Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle.

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It’s not a new study [1] and many know it well, but it’s such a simple and in many ways beautiful study, so I thought it an appropriate time for a revisit.

Australian researcher Kerin O’Dea proposed that, «…temporarily reversing the urbanization process in diabetic Aborigines should improve all aspects of their carbohydrate and lipid metabolism that are linked to insulin resistance.»

She then asked 10 diabetic Aborigines to live as hunter-gatherers for 7 weeks in their traditional country in north-western Australia. The Aborigines were middle aged overweight when they started. After 7 weeks of traditional lifestyle they were still middle aged, but carried an average of 8 kilos less body weight. Fasting glucose went from diabetic 11,6mM to non-diabetic 6,6mM. Postprandial glucose clearance improved, fasting insulin fell from 23mU/L to 12mU/L and triglycerides went from 4mM to 1,2mM.

An analysis of food intake over 2 of the 7 weeks revealed that 64% of the energy came from animal foods. Energy intake was calculated to be only 1200kcal/day which is not surprising as they obviously obtained a lot of their energy from body fat.

It’s as simple as it gets really.

1. O’Dea K: Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes 1984, 33: 596-603.

3 kommentarer

  1. This has also worked for urbanized New Zealand Maori:
    Mr Warren was approached six months ago by former All Blacks captain Taine Randall to help members of the marae.

    «Taine and his wife, Jo, had been on my programme and they wanted to share what they had learned with others,» Mr Warren said.

    The 27 participants lost an average of 8.7kg, with one losing a staggering 16kg in 10 weeks.

    Mr Warren said together with the considerable weight loss, the most significant results were the lowering of blood sugar levels, with at-risk participants moving from a type 2 diabetes danger zone to a much safer zone.

    «Diabetes is at epidemic proportions in New Zealand and the figures are particularly concerning for Maori, with one in five having type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.»

    In New Zealand diabetes causes 50 per cent of heart attacks, 33 per cent of strokes, 50 per cent of kidney failure, 50 per cent of blindness and 50 per cent of amputations.

    Mr Warren said that to be really effective, health programmes need to take in the genetic needs of individuals and he questions the «healthy food plates» recommended by organisations like the Diabetes Society.

    «The advice being handed out is that it's okay to eat plenty of grains and carbohydrates but I would challenge this.

    «The refined grains can be really difficult for Maori to process.»

    Mr Warren said the programme proved to Maori that eating traditional foods, like boil-up and hangi were good for them.

    «Maori have been led to believe that fat and meat are bad for their health, but I don't believe that to be true and we've got the results to prove it.»


  2. The aborigine study was mentioned in this talk When the talker mentioned the «paleo-diet» the audience laugh in derision.

    «The refined grains can be really difficult for Maori to process.»
    are they easy to process for any population?
    «genetic needs of individuals» are the food plates really okay for those of European descent? When I look around I don't see a country (UK) healthy on a standard western diet.


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