Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
Until I listened to The Great Course's "The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness" (2011), I hadn't had a class on nutrition since a one week course, part of a required high school health class, more than 30 years ago. Since then, I've been getting my eating and exercise info from the popular press, like Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post.
Anthony A. Goodman, MD's series of lectures convinced me those articles on diet and exercise - well, disgusting juice fasts and enemas (gross!) aren't going to work; cutting all carbohydrates out of a diet is really going to do a number on your health; and the best way to exercise and stay fit is to find things that make you happy to do, and keep doing it on a regular basis.
I found the discussion of simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates really helpful: I'd spent years thinking my preference for a slice of good whole grain bread sans butter as a snack was somehow the dietary equivalent of having a candy bar. That's probably what some article in People Magazine said 20 years ago, and I never realized science had long since discarded that silliness.
The section about kids, exercise, and diet (meaning what they eat, not a weight loss program) was really helpful: I've got a three sport teenager that sometimes works out or plays 6 hours a day. I've been worried about how to make sure she's eating enough, and what kind of rest she needs to make sure she doesn't get hurt and she gets what she needs from a workout. Goodman makes it clear that when training, muscles need rest to build. He also talks about distinguishing good pain from bad pain, and when it's a horrible idea to 'work through the pain' that signals a nasty injury.
Goodman is relying on published, peer reviewed studies on nutrition, exercise, illness, and injury in his lectures, and he often cites the specific author and paper. Where information and conclusions in studies needs more research, he says so. There are a few anecdotes drawn from actual case studies that support data, but by no means is this a "I knew this one guy who lost weight by/Follow this one weird tip Oprah recommends" listen.
There's a quick Easter egg in the last section on extremely athletes: he met Mountaineer Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986), who was one of the two people on the first successful summit of Everest. They discussed endurance and mountain climbing. Goodman was convinced a successful climb to the top of Everest required supplemental oxygen. Norgay thought it could be done without, as long as the climber was very quick. Norgay was right.
Goodman's narration was lively, although he had a little bit of a nasally thing going on.
[For anyone interested in reading published, peer reviewed studies on nutrition and exercise, the National Institutes of Health's PubMed database aggregates and indexes papers. There are, for example, 72,616 papers mentioning body mass index (BMI) in the abstract; 20,627 are free.]
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For many people, a diet with an "inverted pyramid" focused on vegetables, fruits and whole grains is de rigueur. I'm not sure this book will push these people far from that "inverted pyramid". However, for certain classes of these healthy eaters, this book seems to have some well-documented items to think about. High triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol are one class of people the author singles out as potentially having to make dietary changes. Sugar is named as the driving factor behind the triglycerides. The key for the author is the inflammatory effects of weight and sugar on the body. The author cites multiple studies that describe high triglycerides and low HDL as a dangerous condition. His recipe is cut the sugar and preprocessed foods, monitor progress with a number of specific tests, and consider the potential of specific supplements. The author considers this condition more dangerous than high LDL cholesterol yet many doctors would view this type of patient with ambivalence all else being equal. If this describes you and your doctor is not concerned, you may want to read the book and consider making some changes. Another group of folks are folks who consume an imbalance of Omega 6s versus Omega 3 fats. Lots of folks with an under control LDL have some degree of ambivalence with regard to fats. This book tells those folks to pay more attention to the type of fats they consume and considers Omega6 versus Omega 3 to be pretty highly inflammatory. Again this class of person should read the book, read the citations, and think about taking action (which is spelled out in dietary recommendations, tests, and potential supplements).
For healthy eaters who try to manage their health by understanding the impact of diet on the body this book is highly recommended. This book will challenge many preconceptions you might have about the importance of cholesterol and will challenge you to think more deeply about the impact of sugar and inflammation on health. It will also recommend that you study different types of cholesterol than is customary right now. It will give you a list of specific tests that will help you gauge inflammation in your body. It will also recommend a list of supplements that may be effective depending upon your particular situation.
For unhealthy eaters, this book is also highly recommended as it puts a focus on sugar (and processed foods) not so much on fats and cholesterol. While the book is somewhat controversial in that it worries far less on the impact of cholesterol on health, for most folks I know who have unhealthy diets... sugar is their real problem. I believe a focus on sugar... reducing the dependence that many have on sugar is a surer first step to a healthy life than a focus on cholesterol reduction. Not a doctor, not an unhealthy eater... but I believe this book is a must read for these folks.