Book Recommendation — Fat Chance… by Robert Lustig M.D.

I had the honor to listen to Dr. Lustig at the Health Evolution Partners Leadership Summit.    While he didn’t persuade me at the time — I did decide to read his book — Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Foods, Obesity, and Disease and it did change my understanding and thinking on obesity and nutrition.

I work hard to eat smart and stay fit.  I get easily frustrated by the impact of obese people in our ever day lives — in airplanes, amusement parks, and especially in our health delivery system (costs, equipment, injuries and more).   I was always taught that weight management was simple — calories consumed minus calories expended — determine weight outcome.    Lustig and the details in his book have convinced me that for many folks, the above is just not true (his claim is roughly 55% of US population).

Obesity is a major health problem and the issue has many public policy considerations (Bloomberg and Big Gulp anyone?) — so I figure we all need to be educated on how nutrition really works.     For details, examples and the science — read the book or watch the video — below are the key insights for me that he supports with science and/or things I have changed in my own routine:

  • sugar (all forms) is a much bigger culprit in weight gain than fat in our food.
  • how one’s body responds to sugar is multi-factorial (hormones, insulin resistant or not, and more).    Behavior and hormones interact with each other — often in pro-cyclical ways that are bad.
  • form matters (in addition to volume) — specifically fiber + natural sugar has a different/better impact than refined sugar alone
  • reducing caloric intake signals to your body to increase fat storage — so eating less by itself exacerbates the dieters situation
  • one’s weight by itself — is a very crude measure and can give false indicators for any diet regimen.   Improved muscle mass increases calories burned at rest.    The desired outcome and focus should be on the ratio of muscle/bone to fat.     if you start a weight loss program and reduce caloric intake without exercise — you lose muscle first (not fat) and make the problem worse.
  • breakfast matters (to the hormones) and breakfast should include proteins (more eggs in my future)
  • I stopped drinking OJ (even organic, fresh squeezed) in the a.m. — high in sugar and separated from the fiber, an easy change.
  • I switched my bread choices to be ones with a lot more natural and whole kernels in them (fiber again)
  • I switched from leanest fat possible meat choices (less than 10%) to feeling like 15% was ok
  • I am reading labels even more carefully.
  • I am more open to ‘public health’ options that impact the food environment

I don’t agree with Lustig’s polemic against the food industry nor with all of his solutions, which is why he didn’t persuade me at the HEP summit event.    However I do agree we need better public health solutions for this growing epidemic.    Now it is time for me to get out for my run!

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