It’s not a new study  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.