Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living
Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 06-12-2011 09:15 PM


Senior Low-Carber


Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living

By Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney

The day I saw this book mentioned on this forum, I ordered a copy. I was not familiar with Stephen Phinney, but am a big fan of Jeff Volek’s contributions to Men’s Health magazine. I read the book this weekend, and am really struggling with what to say about it.

Not surprisingly for a book written by two experts on the subject, its treatment of low carbohydrate science is entirely in line with that of other experts, such as the Eades, Gary Taubes, etc. I have read just about every low-carb book out there, and this one seems accurate and well researched.

My issues with the book are: (1) The “thesis” seems to be that living low carb is a real challenge, (2) I cannot figure out who the intended audience is, and (3) as with so many other books in this area, the copy editing is very poor.


It seems to me one should not start a book that attempts to persuade people to make significant lifestyle changes by telling them how complex and difficult doing so will be. Even if it is true, the issue should be positioned in a more positive fashion, along the lines of “It may take a bit of learning to be successful at low-carb living, but the benefits dramatically outweigh the investment in time learning this lifestyle!”

Also, as there is so little specific dietary advice in the book (see below), that to suggest that the book addresses the “how” of low-carb living is a bit of a stretch.

(2) Intended audience: the title would lead me to think it is aimed at the general public, at least in part, with perhaps some science thrown in to justify the dietary recommendations. In fact, the first two sections (Introduction, Perspective) are quite easy to read and informative, the third (Physiology) is a long, hard slog through a lot of metabolic biochemistry, the forth (Clinical Applications) provides a modicum of dietary advice, and the fifth (Guest Chapters) is interesting and easy to read (including a contribution by Jimmy Moore).


That tough Section 3 has wonderful gems like: “Abnormal postprandial lipemia is the driving force behind the dyslipidemia of the atherogenic lipoprotein phenotype (ALP). . . . Increased hepatic triglyceride production precipitates formation of highly atherogenic small LDL particles and a reduction in HDL cholesterol, all of which indicate a causal role for elevated triglycerides in the pathogenesis and progression of heart disease.”

Presumably scientists and doctors will get through this section, but I do not think much of the general population will. On the other hand, the other sections are quite casual in tone and content, so I would not call it a science book in any sense. So I just do not know who the authors’ intended audience is.

(3) I am an admitted stickler for proper copy editing, and this book falls far short. I tagged at least a couple of dozen examples, but won’t bore you with them all. Here are a few:

Page 56, sidebar: in a half-page sidebar, the authors manage to misstate what a calorie is (it is no longer defined as “the energy needed to raise 1 cc of water by one degree Centigrade.”), and to show temperatures in three different formats (excuse the small “o” for the degree symbol here; I do not know how to put in a real degree symbol on this forum): 1o C, 37oC and 38.5 oC. Only the third is correct, per the SI (metric) standard.

Page 61, sidebar: I laugh every time I read this: “In the past 50 years, tens of thousands of individuals with two healthy kidneys have donated one of them to save another’s life.” While the intent is obvious, this ambiguous phrasing could lead one to believe that one kidney saves another kidney’s life! A good copy editor would remove such ambiguities.

Page 138: “It seems reasonable to target nutrients that represent dietary triggers capable of pushing someone from susceptibility to disease.” Huh? I think what they are saying is “It seems reasonable to target nutrients that can push a susceptible person into a diseased state.”

Page 148, plus others: use of underlining rather than italics in a typeset book. This is basic typography, not rocket science.

Page 157: “Thus, although the oft bandied truism that low carbohydrate diets necessarily impair physical performance remains alive in the minds of those who want to believe it, in reality it no longer has a basis in scientific fact.” In fact this truism never had a basis in scientific fact – scientific facts do not change from one day to the next, only our understanding of them changes. The quoted sentence should read something like “. . . in reality [this truism] is now known to be false.”

Page 202, postscript: is there some reason that this postscript, but none of the others, is set in the sans serif font used in the sidebars? Again, basic typography.

