Category Archives: Paleo

Paleo Diet for Diabetics

New Study of Paleo Diets for Diabetics

What is a “Paleo Diet”?

The “paleolithic” or “caveman” diet is a variation of a low carb diet wrapped in a philosophical framework that asserts evolution has dictated that humans should eat a certain way. Adherents typically stress naturally raised, organic food sources with an emphasis on avoiding cereal grains, sugar and other refined products. In addition, paleo adherents tend to stress exercise as part of the life sytle. The weight loss and other macro health benefits coincide with a standard low carb diet (although, they will claim other, non-documented health benefits from avoiding pesticides, hormones and other chemicals found in non-organic food products).

I am not a paleo diet adherent, favoring a standard low carb way of eating. But I’m sympathetic to my cousins in the movement.

UCSF Study

With a hat tip to Dr. Steve Parker, originator of the Low Carb Mediterranean Diet (reviewed here), the University of California at San Francisco is studying the effects of a paleo diet regimen for diabetics:

The initial research findings are striking. Without losing weight, participants in a preliminary study improved blood sugar control, blood pressure control and blood vessel elasticity. They lowered levels of blood fats such as cholesterol. And most amazingly, participants achieved these results in less than three weeks — simply by switching to a Paleolithic diet.

These effects are commonly reported among all variations of the low carb diet, with the paleo version being just the latest. I’m sure Dr. Parker is seeing the same kind of results in his patients that adopt the Low Carb Mediterranean Diet, as other doctors have found with any low carb diet regimen. The plan I follow, Protein Power by Drs Mary Dan and Michael Eades, has many followers with the same results.

Links to the press release for the study are at Dr. Parker’s blog.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Red Chateau Rose by Kikuo Teranishi, <a href="">Creative Commons</a>Gary Taubes has noted that all diets succeed, inasmuch as they do, through carbohydrate restriction. Even reduced calorie diets, the most difficult of all diets to maintain, reduce carbohydrate intake along with other macro-nutrients. You can easily draw the conclusion that the lower average weight loss of low fat and other calorie restricted diets when compared to any of the low carb diets is due to the greater carbohydrate intake they allow; however, nearly any diet plan will restrict carbohydrates below the level of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

The paleo diet is simply another variation of the same low carb diet that has been around for decades, with a new emphasis on providing a philosophical framework for rationalizing the diet to self and others. The arguments in the paleo community center around the same issues as the low carb diet community at large. What are the biological effects of eating grains, starches and refined sugar products? How does the reduction of carbs affect hormones, lipid levels, and blood sugar?

The Advantages of Paleo

I don’t want to be dismissive of the paleo movement. It appeals to many people because of the wider range of beneficial influence, extending beyond just diet to other lifestyle topics as well, including the amount and type of exercise needed, the necessity for adequate sleep, and the well documented benefits of having an active and vibrant support community. People who have hesitated to adopt a standard low carb diet may feel more comfortable with its emphasis on the total lifestyle and modern, updated philosophical framework. I say, go for it.

Why This Study?

Because the benefits of carbohydrate restriction are well known and well studied for diabetics, it may have been easier to get funding for the “new” paleo diet. I am only speculating on this point, but it seems a reasonable speculation to me.

More on Paleo Diets

Mark’s Daily Apple, by Mark Sisson

Modern Paleo: The Blog created by Diana Hsieh, Ph.D

Paleo Diabetic by Dr. Steve Parker



Paleo Diets

The British Journal of Nutrition published a paper online entitled “Estimated macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African Paleolithic diet“.

There are a number of assumptions made in developing the expected diet of paleolithic man in East Africa, including things such as the type of plant and animal protein available and the typical diet observed among hunter-gatherer populations alive today. Several models were created, with varying proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate. All of them were higher in omega 3 fats than the modern western diet.

The authors contend that this type of modeling might be more beneficial than the single nutrient studies being done currently. Noting first that we adapt slowly to changes in environment, including diet, they sum up their findings:

We conclude that compared with Western diets, Paleolithic diets contained consistently higher protein and LCP [long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids], and lower LA [linoleic acid]. These are likely to contribute to the known beneficial effects of Paleolithic-like diets, e.g. through increased satiety/satiation. Disparities between Paleolithic, contemporary and recommended intakes might be important factors underlying the aetiology of common Western diseases. Data on Paleolithic diets and lifestyle, rather than the investigation of single nutrients, might be useful for the rational design of clinical trials.

Free Paleo e-Book

Douglas Robb is a personal trainer with a health and fitness blog, Health Habits. Robb is an advocate of a paleo diet for his clients, but he saw a problem with the proliferation of different paleo diets, with some eschewing cooked food, some advocating periods of fasting, modern blood-letting, etc. The normal person researching the lifestyle can find exactly the situation Robb describes:

. . . what started out as a very simple, very healthy way of eating has splintered into a million and one different tribes – some with very restrictive rules and others much more relaxed.

Robb’s solution is a basic, flexible diet he dubs “A Paleo Diet for the 21st Century”. He attempts to incorporate the most important parts of the less and more restrictive paleo plans out there to provide some guidelines that normal, mortal humans can follow. And he gives it away. Register on his site for a free copy and he will email you the link to download the 27 page e-book.

I’m a low carb guy, for very specific medical reasons (metabolic syndrome, primarily). Reducing carbs also helped me lose 50 pounds, eliminated my GERD, and reduced my blood pressure. The paleo lifestyle appeals to me, but the restrictions found in some advocate’s blogs seem to go too far. In my view the value of the paleo approach to what is, essentially, lower carb eating, is this: it provides a philosophical framework for the diet.

Most long term dieters have more than fat around the middle. Like everyone else, they have a brain, which is comprised mainly of water and fat (see, not all fat is bad!) And in that fatty tissue of the brain is the record of every failed diet and broken promise. Addressing the “fat between the ears” is at least as important as the fat around the middle.

Low carb dieters use books like The Protein Power Lifeplan to provide an intellectual framework for the new way of eating. Beyond the important studies and plethora of scientific facts the dieter knows some very simple precepts: keep carbs low and eat enough protein.

But what I’ll call the Paleo Philosophy can provide the same intellectual framework. Looking in the supermarket, you can ask yourself if a caveman would have had access to the food you see. Meat, fruit, and veggies all make the grade, and the majority of them are just fine for most people. Like a dedicated low carber, you would avoid the center aisles, knowing that Grog would not have had access to Twinkies.

And there’s nothing wrong with combining the two approaches if you like; reduce carbs while adopting the basic premise that if it wasn’t a food 10,000 years ago, you shouldn’t eat it. And Robb’s free e-book can help you navigate the maze of paleo approaches to find one that is flexible and suitable for life in the 21st century.