Author Topic: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study  (Read 16844 times)

Offline LocustStar

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High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« on: October 14, 2009, 06:27:18 AM »
Interesting study by Staffan Lindeberg of Lund University (Sweden) done in 1989. The people of Kitava island consume a traditional diet that consist almost exclusively (99.8%) of foods that would have been available to humans before agriculture: root vegetables, fruit, vegetables, fish and coconuts. Yet their macronutrient ratios are quite different from most people on modern paleo: 70 % carbs, 10% protein and 20% fat.
Like most non-agricultural societies, they had:

No indications of stroke, diabetes, dementia or congestive heart failure
No overweight
Excellent blood pressure
No acne
And more

Despite most of them being smokers.

Seems that it isn't the macronutrient ratios, but the quality that matters. Also it is noteworthy that these people seem to be doing just fine on a nearly plant-only diet.

http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/TheKitavaStudy.html
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/08/kitava-wrapping-it-up.html
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 06:33:10 AM by LocustStar »

Offline goodsamaritan

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2009, 06:42:57 AM »
Sounds good! 
Thanks for the links!


Offline Warren Dew

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2009, 06:45:11 AM »
I wouldn't characterize them as being on a plant only diet, given that 10% protein is likely from their fish.  That probably means half the fat is from fish as well.

There's a lot of evidence that if you sufficiently restrict the calorie intake, you can reduce heart disease and diabetes even without much protein or fat.  For example, China has very low levels of diabetes and heart disease even though it's nowhere near a hunter gatherer diet.  It's just that it can be difficult to follow such a diet without being hungry all the time, especially if you live in a society that has established meal times, rather than nibbling all day.

I note that the study page doesn't mention cancer as being particularly low.

Offline Tarlach

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2009, 07:09:23 AM »
This quote confuses me:

Quote
Due to the high level of coconut consumption, saturated fat made up an equally large portion of the overall caloric intake as is the case in Sweden

Sure makes it sound like they are consuming a lot of fat and it's not high-carb at all  ???

I certainly wouldn't try to draw any major conclusions with discrepancies like that...
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 07:12:33 AM by Tarlach »

Offline LocustStar

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2009, 07:16:13 AM »
I wouldn't characterize them as being on a plant only diet, given that 10% protein is likely from their fish.  That probably means half the fat is from fish as well.

The other link tells us that they consumed on average 4 g of fish fat specifically. Even for low fat fish this means no more than 100 g of fish / day.


Offline LocustStar

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2009, 07:18:09 AM »
This quote confuses me:

Quote
Due to the high level of coconut consumption, saturated fat made up an equally large portion of the overall caloric intake as is the case in Sweden

Sure makes it sound like they are consuming a lot of fat and it's not high-carb at all  ???

I certainly wouldn't try to draw any major conclusions with discrepancies like that...

I don't think there is  discrepancy here. They consumed 20% fat, half of that saturated, so that would mean the average saturated fat portion of Swedish caloric intake would be 10%. Sounds reasonable to me.

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2009, 07:29:58 AM »
The other link tells us that they consumed on average 4 g of fish fat specifically. Even for low fat fish this means no more than 100 g of fish / day.

That's still a long way from "plant only".  No one would claim to be vegan if they got 15-20% of their caloric intake from animals.

Offline Tarlach

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2009, 07:35:10 AM »
I don't think there is  discrepancy here. They consumed 20% fat, half of that saturated, so that would mean the average saturated fat portion of Swedish caloric intake would be 10%. Sounds reasonable to me.

Sweden has one of the highest saturated fat intakes in the world.  It's not low.  They also have low incidence of CHD.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 07:40:37 AM by Tarlach »

Offline LocustStar

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2009, 07:42:00 AM »

That's still a long way from "plant only".  No one would claim to be vegan if they got 15-20% of their caloric intake from animals.

100 g of low-fat high-protein fish like tuna would make up more like 5-10% of their caloric intake. I would consider this nearly plant-only diet. Of course it's possible that even this relatively small amount of animal products provides some essential nutrients these people wouldn't do well without, but my point is this is very far from the kind of diets most people who say they're on paleo consume. That you don't have to eat tons of meat to be on paleo and successfull.

