When Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong
I can tell you exactly where I was when I realized that every thing I thought I knew about healthy eating was wrong. For three years, I was the co-host of a weekly radio show called Think for Yourself, a program about critical thinking and reasoned skepticism. My co-hosts and I did our best to sort through the muck and the hype to find the truth underlying the issues of the day.
Several years in, we decided to do an episode on weight loss specifically, whether it was better to diet or exercise in order to lose weight and keep it off. Our expert that day was Dr. Richard Mathias, a professor of public health from the University of British Columbia, my alma mater. We’d decided in advance that he was going to argue for nutritional intervention, while I would focus on increasing energy output through exercise. (In case you’re curious, the latest research indicates that weight loss- and weight gain, for that matter- is about 80 percent diet and only about 20 percent exercise.)
In the course of our on-air discussion, I mentioned that I was familiar with the many current theories about the causes of obesity and was aware that it was a complex, multifactorial condition that resulted from interactions between physiological, psychological, social, and genetic factors. I went on for some time spouting this “party line,” which still exists in most textbooks and government health sources. Dr. Mathias listened, patiently and politely. When I finally stopped talking, he spoke up. “Dave, it’s not complex at all,” he said. “Obesity is simply a physiological response to excess carbohydrate in the diet.”
For a moment, there was radio dead air; it seemed much too simple an explanation for what we have been led to believe was a very complicated problem. It didn’t take long, though, for the light bulb to go on. These days, I look back on that exchange as my “eureka” moment. All of my 30-plus years of studying human biology, health, evolution, anatomy, physiology, and pathology suddenly coalesced around Dr. Mathias’s simple yet elegant statement. And in that moment, I knew he was right-absolutely right-and that I had been wrong for decades.
In my defense, I wasn’t alone. For the past 40 years, the US Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and countless other seemingly reputable sources have recommended a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. The first US dietary guidelines, introduced in 1980, were designed to combat heart disease, which was then thought to be linked to a diet high in saturated fats: the so-called Diet-Lipid-Heart Hypothesis. People were advised to replace high fat foods with those high in carbohydrates, and the processed food industry obliged by creating a host of products low in fat but high in sugar and starch. And we bought in. Today, about half of the calories in a typical American diet come from ultra-processed, high carbohydrate foods.
The truth, however, is that those guidelines, though well intentioned, were wildly premature, released before there was conclusive evidence to support them.
We can consider the past 40 years of nutritional recommendations as a grand experiment conducted by health bureaucrats on hundreds of millions of North Americans, investigating the effects of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
In a sense, we can consider the past 40 years of nutritional recommendations as a grand experiment con ducted by health bureaucrats on hundreds of millions of North Americans, investigating the effects of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. And the results are in: the Organization for Economic Co operation and Development and US government sources report that 40 percent of American adults are now obese, a number that is expected to exceed 45 percent in the next decade. Compare this to1970, when only about 14 percent of American adults were obese.
Obesity also has a trickle-down effect, from mother to child, and recent studies have shown that this actually begins during pregnancy. Fetuses have to adapt to the fuel supplied by the mother, and any imbalance, excess sugar, for example, can cause permanent changes in fetal physiology and metabolism. For this reason, and also because children tend to eat what their parents do, they are more likely to be obese themselves. Obesity among young people, ages 2 to 19, increased from about 14 percent to nearly 19 percent in the past 20 years, and type 2 diabetes among those between the ages of 10 and 19 increased by a whopping 21 percent between 2001 and 2009. Children with obesity are also at a higher risk of asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and heart disease. Shockingly, it is estimated that there are now 10 million children suffering from obesity-related, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the US alone. And, in the long term, an obese child is much more likely to become an obese adult. Sadly, these numbers show no sign of improving.
It’s estimated that about 70 percent of American adults are now overweight or obese, and most suffer from insulin resistance and chronic inflammation as a result. Recent research, conducted over the past 15 to 20 years, has shown us that these conditions are all linked to a high-carbohydrate diet.
