By Marc Halpern, MS, RD
I was very excited for Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger to come out. As a dietitian, I do not accept much of the common practice today as fact. I think many of the nutrition protocols we use today are built upon faulty science. Some of these faults are because of limitations in research due to ethics and impractical designs. However, much of the poor science is due to people forcing a hypothesis to be accepted as fact to either push what they truly believe to be correct or because of monetary interests. The first half of the book gets into a detailed history of how both of these things happened to get us to our current state of nutrition and health. Those of you who read any of Gary Taube’s’ work (or other low carb guys) know all about how Ancel Keys is largely responsible for the high carbohydrate diets we see today. Minger discusses a more realistic picture of Keys and his influence. Instead of a villain who destroyed our health, he was a well-meaning researcher who, in his attempts to tackle heart disease, came to some wrong conclusions and couldn’t let them go. His desire to help people clouded his ability to objectively review the evidence. I thought the tone of the book was going to be accusing and almost angry, but it was quite the opposite. She does point out many examples of how the government and big business may not have our health in mind, but she points out an equal amount of people who really did want to make a difference but got off path a bit.
The second half of the book discusses the current state of what the science tells us. She has a chapter dedicated to learning to read a scientific paper and what all of the different variables mean. For the lay person, this primer is pure gold. She examines the scientific literature and gives a summary of the current state of affairs in the nutrition world. What she does next is what really sets the book apart from countless others. Instead of taking a side and going paleo, or low carb, or [insert diet here], she looks for what we can all agree on. I love this. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves over small differences, she brings it together to find some common ground. The book also includes some clarification on where some diet ideas came from, and how their original form has been altered. Overall, this is a must read for everyone as it includes a history lesson of our current nutrition world as well as strong scientific summary.