Want to lose Weight? Eat like our Paleolithic ancestors

A recent article appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition that gives an updated estimate of what diet (i.e. Paleolithic) our ancestors may have eaten during the time from their first appearance in Africa some 200,000 years ago until they started leaving Africa 100,000 years later (1). This is important because this type of diet until 10,000 years ago (with the advent of agriculture) was the nutritional foundation through which our genes evolved. Since our diet and gene expression are intimately tied together (2), understanding the dietary forces that molded how our genes respond to diet is important. This is particularly true since nutritional science has many conflicting interactions that make the study of a single nutrient often result in conflicting data. One such example is the study of insulin responses induced by the diet without studying the impact of fatty acid composition on insulin secretion and vice versa. This is why the study of Paleolithic nutrition provides a template to ask questions to optimize our current diet. In fact, I actually I stated this on page 99 of my first book, “The Zone” (3).

So what are the newest updates on the composition of the Paleolithic diet of our African ancestors? It appears the protein content was between 25 and 29 percent, the carbohydrates were about 40 percent and the total fat was about 30-36 percent. If that sounds familiar to the 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate, and 30 percent fat ratio in the anti inflammatory diet, it should. Essentially the newest estimate of the Paleolithic diet of our human ancestors in Africa is the anti inflammatory diet.

Equally important, it was estimated that the intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) was about 6 grams per day. This is similar to my recommendations in “The OmegaRx Zone,” published in 2002 (4). The dietary ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to EPA was also estimated in this article and was found to be about 2. Since the dietary intake of these fatty acids would be reflected in the blood, then we can assume the AA/EPA ratio in Paleolithic man was about 2. This AA/EPA ratio is again strikingly similar to the recommendations in my various books about what the best AA/EPA ratio should be for optimal control of the cellular inflammation, which leads to the acceleration of chronic disease (4-6).

When you follow the Paleolithic diet (a.k.a. the anti inflammatory diet), you find almost instantaneous changes in hormonal responses (7, 8) and improved glycemic control (8,9) before there is any weight loss. And if you continue to follow it, you not only lose weight, but also burn fat faster (11-14).

Was I just taking lucky guesses on my recommendations for the anti inflammatory diet over the past 15 years? I would like to think they were not lucky guesses, but based on insight coming from my background in drug delivery technology that strives for a therapeutic zone for optimal results. The lucky part was having the perseverance to stay true to those insights. On the other hand, it is always nice to get validation even 15 years after the fact.

1. Kuipers RS, Luxwolda MF, Dijck-Brouwer DJA, Eaton SB, Crawford, MA, Cordain L, and Muskiet FAJ. “Estimate macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African paleolithic diet.” British J Nutr 104: 1666-1687 (2010)
2. Sears B and Ricordi C. “Anti-Inflammatory nutrition as a pharmacological approach to treat obesity.” J Obesity published online September 30, 2010. doi: 10.1155/2011/431985. (2010)
3. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)
4. Sears B. “The OmegaRx Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2002)
5. Sears B. “The Anti-Inflammation Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2005)
6. Sears B. “Toxic Fat.” Nelson Publishing. Nashville, TN (2008)
7. Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, and Roberts SB. “High-glycemic-index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103: E26 (1999)
8. Markovic TP, Jenkins AB, Campbell LV, Furler SM, Kragen EW, and Chisholm DJ. “The determinants of glycemic responses to diet restriction and weight loss in obesity and NIDDM.” Diabetes Care 21: 687-694 (1998)
9. Lindberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjorstrom K, and Ahren B. “A Paleolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.” Diabetologia 50: 1795-1807 (2007)
10. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris RC, and Sebastian A. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.” Eur J Clin Nutr 63: 947-955 (2009)
11. Osterdahl M. Kocturk T. Koochek A, and Wandell PE. “Effects of a short-term intervention with a Paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers.” Eur J Clin Nutr 62: 682-685 (2008)
12. Layman DK, Boileau RA, Erickson DJ, Painter JE, Shiue H, Sather C, and Christou DD. “A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women.” J Nutr 133: 411-417 (2003)
13. Lasker DA, Evans EM, and Layman DK, “Moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein weight loss diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk compared to high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet in obese adults. A randomized clinical trial.” Nutrition and Metabolism 5: 30 (2008)
14. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM and Berra B. “Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Eur J Clin Invest 35: 499-507 (2005)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

A cash cow based on bad science

There has been no more profitable class of drugs than the cholesterol-lowering statins. Their success is based on a very simple premise: High cholesterol levels mean certain cardiovascular death. While there has always been questioning of the cholesterol story at the fringes of academic research (1), now the cries are rising within the highest reaches of the academic research community that something is just not right.

Since no one wants to die, you would think that measurement of mortality would be the primary clinical end-point for any clinical trial of a statin drug. There is no question that for people who have already had a heart attack, taking a statin prolongs their life by reducing all-cause mortality. But what about the people who have never had a heart attack but have high cholesterol levels? There the answer is much more open.

