Every month or so, in an attempt to ever deepen my knowledge, I consume several more keto books and other volumes on related subjects. While such books are fresh in my mind, I thought it would be a good idea to chat about my latest reads. Hopefully, this will become an ongoing feature of ketopensioner.com.
I can usually manage only three to four books a month, but that is quite sufficient it seems to me. Any more than that and I would be struggling to fulfil my blogging responsibilities to our followers at ketopensioner.com. This is my personal view on the books I have been reading in the past month, my own take if you will. Feel free to disagree if you are so inclined and have read the volume in question.
Dr Eric Westman: New Atkins, New You
The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great
Doctor Eric Westman, the author of this book, and subsequently several other keto books, is an interesting character in his own right. Dr Westman is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University. His expertise is in the area of obesity and internal medicine. In 2008, after years of studying and testing ketogenic and Atkins style diets, he found the Duke (University) Keto Medicine clinic. He had been intrigued by the results achieved by Dr Robert Atkins, and his eponymous diet, as a young doctor and decided to investigate further. This was a pretty brave initiative to take at the time, giving the controversial nature of the Atkins Diet.
When Atkins died relatively suddenly following a fall on an icy day in New York in 2003, Dr Westman took up the flame. He co-authored the book ‘New Atkins for a New You’ along with Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, both of whom have also been prolific in the field of keto books. The book quickly became an international bestseller.
The book sets out, in clear and simple terms, what a ketogenic diet is and why it works. It is written with the layman in mind and keeps the language relatively simple and straightforward. I had read the original Atkins diet book back in the day but had never gone on to try the diet. This re-presentation of the fundamental ideas behind the diet seemed far clearer and more concise to me.
If I were to criticize the book at all, I did find that it tended to repeat the same ideas again and again. Perhaps the intention was to really hammer the point home, but it got a little tiresome when you have read the same message numerous times before.
That said, the book was an enjoyable and not too challenging read. As an introduction to the basics of a keto diet, it is to be highly recommended. It offers a clear and simple strategy for those setting out on a ketogenic diet and moves the reader through the various stages that allow for a more relaxed approach as the weight falls away.
The final part of the book goes into a discussion of metabolic disease and cardiovascular health. There follows an interesting examination of the science at the time of writing and sets out in somewhat greater depth the whys and wherefores of this dieting strategy.
All in all, an excellent read. A little repetitive perhaps, but by being so it does make the basic concepts relatively easy to understand. I would recommend it as an introduction to ketogenic dieting.
Mark Sissons: The Primal Blueprint
Reprogramme you genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy
Many of the diets I discuss on this blog are closely related to each other, though they often have slightly different aims. The Primal diet that Mark Sissons introduced to the World through this volume was a precursor to what became known as the Paleo diet.
Although by no means exactly the same as a ketogenic diet, they are part of a group that emphasize keeping carbs relatively low and, to a certain extent, allowing animal foods, with their healthy fats, proteins and bio-available vitamins, into the diet. I feel it can reasonably be included in the keto books category.
I found this book to be both highly informative and fun to read. There is a delightfully light touch to the writing as Sissons encourages the reader to think outside of the normal dietary and exercise box. This is true if one is reading the book in the third decade of the 21st century, but how much more so it would have been when the book was first published in 2009. At that time, it was truly iconoclastic.
Many of the dietary recommendations of the time were moving, seemingly inexorably, towards plant-based plans. Recommending meat for inclusion in a healthy diet was not exactly unknown, but very much against the zeitgeist.
Likewise with the recommendations for exercise. In ‘The Primal Blueprint, no longer is the emphasis on energy-sapping, long-distance workouts to the point of exhaustion. Indeed, such attitudes are specifically warned against. Instead, the recommendation is for shorter, sometimes intense but not overly long, exercise sessions. Alongside the exercise, there are also sage suggestions for allowing your body suitable periods for recovery.
Much of this originated from Sisson’s own experiences as a long-distance runner and the kind of injuries and burnout that often came with the type of training recommended at the time. Exercise is generally to be recommended in my experience, but as with so many other areas in life, there is such a notion as too much of a good thing.
The writing style is very accessible, using a range of devices to make for a very entertaining read. One that I particularly enjoyed was the contrast struck between two lifestyles: that of the primal Grok and his family and his modern-day equivalent, Mr Korg (Grok backwards, very appropriately). The book demonstrates the healthy attitudes and lifestyle, despite the challenges, that Grok and his family would have had, and contrasts them with the current day, somewhat neurotic lifestyle of Mr Korg and his kin. Such a contrast could be said to be somewhat romanticised in favour of Grok, but the device certainly helps to make some of the underlying points of the book.
For ease of comprehension, and to get the fundamental points across, the book is split into chapters that relate to the main ideas underlying ‘The Primal Blueprint’. Chapter 4, for example, deals with ‘Law Number 1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals’. It is this chapter that relates most closely to keto diets (hence this volume’s inclusion amongst keto books) with a long and detailed explanation of the role of ketones in supply energy.
