All posts in Book Review

Book Review: “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health” by William Davis, MD

I listened to the audio version of Wheat Belly in 2011 during my daily commute and walks. I thought I would repost a review I did at that time here on our new website blog.

Dr. Davis lays out an argument against the use of wheat containing products in any of its various forms. He contends that wheat (especially the hybridized form developed for high yield in the 1960’s) is the single source of almost all of the current medical ills. He links wheat intake to the obvious and common problems of Celiac disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, and metabolic syndrome. He extends the linkage to other disorders such as acne, allopecia areata, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia.

Dr. Davis describes his theory using a few very interesting studies on dietary intervention on biochemical markers such as serum glucose and cholesterol levels. He adds to this a substantial amount of anecdotes, both personal and professional, and never passes up an opportunity to turn a sarcastic phrase to describe the evils of wheat ingestion.

I think Dr. Davis provides some very intriguing ideas concerning the changes in wheat consumption in the modern American diet. His description of the genetic modification that occurred in the 1960’s is compelling as the single factor that changed to spark the growing incidence of Celiac disease and diabetes. He also provides one of the simplest explanations I’ve read about the connection between a high carbohydrate diet and the biochemical changes in the cholesterol metabolism pathway.

In the end though Dr. Davis is simply promoting his own hybridization of a low carbohydrate diet and a paleolithic diet. He advocates to avoid all wheat products given their reported disastrous effects on the human body but in practice he recommends a low carbohydrate diet of at most 100gm/day and for many he recommends 50gm/day as the maximum. He argues that the pancreas has been so abused over the years from a high wheat (read: carbohydrate) diet that it can no longer tolerate a higher carbohydrate diet. For all intents and purposes, a low carbohydrate diet reduces or eliminates the majority of wheat consumption anyway.

Overall I thought the book was only okay even though I agree with most of what he said. From a scientific stand point I wish there were more references to studies and actual evidence as wheat as the culprit. I think the evidence for his low carbohydrate intake is sound although he doesn’t necessarily prove that in his book. I wish too that he had toned down his use of anecdotes. One of my favorite medical cynics, Mark Crislip, MD is often heard saying “The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.” Telling compelling stories about successes on a wheat free, low carb diet are good to hear and we want to rejoice with the individuals who now have better health but they don’t provide much in the way guiding public health.

Lastly, I’ve taken some time and looked through his two websites www.wheatbellyblog.com and www.trackyourplaque.com. In several of his blogs he expounds on a style that is much more subtle in the book. He often describes the average working physician as someone rather uneducated about the higher matters of science. He comments frequently on how hard it is to find a physician who actually knows any of the ‘real’ medical facts. I think most of us who are actually seeing patients hurting and suffering from modern diseases are desperately trying therapies to help them. We want facts though, not stories. We want to be able to tell our patients more than the traveling snake doctor would tell his customers. “Come try this tonic! Why, a man down the road used it and it cured his ills!”

I’ve often said that difference between alternative medicine and true medicine is the fact that alternative medicine by definition lacks evidence. Once an alternative therapy has been studied it moves out of the alternative medicine realm into the tool box of true medicine useful in treating patients.

My recommendation: Borrow It

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Book Review: “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease” by Robert Lustig, MD

Robert Lustig, MD’s book Fat Chance is a quick, well referenced follow-up to his wildly popular YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”. In this book he lays out the clear physiological pathway in which excess sugar (specifically fructose) is the key toxin causing so much obesity and metabolic disease. The twin cofactors of our lack of fiber (to blunt the rate of sugar absorption) and our lack of exercise (to increase our per minute use of glucose) play a role as well.

In this paradigm change is necessary for all of us we hope to avoid certain metabolic catastrophe. He lays our several key elements necessary for our health. Including reducing sugar consumption, increase real/whole food consumption, and in reducing the overly processed packaged food dependency we have as a nation. He outlines why this is both behavioral (we choose the wrong foods) and physiologic (our bodies push us to choose the wrong foods) and how to address both. In the end he even outlines his argument for governmental policy to help us change.

I was very pleased to read this book. I was very glad to realize that 90% of the points he makes in this book we already teach through the practice’s nutritional counseling program. I was even pleased to read him talk about ‘real food spoils.’ It does by the way.

I would highly encourage everyone interested in true health and the physiology that regulates it to read this book. I borrowed mine from the county library but like it so much I’ll order a copy to own.

In that vein we will be using a simple recommendation scale for our book reviews. We will recommend one of the following actions for each book:

  • Skip It for those books you needn’t bother exploring. You only have so many books you’ll read in your lifetime and we don’t want you to waste it on one like this.
  • Skim It for those books that deserve some consideration. Maybe use a highlighted copy and read the yellow parts or even run by the bookstore and just browse the chapter headings. There are a few useful tidbits in these books but not a many.
  • Borrow It is for books that you really ought to read fully. Once you’ve read them, send them packing so they don’t clutter up your life.  You may not need them again, ever.
  • Buy It are books you need to own. These books need a place on your shelves either in hardcopy or electronic. They are books you’ll think about and lend out. Books you’ll look back on and be glad you own.
  • Study It are books that need a physical presence in your life and something close at hand. They are books you’ll review over and again. You’ll be reading your own highlighting and think “That’s a great point!” all over again.  Few books deserve this level of consideration and fewer still will hold this level of recommendation over the course of your lifetime.

For Robert Lustig, MD’s book Fat Chance I give it a Buy It rating.

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