HealthWatch: Doctors Warming To Caveman Diet Trend

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – A growing number of scientists, medical doctors and nutritionists have argued that a Stone Age lifestyle could benefit human health and even cure chronic diseases.

The concept behind the Paleo or Primal diet movement is that our DNA, our genetics, have changed little since Paleolithic era or Stone Age. That means our bodies would work better and with greater efficiency if we ate, exercised and socialized like our prehistoric ancestors.

CBS 5 HealthWatch: Caveman Diet Trend Series

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Two years ago, the 37-year-old Tara Grant suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and weighed more than 250 pounds.

All that changed after Grant joined what scientists call the Paleo trend. Now she eats lean meats, fish, plants, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. She also exercises like a caveman, incorporating an intense, cross-fit routine that she does twice a week that lasts for just 20 minutes.

Grant’s workouts don’t involve machines or treadmills, but rather involve what Fitness Guru Chris Lalanne calls “Primal body movements.” These exercises are basic pushing, pulling and squatting motions that work the body’s major muscle groups.

“I have never felt this good in my life. I weigh less than I did in high school,” Tara exclaimed.

University of California at San Francisco researchers are showing how a modern-day Paleo diet works just as well as statin drugs when it comes to dropping cholesterol levels.

CBS 5 medical reporter Dr. Kim Mulvihill was so intrigued by the UCSF research that she became a guinea pig for the scientists.

She was told that she could not lose any weight and was given a Paleo plan to follow.

Within 10 days, her cholesterol dropped dramatically, as did her blood pressure.

She then asked if she could lose weight, and modified the diet to eat less. Dr. Mulvihill then shed 30 pounds and two dress sizes.

Dr. Mulvihill said she never felt deprived and never felt healthier.

“Live Like a Caveman” is a 5-part series, beginning Monday October 10th, only on CBS 5 Eyewitness News.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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  • Jolene Matthews

    I am so glad you did an series on this. I have been on this diet for a year now. Lost over 30 lbs, cholesterol dropped 11 points and lost about 10% of body fat. I am so proud of myself. This diet has made the most sense out of everything I’ve ever read. I even got my mom to leave me alone after showing her my results. Thank you, I can’t wait to show people at my gym or the people who always ask about the diet :)

  • Cheryl White

    The Paleo diet does far more than lower cholesterol. Last year I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and within three weeks of adopting this lifestyle, not only did all of my symptoms disappear, but I was off of all medications. I’ve been Paleo for over a year now. I remain symptom free, medication free, and I’ve lose 80 lbs effortlessly. If you have ANY health issues, I highly recommend giving Paleo a chance. Try it for just 30 days and you’ll be amazed at how your health improves.

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  • Raf

    weight dropped
    blood pressure normalized
    cholesterol back to normal
    no cloudy/foggy thoughts
    more energetic
    improved mood
    better sleep
    BEST OF ALL I GET TO EAT ALL THE FOODS I LOVE…why wouldn’t I do this for life!?

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  • Sandra Brigham

    Kudos to you Dr. Kim for reporting on Paleo and giving it a shot yourself! At 46, I have never been on a diet. I’ve always eaten the SAD diet religiously, did chronic cardio (ran 45+ miles/wk), yoga, etc. After yrs of running and carbo loading, I developed chronic fatigue.. Was it persistent Lyme? No they assured me. Severe B12 deficiency was treated (? B12 uptake blocked by grains I wonder) but extreme fatigue persisted. When I got laid off over 2 yrs ago, I spent the first yr in bed wondering what was to come of me. Then 1/1/11 I started Paleo. Within wks my chronic fatigue was gone. So were my daily migraines of 25 yrs, the shakes, tunnel vision, ataxia, neuropathies, and much more. While I haven’t lost any wt, in fact I’ve gained, my helath has returned and with Paleo exercise, I have lost 5 inches at the waist and inches everywhere else so I know my body composition is changing-fat is being lost, and I’ve regained muscle mass and added more. I follow more of an Archevore lifestyle (Dr. Kurt Harris); it’s within the Paleo framework. Maybe if I ditched the dairy (heavy cream, grass-fed butter, cheese) in the Archevore diet, the wt (20 lbs)would drop. I am very pleased with the results thus far and will continue this lifestyle. I trust time will correct my set point. I am dismayed and angry that my PCP didn’t do detailed testing. Had she, she would have most probably found pre-diabetes, thyroid issues, adrenal issues. Instead, she and ID referred me to Psych for depression! Please help get this info out to the docs so they can educate their patients on proper diet.

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  • Julie

    There seems to be quite a few books and websites regarding this diet. Is there one that is best?

    • Sandra Brigham

      The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. The framework for both are the same. Reading both gave me more to think about. Both have websites…just Google to get started now. Books are available through most libraries. Sisson has daily posts and free ebook on primal workouts (no gym needed) and Wolf has podcasts. Wolf is a world class athlete (lifting) and uses gyms. I’ve done 11 primal workouts and you should see my muscles now!

      • Evan Kennedy

        I second those recommendations. Robb’s book uses a little more science, not a lot though and its not too hard to follow, but if science really isn’t your thing than Mark’s book is excellent. If you’re already well versed in organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physiology, then I would recommend The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. They also have a great website at

  • Cynthia Jones

    Great Information Sandra, thank You!

  • Kelly

    So happy to see the Paleo diet receiving the attention it deserves! I have been following these diet and exercise guidelines for a little over a year now and seen great results. My weight is down 62lbs, I am off of three of my medications for asthma and I am down four sizes :) The best feeling ever!

