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on 8 September 2014
I thought this might shed some new light on the obesity problem but instead I read a re hash of Atkins / Gary Taubes et al. Beware the ramblings of another psuedoscientific "nutritionist" demonising "carbs" in a similar biased manner to those she criticises who demonised fat. Hasn't nutrition moved on from demonising macronutrients or is the attraction that it still sells books because it sounds like a simple solution.

The reasoning goes that the government gave out bad advice (low fat) based on Ancel Keys and people followed it (presumably to the letter) and it caused obesity.

She says "How did we go from a meat-eating, butter-slathering, lard-cooking society to the fat-fearful, heart attack prone, constantly dieting people of today? The blame for that can be laid directly at the doorstep of one man." - Ancel Keys

I have a problem with this, if this was really the case why didn't people stop eating fatty foods completely and why did KFC, MacDonalds and the meat trade continue to do so well, did high fat foods tank in this period? By this same reasoning did people stop eating "carbs" when Dr Atkins told them to in the 1980s and that caused obesity since?

Why do food companies spend vast amounts of money on neuroscience if insulin is the simple answer?

Isn't demonising "carbs" as foolish as demonising fat? People can succeed on a low carb or low fat diet why? Could it be as Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says “The common denominator of such diets is that neither allows consumption of the very caloric and seductive foods that combine high fat with high carbohydrates”

Isn't the carb / insulin hypothesis all rather outdated considering the discovery of Leptin in the 1990s?

People like ideas that "challenge conventional wisdom", but obesity is a complex state and it will not be shoehorned into simplistic hypotheses. According to literally thousands of publications spanning nearly two centuries, the brain is the only organ that is known to regulate body fat mass in humans and other animals-- neither fat tissue itself, nor the insulin-secreting pancreas have the ability to regulate body fat mass as far as we currently know.

As Stephan Guyenet (Phd neurobiology) says in his wholehealthsource blog "If elevated insulin leads to increased fat storage and increased food intake, then experimentally elevating insulin in animals should replicate this (since insulin acts on fat cells in the same manner in humans and non-human mammals). However, this is not observed. Insulin injections at a dose that does not cause frank hypoglycemia do not increase food intake, and in some cases they even reduce it (48). Chronically increasing circulating insulin without causing hypoglycemia reduces food intake and body weight in non-diabetic animals, without causing illness, contrary to what this idea would predict (49, 50). If anything, insulin constrains food intake and body fatness, and research indicates that this action occurs via the brain. Insulin infused into the brains of baboons causes a suppression of appetite and fat loss, which is consistent with the fact that insulin and leptin have overlapping functions in the brain (10, 11). Knocking out insulin receptors in the brain leads to increased fat mass in rodents, suggesting that its normal function involves constraining fat mass (12). Insulin is also co-secreted with amylin, which suppresses food intake and body weight (13). This is why insulin is viewed by some obesity researchers as an anti-obesity hormone."

Then we come to the errors and the references that appear to me difficult to follow: Nina says "The Native Americans he visited were eating a diet of predominantly meat, mainly from buffalo" Hrdlička's book is available online thanks to google books I suggest you search it for "buffalo" No mention to the comsumption of buffalo in that book, but you can find copious references to legume, grain and fruit consumption. If they were healthy as Nina states then could the beans, grain and fruit have helped along with buffalo meat and clams?

Why does Nina consider the studies upon which the Diet-Heart hypothesis was advanced riddled with Methodological Problems yet studies funded by the Atkins Foundation in the past decade a Gold Standard Well Controlled Paragons of RCTs? Why the bias, this is not religion after all it's supposed to be science.

What about the studies of populations who remained healthy and lean on low fat diets such as the Kitavans and the Okinawans? Didn't they deserve a mention?

The picture of Pentane to educate the reader is wrong, it's missing two hydrogens. Was there a proof reader here?

No doubt I am a heretic for drawing attention to the problems of this book I was sadly let down by it.
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on 4 November 2014
Boring no help at all
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on 23 February 2016
What a great book!
About as thorough as you can get, when it comes to the details of how and why the high carb diet is so prominent.
A really interesting read, there's so much information packed in to it.

For example from, from Chapter 7...

"Homer’s “Liquid Gold”?

It is reassuring to think that olive oil, with it’s presumed four thousand years of history, must at least be safe, if not beneficial, for human health, perhaps in ways we haven’t managed to capture through scientific studies. Homer called it “liquid gold”, after all.

Or did he? Although “liquid gold” appears on lots of websites selling olive oil, the phrase doesn’t appear in any translation of Homer’s Oddysey that I could find. Indeed, the actual passage in the Oddysey says something quite different: Odysseus is given “olive oil in a flask of gold” to anoint himself with. In fact, nowhere in any of the Hellenic texts is there any mention that olive oil was consumed as part of the diet. The oil was ancient, true, but – as it turns out – not as a food; it was employed mainly as a cosmetic, for rubbing over the body during ritual activities and athletic contests or simply to enhance physical beauty among gods and mortals alike.

