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As we go further down the rabbit hole of exploring the potential advantages of a diet that displaces more fat with more carbohydrate, it’s a good time to bring up Staffan Lindeberg and the 70% carbohydrate/20% fat diet of the Kitavans.

While ironically drinking 6 quarts of milk per day, I read Paleo author Staffan Lindeberg’s 2010 release – Food and Western Disease.  Although this book is too expensive for most to purchase, and is about as boring as health and nutrition information could ever possibly be presented, it did have a few gems of very interesting thought. 

Lindeberg is most famous for his work on the Kitavans – a tropical area in Papua New Guinea where the islanders reach old age completely free of heart disease, most cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other various forms of “Western Disease.”  Their great health is shared by many high-carbohydrate cultures the world over – something documented repeatedly by Hugh Trowell, Denis Burkitt, T.L. Cleave, and other great 20th century health and nutrition scholars.

Anyway, following is a video on Lindeberg, high-carbohydrate diets, etc. with some intriguing quotes following – all taken from Lindeberg’s latest book.   

Lindeberg, Staffan. Food and Western Disease. Wiley-Blackwell: West Sussex, UK, 2010.
p. 12

“In migrant studies, a couple of years after transition to an urbanized lifestyle, virtually everyone has higher blood pressure and blood sugar than non-migrants of the same ethnic origin. The fact that virtually all Westerners will develop pronounced atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries of the heart with age, while other free-living mammals apparently go free of this problem is not often discussed today.”

p. 28

“The long primate history of fruit eating, the high activity of human salivary amylase for efficient starch digestion and some other features of human mouth physiology, as well as the absence of Western disease among starch-eating traditional populations suggest that humans are well prepared for a high carbohydrate intake from non-grain food sources. Although restriction of all types of carbohydrates may provide some benefit for subjects with type 2 diabetes, it seems unlikely that dietary carbohydrate is a primary cause of Western disease.”

p. 32

“In order to increase the caloric yield per workload, root vegetables may often have been an optimal dietary choice. An illustrative example is the Machiguenga tribe of the Amazon, among whom one woman can dig up enough root vegetables in one hour to feed 25 adults for one day. The excellent health status among this and other starch-eating ethnic groups, including our own study population in Papua New Guinea, contradicts the popular notion that such foods are a cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

p. 48

“The dominant trans fatty acid in margarines and oils is elaidic acid, while trans-vaccenic acid dominates the fat in ruminants.”

p. 58 Table 4.1 Percentage of deceased men in USA and Uganda, 1951-1956 with signs of previous myocardial infarction at autopsy…

age 40-49 17% vs. 0%
age 50-59 26% vs. .5%
age 60-69 33% vs. 0%
age 70-79 33% vs. 0%
80+ 22% vs. 0%

p. 116 – on Kitavans

“It is obvious from our investigations that lack of food is an unknown concept, and that the surplus of fruits and vegetables regularly rots or is eaten by dogs.”

p. 128

“A satiating diet, i.e. one that satisfies the appetite with a lower amount of calories, is a crucial factor in preventing and treating obesity in the population. A Paleolithic diet in this sense appears to be particularly satiating, although this has not been systematically investigated. In our study of a Paleolithic diet, the reported energy intake was 25% lower in the Paleolithic group than in the Consensus despite no difference in satiation as reported by the participants.”

p. 145

“Previously, secular trends of increased body height in the 20th century have been attributed exclusively to improved nutrition, in particular increased protein intake and less famine. This was called into question already in the 1960’s by Ziegler, who showed that the increase in the population’s height in England, Japan, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, USA and New Zealand was strongly correlated to increased sucrose consumption, but not to protein intake. Even observations among Canadian Eskimos point in the same direction. For a 30-year period, body height increased by 4.6 cm among men and 2.9cm among women, while the onset of puberty moved down 2.0 years. During the same period, there was a sevenfold increase in sucrose consumption, while protein intake diminished by 60%.”

p. 148

“In animal trials, refraction changes in the direction of myopia appeared with a diet rich in sucrose and low in protein, which was shown in rabbits and rats.”

pp. 170,173

“The cattle-herding Masai of East Africa should be mentioned in particular. During their traditional nomadic life, the intake of saturated fat from milk has been very high, and they also suffered from significant coronary atherosclerosis, although raised plaques were rare. Despite this, researchers noted a very low serum cholesterol level (3.5 +- .9mmol/L) that did not rise with age. It has been suggested that this would be due to an increased ability to suppress cholesterol synthesis in the liver. However, after urbanization the serum cholesterol levels rose to 5.2 +- 1.2 mmol/L. The usual hypothesis that this may be due to differences in physical activity is doubtful, since men traditionally stop acting as warriors around the age of 25, and later their wives do most of the daily work.”

p. 221

“In order to reduce the intake of phytochemicals, our staple food should preferably not be seeds, grains and beans, and should vary between different types of vegetables and root vegetables.”

p. 222

“Aboriginal populations, who do not consume foods that humans are not adapted for, have a disease panorama that is quite different from people in the Western world. Yet, this is not due to a lack of older persons. Myocardial infarctions, sudden cardiac death from stroke and heart failure are uncommon or missing altogether in aboriginal peoples. The risk factor levels are also very beneficial. Blood pressure is low and does not increase with age as it does for us. Being overweight is not common, and everyone is very thin. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance do not seem to be present either.

The concept of normality is turned on its head with these types of comparisons. A normal, middle-aged European, with average levels of body weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar has an average risk of dying of a heart attack. While this is ‘normal’ in Europe, we did not find any such cases in our Papua New Guinea study and no one died of a heart attack. We believe that his is due in large part to dietary habits, although the role of other lifestyle factors need to be addressed as well.

When traditional ethnic groups switch to a Western lifestyle, they suffer from exactly the same ills as we do, including abdominal obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The spread of stroke after urbanization in Africa and Papua New Guinea is only one of several noticeable examples.”

“Our diet begins to make its marks on us early in life. Today’s young people are becoming unnaturally tall and most girls are having their first menstruation before they are mentally mature enough to become mothers. Nearsightedness and acne are common occurrences. There is a lot to suggest that these health problems, similar to the most common forms of cancer in the West, are related to our current dietary habits. The mechanisms seem to be solely related to insulin resistance, a disorder that supposedly develops very early in the lives of Westerners.”