidative stress to your endothelium, and that is the damage that diabetes does, that’s why you get accelerated atherosclerosis.

Here’s what happened after he started eating very low carb:

It’s been amazing, it’s been the most remarkable turnaround for me and I just cut out carbohydrates essentially completely, although I do get some in green leafy vegetables and those sorts of things. My blood sugar average on the meter has gone from 8.4 [151 mg/dl] down to 5.3 [95 mg/dl]. My HbA1c is now 5.3, which is in the normal range. My blood pressure has always been good but it dropped down to 115 over 75. My triglycerides improved, my HDL improved, so my blood lipid profile improved. And I would now have a hypoglycaemic episode probably about once a month after exercise. [He was having hypoglycemia weekly on his prior high carb diet with carb counting insulin adjustments.]

He was able to reduce his insulin from about 27 units a day down to 6 units at night only (long-acting insulin)! He admits his low insulin dose may just reflect the “honeymoon period” some type 1s get early on after diagnosis.

Norman Swan: So when you talk to your diabetes educator now, what does he or she say?

Troy Stapleton: Look, they’re interested, but they’ll tell me things and I’ll say, well, that’s actually not true. I’m quite a difficult patient, Norman.

He says he’s eating an Atkins-style diet. Combining the transcript and his notes in the comments section:  1) he doesn’t eat potatoes or other starchy vegetables or bread, 2) he eats meat, eggs, lots of starchy vegetable, some berries and tree nuts, olives, and cheese, 3) an occasional wine or low-carb beer, 4) coffee, and 5) he eats under 50 g/day of carbohydrate, probably  under 30 g. This is a low-carb paleo diet except for the cheese, alcohol, and coffee.  Cheese, alcohol and coffee are (or can be) low-carb, but they’re not pure paleo.

He notes that…

There is an adaption period to a very low carbohydrate diet which takes 4-6 weeks (ketoadaption). During this time symptoms include mild headaches, lethargy, cramps, carb cravings and occasional light headedness. These symptoms all pass.

Read or listen to the whole thing. Don’t forget the comments section. All the blood sugars you see there are in mmol/l; convert them to mg/dl (American!) by multiplying by 18.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Carbohydrate, ketogenic diet, Paleo diet

Should Diabetics Avoid or Seek Fruit?

Advanced Mediterranean Diet, paleo diet, paleobetic diet

Grapes probably destined for wine

Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics have no need to avoid fruit …according to an article in Nutrition Journal.  Fruit is a prominent component of the Mediterranean and paleo diets.  It can be good for us, containing phytonutrients, fiber, etc.  But fruit has the potential to increase blood sugars, too, which may be harmful over the long run.  So whadda you do?

Researchers took newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics and split them into two groups. One group was told to eat at least two pieces of fruit daily, the other was told to eat no more than two pieces.

The researchers conclusions:

A recommendation to reduce fruit intake as part of standard medical nutrition therapy in overweight patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes resulted in eating less fruit. It had however no effect on HbA1c, weight loss or waist circumference. We recommend that the intake of fruit should not be restricted in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Read the full research report.

PS: I haven’t read the full report yet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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How About the Paleo Diet for Diabetes?

Not Dr. Frassetto

Dr. Lynda Frassetto is a Professor of Medicine and Nephrology at the University of California San Francisco.  She and her colleagues have completed a study of the Paleolithic diet as a treatment for diabetes (type 2, I think).  As far as I know, details have not yet been published in the medical literature.

Dr. Frassetto spoke at the Ancestral Health Symposium-2012 earlier this year.  You can view the 35-minute video here.

She is convinced that a paleo diet, compared to a Mediterranean-style diet, is better at controlling blood sugars and “reducing insulin” in diabetics (presumably type 2s).  Insulin sensitivity is improved, particularly in those with insulin resistance to start with.  The paleo diet group saw an average drop of fasting glucose by 23 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/l).  One slide you’ll see in the video indicates the paleo diet reduced absolute hemoglobin A1c by 0.3%, compared to 0.2% with the “Mediterranean” diet.  (Let me know if I got the numbers wrong.)

Color me underwhelmed so far.

