Most helpful critical review
342 of 381 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not Great. Falls short of Weston A Price principles
on September 26, 2012
I really, really thought I would love this book. I had been wanting to buy it for a year or so and finally when I found out I was pregnant (with #3) I had the justification I needed to go ahead :)
I was unsure of whether to give this book 4 or 3 stars...I still would recommend it, just with some reservations.
Shanahan does a good job of explaining why and how sugar/HFCS is so terrible for us. Good knowledge to keep in mind whenever the cravings hit. the biochemical chaos that ensues from eating very much of these foods is down right scary.
She also does a good job of explaining why and how transfat and industrial seed oils (canola, soy, corn, etc) are the real big kahuna of unhealthy foods; she follows up with why traditional fats like butter, coconut oil, EVOO are beneficial. this is something I already took to heart (no pun intended!) and I think she did a pretty good job of illustrating this point.
She has a very good chapter on collagen formation, which I learned a lot from.
Shanahan's writing style flows off the pen like honey- it sounds sweet and enticing and is easy to swallow. Unfortunately, I also found this to be a pitfall. Sometimes the words come too easy, and I think she gets ahead of herself and doesn't back herself up enough.
The field of epigenetics is revolutionary and has important implications for our lifestyle choices. But it will not "change your genes" as she often blurts out- it will change how your genes express. Of course a traditional diet is not going to turn you into claudia schiffer or michael jordan unless you started out with that genetic blueprint. Though Shanahan implies this throughout the book, I think she gets a bit overexcited and overstates herself. She also promises that by following a traditional diet, you can overcome genetic shortcomings and have a perfect baby- one who turns heads and engenders envy in the sports arena. Well, maybe- big maybe. Lets say your parents ate a typical standard american diet, and you bore the brunt of that with less than ideal physical proportions- slightly crowded teeth, underdeveloped cheekbones, thin upper lip, and you didn't get much taller than them. But lets say that your grandparents and ancestors before all followed a very rich traditional diet- so you are only one generation away from what that inferred. Get yourself and your partner back on track months or years before conception, you may very well have a baby that is more well developed, very beautiful and athletic, vigorous. But as Francis Pottenger discovered (whom Shanahan refers to, but misses the point), one generation of dietary shortcomings can (unfortunately) take multiple generations of correct diet to recover. Now lets say not only your parents but your grandparents as well ate a typical modern diet, lacking in those essential fat soluble vitamins needed for proper development and genotype. You may or may not be able to overcome that with a few months of extremely careful diet and supplementation and produce as Shanahan promises a perfect baby. I don't mean to sound like Debbie Downer- I face these facts myself, especially as a parent. I am trying my hardest, but I don't get bogged down in how perfect my children look or otherwise turn out. Of course, like any parent, I just want my children to be healthy and happy. But I do have some qualms that Shanahan gets ahead of herself and makes false promises and exagerrated claims about a traditional diet. Of course it is critical to follow a diet like this during childbearing years- just don't think it will guarantee you a supermodel or professional athlete for a child. Of course I don't think many of us do, but Shanahan leads us to believe we could.
Another problem I have is that Shanahan really misses the boat on what Weston A Price established in his research, which is that the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) found in animal foods are essential for carrying on the proper genetic material. Shanahan rightly points out how proper diet ensures the ideal proportions and symmetry to give your child a beautiful face, but does not even mention that it is vitamin A (true vitamin A, not beta carotene) that makes this possible. I am really scratching my head as to how she could leave this crucial information out. Instead she falls back on recommending a synthetic prenatal to most of her patients, but does not seem to understand that the real importance to pregnant women, esp before conception, is these fat soluble vitamins. She recommends cod liver oil, because of the omega 3's- traditional (fermented) cod liver oil is rich in fat soluble vitamins which is what makes is a super food, not the omega 3's. Vitamins A, D, K found in pastured animal products or wild seafood, are absolutely essential to proper cellular division in the beginning of pregnancy (otherwise you will have a miscarriage because the cells did not differentiate)and also to the organs and other body parts forming, to bone structure which includes not only facial symmetry but stature and pelvic opening- so important for women to bear children, brain and nervous system development, on and on. I am just really dumbfounded how someone who studied Weston A Price could not include this info. Its like she got so caught up in facial symmetry and the plastic surgeon Dr. Marqhardt, that she stopped short of comprehending the actual cause of facial symmetry, good health and ideal genetic expression which has a very specific nutritional foundation: fat soluble vitamins and their co-factors found in animal foods.
