Disease Proof

Diabetes: Caveman or Mediterranean?

More lumps for the Mediterranean diet. New research has revealed that the Mediterranean diet doesn’t stack up against something called the “Stone Age” diet. The Diabetes Blog is on it:
Scientists took a small group of fourteen glucose intolerant heart patients and put them on the diet of a lifetime: lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts. This, it is assumed, is the sort of diet consumed by our Stone Age ancestors - hunter gatherers who lived around 70,000 years ago, long before the emergence of agriculture. Meanwhile, another group of patients with similar health issues were put on a supposedly healthy "Mediterranean diet" rich in whole grains, dairy, fruits and veggies, and unsaturated fats. Well, you guessed it. After twelve weeks, the researchers found those on the Stone Age diet had much more stable blood sugar levels and were better able to process carbohydrates without such major blood sugar fluctuations. In fact, all the Stone Age patients had normal blood glucose levels by the end of the study and also dropped a few pounds too. Those on the Mediterranean diet, however, experienced hardly any changes at all.
Now, talk about setting the bar low. Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t speak too highly of the Mediterranean diet. Just consider the people Crete. More from Eat to Live:
In the 1950s people living in the Mediterranean, especially on the island of Crete, were lean and virtually free of heart disease. Yet over 40 percent of their caloric intake come from fat, primarily olive oil. If we look at the diet they consumed back then, we note that Cretans ate mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and some fish. Saturated fat was less than 6 percent of their total fat intake. True, they ate lots of olive oil, but the rest of their diet was exceptionally healthy. They also worked hard in the fields, walking about nine miles a day, often pushing a plow or working other manual farm equipment.


Today the people of Crete are fat, just like us. They're still eating a lot of olive oil, but their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beans is down. Meat, cheese, and fish are their new staples, and their physical activity level has plummeted. Today, heart disease has skyrocketed and more than half the population of both adults and children in Crete is overweight.1
As someone who reads a lot of health blogs, I already see the trouble with this research. Lots of people hear the words “cave man” or “Stone Age” diet and right away they start thinking primitive people and eating lots of meat is the secret to long-term health—a dangerous assumption according to Dr. Fuhrman. He talks about it in Do Primitive Peoples Really Live Longer:
No. For example, Inuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer than the overall Canadian population.2


Similar statistics are available for the high meat-consuming Maasai in Kenya. They eat a diet high in wild hunted meats and have the worst life expectancy in the modern world. Life expectancy is 45 years for women and 42 years for men. African researchers report that, historically, Maasai rarely lived beyond age 60. Adult mortality figures on the Kenyan Maasai show that they have a 50% chance of dying before the age of 59.3

We now know that greatly increasing the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and raw nuts and seeds (and greatly decreasing the consumption of animal products) offers profound increased longevity potential, due in large part to broad symphony of life-extending phytochemical nutrients that a vegetable-based diet contains. By taking advantage of the year-round availability of high-quality plant foods, we have a unique opportunity to live both healthier and longer than ever before in human history.
In regard to diabetes, Dr. Fuhrman will tell you, the best way to prevent and reverse Type-2 diabetes is a nutrient-dense vegetable-based diet. More on that from Understanding the Development of Type 2 Diabetes:
How can diabetics safely lower the high glucose levels that are slowly destroying their bodies? How can they lower their lipids and blood pressure, lose weight, and avoid taking dangerous drugs, such as insulin and sulfonylureas? They need to adopt a diet based on nutritional excellence.


Fortunately, the best diet for good health and longevity is also the best diet for diabetics. It is a diet with a high nutrient per calorie ratio, as carefully described in my book, Eat to Live. When you eat a diet consisting predominantly of nature's perfect foods—green vegetables, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, raw nuts and seeds, and limited amounts of fresh fruit, it becomes relatively easy to eat as much as you want and still lose your excess weight. In my experience, those who follow my nutritional recommendations find that their diabetes disappears astonishingly fast, even before most of their excess weight melts away.
And fat? It’s especially bad for the diabetic. Dr. Fuhrman talks about fat and diabetes in his book Fasting and Eating for Health:
Experiments described in the medical literature have tested the effects of high-fat diets on insulin intolerance. In one study, healthy young medical students were fed a very high fat diet containing egg yolks, heavy cream, and butter, and within two days all of the students had blood sugar levels high enough to be labeled diabetic.4 Complex carbohydrates have been shown to have the opposite effect.5
1. Kafatos, A., A. Diacatou, G. Voukiklaris, et al. 1997. Heart disease risk-factor status and dietary changes in the Cretan population over the past 30 years: the Seven Countries Study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 65 (6):1882-86.

2. Iburg KM, Bronnum-Hansen H, Bjerregaard P. Health expectancy in Greenland. Scand J Public Health 2001;29(1):5-12. Choinere R. Mortality among the Baffin Inuit in the mid-80s. Arctive Med Res 1992;51 (2):87-93.

3. http://www.who.int/countries/ken/en/

4. Seeney J. Dietary factors that influence the dextrose tolerance test: A preliminary study. Archives of Internal Medicine 1927; 40:818.

5. Hollenbeck C, Doner CC, Williams RA, Reaven GM. The effects of variations in percent of naturally occurring complex and simple carbohydrates on plasma glucose and insulin response in individuals with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Diabetes 1985; 34:151.
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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Lew - July 2, 2007 6:49 PM

I don't understand threads like this. Comparing twelve weeks on 2 diets proves nothing. It takes a much longer time frame to make dietary comparisons. To borrow from a Dr Fuhrman comment about another topic, if you fed them cocaine for 12 weeks and their blood sugars stabilized would you be touting that?

Berberine - July 30, 2007 4:06 PM

Twelve weeks.... hmmm.. more or less 3 months.. I think they have a point here. Within that time period it is possible that changes on people eating two different diets can be compared.

Jenjen - August 5, 2007 8:50 AM

I don't think our cavemen ancestors ate beef, chicken, lamb, pork, or other farmed animals. They ate wild animals, like rabbit, deer, wild birds, bugs etc. To compare farmed meat to wild meat is very different. Also, cave people probably ate a lot of vegetable matter, but it wasn't what we eat today, as it's all been bred to be higher in carbohydrates and easier to chew.
Most cave people didn't live past 20 or so, anyway.

dfs - December 24, 2007 9:40 PM

Jenjen."Stonage people" who turned 50 have the same chance to become 85 as any Swedish citizen. Its a myth that they die young.

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