Death by Food Pyramid

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A few years ago a young English major with a bent for statistics came out of nowhere and laid waste to the life’s work of one of the most prominent scientists working in the field of nutrition. In a single blog post, Denise Minger systematically refuted the main points of The China Study, the seminal work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Such was the devastation that Dr. Campbell, himself, suspected it to be the work of a trained academic, instead of a young blogger with some time on her hands.

Ms. Minger’s post quickly went viral and everyone in the nutrition blogging business, including yours truly, was inspired to write something about it.

Due to the strength of her writing skills, statistics acumen, and research abilities, Ms. Minger scored a book contract. Death by Food Pyramid is the offspring of her last couple of years of effort, and it is well worth a serious read.

It’s just the kind of book I really enjoy: a goulash of history, science and gossip. A surprise on every page.

Though not really a low-carb book per se, Death by Food Pyramid belongs on the shelf of every low-carber.

Why?

Because it helps piece together the story of how we eneded up with the food pyramid in the first place and how the low-fat diet–a true fad diet if there ever were one–ended up reigning supreme in modern nutritional thinking.

Nutritional science — all science, for that matter — is like a jigsaw puzzle. Except instead of having the box showing the blue sky, the green grass, the red barn and the brown cows, the scientific jigsaw puzzle doesn’t have the picture on the box. So you can’t just put all the straight edges together to make the frame, then fill it in with all the red, brown, blue, and green pieces you previously segregated into little piles by color. Not only does the scientific jigsaw puzzle have no picture to follow, it doesn’t even have all the pieces. And what’s more, it has pieces of other puzzles thrown in. It takes a ton of time, effort, patience, and meticulous trial and error to get the puzzle even close to what it’s supposed to look like.

Death by Food Pyramid added a few more pieces to the still unfinished puzzle for me. For instance, I always wondered why Senator George McGovern, who represented the cattle-raising state of South Dakota, would come out so forcefully for what amounted to a vegetarian diet. Why would he rebuff his own constituents when he had the opportunity to bow out gracefully after his crushing defeat at the hands of Richard Nixon in 1972? Why instead did he choose to redouble his efforts to fundamentally alter the American diet?

Denise Minger tells us.

McGovern’s Folly

It all started in 1968, when McGovern was deeply moved by a television documentary on starvation in America. As a member of the Committee on Agriculture, the very next day he

marched into the Senate with a mission. He would leverage his political clout for the welfare of the nation, launching a committee dedicated to abolishing America’s hidden hunger. He had no trouble gathering the support he needed. The documentary’s shocking–and, for the country’s pride, disgraceful–exposure of hunger in our land had been enough to galvanize both the public and Congress into action.

A few months later, McGovern was named chair of the soon-to-be Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs…

From his perch on this committee, McGovern worked tirelessly to eradicate hunger in the United States. As he was beginning to experience success, he decided to run for President. As we all know, he went down to crushing defeat in 1972. After a few months of licking his wounds, he resurfaced and resumed his mission to stamp out hunger.

Along the way, McGovern ran into ultra-low-fat guru, Nathan Pritikin, who became his new dietary inspiration. Under Pritikin’s influence, McGovern became convinced that the ultra-low-fat diet was the key to the health of the nation. Almost overnight he veered from saving Americans from starvation to saving Americans from heart disease, diabetes, and obesity through he agency of the low-fat diet. The ultra, ultra low-fat diet.

McGovern commandeered his Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs to

re-engineer the American diet — no longer to curb hunger, as their original mission might indicate, but to combat the killer diseases terrorizing the nation. And their weapon of choice was a seventy-two page report now synonymous with the low-fat movement: Dietary Goals for the United States.

The Dietary Goals would become the first major effort to heal Americans by telling them to eat less instead of more.

All did not go smoothly during the creation of this document. Experts were questioned and hearings were held. Many scientists did not quietly fall into line. Some realized this change in government policy would end up making millions of Americans unwitting subjects in a giant experiment, the hypothesis of which was that the low-fat diet would better the health of the citizenry, and the skeptical scientists begged for a delay in the publication, so that more research could be done. You can see McGovern’s arrogant and overbearing response at 0.31 mins in this film showing one of the hearings.

All this would be just so much government meddling and wasting of money except for the fact that under McGovern’s direction, the Dietary Goals for the United States ultimately morphed in 1980 into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are updated every five years. As concocted, these guidelines were based on very little science, but they were written so that significant amounts of hard science would have to be mustered to change them. Consequently, the most recent Dietary Goals for the United States published in 2010 aren’t that much different from the ones published in 1980.

Many might ask, Who cares what these documents say? No one pays attention to them. I’m not going to eat what the government recommends, if I don’t like it. I’m going to eat whatever I want to eat, whenever I want to eat it. So what’s the big deal? Bill O’Reilly asked me that very question when I was a guest on his show back in 2001, right after the 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been published. You can see his question and my answer at about 3:15 in this video of my appearance on The Factor.

The long and the short of it is that the US Government is required by law to adhere to these guideline for all the people it provides food for. And the US Government is the largest food provider on the planet, feeding 53 million people daily (that was in 2000 when I last looked it up — God only knows how many it’s feeding now). How does Uncle Sam feed so many people? School lunches, the military, commodities programs, prisons, etc.

So the Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as the basis for the Federal food and nutrition education programs. It is not some obscure document the government spends a ton of taxpayer dollars on then hides it away. It is the law of the land.

The Food Pyramid

We’re all familiar with the infamous Food Pyramid. But how did it come about? Would you be surprised to learn (as I was) that the person charged with developing what ultimately became the food pyramid was an actual nutritional scientist who wanted to create a

set of recommendations designed–for the first time in federal history — to mitigate chronic disease.

