News Flash! Caveman Diet Good…Your Diet Bad

Swedish scientists have just published a research paper that indicates that eating a diet rich in lean meat, vegetables, berries and nuts is effective in lowering YOUR chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Keeping in mind that it was only a three week study, and additional long term research will be required, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that the volunteers reduced body-fat, lowered their blood pressure and slashed levels of a blood-thickening agent (plasminogen activator inhibitor-1) known to cause deadly clots.

The results, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, support earlier scientific and real world findings that praise the health benefits of the Paleolithic/Caveman Diet.

The theory behind this way of eating is that prior to the advent of agriculture (10,000 years ago) our ancestors lived only on foods that could be speared or picked from trees and plants.

Some scientists argue the human genome has been unable to keep pace with our advances in agriculture and food preparation. The theory is that the modern human body is not genetically programmed to thrive on our modern diet. Our technology may be modern, but our bodies haven’t fully caught up and chronic ailments like obesity and type 2 diabetes are the result.

To that end, following the Paleolithic/Caveman Diet means no cereals, bread, milk, butter, cheese or sugar but plenty of lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts.

To test its effect, the Swedish researchers recruited 20 healthy volunteers and put them on caveman rations for three weeks.

Each patient was assessed for weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol at the beginning of the experiment.

They were then given a list of stone-age foods they could eat, including fresh or frozen fruit, berries or vegetables, lean meat, unsalted fish, canned tomatoes, lemon or lime juice, spices and coffee or tea without milk or sugar.

Banned foods included beans, salt, peanuts, dairy products, pasta or rice, sausages, alcohol, sugar and fruit juice.

However, they were also allowed up to two potatoes a day and a weekly treat of dried fruit, cured meats and a portion of fatty meat.

After three weeks, the volunteers were tested again.

Among the 14 who successfully completed the diet, the average weight loss was around five pounds. BMI dropped by 0.8. Systolic blood pressure fell by an average of three mmHg. And the levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 dropped by 72 per cent. Other favorable effects were the increase in antioxidants and a healthier potassium-sodium balance. One potential negative was the reduction of calcium. This effect should be addressed in further studies.

Official Scientific Conclusion:

This short-term intervention showed some favourable effects by the diet, but further studies, including control group, are needed. blah,blah,blah

My Conclusion:

Fruit, vegetables, lean meat – GOOD. Typical North American diet – BAD.
If you are interested in changing your diet, I have a pretty easy how-to post here.


  • I agree.

    It is the weakness inherent in most studies: They are investigating a specific hypothesis. In this case a particular diet.

    They don’t/can’t look at other lifestyle influences like exercise, relationships, emotional health, etc…

    They have to assume that those things will stay the same, so if there is a change at the end of the study, it had to be due to their experiment.

    Science is neat & tidy

    Real life is not

    Thanks for the comment

  • The lean meat part makes loads of sense. Early man didn’t have cows that stood in the same spot all day as easy targets for hunting.

  • Hi, 2 comments. First, there are different time frames for modern foods. High fructose corn syrup has only been widely used for 20-30 years. Refined grains have been widespread for maybe 100 years. But agriculture as a whole goes back 5000 years! That is many, many generations for people to adapt to whole grains and dairy. Given that these foods were not completely unhealthy when they were introduced, otherwise people wouldn’t have eaten them, that is time for a great deal of genetic adaptation through changes in gene frequencies in the gene pool. So avoiding changes made in the past 20 or 100 years should be judged differently than changes made thousands of years ago.

    Second, in this study these “healthy volunteers” lost an average of 5 pounds in three weeks. That is not necessarily a good thing! Did they need to lose weight? Maybe this is not a very sustaining diet.

  • Hi Hal,

    You make two excellent points.

    I would first like to clarify that I am NOT advocating a Paleolithic type of diet above all others, but I do think it is far superior to the typical North American diet of sugar and fat.

    One big criticism of the Paleo crowd is their belief in nuts and seed while they refuse to eat grains. The truth is, like grains, most seed and nuts need to be processed due to the presence of phytic acid in their raw state.

    Phytic acid is naturally occurring substance which exists in the hulls of nuts and seeds and in the bran of whole grains. Ruminants (animals who chew their cud) have a special enzyme called phytase to process phytic acid, but humans do not produce this enzyme. As a result, human consumption of phytic acid dramatically decreases the bioavailability of phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, and iron, leading many to call phytic acid an “anti-nutrient”.

    So why are seeds and nuts okay while grains aren’t.

    As well, you are correct when you compare whole grains to how grains are eaten today. Cooked brown rice or wheat berries are a much better choice than Minute Rice and Wonder Bread.

    The reason we domesticated grains, seeds and nuts is partially due to the agricultural conditions that existed 10,000 – 12,000 years ago as a result of the receding ice age.

    The main benefit of agriculture is the fact that for most of our history (Homo Sapiens has existed for 250,00 years – 10,000 years of agriculture represents only the last 4% of our existence) we were constantly faced with the possibility of starvation.

    Grains are a fantastic food source for a people used to going hungry. They are calorie dense and they store extremely well. The same holds true for potatoes, nuts,and seeds.

    In today’s society, humans do not expend nearly as much energy as our forebears. For that reason, we don’t need as many calories as our great-great-great……grandparents did.

    Due to the domestication of grains and modern processing methods, we have cheaper and easier access to calories than ever before.

    And as our processing methods became more sophisticated as a calorie delivery vehicle, we have become fatter and fatter.

    For this reason, I am willing to assume that the volunteers in this study were typical Homo Sapiens and as such, could stand to lose 5 lbs.

    For the record, with the abundant availability of food in 1st world nations, there is no problem getting an adequate amount of calories from fruit , vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats.

    As long as that is the case, I see no reason to eat grains except for convenience.

    In addition to the carbohydrate macronutrient, fruits and veg provide a vastly higher quantity of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. than grains.

    To that end, as long as we don’t start turning all of our grains into ethanol, food will still be affordable enough for us to eat for health and performance instead of eating for survival like our ice-age ancestors.

    Thanks for the comment. You made me put on my thinking cap.

  • Healthhabit Readers,

    So, this summer I have decided to get back into shape after slowly getting to 218 lbs. I read a book that mentioned the Paleo Diet and my brother and I decided to try it out.

    I have been on the diet now for 10 weeks and have lost 35 lbs. I have been working out loyally as well, which I give credit to as well.

    It should be noted that the first two weeks are pretty tough (lifestyle changes/feeling weak). I think that after having done it, I would recommend easing your way into it to prevent this. However, since the first two weeks I have felt great and have seen incredible results. I am a huge advocate and it makes complete sense to me. Try it out!

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