Book Review: Fat Chance

Looking for a good book? This is one MUST READ book! I enjoy listening to podcasts while working sometimes. My favorite podcast is Vinnie Tortorich, America’s Angriest Trainer. I HIGHLY recommend you listen to his podcast and then go out and buy his bestselling book, Fitness Confidential. I will be doing a book review of that very shortly. Vinnie has always recommended Dr. Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease on his podcast and after IMLP I finally had some free time to pick it up and finish it.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

I’ve read a lot of books within the past month and Lustig’s is by far the best one to read. I think this book should even be a required reading book in high schools and college. That’s how much I think everyone needs to read this book. Go buy it. Now!

Who is Dr. Lustig? Well, he is an internationally renowned pediatric endocrinologist who has spent the past 16 years treating childhood obesity at some of the top hospitals in the world, such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Sooo… I would say that he knows his shit better than those Jillian Michaels and Dr. Oz characters.

Dr. Lustig became famous for his at-the-time, very controversial you-tube video called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” And, yes, I think you should watch that too. Fat Chance documents the science and politics that have led to the current obesity pandemic that no longer just affects the United States, but the entire world. I went on a medial mission to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 2011 and I was surprised beyond belief the number of overweight and obese people and the number of fast-food joints in those countries. Hell, Costa Rica has a Denny’s!

Lustig reveals and outlines all the bad research that has been conducted over the years by the government and big food. Personally, I think a lot of those scientists who were involved in many of those studies should have their PhD’s removed. It’s rather disgusting how many people will sell-out to the food industry and politicians. Ok, end rant.

The book begins by setting up a valid argument why the government’s view of “calorie in, calorie out” is bullshit. I hate that term. When discussing food with my clients I always ask them “what is a calorie?” No one has yet to answer correctly. It’s because we have been brainwashed over the years to think of food as calorie in, calorie out. That’s how you’re suppose to lose weight, right? Wrong! Believe me, I was one of those people for a long time too, but the more I read (from reputable and educated sources!!) the more I learn that I have been completely duped all my life. Lustig is an endocrinologist meaning that he is a specialist in hormones and the biochemistry of the human body.

Lustig talks a lot about hormones, ya know, since he gets hormones. Hormones have a profound effect on our metabolism and how we view food. Fat Chance outlines ways to readjust our key hormones that regulate hunger, reward, and stress. That is done mainly by eliminating sugar. Sugar is an addictive toxin to our bodies. We live in a society today that thinks dietary fat is bad. Low-fat this and low-fat that. Well, guess what happens when you remove fat from food products? The food tastes like crap and the manufactures pump it full on sugar. Read the book and find out why sugar is bad for you. I’m serious, do it.

The evolution of nutritional science is what really fascinates me. Back in the early to mid-1900’s we got the science right. And then big food and some idiots got involved. The leading cause of death today in the United States is heart disease, but in the next decade or so we will see that shift to diabetes and other metabolic-related diseases, which heart disease can be considered one. In 1957 John Yudkin, a British physiologist and nutritionist, postulated that a dietary component caused heart attacks. By 1964, through natural observation studies he theorized that the consumption of sucrose was associated with heart disease. Yudkins published numerous papers on the biochemistry of sucrose and was the first person to warn us that excessive consumption could lead to heart disease, diabetes, GI diseases among other diseases.

Now, back in the United States we have Ancel Keys, a Minnesota epidemiologist. In the early 1950s Keys spend some time in England where we witnessed a large rise in heart disease. The typical English diet consisted of high fat and high cholesterol items, such as fish and chips. He noticed that those who are well fed in both the US and UK were those who could afford meat, but also seemed to suffer the most from heart disease. In the 1960s and 1970s Keys published numerous studies indicating that heart disease patients had higher cholesterol levels than non-heart disease patients. In 1980 Keys published his “Seven Countries” study, a 500-page paper that concluded that dietary fat was the single cause of heart disease. Which, the United States government and medical community has since run with. However, there are four major problems with his thesis.