And that her version

Cracked down ruthlessly on empty calories and health-depleting junk food. the new guide’s base was a safari through the produce department–five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. “Protein foods” like meat, eggs, nuts and beans came in a five to seven ounces daily: for dairy, two to three servings were advised. Instead of promoting what would soon become nationwide fat-phobia, [her] guide recommended four daily tablespoons of cold-pressed fats like olive oil and flaxseed oil, in addition to other naturally occurring fats in food.

Say what?!?! What happened? that sounds so reasonable, especially for a government publication. How did it get hijacked? Ms. Minger described in detail all the shenanigans by all the hustlers, food manufacturers and low-fat-minded academicians, who ended up making the Food Pyramid what we know it as today. Sad, but fascinating reading.

Ancel Keys

No story about the history of nutrition is complete without an appearance by Ancel Keys, the author and main promoter of the diet-heart hypothesis. Keys was the force behind the idea that saturated fat in the diet drives the development of heart disease. He was smart, capable, and indefatigable in the promotion of his ideas, but he was also an obnoxious, condescending, arrogant, overbearing bully (a flaming prick is the more technical term) to anyone who crossed him.

Ms. Minger tells his story well. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between the Six Country graph and the Seven Country Study (which difference has tripped me up a time or two), you will wonder no more after reading this book. And if you want to read about one of the great scientific takedowns of all time, when two New York docs tore Keys limb from limb in a widely quoted 1957 paper, this book is the place to do it. This paper so bent Keys out of shape that it changed his life. It was the great motivating factor in his bullheaded insistence that he was right about the diet-heart hypotheses despite many opposing views. I hadn’t read this paper in years, so I dug it out of m files and read again. Knowing Keys’ personality as I do (and as you will after reading this book), I got all warm and tingly inside just imagining how he must have felt when he first read it.

Understanding the scientific literature

In a chapter of Death by Food Pyramid called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Nutrition Research,” Ms Minger provides an easy-to-follow method of reading between the lines of scientific papers. Once armed with this info, you’ll know all the questions to ask when confronted with headlines such as “Red meat causes cancer,” “Whole grains shown to prevent heart disease.” and any of the others people write me about, importuning me to weigh in. One of the most enlightening sections in this chapter is the one showing the actual contents of the diet used as the ‘high-fat diet’ in most rodent studies. Once you see what it’s made of, you’ll understand why the ‘high-fat’ mousy subjects in these studies always seem to have such bad outcomes.

Her description of one of my favorite phenomenon in all of life, the Dunning-Kruger Effect, is alone worth the price of the book.

Meat Eating

Ms. Minger was a long-time vegan, until she developed a number of health problems at fairly early age. It’s enlightening to read the excuses she made to herself and others as to why her vegan diet wasn’t really working out the way she expected.

Although she does now eat meat, she doesn’t eat a lot of it. But she has written a nice chapter about meat and meat eating, titled “Meet Your Meat.”

She discusses the notion that the meat eaten by our Paleo ancestors was different than the meat we eat today, and implies that those following a Paleo type of eating regimen aren’t really eating Paleo. Why? Because Paleo man ate from nose to tail. He ate the entire animal, including all the parts modern man avoids, such as the viscera, offal, and organs. Typically, if reports from contact with contemporary hunting societies are indicative of how Paleo man behaved, the muscle meats — the ones most of us Westernized folk eat — were not prized as much as the organs and offal and were often fed to the dogs.

I have a little different perspective.

The organs, offal and viscera supposedly contain a lot more nutrients than the muscle meat. And, compared to muscle meat, they are filled with considerably more fat, much of which is saturated. Consequently, those following an ancestral diet are encouraged to limit muscle meat and increase consumption of organs, offal, and viscera, i.e., eat nose to tail. I have no argument with this other than it’s often difficult to find organs, viscera, and offal unless you are on a farm or in a major city. Santa Barbara, where we live part of the time, is an upscale small city with three or four natural food grocers, including Whole Foods, and about the most exotic organ meat I can regularly find is liver. I suspect it’s the same in most other places. Those of you who live in foodie towns, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, and New York can probably find all kinds of organ meats, but the rest of us either have to resort to ordering online, butchering our own, or doing without.

But all is not lost. First, although organ meats have more nutrients than muscle meats, it’s not all that much more. Run a search on the USDA Database of Foods, and you’ll see what I mean. Compare beef steak to beef liver or kidneys. Not a lot of difference except for the vitamin A in the liver.

A muscle meat diet can provide most, if not all, of what you need nutrient-wise. If you’re worried, supplement with a multi vitamin.

I suspect our ancient ancestors were drawn to the organ meats and offal not because they knew they were more nutrient dense (how did they know?), but because of their greater fat content. Thankfully, agricultural science has come to our rescue. We modern folk enjoy steaks and chops and roasts more than we do the inner organs of beasts and fowls, so modern farmers now produce muscle meats that contain more fat than wild game. So we can get the fat of the organ meats while at the same time getting almost the same level of nutrients.

Many purists consider the muscle meats to be overloaded with fat and turn to the organ meats and offal instead. I say, what’s the difference? I would much prefer a juicy, medium rare ribeye steak than I would a kidney or spleen or lung (and I’ve eaten them all), so why not get the fat in my steak?

Trans fats, polyunsaturated fats, in-depth reviews of seminal studies, plant-based diets, low-carb diets and the best diet for all.

Unlike many books that start strong but fade in the stretch, Death by Food Pyramid finishes strong. It provides great information from beginning to end.

After chapters discussing trans fats, polyunsaturated fats, vegetarianism multiple famous dietary studies (most of which have been misinterpreted and misused by the lipophobes and statinators), Ms. Minger wraps it all up with the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, whom she and I both greatly admire. Referencing Dr. Price’s monumental work, Ms. Minger outlines some basic dietary strategies that hold true across cultures and across the many dietary regimens we see presented by various diet book authors and institutionalized weight-loss programs.