Chapter 5 deals with ‘Law Number 2: Avoid Poisonous Things’. This explains, in-depth, how much of what the modern World takes as food is actually deeply unhealthy for our bodies. There are stark warnings against grains, sugars, polyunsaturated oils and processed foods in general. As anyone who has followed this blog can imagine, this was music to my ears. Whether you follow a ketogenic diet or not, just keeping these four ‘food’ groups out of your diet will do you, your metabolism and your health, in general, the power of good.
The Primal Blueprint is fun, accessible and informative. Though not strictly a keto book, it does relate to many of the issues that the ketogenic lifestyle seeks to address. Apart from the practical aspects, it is also a highly entertaining read. In short, The Primal Blueprint is a book that ketopensioner would highly recommend to all our readers.
Nina Teicholz: The Big Fat Surprise
Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet
I was alerted to the existence of this book one night whilst lazily perusing YouTube videos relating to keto. I tend to do my best work during the daytime, often rising and writing as early as 6 a.m. The evenings, after my son is tucked up in his bed, are given over to chatting to my partner and perusing ideas on the net. During one of these sessions I came across this video:
It was already quite late in the evening, and I intended just a five-minute glance, taking in the basic message. I ended up watching the whole fascinating, but somewhat horrifying, story unfold. Following a conversation about the lecture the next morning, my wife decided to buy the book for me as a present.
Although this volume could not strictly be considered amongst keto books, this book opened my eyes still further to the scandal that has been the dietary recommendations served up to us (on a plate) for the past 50 years. Before watching the video, I had been aware that many modern studies were casting doubt on the old diet heart hypothesis, namely that the main cause of cardiac problems is the presence of fats, particularly saturated fats, in the diet.
To replace this huge loss of calories, we were advised to consume large amounts of carbohydrates instead. ‘Plant-based’ is the euphemism commonly used to describe such diets. The reality is that all carbohydrate is converted to glucose, a form of sugar, to use as fuel in the body or be stored as fat.
The result of this pivot away from fats in the diet and towards carbohydrates are plain for all to see. Wherever this diet has become the norm the local population has become progressively more unhealthy, more obese and more prone to type 2 diabetes (and thereby all manner of other problems). ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ delves deep into the politics of how we came to believe that dietary fat was bad for us and carbohydrate good.
The impetus behind the original movement was a very forceful character who went by the name of Ancel Keys, an American physiologist who previously had helped design K rations (K for Keys) for the US armed forces.
Keys was the scientist behind the now (in)famous ‘7 Countries Study’, published in 1958. The study seemed to support the notion that there was a strong relationship between heart health and a lack of fats in the diet. Keys had previously hypothesized that dietary fat was the main cause behind the increase in cardiac issues that the US had been experiencing in the previous decades.
The results appeared to support Keys’ idea, but Professor John Yudkin, a British nutritionist who believed that sugar was the more likely cause of the problem, pointed out shortly after publication that the data had been massively cherry picked. The original study had consisted of 15 countries. Keys simply deleted those that didn’t agree with his hypothesis. Such an act of statistical vandalism is almost the definition of bad science.
As anyone who has studied science or statistics would know, association is not causation. Simply finding two things that occurred in a similar way at a similar time by no means demonstrates any causality whatsoever. For example, the number of umbrellas bought in a certain month may strongly correlate with an unusual amount of rainfall, but it does not mean that the purchase of umbrellas in any way caused the abundant levels of inclemency. Apparently, there is a strong correlation between the number of people dying of accidents in swimming pools and how many films Nicholas Cage makes in a given year.
It is a very risky business implying causation from epidemiological studies but, ever since the days of Ancel Keys, this method has reigned supreme in nutrition studies. Nina Teicholz demonstrates again and again throughout this worthy volume just how flimsy much of the evidence is that links fat consumption with cardiac problems. And yet, such studies came to dictate policy in the United States, and eventually across the globe, for decades.
Far more reliable scientifically, are randomised control trials. Here the researcher will try to isolate a single variable to be tested, doing their best to avoid the confounding variables that invariably beset epidemiological studies. In these tests, the results appear again and again to suggest there is very little, if any relationship, between fat consumption and cardiac problems. Indeed, some studies have shown exactly the opposite. It may well transpire that some fats (saturated and monounsaturated, but not polyunsaturated) have a protective function.
Teicholz draws the various strands of the story of the demonisation of fat and meat consumption together in a masterly manner. In some ways, the book unfolds almost like a detective story. As the story twists and turns, one begins to understand the many levels of misinformation, and occasionally even deception, that have gone into maintaining the big fat lie that has been foisted upon us all for decades.
The edition I read was published in 2015. Suffice it to say that many of the randomized control trials since have further supported the book’s contention. It is an excellent, absorbing read that I have no qualms whatsoever recommending it to followers of ketopensioner.
That will do for this month’s recommendations as far as keto books go I think. All three are excellent and hugely enjoyable reads. Perhaps my favourite would be Nina Teicholz’ ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ but I feel that either of the other two are well worthy of the purchase price or a visit to your local library. The plan is to read three or four other keto books, or more exactly, keto-related books, over the next month. I am currently reading David Sinclair’s ‘Lifespan‘ and finding it challenging, but hugely educational. After that, my intention is to consume Dr Josh Axe’s ‘Keto Diet‘. Both of these, and perhaps one other, will be reviewed in next month’s Best Keto Books.