Twelve women, with a mean age of 57 years, entered a two-month trial.2 The women followed a four-week diet of refined foods, followed by a four-week diet of unrefined foods. The women were not allowed to take vitamins; none had heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, or food intolerances.
The first month's diet (refined foods) was as follows:
Refined Diet - Foods Allowed without Restrictions
- white bread
- snack foods
- processed peanut butter
- fast foods
- convenience foods
- processed foods
- no more than two servings of fruit per day (one-half cup juice and one medium piece of fruit)
- iceberg lettuce
- green beans
- green peas
- white potatoes (no more than two one-half-cup servings of the vegetables)
Refined Diet - Foods Not Allowed
- dark green vegetables
- orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (with the exception of the one allowed piece of fruit per day)
- nut and seed oils
- nuts and seeds
- olive and canola oil
After one month of eating a refined diet, the subjects went to an unrefined diet for another 30 days.
Unrefined Diet - Foods Allowed without Restrictions
- whole grains
- nonfat dairy
- nut and olive oils
- no fewer than six one-half-cup servings of dark green and yellow/orange fruits and vegetables
- a minimum of two slices of whole wheat bread
- no more than three ounces (one serving per week) of meat, fish, or poultry
- four-and-one-half ounces of sun-dried raisins*
- two tablespoons of almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans*
- two tablespoons of sesame butter*
- one tablespoon of wheat germ oil*
- one cup of ginger tea*
- two cups of green tea*
Foods the unrefined food group were required to consume daily. The raisins, ginger, and green tea supplied a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catchechin, and gingerol, which all have antioxidant properties. The wheat germ oil, nuts and nut butter supplied vitamin E and related compounds.
Foods Not Allowed
- altered foods, such as low-calorie and processed foods
- fast foods
- fried foods
- all-white-flour bread and pasta
- whole dairy
Selected micronutrients were analyzed in both diets.
Carotenoids averaged around 240 retinol equivalents in the refined phase and jumped to over 1,400 retinol equivalents in the unrefined phase each day.
Fiber was 15 grams a day with the refined and 38 grams during the unrefined part of the study.
In going from the refined diet to the unrefined diet, vitamin C increased from an average of 59 milligrams to over 150 mg per day, and vitamin E increased from 13 to 31 mg; magnesium increased from 193 mg to almost 350 mg per day; folic acid increased from 160 mcg to 250 mcg; and daily cholesterol intake dropped from 218 mg to 27 mg.
Lipid levels. In one month on the unrefined diet, the average total cholesterol decreased from 250 mg to 219 mg per deciliter. LDL also decreased from 167 to 139 mg, while HDL remained unchanged. Thus, the cholesterol-to-HDL ratio also improved. Triglycerides also were reduced, from 147 to 119 mg per deciliter.
Colon function. Colon function was as follows: 10 out of the 12 subjects reported improved elimination following the unrefined diet. Ten out of 12 subjects also reported softer stools. Nine out of the 12 subjects reported more frequent elimination.
Antioxidant status. Endogenous antioxidant measurements were as follows: Erythrocyte superoxide dismutase averaged 0.79 mcg in the refined food phase and was reduced to 0.24 mcg after subjects followed the unrefined diet. Plasma glutathione peroxidase and erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase also dropped following the unrefined phase. Because the amount of dietary antioxidants was increased during the unrefined diet and dietary pro-oxidants were reduced, the body's endogenous production of antioxidants was decreased. Thus, the authors inferred a reduction of oxidative stress - and this author agrees.
It should be noted that this trial only included 12 subjects and was only for a two-month period, but studies like this have rarely been done and the data, after only 30 days of an improved diet, is certainly impressive. I look forward to larger trials to replicate these results. In the meantime, I will be giving handouts of this article to my patients so they can see firsthand the power of eating an unrefined, phytochemical rich diet.
- Bruce B, Stiller G, Klevay L, Gallagher S. A diet high in whole and unrefined foods favorably alters lipids, antioxidant defenses, and colon function. J Am Coll Nut 2000;19(1):61-67.
- Research began with 14 subjects; subsequently two dropped out of the study.
- Diet results were based on data from the 11 who reported.
G. Douglas Andersen,DC, DACBSP,CCN
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