Because so many different societies the world over have done well on a wide variety of diets – some high-carb, some low-carb, and everything in between – it is difficult to identify a specific diet that works well for everyone. All promoters of diets can point to some healthy primitive or ancestral group following said diet. I do think the enigma can be resolved, and Ms. Minger hints at it in one sentence near the end of the book:

It may be that the nutritional playing field changes once we’ve hit a certain level of “brokenness.”

I firmly believe this is the case and plan on discussing the idea in great detail in an upcoming post. In fact, this idea of ‘brokenness’ is the underpinning of my whole dietary philosophy, so I am extremely glad she at least mentioned it in her summary.

Death by Food Pyramid is a book not to be missed. As I said earlier, it belongs on the shelf of anyone serious about nutrition. It is just the type of book I enjoy immensely, one of those with the back pages filled with great references linking to hundreds of important studies. The reference section alone is worth the price of the book.

Which brings me to my full disclosure. I was provided a free copy of this book for review purposes. But I purchased my own copy on Kindle because I wanted to have the list of references available to me at all times. I can only recommend you do the same.

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107 thoughts on “Death by Food Pyramid

  1. Just started reading it–LOVE her writing style. She’s a brilliant young woman. Your review makes me really want to dig into it now!

  2. Great review, Mike – time to dust my copy off and finish it. I got it as soon as Amazon sent it out but got waylaid by something else to read (isn’t there always something else? Wish I had your focus!).

    Just a few typos:

    it doesn’t even have all [t]he pieces

    modern mad avoids, [man avoids?]

    were not priced as much as the organs [probably not but they weren’t prized as much either]

    West[on] A. Price

    The reference section along [alone]

    Hope this helps!
    Cheers,

    • It helps greatly. Thank you very much. I had major technical problems getting this post posted, so I had to retype the thing. (Actually, I dragooned MD into doing it because she is a much speedier typist than I.) At any rate, haste makes waste, as they say, so the post is probably crawling with typos. Many thanks to any and all who are willing to crowdsource my copy editing.

  3. I disagree that everybody who feels better on a LC diet is “broken”. I don’t believe I am “broken” metabolically. I think me, and some people like me, who have ancestors introduces to grains much later in history than the people in the Middle East , are less genetically adapted to eat majority of our diet in the form of carbohydrates. It is like some humans are adapted to consume milk, while others are not.
    I grew-up in a traditionally eating society without a fast food, I always considered my inability to tolerate hunger to be a personal flow, my mom is the same, until I gave a LCarbing a try at 2007. Now I know how other people could tolerate easily the delay in a lunch or a dinner – not through iron will, but because their sense of hunger is not overwhelming.

    Dr.Eades, please , do not consider that everybody developed a need in counting carbohydrates because earlier in life they committed too many nutritional “sins” eating like modern teenagers. It is not always true.

    • I agree with you. But I also think a lot of people are “broken” and require different treatment than those not so afflicted. As I wrote in the post, I’ll expand on this soon.

      • I was born in 1960. We had zero amount of fat children in the whole school, most were skinny, I was always just slightly chubby as a child. I am sure I would be an obese person if I grew up in the US environment. It is a phenomenon that not everybody who eats SAD is fat. I understand you want to address first of all the needs of the people who developed metabolic issues eating the diet which is wrong on several level. However, it is quite possible that for many of the worst diet offenders the popular in diet blogs idea “just eat the real food” could be working, especially at the beginning, while for the people like me, with an abnormal hunger from a childhood , it would be the recipe for a frustration.
        I am not giving you an argument, just clarifying my point of view. I also think, that while it is possible to loose weight on several diets, LC has particularly many advantages for the maintenance of a weight-loss. Many people who are a weight-loss state consider themselves metabolically “broken” while they just experience normal body reaction on a weight-loss.

    • I have a nuanced response to this.

      I do agree there is a degree of ‘brokenness’ to those of us who do best on a LC diet most days of the year. How could there not be? Everything from the epigenetic drift of our own eating patterns, those of parents and grandparents (especially down the maternal line) which affects our own health and experience to… stress, the kind ancestors never dealt with during ‘evolutionary times’ to… living indoors with artificial lights at odds with sunrise and set to… lack of sleep, inability to sleep when our bodies demand it to… broken family and social support systems to (stress)… any number of other factors. It’s no wonder many of us do best on a low-carb-high-sat-fat diet which is arguably the most foundational diet for human animals. It’s no wonder we have, as individuals, lost our ability to explore dietetic diversity while at the same time staying healthy and well-formed.

      Thinking about broken metabolisms which many never be repaired back to a point of ‘dietetic diversity’ during our own lifetimes shouldn’t be cause for feeling criticized. I’m just happy I found a solution to a once-vexing problem. A solution I would say was intentionally obscured from me by misguided and moneyed forces alike.

      As a Gen-Xer, I have lived my entire life under the influence of those like Ancel Keys, George McGovern, Frances Moore-Lappe and Earl Butz. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s my family was ringing its hands over such issues as my desire for eggs most mornings (can you imagine??). I remember a poignant discussion in my teens with my grandmother who cautioned me about eating all the complimentary bread at a restaurant. I told her it was the butter than was the problem, not the bread. Talk about brain washed.

      • You wrote:

        I remember a poignant discussion in my teens with my grandmother who cautioned me about eating all the complimentary bread at a restaurant. I told her it was the butter than was the problem, not the bread.

        Which is a great encapsulation of attitudes demonstrating why our grandparents generation was thin and ours isn’t.

