New research is showing the profound benefits—for weight, longevity and fighting disease—of eating only during limited hours
Source: The Fasting Cure Is No Fad
There have been about a half dozen studies published on Paleo-type diets, starting around 20 years ago. For example, in what sounds like a reality TV show: ten diabetic Australian Aborigines were dropped off in a remote location to fend for themselves, hunting and gathering foods like figs and crocodiles.
In Modern Meat Not Ahead of the Game, my video on wild game, I showed that kangaroo meat causes a significantly smaller spike of inflammation compared to retail meat like beef. Of course, ideally we’d eat anti-inflammatory foods, but wild game is so low in fat that you can design a game-based diet with under 7 percent of calories from fat. Skinless chicken breast, in comparison, has 14 times more fat than kangaroo meat. So you can eat curried kangaroo with your cantaloupe (as they did in the study) and drop your cholesterol almost as much as eating vegetarian.
So, how did the “contestants” do? Well, nearly anything would have been preferable to the diet they were eating before, which was centered on refined carbs, soda, beer, milk, and cheap fatty meat. They did pretty well, though, showing a significantly better blood sugar response—but it was due to a ton of weight loss because they were starving. Evidently, they couldn’t catch enough kangaroos, so even if they had been running around the desert for seven weeks on 1,200 daily calories of their original junky diet, they may have done just as well. We’ll never know, though, because there was no control group.
Some of the other Paleo studies have the same problem: They’re small and short with no control groups, yet still report favorable results. The findings of one such study are no surprise, given that subjects cut their saturated fat intake in half, presumably because they cut out so much cheese, sausage, or ice cream. In another study, nine people went Paleo for ten days. They halved their saturated fat and salt intake, and, as one might expect, their cholesterol and blood pressure dropped.
The longest Paleo study had been only 3 months in duration, until a 15-month study was conducted—but it was done on pigs. The pigs did better because they gained less weight on the Paleo diet. Why? Because they fed the Paleo group 20 percent fewer calories. The improvement in insulin sensitivity in pigs was not reproduced in a study on people, however. Although, there were some benefits like improved glucose tolerance, thanks to these dietary changes: The Paleo group ate less dairy, cereals, oil, and margarine, and ate more fruits and nuts, with no significant change in meat consumption.
A follow-up study also failed to find improved glucose tolerance in the Paleo group over the control group, but did show other risk factor benefits. And no wonder! Any diet cutting out dairy, doughnuts, oil, sugar, candy, soda, beer, and salt is likely to make people healthier and feel better. In my video Paleo Diet Studies Show Benefits, you can see a day’s worth of food on the Standard American Diet, filled with pizza, soda, burgers, processed foods, and sweets, versus a Paleo diet, which, surprisingly, has lots of foods that actually grew out of the ground.
But the Paleo diet also prohibits beans. Should we really be telling people to stop eating beans? Well, it seems hardly anyone eats them anyway. Only about 1 in 200 middle-aged American women get enough, with more than 96 percent of Americans not even reaching the minimum recommended amount. So telling people to stop isn’t going to change their diet very much. I’m all for condemning the Standard American Diet’s refined carbs, “nonhuman mammalian milk”, and junk foods, but proscribing legumes is a mistake. As I’ve noted before, beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils may be the most important dietary predictor of survival. Beans and whole grains are the dietary cornerstones of the longest living populations on Earth. Plant-based diets in general and legumes in particular are a common thread among longevity blue zones around the world.
The bottom line may be that reaching for a serving of kangaroo may be better than a cheese danish, “but foraging for…[an] apple might prove to be the most therapeutic of all.”
I’ve reported previously on Paleo’s disappointing results in Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise.
The underlying philosophy behind “caveman” diets may be flawed in the first place. See:
- The Problem with the Paleo Diet Argument
- Lead Contamination in Bone Broth
- Low-Carb Diets and Coronary Blood Flow
- Lose Two Pounds in One Sitting: Taking Mioscenic Route
- Paleopoo: What We Can Learn from Fossilized Feces
- Paleolithic Lessons
So, What’s the Natural Human Diet? Watch the video!
The wild game video I mentioned is Modern Meat Not Ahead of the Game. Kangaroo is kind of the Australian version of venison. Note that it also matters how the animals are killed. See Filled Full of Lead and Lead Contamination in Fish and Game.
And, for more on the musical fruit, see:
- Increased Lifespan from Beans
- Slow Your Beating Heart: Beans vs. Exercise
- The Hispanic Paradox: Why Do Latinos Live Longer?
- Gut Dysbiosis Starving Our Microbial Self
- Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air
- Beans, Beans, They’re Good for Your Heart
Michael Greger, M.D.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:
- 2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death
- 2013: More Than an Apple a Day
- 2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food
- 2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet
- 2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers
My relationship with food has never been easy. My first diet was when I was 11 years old. In my teens, my weight in pounds was in the 100s. In my 20s, it was in the 200s. In my 30s, it was in the 300s. And in my 40s, it was in the 400s, which is when I reached my heaviest weight of 436 pounds.
I stand at 5 feet 2 inches, but there was a time when I was wider around than I was tall. I’m 62 inches tall and back then I measured 90 inches around my hips and belly.
As a child, my parents were completely baffled by my weight. Unaware of how to help me, they put me on a strict diet, but all this did was isolate me more. They made a mistake that a lot of parents do: They singled out the child as opposed to committing to a healthier lifestyle together as a family.
When I reached 436 pounds in my 40s, I vowed to lose the weight and, this time, to keep it off. I had lost over 100 pounds three different times and had taken off more than 40 pounds at least 20 times, but whenever a crisis occurred, the stress would drive me back to comfort foods. That’s when I decided to try a whole-food, plant-based diet. And it worked.
I’ve now lost over 240 pounds. Whereas I used to be in constant pain in my back and joints, even while sleeping, I now sleep easily and walk pain-free. My sleep apnea, migraines, and need for medication have disappeared. I attribute my success to focusing on the behavior I need to maintain to achieve my goals rather than the outcomes.
The truth is these are the behaviors I need to do for the rest of my life so this weight stays off. I believe I have a brain that’s especially sensitive to sugars and simple carbohydrates. Now I avoid those things. I eat very simply. I avoid sugar, oil, flour, and salt. I eat a strictly plant-based diet. No meat, dairy, or eggs.
When I see someone struggling with obesity, I have nothing but empathy for them. We judge fat people so much and it’s an anguished life. But I want others to know it’s possible to break out of the vicious cycle.
My Tips & Tricks for Success
• I keep healthy foods in my pantry and close at hand.
• I prepare food ahead of time and often plan my meals.
• I eat simply.
• I don’t eat at restaurants often, which helps keeps me on track and also saves money.
• If I’m feeling vulnerable, I don’t feel the need to attend every social engagement or party.
• If I slip up, I don’t beat myself up. I get back on track.
• The longer I’m on my plant-based path, the more bulletproof I feel. So stick with it!