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Food and Western Disease Paperback – 18 Dec 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (18 Dec. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405197714
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405197717
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.8 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 859,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


“This should make an invaluable guide for practitioners who already work in this area trying to help people whoare struggling with their weight, as well as those that just want to know more about the complex and challenging area of obesity management .” (Nutrition Bulletin, 1 March 2013)


From the Back Cover

Nutrition science is a highly fractionated, contentious field with rapidly changing viewpoints on both minor and major issues impacting on public health. With an evolutionary perspective as its basis this exciting book provides a framework by which the discipline can finally be coherently explored.

By looking at what we know of human evolution and disease in relation to the diets that humans enjoy now and prehistorically the book allows the reader to begin to truly understand the link between diet and disease in the Western world and move towards a greater knowledge of what can be defined as the optimal human diet.

·         Written by a leading expert

·         Covers all major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, stroke and dementia

·         Details the benefits and risks associated with the Palaeolithic diet

·         Draws conclusions on key topics including sustainable nutrition and the question of healthy eating

This important book provides an exciting and useful insight into this fascinating subject area and will be of great interest to nutritionists, dietitians and other members of the health professions. Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists will also find much of interest within the book. All university and research establishment where nutritional sciences, medicine, food science and biological sciences are studied and taught should have copies of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are few books about food and diets which should be read by everybody - and in my opinion this is one of them. If you are interested in nutrition and food, link between diet and disease, you simply have to read this one. It is slightly different than something like "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" by Weston Price or even "Food - your best medicine" by Henry Bieler, but I would consider it no less important than those other books (in fact, I would say that everybody who is "health conscious" should read all of them).

The author shows (based pretty much on a "pure science"; you will have over 2000 references at the end of the book!) how the Western diet was implicated in virtually every single chronic disease that afflicts us every day: osteoporosis, cancer, various cardiovascular problems (including coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis), autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis), obesity and high blood sugar and many others. And how, by choosing food similar to those available to ancient humans, we could improve our health.

The book is also discussing subjects such as: dietary guidelines, genetics, problems and limitations in nutritional research (including "publication bias", "citation bias" or holding to "preconceived ideas and opinions"), glycaemic index and carbohydrate intake, dairy products, refined fats, monounsaturated fat, trans fats, dietary cholesterol, sugar, whole grains and several other.
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One of the best book I have read about nutrition. I highly recommended it to everybody.
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great book, I read it every night.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive work of research 12 Feb. 2010
By Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had read some books dealing with the Paleo-diet style. I also have a personal library with more than 200 books, whose subjects are in one or other way, related with the one in this book (say anthropology, evolution, primatology, nutrition and medicine). I can only say that this one is a really informative book, truly worked, plenty of wisdom and real science, that is, written with a sceptical point of view and with an interest in trying not to be biased at all. It's insightful and thoughtful. I highly recommend its reading if you're one who believe in evolution as the real tool for understanding nutrition. Nutrition is just an inseparable part from the ecosystem, and humans are not different from other animals. If nutrition in zoos is seen as a scientific issue, how is that human nutrition is seen as a political, social and economic arrangement? Once one read this book his/her live changes forever, because one cannot simply think of those colourful card box full of grain and dairy derived stuff as food. One starts looking at those edibles very different from food, from human food and its real meaning.

I reiterate my recommendation of reading this profound research. It doesn't mind you're a medical doctor or practitioner, an anthropologist or a mere human being who seeks light in the messed nutrition world, this is one of the few fresh books which deserves a read. No fad; no preaching; only science, true science, written in a readable way and with a humble and friendly style.


PS: If you read and liked this book, then you could be interested in this one (albeit dealing with a quite different subject): The Biology of Human Longevity:: Inflammation, Nutrition, and Aging in the Evolution of Lifespans.
55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Read, Informative, Packed with Footnotes on Studies 4 Mar. 2010
By Susan Schenck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazon.com recommended this university textbook to me, based on my purchase of hundreds of nutrition books. Well, I hadn't spent so much money on a book since I was in college! But one look at the table of contents was enough to convince me that my nutritional knowledge would never be complete without this information. Then the snow storms delayed the book's arrival by a week as I eagerly anticipated the book's arrival, daily tracking its whereabouts on Amazon.com.

I was not disappointed. I read the book from cover to cover in less than a week. It is jam-packed with information. Nearly every sentence is backed with a footnote citing a study as evidence. There are a few things that I disagree with, for example that a high fat diet may be dangerous, but even the author admits those studies often include grains in the diet (which are, as the author would agree, detrimental to our health). I also wish the author had delved more into the relevance of cooked vs. raw since the Paleolithic diet (advocated in the book) undoubtedly contained mostly raw, enzyme-rich foods.

Why study our evolutionary diet? Author Staffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD, explains that (from the perspective of evolutionary biology) there are four causes of disease or symptoms: attack (as with bacteria and viruses); defense (as with a fever, in which your body is heating itself up to limit the cell division of the bacteria and virus); design error (as with choking on food--airway and gastrointestinal system are crossed); and lack of adaptability to new environment (as with insulin resistance, since we are eating more high glycemic carbs than our ancestors did). The drug companies would have you believe that every disease is a design error and needs to be fixed by a new chemical concoction. In reality, modern diseases began with agriculture. We have clearly not adapted to a diet rich in carbs and especially grains and legumes filled with anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytates.