    • “Now I know how other people could tolerate easily the delay in a lunch or a dinner – not through iron will, but because their sense of hunger is not overwhelming.”

      Galina, wasn’t that the most amazing revelation?? I was dumbfounded when I realized that everyone else was not experiencing hunger the way I was before going LC.

      • I gave LCarbing a try at November 2007, and since then I enjoy the miracle of the disappeared hunger . I am sure the people who can’t relate to my situation just can’t understand what a big deal it is. I am finally free from being afraid to be trapped into the situation when I am insanely hungry, and everybody around me thinks I am being just unreasonable and immature. I don’t need to plan my whole life in order to avoid such embarrassment, hide snacks into my purse or even my bra. I can now over-last everyone I know without food without any discomfort. How cool is that?!

        • Galina,
          This has been the greatest gift of restoring fat to my diet—I am no longer hungry; I am no longer “afraid” of food!.

          Real food for real people!

          Lam

        • It is almost better than being skinny lol. I’ve lost about 100 pounds, 265 to 170, being LC and wheat-free the last two and a half years but being freed from the panicky focus on my next meal or snack is something I relish anew every single day. How extraordinary it feels to have the choice not to eat if it is inconvenient. Thank God for people like Dr. Eades and his wife Mrs. Dr. Eades, Taubes (WWGF), Dr. Davis (Wheat Belly), Dr. Atkins (courage incarnate), and the many others who have stood up for us to challenge the mainstream.

          Thank you Dr. Eades for your hard work helping all of us so much.

          • Thanks for the kind words. I’ve passed them along to Mrs. Dr. Eades as well. Just remember, though, it was you who did all the hard work to get from 265 to 170. Congrats!

          • And pass, please, thanks from me. The Protein Power was the first book which I read about LCarbing, and the chapter about health of ancient people which was based on your wife’s hobby I found especially inspirational.
            I lost mere 30 lb , to 170 lb too, just to be in BMI 27, but I experienced 100% turn to the best in all aspects of my health (asthma meds are gone from my life, no more seasonal flues and very bad migraines with vomiting and obligatory bed rest for 3 – 4 days, no “hot flashes”, allergy to cats is less, no more 10 hours of cardio a week). It is not the first diet in my life, but I experienced first time in my life an enormous improvement in the quality of my life till this day.

          • Dr. Eades, are any of your books translated into Spanish? I learned SO much from PPLP about metabolism of carbs & insulin’s effects on fat storage, that I want to give the book to a friend in Mexico who’s just been diagnosed with diabetes. But I just learned on Amazon.com that PPLP is only available in English.
            Are any of your books (that have this brilliant metabolic explanation) available in Spanish? If not, can you suggest other books I should check on, for availability in Spanish?

          • Hi. Sorry for the delay on this, but I’ve been having some tech problems and the comments are acting goofy.

            One of our books is translated into Spanish. It’s The 30-Day Low-Carb Diet Solution. Here is the Amazon link for La Dieta de Bajos Carbohidratos de 30 Días. I’m sure you can find it less expensively than the $185 listed here. At least you can see the photo.

            Protein Power is translated into a zillion languages, including Chinese and Hebrew. But, strangely, not into Spanish.

  4. Hi Dr. Mike,
    I am a big fan of yours. Your first PP book got me on the road, I have wandered off from time to time, but I am back and I could you as one of my top goto people on this info. Among others, I have followed Denise recently as well. I am going to go ahead and get her book and read it.

    I want you to know I am really looking forward to your post about “Brokenness” as this is a concept that has been stirring in the back of my mind as well, with the concept of metabolic syndrome being bandied about, I have been feeling more and more, at least for myself physiologically that I am “broken” to a point that I can never stop taking supplements like: DHA, 5-HTP, and the like. Every time I do my mind gets fogged up again…
    Thanks for all your do!
    Diana

  5. Here in the south of France it’s relatively easy to eat nose-to-tail —> haven’t had a real steak in a few months now! Not on purpose mind you..thing is: offal is cheap (generally), fattier (usually) & super tasty.

    You quoted Denise Minger saying “It may be that the nutritional playing field changes once we’ve hit a certain level of “brokenness.” —> couldn’t agree more. This is the idea behind my *speculation*/hypothesizing about why certain traditional cultures (Kitavans for e.g.,) can “get away” with high-carb (I realize that my ‘get away’ is highlighting my bias).

    Nevertheless, science is about reconciling conflicting evidence. I’d like to do that and I think the quote you highlighted from Denise Minger may be an important reason why.

    • Many who question the low-carb or low-carb-paleo diet models cite the Kitavans.

      Other saavy commenters point out that the Kitavans are living at an equatorial area with near 12-hour days and nights. I live in Seattle and visiting Maui recently I found myself fall into an easy, circadian rhythm there. Sun comes up, I wake up. Sun goes down and a couple hours later I want to sleep. No struggle. No need for SAD lights by morning, blue-blocking glasses by evening like I use this time of year.

      I may be painting a postcard image of the Kitavans and other Polynesians but a low stress life with tight families, ample sleep, ample movement, strong sun/dark cycles and real foods, even starchy tubers, and no epigenetic drift into metabolic syndrome, probably works for a lot of people.

  6. I work for a heart surgery clinic and watched over the years with the obsession of avoiding fat, meat, and eggs and substituting pasta, bread, and refined carbs, that our patients were fatter than every, on more medications and Type II diabetes is the rule not the exception.

    As a high school student in the l970s I read my grandmother’s copy of “Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit” and as a l6 year old realized that when I ate protein for breakfast instead of boxed cereal, not only was I far less hungry but that I was not nearly as foggy and sleepy during the day.

