Richard G. Petty, MD

The Ape Diet

The BBC is carrying an article today about an experiment done for a television program in the United Kingdom.

Nine volunteers aged 36 to 49 set up home in a tented enclosure at Paignton Zoo, Devon, right next door to the ape house.

They were then put on what was essentially a vegan diet for a week followed by a vegan and fish diet for five days. They didn’t call it a vegan diet, choosing the more catchy name of an Evo Diet. The nutritionist who designed the eating plan was inspired by the diet consumed by apes in the wild.

She devised a three-day rotating menu of fruit, vegetables, nuts and honey. The prescribed menu was designed to be safe to eat raw; to meet adult human daily nutritional requirements; and it provided 2,300 calories – between the 2,000 recommended for women and 2,500 for men.

They typically ate 5kgs {Yes, ELEVEN POUNDS (!)} or 2,300 calories of fruit, vegetables, nuts and honey.

On a 3-day rota, they typically ate broccoli, carrots, radishes, cabbage, tomatoes, watercress, strawberries, apricots, bananas, mangoes, melons, figs, plums, oranges and hazelnuts.

Volunteers could also drink water. In the second week, standard portions of cooked oily fish were introduced. The idea was that this was to simulate the diet of a hunter gatherer.

Although this is really a mock experiment, it was a shame that they added the fish in the second week: it would have been nice to have seen the impact of just twelve days on a vegan diet.

Even so, the results were remarkable. The average cholesterol of the group fell by 23%, they lost an average of just under ten pounds and average blood pressures fell from 140/83 to 122/76.

I don’t find any of this at all surprising: I’ve done countless experimental diets on healthy volunteers, on patients and I’ve also tested them all on myself.

Eating the kind of diet to which we adapted over hundreds of millenia obviously makes good sense. And is far more likely to be successful than the latest fad diet based on some highly unnatural approach. The trouble with this experiment was that it actually did not simulate our ancestral diet: some – but not all – people do much better if they “eat with the seasons:” eating summer fruits in the summer, winter vegetables in the winter and so on. From what we know from the fossil record, it appears that our ancestors became omnivorous a very long time ago, and fish may have been a relatively recent addition to our diet.

Apart from those nit picky theoretical objections, the main problem with this diet is practical: it can be hard to carry around eleven pounds of fruit and vegetables. I’ve done it as part of an experiment, so I know that it is doable: it depends on how much you want to take control of your body.

There are, of course, loads of supplements for sale that claim to give you all the goodies packed into those eleven pounds of food, but in one convenient little pill. The trouble is that natural foods contain many other nutrients, not all of which have yet been identified. The bulk and the fiber are also important components of your diet.

The second problem is psychological: in Healing, Meaning and Purpose we spend a whole chapter/CD on methods for maintaining motivation and overcoming the psychological, social, subtle and even spiritual problems that often prevent us from looking after our bodies.

“As houses well stored with provisions are likely to be full of mice, so the bodies of those who eat much are full of diseases.”
–Diogenes (a.k.a. Diogenes Laertius, a.k.a. Diogenes the Cynic, Greek Philosopher and Founder of the Cynic School, c.412-323 B.C.E.)

“To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana.”
–Buddha (a.k.a. “The Awakened”, a.k.a. Siddhartha Gautama, Indian Religious Figure and Founder of Buddhism, c.563 B.C.E. – c.483 B.C.E.)

“It’s bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children’s health than the pediatrician.”
–Meryl Streep (American Emmy and Oscar-winning Actress, 1949-)

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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