One recent article has studied all the published studies with some 65,000 patients who had high cholesterol but no evidence of heart disease to see the effect that statin drugs have on their mortality (2). The answer was virtually none. In fact, in all the statin trials published since 2005, there has been a striking lack of benefits in populations that simply had high cholesterol levels but no evidence of any cardiovascular disease (3). This is true except for one trial that was funded by a drug company that makes a new powerful, statin and run by the individual who has the patent for measuring C-reactive protein as a marker for cardiovascular risk (3).

Here was a new premise: People who had normal levels of cholesterol and no heart disease but high levels of C-reactive protein also need even more powerful statins. The fact that C-reactive protein is an unreliable marker in cardiovascular patients because it changes so quickly was conveniently ignored (4). Nonetheless a successful trial would generate more sales for the drug company and more testing of C-reactive protein for everyone going to see a physician.

So when a careful analysis of this “highly-successful” trial was published this year, it was found that there were no benefits in reducing cardiovascular mortality between the active and placebo groups (3). As the cholesterol story appears to have a growing number of flaws in it, I predict it will become more commonplace to have drug companies and medical researchers continue to use sleight-of-hand statistical dodges to make it appear their “wonder” drugs are actually doing wonderful things, like reducing death from heart disease in those who have no evidence of heart disease.

Maybe it’s time to return to a better working hypothesis of what really drives heart disease—inflammation and to use anti-inflammatory diets to prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (5,6).


1. Ravnshov U. The Cholesterol Myths. New Trends Publishing. Warsaw, IN (2002)
2. Ray KK, Seshasai SRK, Erqou, S, Sever P, Jukema JW, Ford I, and Sattar N. “Statins and all-cause mortality in high-risk primary prevention.” Arch Intern Med 170: 1-024-1031 (2010)
3. De Lorgeril M, Salen P, Abramson J, Dodin S, Hamazaki T, Kotucki W, Okuyama H, Pavy B, and Rabaeus M. “Cholesterol lowering, cardiovascular diseases, and the rosuvastatin-JUPITER controversy.” Arch Intern Med 170 1032-1036 (2010)
4. Bogaty P, Brophy JM, Boyer L, Simard S, Joseph L, Bertrand F, and Dagenais GR. “Fluctuating inflammatory markers in patients with stable ischemic heart disease. Arch Intern Med 165: 221-226 (2005)

5. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)
6. Sears B. “The Anti-Inflammation Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2005)

Nothing contained in this blog is intend to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Aspirin…not just for heart disease

As I pointed in my first book, “The Zone,” more than 15 years ago, aspirin remains a wonder drug because of its ability to reduce inflammation (1). The medical community now uses aspirin for the prevention of strokes and heart attacks, but a recent study may extend its anti-inflammatory benefits to cancer survivors.

A study pre-published online from The Lancet examined various clinical trials comparing the long-term mortality of those individuals who used aspirin or didn’t (2). This meta-analysis study indicated that relatively low-dose aspirin (about 75 mg or a baby aspirin a day) reduced cancer deaths in various long-term cancer survivors by about 20 percent. So should all of us be taking a baby aspirin daily? Possibly, but aspirin does have side effects, especially in terms of bleeding.

But one thing you can do with total safety is to boost your intake of fruits and vegetables. It turns out that fruits and vegetables contain salicylates, the group of compounds that represents the major active ingredient in aspirin. In addition, fruits and vegetables also contain other anti-inflammatory polyphenols (the chemicals that give plants their color). Since plants don’t have access to the local pharmacy to protect themselves from microbial invasion, they have to synthesize their own “drugs”. By consuming fruits and vegetables, we are constantly visiting our “food” pharmacy. Their defense mechanisms now become our nutritional allies in silencing inflammatory gene expression that is turned on when certain food components (such as omega-6 and saturated fats) fool the most primitive part of the immune system (the innate immune system) to think it is under microbial attack.

Most of the inflammation that drives cardiovascular disease and cancer starts with this type of cellular inflammation induced by our diet (3). It’s taken new breakthroughs in molecular biology to finally understand that what’s good for the plant is also going to be great for us if we want to live a longer and better life.

1. Sears B. “The Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (1995)
2. Rothwell PM, Fowkes FG, Belch JF, Ogawa H, Warlow CP, and Meade TW. “Effects of daily aspirin on long-term risk of death due to cancer: analysis of individual patient data from randomized trials.” Lancet, Early Online Publication, 7 December (2010)
3. Sears B. “The Anti-Inflammation Zone.” Regan Books. New York, NY (2005)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Good thing I listened to Dr. Sears

By Mary Dinehart-Perry

Having recently delivered a baby, I was surprised to see the latest article published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that fish oil supplementation rich in DHA has no impact on postpartum depression or cognitive and language development in early childhood.