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  • Stephanie Butler

    This looks like it is very similar to Dr. Furhman’s Nutritarian diet (“Eat to Live”). Main difference is his is lower in protein and adds beans & legumes. Lots of vegetables, eat salads 2x a day and all the green vegs you want, don’t count calories, just eliminate all processed foods, including bread, pasta, dairy and sugars. I’ve been on ETL for 1.5 months and have lowered BP and lost over 20#, feel much better too! The ETL diet is endorsed by Dr. Oz — essentially eat foods higher in nutrition and cut way back on foods lower in nutrition, like processed foods, animal products, and dairy. It’s not vegetarian, it’s nutritarian.

    • Sandra Brigham

      Fuhrman’s diet is entirely different than the Paleo lifestyle. He is anti-meat (recommends it for only 1-2x/wk!). Paleo eats meat 2-3 times per DAY. He allows legumes, encourages soy, soy products and allows dairy (1-2x/wk)… He’s completely anti-animal protein. He claims a direct correlation between “consumption of meats, poultry, eggs and dairy products, with heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, constipation, gallstones, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids, just to name a few”. He’s a vegan and outlines a vegetariian option. And more. So Not Paleo.

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  • David Morton

    Interesting ideas. Anything to reduce the number of fat people clogging up the very limited American so-called health care system is to be welcomed.
    With a limited knowledge of things medical I wonder, whether the cave man diet presented has any similarity to the actual early man diet.
    Evolution produced a creature with teeth designed for prolonged chewing and a very long digestive tract to ‘process’ vegetable matter. Plus, of course, man is relatively slow so hunting would be rather a hit-and-miss affair.
    Carnivores have few teeth for chewing, large sharp ones for ripping and a very short digestive tract.
    Watch a dog eat sometime. The food is gulped down almost whole and the very powerful gastric juice process it quickly and then eliminate it just as quickly!
    A wild dog sitting down to a three course meal would only end in the dog being a one course meal for another predator.
    Ex living tissue, of any sort tends, to have a very long residence time in a human body. What isn’t broken down and absorbed tends to rot! Breeding ground for cancer cells and other good stuff.
    Disclaimer: I do not eat dead animals of any sort.

    • Alex Krohn

      Actually the human digestive tract has evolved over the past few million years to be more adapted to digest high density calorie foods from animal sources. If you had any knowledge of what archaeologists have learned about human evolution you would not spit such common dogma which has only added to our nation’s health epidemic. We broke off from our most common ancestor about 5 million years ago and the ability for humans at that time to acquire enough calories from the environment to grow our cerebrum was possible by hunting other animals and getting the required fatty acids, protein and calories to feed such a high metabolic organ. Archaeologists have discovered the first hunting tools at this time period which coincide with our first human ancestors. Our digestive tracts have become much more compact and adapted to meat eating since this time. Hence the difference in our digestive tract from the gorilla along with our mobility and ability to hunt. Humans did evolve from a frugavor and incectivor species but for the past few million years we have been meat eaters.

      • David Morton

        Your rep[y makes statements with no citations backing them up. Are you a published authority or just “spitting out your opinions”?
        Dogma: “A settled opinion; a principle, maxim, or tenet held as being firmly established”. Wordnik
        If this dogma is now know to be discredited proof of it’s fallacy is required.
        If one conducts a search on the internet one will find equal numbers, of official looking websites, both for and against my stated dogma.
        My original post was questioning the validity of the statements made by proponents of this diet.
        If one makes a “statement of fact” one should be prepared to back it up with proof that is credible and from many sources..
        The religious argument “you just have have faith” doesn’t work anymore!

    • Sandra Brigham

      Yes, your musings are all addressed in the Paleo community. There’s been great anthropological and paleo science done addressing such questions. It’s all out there! And many would disagree with you on the digestive tract by the way! “A. afarensis did not have the ape-like, ‘funnel-shaped’ thorax usually associated with a large digestive tract and low-quality diet (8). Perhaps the findings that these hominins used tools and had a carnivorous component to their diet should not have been so unexpected.”

      • David Morton

        So, the fact that a carnivore has a short digestive tract (short residence time) and a human has a long digestive (long residence time) tract is incorrect!
        I bow to the new/improved science!
        Do you think ‘Grey’s Anatomy” will be revised?

  • Bryan Pratt

    …and the meat, fish, and vegetables you eat must have had their original diet also. In other words… not a Wall St., Industrially produced, fossil fuel fed, government subsidized diet. Know your farmer, your rancher, and your gardener and learn how they feed their animals and how they feed their soil. If it’s not natural find a new source of food. Better yet learn to grow it and raise it yourself…

    • David Morton

      Mr. Pratt,
      You could be on to something :-)
      Perhaps if people ate only foods containing no profit ‘improvements’, cooked it themselves without all the wonder additions and stopped stuffing their fat faces when reason tells them to stop, percentage of FF would drop drastically.
      Darwin’s theory didn’t stop with the publishing of his book.

      The poverty argument also does not hold water. Laziness and refusal to do minimal work to purchase/prepare wholesome food for ones family is become so prevalent it is now accepted as fact!
      Wholesome food is available relatively cheaply it just doesn’t look like a burger and a coke. Poor third world countries have families that prepare large wholesome meals that the whole family eats together, not burger & fries for the kids and more expensive stuff for the adults. Strangely these so-called poor countries are generally healthier than first world countries (1st and 3rd seem terms that don’t make much sense)

      Also, matching caloric intake with work performed would also achieve balance.
      Following that regime would produce just as many ephiphanies as all these wonder eating plans.

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