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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 05, 2008

Primal Lifestyle Good for Your Heart?

By Worker Bee
14 Comments

HeartFollowing a primal eating plan rich in meat, vegetables, berries and nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a small study published this month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

For the study, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden recruited 14 healthy volunteers to ditch their normal diet in favor of a Paleolithic diet. As such, volunteers were restricted from consuming cereals, bread, sugar, milk, butter and cheese.

Over the course of the three week study, the volunteers lost an average of 2.3 kg (roughly 5.5 lbs), reduced their waist circumference (a key indicator of abdominal adiposity as well as potential cardiovascular risk according to this Journal of the American Medical Association study) by 0.5 cm and reduced their body mass index (which, admittedly, is not an accurate indicator of health) by 0.8. In addition, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 3 mmHg and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (high circulating levels of which may be associated with increased heart disease risk) were reduced by 72%.

Commenting on the findings, the study’s lead author noted that “a short intervention with a Paleolithic diet had some favorable effects on cardiovascular health.” Of course, we say, “imagine what positive effects a lifetime can have!”

However, his analysis did reveal what they categorized as a potential “drawback” to the diet.

Specifically, he called attention to the reduction in calcium intake experienced across the study period. He cited the lack of dairy as a primary reason for this. Our take at MDA is that the original recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium may have been based on a diet comprised of significant amounts of grains, which, according to previous research, may bind calcium and prevent its uptake, thus exaggerating our actual calcium needs. Furthermore, simply increasing the frequency of weight-bearing exercises or reducing the stress in our lives (which promotes production of cortisol, a known calcium blocker) may help maintain bone health and thus somewhat reduce our reliance on calcium. Alternatively, these perceived inadequacies in calcium intake could be ameliorated by increasing the intake of dark leafy green vegetables, adding a little cheese to the diet (one of the Primal sensible vices), or supplementing the diet with either a calcium or vitamin D – which improves calcium absorption – supplement. Or maybe just some regular sunlight.

Groundbreaking study? Probably not, given the size and the fact that even the study’s lead author concluded that more research was needed into the benefits of the diet. We agree! Let’s see that research!

GrinnellGirl Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Speaking of a Primal eating strategy

Dear Mark: Nuts

Conditioning Research: Paleolithic Study

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14 Comments on "Primal Lifestyle Good for Your Heart?"

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Mel
Mel
8 years 3 months ago

What would be great is if they did a comparitive sturdy to see what effects living according to the “food pyramid” does for cardiovascular health/weight/BMI index. I have a good guess, it wouldn’t be pretty.

Kim
Kim
8 years 3 months ago
The folks in this particular study were all ready healthy and they achieved reduced waist circumference .5 cm in three weeks. That is pretty impressive. I am a little concerned however with the calcium deficiency, however the article did explain how to eliminate this issue. I know that blood pressure is a key issue with seniors, like myself, I would be curious to know if it would be wise for someone who is in relatively good shape but also enjoys grains, cereals and such, along with meat and potatoes to just jump into a paleolithic diet? Or should someone who… Read more »
Dr. J
Dr. J
8 years 3 months ago

Funny, you didn’t say this. “imagine what positive effects a lifetime can have!” about the Ornish diet and it’s positive effects on reversing cardiovascular disease.

Nancy
Nancy
8 years 3 months ago

Food for thought on the whole calcium/milk mantra

http://www.notmilk.com/calbones.html

Plenty of other, better places to get your calcium (and magnesium) from!

David
David
8 years 3 months ago
Paleo diet sounds great, but I think the people in ancient times or even in the last millennium have pretty good health condition so I don’t get that whole carb is very bad thing. I saw a post about the zone diet here, but I can’t find it. Would be that bad if I eat paleo friendly foods, but in zone portions(40-30-30)? I have started paleo diet since last week, but I am too low in energy. My diet is high in fat (about 160 gramm), high in protein (about 100-120 gramm) and moderate in carbs (150 gramm). I’m about… Read more »
Sue
Sue
8 years 3 months ago

David, You can’t have high fat and high carb together as that will just lead to weight gain. Its one or the other. You should have high fat, moderate protein and low carbs about 50g. Also, low in energy is normal you have to give your body a chance to switch over from a carb burner to a fat burner and your energy should then pick up.

I think the health condition of people is pretty bad actually.

Al
Al
8 years 3 months ago
Mark, I am probably 90% primal now!, Just can’t substitute milk, cottage cheese and yogurt with anything because of the convenience of them. Milk goes into my coffee and also is a substrate of my protein blend which also contains berries and some flax seed oil. Yogurt and cottage cheese are my favorite snacks (I get normal not low fat options), and often serve them with berries or some other fruits. Should I try to replace these with some other sources of protein ? I ain’t no casual eater of them, as I go through one container of yogurt every… Read more »
Sara
Sara
8 years 3 months ago

I have the same question—do I have to ditch the consumption of whole milk plain yogurt? At least in the weight loss phase? I love it with blueberries and walnuts for breakfast! But I might be able to give it up if I can have it again eventually.

Rita
Rita
8 years 3 months ago

Another way to solve the calcium problem is with meat stock simmered for a long time with a large proportion of bones. Asian cultures who don’t do dairy probably get most of their calcium from homemade beef/pork stock and also small fish or shellfish eaten with bones/exoskeleton.

David
David
8 years 3 months ago
Sue: I think my overall calorie intake isn’t too much. I exercise a lot and I am a hardgainer. I’ve never been fatty (yet:). It’s hard for me to eat so little amount of carbs. For example a banana and an apple is about 50 gramm of carbs. I don’t think it’s healthy to stress about eating. Usually I eat vegetables to cover my carb needs but I love fruits too, I don’t want to give it up. I meant, the health of the old times’ people were pretty good. I think the main problem of nowadays is the processed… Read more »
Dave C. - DaveGetsFit
8 years 3 months ago

I think 50g of carb is restrictive unless it’s being done specifically to help with weight loss. When Mark posted his intake ahwile back, I think he was up in the 120g a day range.

Tom Orlando
Tom Orlando
8 years 3 months ago
Mark and others: I see your latest on what Grok ate. My comment comes from my life experience. I am not vegan, but I avoid most meat. You make it sound like meat is generally okay/good, and I claim it is not okay/not very good. I ate meat for years until about age 55. I was diagnosed with a cancerous colon polyp after having as many as 7 polyps removed in annual checkups in previous years. At about the time of my surgery (1992), I coincidentally married a vegetarian lady and stopped eating meat of any kind. After the surgery… Read more »
Tom Orlando
Tom Orlando
8 years 3 months ago
Mark and others: I see your latest on what Grok ate. My comment comes from my life experience. I am not vegan, but I avoid most meat. You make it sound like meat is generally okay/good, and I claim it is not okay/not very good. I ate meat for years until about age 55. I was diagnosed with a cancerous colon polyp after having as many as 7 polyps removed in annual checkups in previous years. At about the time of my surgery (1992), I coincidentally married a vegetarian lady and stopped eating meat of any kind. After the surgery… Read more »
Daisuke
4 years 3 months ago
you dont!! trust me you may regret it if you eat for two once you have the baby and reialse your a fair bit larger than you used to be. some people blow up some people dont. if you overeat your taking that risk. eat healthily, a wide variety of foods and when your hungry. indulge every now and again so you feel normal!! heres some info you may find helpful:During pregnancy, your basal metabolic rate (BMR, or the number of calories you use each day) will increase, and you’ll need more calories to support the extra work needed for… Read more »
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