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Category: Book Reviews
No one can read everything that matters, but I have done a lot of homework, and I’m happy to share the best of that knowledge with you. Lots of good info summarized here ~ a must-read for all low-carbers!
What’s the most useful low-carb book you’ve ever read? For me, it is one that I read and reviewed way back in 2000. While I must give credit to Dr. Atkin’s New Diet Revolution for getting me started, it was Life Without Bread that convinced me this was the lifestyle I must embrace and stick to if I wished to be healthy, and it is that conviction that still drives me today. This may be an old book, but it is one worth reading, even today.
Here is a flashback to my review from the Truly Low Carb Newsletter, Summer 2000.
Life Without Bread: How A Low Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life by Christian B Allan, Ph.D. and Wolfgang Lutz, M.D.
This book absolutely floored me. I wish I had read it sooner – and I wish I could force feed its contents to every anti-low carb naysayer I’ve ever met! 😛
I don’t necessarily consider this book to be a “weight loss” book per se, as there is just one chapter in it regarding weight loss. What this book mostly is, is a ringing endorsement of low-carb eating which is backed up by more than 4 decades of clinical experience on more than 10,000 of Dr. Lutz’ own patients in Austria and Germany, as well as a larger and more impressive compilation of clinical study results than any other I have found. The authors explain the biological processes of normal cells, bacteria, viruses, enzymes, hormones, and cancer cells very well, and they draw a clear and detailed picture of the connection between our typical high carb Western diet, and the many modern diseases of man, particularly, but certainly not limited to, cancer.
Originally published some years ago in German, I am very happy that this groundbreaking compilation of research has been updated and made available in English. I bought a new set of highlighters and a set of those little marking flags specifically for this one book, because I know that I will be quoting from it for the rest of my life.
Life Without Bread does not simply regurgitate or reword the low-carb principles which Dr. Atkins made popular. It draws its own conclusions, and in a very powerful and convincing way. When the authors are presenting evidence, they make that clear. And when they are at all venturing away from the evidence and into the realm of speculation, they make that very clear, too.
This book says a few surprising things – like the fact that saturated fat is actually very good for you! That your heart cannot even beat without it. And that high cholesterol levels in the blood have never been proven to correlate with death rates. To the contrary, they say most patients who die of severe heart disease have relatively normal cholesterol levels… Would you be as shocked as I was to learn that a coroner’s study from 1990 found that in deceased people with the most severe heart disease, the average cholesterol level was just 186! Guidelines for blood cholesterol levels were established based on the same faulty reasoning that led to the current food pyramid. I now view both sets of guidelines with the same level of contempt.
The authors of Life Without Bread tell us that higher levels of LDL cholesterol are NOT unhealthy – high homocysteine levels in the blood are what make LDL protein adhere to arterial walls and become unhealthy. And that high homocysteine levels occur because of a deficiency in three vitamins: B6, B12, and folic acid, all of which can be found in abundant quantity in … Drum roll, please … saturated fat, animal foods, and leafy veggies – the backbone of low carb eating.
Their plan for staying healthy for life is summed up in just two sentences, which I will quote directly: “Restrict all carbohydrates to 72 utilizable grams per day. Eat as much of any other foods as you wish.”
They do say in the chapter on weight loss that further carb restriction may be necessary to achieve weight loss, and that some people, particularly women, simply cannot lose weight on a low carb diet, for as yet unknown reasons, but they are adamant about the universal need for such a diet and they talk a lot about which is more important, aesthetic beauty, or good health.
They say that they have brought hundreds of low-carb babies into this world and that pregnant women who stay at the 72 grams of carbs per day level bear children that are much healthier and that keeping those children at the same carb level should ensure that they never need to worry about excess weight gain.
Life Without Bread is very thought provoking, and I encourage everyone to read it.
Used copies are available on Amazon now for less than $3, and new paperbacks are available with Prime shipping for around $15. Half.com is another good place to find older books for a steal. Happy Reading!
Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution: Nature’s Answer to Drugs
by Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
With a title like this, I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book! I really wish I had bought it sooner. And I wish I’d had more time to study it before actually writing this review, because it’s almost 400 pages long and it is just plain jam-packed with useful information.
This isn’t a diet book at all. It is definitely not just another repackaging of Dr. A’s rightly-famous New Diet Revolution – what it actually is, is a complete handbook for obtaining or regaining optimum health through the application of “complementary medicine”.
In the good doctor’s own words…
“I’ve always felt that doctors today should be congratulated for the illnesses they prevent, rather than the ones they cure. The beauty of complementary medicine is that it focuses equally on preventing and curing disease. It works, in essence, by capitalizing on our bodies’ own in-house pharmacy, which is designed to replenish what is depleted and create what is missing. Using vita-nutrients in the proper dosages will bolster our bodies’ pharmacy by helping to obtain optimum results without uncomfortable and unnecessary side effects….
…. in the past two decades, however, we’ve discovered a host of nonessential (by the official definition) nourishing substances that play roles in the body so vital that, for all intents and purposes, we would all suffer without them. They are the nutritional equivalents of the automobile or electricity. We would not die without them, but without them, we cannot regain good health once it is lost. These vita-nutrients are, for the proficient user, indeed the tools of healing….
… Drugs, by their inherent nature, can play no role in health care – only in sickness care….
…I would match a vita-nutrient solution against a combination of pharmaceuticals any day. Take the need to fight water retention, something many women would like to do every month and, more seriously, a major goal when treating high blood pressure or congestive heart failure. My treatment of choice would be taurine, an amino acid that promotes fluid excretion by restoring a natural balance between potassium and sodium, the minerals that govern how much fluid our tissues retain. As a bonus, it contributes to maintaining a regular heart rhythm, and the heart’s ability to contract, among many other physiological functions. In its required therapeutic dosage, taurine has absolutely no undesirable side effects.
By contrast, mainstream medicine’s treatment of choice for fluid retention is the diuretic, a drug that also encourages excretion –not by allowing our cells to function more healthfully, but by impairing the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb and hold onto vitally necessary minerals. In the process, diuretics elevate blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides; disrupt heart rhythm; increase uric acid levels; and drain the body of trace minerals and other nutrients. All things considered, which treatment would you prefer?
To give another example, heart disease, our nation’s number one killer, arises in large part from artherosclerosis, the condition that results when our bodies deposit plaque within the walls of our vital arteries. Conventional medicine identified cholesterol as the enemy and has been waging a public health campaign to reduce the national cholesterol count by all means possible, including the widespread dispensation of cholesterol-lowering drugs. These medications may reduce the proportion of fats in the bloodstream, but should we accept a victory at any price? Drug treatments have proved successful only two times out of eighty trials. Most of these studies have shown that more people die sooner from causes other than heart disease if they take these medications than if they aren’t treated at all.”
The bold emphasis in the above paragraph is mine. I will continue to try to spread the word that “statin” drugs kill more people than they help, for as long as I live. I believe that *I* would have eventually become just another one of these sad statistics if I had not taken myself off Lipitor and low-fat eating myself, instead of simply adding another killer drug to my already miserable low-fat plus Lipitor regimen, as my then-doctor wished. Thank Goodness I ultimately found and embraced Dr. Atkins’ low carb eating plan instead. I want nothing more in this life than to help spread the important message that most health problems can be cured, or at least improved, through something as simple as what you eat and don’t eat, plus a good supplement regimen. (Thanks for indulging my hop up onto the proverbial soapbox – back to the review at hand, now…)
I marked lots of other passages in the book that I considered sharing here, but I feel that doing so might prove to be a disservice to both the author and you, my reader. There is a reason this book is 400 pages long, and taking bits and pieces of it out of context could cause someone to miss a crucial piece of the puzzle, so I am going to resist the urge to tell you (exactly) why and how the doctor thinks folic acid could single-handedly “stop 10 percent of all heart attacks … and prevent some 75 percent of a common, crippling birth defect.” Or why and which one of the B vitamins is referred to as “Nature’s Sleeping Pills”. Or which form of difficult to obtain (in this country) injectable calcium can really help people with MS. He says it can allow “for real neurological improvements. And it doesn’t just work for a handful of people; it works for a majority.” Neither will I give here the dosages and type of niacin that he recommends for safely and comfortably lowering cholesterol, for the same reasons. If you have any specific health condition you wish to treat, please spend less than $11 for this book and do a thorough research job before embarking on a new supplement regimen.