Page 220, my other favorite, in the section with a few recipes: where are we supposed to find kale leaves that are six feet ten inches long?

Page 224: “Most people can be titrated to remain cramp-free by this method.” I suggest most people would be terribly cramped when squeezing through a titration buret!


Did I learn anything from the book? Yes, I learned a lot, but mostly stuff that shores up my current knowledge of low carbohydrate diets and metabolism.

Would I recommend the book? I don’t know. If someone asked me for a diet book, I’d direct them to the authors’ The New Atkins for a New You long before recommending this one. If I wanted to give my doctor a book to read, I would suggest Taubes’ Why We Get Fat before this one. As I noted above, it is just not clear to me that the authors’ had a clear idea who they were writing for.


All my criticisms aside, the book does have some great info, such as this summary in Section 4: “In view of the poor track record of low fat, high carbohydrate diets in controlling our current epidemic of obesity and diabetes, plus the limited impact of both pharmacologic and even exercise interventions on metabolic syndrome markers, a well-formulated low carbohydrate diet offers an effective alternative for the millions of Americans suffering from this reversible condition.”

Jim

*************
"KeldiKlutz"
Jim Elwell
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 06-14-2011 06:11 PM


Advanced Low-Carber


Jim,

Thank you for reviewing this book. Your review has given me enough information as to whether or not I will read this piece -- probably not.
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 06-14-2011 06:54 PM


Administrator


Actually, Tapper, I think you should check out this book. Here's an interview I did with one of the authors Dr. Steve Phinney to help you decide:


Jimmy Moore, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum owner
CHOLESTEROL CLARITY BOOK: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1936608...vidalow-20
2009 BOOK: http://tinyurl.com/yh6smyy
OFFICIAL WEB SITE: http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LLVLC
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/livinlowcarbman
BLOG: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog
ATLCX PODCAST: http://ww.askthelowcarbexperts.com
LOW-CARB CONVERSATIONS PODCAST: http://www.lowcarbconversations.com
VIDEOS: http://www.youtube.com/livinlowcarbman
E-MAIL ME: livinlowcarbman@charter.net
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 06-14-2011 07:50 PM


Junior Low-Carber


Unfortunately, poor copy editing is pervasive these days - even in those books that should have been meticulously edited. In high school journalism we were awarded extra credit for bringing editing oversights in national publications and books to our instructor's attention because they were so rare. Now they're everywhere. Blogging and commenting is one thing, but on paper? It hurts my heart.

Robb Wolf's book and Enig & Fallon's books are repeat offenders. I've taken to circling mistakes just to make my disgust known to the universe. I know, I know - get a life, right?

Liz Wolfe
Steve's Original
Cave Girl Eats
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 06-15-2011 12:14 AM


Administrator


Ha ha! It's all good.

Jimmy Moore, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum owner
CHOLESTEROL CLARITY BOOK: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1936608...vidalow-20
2009 BOOK: http://tinyurl.com/yh6smyy
OFFICIAL WEB SITE: http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LLVLC
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/livinlowcarbman
BLOG: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog
ATLCX PODCAST: http://ww.askthelowcarbexperts.com
LOW-CARB CONVERSATIONS PODCAST: http://www.lowcarbconversations.com
VIDEOS: http://www.youtube.com/livinlowcarbman
E-MAIL ME: livinlowcarbman@charter.net
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 07-02-2011 11:05 PM


Expert Low-Carber


I LOVED this book. There's some information in it that I did not know, even after researching low carb nutrition for the past three years. For instance, they discuss the research on POA (palmitoleic acid) which is known to increase in the blood as a marker for carb intolerance way before the more obvious signs of metabolic syndrome appear.

They also share more facts I wasn't aware of:

Ketones: after a few weeks of keto-adaptation, ketone levels go above the 1 millimolar level in the blood stream, and as the levels rise, the brain begins to use more than half of them for fuel. So the ADA assertion that carbs are required for brain fuel is only true if you tell people to eat a high carb diet.. what a vicious circle.

