A recent article appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition that gives an updated estimate of what diet (i.e. Paleolithic) our ancestors may have eaten during the time from their first appearance in Africa some 200,000 years ago until they started leaving Africa 100,000 years later (1). This is important because this type of diet until 10,000 years ago (with the advent of agriculture) was the nutritional foundation through which our genes evolved. Since our diet and gene expression are intimately tied together (2), understanding the dietary forces that molded how our genes respond to diet is important. This is particularly true since nutritional science has many conflicting interactions that make the study of a single nutrient often result in conflicting data. One such example is the study of insulin responses induced by the diet without studying the impact of fatty acid composition on insulin secretion and vice versa. This is why the study of Paleolithic nutrition provides a template to ask questions to optimize our current diet. In fact, I actually I stated this on page 99 of my first book, “The Zone” (3).
So what are the newest updates on the composition of the Paleolithic diet of our African ancestors? It appears the protein content was between 25 and 29 percent, the carbohydrates were about 40 percent and the total fat was about 30-36 percent. If that sounds familiar to the 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate, and 30 percent fat ratio in the anti inflammatory diet, it should. Essentially the newest estimate of the Paleolithic diet of our human ancestors in Africa is the anti inflammatory diet.
Equally important, it was estimated that the intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) was about 6 grams per day. This is similar to my recommendations in “The OmegaRx Zone,” published in 2002 (4). The dietary ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to EPA was also estimated in this article and was found to be about 2. Since the dietary intake of these fatty acids would be reflected in the blood, then we can assume the AA/EPA ratio in Paleolithic man was about 2. This AA/EPA ratio is again strikingly similar to the recommendations in my various books about what the best AA/EPA ratio should be for optimal control of the cellular inflammation, which leads to the acceleration of chronic disease (4-6).
When you follow the Paleolithic diet (a.k.a. the anti inflammatory diet), you find almost instantaneous changes in hormonal responses (7, 8) and improved glycemic control (8,9) before there is any weight loss. And if you continue to follow it, you not only lose weight, but also burn fat faster (11-14).
Was I just taking lucky guesses on my recommendations for the anti-inflammatory diet over the past 15 years? I would like to think they were not lucky guesses, but based on insight coming from my background in drug delivery technology that strives for a therapeutic zone for optimal results. The lucky part was having the perseverance to stay true to those insights. On the other hand, it is always nice to get validation even 15 years after the fact.
- Kuipers RS, Luxwolda MF, Dijck-Brouwer DJA, Eaton SB, Crawford, MA, Cordain L, and Muskiet FAJ. “Estimate macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African paleolithic diet.” British J Nutr 104: 1666-1687 (2010).
- Sears B and Ricordi C. “Anti-Inflammatory nutrition as a pharmacological approach to treat obesity.” J Obesity published online September 30, 2010. doi: 10.1155/2011/431985. (2010).
- Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995).
- Sears B. “The OmegaRx Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2002).
- Sears B. “The Anti-Inflammation Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2005).
- Sears B. “Toxic Fat.” Nelson Publishing. Nashville, TN (2008).
- Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, and Roberts SB. “High-glycemic-index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103: E26 (1999).
- Markovic TP, Jenkins AB, Campbell LV, Furler SM, Kragen EW, and Chisholm DJ. "The determinants of glycemic responses to diet restriction and weight loss in obesity and NIDDM." Diabetes Care 21: 687-694 (1998).
- Lindberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjorstrom K, and Ahren B. “A Paleolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.” Diabetologia 50: 1795-1807 (2007).
- Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, and Sebastian A. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.” Eur J Clin Nutr 63: 947-955 (2009).
- Osterdahl M. Kocturk T. Koochek A, and Wandell PE. “Effects of a short-term intervention with a Paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers.” Eur J Clin Nutr 62: 682-685 (2008).
- Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, and Christou DD. “A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women.” J Nutr 133: 411-417 (2003).
- Lasker DA, Evans EM, and Layman DK, “Moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein weight loss diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk compared to high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet in obese adults. A randomized clinical trial.” Nutrition and Metabolism 5: 30 (2008).
- Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM and Berra B. “Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Eur J Clin Invest 35: 499-507 (2005).