Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Skeptical Sources

I was reading the New York Times nutritional version of Myth Busters and this one gave me the chills. I didn’t think anyone actually believed this. Then I remembered the New York Times Bestseller I read a few years ago, Skinny Bitch. I hate to deride any book that promotes a plant based diet, but it’s necessary. Despite the silliness of the book, there is a large amount that I agree with; unfortunately, it has three fatal flaws.

Agave Nectar
The authors rant about the audacity of sugar, HFCS, and artificial sweeteners. Agreed. However, they militantly promote Agave Nectar (over 90% fructose) as a sweetener despite the numerous studies associating high intakes of fructose with uricemia and metabolic problems. Their reason is that sugar is too refined; it is, but so is Agave. Agave also has a low glycemic index, thus it is appealing to diabetics. However, that low GI comes with potential consequences. Fructose is fine if it is consumed from fruits - the quantity in fruit is miniscule and the benefits of fruit are crucial. Caloric sweeteners (sugar in the raw, date sugar, etc.) all have the same amount of calories per serving and some level of processing. There is no magic alternative. Eat less.

When to Eat Fruit
The authors maintain that fruit eaten with any other food takes longer to digest and it will ferment in the stomach. Oh, my. Well, as the New York Times piece states, HCL and the length of our digestive tracts say their statement just isn’t so. Eat fruit whenever you want, with whatever you’d like. Just eat it.

Foods to Eat
Their book ends with a laundry list of packaged foods and processed meat alternatives to live off of. You will survive, but I wouldn’t call it living. It baffled me because the majority of their book criticizes the food industry and processed foods. Morbid curiosity prevailed and I bought their “cookbook.” None of the recipes interested me, but they did intrigue me. Most of their recipes called for some sort of processed ingredient (each of which had about twenty of its own ingredients).

This is a nation in dire need of higher intakes of fruit and lower intakes of processed foods and sweeteners. While I may have dismissed the book as a silly read, others have taken it seriously. This book may not be solely responsible for the myth of “fruit fermenting in the stomach”, but it made me realize something about myself. I am not inclined to ignore the flaws of a book, or a journal article, simply because I agree with its tenets. If I ever do, I will have become fatally flawed. Most importantly, before you buy into any type of diet book, check the references and do your homework!

See you in the library.

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