Dr. Michael Eades on the Paleolithic diet

Dr. Michael Eades has posted an absolutely spectacular commentary on the Paleolithic diet concept:

Rapid health improvements with a Paleolithic diet

The post was prompted by publication of a study that tried to recreate a Paleolithic-like diet experience over a brief study period:

Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.

Dr. Eades discussion is wonderfully insightful and comprehensive and there's little to say to improve on his discussion.

I'd make one small point: From what I see in my experience, the improvements in lipid patterns seen in the brief period of this study are very likely to have been primarily due to the removal of wheat. Followers of this blog know that wheat elimination is among the most powerful cholesterol-reducing strategies available.

Comments (16) -

  • Scott Miller

    2/18/2009 10:13:00 PM |

    Without doubt, a primary benefit of the paleo diet is the elimination of grains (which contain inflammatory protein--gluten--and plant-defense toxins called lectins).

    The high (good) fat aspect of the paleo diet also plays a big role in increasing HDL and lowering triglycerides. These good fats including animal fats, saturated fats (mistaken painted as bad-guy fats), omega-3's, omega-9's (like olive oil and avocado oil), while greatly reducing the inflammatory processed omega-6 oils (corn and soy oil, among numerous others).

    The paleo diet also rules out any processed form of fructose:

  • steve

    2/19/2009 1:41:00 AM |

    i have eliminated wheat and all grains as you have suggested and my lipid profile from recent NMR has improved: HDL jumped from 40to 54; LDLC of 94 up from 93, and Trg dropped to 20 from 37 and large HDL-P increased from 3.3 to 14.8, particle number dropped from1795 to 1305, but they still remain all small particles.  LDL particle size unchanged at 19.7. So some good things from elimination of wheat and grains, but no change in particle size.  At 5'6" male and 145lbs, hard to lose weight.  Any suggestions on how to change particle size and lower number of particles further? diet is meat fish eggs poultry, whey powder, hard cheese, greek 2% yogurt and fruit and veggies, some red wine and dark(85%+ chocolate)  Vitamin D3 measures at 38(25oh). with family history, doc wants 20 mg Lipitor.  Excellent post in both cases. Perhpas Paleo not work for all, although Eades would say i should add more sat fat to diet

  • rabagley

    2/19/2009 8:25:00 AM |

    I love reading in more and more places that saturated fats are not evil!

    The word is getting out, and one of these days, dietary researchers won't have to apologize about their results or come up with elaborate strategies to make sure that they can't be perceived as saying that saturated fat might be (gasp!) good for you.

    Remember the Okinawans.  Previous generations of Okinawans are among the longest lived people on the planet.  Pork, fish, non-starchy vegetables (cooked in lard), and a little bit of rice make up almost all of their diet.

    Dr. Davis, it wasn't that long ago that you were very cautious about fats and saturated fats, but I've seen a substantial shift in your comments over the past several months.  I salute your resolve to really understand what is good for our hearts and then going beyond that by doing your best to communicate what you've learned back to everyone who will listen/read.

  • Anonymous

    2/19/2009 12:40:00 PM |

    This is the first time I have seen someone call out Gluten as the component of wheat that causes inflammation response.  Good to know as it is often a primary source of protein for vegetarians.

    I don't see the fructose argument though.  This is a simple sugar that is broken down to glucose in the digestive tract like any other sugar eaten; according to high-school human biology......

  • Tom

    2/19/2009 2:16:00 PM |

    Dr Davis,

    Do low carb eaters need to be concerned about the aging effects of oxoaldehydes such as methylglyoxal?

    I read recently that the concentration of such compounds increases during ketosis and that they are much more reactive than glucose, readily forming protein cross links which age the body.

    -- Tom

  • TedHutchinson

    2/19/2009 3:21:00 PM |

    Some people may be wondering how it was that eating wheat and other high fibre grains caused humans to become weaker, shorter and fatter.

    This paper http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6299329 Reduced plasma half-life of radio-labelled 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in subjects receiving a high-fibre diet.
    unearthed by Stephan at Whole Health Source, provides one possible explanation as it shows a high-fibre diet reduces the half-life of 25(OH)D3 thus speeding up vitamin d deficiency.

