I just realized I started this blog six months ago with the idea that I’d “…share my investigation into whether the paleo diet and lifestyle are potentially therapeutic for people with diabetes.”

I’m frustrated that I haven’t made more progress.

Only a few clinical studies have looked at use of the paleo diet in diabetics.  And only type 2’s at that.  The Swedes (Steffan Lindeberg/Tommy Jonsson group) and Californians (Team Frassetto) own this field, at this point.

Loren Cordain is at Colorado State University.  Don’t they have a research department?

Are S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner still in academia?

Namesake of the Cabbage Soup Diet

I found an article from 1984 looking at return of diabetic Australian aborigines to their traditional lifestyle.  I’ll report here after I analyze it.

Dr. Jay Wortman has done work with aboriginal peoples of Canada.  They have lots of diabetes, like the Pima in my neck of the woods.  I’ll look for his results.

If the paleo diet is ever going to be more than a fad, we need clinical studies that support it.  Shoot, even the cabbage soup diet has glowing anecdotal reports from individuals, but it hasn’t stood the test of time.

Am I missing any clinical studies?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I still expect a flurry of paleo diet studies to be published in the next 5-10 years, involving several types of human participants (diabetics, overweight and obese, heart patients, hypertensives, etc.).  Then again, maybe I’m wrong.

PPS: Instead of “paleo diet,” you may prefer Old Stone Age diet, Stone Age diet, caveman diet, hunter-gatherere diet, Paleolithic diet, or Ancestral diet

6 responses to “Frustration

  1. Professor Jennie Brand-Miller’s work here is based on studies of the traditional Aboriginal diet in Australia before the European invasion. She is big on the Glycemic Index and in her layman texts packages a “Paleo” option. Academic studies exist where the health of Aboriginals who suffer from chronic heart disease and diabetes on a “European” style industrial diet — and we are talking some of the worse epidemiology in the world per capita — greatly improves when they return to the traditional lifestyle for huntin and gathering bush foods.


    Saggers S, Gray D (1991) Aboriginal health and society: the traditional and contemporary Aboriginal struggle for better health. North Sydney: Allen and Unwin
    Moodie PM (1981) Australian Aborigines. In: Trowell H C, Burkitt DP, eds. Western diseases: their emergence and prevention. London: Edward Arnold: 154-167

    Tables of composition of Australian aboriginal foods
    Janette Brand Miller, Keith William James, Patricia Margaret Anne Maggiore Aboriginal Studies Press, 1993 – 256 pages
    Collection of tables setting out the dietary composition of Australian indigenous foods. The tables are listed alphabetically by taxonomic name and divided into vegetable, fruit, animal and insect products. Includes figures on the content of dietary fibre, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C , water, energy, protein, fat, carbohydrate, ash and a range of minerals for about 500 different bush foods. Describes methods of analysis and description of gathering food. Includes references and an index.

    The search phrase to use is “bush tucker”.

  2. Thank you, Dave!
    I didn’t realize that Brand-Miller was involved with Australian aboriginal diets.

  3. Yes she was until the GI thing (developed by a Canadian) tweaked and she honed in on that thereafter. When I was “pre-diabetic” I pursued low GI eating and read all of her stuff I could get. Unfortunately such allegiance on my part was a mistake and the GI approach — the formatting of a lifestyle — is insufficient in regards protection from the onset of diabetes.Theres’ not enough data to hold onto so that you can plan your eating. It misses the main point and in effect panders to the food industry by pitching a soft sell card — “Low GI” — which presumes that you can eat as much carb as you want so long as it is low GI. Similarly her recommendations as to combinations — eg: eat acid with a meal such as vinegar or yogurt — are a fools habit.

    Unfortunately too her low GI work obscures a stark reality in regard to indigenous diets and in effect she tries by dint of GI stratification to adapt the European — sugar, flour, tea — diet by moderating it with tweaks. And then marketing it for the general population.

    Aboriginal life expectancy in this country for men is only 59 years and 65 for women! And the level of diabetes among Aborigines is at least 2-4 times (and may be as much as 10 times in some communities) that of non-indigenous Australians.

    I’m not indigenous but I attend a Aboriginal community clinic and diabetes is the bogey behind every consultation.(But hey the new dietitian there is supportive of what she calls “high protein” diets even though she accepts the meat fat and cholesterol association).

  4. Philip Thackray


    Really well said re GI. To paraphrase another saying: “It’s the carbohydrates, stupid”.

    @Dr Steve Parker,

    It’s got to be really frustrating but thanks for trying. The drug companies, Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto etc will fight tooth and nail to prevent the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet from ever becoming mainstream – and they have the power to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pro-business, but these companies have the government (and the AMA) in their back pockets.

    Who would (could) ever fund a study sufficiently strong to be able to push the government influence of these companies aside?

    Individuals and individual doctors will continue to have success preventing and treating diabetes with mostly dietary changes. But it is not a treatment protocol that a doctor can defend as an “accepted” medical treatment. In fact, as (a low-carb) dietary intervention proves to be successful on a larger and larger scale (for a number of common ailments) these companies will find a way to run their own studies to debunk the low-carb intervention with the end result being that the government, through the AMA, will consider the recommendation of any diet other than the SAD (food pyramid) as medical malpractice.

    For example, how did we get where we are with Statin drugs? Will doctors be sued for not prescribing them? If that has not already occurred it is coming.

    Best Regards,


  5. It’s funny, I thought my blog would last about 10 posts and I would be done, because there is absolutely nothing explicit with respect to paleo (particularly diet) and psych of the scientific rigor that would be helpful. However, I find there is rich material if I ask the right questions. Do I bias myself doing that? Probably. But I’m pretty sure that is in my disclosures…

  6. Philip Thackray

    Dr. Steve Parker,

    Have you contacted Steve Phinney and/or Jeff Volek the authors of the new book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living? They are among the most likely LC experts to point you toward clinical studies of the effect of low carbohydrate diets on diabetes.

    Best Regards,