Joe (not his real name) is an 82 year old man who presented to me in 2009 with severe degenerative arthritis of the spine, debilitating chronic pain, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and fatty liver. When I first met him in 2009 he weighed 265 pounds (6 foot), had just undergone multi-vessel coronary artery bypass surgery. He could not walk more than 30 feet without feeling short of breath and severe low back pain. He was referred to me for interventional pain management. At that time the only way he could sleep was in a hospital bed with his head elevated to a 90 degree angle. Otherwise he experienced “orthopnea” (shortness of breath lying flat caused by congestive heart failure). His osteoporosis (demineralization of bone) was so bad it was difficult to do pain blocks using X-RAY because the bone did not show up well on X-Ray due to the osteoporosis. He had also suffered compression fractures in the lumbar spine. Compression fractures are caused by weak bones where just the weight of the body can cause one or more vertebrae to partially collapse.
I recommended a paleolithic-carbohydrate restricted diet. He lost 90 pounds and on the paleo diet was able to get off some of his medication for congestive heart failure.
I saw Joe yesterday for an interventional pain management procedure (radio-frequency ablation of nerves to his painful arthritic lower lumbar facet joints). He gets these about every 6 months to treat chronic pain.
I recalled the first time I did this procedure. It was a struggle because his bones were so demineralized. But yesterday it was a breeze, his bones looked 30 years younger and had enough calcium and other minerals to provide beautiful fluoroscopic (live X-ray) images.
Joe is now sleeping with just 10 degrees elevation at the head of his bed (previously 90 degrees). His fatty liver disease is gone.
The Paleo diet allowed this elderly gentleman to lose 90 pounds, improve his exercise tolerance dramatically (he just won a metal detecting contest competing against young adults) and significantly improve his bone strength. It also cured his fatty liver disease.
Not bad for just limiting food to fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, meat, seafood, nuts and eggs.
Joe’s improvement is not a surprise. A study done at UCSF on the metabolic ward demonstrated improved calcium metabolism (reduced urinary excretion of calcium) within 2 weeks of placing young “couch potato” adults on a paleolithic diet. It also demonstrated improvements in blood pressure, glucose tolerance, decreased insulin secretion, increased insulin sensitivity and improved lipid profiles in just a few weeks. This occurred without an exercise program (exercise will enhance bone strength, reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and improve lipid profiles) and without weight loss. The subjects were “force fed” to avoid weight loss so the beneficial effects of the dietary change alone could be analyzed without the con-founder of weight loss. You can read the abstract of this study here.
The improvements in calcium metabolism are not mentioned in the abstract but appear in the full article in Table 1.
Joe is very grateful for the tremendous improvement in his quality of life, primarily achieved by adopting a Paleo-diet.
Until next time.
BOB Hansen MD