Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Three Books on Health

I have been procrastinating posting an entry on three new books that I just finished reading because the topics are very complex, but now is the time to do it. I'll be brief here and hopefully later I will be able to elaborate.

The first book I highly recommend is The Diabetes Solution by Richard Bernstein, M.D. Here is a man who has Type I diabetes himself and has learned how to control his blood sugar so well that at age 72 he is not suffering any of the serious complications of that disease. He developed diabetes as a child and later became an engineer and married a doctor. When the first glucometers came out they were not available to the general public but he managed to get one with his wife's help and learned to test his own blood sugar before and after eating. What he found was that he could control his blood sugar with a low-carb diet and a little insulin. When he wrote a paper on his discovery, no one paid any attention to him. So at age 45 he went to medical school and become a doctor and is now a practicing diabetologist in Mamaroneck, NY.

True to his engineering background, his book is very detailed. It will tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, and where to go to get supplies. At first, he has his patients test their blood sugars all day and record the results in order to eliminate foods that send blood sugar soaring and fine-tune medications if they are needed. He has therefore collected a huge amount of data that tells him exactly which foods raise blood sugars the most. As a result of all this testing and his own experience, he puts his patients on a very low carbohydrate diet, only allowing 30 grams per day. If I were a diabetic (and I am not), I would certainly want to have this book in my collection. You can read Dr. Bernstein's complete life story here.

One of the things that people worry about when you mention a low-carb diet is the amount of fat and cholesterol one consumes as a result. Did you know that there is an organization devoted to debunking the myth that eating saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease? Yes, it's called the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS). Mary Enig, whom I have mentioned several times before, is a member. Another member of the group is Malcolm Kendrick a Scottish M.D. who has written a hysterically funny book on the subject (if you can believe a book on heart disease can be funny) called The Great Cholesterol Con. The book needs a good editor, but you can read his essays online and get the gist of what is in the book and more. Two that I recommend are "Why the Cholesterol-Heart Disease Theory is Wrong" and "What on Earth is a Lipoprotein?"

The third book I would like to mention is on the subject of fiber in the diet, Fiber Menace by Konstantin Monastyrsky. This is a self-published book and not in the same class as the Bernstein book, but it does get you thinking about the assumption that fiber, a non-digestible substance, is good for you. I have tried a few of his suggestions, like not having several cups of tea right after dinner, and have found them to be of benefit. When you drink a lot of liquid after a meal, it swells up the fiber from the meal and can cause blockages in your system. Instead, he suggests drinking water one to one-half hours before a meal. However, although he considers his diet to be low-carb, when you finally find out what he eats all day (white rice with only a little protein at dinner), it makes you wonder. I am constantly amazed at how varied peoples' diets can be and still be low-carb.

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