“We can’t deny the paleolithic ketogenic diet and we can’t deny scientific fact.” – Dr Csaba Tóth.

Hungarian physician Dr Csaba Tóth has been ostracised by the medical community. His research into the paleolithic ketogenic diet as a diabetes treatment is controversial in some circles. But his team’s success is staggering.

Tóth’s theory is that a paleo keto diet can stop the autoimmune process in new-onset type 1 diabetes, which means the cessation of insulin production could be prevented.

Some are sceptical, and understandably so – can a diet really be as or even more effective than medicine? Well, Tóth’s evidence suggests it could be, and the findings might have life-changing implications for people with diabetes.

Word of Tóth’s research spread late last year when his team showed how a nine-year-old boy with new-onset type 1 diabetes came off insulin injections for 19 months upon adopting a paleo keto diet. This then extended to 24 months. Tóth insisted it wasn’t a honeymoon period. Instead, he argued, the paleo keto diet stopped the boy’s insulin cells from decaying.

Why did this happen? Tóth (pictured with Zsofia Clemens, University of Pécs) told Diabetes.co.uk that the paleo keto diet prevents the destruction of pancreatic beta cells. Moreover, it could even improve insulin production once adhered to properly (although people already taking insulin should not discontinue their treatment).

“For people with new-onset type 1 diabetes, there is only one chance to restore insulin production. Thus it is important to intervene with the paleo keto diet as early as possible. There will be no second chance once the autoimmune process has destroyed the beta cells,” said Tóth.

But Tóth’s research has been discredited by the clinical community – he describes his peers as “sceptical” and “very distant”.

“The main reason for this [distance] is that stating that a diabetic can have a long life without insulin and that this disease could be reversed goes against today’s medicine,” he said.

“But mostly they don’t even know about this opportunity. If a patient with type 1 diabetes wants to use the paleolithic ketogenic diet and seeks help from a diabetologist he will be refused because the diabetologist doesn’t know how and whether the diet works.

“The other important factor for this scepticism is the philosophy behind it: if we can’t cure something with expensive clinical treatments how could we cure it with a simple diet?”

Understanding the paleo keto diet

So what exactly is a paleo keto diet? Why has it been such a success in diabetes research? And could it ever be clinically recommended to treat diabetes?

The paleo keto diet is a modified version of the ketogenic diet, consisting only of animal meat, fat, offal and eggs with a fat:protein ratio of nearly 2:1.

Tóth, who is the medical leader at Paleomedicina Hungary, began studying chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertensio, Crohn’s disease and cancer six years ago. His team first researching the paleo diet, but their findings weren’t as positive as he’d hoped.

“We don’t know of any cases where a patient didn’t have positive results with this diet,” Tóth said.

“The concept of the paleo diet is that humans were eating healthy in the Paleolithic Age,” he said. “We started using the paleo diet, but the results weren’t perfect. It’s good for treating high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, but it’s not effective for autoimmune diseases.

“We started using the paleolithic ketogenic diet, which combines the advantages of the paleo and the classic ketogenic diet while overcoming the shortfalls of both diets, resulting in a very effective diet.

“The classical ketogenic diet has several components that are ‘forbidden’ in the paleo diet: vegetable/plant oil, seed flour, sweetener and dairy products. It is because of the exclusion of such foods is that the paleolithic ketogenic diet is much more effective than the classical ketogenic diet.”

So far, their research with new-onset type 1 diabetes patients has shown the paleo keto diet to be groundbreaking in its efficacy. The diet can even be used to prevent the onset of diabetes complications in patients with type 1 diabetes who already have exhausted beta cells.

“We don’t know of any cases where a patient didn’t have positive results with this diet,” Tóth said. “Ketosis develops within a few days so the first results are seen very early. The first advantage is the amount of energy – we can get up to three times more energy from the paleo keto diet.  Furthermore the symptoms of illnesses, like high blood pressure and high blood glucose can simply vanish after a few days.”

A typical meal eaten on the paleolithic ketogenic diet

The diet could benefit everyone

Tóth is adamant that everyone would benefit from the paleo keto diet, including people with type 2 diabetes. Because the diet restores normal functioning of the body, it doesn’t matter how long a patient has had type 2 diabetes or what their blood sugar levels are – the diet can normalise blood glucose levels and insulin resistance.

Moreover, there is no reason that the diet cannot be continued long term. Inuits and Eskimos have been eating a paleo keto diet for a long time due to their lifestyle, culture and lack of access to processed foods at supermarkets, with research showing no health complications from eating this diet, only benefits. Tóth argues that thei Inuits’ lower life expectancy is due to having no healthcare access and high infant mortality.

The diet can lead to some initial side effects, but Tóth explains that these appear to be short-term.

“In my experience, ketosis appears after a few days of the diet. This can lead to side effects such as headache and diarrhoea because of the sudden high protein intake,” said Tóth. “These disappear after a few days then the body gets entirely accustomed to this type of diet. There are no [long-term] side effects. We check our patients regularly, but we’ve yet to see any side effects.”

While the diet could benefit everyone, it is essential to ensure you consult your doctor before embarking on a paleo keto diet to make sure it is carried out safely.

Tóth acknowledges that motivation is needed to stick to the paleo keto diet – as with all diets – but he doesn’t believe that it is a restrictive diet, just a very healthy one.

“In a carbohydrate-based diet blood sugar levels are the main influence of our hunger, but in the paleolithic ketogenic diet energy levels are the influence.”

However, given the reduced frequency in which food is consumed, it can require perseverance to stick to in the early stages as the body adapts to having a decreased food requirement.

“It’s recommended to eat twice a day as the general need for food decreases,” said Tóth. “Our bodies produce energy from the fat, and during this process water is produced. The same goes for water intake – you need less water with the paleo keto diet than with a high-carb diet. Eating offal, such as bone marrow, liver and kidney, is essential to maintain healthy vitamin levels.”

Tóth maintains that once the diet is fully adhered to, the benefits are extensive.

“If a child is suffering with advanced Crohn’s disease, for example, they won’t feel that the diet is restrictive but that they are getting better.

“We have to keep in mind that our biological and psychological needs have diverged from each other. It’s important to consider how much protein we eat. It’s not necessary for the human body to consume a lot of meat and protein; what’s important is the fat. We get our energy from fat. Without fat intake, this process can’t work to the fullest.

“In a carbohydrate-based diet blood sugar levels are the main influence of our hunger, but in the paleolithic ketogenic diet energy levels are the influence.”

‘We can’t deny scientific fact’

So what message does Tóth have for other healthcare professionals? Does he believe there is a future for the paleo keto diet within the clinical community?

He’s optimistic. He predicts that clinical consensus regarding the diet will change, especially as supplementary results emerge and diabetes patients continue to show health improvements.

“We can’t deny the paleolithic ketogenic diet and we can’t deny scientific fact. I’d tell other healthcare professionals to get experience with patients regarding this diet, and if the results are good then we have to support this diet. I think this will become more widespread in the near future.”

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