52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Easy to Read, Informative, Packed with Footnotes on Studies
, March 3, 2010
This review is from: Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective (Paperback)
Amazon.com recommended this university textbook to me, based on my purchase of hundreds of nutrition books. Well, I hadn't spent so much money on a book since I was in college! But one look at the table of contents was enough to convince me that my nutritional knowledge would never be complete without this information. Then the snow storms delayed the book's arrival by a week as I eagerly anticipated the book's arrival, daily tracking its whereabouts on Amazon.com.
I was not disappointed. I read the book from cover to cover in less than a week. It is jam-packed with information. Nearly every sentence is backed with a footnote citing a study as evidence. There are a few things that I disagree with, for example that a high fat diet may be dangerous, but even the author admits those studies often include grains in the diet (which are, as the author would agree, detrimental to our health). I also wish the author had delved more into the relevance of cooked vs. raw since the Paleolithic diet (advocated in the book) undoubtedly contained mostly raw, enzyme-rich foods.
Why study our evolutionary diet? Author Staffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD, explains that (from the perspective of evolutionary biology) there are four causes of disease or symptoms: attack (as with bacteria and viruses); defense (as with a fever, in which your body is heating itself up to limit the cell division of the bacteria and virus); design error (as with choking on food--airway and gastrointestinal system are crossed); and lack of adaptability to new environment (as with insulin resistance, since we are eating more high glycemic carbs than our ancestors did). The drug companies would have you believe that every disease is a design error and needs to be fixed by a new chemical concoction. In reality, modern diseases began with agriculture. We have clearly not adapted to a diet rich in carbs and especially grains and legumes filled with anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytates.
Lindeberg points out the limitations and contradictions found in scientific nutritional studies. Epidemiological research (which involves observing factors affecting the health and illness of populations) is unreliable because we cannot control all factors. Molecular biology is hard because lab animals are not biologically the same as humans. Furthermore, there are many as yet undiscovered nutrients and molecules that can impact the studies. An intervention study with a controlled trial has the flaw that people often simultaneously improve their lifestyle in other respects, such as giving up smoking or exercising more. Then there is publication bias, as studies with a positive outcome get published more often. There is funding bias, since scientists want to please those who finance their studies so they can get more work. Citation bias also occurs: drug studies get quoted much more than nutritional ones do. Then there is the influence of preconceived ideas: of course, every researcher hopes that his or her hypothesis will be confirmed.
Evolutionary medicine provides an important complement to traditional scientific methods. The new study of nutigenomics looks at the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. It considers the diet that people evolved eating. Traditional people on their traditional diets have been observed to be free of modern day illnesses. Those that were best suited to the food that was available were the ones that had the greatest chance of surviving. Adaptation is very slow, often taking about 40,000 years. Tale the last 365 million years and convert them to a calendar year, making each million years one day. On January 1, we have our amphibian ancestor. Early mammal is born on June 10. Our first primate ancestor arrives on October 28. Homo Sapiens is born December 31 at 7:30 PM. Agriculture develops at 11:45 PM. At 11:59:50, just 15 minutes after agriculture and 10 seconds before the end of the year, cardiovascular disease begins.
This book not only discusses our ancestral diet, but also includes a chapter with a section on every disease of civilization: heart and cardiovascular issues, diabetes, cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases, obesity and more.
The bottom line from all the studies is: eat a diet based on fish, lean meat, fruits, vegetables, and some eggs and nuts. (Eat seeds sparingly as they are too high in omega-6 fats.) Grains and dairy are not our original foods, although some people can eat them when they are prepared properly. (For example, dairy should be fermented.)
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