Questions raised by the video include:

  • what is the UCSF version of the paleo diet?
  • how many participants were in her study?
  • how long did her study last?
  • did she study only type 2 diabetics?
  • what exactly was the control diet?
  • how severe were the cases of diabetes studied?

For answers, we await publication of the formal report.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I’m quite interested in the paleo diet as a treatment for diabetes.  I explore the concept at the Paleo Diabetic blog.

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My Paleo Diet Trial

For the last year, I’ve been pondering whether the paleo diet has anything to offer folks with diabetes or prediabetes.  The paleo diet, by the way, is also called the Paleolithic, Stone Age, Old Stone Age, hunter-gatherer, or caveman diet.  It definitely has some potential as a diabetes management approach.  I’ve been eating paleo-style for the last three months.

Why am I trying it?

  • Direct experience with implementation obstacles
  • Potential health benefits

My first Parker Paleo Diet meal: sautéed mixed veggies and pan-fried chicken breast

My current version of paleo is not designed for someone with diabetes or prediabetes.  That may come in the future.  By “current version,” I mean I’ll quite likely tweak it over the coming months.

Here’s what I’ve been eating (or not) on the Parker Paleo Diet:

FORBIDDEN FOODS: Grains (e.g., corn, wheat, rice), Dairy, Legumes (peanuts, beans, peas, green beans), Industrial Vegetable Oils (soybean, corn, safflower, etc.), Alcohol, Refined Sugars.

PROTEINS: Meat, fish/seafood, eggs, poultry, and wild game.  Bacon OK; minimize other processed meats.

NUTS & SEEDS: Especially walnuts, macadamia, cachews, almonds.  Limit to 1-2 oz/day.

FRUITS: Limit 2 pieces/day?

VEGETABLES:

Lower-Carb: Greens (lettuce, spinach, chard, collard, mustard geen, kale), radicchio, endive, bok choy, herbs, celery, radishes, mushrooms, cabbage, jicama, avocado, asparagus, okra, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, summer squash, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, green onions, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, eggplant, artichokes, turnips, rutabagas, spaghetti squash, carrots, onions, leeks, water chestnuts (small serving).  This list generally starts with the lower carb items and gradually increases to higher carb grams.  All these have 5 or fewer carbs per serving; most are  much less.

Starchy, Higher-Carb: Beets (6 g, GI 64), winter squashes (acorn, butternut), water chestnuts, parsnips (9 g, GI 97), potatoes (35 g, GI 87), sweet potatoes, (20 g, GI 61), cassava (37 g), taro (21 g), plantains.  Some categorize carrots as starchy.

HERBS & SPICES: Cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.  Salt (minimal), pepper, vinegar.

OILS: Extra virgin olive, canola, flax, avocado.

CONDIMENTS: Olive oil vinaigrettes, mayonnaise from olive oil & egg yolk, and ?

LIQUIDS: H2O, coffee, tea

After two months of paleo eating, I summarized my experience at Paleo Diabetic.

By the way, I don’t have diabetes or prediabetes.  The paleo diet has some potential benefit for those conditions, particularly as compared to the standard American diet.  Ideally, I’d like to see more clinical studies before recommending it.  Dr. Frassetto and colleagues at the University of California-San Francisco should be publishing their results soon.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Comprehensive List of Low-Carb Vegetables

A half cup of sliced bell pepper has about 2 grams of digestible carbohydrate

Laura Dolson over at About.com has a helpful list of low-carb veggies.  Helpful if you:

  • experience excessive blood sugar spikes from high-carb items
  • are restricting carbs for weight management
  • are eating a Paleo Diabetic diet

-Steve

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Filed under Paleo diet, Vegetables, Weight Loss

Jimmy Moore Interviews Keith Runyan, M.D.

Jimmy posted a recent interview with type 1 diabetic Dr. Keith R. Runyan, who is a nephrologist and internist.

Dr. Runyan is training for his first Great Floridian Triathlon in October, 2012, so he naturally has a great interest in high level athleticism as it intersects with diabetes.

Dr. Runyan’s current carb consumption level didn’t come up specifically in the interview, but his website indicates he’s on a ketogenic diet heavily influenced by Dr. Richard Bernstein.  So I figure he’s eating under 50 grams of digestible carbohydrate daily.  He also tried Loren Cordain’s paleo diet; my sense is that it didn’t help much with his diabetes, but perhaps some.