I am going to excerpt just a little more of the book, from the section on dietary fiber, mostly because lots of low carb dieters are confused about this issue (and, because no one can possibly hurt themselves with this information).
“For decades, I have been urging my patients to restrict carbohydrates (if they are overweight) and to consume more fiber. For many of them, this poses a dilemma and requires a personalized strategy. They need fiber sources that contain small to moderate amounts of carbohydrates, so I recommend green, leafy vegetables, freshly ground flaxmeal, nuts, and seeds. For people who need not restrict carbohydrates whole grains, fruits, and legumes are excellent sources. Just don’t think the benefits of fiber mean that you can eat all the whole-grain, high carbohydrate foods that you want. Even though they are far better for you than refined grains like white flours and pastas, many people are stuck with the fact that too many carbohydrates will make them fat. For those of you facing this dilemma, my strategy for solving it is this: The best way to increase your fiber intake is to use fiber supplements.
Getting fiber in supplement form means that you can avoid the increased intake of carbohydrates and still get all of the nutrient’s benefits. Wheat bran, oat bran, guar gum, apple pectin, and all of the pure fiber supplements contain very little digestible carbohydrates and therefore do not count as calories or toward your total carbohydrate intake.”
Again, the bold emphasis above is mine. This passage begs the question as to what “exactly” he means. One cup of raw oat bran has 62.24 grams of carbohydrate according to the USDA, and only 14.48 grams of dietary fiber. It would be tempting to say, okay, Dr. A said this is a free food, so in all my recipe counts from here on out, I’ll just count it as zero…. but I won’t, of course. I think that would be irresponsible. Now that I am on maintenance and I have this information, however, I will not be quite so sparing with oat bran in future recipes intended for my own consumption.
“Fiber comes in two basic forms: soluble (meaning it dissolves in water) and insoluble (it doesn’t). Foods high in soluble fiber include oats and oat bran, barley, psyllium husks, flaxmeal, beans, peas, carrots, citrus fruits, and apples. This form has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and stabilize blood sugar by slowing the digestion of sugar from the intestinal tract. This makes soluble fiber useful for diabetics, especially since it has been shown to help lower insulin and triglyceride levels. Soluble fiber also has the advantage of being free of the phytates, found in insoluble fibers, which tend to block mineral absorption.
Insoluble fiber is found in such foods as wheat bran, corn bran, celery, and the skins of fruits and root vegetables. its impressive list of benefits include reducing the risk of intestinal cancers, helping prevent constipation and diverticulitis, absorbing toxins from food, and reducing the production of bacterial toxins in the GI tract. Ideally one should balance both soluble and insoluble fiber to get the different benefits they confer.”
This book is literally a treasure trove of information. It goes from A to Z covering all the vitamins, nutrients, minerals, enzymes, and even herbs! Their function, treatment, dosage, levels of potential toxicity and whether it is okay to take them without medical supervision, or not. Whether they interact with other things, when to take them, in what combinations, what to look out for when taking them, etc. I learned a lot in my first go-through, and I know I am going to be referring to this book for years to come. I strongly urge everyone to go through this book once themselves, and anyone with a specific health concern should run, not walk, to the library or bookstore (better yet, just click here) and grab their own copy.
Bravo, once again, Dr. Atkins!
From the bottom of my heart, and I am sure I speak for millions of others, a resounding “thank you for changing my world for the better, through your unending dedication, brilliance, and hard work.”