The first being that his Seven Countries study started out as a Twenty-two Countries study. The seven countries he used in his study were: Japan, Italy, England, Wales, Australia, Canada, and the US. The relationship between dietary fat and heart disease looked quite convincing when the data was plotted. However, when he plotted the other countries (Austria, Ceylon, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland), the correlation was almost non-existent. He also actively chose not to include indigenous tribes, such as the Inuit, Tokelau, and Maasai and Rendille, who eat only animal fat and have the lowest prevalence of heart disease on the planet. How’s that for science? Second, the role of dietary fat in heart disease is complicated by trans fat, which has signficant scientific studies to link it to metabolic syndrome. The use of trans-fats peaked during the 1960s and most likely were not considered a variable by Keys.

Third, if you look at the correlation itself, it is a problem. Japan and Italy eat the least amount of saturated fat and have the least amount of heart disease. But, they also eat the least amount of dietary sugar out of all the countries included. How do you know if it’s the sugar or the fat causing heart disease? Fourth, Keys admits that he correlated sucrose with saturated fat, but it was not important enough to him to remove sucrose from the equation. When one completes a multivariate correlation analysis, a common statistical tool that determines whether A causes B regardless of the impact of C, D, and E, one has to do the calculation both ways. In other words, Keys would have had to hold sucrose constant and show that dietary fat still correlates with heart disease. Basically, Keys used bad science. And then the government took it and ran with the idea.

This is just one of the studies Lustig discusses in his book. He discusses many more that are just as interesting. The end of the book concludes with two sections. One is on the personal solution and the other is on the public health solution. I absolutely loved the public health section because I am a public health professional. In society today we have this notion that obesity is an individual problem. That person eats too much, doesn’t exercise and it’s their fault they are fat. Lustig will tell you that’s rarely the problem. The public health section discusses ways as a society that we can conquer the impending obesity pandemic.

Overall, you will be crazy not to read this book. Out of all the books I have read this year, this is by far one of the best ones out there. It will change your view of nutrition and the obesity epidemic. Lustig gives you the science that backs up his claims. This isn’t a diet book written by some bimbo Hollywood trainer on how to lose 10-lbs in 10 days. It’s a real book based on real science that will open your eyes and mind to the current nutritional crisis in the United States.

What are you waiting for? GO BUY THE BOOK! 🙂

~ Happy Training!

Proteins: Are you Consuming Too Much?

Protein is a term thrown around pretty freely these days in the gym, out on a long run with your training partner, in fitness magazines, and on the internet. But, do most people even know what constituents a protein and what and how the body used protein?

Proteins are considered to be the most versatile macromolecules in living systems and proteins serve crucial functions in essentially all biological processes. Proteins function as catalysts, transport and store other molecules such as oxygen, provide mechanical support and immune protection, generate movement, transmit nerve impulses, and control growth and differentiation1. In other words, proteins have a lot of “jobs” within the human body.

Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids. The chains of amino acids then spontaneously fold up into 3-D structures that are predetermined by the sequence of amino acids in the protein chain. It’s function is directly dependent on this unique 3-D structure. There are 20 different amino acids that vary in size, shape, and other chemical characteristics. Human can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids and the remaining 10 must be obtained through diet. These 10 amino acids that are supplied via food are called essential amino acids2. Failure to obtain enough of even one of the 10 essential amino acids results in degradation of the body’s proteins, muscles and so forth, to obtain the one amino acid that is needed2. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use.

Why is protein important to the athlete? Traditionally, athletes seem to fall into two categories: those who eat too much (i.e. bodybuilders, weightlifters, and football players) and those who eat too little (i.e. runners, dancers, and triathletes)3. The current RDI for protein consumption is 0.8 kg/day (0.4 g/day) per pound of body weight. Nancy Clark, MS, RD, gives this examples in her book: a 150 lb recreational athlete who burns about 3,000 calories a day can easily consume 300-450 protein calories (75-112 g). This equates to about 1-1.5 kg of protein, which is more than the RDI of 0.8 kg. Joe Friel, MS, suggests the following protein intake4:

Training Volume (Hours/Week)

Protein (g)/day











To calculate your individual protein need, take the protein g/day number from above and multiple it by your weight in pounds. For example,

140 lbs X 0.9 g/lb = 126 g protein per day

Now there seems to be a “fad” going around the fitness world telling you your not consuming enough protein. Personally, I believe it’s in part due to the “feud” between the crossfit vs. endurance sport world and the emergence of the Paleo Diet. So, if people were not getting enough protein than you would think that a protein deficiency is a common problem. True protein deficiency, if you eat at least a somewhat healthy diet, is virtually non-existent, even in highly active athletes.

