Monday, December 9, 2013

Sugar nation: The hidden truth behind America’s deadliest habit and the simple way to beat it

By Jeff O'Connell

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

What surprised me at the outset of reading O’Connell’s book is a confession he made in the introduction. It isn’t his ignorance of type 2 diabetes, it is that as an executive writer for Men’s health and editor-in-chief for a magazine called Muscle & Fitness, that he would not be aware that "hamburger buns, French fires, and glazed doughnuts" (page 3) would not be good for you in the long run. I mean, he learned this less than five years ago (in 2006) — four years before this book was copyrighted. "So I changed my ways with a vengeance," he writes. Good heavens!

And I thought it was only the illiterate, ignorant/uneducated, or idiots who did not know that! Many, of course, know it and ignore it: "It won’t happen to me!"

On page 29, O’Connell again confesses: "Yet over those two decades, I had somehow acquired a disease of the overweight, or at least what I thought was a disease only for the overweight. Unfortunately I had been eating a lot of unhealthy foods with impunity because they didn’t cause me to pack on pounds. But they were unhealthy nonetheless." Once again, it is hard for me to believe that this author had never learned the long-term effects of eating in this manner!

I am happy that he finally came to the conclusion that careless eating would eventually take its toll on his body, I’m just shocked that it hadn’t happened sooner. He said he had relied on fast food for years!

Once again (a bit later in the book) he said, "After working out at the gym, I’d swing by 7-Eleven for a Butterfinger or an Almond Joy and a twenty-ounce bottle of Gatorade" (p. 29). Gheesh! It’s no wonder that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes! I’m not shocked regarding his diagnosis coupled with his confessions!

When driving from Woodland Hills, California, to Zionsville, Pennsylvania, he would stop for "a Big Mac with a large order of french fries, washed down with a large Coca-Cola Classic" (p. 32). At Arby’s he would order "a large roast beef sandwich and a large chocolate shake" (p. 32). It never dawned on him that his diet was killing him? If that wasn’t enough, he would order "the premium fish fillet sandwich, large original chocolate Frosty, and medium french fries" at Wendy’s" (p. 32).

It is clear the point he is making (that this is the way many Americans eat), it is simply the irony of a man so closely associated with health and fitness seemingly totally unaware of his horrible dietary habits.

That said, this is a terrific book. Not just because it is well-written, not just because he has 20 pages of notes (250 in a 265-page (of text information) book), but because O’Connell is a great story teller. He is truly engaging.

Also, I liked the way O’Connell incorporates the incredible amount of evidence on the subject. He gives the professional initials of the researcher(s), identifies the university or institute with which he or she is associated, and then clearly and specifically discusses the study or studies accomplished, and the conclusions which follow. Not only that, he effectively relates the information to the point he is making at the time. His quotations were relevant, to the point, and interesting.

The real problem with type-2 diabetes occurs on page 196: "Along with a low-carb eating plan, a gym membership is the most potent antidote to type 2 diabetes" (p. 196).

He cites a Finnish study on diabetes that "found that regular exercise reduced diabetes incidence in subjects by nearly 70 percent compared with subjects who didn’t exercise" (p. 196). Ironically (again!), just 50 pages prior to these statements O’Connell writes, "the diabetes epidemic boils down to two main variables. The first variable is the decline in physical activity over the past century, to the extent that one in four Americans engage in nothing that could reasonably be deemed physical activity. They are couch potatoes, firmly rooted. Sixty percent of Americans don’t engage in enough activity to derive any health benefit" (p. 143) The second factor "is the increase in the consumption of calories" (p. 143).

After reading the paragraph above, is there any wonder why, "The number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes is projected to increase 165% from 11 million in 2000 . . . to 29 million in 2050" ("Projection of Diabetes Burden Through 2050," American Diabetes Association ) ? There needs to be a dedicated, serious, well-advertised national movement.

I loved this book, and I loved the author’s emphasis on exercise; however, anyone reading this review already knows that those who need this information most 1) will not (cannot?) read this book, and 2) will not follow the necessary suggestions (even if they read the book!). Our society, unfortunately, has become negligent, lackadaisical, sloppy — slovenly. Yes, it is too bad, but it is a fact of life with which O’Connell is fully aware.

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