  • Nancy LC

    2/19/2009 5:30:00 PM |

    Yes!  I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Eades commentary on that study.  Although I do wish that study authors wouldn't obsess so much over saturated fat.

    Steven from http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/ also did a bang up review.  His blog is also quite fantastic.  He did a series on Tokelau Island migrant studies that was very interesting.  They are a people that eat quite a lot of saturated fat, from coconut, and yet had virtually no heart disease.

  • Kevin

    2/19/2009 7:07:00 PM |

    I cut out wheat a long time ago but haven't had blood work recently.  If cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, why worry about it?  Why eliminate saturated fats if they're not contributing to atherosclerosis?


  • Trinkwasser

    2/20/2009 3:41:00 PM |

    The wheat connection is interesting, it's far and away the worst grain for spiking my glucose levels, even wheat bran will do it.

    My athlete cousin is already showing signs of the familial insulin resistance in her thirties and while she stuffs her body with far more carbs than I do she has noticed a marked improvement from avoiding wheat.

    The horrible irony is that a diabetic colleague diagnosed my diabetes over twenty years ago and a friend who knew my diet suggested I might be wheat intolerant. My doctor wrote that I had "fanciful notions" and hypochondria. Now here I am. Meanwhile the GP died "unexpectedly" which was ironic

    I wonder if wheat has always been this (comparatively) toxic or if it's the modern strains specifically. Originally it was a transgenic cross, kind of natural GM, with far more chromosomes than is good for it, but has been majorly tweaked over the years to provide current yields

  • Maxx

    2/22/2009 3:52:00 AM |

    It's odd to me how often folks state that there's no proof that saturated fat intake causes heart disease. I know the standard arguments, I've read Good Calories, Bad Calories and many of the websites dedicated to disproving the lipid hypothetesis.

    But the fact is, there are quite a few studies that demonstrate that saturated fat intake IS associated with higher incidence of heart disease (not just cholesterol profiles).

    A few examples:



    The majority of the studies I've seen on low carbohydrate, high fat diets have all been pretty short-term and didn't actually measure heart disease. They just measured cholesterol and, occasionally, inflammation.

  • rabagley

    2/22/2009 6:16:00 AM |

    To Anonymous's question about fructose.  It's very important that you understand the metabolic pathway for fructose.

    Fructose is carried by the blood from your gut directly to your liver.  Once detected, your liver stops everything else and converts fructose to triglycerides.  It does this because fructose is a highly reactive sugar and is treated as a dangerous substance by your body.  Triglycerides aren't nearly as bad (but if you've been reading this blog, you know that they're pretty bad, too).  

    Most of the triglycerides are released into the blood (where they represent the wrong side of the HDL/triglycerides heart health ratio), while some small fraction remain trapped in the liver tissues.  If you keep hitting your liver with triglycerides (via fructose), and live long enough, those triglycerides get stored in the liver and you'll end up with fatty liver disease.

    Fructose is all sorts of bad news for your health.  Sucrose, HFCS, honey, cane solids, corn syrup solids, etc: all contain significant quantities of fructose, and over time, all pose a risk to your heart, your liver, and via insulin resistance and glycation reactions, your entire body.

  • Anonymous

    2/25/2009 3:57:00 AM |

    I am new to trying to understand the most healthy diet and just finished reading Dr. Eades book (who does not eschew whole grains in his meal plans).  I am reminded of Michael Pollan's comments that preface his book - 'In Defense of Food' in which he claims there is much ideology with regard to diet and nutrition.  

    I understand many people have strong opinions, but I am hoping someone can provide insight into this website that includes whole wheat as one of the most important foods in our diet -- http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=141.

    I am not asking this to be controversial, but would genuinely like to hear some factual counterpoints.

  • Ricardo Carvalho

    4/2/2009 10:58:00 PM |

    This is great news for the paleolithic community: the British Medical Association has just recognised the importance of paleolithic diets in this recent report (see pages 5/6): http://www.bma.org.uk/health_promotion_ethics/child_health/earlylifenutrition.jsp

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    9/15/2010 5:56:36 AM |

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    10/29/2010 9:39:23 AM |

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  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 9:58:13 PM |

    This is the first time I have seen someone call out Gluten as the component of wheat that causes inflammation response. Good to know as it is often a primary source of protein for vegetarians.

