Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Diet Improves Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Sedentary People in 10 Days

BREAKING NEWS: Eating a hunter-gatherer-type diet improves a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors – blood pressure, glucose tolerance, insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels – in people who do not exercise in less than two weeks, according to a just-published study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The participants in the study were sedentary but healthy and not overweight. The study was designed so the participants would not lose weight because weight loss can affect cardiovascular indicators. The participants ate their usual diet for three days. For the next seven days, they increased potassium-rich and fiber-rich foods in their diet. During the last 10 days, they ate a hunter-gatherer or Paleolithic-type diet that consisted of lean meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts, and excluded grains, dairy products, and legumes. When they switched to the Paleolithic-type diet, the participants experienced near consistently improved status of their circulatory system and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, with significant reductions in blood pressure, plasma insulin levels during oral glucose tolerance tests, and large significant reductions in total cholesterol, low-density (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, according to the authors.

“What is remarkable is how rapidly and dramatically our subjects improved over such a wide range of parameters; lipid profiles, insulin secretion, BP (blood pressure) and vascular reactivity, all without losing weight, increasing their activity levels or taking any medication,” the authors noted.

“Even short-term consumption of a Paleolithic type diet improves blood pressure and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy sedentary humans,” the authors concluded.


Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, et al. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication, 11 February 2009;doi:10.1038/ejcn.2009.4. – View PubMed abstract of this study.

Melissa’s Comments:

Food – the kind of food that people hunted, fished for, or foraged for – was the medicine that naturally kept people free of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other insulin-related “diseases of civilization.” It doesn’t matter whether the societies were in cold Arctic climates or warm Polynesian climates or temperate climates in between, when people ate natural foods native to their area, they largely didn’t have degenerative diseases in their societies.

That all changed when white flour and white sugar were introduced into these cultures. Within a period of about twenty years, degenerative diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes developed in widespread numbers. The pattern was so consistent that it was dubbed “The Rule of 20 Years.”

Refined wheat and sugar wreak havoc with normal blood sugar and insulin levels, setting off a whole cascade of events to occur in the body that promote disease. But another overlooked factor, I believe, is that wheat, with its problematic gluten and other components, began to be eaten in large amounts by people who had no history of eating wheat or gluten. This was an assault to body function, so their health deteriorated in many ways.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that in every place where people moved away from their native diet and adopted a Western diet with white flour and white sugar products, degenerative diseases set in.

We also know that when we stop eating the Western diet and adopt a more hunter-gatherer-type diet, the most deleterious effects of the Western diet, including the diabetic and cardiovascular disease processes, can be turned back. Studies have shown that when Aborigines and other native people return to eating their traditional diet, they can experience striking improvements in cardiovascular and diabetic indicators. In the Aborigine study, for example, all of the metabolic abnormalities of type 2 diabetes were either greatly improved or completely normalized in a group of diabetic Aborigines after just seven weeks of going back to a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle. (Read more in “Eating a Hunter-Gatherer Diet Reverses Diabetic Indicators in Just 7 Weeks.”)

A 2007 study found that eating a hunter-gatherer-type diet for just three months led to dramatic reductions in waist size and blood sugar levels in people with serious heart disease and either type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance. (Read more in “Grain-Free Diet Reduces Blood Sugar Levels and Waist Size.”)

And now this study shows incredibly impressive changes with no exercise in just ten days! (Just imagine what might have happened had they exercised some.) The results of this study give proof that what I challenged people to do in my Going Against the Grain book seven years ago is exactly what they should be doing to overcome serious health problems. So, here’s the challenge: If you’re overwhelmed by the whole against-the-grain idea, just take a baby step: Eat against the grain for just two weeks and see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed at the results. (If you don’t think you can eat completely grain-free, try eating gluten-free but be sure to avoid gluten-free junk food and keep your intake of gluten-free grains low and your intake of vegetables high. You’ll still see results.)

