A Paleolithic diet improved metabolic status with respect to cardiovascular and carbohydrate physiology, according to a 2009 study at the University of California San Francisco.
Here are the specifics, all statistically significant unless otherwise noted:
- total cholesterol decreased by 16%
- LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) decreased by 22% (no change in HDL)
- triglycerides decreased by 35%
- strong trend toward reduced fasting insulin (P=0.07)
- average diastolic blood pressure down by 3 mmHg (no change in systolic pressure)
- improved insulin sensitivity and reduced insulin resistance; i.e., improved glucose tolerance
This was a small, preliminary study: only 11 participants (six male, three female, all healthy (non-diabetic), average age 38, average BMI 28, sedentary, mixed Black/Caucasian/Asian).
Baseline diet characteristics were determined by dietitians, then all participants were placed on a paleo diet, starting with a 7-day ramp-up (increasing fiber and potassium gradually), then a 10-day paleo diet.
The paleo diet: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, canola oil [?], mayonnaise [?], and honey. No dairy legumes, cereals, grains, potatoes. Caloric intake was adjusted to avoid weight change during the study, and participants were told to remain sedentary. They ate one meal daily at the research center and were sent home with the other meals and snacks pre-packed.
Compared with baseline diets, the paleo diet reduced salt consumption by half while doubling potassium and magnesium intake. Baseline diet macronutrient calories were 17% from protein, 44% carbohydrate, 38% fat. Paleo diet macronutrients were 30% protein, 38% carb, 32% fat. Fiber content wasn’t reported.
I’m guessing there were no adverse effects.
This study sounds like fun, easy, basic science: “Hey, let’s do this and see what happens!”
I don’t know a lot about canola oil, but it’s considered one of the healthy oils by folks like Walter Willett. It sounds nicer than rapeseed oil.
I agree with the investigators that this tiny preliminary study is promising; the paleo diet (aka Stone Age or caveman diet) has potential benefits for prevention and treatment for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.
The researchers mentioned their plans to study the paleo diet in patients with type 2 diabetes. No published results yet.
Are you working with a physician on a medical issue that may improve or resolve with the paleo diet? Most doctors don’t know much about the paleo diet yet. You may convince yours to be open-minded by trying the diet on your own volition—not always a safe way to go—and showing her your improved clinical results. Or show her studies such as this.
I’m considering the paleo diet as a treatment for diabetes. If interested, follow my progress at my PaleoDiabetic blog.
Reference: Frassetto, L.A., et al. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, advance online publication, February 11, 2009. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.4