I just finished reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable, by Stephen Phinney, M.D., Ph.D., and Jeff Volek, Ph.D. published this year. I give it four stars per Amazon.com’s rating system (I like it).
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The authors medicalize overweight and obesity by naming the cause of most cases to be “carbohydrate intolerance,” along the lines of lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance. Given the myriad illnesses and shortened lifespan associated with obesity, medicalizing it is reasonable. Ask Gary Taubes why we get fat, and he’ll say it’s excessive consumption of carbohydrates, especially sugars and refined flours. Ask Phinney and Volek, and they’ll say “carbohdyrate intolerance.” For them, the “treatment” is avoidance of carbs. I also referred to carbohydrate intolerance in my 2011 book, Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes.
If a patient asks me why he’s fat, I guess I’d prefer to say “you have carbohydrate intolerance,” rather than “you eat too many carbs.” It’s less confrontational and doesn’t blame the patient.
So how many of us in the U.S. have carbohydrate intolerance? The authors estimate a hundred million or more - about a third of the total poplulation, or more, who could directly benefit from carbohydrate restriction. I agree.
Before reading this book, I was convinced that carbohydrates are indeed major contributors to overweight and obesity, especially concentrated sugars and refined grains. The authors cite much of the pertinent scientific/medical literature.
Gary Taubes made the same case in his brilliant book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. Dr. Robert Atkins argued the same in Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. The problem is that many healthcare providers such as physicians and dietitians are biased against thosesources. Physicians resist a non-physician such as Taubes giving them advice about the practice of medicine. And most physicians over 45 still labor under the misconception that dietary cholesterol and total and saturated fat are major-league killers, so they’ve already dismissed Dr. Atkins and don’t have time to get caught up to date on the recent research.
Phinney and Volek have wisely targeted this work towards healthcare providers such as physicians, so it’s somewhat technical and clinical. Both have Ph.D.s and Phinney is also an M.D. The authors are respected researchers who thoroughly review the science behind low-carb eating. They explain how high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions are related to carb consumption.
I rate the book four stars instead of five only because it’s a little pricey at $29 (US).
Smart nutrition- and fitness-minded folks will also benefit from a reading. For a more consumer-oriented book, I recommend the authors’ The New Atkins for a New You or Taubes’ Why We Get Fat.
Steve Parker, M.D.