    After college listening to the low fat craze and wanting to be thin I avoided meat and eggs, eating mostly starchy food with some dairy products (lactose anyone). Not only did my weight balloon but I was lethargic and foggy. My skin was awful, my hair was thin and brittle. I learned on my own that I just cannot eat carbs in any quantity and that I need to eat protein at every meal, little fruit virtually no bread, vegetables, and some non-wheat grains such as unrefined oatmeal or barley…in small quantities. I have enjoyed Dr Eades’ writings to confirm that good old Adele Davis had it far more right than Pritikin and his ilk.

    FWIW my cholestrol is very low despite eating a high protein, meat/fish/eggs/chicken diet. I carry this crusade to all who will listen. With Obamacare we are more and more the master of our health outcomes as treatment will become scarcer and more expensive. Better to AVOID these problems by eating right.

  7. Just want to chime in on the “offal vs muscle” piece.

    Now I’m as North American as you are Dr Eades and I would like to submit the point that our preference for muscle meats – of a handful of species, cows, pigs, chickens, some bony fish, on most days of the week – stems ENTIRELY from our cultural norms. Ask around and you’ll even find plenty of Americans (Canadians too?) who “don’t like fish” either.

    Never mind offal cuts and dishes, of which there are many. Never mind many invertebrate seafoods, which are akin to organ meats. Never mind reptiles, most species of bird other than chickens & turkeys. Nevermind eggs of all species and types. Never mind all bugs except for sea bugs like shrimp, lobster and crab.

    It’s a taste thing. And something where I’m actively working on pushing my own limits.

    Consider this: if you can de-fang, de-barb and de-venom a creature, then a human can eat it. The only holding them back is ‘taste’.

    Not so with plants. Plants wage chemical warfare with their environment. Humans have resorted to breeding and agriculture combined with cooking and fermentation to widen the range of plant foods we can safely consume.

    I suggest a documentary series by the BBC called “Human Planet”. Set everything aside & delve into this series. It’s worth it.

        • mrfreddy, you did not follow the story very well. The poor man had a low blood albumin level with associated edema. He was also anemic, his hemoglobin was below range.

          He survived. He did not thrive. He was hospitalized both at the point of arrival and then in his home country.

    • This is so true! And it’s so funny because most people don’t realize it’s a culture thing / what they’re used to. They actually believe you’re not meant to eat the offal or emu eggs or whatever. You tell people you’ve eaten them, or that you want to, and they let you know how gross, unhealthy and silly you are – just because they never had it before. *rolls eyes* But.. more for me I guess!

    • Anyone who manages to go fully paleo manages to completely discard their previous food culture. Those that don’t end up eating “paleo pancakes” and “paleo bread” and slide back to regular bread and pankaces. The idea that eating offal is the one thing we can’t adjust to is ridiculous.

      The fact is, hunter gatherers most highly prize, not offal, but the spinal cuts – the same cuts we make steak out of. The stuff they throw to the dogs is the very lean muscle of the chuck and rump, because the human liver just isn’t able to support obtaining more than about 40% of our caloric intake from protein. Dr. Eades is almost certainly correct – eating of offal is preferred to the leaner muscle meats because of the fat in the body cavity.

  8. Surely, you can still find organ meats such as heart, kidney, spleen, tripe inter alia from large animals and poultry liver, gizzards, heart, and feet in the ethnic and Mexican markets in Santa Barbara. When I lived there many, many years ago, these items were very available.

    Cheers

  9. -It may be that the nutritional playing field changes once we’ve hit a certain level of “brokenness.”-

    My thinking exactly. It explains how so many people can stay slim while eating a high carb diet and start gaining weight towards mid-life.

    Taubes’ brilliant WWGF book touches on it when he remarks (paraphrased) that you don’t gain weight because you slowed down, you slowed down because you gained weight. The cracks in the carb armor start showing through.

  10. Good review. But I’m curious. How does Ms. Minger’s book differ from Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat”? Both of those books examine the history of nutritional research, and many of the same issues and topics that you mention in your review of Ms. Minger’s book.

  11. Terrific review

    Another couple of typos(I think) — book quote under McGovern Folly “and for the country’s price, disgraceful–” pride, not price?

    Also under The Food Pyramid… Her version book quote says “…eggs, nuts and benas…” beans, not benas?

  12. I’m also looking forward to your posts on “broken-ness.” I never knew just how broken I was until I had nutritional testing done recently. Turns out I’m absorbing very little of the B vitamins, and am on the verge of protein malnutrition! Me, who eats lives and breathes protein. I couldn’t believe it. I’m not digesting and absorbing virtually any of the nutrients I’m taking in.

    I’m now on mega doses of all the B vitamins (in their active forms, as I don’t seem to be able to convert the common forms to the active forms) and was told to add 2 more protein servings of at least 30 grams each to my usual 100 grams of protein daily. Also told to start taking probiotics and digestive enzymes.

    And here I thought that my being low-carb since the late 1990s was keeping me in tip-top health. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the LC diet, not in the least. It’s probably the only thing that has kept me semi-functional. Had I been on the SAD all along, who knows how bad off I’d be now.

    From what I can make out (and this may be way off base), I’m not getting more than a modicum of nutrients from what I’m eating, and so much of what I’m eating is being shuttled off to be stored as fat instead of being used for regeneration of muscle. I’ve probably been catabolizing my muscle tissue for years. No wonder I feel so weak and tired all the time.

    I just have to wonder how this happened. Was it the 40+ years of SAD eating that broke me so badly?

      • How I wish I had a doctor like you to turn to. I’m seeing an NP now for menopause/gyno issues, and she’s the one who suggested this testing.

        My primary care physician will be retiring soon (he’s the one I wrote about in a comment on another post … the one who had to undergo quintuple bypass surgery despite the fact he had “no symptoms”), so I need to find a new PCP fairly soon. So hard to find a doctor these days who isn’t steeped in conventional ideas and not open to the new science out there.

