Review: Metabolical

The Lure and the Lies of Processed Foods, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine

Title: Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine 

Author: Dr. Robert H. Lustic, MD, MSL

Genre: Health and Diet

Publisher: Harper Wave (May 4, 2021)

Pages: 416

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book cover, Metabolical by Dr. Robert Lustig

About Metabolical

Throughout Metabolical,  Dr. Robert Lustig is trying to convince us of one thing, that we need to eat real food and leave processed, packaged foods behind, and he gives us two simple maxims to guide us through our daily decisions:

Feed the gut, protect the liver.

A calorie is not a calorie.

The first is about taking care of your microbiome to ensure you get the benefit of the food you eat and minimize inflammation.  The second is debunking the food industry’s assertion that all calories are the same and are equally responsible for obesity no matter if they come from sugar, processed food or fresh fruits and vegetables.

To support these maxims, Dr. Lustig takes us first through the biochemistry, demonstrating exactly how sugar and processed foods behave inside our bodies.  He then exposes the politics and economics of the processed food, drug and medical industries and how it all works together to stand in the way of positive change.

For example:

 - Did you know there’s been a decades long battle between fat and sugar, and that fat took the fall when the villain was really sugar?

- Did you know that sugar is every bit as addictive as alcohol and that food manufacturers use this to keep you buying their products?

- Did you know that sugar is toxic to your liver (just like alcohol) and to your microbiome?

- Did you know that sugar and processed foods cause “leaky gut” which can lead to food allergies, intolerances and autoimmune diseases like celiac disease?

- And most importantly, did you know that you don’t actually need sugar in your diet at all?!?  Yes your cells need glucose for energy but you don’t need to consume that glucose, your liver can make it from fat!

More than just outlining the problems, Lustig also proposes solutions.  He gives us individual actions we can take to “vote with our forks” and improve our own health, and he proposes policy solutions that would get the incentives in the right place and start us toward a healthier food system and a healthier society.

My Review

I think I may have learned more from this book than anything I’ve read in a very long time!

 Not since Michael Pollan’s two groundbreaking books, In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has there been such a convincing indictment of the food industry.  And Dr. Lustig’s word carries additional credibility because he’s a pediatric endocrinologist and a scientist.  He sees the effects of bad diet every day in his practice, he sees the effects of getting his patients onto a good diet.  Plus, he understands the microbiology.

If you’ve been reading my newsletter or following my Facebook page or book reviews, you know that this whole “eat real food” thing is right up my alley.  You’ll also know that I’ve been looking into the connections between sugar and celiac disease.

I suspected there might be a connection, partly from my own experience, (my tummy doesn’t feel great when I eat sugar and after eliminating sugar from my diet for 2 months, I feel much better and have taken 4 inches off my waistline) and partly from what I’ve been learning recently about our microbiome.  

Dr. Lustig confirmed this connection for me in the section of this book on chronic disease.  Sugar and processed foods feed the bad bacteria in our guts and, because they contain no fiber, starve the good bacteria.  This imbalance leads to inflammation which leads to “leaky gut” which leads to autoimmune disease like, you got it, celiac disease. 

When I reviewed Julie Daniluk’s Becoming Sugar Free I said I wasn’t ready to completely eliminate sugar from my diet, but after reading this, I think I might be ready.

Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  

If you want convincing evidence as to why you need to leave the packages behind and eat from the perimeter of the supermarket (that’s where the real food is) then this book is for you.  If you’re having trouble managing your weight or understanding why you might still be having digestive issues despite being on a gluten free diet, then this book is for you.

Metabolical has changed my habits. 

When I do buy packaged products, not only will I be looking for gluten on labels, I will also be looking for sugar and choosing products that leave it out.  I may still have the odd treat, although if it’s like alcohol, maybe the odd treat is a slippery slope, but I will definitely be more vigilant about the amount of sugar I let into my body.

I will also be more aware of the fiber in my diet, ensuring that I get enough to feed the friendly inhabitants of my microbiome. 

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The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan: Not specifically about gluten in any way, but a pure and poignant exposé on our food system and how corn partnered with Agribusiness to take over the world.

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