Small LDL: Simple vs. complex carbohydrates

Small LDL: Simple vs. complex carbohydrates

Joseph is a whip-smart corporate attorney, but one who accepts advice at his own pace. He likes to explore and consider each step of the advice I give him.

Starting (NMR) lipoprotein panel on no treatment or diet change:

LDL particle number 2620 nmol/L (which I would equate to 262 mg/dl LDL cholesterol)
Small LDL 2331 nmol/L--representing 89% of LDL particle number, a severe dominance of small LDL

I advised him to eliminate wheat, cornstarch, and sugars, while limiting other carbohydrate sources, as well. Joseph didn't like this idea very much, concerned that it would be impractical, given his busy schedule. He also did a lot of reading of the sort that suggested that replacing white flour with whole grains provided health advantages. So that's what he did: Replaced all sugar and refined flour products with whole grains, but did not restrict his intake of grains.

Next lipoprotein panel with whole grains replacing white refined flour:

LDL particle number 2451 nmol/L
Small LDL 1998 nmol/L--representing 81.5% of LDL particle number.

In other words, replacing white flour products with whole grain products reduced small LDL by 14%--a modest improvement, but hardly great.

I explained to Joseph that any grain, complex, refined, or simple--will, just like other sugars and carbohydrates, still provoke small LDL. Given the severity of his patterns, I suggested trying again, this time with full elimination of grains.

Next lipoprotein panel with elimination of whole grains:

LDL particle number 1320 nmol/L
Small LDL 646 nmol/L
--48.9% of total LDL particle number, but a much lower absolute number, a reduction of 67.6%.

This is typical of the LDL responses I see with elimination of wheat products on the background of an overall carbohydrate restriction: Big drops in precisely measured LDL as LDL particle number (i.e., an actual count of LDL particles, not LDL cholesterol) and big drops in the number of small LDL particles.

You might say that wheat elimination and limitation of carbohydrate intake can yield statin-like values . . . without the statin.

Comments (17) -

  • medeldist

    5/4/2010 8:26:52 AM |

    Interesting. I'm looking through my screening results (I'm in Europe) and there is no mention of LDL, but I have two other values, P-Apo A1 (1.77 g/L) and P-Apo B (1.09 g/L). Is there a relation between these and LDL/HDL?

  • tom

    5/4/2010 1:02:12 PM |

    It is good to have positive feedback via blood testing to show changes one is making to their body. I wonder what is a good interval between tests to show cholesterol changes?

    On a similar note, I have been eating low carb for 4 months using my blood meter to reduce both blood sugars and insulin resistance for pre-diabetes. I am still thinking about your slo-niacin suggestions and how the bad increase in blood sugar and insulin resistance vs the good cholesterol effects would affect me. I am waiting to get results from my first NMR lipoprofile to make a decision.

  • Ned Kock

    5/4/2010 3:49:58 PM |

    Indeed, restricting carbohydrates is more similar to taking statins than many people think. With the advantage that it does not have the side effects of statins, and is not costly at all.

    Many people do not know that carbohydrates stimulate the production of VLDL, suppressing the production of free fatty acids and ketones. Our liver then pumps out small VLDL particles at a high rate, and these end up as small-dense LDL particles. The potentially atherogenic type, in the presence of other factors (e.g., chronic inflammation).

    Low carbohydrate dieting stimulates the production and release of free fatty acids and ketones, suppressing the production of VLDL. Our liver then pumps fewer VLDL particles into the bloodstream (since FFAs and ketones are already doing a good job at feeding muscle and brain tissue), and when it does it lets out big VLDL particles, which end up as large-fluffy LDL particles prior to re-absorption by the liver.

    If anyone wants to see what these particles look like, the figure in the post below may be useful:


    Ketones are not shown because they are water soluble:


  • Anonymous

    5/4/2010 4:01:31 PM |

    Do you have any comments on oatmeal? I've noticed that for me personally, it doesn't significantly spike my blood sugar, and I've heard a lot about how oatmeal can improve cholesterol -- but of course this is often just focused on total cholesterol or general LDL amount.