At the beginning of a low carb diet, as the body begins to adapt, the muscles use both types of ketone bodies: acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate.. but after a few weeks of keto-adaptation, the muscles start converting the acetoacetate to B-Hydroxy and returning it to circulation, as the brain prefers this type. As time goes on, the low carbers levels of B-hydroxy ketones increase, as the acetoacetate ketones decrease.

But HERE's THE KICKER: Ketone strips only test for Acetoacetate, not B-hydroxy ketones. So the longer you are eating low carb, the less MEASURABLE ketones will show up on the Ketostix, but your brain will be happy burning the b-hydroxy ketones for fuel.

There were many more little gem like facts like that in this book, and anytime I can learn something new, I am a happy camper. Yes there were copy editing errors, as is the case with many hastily published books (this is why publishing houses take 2 years to get a book to market) but overall, I thought there was some GREAT info in this book.

Ellen
http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com
http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 07-03-2011 01:35 PM


Expert Low-Carber


Salt and the Low Carb Diet by DR. JONNY The following is adapted from the forthcoming book, “The Art and science of Low Carbohydrate Living” by Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD, and Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD
True there do seem to be some extremely valuable snippets of information in this book.

I didn't know the amount of carbohydrate in our diet changes our need for salt.

High carbohydrate diets make the kidneys retain salt, whereas a low carbohydrate intake increases sodium excretion by the kidney.

More detailed information at link above.
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 07-03-2011 04:31 PM


Senior Low-Carber



I'm glad you posted this, Ellen. I just re-read my review, and I should have been more positive. I too learned a lot from the book, and I've read just about every low-carb book out there.

I think my criticisms are valid, but I could have done a better job saying it's a good book (in spite of some flaws). My apologies to all for not sleeping on the review for a few days.

No excuse, but I suspect I was still irritated at the poor copyediting. Like CaveGirlEats, I circle all the errors I find, plus I put a small post-it flag on the page, and books like this one look like they have been shredded on the edge by the time I am done.

Jim

*************
"KeldiKlutz"
Jim Elwell
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 07-03-2011 06:09 PM


Advanced Low-Carber


This has been a helpful review. Once I get the book stack a bit shorter, this will be on my list of books to seek out.

KAS

"We are 118 lb. women working our way out of fat suits" the motto of my first workout partner.

"Ballroom dancing beats aerobics any day, my personal goal is to be able to Quickstep or Viennese Waltz without a break for a full hour."--personal fitness goal
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 07-04-2011 08:19 PM


Expert Low-Carber



I'm glad you posted this, Ellen. I just re-read my review, and I should have been more positive. I too learned a lot from the book, and I've read just about every low-carb book out there.

I think my criticisms are valid, but I could have done a better job saying it's a good book (in spite of some flaws). My apologies to all for not sleeping on the review for a few days.

No excuse, but I suspect I was still irritated at the poor copyediting. Like CaveGirlEats, I circle all the errors I find, plus I put a small post-it flag on the page, and books like this one look like they have been shredded on the edge by the time I am done.

Jim
Jim, I was thinking that they should have hired you as the copy editor.. you probably would have done a better job than the person who did do it.

Ellen
http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com
http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 02-12-2012 04:40 PM


Senior Low-Carber


I know this book has been out for a while now, and the thread is old. But I decided to put in my opinion because I'm newer to the world of low carb and thought it might be worth other newbies taking a look at it.

Overall, I REALLY like this book. Yeah, the editing issues bugged me (I'm an editor!), but to me the content really outweighed the irritations.

I think this book is a very good complement to Taubes books, especially GCBC. This one goes more into the biology of and frames the discussion in terms of some people being carbohydrate intolerant. The information about the ketones (mentioned above) was also a real eye opener for me. There was also quite a focus on metabolic syndrome that I thought was very informative (and near and dear to my heart).