Understanding that eating against the grain is the key to regaining and maintaining vibrant health is the first step. The second step is putting the plan into action. My Going Against the Grain book covers all the basics of how to eat against the grain over the long term. However, many of you told me you needed more help. So, I developed my online Going Against the Grain Group to offer ongoing support to help you through the seasons, holidays and challenges of continuing to eat against the grain. (You can even join the Going Against the Grain Group for a discount if you join before the end of May.) If you need personalized help with your diet, I literally am only a phone call away as I offer long-distance Nutrition Counseling over the phone. And I offer Nutrition Coaching Programs, too, for those of you who need many sessions with me to get motivated, learn how to overcome practical challenges and make eating against the grain a diet for life.

If you’re not that far along yet, that’s okay – just take the first step: Try eating against the grain for just two weeks and watch what happens.

Need more motivation? Be sure to check out my follow-up to this post.

© Copyright 2009 Melissa Diane Smith

2 Comments to “Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Diet Improves Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Sedentary People in 10 Days”

  • OK, Melissa, you made a total believer out of me! I am truly amazed! Before we began the Rebuilding a New You Coaching Program at the beginning of Feb, my doctor had a serious talk with me about my health. My Fasting Blood Sugar was 107. My cholesterol was high, blood pressure elevated, and I was probably about 85 pounds overweight. He said he would give me 3 months to try to get my levels down on my own. When I consulted you, you had an even more serious talk with me about my health, and helped me to look at myself and address the reasons why I was overeating, and why I was making poor choices with food. Addressing the core issues was key. And then you shared a story with me about another woman you know. You said that she is in her 80’s and has been eating “against the grain” for a number of years, and also believed that “food is her best medicine.” And you said that even though she is in her 80’s she is not on any medications, is very healthy, and that recent testing revealed that does not have ANY blockages – and the doctors and health professionals were AMAZED! What had the most profound effect on me was the realization that at literally half her age, I am closer to death than she is. That really shook me up, and enabled me to see the long term effects of living our best life against the grain and seeing food as our best medicine. And that made me think of my grandfather who is in his 90’s – he is also very healthy, except for COPD from smoking a long time ago. He is very active, and I tought long and hard about what he eats – he is so careful about what he puts into his body, and always eats a variety of small amounts of steamed fresh veggies, lean meats, and various fruits – never using bread or complex carbs as a main feature. I keep those 2 examples in the forefront of my mind every day, and they inspire me to remember that this is a lifestyle, not a diet.
    After reading through the research you posted about the results people had through just changing what they eat made me want to try that. So for the past month, I have been eating against the grain, mostly – there is room for improvement! And in just one month, my fasting blood sugar dropped 15 points to 92! I have lost 13 pounds, and over 20 inches all over my body! All of these results came with NO EXERCISING – all I did was change the way I eat.
    I am just totally blown away by these results after just one month! And now I can see the power of nutrition. What you always say is so true – what we put into our body today, creates the new you of tomorrow. And I want to be like the lady you told me about – living a drug free, full and healthy life in my 80’s!
    I have so much more energy and focus now, and feel like I can start exercising. So that is my next step.
    Thank you so much for everything, Melissa!!

    Comment by: HeatherT   on March 11, 2009

  • You’re very welcome, Heather, and thank you so much for sharing your story! Success stories like yours are what makes my job so exciting and rewarding and why I have devoted myself to this work. It’s simply thrilling to see the power of nutrition in action. No new medications — just using food as the medicine we need to reverse health conditions and keep us healthy like it was always meant to do.

    Your experience is a real-life example of what the people in this study and in other studies I have cited have experienced as well as people who follow the programs in my books, such as Syndrome X and Going Against the Grain.

    I am so elated that you have seen the light about the amazing power of eating the right food. And, as you husband said, once you set your mind to something, there is no stopping you. So, keep up the great work! I can’t wait until you completely blow your doctor away in a few months when he sees your life-changing results! 🙂

    Comment by: Melissa   on March 11, 2009

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