Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Evo Diet

This is a good time to revisit a diet the BBC tested on a reality show back in 2006. A group of volunteers were housed at a British zoo for 12 days and fed "the sort of diet our ape-like ancestors once ate."

  • 9 volunteers, aged 36 to 49
  • Chosen because they had high cholesterol: 5-6.8 mmol/l (about 195-265 mg/dl)
  • Diet supplied about 2000 kcal/day for women, 2500 kcal/day for men
After 12 days:
  • Cholesterol dropped 23% (e.g. From 210 to 162 mg/dl)
  • Blood pressure dropped from 140/83 to 122/76
  • Weight dropped 9.7 lbs (Diet fed was not intended for weight loss)
Here's a sample of what volunteers ate over the course of three days. The diet was low in fat and sodium (1g/day). Food was raw. About 11 pounds of food (although that included pits and peels) was delivered in a cooler each day. Some had difficulty finishing it. (My refrigerator would have difficulty housing it.) It looked like a vegan diet, except "In the second week, standard portions of cooked oily fish were introduced."

Olives in brine (weighted with stones) (35g) = 0.2% of total diet
Honey (34g) = 0.2%
Walnuts (50g) = 0.3%
Cashew nuts, plain (50g) = 0.3%
Mange-tout peas (75g) = 0.5%
Sugar-snap peas (150g) = 1.0%
Cabbage, average (80g) = 0.5%
Watercress (80g) = 0.5%
Summer Cabbage (80g) = 0.5%
Nuts, hazel nuts or filberts (96g) = 0.6%
Spring onions, bulbs and tops (200g) = 1.3%
Peas, edible-podded (200g) = 1.3%
Kiwi fruit (weighed with skin) (120g) = 0.8%
Asparagus (125g) = 0.8%
Avocado (weighed with skin and stone) (150g) = 1.0%
Cherries (weighed with stones) (150g) = 1.0%
Peanuts (weighed with shells) (150g) = 1.0%
Radish (320g) = 2.1%
Dates (weighed with stones) (160g) = 1.1%
Cauliflower (200g) = 1.3%
Courgette (200g) = 1.3%
Peppers, red (400g) = 2.7%
Figs (400g) = 2.7%
Broccoli (750g) = 5.0%
Mangoes (weighed with skin and stone) (500g) = 3.3%
Paw-paw (300g) = 2.0%
Strawberries (302g) = 2.0%
Carrots, young (1004g) = 6.7%
Bananas (603g) = 4.0%
Pears (302g) = 2.0%
Raspberries (604g) = 4.0%
Blueberries (302g) = 2.0%
Mushrooms (322g) = 2.2%
Grapes (322g) = 2.2%
Plums (weighed with stones) (322g) = 2.2%
Apricots (350g) = 2.3%
Peaches (400g) = 2.7%
Apples (450g) = 3.0%
Melon, Honeydew (weighed whole) (1000g) = 6.7%
Tomatoes (1950g) = 13%
Satsumas (weighed with peel) (1376g) = 9.2%
Total weight = 14966g (33 pounds)

Not science, but telling nonetheless.

Related posts:
Are Ape Diets Suited To Humans? For relative sizes of small and large intestine in apes and humans.
How Many Minutes A Day Do You Spend Eating (Chewing)? Apes take 6 hours/day to eat 1800 calories of raw food.
Here's the BBC's article on the experiment: Going Ape


caulfieldkid said...

Thank you. I kept trying to remember where I had previously read about this study when it came out. I was going to mention it on your last post.

"Some had difficulty finishing it."

You know, most people can kill a 500-600 cal. burger with little effort and still have room for fries. Give someone the same amount of calories in raw fruits and vegetables, and I bet they would struggle to finish it in one sitting. Do you think this has something to do with the obesity problem? Maybe our bodies were designed to eat foods that filled us up much quicker than the processed foods so predominate today? We don't even have to discuss the nutritional value etc. . .

Perovskia said...

caulfieldkid.. sure, our bodies are definitely designed to eat foods that fill us up quicker than processed foods. It's no argument processed foods are bad for us (or at least, not positive).

My notice with this diet is it's high in fiber and carbohydrates, but low in protein (aside from the nuts). I haven't gotten to the protein part in my Nutrition course (it's coming up next), but don't we *need* protein? (No, I don't agree with a strictly vegetarian diet). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Duyvken said...

Perovskia, we definitely need protein but don't forget that fruits, vegies and nuts all contain protein (small amounts, sure) and fish was included in the diet in the 2nd week which would boost the protein level dramatically.

Bix said...

I agree with Duyvken, plant foods have a lot of protein. I'll post some thoughts, although anyone can chime in.

I've been reading about diets of the great apes. Fascinating. Maybe I'll post more about that too.

Perovskia said...

Right, I forgot about the fish.

I'm not used to plants having a lot of protein (that's not the way society has 'conditioned' me). Hopefully with more reading though, I'll find otherwise.

Angela and Melinda said...

How did their blood sugar do?

Angela and Melinda said...

I asked that about the blood sugar b/c, A) it's a concern of mine (as you know); and B) I am curious if all the fruit in the diet had an impact on it.

Bix said...

I don't know, Melinda. The info I saw on the experiment didn't say.

My suspicion is that fasting blood glucose declined ... because weight declined. (Weight loss is associated with improved blood glucose control.) That doesn't inform on the effect of the fruit though.

Another reason I suspect it declined is the low fat in the diet. Fat in the diet is linked to insulin resistance. See:

"Dietary fat has been implicated in the development of insulin resistance in both animals and humans. Most, although not all, studies suggest that higher levels of total fat in the diet result in greater whole-body insulin resistance. Although, in practice, obesity may complicate the relationship between fat intake and insulin resistance, clinical trials demonstrate that high levels of dietary fat can impair insulin sensitivity independent of body weight changes. In addition, it appears that different types of fat have different effects on insulin action. Saturated and certain monounsaturated fats have been implicated in causing insulin resistance, whereas polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids largely do not appear to have adverse effects on insulin action. Given the importance of insulin resistance in the development of diabetes and heart disease, establishing appropriate levels of fat in the diet is an important clinical goal."

And some evidence, from that May issue of the Am J Clin Nutr I blogged about:

"a low-fat vegan diet appeared to improve glycemia and plasma lipids more than did conventional diabetes diet recommendations"

Angela and Melinda said...

Thanks for the info Bix! Very helpful!

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