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Friday, August 15, 2014

"High-fat diets kill!" and other nutrition myths debunked: Keto Clarity book review

The  internet is saturated with terrible dietary advice. It's usually offered by misinformed nutritionists and published by outlets like the Huffington Post, where even the most outlandish stories are passed off as reliable science journalism.

So in this age when we have unlimited access to information, much of it being nonsense, I'm always excited to stumble upon a well-written, well-researched book about nutrition, which is exactly what I found in Keto Clarity (KC), by Jimmy Moore and Eric C. Westman.

The book offers a concise explanation of ketogenic diets and why they're excellent for anyone who wants to lose weight and get healthier, which, I think, includes most of us, judging by the CDC's obesity statistics. For any readers who are unaware, though, a ketogenic diet is one that eliminates most carbohydrates and replaces them with healthy fats and limited amounts of protein, the Atkins Diet being the most popular representation, though Atkins isn't always ketogenic. Nonetheless, diets in this vein have been heavily criticized over the last three decades by journalists, politicians and even doctors who saw them as a threat to public health. Following authors like Gary Taubes, Moore and Westman take on this criticism directly and detail why these diets work so well.

I'm certainly no scientist, but I've written quite a bit about low-carb diets over the last three years, and nearly everything I read in KC is the same information I came across while researching my articles on this topic. Studies have shown over and over, for example, that ketogenic diets are excellent treatments for obesity, and they regularly beat out other diets when compared to them in clinical studies. Likewise, there is ample evidence that the human body functions perfectly well on a high-fat diet, indeed fat is probably the body's preferred source of energy. Strange as that may sound to many readers, it makes sense in light of the fact that our ancestors thrived on high-fat diets.

If you're concerned about the intellectual muscle behind this book, don't be. Jimmy Moore, though a knowledgeable health writer in his own right, wisely recruited Dr. Eric C. Westman as a co-author for the book. Westman is a professor of medicine at Duke University, which means the information in Keto Clarity is coming from an actual scientist, and one with an impressive publication record.

 It's always comforting to know that the authors of a science book are knowledgeable, but it's especially important in this case for one reason: the weight loss industry is dominated by people who simply have no idea what they're talking about; they have never actually had to lose weight and have little or no experience treating obesity. Still, these folks happily write books and give lectures telling the rest of us how we should eat if we want to slim down. KC, however, begins with an interesting anecdote about Moore's struggle with obesity and how he became so interested in nutrition, and each chapter contains commentary from researchers and doctors, 23 by my count, who have extensive experience studying and treating obese patients. After watching food scolds like Meme Roth accuse fat people of gluttony for over a decade now, Moore and Westman's approach to the subject was refreshing.

There's far more information in the book than I can cover in a short review, so I'll close by saying that KC was an informative and entertaining read. Do go buy it. You just might end up smarter and healthier as a result.

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