The standard American diet that our medical establishment so dearly loves is dying a slow, painful death. And it’s coming not a moment too soon. The diet’s death is arriving after it killed so many of us and crippled millions more with diabetes or obesity.
The Mediterranean diet is that standard American diet. Based on whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruit, fish, and oils and margarines, this diet fad owes everything to a gentleman named Ancel Keys. His masterpiece was the Seven Countries Study, which he launched in 1956 and published its results beginning in 1970.
The Seven Countries Study was, however, fatally flawed. Keys cherry picked data that fitted his preconceptions, ignoring data from more than a dozen other countries that wouldn’t support what he tried to prove. Our medical establishment believes to this day that he did prove the negative effects of fat on heart health. And thus the Seven Countries Study was the genesis of the Mediterranean diet that so many of us believe in to our detriment.
Fortunately for all of us, Gary Taubes has demolished this myth. His masterpiece is Good Calories, Bad Calories. I think everyone who can read English needs to master this work, which is far too detailed for me to even attempt to summarize here.
But we can put the Mediterranean diet to the test. In fact, research scientists connected with Sweden’s University of Lund have done just that. A few days ago they published the first randomized, controlled study of the health effects of the Mediterranean diet in comparison with a Paleolithic diet.
This peer-reviewed study appears in the professional journal Nutrition & Metabolism as “A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease.” You can find the full-text of the study free online at http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/pdf/1743-7075-7-85.pdf
What the Swedish scientists call a Paleolithic diet is what we in America often call the Paleo diet. That’s the name of the leading book advocating this diet and explaining why it makes the most sense. Written by Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet is rooted in our genetic heritage and emphasizes lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs, and nuts. Notably absent are grains and dairy products. Paleolithic diets of all varieties are low-carb and low-glycemic.
Please don’t dismiss the new study as irrelevant to people with diabetes based only on the title. That might lead you to conclude that it’s only about people with heart disease. Yes, heart disease is the main complication of people with diabetes. But, no, not all of us who have diabetes have heart disease. Actually, the study’s subjects were heart disease patients with impaired glucose tolerance or type 2 diabetes.
For 12 weeks the scientists studied a small group of people randomized into two groups. Fifteen people followed a Mediterranean-like diet and 14 a Paleolithic diet.
The results seem to have surprised even the scientists studying these groups. They reported that the people in the Mediterranean-like diet group did not significantly improve their glucose tolerance. But they found both a marked improvement in glucose tolerance and “lower dietary energy intake,” in other words fewer calories consumed, among the Paleolithic diet group. Their study concluded that the reason why people in that group ate less was because their food choices were more satiating.
Which are the foods that satisfy us? This has been a big interest of mine for years. In fact, 12 years ago I first wrote about the satiety index in Diabetes Interview magazine, now called Diabetes Health. You can read about what really satisfies at http://www.mendosa.com/satiety.htm
In total contradiction to Keys’s Seven Country Studies on which the arguments for the Mediterranean diet are based, the new study is “further evidence for a specific role of the Paleolithic diet on protection of the heart.” Perhaps of equal importance is the study’s positive implication for weight loss.
The Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet, the study authors concluded. This is vital to any diet intended to facilitate weight loss, which of course facilitates easier control over our diabetes.
Better an unhealthy diet’s death now than ours.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.