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97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An tremendous work of scholarship, 11 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: The Diet Delusion (Paperback)
I bought this book after reading a review in the British Medical Journal as the influence of diet on health is a subject of great interest to me. This book is not a light-weight journalistic book but a work of scholarship going in great detail into the background history as to how some supposed firm truths about, for example, the deleterious effects of dietary cholesterol have become entrenched despite much evidence to the contrary. The author has done a prodigious amount of work ferreting out research papers, interviewing scientists and presenting some of the complex biochemistry that underlies why some of the entrenched ideas are wrong from first principles. In the latter regard I've known for years that ingested cholesterol, say in eggs of prawns, will not increase circulating cholesterol because, as a biochemist, I know that blood cholesterol levels are controlled by a feed-back system so that synthesis in the liver is reduced if cholesterol is provided in the diet. What I didn't know was that data from the Framingham Heart Study, that didn't fit the received wisdom that cholesterol is bad news, has been buried, for example, that cholesterol levels in women over 50 years has no bearing at all on heart disease. Similarly, propaganda that saturated fat intake is linked to breast cancer is the reverse of the truth, and the repeatedly found inverse correlation between blood cholesterol level and risk of various cancers (in other words the lower cholesterol level the higher the risk of cancer) has been constructively ignored because the scientists doing the research were so convinced that saturated fat and cholesterol were the culprits in the search for a causative factor in heart disease. Yet time and time again when research has been done where similar populations are studied (i.e. not comparing different countries) the results find little or no association. As a medical research scientist myself I know that one has to avoid becoming so attached to beliefs that research is done to prove that one is right rather than what should be the case to test to the limit that the belief is wrong.

I suppose it's because dietary fat has the same name as the thing that pads out our adipose tissue that it's popularly assumed that it's the fat in the diet that makes us fat, whereas all food is potentially laid down as fat in the tissues. Similarly because metabolic energy is generated from glucose it's assumed that carbs are what are needed for energy, but again that's not the case, protein, carbohydrates and fat are all energy sources. Athletes don't need to stock up on carbs for energy, their fat stores are there for that purpose.

The wealth of research linking insulin (and the triggering of insulin secretion by carbohydrates in the diet) to fat deposition is comprehensively and convincingly presented by the author is both unsurprising from first principles but it is shocking that it has been side-lined by the "fat is bad " brigade in the field of obesity and heart disease. Lay persons may wonder how false hypotheses can prevail but may not realize that important international conferences are overwhelmingly funded by pharmaceutical or food companies and the influential "thought-leaders" are often on retainers from these industries or at the very least the research is funded by the latter and support given to present their findings at conferences. "Thought-leaders" tend to be the editors of journals and thus wield power over what gets published. Also there's an inherent publication bias in favour of papers finding positive associations between factors because negative findings (i.e. reporting no association) are less likely to be published or secure further funding as there's no money to be made out of research that finds no benefit in to weight-reduction of manufactured low-fat foods; or questions the importance of cholesterol in the genesis of heart-disease in the vast majority of cases, then the wholesale prescribing of statins, to reduce cholesterol, one of the biggest money-spinners of all time would be under threat.

The author is to be commended for this monumental and thought-provoking book.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Mar 2011 20:46:22 GMT
A. Parsons says:
Enjoyed your comments. Not really much of a review of this book but very interesting all the same. Maybe you should write a book about it! :D

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Mar 2011 08:53:34 GMT
Bluebell says:
Dear AP: Point taken! I was fired up by the book to be polemical as it exposes the manipulation and covering-up of research data that didn't suit the food industry: dishonesty that, sadly, pervaded other branches of medical research that could affect sales of pharmaceuticals or cigarettes. Tighter rules over disclosure of conflicts of interest and access to raw data (easier in the US) have probably improved matters.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Oct 2011 10:40:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Oct 2011 10:51:31 BDT
So diet affects health. Now there's a surprise. I would never have guessed that in a Million Years. I wonder why nutritionists don't realise this? Oh I forgot, they serve their Financial Masters and to keep their funding they can't expose the big lies. Especially the one about 'whole-grain' bread. Bread is bread and wheat bread is the worst. It contains gluten which is recognised as a real problem to 'celiacs'. The truth is if it's poisonous to some of us it's probably poisonous to all of us. Wheat causes 'upward spikes' in blood sugar levels; yet the Medical profession continue to advise diabetics to eat 'whole grain' bread, as a 'healthy' option. Don't they know about the connection between bread and high sugar levels? So the elevation doesn't last for ever, as the body uses this sugar for energy. The problem is, whatever sugar isn't used, is stored as visceral and body fat, making us obese; definitely a no-no for diabetics. Yet, when you eat fat, any excess sugar is just evacuated from the body. At least, since I stopped eating bread, that's what I have found. Can't Doctors see that wheat is a poison? Or are they just afraid of being accused of heresy?
Bread... The 'Staff of Life'? The 'Staff of Death' more like.

Bluebell, you are spot on.

Posted on 21 Mar 2012 13:31:26 GMT
Really nice review. I concur with A.Parsons; when's your book coming out?
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