The Diet Delusion – An in-depth scientific investigation into dieting

Rating: 5 out of 5

This book is not for the faint-hearted. Like a defence advocate in a trial, in the book The Diet Delusion Gary Taubes builds his case against the accepted wisdom on dieting from the very first scientific test on the efficacy of various diets way back in the 1860s.

Prior to this time, diets & dieting was not considered at all as all contemporary photos will attest. All people of the period were slim with nary an ounce of fat bodies to be seen in any photos. It is only with the advent of the 1950s that the phenomena of obesity started to rear its head to become the epidemic that it is now.

It is not merely weight which is a cancer but its attendant maladies such as heart attacks, diabetes & high blood pressure. In spite of all the best medical advice, levels of morbid obesity are increasing steadily.

Why did this situation arise; Lack of exercise, incorrect eating, over eating, indolence or an alien virus?

Or possibly none of the above?

Gary Taubes contends that it is the generally accepted medical diet that is gradually killing the world. He sets out with meticulous gusto to assiduously examine all the crucial decisions taken to arrive at the current state of affairs. The smoking gun points at certain scientists in the USA who conflated association / similarity with causation with the culprit being fat. The US government in its haste to apportion blame for a rising tide of heart problems appointed a Commission which, without sufficient scientific advice, pinned the blame on the consumption of fat. Branded as the villain, carbohydrate was identified as the knight in shining armour which would trounce the malefactor.

But it was not to be; Rates of obesity rose & with it all its attendant afflictions.

The initial scientific test in the 1860s arose because an undertaker in London by the name of William Banting was, despite his best endeavors, increasing in girth. Eventually in desperation he approached his doctor, a Dr. William Harvey who, having a scientific bent, used Banting as a guinea pig. The upshot was that a fatty diet was proved to result in weight loss.

As a South African, I found the findings of a doctor in Natal in the 1920s who was initially in practice in the rural Zululand where obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure was unknown. On relocating to the Addington Hospital in Durban, the opposite applied. These ailments were rampant. Ultimately all that he could do was to attribute the difference to their diet.

A final aspect that struck a chord with me was the nature of cholesterol where HDL & LDL are the main protagonists. Even though LDL has been cast as the villains in the cholesterol saga, this is not true. It is rather type of HDL which is more fatal. In a large measure, the existing tests are meaningless. What a revelation!

This is not a book for a casual read but rather for those who have a penchant for the in-depth details of all the main players in the dieting game. Rather dip in & out of relevant sections as information is required rather than reading it like a novel from cover to cover.

This book is long overdue as it studiously treads its scientific path to neutralise all the landmines strewn in its way.


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