Two new books illustrate both the obsessions and confusion about food. In her book, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting,” Rebecca Harrington describes her adventures in celebrity dieting as she actually tries the diets of celebrities from Liz Taylor to Gwyneth Paltrow to Beyoncé and more. Robert H. Lustig, MD in contrast provides a very scientific and comprehensive review of the dangers of sugar and processed foods in Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease.”

To start with the hilarious, it is amazing to learn about Liz Taylor switching from scrambled eggs, bacon, and mimosas for breakfast to dry toast and a small piece of fruit. Liz ate really crazy combinations as part of her various diets in an effort to lose weight, including cottage cheese combined with sour cream, which Harrington describes as truly disgusting. Her opinion of Ms. Taylor?  “… an excellent broad with really bad taste in food.”

Best—or worst—green juice?

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow also has some pretty unusual ideas about food. She soaks almonds in water before eating them to enhance the almond flavor and make them more digestible. Some other ideas, like Paltrow’s “best green juice,” are definitely not too delicious! After ten days of trying to eat Paltrow’s diet and enjoying some aspects of it, the author writes that she “consciously uncoupled from the Gwyneth diet” and lost four pounds!

Beyoncé’s “Master Cleanse” approach is perhaps the most interesting, since it combines basically starving for a few days with a “cheat day” when she eats pizza! The “Master Cleanse” is where the spice comes in. The diet consists of lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, cayenne pepper and grade B maple syrup. This is combined with a salt water flush: you basically drink salt water. Apparently, while drinking the lemonade “Master Cleanse,” one loses one’s appetite and doesn’t feel like eating doughnuts anymore! After 10 days, Rebecca felt great and lost 10 pounds. This was the best of all the diets.

A calorie is not a calorie

All the diets emphasize the importance of natural organic ingredients and a vegetarian approach. This is in line with Dr. Robert Lustig’s detailed analyses, which summarize two major points about the typical US diet: it contains a lot of sugar and includes considerable processed foods.

A key scientific point is that a calorie is not a calorie! The best example is eating fruit. If the fruit is put through a blender and the fiber/pulp removed, the “juiced” product is not the same. Without the fiber, the same number of calories are absorbed more efficiently and rapidly and converted into fat. With fructose, there is the additional problem that normal insulin feedback mechanisms are subverted and glucose intolerance and diabetes can emerge.

“Fat Chance” is really an excellent book because it focuses on not only the problems, but both the personal and public health solutions. Dr. Lustig documents the science and politics of the current pandemic, which has so strongly contributed to obesity, chronic disease, and cancer.

So, as I say: the hilarious and the serious! Rebecca Harrington’s book, I have to say, is laugh-out-loud funny. “Fat Chance” is the best documentation of the harmful effects of sugar and processed foods which I have encountered.

In the end, the answer is still: eat real food and exercise moderately with due caution if you have physical or medical constraints. As usual, I will keep you posted if something funny or serious crosses my desk! 

Dr. Durie sincerely appreciates and reads all comments left here. However, he cannot answer specific medical questions and encourages readers to contact the trained IMF InfoLine staff instead. Specific medical questions posted here will be forwarded to the IMF InfoLine. Questions sent to the InfoLine are answered with input from Dr. Durie and/or other scientific advisors and IMWG members as appropriate, but will not be posted here. To contact the IMF InfoLine, call 800-452-CURE, toll-free in the US and Canada, or send an email to infoline@myeloma.org. InfoLine hours are 9 am to 4 pm PT. Thank you.

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