Overall, the interview strongly supports carbohydrate-restricted eating for folks with diabetes.  Definitely worth a listen for anyone with diabetes who’s not sold on a very-low-carb diet.  If you’re sitting on the fence, at least check out his “About Me” page.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Triathlon: run, swim, bike

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Exercise, Inspiration, Paleo diet

Science in Support of the Paleo Diet

Stockholm Palace

Investigators at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found diminished weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and waist circumference in 14 healthy medical students eating a paleo diet for three weeks.  

I reviewed this research report in my effort to determine if the paleo diet—aka Old Stone Age, caveman, ancestral, or Paleolithic diet—has anything to offer diabetics.

Published in 2008, this seems to be one of the seminal scientific studies of the paleo diet in modern Europeans.

Their version of the paleo diet:

  • Allowed ad lib: All fresh or frozen fruits, berries and vegetables except legumes, canned tomatoes w/o additives, fresh or frozen unsalted fish and seafood, fresh or frozen unsalted lean meats and minced meat, unsalted nuts (except peanuts – a legume), fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice (as dressing), flaxseed or rapeseed oil (as dressing), coffee and tea (w/o sugar, milk, honey, or cream), all salt-free spices.
  • Allowed but with major restrictions: dried fruit, salted seafood, fat meat, potatoes (two medium-sized per day), honey, cured meats
  • Prohibited: all milk and dairy products, all grain products (including corn and rice), all legumes, canned food except tomatoes, candy, ice cream, soft drinks, juices, syrups, alcohol, sugar, and salt

What Did They Find After Three Weeks?

  • Average weight dropped from 65.2 kg (144 lb) to 62.9 (139 lb)
  • Average body mass index fell from 22.2 to 21.4
  • Average waist circumference decreased from 74.3 cm (29.25″) to 72.6 cm (28.58″)
  • Average systolic blood pressure fell from 110 to 104 mmHg
  • plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 decreased from 5.0 kIE/l to 2.8 kIE/l
  • All of these changes were statistically significant

The researchers looked at a number of other blood tests and didn’t find any significant differences.

Five men and three women completed the study. Of the 20 who originally signed up, one could not fulfill the diet, three became ill (no details), two failed to show up.

So What?

That’s a remarkable weight loss over just three weeks for slender people eating ad lib.

The study authors concluded that these paleo diet-induced changes could reduce risk for cardiovascular disease. They called for a larger study with a control group. (If it’s been done, I haven’t found it yet.)

Sounds reasonable.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: You’d think they would have said more about the three participants who got sick, rather than leave us wondering if the diet made them ill.

Reference: Österdahl, M; Kocturk, T; Koochek, A;Wändell, PE. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62 (2008): 682-685.

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Filed under Heart Disease, Paleo diet, Weight Loss

Random Thoughts On Paleo Eating for People With Diabetes

Not really pertinent, but I like buffalo

I was interviewed a couple months ago by Amy Stockwell Mercer, author of Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes. All I knew beforehand was that she was interested in my thoughts on the paleo diet as applied to diabetes.  I think she had run across my PaleoDiabetic blog.

In preparation, I collected some random thoughts and did a little research.

What’s the paleo diet?

Fresh, minimally processed food. Meat (lean or not? supermarket vs yuppiefied?), poultry, eggs, fish, leafy greens and other vegetables, nuts, berries, fruit, and probably tubers.

Non-paleo: highly processed, grains, refined sugars, industrial plant/seed oils, legumes, milk, cheese, yogurt.

The paleo diet is also called Old Stone Age, caveman, ancestral, hunter-gatherer, and Paleolithic diet.

Is the paleo diet deficient in any nutrients?

A quick scan of Loren Cordain’s website found mention of possible calcium and vitamin D deficits. Paleoistas will get vitamin D via sun exposure and fish (especially cold-water fatty fish). Obtain calcium from broccoli, kale, sardines, almonds, collards. (I wonder if the Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium is set too high.)

What About Carbohydrates and Diabetes and the Paleo Diet?

Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism. In a way, it’s an intolerance of carbohydrates. In type 1 diabetes, there’s a total or near-total lack of insulin production on an autoimmune basis. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s insulin just isn’t working adequately; insulin production can be high, normal or low. In both cases, ingested carboydrates can’t be processed in a normal healthy way, so they stack up in the bloodstream as high blood sugars. If not addressed adequately, high blood glucose levels sooner or later will poison body tissues . Sooner in type 1, later in type 2. (Yes, this is a gross over-simplification.)

Gluten-rich Neolithic food

If you’re intolerant of lactose or gluten, you avoid those. If you’re intolerant of carbohydrates, you could avoid eating them, or take drugs to help you overcome your intolerance. Type 1 diabetics must take insulin. Insulin’s more optional for type 2′s. We have 11 classes of drugs to treat type 2 diabetes; we don’t know the potential adverse effects of most of these drugs. Already, three diabetes drugs have been taken off the U.S. market or severely restricted due to unacceptable toxicity: phenformin, troglitazone, and rosiglitazone.

Humans need two “essential fatty acids” and nine “essential” amino acids derived from proteins. “Essential” means we can’t be healthy and live long without them. Our bodies can’t synthesize them. On the other hand, there are no essential carbohydrates. Our bodies can make all the carbohydrate (mainly glucose) we need.

Since there are no essential carbohydrates, and we know little about the long-term adverse side effects of many of the diabetes drugs, I favor carbohydrate restriction for people with carboydrate intolerance. (To be clear, insulin is safe, indeed life-saving, for those with type 1 diabetes.)

That being said, let’s think about the Standard American Diet (SAD) eaten by an adult. It provides an average of 2673 calories a day. Added sugars provide 459 of those calories, or 17% o the total. Grains provide 625 calories, or 23% of the total. And most of those sugars and grains are in processed, commercial foods. So added sugars and grains provide 40% of the total calories in the SAD. (Figures are from an April 5, 2011, infographic at Civil Eats.)

Anyone going from the SAD to pure Paleo eating will be drastically reducing intake of added sugars and grains, our current major sources of carbohydrate. Question is, what will they replace those calories with?

That’s why I gave a thumbnail sketch of the paleo diet above. Take a gander and you’ll see lots of low-carb and no-carb options, along with some carb options. For folks with carbohydrate intolerance, I’d favor lower-carb veggies and judicious amounts of fruits, berries, and higher-carb veggies and

Will these cause bladder cancer? Pancreatitis?

tubers. “Judicious” depends on the individual, considering factors such as degree of residual insulin production, insulin sensitivity, the need to lose excess weight, and desire to avoid diabetes drugs.

Compared to the standard “diabetic diet” (what’s that?) and the Standard American Diet, switching to paleo should lower the glycemic index and glycemic load of the diet. Theoretically, that should help with blood sugar control.

A well-designed low-carb paleo diet would likely have at least twice as much fiber as the typical American diet, which would also tend to limit high blood sugar excursions.

In general, I favor a carbohydrate-restricted paleo diet for those with diabetes who have already decided to “go paleo.” I’m not endorsing any paleo diet for anyone with diabetes at this point—I’m still doing my research. But if you’re going to do it, I’d keep it lower-carb.  E.g., under 100 g of digestible carb daily. It has a lot of potential.

Are There Any Immediate Dangers for a Person With Diabetes Switching to the Paleo Diet?

It depends on three things: 1) current diet, and 2) current drug therapy, and 3) the particular version of paleo diet followed.

Remember, the Standard American Diet provides 40% of total calories as added sugars and grains (nearly all highly refined). Switching from SAD to a low-carb paleo diet will cut carb intake and glycemic load substantially, raising the risk of hypoglycemia if the person is taking certain drugs.

Drugs with potential to cause hypoglycemia include insulin, sulfonylureas, meglitinides, pramlintide, and perhaps thiazolidinediones.

Who knows about carb content of the standard “diabetic diet”? Contrary to poplular belief, there is no monolithic “diabetic diet.” There is no ADA diet (American Diabetes Association). My impression, however, is that the ADA favors relatively high carbohydrate consumption, perhaps 45-60% of total calories. Switching to low-carb paleo could definitely cause hypoglycemia in those taking the aforementioned drugs.