Some parts of the book seemed to be aimed at doctors; other parts were written very casually and aimed at non-medical people. I think that EVERY doctor should read both GCBC and this one in order to get some idea that there is solid science out there beyond the current cultural bias of low fat/high carb dieting.

Worth buying? A definite YES. I'm glad I got it and I know I'll be referring back to it as I try to educate my doctor.
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 02-26-2012 10:49 AM


Senior Low-Carber


I read Dr Mike Eades recent review of the book, bought it and read it. I got a lot out of it. What I liked best was the research evidence supporting their position of having to increase fat content during maintenance. And the research evidence is from their own well controlled research. Usually LC books talk about other's people's research -- which is fine to a point -- but these two have asked and answered their own questions. I respect that. Their book is more believable than other LC books that talk about their thousands and thousands of patients/clients but show no evidence that they have done any analysis of their own records. These two have done very well controlled trials and I find their data criticlaly important for me.

Another thing that makes this a good book is that it is a partnership of an MD with an RD, both of whom have their PhD research credentials. They bring together their clinical approaches to problems and their specialized knowledge base. Great team.

I think the uneveness in chapters from chatty to dense data base is due to the author of the chapter. Not unusual and one of the problems with self publishing. I will probably use the dense chapters more than the chatty chapters as references.

I am so pleased to have the answer as to why we need to increase fat during maintenance (Atkins) rather than increase protein (Eades). Getting the physiological rationale plus the clinical trials testing the hypothesis has convinced me. I no longer have to take it on faith.

The information on sodium/potassium/magnesium is clearly explained and supported by data from studies. Again, I no longer have to take it on impressions derived from clinical practice.

I liked their approach to "one size fits all" as used by the FDA Food Pyramid and discuss exactly why one size does not fit all, not even in LC eating. This was comforting as well as informative.

So the book has flaws. What book doesn't? I am glad I bought it as a valuable addition to my LC library. I am also glad to have a thread where I can make my comments about the book. I am also glad Jimmy has linked to his interview with Dr. Phinney. I couldn't find it anywhere else. Now i will go back and listen.

Benay
Low-carb dieting: http://diets.helium.com/zone/10983-under...-carb-diet
My low-carb story: http://www.helium.com/knowledge/125064-t...ked-for-me
Review of some popular Low-carb plans:
http://www.helium.com/items/2063229-most...diet-plans
Ways to measure your weight loss success
http://www.helium.com/items/2068642-ways...eight-loss
What are the benefits of the Atkins diet
http://www.helium.com/items/1910812-over...tkins-diet
RE: Book Review: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living , 02-26-2012 04:45 PM


Unregistered

 

They also share more facts I wasn't aware of:

Ketones: after a few weeks of keto-adaptation, ketone levels go above the 1 millimolar level in the blood stream, and as the levels rise, the brain begins to use more than half of them for fuel. So the ADA assertion that carbs are required for brain fuel is only true if you tell people to eat a high carb diet.. what a vicious circle.

At the beginning of a low carb diet, as the body begins to adapt, the muscles use both types of ketone bodies: acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate.. but after a few weeks of keto-adaptation, the muscles start converting the acetoacetate to B-Hydroxy and returning it to circulation, as the brain prefers this type. As time goes on, the low carbers levels of B-hydroxy ketones increase, as the acetoacetate ketones decrease.

But HERE's THE KICKER: Ketone strips only test for Acetoacetate, not B-hydroxy ketones. So the longer you are eating low carb, the less MEASURABLE ketones will show up on the Ketostix, but your brain will be happy burning the b-hydroxy ketones for fuel.

There were many more little gem like facts like that in this book, and anytime I can learn something new, I am a happy camper. Yes there were copy editing errors, as is the case with many hastily published books (this is why publishing houses take 2 years to get a book to market) but overall, I thought there was some GREAT info in this book.
This sounds a lot like the explanation Sisson gave on Jimmy's show a couple of weeks ago too.

How is it that so many people don't understand what keto Stix are doing once you get keto adapted? Is it not explained in Atkins or what?