October 9, 2009

Study Shows Paleo Diet Improves Health Quickly (The Paleo Diet Update v5, #41)

Filed under: Uncategorized — SL @ 9:24 pm


  • The Paleo Diet Update
    Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
    Issue: # 2009 – 41 / October 9, 2009


    Hello! Welcome to The Paleo Diet Update. We focus on new scientific findings that you can use to reduce your risk of disease, increase your daily energy, improve your athletic performance, and maintain your mental and physical vigor in later years.

    Research is verifying that returning to the nutrition our Paleolithic ancestors ate for millions of years provides dramatic improvements in health. Even healthy people have been able to significantly reduce their risk of disease in just a couple of weeks simply by changing their diet.

    In this issue, we take a look at the metabolic and physiologic improvements that resulted (and the benefits you can expect) when participants in a nutrition study switched to a Paleolithic diet. We'll also share ideas on how to include more vegetables in a delicious salad.

    Thanks to Maelán Fontes and Pablo Martinez Ramirez, this update is also available in Spanish.


    Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

    In This Issue

    Salads Are Great for
    Increasing Veggies in a Meal
        New Study Shows Paleo Diet Improves Health Quickly             Wiley Long

    A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition acknowledged that the contemporary American diet fuels numerous chronic diseases. The study then compared the results of participants eating their usual diet with the effects of changing to a paleolithic diet. The paleolithic diet provided metabolic and physiologic improvements in a matter of days.

    How participants changed their diet

    Nine sedentary, but not obese, healthy volunteers joined a metabolically-controlled study as outpatients. Their weight was checked daily to ensure there was no weight loss.

    The participants first ate as usual for 3 days. Then, for 7 days, they consumed three ramp-up diets that increased potassium and fiber. They finished the study by eating a paleolithic diet of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts for 10 days.

    What the study measured

    In all of the following measured variables, either eight or all nine participants had identical directional responses when eating a paleolithic diet. The study looked at:

    • Arterial blood pressure (BP)

    • 24-hour urine sodium and potassium excretion

    • Plasma glucose and insulin areas under the curve (AUC) during a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The glycemic index of a food is defined as the area under the two-hour blood glucose response curve (AUC) following the ingestion of a fixed portion of carbohydrate (usually 50 g).

    • Insulin sensitivity, which generally shows the risk for heart problems

    • Plasma lipid concentrations, which are also used to determine the risk of coronary heart disease, and

    • Brachial artery (the major blood vessel of the upper arm) reactivity in response to ischemia (a restriction in blood supply)

    The improvements in health

    Compared with the participants’ usual diet, even short-term consumption of a paleolithic diet provided:

    • Significant reductions in BP associated with improved arterial distensibility

    • Significant reductions in plasma insulin versus time AUC during the OGTT, and

    • Large significant reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides

    Help yourself

    Improve blood pressure

    High blood pressure can remain undetected for years, but it can damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. This study showed that consuming the Paleo Diet can improve blood pressure in less than two weeks. Furthermore, studies of hunter-gatherer cultures have shown no age-related rise in blood pressure, a process that is normally considered to be a universal aspect of aging.2

    Fight diabetes and cardiovascular disease

    You can also use this diet to improve glucose tolerance, decrease insulin secretion, and increase insulin sensitivity, as this study found. Impaired glucose tolerance is seen as a pre-diabetic state that is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular pathology. Insulin sensitivity is also used to measure the risk for heart disease. Generally, greater insulin sensitivity indicates reduced risk of heart problems.

    Reduce risk of atherosclerois

    The Paleo Diet also improved lipid profiles very quickly for healthy, sedentary people. Lipid profiles show total cholesterol, LDL-C that is referred to as “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides, and “good” cholesterol or HDL-C.

    Improving your lipid profiles can reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke caused by blood vessel blockage or hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerois.

    Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Paleo Diet fights inflammation, which is involved in almost every disease process. We'll also share tips on how to help you transform recipes to be Paleo.

              Salads Are Great for Increasing Veggies in a Meal             by Nell Stephenson
    Salads are a great way to get all your veggies in a single meal. You can also include some good fats if you add avocado, flax seed oil, and raw walnuts.

