Using the Medicine Wheel to Control Type 2 Diabetes

This is the Medicine Wheel, representing the four dietary components of the traditional Northern Plains Indian hunter-gatherer food pattern.

| Sep 26, 2009

The way information is presented to us makes a big difference in whether we are able to integrate that information into our daily lives. Although graphs and numbers may sway some people, putting educational materials into a culturally relevant context can be more effective. A recent study, for example, has found that a dietary program based on the Medicine Wheel Model for Nutrition can change eating patterns among Native Americans, who have the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease of all ethnic groups. 

The study, which was led by Kendra K. Kattelmann, PhD, RD, of South Dakota State University, randomly assigned participants from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to an education group and a usual care control group.  The education group received six nutrition lessons based on the Medicine Wheel Model for Nutrition, which was modeled after Northern Plains Indian traditional consumption patterns:

  • Protein - 25% of energy
  • Carbohydrates - 45% to 50% of energy
  • Fat - 25% to 30% of energy

After six months, significant weight loss was observed in the education group, as well as a decrease in body mass index (BMI).  The control group, who received the usual educational materials from their healthcare providers, had no significant change in weight or BMI.

In the September 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Dr. Kattlemann noted that "A diet patterned after the historical hunter-gatherer type diet, or even the early reservation diet (with the higher proportion of energy being supplied from protein), may provide better blood glucose control and lower the circulating insulin levels in Northern Plains Indians with type 2 diabetes. Tribal leaders are interested in preserving the history of their food patterns and embrace the development of educational tools depicting their historical consumption patterns."


Press release from the American Dietetic Association

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Posted by Gwenn on 27 September 2009

I have lived with the Lakota Sioux, and I am a nutritionist. The Lakota and all other Native American Indian populations have long left their historic diets for the more deleterious modern one of the white man. Today these people are prone to eating the predominantly high-carbohydrate junk-food diet. It is this shift to the highly processed carb diet that has produced so much obesity and diabetes. Though this study shows a step in the right direction by lowering carbs, it is still far too high in total carbs and too low in protein and fat. Native Americans of bygone eras relished fat from the animals they hunted, and often would consume up to 80% fat in their diet. By eating all the animal's organs as well as having a preference for the fat of older animals, they got a significant share of saturated fat in their diets. The basis of their "traditional" diet was in fact very low-carb while very high-fat and protein, the fat being the main energy source, and it is this that granted them their superb health historically.

Posted by seashore on 28 September 2009

Like the incompetent food pyramid, this plan proposes far to much carbohydrate, and far too little fat and protein. Diabetics ideally should limit carbs to about one ounce per day (30 grams). The American Diabetes Association recommends 5 to 7 times this ideal value. Carbs are converted into sugar, and diabetics have too much sugar in their blood.

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