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2009, 10:52:19 AM »
100 g of low-fat high-protein fish like tuna would make up more like 5-10% of their caloric intake.

I'm not sure I trust the blog at your second link, as that article makes several elementary errors, but even if I did, that amount of fish would be around 100 kcal of protein and 40 kcal from the 4g of fish fat, plus a little for glycogen and cholesterol.  For the resultant 150 kcal or so to make up only 5% of their diet, they'd have to be on a 3000 kcal diet, which I find extremely unlikely.  I suspect they're on closer to a 1000 kcal diet, especially considering how small they are - the average male Kitavan is 117 lb and the average female is only 88 lb; average heights are 5'4" for males and 4'11" for females:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18222663/Kitava-Study

Animal protein exclusive of animal fat might be as little as 10% of their caloric intake.  However, some of the people on this site who eat a lot of meat still only get maybe 20% of their caloric intake from animal protein.  10% animal protein is still a long, long way from "nearly plant-only".

Quote
That you don't have to eat tons of meat to be on paleo and successfull.

That's certainly true, and it doesn't need to be backed up with distortions of facts.  Kitavans aren't even "non-agricultural"; Lindeberg characterizes them as "subsistence horticulturists", which means they're farmers.  They're no more an example of paleolithic peoples than are modern Chinese peasants.

Offline PaleoMama

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2009, 11:26:20 AM »
I don't remember if it was on this forum or in a book, that I heard that the starches in root veggies didn't give the same insulin spike to native peoples that had never had the carb overload that westerns do. Somehow making it difficult for our insulin resistant bodies to eat the same diet and have the same health effects. However, I would also think that our bodies are capable to healing themselves and become insulin sensitive again.

Another thought is that the diet that is best for a person living in Papua New Guinea would be different from a person living in a colder norther climate. Both a greater need for heat producing foods like meat and fat but also the greater need for the vit. D in the animal fats.

Offline 21st-century caveman

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2009, 09:51:13 AM »
PaleoMama, I think you hit the nail on the head of the central issue here- low-glycemic index carbohydrates are a staple of this diet.  Therefore, there are no chronically-high insulin levels, and a very low incidence of the "diseases of civilization", insulin resistance, syndrome x, etc...

You also bring up a point which I've been thinking about lately.  When I read some of the threads on the Zero Carb forum (http://forum.zeroinginonhealth.com/), some of the people there seem pretty militant that their way is the only way (or the "best" way) of eating.  But, one has to wonder, when looking at the wide geographical dispersal of humanity over hundreds of thousands of years, how much humans in different parts of the world have evolved to handle very different (but all paleo!) diets.  Maybe there are slight physiological differences between Inuit people and Ethiopians; I don't know.  Or perhaps all homo sapiens tribes are true omnivores and can subsist and survive on widely different diets.  The Kitava Island people certainly have a different diet than the Inuit, but they are both healthy populations! 

I've come to the conclusion that there are many possible paleo diets, with varying macronutrient ratios- there are no magic ratios that all humans function best with- it depends on each individual's unique physiology.  From zero carbohydrates to a large portion of carbos.  The "inconvenient truth" for certain smug adherents to any particular diet is that various tribes around the world thrive on very different diets.  But an overarching truth is that all homo sapiens thrive best on plants and animals.  Pre-technological age, pre-agricultural age food obtained with a sharp stick or gathered by hand.

Offline Water Lily

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2009, 09:56:26 AM »
I'm sticking with my very low carb eating plan, despite how some do well on low glycemic carbs. I feel the best I have ever felt in my life on this plan and there's no going back.

Offline 21st-century caveman

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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2009, 10:24:14 AM »
After eating nothing but meat and walnuts yesterday, I had an apple for a snack this morning, and it tasted like I had a mouthful of sugar.  Sheesh!


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Re: High-carb Paleo / The Kitava Study
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 10:32:20 AM »
I agree, Water Lily!

I hear you, 21st-century caveman! Apples are very, very sweet...at least the modern engineered varieties. They always give me the same bladder pain that I get from high fructose corn syrup. So pretty darn sweet stuff!