    Raw broccoli adds crunch and powerful phytochemicals to a salad. Besides being colorful, radishes contain vitamin C, sodium and calcium. Shredded cabbage is rich in vitamin A, B, C and E, as well as high iron and sulphur. Onions have antibacterial properties, and are gentle blood thinners. Colorful carrots add crunch like broccoli, and they are rich in beta-carotene.

    The sweetness of fruit can also balance nicely with the savory taste of whatever protein and veggies you may be serving. I like to stick with what is local and in season as much as possible.

    In the summer, I love to add organic strawberries, raw cashews, avocado, red onion, heirloom tomato and basil.

    As the fall rolls around, I may add some raw or roasted pears with pecan and a sprinkle of currants. Apples tossed with lemon and then cinnamon also are a nice twist on an old standard.

    In the winter, citrus fruits or grapes with slivered almonds, poppy seeds and flax meal are tasty.

    In the spring, I love to include edible flowers for color, along with foods giving a hint of the bounty of summer to come! Early season berries are great this time of year along with baby veggies, like broccolini, bok choy, and asparagus. I steam these, and then put them in cold water for a nice spring dish.

    I generally stick with the same choices for dressing – olive oil and freshly squeezed lime juice – but you can vary that as well. Blend your choice of fresh herbs with different types of oils for a different taste. Try walnut oil with tarragon or flax oil infused with rosemary, and get ready for an explosion of sweet and savory all from a single salad!

              News and Upcoming Events

    • Follow Nell Stephenson at the Ironman World Championships! Our resident Paleo expert on using the Paleo Diet in Ironman competitions will be competing Saturday, Oct 10, at 7 AM Hawaii time! Both Nell and her husband Chris will be competing. You can follow them at by going to the “Athlete Tracker” function and following Stephenson.

    • Changes are coming! It is our goal to continue to put out the very best, most scientifically valid, cutting edge publication dedicated toward exploring the connection between diet and health (and disease). We have content improvements planned, and some exciting topics coming. In the mean time, please send me any suggestions you have for what you would like to see – I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

    • Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide antioxidants: The Journal of Nutrition published a cross-sectional analysis of African American men and women participating in a study of diet and physical activity. The researchers recommended increasing consumption of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to increase total antioxidant capacity. The Paleo Diet is very high in these foods, and thus very nutritionally dense.

    • High-protein diets have been shown to increase energy expenditure: A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet. Researchers concluded that 42 percent of the increase in energy expenditure after the high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet was explained by an increase in gluconeogenesis (one of two main mechanisms the body uses to keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low).

    • Dr. Loren Cordain will speak in Berlin, Germany: On October 13th and14th, Dr. Cordain will present “Human Nutritional Evolution” at the Workshop on Evolution and Diseases of Civilization. This will be held at Humboldt Graduate School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University, Luisenstrasse 56, Berlin, Germany.

              Our Recommendations

    • Wondering where to start to improve your health? In our Paleo Diet Implementation Program, you’ll get a step-by-step guide on what to eat. This will help you overcome the challenge of what to eat for breakfast, how to grocery shop, and how to prep meals easily and quickly. With easy-to-follow recipes, dining out suggestions, and tips for healthy eating while traveling, you’ll get six consecutive weeks of live teleconference coaching and Q&A support to help you put your new eating habits into practice.

      With readily available modern foods, the Paleo Diet Implementation Program mimics the types of foods every single person on the planet ate prior to the Agricultural Revolution (that’s 99.9% of our genetic history). When people eat the diet we evolved to need, intractable health problems often disappear, excess body fat melts away, the complexion clears, digestion improves, we have more energy, and aches and pains often subside with the body’s natural response to a diet that optimizes functioning and metabolism.

      Here’s one of the reports we’ve received from those who have implemented the program:

      “I had my 70th birthday last April, which brought me to think about my general condition. Although I was eating the same diet as my husband, while he was skinny, I was overweight, suffering from asthma, high blood pressure, a hiatus hernia and high cholesterol. Whatever I did, I could not get rid of the large tummy, and I seemed destined to take steroids and statins for the rest of my life.

      I started the diet. By the end of August, my exercise asthma (which I have had all my life) had gone.

      By October, my blood pressure was coming down and now, one year later, I take no medication for it and have a constant blood pressure that is low to normal. My cholesterol is excellent with very low ‘bad’ cholesterol, so I have given up statins, although my bemused doctor had told me I would have to be on them for life! In fact, from having taken a multitude of pills and potions everyday, I now take none and feel fantastic!