        And even the NP isn’t really up on what my test results mean. She spoke with the lab and they had to explain a lot of the results to her.

        It shouldn’t be this hard.

          • Thanks, Amy. I’d looked at these sites in the past, but Maine was not listed. It appears there are several options now. Thanks so much for reminding me of these great resources. Now if I can only find one that is “in network” for my insurance!

          • No luck. The only one who even accepts insurance (and is even somewhat close to me) is the head of a weight loss center, so he’s not a primary care physician. I’ll have to keep looking. I don’t really know anyone around here who is LC/Primal/Paleo/etc. who might have a recommendation. Maybe I’ll hop on the LC forums again and ask there.

          • Problem is that practically all the people on these sites are chiropractors, or nurse practitioners, even a student dietician. Not willing to trust my general health to such, even if they claim to be on the paleo bandwagon. Only a few MD’s here and there across the US… Pity.

      • It was the NutrEval test from Genova Diagnostics. Must be ordered by a healthcare professional; not a self-test.

  13. Only when I read Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me!)- why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts by Tavris/Aronson did I fully grasp the purposeful intransigence of Ancel Keys and others.
    Self-deception is a heady, if toxic, brew.
    Why, I myself have been known to partake of it.
    Fortunately, we have science and blogs like this one so we can all de-tox our minds.
    Which is why I’ve come to think of Mike’s blog as the Betty Ford Clinic for low-carbers.

    • I love Mistakes Were Made. Don’t now if you know or not, but I reviewed the book years ago. Still pick it up and read in it from time to time.

      Another good book that is a companion to Mistakes Were Made is When Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd Riniolo. I like WGTGB because it has a ton of real life exercises to focus critical thinking skills on. I’ve got to get around to reviewing this book, too.

  14. Great post Doc, I loved Minger’s book too.

    just one little quibble:
    “All promoters of diets can point to some healthy primitive or ancestral group following said diet.”

    I don’t think this is true. Vegetarianism being the glaring exception.

  15. I am currently reading Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories-Bad Calories”. Also a great read, as I’m sure you agree, it goes very thoroughly into this subject matter. Our government’s history of accepting “suggestive, hypothesis-generating evidence” as scientific fact has left me nonplussed!

  16. “I suspect our ancient ancestors were drawn to the organ meats and offal not because they knew they were more nutrient dense (how did they know?), but because of their greater fat content. ”

    OR maybe because it’s pretty easy to eat an uncooked kidney, liver or brain…. try a raw rib eye steak or maybe something like a shank muscle, you won’t get very far without fire and cooking.

    • According to the observation of Weston Price (his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is free on-line), they were driven to organ meats and knew such food had a special nutritional value, and organ meats hat a special value. For example , North American Indians knew which part of an animal is particularly protective against the normal for the winter lack of vitamins and shared tiny pieces of such organs among all tribe members after the hunt. They consider scurvy to be the white men disease. There were special diets in traditional societies known to improve the health of future offspring.

      • WAP referred to the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, of prey animals being chocked full of vitamin C and inland native Americans knew how to stave off scurvy by passing it around.

        We have been marketed to heavily to associate certain vitamins with fruits and some vegetables to the point people have zero concept of organ meats being full of the same stuff, often much higher.

  17. The references to the “McGovern Report” brought back a few memories. I still have copies of the 1973 publications (in 3 parts ) of the Senate Committee proceedings on “Diet and Disease”. The big item I often refer to is how the final recommendations completely ignored some lengthy testimony by none other than Dr. Robert Atkins and by Dr. John Yudkin (Author of “Pure, white and deadly: the problem of sugar”–1972) of Queen Elizabeth College at London University).

  18. Thank you for the review. I’ll be adding this book to my library. I wanted to mention that I have fished in Alaska for several years during the salmon run. Quite a bit of that time in Katmai National Park home to the world’s largest population of grizzly bears. I noticed the bears who are at that time gorging themselves on salmon preparing for winter often did not eat the whole salmon. Inquiring about this I was told after they filled themselves they ate mostly the skin and the brain. I observed this often. I am guessing they were just consuming the stored fat portion of the salmon. I found it interesting.

  19. Minger did it! Denise describes herself proudly as an overachiever. She’s right.

    Some time ago, in another thread, I mentioned my Fundamental Common Diet concept, wondering how to put together all the diet concepts “out there”. Minger has done what I wanted to do and concluded that there isn’t any such FCD. On page 224 she has a diagram showing how the three most “successful” diets overlap, on page 225 she lists the items all three eliminate.

    My question about conditions on this planet over time have ever produced a period when the polar ice caps touched and there were no plants seems to be NO, the ice caps have never touched and certainly not in the 100,000 years since our kind of human began walking the planet.

    The dinosaurs included plant eaters as well as meat eaters and were extinguished 65 million years ago – millions of years before there were humans of any kind roaming the planet. So humans have always had both plant and animal foods available. Minger’s three successful diets all include a blend of plant and animal foods. I’m most interested in those that result in people living to be over 100 years and still normally active.

    My problem remains that all of these diets seem to be for people who are not yet diabetic. I was first diagnosed Type II in 2001 and I’m still struggling to get my blood sugar down to normal levels.

