By Alan Levinovitz, Regan Arts, April 21, 2015, 1941393063
I learned some interesting things in this book, but it was hard to read at times. You can skip the last two chapters (The UNpacked Diet), which is an annoying spoof. The book is readable enough; it’s just that he went over the top so much that it bored me.
[k214] Once, at a farmers’ market, I asked a juice vendor whether her juice counted as “processed”–yet another vague, unscientific epithet that gets thrown around in discussions of food.
[k216] Only corporations, she insisted, were capable of making processed food.
[k218] Did the optional protein powder she offered count as a chemical additive, I pressed? A tan, gaunt customer interrupted us.
“It’s easy,” she said, staring at me intensely. “Processed food is evil.”
[k230] The mythic narrative of “unnatural” modernity and a “natural” paradise past is persuasive as ever. Religious figures like Adam and Eve are no longer plausible protagonists, so diet gurus replace them with Paleolithic, preagricultural, hard-bodied ancestors who raced playfully through the forest gathering berries and spearing wild boar, never once worrying about diabetes or autism.
[k275] In fact, there is probably no branch of medicine more difficult or complicated than nutrition science, a complexity that plays out in the endless controversies about what–and how much–we should eat.
[k292] In both cases it’s impossible to distinguish between the actual power of vegetables and the effect of believing in the power of vegetables.
[k309] Eating in moderation has been the humdrum recommendation of common sense for thousands of years, and to that sage dietary advice, religion and science alike have added virtually nothing that stands up to rigorous scrutiny.
[k324] Without fear, not only will eating be more pleasurable, it may also be more healthful. As Paul Rozin likes to remind people, “Worrying about food is not good for you.” He suggests that the cause of expanding waistlines and exploding hearts in America isn’t necessarily what we eat but how we eat–anxiously, obsessed with nutrition, counting calories, scanning food labels, eliminating foods and then bingeing on them. We are vigilant over what goes into our mouths, at the cost of vigilance over what goes into our minds, shunning junk food while bingeing on bad science.
[k447] The authors hypothesized that gluten sensitivity was actually being confused with sensitivity to special carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (short for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols). While FODMAPs are found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, they also occur in a wide variety of “gluten-free” or “healthy” foods like broccoli, garlic, onions, apples, and avocados.
[k466] It is crucial to debunk these books and the empire they have spawned–not just for the sake of setting the scientific record straight, but because alarmist rhetoric can make people physically and mentally ill.
[k468] Ironically, anxiety about what you eat can produce precisely the same symptoms linked to gluten sensitivity.
[k490] As I write these words, Reeve’s foundation is busy raising $15 million to test the treatment on thirty-six more paralyzed men and women. If everyone who bought a copy of Wheat Belly had donated their money instead, the study would be funded.
[k545] Validated by Haas’s success treating children with CD, bananas and the banana diet became increasingly popular. At Johns Hopkins, Dr. George Harrop tried a simplified version of the banana diet on diabetics and found that while their diabetes remained unresolved, they lost a lot of weight. Harrop published his results in 1934. The public, predictably, went bananas.
[k553] After Haas had developed the banana diet, United Fruit parlayed the fruit’s ability to fight CD into more general claims about its healthfulness. One emeritus Harvard Medical School professor remarked in 1932 that the medical literature concerning the banana diet read less like science and more “like advertisements of the United Fruit Company.”
[k664] The myth of paradise past appears again, right down to the same sentence about grandparents that we saw in Wheat Belly and Grain Brain: “Unlike our grandparents, we can no longer take such things as a good night’s sleep or clean, uncontaminated drinking water for granted.”
[k681] Put simply: in some cases, eliminating gluten is just a proxy for cooking at home and cutting down on junk food. No one wants to cut down on foods they like. But when weight loss in itself is insufficient motivation, thinking that your favorite foods cause autism, foggy brain, and Alzheimer’s can provide the boost you need to make good on your diet.
[k693] With fears of gluten constantly reinforced in mainstream and social media, we should expect a significant nocebo reaction to gluten. Researchers do: in a 2013 review of the field, four experts on gluten wrote that although physiological non-celiac gluten sensitivity probably exists, at a prevalence of . to 6 percent of the general population, “in many circumstances non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an imaginary ailment that is caused by the nocebo effect of gluten ingestion.”They also emphasized the likelihood that elimination diets would produce a placebo effect. Research suggests that placebo effects increase when the treatment is branded, expensive, and highly ritualized. Gluten-free diets–and most elimination diets–usually fit all of those criteria.
[k782] There are easily ten times more yearly deaths from eating disorders in the United States than from all food allergies combined.
[k792] “By the time they come to me, they’ve eliminated everything,” Tyson says. “Lactose, carbs, gluten, my gosh, all kinds of things. And since they’re afraid of losing control, if they even try to eat one of those foods it’s scary, it’s failure.”
[k927] The closest we have come to a truly unanimous consensus on fat is that if you eat an excessive amount of calories, you will gain weight, and fat has lots of calories in it.
[k929] The AHA, for instance, does not mention a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that suggests saturated fat from dairy may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, while saturated fat from red meat seems to increase it. Nor does it mention a 2013 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which called into question the wisdom of reducing saturated fat. “Current evidence,” wrote the study’s authors, “does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.” Evidently the American Heart Association thinks sound science involves ignoring legitimate controversy over its chosen dietary guidelines.
[k1079] The myth of you are what you eat continued to influence nutrition science long after Galen. During the early Renaissance, doctors claimed that red grapes were “good for the blood.”
[k1084] The physician Erastus, for instance, argued in 1580 that cold temperatures facilitated the formation of human fat.
[k1087] Scarily, we haven’t come too far since Erastus. The metaphor of “melting” body fat is still common in the rhetoric of diet and exercise programs.
[k1232] Without questioning the relevance of diet to weight gain, Allison and others are calling for obesity researchers to abandon an exclusive you are what you eat model of what makes us fat. They cite a number of understudied possible contributors, all of which are supported by empirical evidence and prior plausibility. Among these are increased sleep debt, reduction in variability of ambient temperature (air conditioners and heaters), decreased smoking, mood stabilizers, chronic stress, higher average maternal age, and obesogens–chemical compounds commonly used in the manufacture of food containers that may be disrupting lipid metabolism.
[k1449] Just like MSG sensitivity–which also started with a letter–the myth of sugar hyperactivity still commands popular belief, despite having been thoroughly debunked.
[k1452] Once a dietary myth has been introduced, it’s very, very hard to eradicate.
[k2327] For one month, try eating in the fourth dimension. There are only two rules: 1. Whenever you eat, your time must be undivided.
[k2332] 2. Make sure that four dinners a week take at least thirty minutes to prepare and twenty minutes to eat.