Review of The Modern Nutritional Diseases: Heart Disease, Stroke, Type-2 Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer and How to Prevent Them, by Alice Ottoboni, Ph.D., and Fred Ottoboni, Ph.D. (Vincente Books 2002), 224 pages, ISBN- 978-0915241033
The Modern Nutritional Diseases: Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer and How to Prevent Them is not a book for everyone, just those who desire to live a long and healthy life. We have all likely heard the phrase “You are what you eat,” but never took it seriously. In fact, the medical evidence pointing to the relationship between the common diseases mentioned in the title and each of our choices in dietary intake is no longer in question.
Past Assumptions Proven Wrong
In the late 1950s, despite weak evidence, it became fashionable to blame animal fat and cholesterol as the major risk factors for cardiovascular heart disease. This led to the promotion of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate, “heart-healthy” diet. A large fraction of our population has been adhering to this diet for 40 years, and disease rates should be dropping, but they are not. This book explains why, in admittedly more detail than the average reader will desire. For this reason I strongly recommend readers read the last two chapters first (chapters 11 and 12), where the authors summarize what everyone needs to know regarding disease prevention through diet and exactly how to achieve it.
Once you have read chapters 11 and 12, go back to the beginning. In chapter one the authors explain how our diets have so dramatically changed from earlier days when the diseases we currently face were less common. In chapter two they explain in the simplest terms precisely what the various diseases mentioned in the title of the book entail.
The idea that dietary deficiencies or overabundance could cause disease is not new but not very old, either. It was unheard of a century ago, when outbreaks of beriberi and pellagra occurred. Medical experts then believed only pathogens could cause epidemics. Eventually, it was learned that polished rice (with germ removed to prevent rancidity) was the cause of beriberi, and an excessive intake of corn or maize resulted in pellagra. Later, medical experts learned scurvy resulted from a vitamin C deficiency and vitamin D deficiency caused rickets.
The Ottobonis tell us, “The dietary changes and disease patterns we are witnessing today resemble those that led to the great epidemics of pellagra and bereberi which occurred more than a century ago.”
“Unlike the classic nutritional diseases, modern nutritional diseases are primarily the result of excesses or imbalances among dietary macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids (fats), —rather than a deficiency of a single micronutrient,” the authors explain.
Useful Tips on Common Ailments
Although in-depth scientific observations—such as the authors’ explanations of metabolism, enzymes, and substrates—can be difficult reading for nonscientists, these writings are necessary to soundly establish the aurhors’ claims regarding the modern American diet. Readers will likely learn things they should have always known, such as what makes a solution acidic or basic and what pH means in calculating both.
If you suffer from indigestion, for example, they will quickly convince you that chewing your food into small pieces will probably relieve your problem. They will also quickly convince you that slowing your eating which will result in eating less.
Settling Nutritional Debates
Additionally, they will settle for you the controversy over whether all calories are alike, or if in fact they can play different roles in your body’s biochemistry. (OK, I will give you a spoiler on this one: The latter is true.)
I recommend taking the book on in 10-to-15 page increments, which equates to less time than the average American spends in waiting rooms during each visit to a doctor’s office.
We all wonder about the benefits—or lack thereof—in vitamin and mineral supplements. In chapter five, the authors do an outstanding job clarifying what makes sense for each of us in this regard.
The most difficult chapters deal with the chemistry of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, but they will convince you why diets high in carbohydrates and low in fat and animal protein, promoted by well-known diet gurus, have done Americans no favors.
Unless you have a close friend who practices internal medicine and shares that knowledge with you, it is likely you do not fully understand the role of inflammation in so many medical problems. The Ottobonis do a great job of explaining it. Acute (short term) inflammation is actually the body’s defense mechanism against a variety of problems, but chronic (continuous) inflammation is the basis for many ongoing physical ailments. This knowledge will help you recognize many health problems described in detail in chapter 10.
Take Control of Your Health
The final two chapters, which I suggested you read first, beautifully explain how our once-powerful public health agencies, which formerly focused on disease prevention, have been subverted by the power of government and special interests to focus on cures, where the money is. The Ottobonis show you how you can take your health into your own hands and reduce your risks of developing the ailments requiring such cures in the first place.
If you have patience and interest in your own well-being, you will never regret owning this outstanding book.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.