Practically everything on this website is good information I’ve obtained from other people’s excellent work. I got really interested in nutrition in the summer of 2012. I was listening to National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation, a talk show since discontinued. I heard an interview with Gary Taubes, a science writer whose work I had first encountered in Science Magazine in 2001, “The Soft Science of Dietary Fat.” I was interested by what he said and decided to contact him to find out if his thinking had developed since that ground-breaking article.
As it turned out, Gary’s thinking certainly had developed. He suggested his book, “Why We Get Fat.” I’ve read several books since, but WWGF is still the best general audience overview explaining how and why high carb/sugar diets make us sick. He then advocates high fat diets as optimal. His other major works are listed on his website. I’ve read bits and pieces of his opus, “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”
When I told Gary about my trail runner guinea pig project, he referred me to Drs. Jeff Volek and Steve Phinney‘s “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.” That’s a very useful handbook for athletes. Their larger volume, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” has been the best overall biology of nutrition book I’ve found. Volek and Phinney explain and strongly advocate “ketone adaptation,” which teaches your body to use fats instead of sugar for normal functions. Check out their website, where you can learn some basics and buy the books. I’ve corresponded a fair amount with Steve Phinney. The book they co-authored with Eric Westman, New Atkins for a New You, is probably the best book of all the ones I’m listing if you just want a set of programs to follow. The rest tend to get into the technical details that interest me, but maybe not you.
From a co-worker who’s very nutrition savvy, I was tipped off to the work of Dr. Robert Lustig. He’s a pediatric endocrinologist at University of California San Francisco who became concerned by the high proportion of very young patients with symptoms of adult problems, like excess weight, high blood pressure, and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome. In 2009, he gave a lecture, “Sugar, the Bitter Truth,” that’s been widely cited. In late 2012, he published “Fat Chance.” That book does a great job of discussing the pathology of fructose sugar, plus other agents in modern diets that aren’t good for you. This book is better for some of the more clinically oriented readers. He doesn’t endorse any particular diets other than low sugar, high fiber ones. He doesn’t say a word about ketone adaptation. He and Gary reviewed my Inner Animal presentation before I gave it. Much appreciated.
In 2013, I saw an article, “Sugar Love (A not so sweet story),” in National Geographic that surprised me. It got pretty much everything right. It referenced Robert Lustig, but it also extensively quoted Richard Johnson, a nephrologist at University of Colorado Denver. His comments were interesting, so I tracked down his book, “The Fat Switch.” This book is a intriguing mixture. On one hand it’s the best discussion of comparative biology of fat and body composition in animals I’ve read. His lab is doing fundamental research on the mechanisms by which metabolism of fructose makes fat and perhaps causes other problems. He does a great job of detailing how when sugar appears in a society, the medical literature starts reporting obesity, gout, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease; metabolic syndrome in other words. He’s not so strong on recommendations, but that’s not his field. I was quite puzzled when he discussed earlier primate evolution leading to us, then skipped over the most recent 5 million years or so. I’m trying to interest Rick in studying ketone adaptation in his lab and applying the same rigor he’s applied to uric acid studies.
Since then, I’ve made contact with Dr. Eleftheria Maratos-Flier at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Her lab is doing research on ketone adaptation in mice, which they first documented several years ago. I’m hoping this discussion develops. She’s already verified what I speculated, that human ketone adaptation is probably a somewhat different mechanism than in mice.
Gary Taubes has been collaborating with Dr. Peter Attia. His Eating Academy blog has a lot of good information. They have started the Nutrition Sciences Initiative research foundation. It’s doing some pretty large-scale research that Gary discussed in a Scientific American article in 2013.
Dr. Loren Cordain‘s The Paleo Diet represents the results of good fundamental work Dr. Cordain and his collaborators have done studying the diets of extant hunter-gatherers. That said, the Paleo diet is a bit high in carbs and low in fat, probably insufficient to trigger ketone adaptation in most folks. That’s partly because extant hunter-gathers are eating smaller prey with much less fat stored than our ancestors were before we drove the wooly mammoths to extinction 15,000 years ago. They’re probably also having to eat more plant material to supplement the prey.