Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 8–12 | Cite as

Dietary Shifts and Human Health: Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease in a Sustainable World

  • S. LindebergEmail author



Increasing evidence suggests that optimal food choice is critical for sizable prevention of western diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The Mediterranean diet is an important step in this direction. Moreover, substantially lower rates of Western disease, even compared to Mediterranean countries, have been observed among hunter–gatherers and other non-western populations (Lindeberg 2010). Observational studies and controlled trials support the notion that an evolutionary perspective is helpful when designing food models for optimal human health.


However, sustainable health for the individual patient is not enough: environmental sustainability must also be considered. Are fish and fruit sustainable for everyone? Are starchy root vegetables a better option than cereal grains? Is locally produced meat an underestimated wholesome food? These and other questions need to be addressed in order to cut greenhouse gases and the consumption of (blue) water and nonrenewable energy.


Evolution Paleo diet Non-western populations Cancer Atherosclerotic disease Milk Cereal grains Starchy root vegetables Fruit Sustainability 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Biong AS, Veierod MB, Ringstad J, Thelle DS, Pedersen JI. Intake of milk fat, reflected in adipose tissue fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: a case–control study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006;60(2):236–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Briggs RD, Rubenberg ML, O'Neal RM, Thomas WA, Hartroft WS. Myocardial infarction in patients treated with Sippy and other high-milk diets. Circulation. 1960;21:538–42.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cordain L. Cereal grains: humanity’s double-edged sword. World Rev Nutr Diet. 1999;84:19–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):341–54.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Elwood PC, Strain JJ, Robson PJ, Fehily AM, Hughes J, Pickering J, et al. Milk consumption, stroke, and heart attack risk: evidence from the Caerphilly cohort of older men. J Epidemiol Commun Health. 2005;59(6):502–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fiennes RN. Atherosclerosis in wild animals. In: Roberts J, Straus R, editors. Comparative atherosclerosis: the morphology of spontaneous and induced atherosclerotic lesions in animals and its relation to human disease. New York: Harper & Row; 1965. p. 113–26.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris Jr RC, Sebastian A. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter–gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Freed DL. Do dietary lectins cause disease? BMJ. 1999;318(7190):1023–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jönsson T, Ahren B, Pacini G, Sundler F, Wierup N, Steen S, et al. A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006;3(1):39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, Branell UC, Pålsson G, Hansson A, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahrén B, Lindeberg S. A Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7:85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Key TJ. Cancers. In: Geissler CA, Powers HJ, editors. Human nutrition. London: Elsevier; 2005. p. 415–28.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kritchevsky D, Tepper SA, Kim HK, Story JA, Vesselinovitch D, Wissler RW. Experimental atherosclerosis in rabbits fed cholesterol-free diets. 5. Comparison of peanut, corn, butter, and coconut oils. Exp Mol Pathol. 1976;24(3):375–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kritchevsky D, Tepper SA, Klurfeld DM. Lectin may contribute to the atherogenicity of peanut oil. Lipids. 1998;33(8):821–3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lindeberg S. Food and Western Disease—Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lindeberg S, Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. 2007;50(9):1795–807.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Lopez-Otin C, Diamandis EP. Breast and prostate cancer: an analysis of common epidemiological, genetic, and biochemical features. Endocr Rev. 1998;19(4):365–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Moss M, Freed D. The cow and the coronary: epidemiology, biochemistry and immunology. Int J Cardiol. 2003;87:203–16.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    O'Dea K. Marked improvement in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in diabetic Australian aborigines after temporary reversion to traditional lifestyle. Diabetes. 1984;33(6):596–603.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Österdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, Wändell PE. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008;62(5):682–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Parkin DM. Global cancer statistics in the year 2000. Lancet Oncol. 2001;2(9):533–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, Appel LJ, Bray GA, Harsha D, et al. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(1):3–10.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Segall JJ. Dietary lactose as a possible risk factor for ischaemic heart disease: review of epidemiology. Int J Cardiol. 1994;46:197–207.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Shechter Y. Bound lectins that mimic insulin produce persistent insulin-like activities. Endocrinology. 1983;113(6):1921–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Sjögren P, Rosell M, Skoglund-Andersson C, Zdravkovic S, Vessby B, de Faire U, et al. Milk-derived fatty acids are associated with a more favorable LDL particle size distribution in healthy men. J Nutr. 2004;134(7):1729–35.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Smedman AE, Gustafsson IB, Berglund LG, Vessby BO. Pentadecanoic acid in serum as a marker for intake of milk fat: relations between intake of milk fat and metabolic risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(1):22–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Stary HC. Lipid and macrophage accumulations in arteries of children and the development of atherosclerosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(5 Suppl):1297S–306S.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Trowell HC. Non-infective diseases in Africa. London: Edward; 1960.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Warensjö E, Jansson JH, Berglund L, Boman K, Ahren B, Weinehall L, et al. Estimated intake of milk fat is negatively associated with cardiovascular risk factors and does not increase the risk of a first acute myocardial infarction. A prospective case–control study. Br J Nutr. 2004;91(4):635–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ, Marchello MJ, Kritchevsky D. Consumption of ground bison does not increase early atherosclerosis development in hypercholesterolemic hamsters. Nutr Res. 2000;20(5):707–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    World Cancer Research Fund. Food, nutrition and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. Washington: World Cancer Research Fund in association with American Institute for Cancer Research; 2007.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Yevdokimova NY, Yefimov AS. Effects of wheat germ agglutinin and concanavalin A on the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans in pericellular matrix of human dermal fibroblasts. A comparison with insulin. Acta Biochim Pol. 2001;48(2):563–72.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Primary Health Care ResearchLund UniversityLundSweden

Personalised recommendations