Paleo diet for diabetic patients

In this post I am going to discuss the paleo diet for diabetic patients compared to the conventional diet recommended by diabetic health authorities around the world.

The paleo diet takes an evolutionary approach, while the conventional diet focuses on the same old jargon on complex carbs, low-cholesterol and all that nonsense. We both know that this type of diet isn’t supported by any scientific or evolutionary logic, and that recommending it for diabetic patients is pretty ridiculous.
A picture of Diet For Diabetic Patients
Diabetes results, among other things, from having an insensitivity to insulin and difficulty controlling blood sugar levels. How in the world can the nutritionist “experts” figure out that a diabetic diet should be high in carbohydrate, the specific macronutrient that raises blood sugar and insulin the most

Paleo Diet for diabetic patients

I found a study that focuses on comparing the paleo diet to the conventional diabetes diet:
Jonsson T, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol 2009, 8:35.

It takes a sample of diabetic patients, and randomizes them to either consume a conventional diabetic diet or a standard paleolithic diet, for three months. After those three months, both groups switch to the opposite diet. The two diets and their effect on cardiovascular risk factors and blood sugar control are then compared.

The patients doing the paleo diet consumed less cereal grains and dairy, in substitution for lean meats, fruit, vegetables and other healthy things. The standard diabetes diet isn’t all bad, but as this study shows it is far from being an optimal diet for these patients.

The results of the study:

The study did compare several factors between the two diets: HbA1c (indicator of blood sugar levels), BMI (indicator of being overweight), waist circumference, diastolic blood pressure (the lower number, as opposed to systolic blood pressure) and HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

The people weren’t instructed on how much to eat, however the paleo dieters automatically ate less than the ones doing the diabetic patients diet.


HbA1c. Those doing the paleo diet experienced a reduction of -0.4 percent (lower is better) compared to the ones doing the conventional diet, probably due to improved insulin sensitivity.

Diastolic Blood Pressure. The paleo diet reduced diastolic blood pressure by 4mmHg compared to the other diet.

Triglycerides. The paleo dieters had less amount of triglycerides in their bloodstream, an important marker for heart disease risk.

Body weight. No surprise here, the paleo dieters lost 3kg more weight (without any intentional restriction in calories).

BMI. This isn’t a big surprise either, the paleo dieters lost 1kg/m2 more off their body mass index after losing those 3kg of weight.

Waist Circumference. Not only did they lose more weight, they also got rid of it in the right places: abdominal fat. This type of fat strongly correlates with heart disease risk among other things.

HDL Cholesterol. The good cholesterol improved more in the paleo diet group. Triglyceride and HDL ratios are a very accurate marker of heart disease, so it is obvious that the conventional diabetics diet is not too great for avoiding heart disease, which often accompanies type II diabetes.

My thoughts on this study

This is one of several studies that really shows the advantage of the paleo diet compared to the dietary program that some nutritionists and health authorities recommend, and this study specifically shows how it is a better diet for diabetic patients who need to avoid heart disease and improve blood sugar control.

The paleolithic diet used in this study did focus on lean meats instead of fatty meat, and it wasn’t very carb restricted since they ate a little under 130g carbs per day. I can imagine that for type II diabetics, increasing the fat even more and lowering the carb amount a little bit would show even greater benefits.

It seems clear, however, that the conventional diet for diabetic patients is really far from being optimal, and recommending it to people suffering from type II diabetes is downright harmful.

7 Comments

  1. Do you know anything about type 1 diabetes? Would people in this group benefit from the paleo diet as well?

  2. Hey Julie.

    It would probably not help to the same extent as with type II diabetes. All the studies I’ve seen dealt with type II.

    That being said, it might still help a lot and it is worth the shot, especially with a low-carb version of the paleo diet. It might reduce the need for insulin and help prevent the complications caused by excessive blood sugar.

    Definitely keep your doctor involved and discuss it with him before making any changes.

    If your doctor is cool with it and you try it out, please let me know how it goes :)

    • Thank you Kris and Dan M for the info on type 1 Diabettes–I do not suffer from it, but my brother does and I am always trying to find out how to help him. Much damage has been done –he is nearly blind now–also has troubles with his feet. However, he walks alot which always makes the doctors happy. His diet is not good-partly because he can’t cook for himself (bachelor) and I think he has thrown out most of the “rules” he is so discouraged. He does like it when I cook for him though, which is only a few times a year because we live so far apart.

      • I’m sorry to hear about your brother, type I diabetes can be an awful disease.

        He’s lucky he has such a good sister though :)

  3. As far as I’ve seen, it would depend on what stage of type I diabetes you were at as well. If it’s just appearing, some sufferers have some residual insulin-producing capacity. If the reduced inflammation from the paleo diet can save any remaining beta cells, then it could be possible to be completely injection-independent with a low-carb diet. If at a later stage, it’s unlikely any beta cells remain, so as above, you’ll stay insulin injection-dependent, but may have to use less due to the lower carb diet.
    The difference with type II diabetes is that it’s almost always reversible (which has been known for over a century!), whereas type I is not.

  4. keep up the fine work.
    Dr RK Bernstein’s diabetes diet easily fits into Paleo or Primal, but not all Paleo or Primal fit into Dr. B’s dietetic diet. The issue is the amount of carbs, protein, fats as well as the sources.

  5. I found a story about a young child with type I diabetes, getting awesome results with a low-carb high-fat diet:

    http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2011/06/27/super-sticky-cholesterol-and-diabetics/

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