We now know that:
- cardiovascular disease is caused not by fat in our diet but by inflammation in our blood vessels;
- type 2 diabetes is aggravated by both obesity and inflammation;
- Alzheimer’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the brain, is sometimes called type 3 diabetes; and
- inflammation and insulin also promote tumor growth, so a high carbohydrate diet creates an optimal environment for cancer progression.
Obesity is not only one of the primary causes of preventable chronic disease, but it is also one of the most expensive. According to the Journal of Health Economics, current estimates for obesity related healthcare costs in the United States range from $14 7 to $210 billion per year. Job absenteeism as a result of the disease adds another $4.3 billion annually. In Canada, the direct and indirect costs of obesity on the already overstretched healthcare system are expected to reach $33 billion by 202s.
Kind of hard to believe we ever thought a diet rich in carbohydrates was a good idea, isn’t it?
Fortunately, there is good news. Greatly restricting dietary carbohydrate through the adoption of a ketogenic diet will reduce mid-abdominal fat and the inflammation and insulin resistance that goes along with it. The result is the significant reduction, and sometimes even the elimination, of chronic disease by:
- reducing inflammation in the blood vessels, which causes heart disease;
- lowering and stabilizing the high blood-glucose levels responsible for diabetes;
- reducing inflammation in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease; and
- reducing the glucose and insulin that promote the growth of cancer cells.
If you’re willing to commit 12 weeks to changing the way you eat, you really will change the rest of your life for the better.
And a bonus bit of good news? A ketogenic diet not only helps prevent these chronic diseases, but it can also help treat those already afflicted.
I learned all of this during a period of intense research following my “eureka” moment with Dr. Mathias. I wanted to be sure of the truth. I wanted to know if his simple explanation for our expanding waistlines- and the health consequences that go along with them would hold up to serious scientific scrutiny. And so I got busy. I put aside everything I thought I knew about healthy eating to investigate the benefits of low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets in preventing and treating chronic disease. The BioDiet is the result of that research the book, the way of eating, and the lifestyle it inspired.
As a scientist and health educator-an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of the Fraser Valley, a visiting scientist at the BC Cancer Research Centre, a scientific advisory board member of the Canadian Clinicians for Therapeutic Nutrition, and a member of the Institute for Personalized Therapeutic Nutrition I want to set the record straight. I want to share the recent, robust, and conclusive scientific research that explains why our traditional way of eating has been failing us, and why a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is a much healthier choice. I adopted a ketogenic diet in 2012, initially as an experiment to see if it actually achieved the results my research indicated it would. The experiment soon became a way of life, and today I continue to reap the benefits of lower body weight and better overall health.
In the pages that follow, I introduce you to the BioDiet so that you, too, can enjoy its benefits. I debunk some of the popular food myths that have gotten us into this overweight, inflamed, and insulin resistant mess. I explain how and why the BioDiet combats obesity, helps reverse some of the effects of aging and reduces the incidence and severity of chronic disease. And, perhaps most importantly, I give you the tools you need to determine if the Bio Diet is right for you. If it is right for you (and for most of us, it really, really is), I go over a plan to incorporate it, step by step, into your life. I lay out the five steps-Bio-Assessment, Bio-Preparation, Bio Adaptation, Bio-Rejuvenation, and Bio-Continuation-that will help you to heal your body and embark on a healthier future. And I set you up with resources, including menu plans, shopping lists, and supplement suggestions, to make the transition to this way of eating as easy as possible.
When I speak publicly on the BioDiet, I say, “Give me an hour and I’ll change your mind. Give me 12 weeks and I’ll change your life.” So, what do you say? Do you want to reduce your weight; lower your pain from systemic inflammation; stabilize your blood sugar; improve your immune function, your energy, and your mood; and slow your aging process? If you’re willing to commit 12 weeks to changing the way you eat, you really will change the rest of your life for the better. Not a bad deal, right?