    • all of the new books like “blood sugar solution” and “grain brain” are for folks that don’t have diabetes. they are great, but I’m always disappointed that they don’t have anything new for lowering BG. The Metformin I take is 50 yr. old tech. I’ve been low carb since Type 2 diagnosis 12 yrs. ago With Type 2, we simply don’t know what is wrong with us and the docs don’t even separate insulin resistance from pancreas trouble. It’s just “Type 2” and “don’t eat too much fat” The authors of these pop books are great and I like that low carb is coming back. But there is not one of these hot shots like Hyman, Perlmutter, Eades, that know the direction of an eventual cure for Type 2. Right now, they are enjoying the low hanging fruit of overweight America, and are heroes for helping a lot of folks. But they can’t help me. I am not overweight and have never once had hypoglycemia. So I try to exercise, eat low carb, both of which I hate. And wait for all the bad complications to come due to a losing battle with BG. I don’t think there is a financial incentive to find the cure. I get a lot of “Lloyd, have you tried Cinnamon?”

      • We wish it could be that simple, that is our diet can solve the problem. It may help, but some may still need medication, although some can lower it. We may have mitochondrial damage, that having multiple causes. There is our microbiome to consider, as well as what our parents and grandparents ate. (epigenetics).

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041008X06000287

        You may have seen this site. This lists the possible causes.

        http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/14046739.php

        I started feeling more like exercising after low carb, abut it is basically just walking, going up stairs, housework, and such.

        • thanks for those links….I am reading them and saving them. it is rare when I get to read about non overweight diabetics. Shouldn’t insulin resistance be a separate disease not to be confused with Type 1 or Type 2? There would still be thousands of variants of insulin resistance to deal with but it would be a start. I just often wonder: are there others like me called “Type 2″ who are not overweight, never had an episode of LOW BG, insulin doesn’t lower my BG (in fact makes me sick), I’m 6′ 1” and weigh 160 and even at 155 lbs can’t get rid of a protruding adipose pouch at my belly button. Couldn’t one of these millionaire best selling MD’s take one look at me and KNOW what is askew with my metabolism?
          Lloyd, do you get enough chromium?

  20. Just a comment on Roger’s post…I have read that the salmon parts that the bears discard in the Great Bear Rainforest (between Vancouver Island and southern Alaska), is the main source of nitrogen for the trees which are just huge. Not really on topic but interesting!

    • Yep, nice talk. Liver rules, but it’s available most everywhere. Liver also raises the level of nutrient density of organ meats when it’s included in the group, which makes organ meats as a group look more nutrient dense than they really are without the liver.

  21. Following on Galina’s observations, I was a child of the 50’s. As a youngster one of my jobs was carrying six-packs of Coke into the house for Mom. My usual breakfast was a PopTart. My favorite lunch was a mayo sandwich. Every day driving about with my Mom we would stop for an ice cream cone. Dinner always included a chocolate eclair. I’m not blaming my mother — no one knew. After all it was the era when doctors even did ads for cigarettes (my parents smoked heavily if course — both died of cancer.). All my life I was either gaining or losing — there was no stasis whatsoever — vegetarianism, calorie restriction, extreme physical activity — nothing yielded weight stability. Only when I began low-carb a few years ago was I relieved of this burden. I no longer had to push the rock uphill. For the first time I could let go — and not gain pounds. I don’t know if this constitutes “brokenness” — if so the break occurred many decades ago — but LC is for me the only fix.

  22. The way I view the issue of “brokenness” is that if you break your arm skateboarding, it doesn’t get better just because you stop skateboarding. There are any number of ways to be and stay healthy, but in the case of a serious injury, such as a broken bone or a history of obesity, diabetes, etc., you need a strategy to repair the damage or adapt to it. Hence, for me, pretty low carb, pretty much all the time.

    Thanks for the excellent work that you do, so happy to be seeing more of you in 2014!

  23. Agree with discussion. I’ve been low carb and high fat for a few years now. Got my education from reading Ravinskov’s book on the cholesterol scam and Key’s disingenuous studies.

    The one great thing about fats I like is it can literally keep you from overeating it because most people will get nauseus and throw up if they ovedo it.

    Thanks for the blog Dr. Mike

  24. Mr. Eades,

    Your blog is an indispensable resource. It is one of the few that I take the time to read each week.

    Born in 1964, up until the late 70s, I paid little attention to my diet, as is customary for most teenagers. In my childhood home back in the 60s and 70s, soft drinks (known as “pop” in Canada) were only occasionally allowed. I grew up on home-cooked meals, and during our childhood, my two brothers and I drank only milk with every meal until I left home at 20. Coca Cola never had a place on our table.

    In most respects, ours was a typical “meat and potatoes” household of the 60s in Canada. My Mom did not buy into the processed food craze too much back then. A little, but not enough to ruin us.

    During my university years, I flirted with veganism for 3 years as a macrobiotic vegetarian. During that time, I was constantly hungry and felt the same sort of “clarity of thought” that people generally experience while fasting; in other words, a macrobiotic diet did not provide sufficient fuel to function well. Fasting has its place, but for me, was never a suitable everyday lifestyle choice.

    From there, I tried the so-called “Fit for Life” regimen of “food combining.” Ridiculously complicated, impractical, and in hindsight, in no way reflective of any sort of “natural” diet.

    After that, my diet became a free-for-all until my mid-thirties (15 years ago), when I discovered “The Zone”, and after 2 or 3 years of that, “The Metabolic Diet” by Mauro diPasquale PhD. The Zone was an introduction, for me, to a low-carb diet that I have been more or less maintaining for about 13 years. A paleo/metabolic-style diet is now what I exclusively follow. Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories” essentially sealed the deal for me.

    Never felt better, look younger than my 50 years, can outlift/out-fight/out-last anyone my age at the gym, and I’ve maintained approximately the same weight since beginning this lifestyle over 10 years ago.

    The gov’t promoted “food pyramid” belongs where other well-known pyramids used to reside: under 100 feet of sand, but never to be seen again.

    Keep on writing this most useful blog.