      I have, of course, lost the excess weight and am now stabilized at exactly the same weight as my husband, 63 kilos.

      My hiatus hernia has not given a murmur, and apart from when I indulge in peppers, I have no signs of even the mildest indigestion. I have bags of energy and my muscle strength has improved enormously, I can open jars I could not manage a year ago, and I find ten mile walks up and down steep hills and gorges, no problem! My energy level is fairly constant and I no longer have ‘troughs and highs’ during a day.

      I have found other side effects to the diet: notably my hair (which was getting thinner and starting to grow gray) is now getting thicker and longer and getting darker again. My fingernails are much stronger and smoother and seem to grow faster. My concentration is much improved and my problem solving ability is excellent. Where before I found myself mentally alert at different times of the day, I now find this is constant. I have the feeling that my memory has improved – I don't find names and words escaping me in conversation.

      People who meet me all comment on how well I look and ask me what I am on! Certainly, I do not feel my age and I am more active and fitter than I was 20 years ago.

      Thank you so much for sharing this diet and lifestyle. It really has transformed my life.”

      Hilary R.

    • What’s in milk that increases your risk of inflammation (an underlying factor in most disease)? Here’s our research into what links milk with a host of diseases from The Paleo Diet Update archive:

      Constantly consuming milk from any of these species (or any dairy product with a concomitantly high lactose and protein content) will cause a chronic state of hyperinsulinemia. This can cause insulin resistance13-15, (the primary metabolic defect underlying the metabolic syndrome1), obesity16-18, polycystic ovary syndrome1, increased inflammation19, and can chronically elevate the IGF-1/IGFBP-3 ratio1, which is implicated in various epithelial cell cancers, acne, juvenile myopia, and other diseases.1

      This research (available in Vol. 4 Issue 20 “Milk and Hyperinsulinemia”), and the entire Paleo Diet Update archive are available online at

              Follow Up and Feedback

    In this section, we’ll share readers’ concerns and questions about nutrition and the Paleo Diet to help you better understand how to use the diet to optimize your health and fitness.

    We recently received this request:

    “My family and I have been following the Paleo lifestyle for about two months now. I am 38, my wife is 40, our daughter is 9, and our son who falls under the autism blanket of disorders is 11, soon to be 12.

    The lifestyle change has been positive for us all. Our son in particular has responded well, and his allergies have completely disappeared. We suspected a gluten and/or casein intolerance that was reinforced by the improvements in his behavior and his allergies with Paleo. My wife and I have weight to lose, and it is coming off fast. Our daughter is not overweight, but carries a little body fat so her small amount of weight loss is okay as long as she doesn't lose too much. I expect she will level out soon. Our son however is very lean at 82 lbs. This is a direct result of the medications he is on – Concerta and Stratera.

    We have always struggled to keep his weight up and the new Paleo lifestyle hasn't changed this unfortunately. We were successful in packing on two pounds one week, however this was short lived and he continues to drop 1-1.5 lbs per week. We have increased his food intake where possible, but because his appetite is suppressed from the medications, it is difficult to get him to eat. Any suggestions as to how we should best approach putting the right kind of weight on him would be helpful and appreciated for two very concerned parents.”

    We would recommend to increase the caloric intake with good fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts. Also, emphasize high-glycemic fruits (such as bananas and grapes), and dried fruit (such as dates, raisins, and dried figs) especially during 30 minutes after exercise. You don't want to produce hyperinsulinemia because it may be related to autism, so do this especially after exercise. Then, the rest of the day eat fresh fruits. We also recommend that you use a supplement of branched-chain amino acids and take 2-3 grams a day. If getting enough calories continues to be a problem, you may also consider fattier cuts of meat.

    Although we can't answer every question personally due to the number of letters received, we are very interested in hearing your thoughts, learning about your experiences, and understanding your questions. Many of the questions that we receive will be answered in future newsletters.

    Talk to you next week!

    To your optimum health,

    Wiley Long, M.S., Nutrition and Exercise Science



    1. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009. Website:

    2. Oliver WJ, Cohen EL, Neel JV. Blood pressure, sodium intake, and sodium related hormones in the Yanomamo Indians, a “no-salt” culture. Circulation. 1975 Jul;52(1):146-51.



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      Fort Collins, CO 80525

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