Did the use of olive oil as a food go back much beyond the earlier twentieth century even? Was it the “dominant item of the diet”, going back “at least four thousand years” as Keys claimed? Amazingly, it seems not. “Less than 100 years ago, ordinary people in many parts of Greece ate far less oil than today”, wrote a French historian in 1993. Greek archaeologist Yannis Hamilakis, who has researched the subject extensively, looked at Crete in particular and found that the oil was insignificant as a substance crop before modern times. The amount of olive oil available to the average medieval Cretan peasant for consumption, was in fact, “very low”, and its production expanded only in the mid-seventeenth century, when encouraged by Venetian rulers seeking to respond to a growing industrial demand for the oil – mainly making soap. As Hamilakis concludes, the historical record shows that “despite conventional wisdom, there is almost no evidence which could indicate with certainty” that olive oil was made for “culinary use” in Greece until the nineteenth century. In Spain, too, olive oil did not appear to be consumed in substantial amounts until the 1880’s. And it was apparently the same story in southern Italy, where one scholar found it “doubtful” that olive oil “made a contribution to the diet for over 40 centuries”. An analysis of tree cultivation in southern Italy indicates that olive oil “must have been a scarce commodity until at least the 16th century and… its principal use in medieval times was in religious rituals”. Indeed in historical accounts going back to antiquity, the fat more commonly used in cooking in the Mediterranean, among peasants and the elite alike, was lard.

So it seems that olive oil is actually a relatively recent addition to the Mediterranean diet and not an ancient foodstuff, despite the best efforts by interested parties to add Homer to the marketing team."

I did a quick search on google for "liquid gold olive oil" and got 847,000 results!!!
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on 29 December 2014
An interesting review of the history of the low fat diet and the relationship between fat and heart disease. Worth reading for the description of the way in which the diet-heart disease theory started and how it grew to become the consensus opinion despite very little direct evidence. The book also illustrates just how difficult it is to isolate and quantify the effects of dietary fat (or any other component) in a reliable fashion without either spending boggling quantities of money or infringing on the human rights of test subjects. Or both.

I've not got the time to chase up the authors references or argue through all her evidence so I have to take her word that, when she says a study is unreliable for reasons x, y, z, she's probably correct and not telling porkies. All I can say is that, with the little knowledge I have and with the additional reading around that I've done, she makes a good case that a low fat diet (20-25% of total calories) is probably, at best, not harmful and certainly not the miracle cure for heart disease we've been led to believe it would be.

All of this is delivered in calm, measured prose and impartiality. Evidence later in the book that a diet high in carbs (particularly refined carbs) may actually be the cause of the obesity epidemic is well presented, though given the absence of studies in the literature and the difficulty in conducting them, its difficult to know just how conclusive the arguments are.

I was left with the feeling that government dietary recommendations were initially made on the basis of some poor quality research combined with leaps of faith, all in the absence of a complete understanding of what the body does with the various forms of fat we eat.

The book doesn't make diet recommendations and doesn't have a meal plan. Although it refers to the Atkins diet, it has to as an exemplar of a diet high fat low carb diet.
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on 22 May 2015
Rubbish book full of bed science very disappointing
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on 16 August 2014
Spot the difference:

Teicholz on the Women's Health Initiative:
'After a decade of eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while cutting back on meat and fat, these women not only failed to reduce weight but did not see any significant reduction in their risk for heart disease or cancer of any major kind'.

S. Liu et al, 'Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardivoascular disease: the Womens Health Study' Am J Clin Nutr (2000) Oct 72(4): 922-8
'After adjustment for age, randomized treatment status, and smoking, we observed a significant inverse association between fruit and vegetable intake and cardiovascular disease risk. For increasing quintiles of total fruit and vegetable intake (median servings/d: 2. 6, 4.1, 5.5, 7.1, and 10.2), the corresponding relative risks (RRs) were 1.0 (reference), 0.78, 0.72, 0.68, and 0.68 (95% CI comparing the 2 extreme quintiles: 0.51, 0.92; P: for trend = 0.01)....These data suggest that higher intake of fruit and vegetables may be protective against cardiovascular disease and support current dietary guidelines to increase fruit and vegetable intake.'

I conclude that Nina Teicholz may share with Ancel Keys a tendency to base her arguments on a selective reading of the evidence.

Take this book with a pinch of salt - but not more than 6g per day, of course.
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on 19 July 2014
My first ever book review.

Came onto this having read a NYT article about the author and book, and then an overly long review of the book by the co-author of Protein Power (Dr M.Eades).

