Background/objectives: The contemporary American diet figures centrally in the pathogenesis of numerous chronic diseases--'diseases of civilization'--such as obesity and diabetes. We investigated in type 2 diabetes whether a diet similar to that consumed by our pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer ancestors ('Paleolithic' type diet) confers health benefits.
Subjects/methods: We performed an outpatient, metabolically controlled diet study in type 2 diabetes patients. We compared the findings in 14 participants consuming a Paleo diet comprising lean meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and excluding added salt, and non-Paleolithic-type foods comprising cereal grains, dairy or legumes, with 10 participants on a diet based on recommendations by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) containing moderate salt intake, low-fat dairy, whole grains and legumes. There were three ramp-up diets for 7 days, then 14 days of the test diet. Outcomes included the following: mean arterial blood pressure; 24-h urine electrolytes; hemoglobin A1c and fructosamine levels; insulin resistance by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp and lipid levels.
Results: Both groups had improvements in metabolic measures, but the Paleo diet group had greater benefits on glucose control and lipid profiles. Also, on the Paleo diet, the most insulin-resistant subjects had a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity (r = 0.40, P = 0.02), but no such effect was seen in the most insulin-resistant subjects on the ADA diet (r = 0.39, P = 0.3).
Conclusions: Even short-term consumption of a Paleolithic-type diet improved glucose control and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes compared with a conventional diet containing moderate salt intake, low-fat dairy, whole grains and legumes.