Which brings me to another problem I had with this book. Shanahan seems so enamored of the plastic surgeon and his work, the beauty mask that describes perfect facial symmetry; this obsession overshadows the real pioneering work of Dr. Weston A Price. In the first chapter, she talks at length about the plastic surgeon, then briefy alludes to Weston A Price, and not even by name! This plastic surgeon's work has to do with how you can come to him so he will "fix" your face, what a contribution to society. Dr. Weston A Price's research has far reaching implications for ourselves and our future generations, for restoring our health and genetic potential through proper diet. Dr. Price's work is invaluable to us, it came at a critical time in history when he could study both traditional diets and those who switched to a modern diet. Nobody else has accomplished what he did. His work has true merit to all of civilization, not just Hollywood types who get plastic surgery. Why Shanahan relies so heavily upon photos of celebrities and their siblings, when she could have turned to Price's photos of families on traditional vs. modern diets also leaves me scratching my head. Price's photos give us a much clearer illustration of the destruction of modern diets, yet she would rather include pictures of Prince Harry and Prince William or Matt Dillon and his younger brother Kevin, with their minor "imperfections". She is stretching so far to prove her point, I feel she undoes some of it, unfortunately. Instead she should have relied on Weston A Price and his irrefutable, well researched work- which also would have led her to share the importance of fat soluble vitamins.
The dietary suggestions at the end of the book are incomprehensible. There are only 3 scant pages of suggestions, and many of them are not very good or downright contradict her previous advice. She extols the virtues of raw milk, but then at the end says it is okay to drink organic store bought milk. This milk is not only usually ultra-pastuerized (the worst kind), it is generally confinement fed holsteins eating organic corn/soy. A far cry from raw, grass fed, traditional breed dairy cow's milk. She also heartily recommends store bought organic butter (same issues) She tells us not to eat frozen food but readily recommends Ezekiel bread- which is sprouted but contains soy (she actually says whole soy can be part of a healthy diet). She tells us not to eat sugar, but then recommends yogurt with JAM for breakfast, oh yes, washed down with coffee. After her hard hammer on sugar, she recommends coffee, which can be just as damaging to the adrenals. Not to say I don't enjoy a nip of coffee here or there, but I don't recommend it as part of a healthy eating plan. Going on, even though she just told us sugar will surely kill us, you can have some homemade cookies and dark chocolate later in the day, even some wine. And even though her sugar chapter came down equally hard on starches, her diet plan is far from "low carb" or even moderately low carb, it is rife with suggestions to have homemade pizza, crepes, toast, toast, and more toast. Again, I am not saying I don't indulge in these things myself, but the fact that she includes them in her slim-to-none dietary recommendations is contradictory to say the least. How are those traditional? We all already eat things like that from time to time, so we don't need it to be recommended to us. What would actually be helpful is real traditional type food suggestions and maybe a handful of recipes (she gives 2 recipes, one for broth and one for liver). She also recommends lots of nut butter, including peanut butter, which I mostly avoid because of aflatoxin. Of course there is not mention if it is soaked (properly prepared) nut butters, she is recommending run of the mill "natural" nut butters. Oh! but not the ones with palm oil (she says they taste bad...?), which she previously assures us is a healthy fat, which only leaves nut butters made with CANOLA or SAFFLOWER OIL, the very industrial seed oils she tells us to eat under no circumstances. So at this point she has lost a lot of credibility with me. Or, it makes her more human, like me, she knows a lot about healthy eating but sometimes doesn't make the most ideal choices. But I did not write a book, and then at the end include my dietary compromises as if they are perfectly healthy. Overall, her "four pillars" and meal suggestions at the end of the book leave a lot to the imagination, which in this case is not a good thing! I can imagine a diet that might fall into her four pillars and her suggestions, but still be woefully inadequate in the fat soluble vitamins, proteins, and other co-factors necessary for the body to utilize those nutrients properly.
Either way, I can only recommend this book with reservations. I think Shanahan started out with great intentions, but did not follow through in all of her chapters. Some are very good and some are okay, but some left me scratching my head. I do think with a little more work and revision, this could be a 5 star book. But it has a ways to go.
If you are pretty new to traditional diets, this book is easy to read, even fun to read, and will probably give you lots of helpful information so you can take steps towards a traditional diet. If you are already into the traditional or primal type diet/lifestyle, this book will please you in some ways but probably let you down in others. Overall, I am glad I bought it because now I want to pick up a more thorough book on epigenetics. I also learned a few things, though many of the bases I already had covered. For the price, I am not sorry I bought it. Sometimes reading a book you can pick apart a bit helps establish where you do stand and what you do know. I really hope she comes out with a revised edition, or that her other book is much more solid, because I think Shanahan could be an important voice in the traditional foods movement. As good, not great, as this was, it just left a lot to be desired.