Many people have the perception that more protein is better. If I eat this slab of steak 3x a day then I will look like this guy!

Protein is important for cellular function and muscle repair. However, too much protein can make you sick. When too much protein is consumed, it must be broken down, primarily by the liver, by partly by the kidneys and muscles. Excess consumption overworks the liver and kidneys and can cause accumulation of toxic protein byproducts5. Amino acids, due to their chemical structure, are acidic by nature. Animal proteins are rich in sulfur-containing amino acids and when broken down release sulfuric acid5. In order for the body to buffer these harsh chemicals, bones dissolve to release buffering reagents and can lead to osteoporosis. Animal protein is also linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Another myth about protein is that you must eat meat and dairy to obtain enough protein in your diet. That is completely untrue. Animals, including humans, can only produce half of the amino acids that compose proteins. The other half must be obtained through diet. Plants can make all 20 amino acids. Sure, not all plants have each of the amino acids, but that is why you should eat a balanced diet of a variety of fruits and vegetables. Plants are rich in proteins. Plants are so rich in protein that they meet the protein and nutritious needs of the world’s largest animals: elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and cows. Humans are a faction of the size of these animals and we can deduce that plants will also easily meet our protein needs!

Eating a well balanced plant-based diet will not only meet your protein needs, but will also meet your daily fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, and phytochemical needs. See the chart here of protein contents of some common vegetables, grains, and animal products. Per percent of calories of protein, spinach has more protein than chicken, pork, salmon, and milk!

Another common misconception is the need for protein powders, shakes, and bars. I’m guilty of this. I use a protein powder in my recovery shakes after a hard workout. I use either soy or hemp protein vs. an animal based product. It is best to eat whole foods rich in protein vs. isolated protein products. Isolated products, such as protein powders, are generally highly processed by a laboratory. Be aware of what you buy and if you really need that extra protein. Can you read all the ingredients on the wrapper? Look at your protein bars, I bet you can’t read half the crap they jam pack into those “healthy” bars. I have eliminated bars from my diet because of that factor. You can easily make your own bars that meet all your nutrient needs at home in your kitchen using whole foods.

Proteins are an important aspect of your diet, but be careful that your not over-consuming protein. Protein is needed in aiding muscle recovery, but too much of it can be toxic to your body because your body cannot store it like fat and carbs. So next time you reach for you protein bar and shake after a heavy workout, make sure you ask yourself if you really need that extra protein in your diet. Chances are, if your eating a well-balanced diet then your body is already getting enough protein.


  1. Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Biochemistry, 6th Ed. New York: WH Freeman and Co; 2007.
  2. University of Arizona. The Chemistry of Amino Acids. Available at: Accessed February 12, 2012.
  3. Clark N. Sport’s Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2008.
  4. Cordain L, Friel J. The Paleo Diet For Athletes. USA: Rodale; 2005.
  5. McDougall J. Where Do You Get Your Protein? Available at: Accessed February 12, 2012.
Note: I am not a nutrient expert (although that is my goal in the future). I have a degree in Biochemistry and working on my Masters in Public Health. I am able to read and translate complex scientific concepts to a more reader friendly language. I researched this topic and have included a few of my own opinions. I encourage you all to do your own research and consult nutrition experts if you have any questions regarding protein and your diet. With that said, I can address any questions that you may have, but I am not an expert.

Reader Beware: Misinformation on the Internet

Yesterday I came across an interesting article posted on one of the facebook page’s I follow. It was a post from a blog about canola oil. I read through the article at first and then thought “OMG, this stuff is bad. AND I cook with it! Ahhh…” Then I started to wonder where all this information came from. There is SOOO much misinformation out there on the internet, especially about diet and exercise. As a scientist, the first thing you are taught is where does your information come from. Information should come from respected peer-review journals and not Wikipedia (as much as we all love it!). You must also consider studies that might contradict other studies on the same topic and also how each study is funded if that information is available. Generally, information found in peer-review journals can be trusted, but on rare occasions there is fraud and misinformation. This has occurred in the case of Autism vs. vaccinations. An article published in 1998 in the journal Lancet by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield which links Autism to the MMR vaccine. However, what were not released in the initial article were his ties to a patent on a rival measles vaccine and how the study was funded. The article has seen been retracted and Wakefield faces serious charges on professional misconduct before the General Medical Council. Wakefield’s study was the catalyst to the Autism vs. vaccination debate, and research has shown over and over again that there is no clear link of vaccinations causing Austism(1).