Undoubtedly the author is a 'low carb' believer, and I don't think we can dispute that ethos for much longer. Her words are sometimes repetitive, but not onerously so, in exposing (I think) the delusion we have all been led to believe about what constitutes a healthy diet.

This book is not a prescriptive list of what we should be eating, but more an expose of the (half cut and deceitful) theories that did result in us being advised over the last 50 years to eat in ways that now seem to be ill advised. The stack of evidence collected over those years seems to have been misinterpreted through bad science or intentionally ignored to protect various industrial or scientific interests.

The examples presented, it seems to me, cannot be ignored and serious questions have to be answered by those in positions from which diktats are issued. If those in such positions do not answer and simply spout an ethos, they should be removed until we have a balanced presentation of both sides of the argument.

I know which way I am going from now - and its in the direction that this book has convinced me, I will be interested to see how the authorities start to dis-assemble and reverse the recommendations that have been issued over the last few decades OR protect what I now see as incorrect advice. I am sure they will have to do one - I hope they choose the right direction.

A powerful, informative read with far too much info to be taken on in the first pass.
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on 13 October 2017
In this book Nina Teicholz reveals how the Big Food and Big Pharma industries are in control and are making trillions of dollars by keeping us overweight and unhealthy. Teicholz explains that the dietary advice we receive from so called experts is wrong either through their deceit or their ignorance. You want to know why there is a catastrophic epidemic of physical, mental and neurological diseases? Then read this book.

So, some personal notes and preferences... My eyesight is not great these days so I prefer the hardback version to the soft cover since the hardback has larger type. I have bought both editions. After being overweight all of my adult life. I recently discovered that the NHS dietitians who advised me to eat less and exercise more were wrong. I got that advice 15 years ago. The advice that they peddle today is the same and it still does not work. They blame us but we are the victims. I dutifully followed the recommended dietary guidelines for 45 years. As I say, I have learned that I was not to blame for my condition. Through my own research I fixed my hormonal dysfunction. I am now a normal healthy weight and I'm in a better place physically and mentally. If you are interested in fixing your health like I did you can find some great books on the subject of healthy nutrition. I like the work of Jason Fung, Robb Wolf, Jeff Volek et al., Tim Noakes and several others. In common with this book, "The Big Fat Surprise", they are essential reading.
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on 6 November 2015
Terrific book - a detailed look at the politics, personalities, and science.
It is hard to believe that the authorities, and nutritional scientists over the last 50 or so years, could have made such a monumental mess of things.
Very well researched.
I mean, how hard can it be? You really have very few choices:
1. Some sort of equalish split between carbs, protein and fat
2. Pick one, and eat mostly that.
You can't pick low protein - you have to stay above 80 or so grams/day; you shouldn't pick high protein - it has been tried, and it makes you ill, so if you are going to eat a high something diet, you only have a choice of two - carbs or fat.
A secondary choice is what type of fat, which kind of comes down to saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
Ancel Keys was almost single-handedly responsible for setting the Americans irrevocably on exactly the wrong course. He made the worst possible choices, so the Americans are now encouraged to eat a high carbohydrate diet, and the only approved fat is polynsaturated (with some olive oil). This is a nightmare for health; the olive oil is probably not too bad, but it appears that the best diet is one high in saturated fat, with the lowest possible level of carbohydrates, especially added sugar, which is a health disaster.
It is staggering to reflect that the Americans have spent billions of dollars researching diet over the last 50 or so years, and have made a monumental mess of it. The rest of the world the followed the Americans. Unbelievable
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on 19 January 2015
Very well written and thoroughly researched. It's a gripping read despite being a serious book. I actually read it a second time immediately after finishing because I was so keen to ensure that I'd understood the subject thoroughly. Nina highlights how dietary advice to eat less saturated fat was based on extremely poor science and how it has been perpetuated for fifty years by so-called nutritional experts, encouraged by the processed food manufacturers who have an interest in us eating their foods rather than good old fashioned whole meat and vegetables. After eating a low-sat-fat diet for eighteen years and putting on several stone (despite not eating ready-meals, cakes, cookies or any fast food), I have now lost three stone (and am keeping it off) as a result of joining a gym and virtually cutting out processed carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta and white rice. My success gave me an interest in understanding why this approach worked when calorie counting didn't. As well as looking at all dietary research over the last two centuries, Nina explains that as there are only three food groups; fat, protein and carbohydrate by cutting out high-fat foods one tends to eat more carbohydrates which the body more easily converts to sugar and stores as fat. She also contrasts the Mediterranean vs Atkins vs Ornish Vegan diet approaches, notes all the trustworthy as well as untrustworthy scientific studies and blows the whistle on trans fats and the latest interesterification of fats used by the processing and catering industries. AN ESSENTIAL BOOK FOR ALL MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS AND NUTRITION EXPERTS TO READ.
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