One way to avoid diet-induced hypoglycemia is to reduce the diabetic drug dose.

A type 2 overweight diabetic eating a Standard American Diet—and I know there are many out there—would tend to see lower glucose levels by switching to probably any of the popular paleo diets. Be ready for hypoglycemia if you take those drugs.

Paleo diets are not necessarily low-carb. Konner and Eaton estimate that ancestral hunter-gatherers obtained 35 to 40% of total calories from carbohydrates. I’ve seen other estimates as low as 22%. Reality likely falls between 22 and 65%. When pressed for a brief answer as to how many carbohydrate calories are in the paleo diet, I say “about a third of the total.” By comparison, the typical U.S. diet provides 50% of calories from carbohydrate.

Someone could end up with a high-carb paleo diet easily, by emphasizing tubers (e.g., potatoes), higher-carb vegetables, fruits, berries, and nuts (especially cashews). Compared with the SAD, this could cause higher or lower blood sugars, or no net change.

A diabetic on a Bernstein-style diet or Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet (both very-low-carb) but switching to paleo or low-carb paleo (50-150 g?) would see elevated blood sugars. Perhaps dangerously high glucoses.

Any person with diabetes making a change in diet should do it in consultation with a personal physician or other qualified healthcare professional familiar with their case.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Fun Facts!

  • A typical carbonated soda contain the equivalent of 10 tsp (50 ml) of sugar.
  • The typical U.S. adult eats 30 tsp (150 ml) daily of added sweeteners and sugars.
  • U.S total grain product consumption was at record lows in the 1970s, at 138 pounds per person. By 2000, grain consumption was up by 45%, to 200 pounds per person.
  • Total caloric sweetener consumption (by dry weight) was 110 pounds per person in the 1950s. By 2000, it was up 39% to 150 pounds.
  • Between 1970 and 2003, consumption of added fats and oils rose by 63%, from 53 to 85 pounds. [How tasty would that be without starches and sugars? Not very.]
  • In 2008, “added fat” calories in the U.S. adult diet were 641 (24% of total calories).

Fun Facts provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Dairy Products, Drugs for Diabetes, Fat in Diet, Glycemic Index and Load, Grains, Paleo diet

Who’s Ray Audette?

Ray Audette hunted with hawks

I ran across a 1995 well-researched online article about Ray Audette, author of NeanderThin and one of the modern paleo movement pioneers.  It’s in Dallas Observer News: http://www.dallasobserver.com/1995-07-06/news/neander-guy/

Audette apparently self-published his book in 1995.  (Publishing by a “vanity press” is probably more accurate for the mid-90s.)  The 2000 edition of the book from St. Martin’s Paperbacks has a foreword by Dr. Michael Eades, who is also quoted liberally in the aforementioned article.

Mr. Audette credited his diet for curing both his diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.  I’ve been pondering whether paleo-style eating  is generally a good thing for people with diabetes.  There are plenty of anecdotal reports of benefit.  Wish we had more scientific research.

1995 was only 17 years ago.  It seems like ancient history to me.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The paleo diet is also referred to as the Old Stone Age, caveman, or Paleolithic diet.

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Evidence for Human Grain Consumption 100,000 Years Ago

ScienceDaily on December 17, 2009, reported findings of a Canadian archeological team who found evidence of systematic grain consumption by ancient humans in Africa:

The consumption of wild cereals among prehistoric hunters and gatherers appears to be far more ancient than previously thought, according to a University of Calgary archaeologist who has found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal and root staples in the diet of early Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago.

Neolithic technology

This is interesting to me because I’m investigating whether the paleo diet is a good one for people with diabetes.  In case you’re new to the paleo diet, grains are considered verboten by most adherents.  (The paleo diet is also known as the Stone Age diet, caveman diet, and Paleolithic diet.)  The cereal grain mentioned in the ScienceDaily article is wild sorghum.

Many in the paleosphere believe that such ancient humans didn’t have the technical skills to transform wild grains into something edible on a regular basis.  I haven’t read the source material, nor do I have an opinion on whether the archeologists are correct.  I’m just sayin’…

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Mercader, Julio,  et al.  Mozambican grass seed consumption during the Middle Stone Age. Science, December 18, 2009.

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