  25. Some tragic effects of the low-fat propaganda:
    1. Sick/stupid kids–what happens to children’s bodies and brains on the diet they get fed as ‘healthy’ by well-meaning parents at home and by schools serving government lunches?
    2. We are certainly punishing the prison population with a government-issue diet.
    3. How many embarking on a low-fat diet spiral into anorexia? Depression?
    4. How much of the debate over ‘affordable health care’ would be moot if not for the diet the government advocates? People eat what the government advises, and then they get sick, but that’s no problem, the government will make sure they have insurance.

  26. It is true that most books start better than they end, probably including Shakespeare but far from fading, this actually crashes at the end. It is a great read even on the areas that have been treated well before but at the end there is her recommendation for what is good. Her comprehensive view of nutrition, however, does not involve low carbohydrate diets. In this, I think it is a good reflection of the state of alternatives to the party line. Everybody is off on their own thing and is quite content to disregard others.

    This has been brought out in my recent experiment on whether you could get a lot of people to take the absolute simplest, most fundamental action, namely signing a petition. A petition that asks to replace the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — the friendly folks who brought you the food pyramid — with a fact-finding panel. While the petition itself might not have great impact, given the Goliath that we’re fighting, it would be a statement of how many people are opposed to pyramidal death.

    • I guess this means I need to sign the petition. You sent it to me, but I haven’t done it yet.

      I don’t completely agree about the book crashing at the end, but I do wish she had spent a little more time on the low-carb diet.

  27. Not much difference between muscle and organ meats? Perhaps organ meats are better because of more SATURATED fats. Saturated is better because they are resistant to oxidation. Chris Masterjohn attributes artery disease largely to oxidized LDL

  28. I absolutely loved this book. I only wish I could get myself tested for the two genetic things she mentioned… amylase content of saliva and the ApoE gene. I suspect I’ve probably got 4, that would explain a lot. I SHOULD have a goodly amount of amylase, judging from my ancestry, but who knows? I’ve definitely got a carb tolerance problem…

  29. Off topic here…. hoping for a post about mitochondria, Dr. Eades.
    I just re-watched Dr. Wahl’s video from 2 years ago and glad I saved it…

    I have been diagnosed with my 3rd autoimmune disease…. PMR. and Hashimoto’s following Cdff and Microscopic Colitis. Thankfully I have followed PP for past 7 years….so no gluten….

  30. Thanks for the good news on the nutrient density of muscle meat. I have tried and failed to develop a taste for organ meats. I also feel a deep sense of satisfaction after eating a really good steak, and now I know it’s not just all that tasty protein.

    I am looking forward to your post(s) on brokenness. In my case, my broken metabolism made eating a low-carb diet (as you define it in your books) essentially impossible – I always needed more carbs than recommended, say, between 100-150 g a day, to feel normal. Still a lot less carbs than SAD, and I get those carbs from starch mostly, rather than sugar. I still constantly struggle with sugar cravings though, and the various supplements recommended for controlling those cravings never helped.

    Here’s the blog post by J. Stanton that helped me understand that my need for carbs is due to a broken metabolism rather than a weak character. In the comments section, he was kind enough to reply to my comment with a recommendation regarding frequency of physical activity in order to maintain metabolic flexibility.

    http://www.gnolls.org/1984/the-science-behind-the-low-carb-flu-and-how-to-regain-your-metabolic-flexibility/

  31. I am certainly going to obtain a copy of this book. I believe that whatever happens to the structure of the healthcare system in this country relative to public heath is really dwarfed by the influence of the nutritional history that you describe. Government policy, along with the majority of the medical profession that remained silent, or were ridiculed if they spoke up, resulted in the restructuring of the whole food industry. This determined what you see in the supermarket and how it is marketed. Billions were invested in a carbohydrate based food supply.

    If I gave up wheat and sugar based foods when I was a kid in the 50’s I would automatically be on what is now described as a low carb diet. You could count the fat kids in my grade school on one hand. For the few that were fat, it probably related to drinking too many sodas or just eating too many sweets, and that view was naturally part of the culture. It is amazing how well the government was able to eradicate that cultural belief and create a public health disaster which is not going way any time soon. Capital has been committed, and reputations have been built on what apparently are lies, and the public will continue to suffer as a result.

  32. I would just note that Minger is young and hasn’t yet gone through the obesity transformation that most Americans go through in their 40s. “Brokenness” is not something that’s unusual – it’s something that’s inevitable on the food pyramid.

    One thing that must be said about all the nonpaleo traditional agrarian diets the people claim maintain health: none of them are ad libitum diets. All of them result in the users’ trading off quantity in order to try to include more meat. Most likely, all of them include benefits from calorie restriction.

    And even then, prior to antibiotics, all of those supposedly healthy agrarian diets resulted in poorer health and lifespan than in paleo times.

  33. I would like to read the 1957 paper in which Keys was trounced. I have the Minger book on order, but could I get a title on that paper so I can read it as well?

  34. Whenever I read Denise Minger, and I have read her online, I think, ‘This is a person who just likes to write.’

    Whenever I take a few hours to peruse pubmed and see what’s going on lately with the reasearch, I think, ‘Wow, I’m not going to eat so much meat!’.

  35. Thank you so much for alerting me to this book. I’ve just finished reading it and can honestly say I learned some very valuable information – and I’ve been following my Low-Carb, Moderate Protein, High Fat diet for years and have never felt better.

    I’m writing to suggest that some individuals who are still struggling with blood sugar issues may be eating too little fat, and too much protein. Excess protein will be metabolized into glucose, and either used or most likely stored as fat. I’ve found the ideal amount of protein for my body and size (female, 63 years old, 125lb) is just under 60 grams daily (spread over 2 or 3 meals). I also keep my carbs below 25 grams daily so the remainder of my meals are fat – preferably saturated.

    I find it easy to eat this way – and am rarely hungry.

    Mike, thanks again for pointing the way!