In a clinical study in Sweden, the research group has now compared 14 patients who were advised to consume an ‘ancient’ (Paleolithic, ‘Old stone Age’) diet for three months with 15 patients who were recommended to follow a Mediterranean-like prudent diet with whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy products, fruit, vegetables and refined fats generally considered healthy.
All patients had increased blood sugar after carbohydrate intake (glucose intolerance), and most of them had overt diabetes type 2. In addition, all had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Patients in the Paleolithic group were recommended to eat lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, root vegetables and nuts, and to avoid grains, dairy foods and salt.
The main result was that the blood sugar rise in response to carbohydrate intake was markedly lower after 12 weeks in the Paleolithic group (-26%), while it barely changed in the Mediterranean group (-7%). At the end of the study, all patients in the Paleolithic group had normal blood glucose.
Here’s a problem I see: it is a clinical study in Sweden. It stands to reason that Swedes would not be the best test case for a Mediterranean diet. Consider that agriculture became normative in Sweden about 5,000 years ago, 5,000 years after it was the dominant mode of production in the eastern Mediterranean. Note that Sweden is also the epicenter lactose tolerance (thought that seems to have become the norm after agriculture arrived on the scene), suggesting a priori expectation of localized adaptations. In any case, I think one should be cautious about broad generalizations about diet across cultures. Not only jas there been a lot of evolution in regards to the human metabolization of nutritional intakes, we shouldn’t be surprised if many of these propensities are local. Selection thinks globally, but acts locally.
Related: All diabetes, all the time.