The idea behind the paleo diet is that optimal health depends on adherence to dietary and lifestyle factors to which we’re genetically adapted. Our current mix of genes overwhelmingly reflects the Paleolithic era of human cultural development, starting anywhere from 750,000 to 2.5 million years ago, and ending around 10,000 years ago. It’s also called the Stone Age.
The paleo diet pattern isn’t set in stone. In general, it includes nuts, vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, and poultry. It excludes or limits grains, dairy, legumes, sugars other than fruit or honey, industrial seed oils (e.g., from soybean and corn), and modern processed, highly refined foods. Fresh, natural, and “organic” are preferred.
The paleo diet in modern times began gathering steam in 2008. It’s still not widely known or followed, but the trend is definitely upwards. My patients with diabetes are starting to inquire whether eating paleo-style might be good for them. At this point, I’m inclined to say “yes.” But we don’t have much basic science to back up my intuition. I expect much more published scientific research over the coming decade, in addition to self-experimentation reports by patients.
In these pages I’ll share my investigation into whether the paleo diet and lifestyle are potentially therapeutic for people with diabetes.
PS: See this important Disclaimer.
Last modified September 16, 2011
Hello, I came across your site today when I was researching the paleo diet after watching a half hour special on TV. The special addresses diabetes as well. I can not locate the special but it was a compilation of this one week report that Dr. Kim Mulvihill (CBS San Francisco) did. The link below should get you to the first video and if you type in paleo to the video search the other 4 videos will also come up.
Maria, thank you. I’ve seen at least a couple videos in that series. I expect the University of California San Francisco researchers to have their diabetic study published any day now. Until then, I’ll have to find the study on diabetic Australian aborigines who were put back on their ancestral diet, with metabolic improvement. I’ll bet I can find reference to it at Loren Cordain’s website.
And self-experimentation by doctors on themselves! Ha! Amazing what a drastic change in diet (well, at least drastic for me!) will do! Found your site through Dr. Ede’s site. Look forward to reading more!
Welcome to my little corner of the Internet.
Steve! I’m the Editor at DiabetesDaily and I’d really really love to talk you about our Syndication program for active bloggers with great knowledge to share…like YOU. I’m also a Type 1 and a big fan of a paleo-like lifestyle.
I’d really love to chat with — email@example.com.
Hi, Ginger. I’ll be in touch with you via email, eventually.
Steve, finding your blog is a breath of fresh air. I have been playing with different styles of eating to address keeping my morning glucose reading under 85. I am on a pretty strict workout regime and have lost 30 lbs since February of this year. However, I am having difficulty lately burning additional fat and I just started playing with a paleo type diet. I believe that I may follow up with the idea full blown for 90 days and see what the results are.
Welcome, SLO50! Good luck. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d like to know how it goes.
Hi Steve, From self-experimentation based on reading everything I could get my hands on, the paleo idea as commonly implemented is misguided on several fronts.
1) Avoidance of legumes: This is the biggest problem. As a huge source of fiber, legumes serve to feed the microbiome which, in turn, supports glucose control. It was only when I started getting daily >75g fiber that my problems with FBG and PPBG disappeared. My diet is now up to 50-55% carb with 1 hr PPs at ~110 and FBS in high 70s, low 80s. Miraculous!
2) Emphasis on meat and sat fat: As someone who is positive for ApoE4, I know firsthand the consequences of NOT limiting my sat fat. Back in my paleo days, as I tried to raise my fat intake above 50% of cals, my TC went over 300, my LDLc over 200. Yikes! Now, with sat fat under 10g per day and total fat under 25% of cals, my last TC was 169, LDLc was 88! It’s not just markers and CHD problems here, high protein consumption has been linked with IGF-I, cancer and increased mortality: “Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality …” – http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(14)00062-X
Here’s an excellent commentary on that study plus another good study by a different group: “Controlling protein intake may be key to longevity, studies show” – https://www.elsevier.com/connect/controlling-protein-intake-may-be-key-to-longevity
3) Intermittent Fasting, HIIT: Chronic pursuit of these produces chronically raised cortisol which raises FBS. This may be why people start experiencing deteriorated glucose control after long term adherence to paleo.
Hi, Dan. I appreciate your taking the time to share your experience and those links!
1) The authors of the Masharani study (of the paleo diet in diabetics) speculated that the beneficial effects on glucose control in the paleo diet group were related to the higher fiber intake. I’ve read several studies that indicate fiber indeed helps control blood glucose.
2) Congratulations on the good numbers you’re getting with your current diet.
3) Your one of the few people I’ve run across who knows how much saturated fat they eat. That’s dedication.
3) I hadn’t heard of that protein/longevity connection. I’ll keep my eyes open.
Thanks to YOU for taking the time to reply. Re the Masharani study, of course, the paleo diet should win hands down facing off against the SAD, even though 3 weeks might not be long enough to show it at 95% confidence.
But there’s a better diet than paleo for managing diabetes. There’s a podcast from the 2013 conference in Barcelona of the European Associate for the Study of Diabetes that discusses it and all the confusion about how to manage diabetic BG. When I first watched that podcast (with ~25 study slides) it was a real game changer for me. What I learned there totally turned my life around with respect to diabetes.
I discussed the podcast here: https://resolvingthecontroversies.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/what-is-the-best-diet-for-managing-diabetes/, where I reproduced just a few of the study slides, so you can see for yourself just how powerful the diet is. Of course, paleo is more palatable to most, but if you have a diabetic who wants to compete in athletic events, who is vegetarian or whose BG control is gradually eroding on a higher meat/fat diet (as was mine), this is the way to go.
Re the protein, you can google “methionine mitochondria” to learn more about the inverse relationship between protein (esp animal with higher MET) and lifespan. Cysteine is problematical too for many due the interconversion between the two AAs.
> That’s dedication.
Thanks. I actually have a spreadsheet that’s set up to calculate this stuff for me with a very minimum amount of effort on my part. I wrote it during the period when I was trying to discover what I need to do the control my hyperlipidemia.
Dan, I’d like to dig into your blog post when I have time. I encourage my readers to check it out.
I saw your reply on one of the Indian LCHF site (http://indianlchf.com/) and from their I could trace you here.
In that particular reply, you have mentioned that, “I am very interested in type 2 diabetes in folks of Indian ethnicity. I know that LCHF eating does wonders for Europeans and European-Americans in terms of weight and blood sugar management. I suspect that LCHF works equally well in Indians, and Tina and her husband’s experience supports that idea. But I’m looking for firmer evidence than anecdotal. I haven’t finished my scientific literature review yet. I spent 30 minutes on pubmed.gov last night and came up with nothing.” which caught my eye!
We have a dedicated forum for Indian Diabetics wherein we advocate and follow LCHF diet to maintain diabetes at bay and you can get testimonies from many folks there.
It would be nice, if you can join our forum dlife.in (http://www.forums.dlife.in/) and share your views as well.
Santosh, thank you for visiting and commenting!
I will definitely visit that forum.
BTW, I heard from two Indians within the last week that a bitter gourd called karela is a traditional “home remedy” for diabetes in India. Can’t wait to do a scientific literature review on that one, but I will.
Absolutely Steve. Bitter Gourd is quite effective in reducing blood sugar by few points.
My FBS used to fluctuate in the range of 110-115 mg/dL 4 months before, bitter gourd has certainly helped me reducing the FBS, nowadays, I see my FBS in the range of 90-100 mg/dL.
Prolonged use of Bitter Gourd juice in the morning combined LCHF shows fantastic results!
Thanks for your input! That’s three endorsement for bitter gourd in the last week.