Lindeberg points out the limitations and contradictions found in scientific nutritional studies. Epidemiological research (which involves observing factors affecting the health and illness of populations) is unreliable because we cannot control all factors. Molecular biology is hard because lab animals are not biologically the same as humans. Furthermore, there are many as yet undiscovered nutrients and molecules that can impact the studies. An intervention study with a controlled trial has the flaw that people often simultaneously improve their lifestyle in other respects, such as giving up smoking or exercising more. Then there is publication bias, as studies with a positive outcome get published more often. There is funding bias, since scientists want to please those who finance their studies so they can get more work. Citation bias also occurs: drug studies get quoted much more than nutritional ones do. Then there is the influence of preconceived ideas: of course, every researcher hopes that his or her hypothesis will be confirmed.

Evolutionary medicine provides an important complement to traditional scientific methods. The new study of nutigenomics looks at the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. It considers the diet that people evolved eating. Traditional people on their traditional diets have been observed to be free of modern day illnesses. Those that were best suited to the food that was available were the ones that had the greatest chance of surviving. Adaptation is very slow, often taking about 40,000 years. Tale the last 365 million years and convert them to a calendar year, making each million years one day. On January 1, we have our amphibian ancestor. Early mammal is born on June 10. Our first primate ancestor arrives on October 28. Homo Sapiens is born December 31 at 7:30 PM. Agriculture develops at 11:45 PM. At 11:59:50, just 15 minutes after agriculture and 10 seconds before the end of the year, cardiovascular disease begins.

This book not only discusses our ancestral diet, but also includes a chapter with a section on every disease of civilization: heart and cardiovascular issues, diabetes, cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases, obesity and more.

The bottom line from all the studies is: eat a diet based on fish, lean meat, fruits, vegetables, and some eggs and nuts. (Eat seeds sparingly as they are too high in omega-6 fats.) Grains and dairy are not our original foods, although some people can eat them when they are prepared properly. (For example, dairy should be fermented.)
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 14 May 2010
By Sasquatch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Lindeberg is a leading figure in the paleolithic diet world, and arguably the most knowledgeable person alive on diet and health in Papua New Guinea. He lead the Kitava study, which is one of the most informative and complete characterizations of any traditionally-living population to date.

The book touches on many "Western diseases" and their possible dietary causes. Nearly every factual statement is extensively referenced. The book contains over 2,000 references. The book is a gold mine of references. Lindeberg is a consummate skeptic, a treatment he gives his own theories as well as those of others. This is a must-read book for any serious student of diet and health who has a scientific or medical background.

Although it's a paperback, the paper and print are top quality. I felt guilty marking on it and folding over pages.

For the Kitava study aficionados, the book contains some previously unpublished data.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought 6 Oct. 2011
By Douglas T. Hawes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At 76 years of age I read this book with a lot of past history. Dr. Lindeberg convinced me that I was eating way too much cheese. That perhaps I should be eating none at all. Secondly, that my eating of whole wheat crackers and bread along with the dairy products might well be a good part of the reasons I had high blood pressure, was over weight, and was prediabetic. Now, can I at this ripe old age change my eating habits? Time will tell but he has convinced me to try and I have added more fruit to my diet and am lowering the amount of whole wheat.

Dr. Lindeberg does not set out to convince you of the above and he appears not to in anyway gain by your conversion. He is rather just a 'dumb' scientist pointing out with 2034 references why the average Western man's diet leads the Western man to the diseases mentioned above. And I in the above have just simplified what he writes in pointing out those things that apply most to me of his well thought out expose.

He has arrived at his learned hypothsis by comparing the diet and diseases of primitive cultures that have diets more in keeping with man's evolutionary past, with the diets and diseases of Western man. He then has shown the scientific background for the conclusions he has drawn. There are only 230 pages of writing, plus glossary and references. It is in a dry but very readable (well with some checking on the meaning of words) text that should be on anyones book list that wants to better understand the effects of diet on the human body. It is a must, in my opinion for anyone in the medical or nutrition professions. Forget all those diet books; read this book first and then figure out where you need to go next. This book in time should become a classic
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of data, many doubts 8 Dec. 2012
By Peter McCluskey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book provides evidence that many causes of death in developed nations are due to a lifestyle that is different from hunter-gatherer lifestyles.

His studies of existing hunter-gatherer societies show moderately good evidence that cardiovascular disease is rare, that aging doesn't cause significant dementia, and shows weaker evidence of less cancer.

He has some vaguely plausible reasons for focusing on diet as the main lifestyle difference. I'm disappointed that he doesn't mention intermittent fasting as a factor worth investigating (is it obvious from his experience that some hunter-gatherer societies don't do this?).

He uses this evidence to advocate a mostly paleo diet, although with less fat than is often associated with that label.

Much of the book is devoted to surveying the evidence about other proposed dietary improvements, mostly concluding they don't do much (or in the case of calorie restriction, might work by causing a more paleo-like diet).

I don't have a lot of confidence in his ability to interpret the evidence.

He gives the impression that Omega-3 consumption has little effect on health, citing papers such as a review whose abstract includes: "showed no strong evidence of reduced risk of total mortality (relative risk 0.87, 95% confidence interval 0.73 to 1.03)". I'd call that evidence for a moderately important benefit of Omega-3, and I consider it strong evidence in comparison to typical dietary studies, although it's weak compared to the evidence that other scientific fields aim for.

One response from nutrition experts says: "The null conclusion of the Cochrane report rests entirely upon inclusion of one trial, DART 2."

A quick glance at recent publications from another author he cites (Mozaffarian) got me this: "Considerable research supports cardiovascular benefits of consuming omega-3 PUFA, also known as (n-3) PUFA, from fish or fish oil."

Excessive skepticism is probably better than hype, but it will discourage many people from reading it. Plus the style is somewhere in between a reference book and a book that I'd read from start to end.
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