So instead of believing everything I read in the article about Canola Oil, I decided to look it up. First I start with a basic Google search. The first couple of sites that pop up are from Wikipedia, the Canola Oil Council of Canada, and a article about Canola Oil. Now, I love Wikipedia and I think it’s a great source to use at the beginning of your search for information, but it is not always reliable and accurate. You can get basic information from it, but you should always check the sources at the bottom of the page. Where do they come from? I decided to begin my research with the Canola Oil Council of Canada to get some basic information. Canola oil is made from the canola seed. Canola was bred naturally from its parent rapeseed in the early 1970s and has a different nutritional profile from the rapeseed. Scientists used traditional cross breeding methods to eliminate the undesirable components of rapeseed, namely the erucic acid and glucosinolate that have been linked to possible health concerns in laboratory animals(2). Now the blog post I read claims that canola oil is genetically modified. Cross breeding of plants is not genetically modifying a plant. Gregor Mendel cross bred pea plants in the 1800s and the study of genetics was born! Genetically modified foods have a piece of DNA inserted into its natural genetic sequence through methods called recombinant DNA. Now, the Canola Oil Council of Canada website has some great information about canola oil, but obviously they are going to be bias and probably won’t be sharing anything negative about canola oil. So we might question its accuracy. I then checked out the article on aims to either debunk or confirm rumors. The rumor of canola oil came from an email in 2001. Actually, much of the information in the email is the same as in the blog post I saw. Even some of the sentences are word for word so that definitely indicates a red flag (or at least for me). Snopes follows with information that they researched from fairly reliable sources, which they provide at the end of the article. Much of the information on snopes can be found on the Canola Oil Council of Canada website. The last step I took in researching is conducting a scholarly journal database search. You can do these through a library database (these might cost money) or through the Google Scholar search option. Both of these methods have its limitations in that you probably won’t have access to many journal articles because they cost money. Sometimes hundreds of dollars for a subscription! My database search didn’t turn up much information about the topic so it’s definitely debatable. There were a few potential articles but I could not access the full texts. Bummer!

So what is my conclusion? Personally, I think the blog article was rather bogus. Some information is probably accurate but the writer has no resources and when asked for her references she claims that they are at home in Canada. Hmm… sounds fishy to me. Some claims in her post are completely false. Mustard Gas is in fact not from the rapeseed plant, but is a chemical synthesized in the laboratory. It was given the name Mustard Gas because the impure form of it smells similar to mustard(3). Then the blog writer goes into the negatives of GMO foods. Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about GMO foods and I think much of the science is still unknown. As time goes on I think we will know more about the health effects that GMO foods have on us. A good source of information can be found here:

I recently finished reading The China Study and I should hopefully have my final review up by the end of the week. I’ve also been reading a great deal of nutrition and training articles in magazines and online. I’m amazed about the amount of contradictory and misinformation about nutrition and exercise out there, especially from people who have no qualifications! So what makes someone qualified? Generally, they will either have an advanced degree (MD, PhD, PT, MS, etc), license (by the state or by an official governing board), be certified by an association (NASM, ISSA, USAT, etc.) or a combination of the three. Anyone can claim to be a nutritionist, personal trainer, and/or coach and give advice. They may be right or they may be wrong. A nutritionist should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition or dietary studies. They should have a strong background in the sciences and food and nutrition. Thirty-three states required nutritionists to be licensed as a registered dietitian (RD). This is very important. In order to obtain a license the RD must take a knowledge-based test(4). Chances are if they are an RD then they know their stuff. Some personal trainers obtain a college degree in exercise physiology and some just obtain an online certification through one of the personal training associations. Personally, I prefer someone with a college degree because they are more apt to know more about physiology and the science behind how your body works while exercising. Some people don’t care. I think it’s a personal preference. You should always pick someone that you trust and feel comfortable with.

And now you’re probably wondering if I’m qualified to tell you all this. Nope, I’m not and I will tell you that straight up. I did some research and also described my beliefs on the subject. Take whatever I say how you want. The real moral of the story is to educate yourself and don’t believe everything you read or hear. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to see their credentials and ask questions.