Becoming healthier doesn't take forever

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

January 2011

More than a quarter-century ago ten overweight, diabetic, city-dwelling Australian Aborigines were persuaded to make a dramatic change in lifestyle. Under the supervision of a medical team from an Australian medical school they returned to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with no processed foods, for 7 weeks. They lived mostly on wild game and native plants, taking in about 1200 calories per day. By the end of that brief departure from the typical Western diet they had lost an average of about 2 pounds per week. The changes in their metabolism were dramatic: fasting blood sugar, insulin levels and triglycerides all fell to near-normal levels. What is remarkable about that study is how quickly a diet that is more appropriate for humans than the modern Western diet can reverse the course of two major health problems, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

It isn't necessary to leap from a modern to a primitive lifestyle and to reduce calorie intake by about half. You're not likely to find wild game at the local supermarket but it is possible to duplicate much of the diet of the hunter-gatherer without becoming one.

Lean cuts of beef and skinless chicken approximate the low content of saturated fat of free-roaming animals. Fish is similar to wild game. It is high in protein and polyunsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and it has no trans fat. The Australian subjects gathered native fruits, vegetables, berries, roots and nuts. All these can be found in a modern supermarket with considerably less effort although their nutrient value is not as great as that of their wild counterparts. Wild plants are, of course, 100 percent organic. They are not as sweet and juicy but they have more fiber per ounce and the occasional worm or bug, though not appetizing to us, is another source of protein and vitamin B12.

Those ten individuals had no sugar or salt during the study period but as the experience of others has shown, they probably lost their taste for both. For example, persons who manage to maintain a low-salt (1,000 milligrams or less of sodium) diet for a couple of months find that a salty potato chip or French fry loses its appeal. It thus becomes easier to avoid sugar and salt in the future.

An unsung benefit of such lifestyle change is the increase in energy and mental clarity that takes only a few days to realize. Try it for yourself.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.