The study looked at approximately 2,400 Australian women who began supplementation at around 21 weeks gestation through to the birth of their children (1). Individuals were randomized into one of two groups, one getting a fish oil supplement exceptionally rich in DHA (800mg DHA and 100mg EPA) and the other vegetable oil. It has been know for years that fish oils containing both EPA and DHA have dramatic benefits for fetal outcome. However, since there is little EPA in the brain, it was assumed in the past that it was only DHA that contributed to all of these benefits. However, recent studies have demonstrated that EPA rapidly gets into the brain and is rapidly oxidized, but DHA is not (2).

Lack of awareness has led to the mistaken belief that DHA is the only omega-3 fatty acid attributed to optimal brain functioning. Needless to say, companies that market DHA-rich products work very hard to continue to foster this misconception. This explains why the clinical trials that have used only DHA to treat depression or other conditions such as ADHD have been found it to be wanting. This is because DHA is a structural omega-3 fatty acid, not an anti-inflammatory one like EPA.

As long as adequate EPA is constantly in the blood, there will be enough EPA in the brain to address any neurological problems for both the mother and the fetus. That’s why this published study with only 100 mg of EPA was providing essentially a placebo level of this critical omega-3 fatty acid (3).

Although I myself am only a data point of one, I took the same dosage of DHA described above (800mg) during my pregnancy, however, it was coupled with 1600mg EPA. I can’t help but think that it may have been the combination of EPA/DHA that helped me avoid postpartum depression.

Mary Dinehart-Perry is clinical trials director of Zone Labs.

  • Makrides M., Gibson RA, McPhee AJ, Yelland L, Quinlivan J, Ryan P and the DOMInO Investigative Team. Effect of DHA Supplementation During Pregnancy on Maternal Depression and Neurodevelopment of Young Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 2010; 304:1675-1683.
  • Chen CT, Liu Z, Ouellet M, Calon F, RichardP, and Bazinet RP. Rapid beta-oxidation of eicosapentaenoic acid in mouse brain. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 2009; 80: 157–163
  • Wojcicki JM, Heyman MB. Maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk for perinatal maternal depression. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010 Oct 7. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Hill AM, Buckley JD, Murphy KJ, and Howe PRC. Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1267–1274.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce breast cancer risk

The list just keeps growing for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and overall health. The newest to the list is breast cancer. A study just published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention surveyed approximately 35,000 postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 76, for their use of various specialty supplements (1). The 24-page summary took into account past and present use of supplements as well as frequency (days/week) and duration (year). Individuals taking high purity omega-3 oil had a 32 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer, whereas other supplements typically taken to reduce menopausal symptoms (e.g., black cohosh, dong quai, soy, or St. John’s wort) had no association. Although further research needs to be conducted, this again adds to the growing body of evidence on the benefits of omega-3s for disease prevention.

Of this survey didn’t answer the question about if they had taken more, would they have seen even better results? This is because cancer like all chronic diseases is driven by silent inflammation coming from increasing levels of Toxic Fat (i.e., arachidonic acid). High purity omega-3 oil dilutes Toxic Fat, but only a strict anti inflammatory diet can actually reduce Toxic Fat. Follow an anti-inflammatory program consisting of a strict anti inflammatory diet, ultra-refined high purity omega-3 oil concentrates and anti-inflammatory polyphenols to reduce the driving force for virtually all chronic disease.
1. Brasky TM, Lampe JW, Potter JD, Patterson RE, White E. Specialty supplements and breast cancer risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jul;19(7):1696-708.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

What’s the buzz about magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that is inching its way into the spotlight. About 50 percent of the magnesium in our bodies is located in our bone, and the other half is found inside our cells and tissues (1). So what’s the big deal? Well in addition to maintaining muscle and nerve function, regulating heart rhythm, bone health and supporting our immune system, it also helps control blood sugar levels, blood pressure, energy metabolism and protein synthesis (2). This means it may play a role in diseases like hypertension, diabetes and even cardiovascular disease, although more research is needed. It has even been shown to help individuals with asthma based on its anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating effects (3) and a recent animal study shows promise with regards to its memory boosting properties (4).

Despite all the benefits attributed to magnesium, the increase in processed and refined food intake in the United States has led to a decrease in magnesium consumption through the years. So how can you make sure you’re getting enough? The best sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and unrefined grains, such as oatmeal. Meats, starches and milk include some magnesium but are not the best sources. For women over the age of 30 the recommended daily intake is 320mg/day and for men 420mg/day (1). Women, you can meet your requirements with 1 ounce of almonds (80mg), 1 cup frozen spinach (150mg), 1 cup oatmeal (55mg) and 1 cup of yogurt (45mg). Men add 3oz. of halibut (90mg) to this and you’ve met your daily requirements too!

1) Magnesium: Available at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5776&page=190. Accessed: February 22, 2010.
2) Magnesium. Available at: http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/magnesium.asp. Accessed: February 22, 2010.
3) Bichara MD, Goldman RD. Magnesium for treatment of asthma in children. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Sep;55(9):887-9.
4) Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, Zhao X, Govindarajan A, Zhao MG, Zhuo M, Tonegawa S, Liu G. Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-177.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.