Aims/hypothesis: Most studies of diet in glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes have focused on intakes of fat, carbohydrate, fibre, fruits and vegetables. Instead, we aimed to compare diets that were available during human evolution with more recently introduced ones.
Methods: Twenty-nine patients with ischaemic heart disease plus either glucose intolerance or type 2 diabetes were randomised to receive (1) a Palaeolithic ('Old Stone Age') diet (n = 14), based on lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs and nuts; or (2) a Consensus (Mediterranean-like) diet (n = 15), based on whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, fish, oils and margarines. Primary outcome variables were changes in weight, waist circumference and plasma glucose AUC (AUC Glucose(0-120)) and plasma insulin AUC (AUC Insulin(0-120)) in OGTTs.
Results: Over 12 weeks, there was a 26% decrease of AUC Glucose(0-120) (p = 0.0001) in the Palaeolithic group and a 7% decrease (p = 0.08) in the Consensus group. The larger (p = 0.001) improvement in the Palaeolithic group was independent (p = 0.0008) of change in waist circumference (-5.6 cm in the Palaeolithic group, -2.9 cm in the Consensus group; p = 0.03). In the study population as a whole, there was no relationship between change in AUC Glucose(0-120) and changes in weight (r = -0.06, p = 0.9) or waist circumference (r = 0.01, p = 1.0). There was a tendency for a larger decrease of AUC Insulin(0-120) in the Palaeolithic group, but because of the strong association between change in AUC Insulin(0-120) and change in waist circumference (r = 0.64, p = 0.0003), this did not remain after multivariate analysis.
Conclusions/interpretation: A Palaeolithic diet may improve glucose tolerance independently of decreased waist circumference.