Your contribution to the ongoing dialog about human nutrition, by so powerfully advancing the scientific arguments in favor of The Paleo Diet, is very much appreciated. Your writing has had a profound influence on what I eat every day, and what I teach to others about nutrition. A number of my patients have made life altering changes in their nutritional patterns because of your writings. Each of them has obtained a copy of one or more of your books. To be sure, I have learned from other nutritionists, but your influence has been the most important because of your lucid articulation of the over-arching theory of the hunter-gatherer diet.
For my own story, I trained and was boarded in General Surgery in the late ‘70s, and then spent a very satisfying twenty-plus year career as an emergency physician, a specialty in which I was also boarded. I worked in a big urban hospital emergency department, which included nine years of administration as Assistant Chief and then Chief. I loved the medical practice, but I was caring for others while neglecting myself. I was hypertensive (consistently BP of 144/88), overweight (body fat 34%, BMI 28.7), with abnormal cholesterol (180-190), and a resting pulse in the low 70s. My HDLs were low.
At age 55 I retired, moved to a tiny community in the Sierra Mountains with my family, and decided to pay attention to my own health, by actively studying human nutrition and weight loss strategies. I had had a two-decade history of yo-yoing weight, by what I call now the “starvation diet,” trying to eat less of the same calorie dense, high glycemic index processed salty stuff. I thought it was “healthy” food. But I have since learned otherwise; it was in fact endocrinologically poisonous. This starvation diet spells doom for millions of otherwise well intended Americans who know they need to lose weight, and are trying desperately to do so, but are trapped by their own unfortunate and unintended nutritional ignorance.
I read voluminously, including all the major diet books cover to cover – Atkins, South Beach, Weil, Ornish, Brant-Miller, Willets, McDougal, Pritikin, and others. I went back and reviewed the basic biochemistry of lipid, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. My wife invited me to join her at Weight Watchers, and I started counting all my “points.” I was counting points and losing weight, but ravenously hungry all the time… the starvation diet at work. I realized that counting points was not enough. I realized I could not be hungry all the time for the rest of my life. Two scientific nutritional concepts turned out to be cornerstones in my “cracking” the weight loss nut.
The first was the fundamental importance of glycemic index, and the effect this has on insulin and glucagon levels and resultant wild swings in blood sugar and hunger levels. The second was calorie density: the fact that we eat to satiety based on volume of food eaten, not number of calories. Since only vegetables, and some fruits, are low calorie-density foods, each meal must include a generous portion of these food categories.
But the real breakthrough happened when a fellow emergency physician, a colleague and friend, told me of a radio talk show he heard in which Dr. Eaton was interviewed. Knowing of my interest in nutrition, he strongly suggested I look into the Paleo approach to nutrition. Further, he said that Dr. Eaton recommended reading the book The Paleo Diet and the articles available online at Dr. Loren Cordain’s website. Reading your book, I quickly realized that all of the apparently disparate concepts I was learning about healthful nutrition fell neatly and logically into place under the overarching theory that the most healthful diet is the one we humans evolved eating. Suddenly calorie density and low glycemic index made sense, because those were the only foods available to us as we evolved. The dramatic diminution of mortality in the prospective, blinded fish oil study on post-myocardial infarction patients made sense once we realize the omega 3/6 ratio of our ancestors and the availability of animal-based omega-3 in the wild meat and seafood they ate. In fact, all kinds of apparently disparate nutritional learnings make sense when they are looked at in the light of the theory of evolutionary nutrition. That’s the learning I got directly from you, and I thank you for it.
For my own testimonial, I have gone from a body fat of 34% to 7%, a BMI of 28.7 to 20.6, an abnormal blood pressure of 144/88 to a consistent 104/62, and a high cholesterol of 190 to 132. My HDLs are up. My triglycerides are 35. My resting pulse is now in the high 40s. For the three years before I started eating “Paleo,” I had been taking 300 mg of Zantac for G.E.R.D. virtually every single night. In the past two years, I believe I have taken four doses total, and that was always in the context of dietary “indiscretion.” I had been experiencing about five years of D.J.D. inflammation in several of the P.I.P. joints of my fingers with resultant swelling. That has completely quieted down.
The three-way combination of eating hunter-gatherer food, getting my BMI down under 21, and exercising is incredibly healing and powerful medicine, and it beats hands-down the medications we give our patients, like anti-hypertensives, lipid-lowering agents, and hypoglycemic drugs. Those may provide some benefit for individuals who are unable to change their diet and weight, but they have no effect on the overall root cultural problems of diet, obesity, and sedentary life-style that is endemic in our Western society.
Thanks again for your powerful contribution to my understanding of human nutrition. I’d be happy to post an endorsement to your website. I’ll do the posting with my first name only for privacy purposes.