Paleo Diabetic Theory

In other words, is the paleo diet good for diabetics?

A few others have weighed in on this question in an organized fashion.  Steve Cooksey at immediately comes to mind.  Gary Rea, too (see Links at right).  Many others (hundreds or thousands?) with diabetes have been conducting paleo lifestyle experiments on themselves.

N=1 experiments (self-experimentation) are particularly helpful in the absence of randomized controlled clinical trials, the usual gold-standard study in medical science.  But N=1 experiments aren’t necessarily safe, especially for  a diabetic taking drugs that can cause hypoglycemia.

I’ve already figured out there’s not  much published scientific research on the application of paleo lifestyle choices as therapy for diabetes.  I plan to review the published literature over the coming year.  Coming up with some preliminary answers will also require some inductive reasoning and empiricism.

In thinking about the paleo lifestyle and diabetes, here are some of the issues and questions I need to address over the coming year:

Non-Diet Items 

  • exercise
  • rest
  • play
  • sun exposure
  • sleep
  • social interaction
  • diabetes prevention
  • effect on diabetic complications such as kidney disease, eye disease, nerve impairment, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease, and stroke
  • spirituality (?)
  • individual genetic variation
  • safety
  • type 1 versus type 2 diabetes
  • drugs for diabetes


  • what is the paleo diet
  • glycemic index
  • effect on blood sugar
  • diabetes prevention
  • effect of individual paleo diet components on diabetes
  • effect on diabetic complications such as kidney disease, eye disease, nerve impairment, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease, stroke
  • type 1 versus type 2 diabetes

Imagine a diabetic asking his physician or dietitian, “What about the paleo diet? Can I try it?”  The typical professional is going to answer, “I don’t know.”  How many will have the time or interest to look into it?  Not many. 

Am I missing anything?  Do you know anybody else doing this in a public forum?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: A few diabetics don’t like to be called “diabetic.”  I mean no offense by the term.  It’s just typical medical short-hand for “people with diabetes” or “person with diabetes.”  Some blogs even use the acronym PWD.  Similarly, an asthmatic is a person with asthma, and an alcoholic is a person with alcholism.

8 responses to “Paleo Diabetic Theory

  1. The part about kidney disease in the diabetic is probably a key one, especially in patients who exhibit some level of microalbuminuria. It seems the preliminary data suggests that any damage the protein might do is more than offset by the reduction in the HbA1c.

  2. Isaac, I’ve seen some mouse studies to that effect. Of course, I can’t assume that goes for humans, too. Normally I don’t pay much attention to mouse studies.

  3. It might be considered part of the ‘rest’ category, but stress control through such things as meditation, and other stress reduction techniques, have been very helpful in keeping diabetic blood sugar numbers at bay, along with the paleo/primal dietary approach and could be considered part of the paleo lifestyle.

  4. Good point, Vivian. High cortisol levels resulting from too much stress can’t be good for glycemic control.

  5. I’d like to see some exploring on reversing diabetes….regaining sensitivity in muscle, liver, pancreas, healing beta cells, etc. in the context of managing risk ongoing….. I’m reading some interesting things in different places, but I’m continually stumbling through N=1s without the benefit of expert guidance.

    • Hi, jo.
      When I find new research on your interesting topics, I’ll write about them here or at one of my other blogs, Diabetic Mediterranean Diet. Anyone who can reliably reverse and cure diabetes should win a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

  6. Hi Steve, I’ve recently started a Paleo lifestyle and will be blogging about my experience. Your research sounds interesting and I’d def be interested in your findings.