Cavemen’s diet may solve obesity today

Mhlabunzima Memela

THE Stone Age man may have had the answer to a healthy body shape. Scientists this week released results of a clinical study that suggests meals rich in nutrients and fibre inspired by our Palaeolithic ancestors are better at satisfying the appetite than a regular meal and could also help combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Unilever scientists compared a healthy modern meal comprising of fish, rice, one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables with a Palaeolithic-inspired meal consisting of fish, no rice, a broad variety of different fruit and vegetables, nuts and mushrooms. Both meals contained the same amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates and calories.

“The metabolism of the volunteers was monitored three hours after eating and those who consumed the modified meal felt much fuller.

“Furthermore, results showed they had significantly higher levels of PYY, a hormone that tells the brain we have had enough to eat,” the study revealed.

Senior Unilever scientist Professor Mark Berry said a time machine was not needed to conduct the study as all the ingredients for the Palaeolithic meal were readily available. “Initial findings from our study suggest we might do well to get back to basics and eat a diet for which our bodies have evolved.

“With its mix of lean meat, fresh fish and a broad variety of plant-based foods, our ancient ancestors’ diet was different from what most of us consume today. Furthermore, the human genome has not had time to respond to radical recent changes in our diet and therefore human physiology is at odds with the vast majority of modern diets,” he said.

Imperial College of London Professor Gary Frost said in a statement: “Up to now surgery has often been the only viable solution to tackle chronic obesity but this research has exciting future possibilities of opening up a genuine alternative to gastric surgery.

“The observation that Palaeolithic diet leads to an increase in PYY raises the possibility of designing a diet that would act as a sort of nutritional bypass”.

Over the past five years, the Paleo diet has become popular among Hollywood celebrities, athletes and dieters worldwide, including Jessica Biel, Miley Cyrus, Matthew McConaughey and Megan Fox.

According to Dr Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo Movement, the diet is based “on eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Palaeolithic era, the time period from about 2.6 million years ago to the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 10000 years ago”.

The foods include fresh meats, preferably grass-produced or free-range beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and game, fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils such as olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed.

“Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu,” he said.

North West University Nutrition Professor Salome Kruger said the Stone Age diet contained no processed foods.

“Eating fresh vegetables and fruits instead of drinking fruit juice leads to satiety. Whole fruits contain fibre and it is necessary to chew the fruit before swallowing.

“With chewing, the intake requires a longer time and sends a message of food being eaten and satiation [fullness] to the brain,” she said.

She said a “whole” diet with protein foods, grains, fruit and vegetables was a balanced diet.

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