  • Anonymous

    5/4/2010 5:05:47 PM |

    Hi Dr. Davis
    I'm really hoping to hear your opinion on this study:

  • Dr. William Davis

    5/5/2010 1:38:40 AM |

    Hear, hear, Ned!

    I agree: Carbohydrate restriction is the unsung hero of VLDL and LDL reduction, though actual measurements are required to appreciate this effect.

  • Dr. William Davis

    5/5/2010 1:40:35 AM |

    Oatmeal anonymous--

    It's all about individualizing your food choices.

    Checking postprandial blood sugars is an excellent way to know if these issues apply to you or not, or to what degree.

  • Jeff

    5/5/2010 11:56:35 AM |

    What are your thoughts on Amlamax for the reduction of LDL?

  • Lucy

    5/5/2010 3:41:11 PM |

    OK, so here's my question... I am young (late twenties), thin (BMI: <20.2), and active (run, bike).  However, I still have almost all small, dense LDL.   I'm an ApoE 3/4, which I understand means I need to limit the amount of fat in my diet.  However, if grains also contribute to small LDL, what am I supposed to eat?   I don't eat much wheat as it is (my husband is celiac), but I do enjoy oats, rice, and the occassional piece of bread when we eat out, etc.  Would cutting all grains from my diet and living on only vegetables, some fruits, and lean meats be acceptable? Sounds like a boring and sad diet...

  • pjnoir

    5/5/2010 9:58:04 PM |

    Oatmeal reducing Cholestral is a joke. If I eat Oatmeal for breakfast( even a 1/2 cup) my BG numbers stay HIGH all day. Oatmeal is not a food I have on my breakfast table ever.

  • Anonymous

    5/9/2010 3:08:36 PM |

    Over what time period were these
    panels taken or in other words, how many weeks or months in-between test?
    Love the blog!

  • Conrad

    5/11/2010 2:28:43 PM |

    Who knows where to get an (NMR) lipoprotein panel in Toronto/Mississauga?

  • holym

    5/12/2010 6:36:06 PM |

    You say, "LDL particle number 2620 nmol/L (which I would equate to 262 mg/dl LDL cholesterol)"

    Why would you equate 2620 nmol/L to 262 mg/dl? The conversion factor given at http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/vol295/issue1/images/data/103/DC6/JAMA_auinst_si.dtl is roughly 1mmol/l = 39mg/dl.

  • Dr. William Davis

    5/12/2010 10:21:43 PM |


    I believe you are confusing Friedewald calculated LDL in nmol/L and LDL particle number--two entirely different things.

    My simple conversion is meant to yield a "Friedewald-like" LDL cholesterol from LDL particle number.

  • Dolly.G

    5/14/2010 3:34:18 AM |

    I do agree!!

  • Anonymous

    5/22/2010 11:06:37 PM |

    Where can I find the peer reviewed research upon which you base your advice? Thanks

  • David M Gordon

    6/15/2010 1:18:55 AM |

    My lab results are in, and they are,  on balance, not much improved. I think.

    The changes I effected since my prior panel panel 3 months ago:
    1) Lost 20 lbs
    2) Ingest 6,000mg of fish oil for a total of 1200mg (total) of DHA and EPA/day
    3) Ingest 500mg of Slo-Niacin/day (with 125oz of water/day)
    4) Ingest 6,000mg of Vitamin D/day (Changed to the proper Vitamin D soy capsule from the powdered tablet)
    5) Eat a large handful of almonds/day
    6) Exercise hard (weight training and cardio intervals for a minimum of 90 minutes/day).

    The (worsened) numbers:
    1) Total Cholesterol: 269 (from 267)
    2) LDL Cholesterol: 186 (from 175)

    The (improved) numbers:
    3) Triglycerides: 201 (from 280)
    4) HDL Cholesterol: 43 (from 36)

    Unfair to ask you, I know, but I am frustrated. What do I do wrong? What can I do more? I am VERY reluctant to take a statin, as I have tried many, all with terrible side-effects. And, fwiw, I started today on my wheat-free diet.

    Thank you for your guidance,