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HealthWatch: Caveman Diet Helps Diabetics In UCSF Study

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco say one way to improve your health may be takings some tips from our Stone Age ancestors.

In recent weeks we've reported on the the Paleo Diet, or Ancestral Health movement. CBS 5 Health Watch reporter Dr. Kim Mulvihill followed the diet for more than six months and it lowered her blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. Now UCSF researchers have said it can also dramatically help patients with type two diabetes.

Gloria Romero used to take 9 different medications to control her blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, acid reflux, even depression. She started eating like a caveman, and now she's down to just two drugs.

Making the change meant a diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats. She ate no dairy, no grains and no processed foods.

"It was fantastic. It was just amazing," said Romero, who was part of the UCSF study involving type two diabetics.

Dr. Lynda Frassetto headed up the research, and said diabetes can lead to dire consequences including blindness, amputation, sexual dysfunction, as well as kidney problems and an earlier death.

Romero knows all too well about the toll. She works at UCSF in the kidney transplant department.

"I saw many diabetic patients on dialysis and I thought to myself, 'this is going to be me one day.' It scared me," said Romero

Diabetics were randomly assigned to follow one of two diets during the study.

One group was given a Mediterranean diet, which is recommended by the American Diabetes Association. The other group ate the Paleo diet. The big difference between the two is that you eat more whole grains and dairy and less red meat on the Mediterranean diet.

"The people who were in the Paleo arm, instead of eating grains and dairy, they ate a lot more fruits and vegetables and a little bit more protein," said Dr. Frassetto.

All the meals were prepared at the clinical research study kitchen at UCSF and eaten there or taken home. In just 2 weeks, a huge difference emerged between the groups.

Those who ate like cavemen saw significant drops in blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides - as well as blood sugar, while those on the Mediterranean diet saw little or no improvement.

"Their blood sugars got way better, dropped about 25 milligrams per deciliter on average," Dr. Frassetto explained. "This is a diet that humans are more physiologically adapted to because this is a diet more similar to the one that we evolved on."

As for Romero, she takes less medication for her diabetes. She also has more energy, dropped 4 dress sizes and kicked her depression.

"It's eating what you should be eating, you know, your vegetables, your fruits, your lean meats, it's just eating right overall," said Romero. The hardest part of the diet is sticking to it. You have to do a lot of shopping, preparation and cooking.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS SF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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