Primal’ diet outperforms ‘Mediterranean’ eating in study

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My latest book The True You Diet posits that the best diet for us is essentially one based on the foods that we’ve been eating the longest in terms of our evolution ” after all, these are the foods we are going to be best adapted to. A ‘primal’ diet is one that is devoid of grain and dairy products, as well as nutritional newcomers such as refined sugar and refined vegetable oils: what’s left is, basically, fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and nuts.

It is my experience that such a diet tends to work very well for enhancing wellbeing and optimising weight. However, while elements of this diet (e.g. its lower-carbohydrate nature) have been studied, the diet itself has not been subjected to much formal research.

So, I was interested to read this week of a study where the primal diet, also known as the ‘Palaeolithic’ or ‘Old Stone Age’ diet was pitted against a diet which was more ‘Mediterranean’ in nature (this diet included grains, low-fat dairy products and margarine) in a group of individuals suffering from heart disease and either type 2 diabetes or ‘impaired glucose tolerance’ (a precursor of type 2 diabetes). Each diet lasted for 12 weeks.

One of the measurements assessed in this study was blood sugar (glucose) levels. In the group eating the primal diet, glucose levels were found to drop by 26 per cent ” a statistically significant result. In contrast, those eating the Mediterranean-inspired diet did not see any significant drop in blood sugar levels. The group eating the primal diet also saw a shrinking in average weight circumference of 5.6 cm, which was significantly greater than the reduction seen in the other group (average reduction 3.3 cm).

Experience and scientific evidence show that for optimal health and wellbeing, a degree of ‘dietary individualisation’ is important: physiological studies show that we have differing abilities to handle foodstuffs such as fat and carbohydrate that dictate our ‘ideal diet’ (see for more details about this).

What this very recent study very clearly shows is that there can be real health benefits for individuals who adopt a more ‘primal’ way of eating. This study provides some science which supports what I regard as common sense: that the best diet for us is one based on the foods which bee eating the longest and are therefore best adapted to.


Lindeberg S, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. 2007 Jun 22 [Epub ahead of print]

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