Review and Summary: How Not to Diet

How Not to Diet Book Cover

When you pick up a book that’s notably lengthy, there’s often a moment of hesitation. “Will this be worth my time?” you might wonder. But from the very first pages of Michael Greger’s offering on food and nutrition, it’s clear that every page is a testament to meticulous research and a passion for the subject. This isn’t just a long book; it’s a comprehensive journey through the world of diets, foods, and the science behind them.

Greger’s writing style is both engaging and enlightening. He goes into a myriad of diets, some of which you’ve likely heard of, and others that might be entirely new to you. This expansive coverage ensures that readers from various backgrounds and dietary preferences will find something of interest.

One of the standout features of this book is its revelation of the latest advancements in food nutrition research. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill findings; they’re genuinely intriguing and, at times, quite unexpected. It’s a reminder that the world of nutrition is ever-evolving, and there’s always something new to learn.

Greger doesn’t stop at just presenting the facts, but he also addresses various misconceptions that have permeated our society, potentially leading many of us astray in our dietary choices and lifestyle habits. It’s a refreshing take, offering clarity in an age of information overload.

This book isn’t just for health enthusiasts or those on specific diets. It’s a must-read for anyone and everyone. While we all have our personal preferences and indulgences when it comes to food, Greger’s insights provide a broader perspective, encouraging us to make informed decisions and perhaps think twice before giving in to certain cravings. So, whether you’re a foodie, a health nut, or just someone curious about what’s on your plate, this book promises a fulfilling and enlightening journey. Happy reading!


Obesity and gene

The FTO gene

  • The gene most strongly linked to obesity, but it explains less than 1% of the difference between people.
  • Codes for a brain protein that appears to affect your appetite.
  • Physiologically, the FTO gene status doesn’t appear to affect your ability to lose weight.

The thrifty gene

  • The proposal that obesity is the result of a mismatch between the modern environment and the environment in which we evolved

Obesity: Nature VS Nurture?

Genetics play a role, but that just means some people have to work harder than others. Ideally, inheriting a predisposition for extra weight gain shouldn’t give reason for resignation but rather motivation to put in the extra effort to unseal your fate.

Obesity in a Test-Tube Baby

Who determines the birth weight of a test-tube baby: Donor mom who provided all the DNA, or the surrogate mom who provided the intrauterine environment? Answer: the womb.

  • A baby born to an obese surrogate mother with a skinny biological mom may harbor a grater risk of becoming obese than a baby from a big biological mom born to a slim surrogate.

Portions Out of Proportions

  • Manipulating portion sizes at a meal or lower or over the course of a day can reliably affect intake, perhaps due to the tendency for people to take larger and faster bites when provided with bigger portions
  • Bigger servings may indeed lead to bigger curvings
  • Of course, it matters what you’re overeating
  • The portion-size effect has even been used to encourage healthier habits by dishing out extra veggies. So “simply telling people to eat less of everything” may not be the most effective message
  • Size may matter, but substance is more salient

Fat But fit

There appears to be a rare subgroup of obese individuals who don’t suffer the typical metabolic costs of obesity, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But even if they don’t develop, followed long enough, even “metabolically healthy” obese individuals are at increased risk of diabetes, fatty liver, cardiovascular events such as heart attack and/or premature death.

BMI VS Body Fat Percentage

  • WHO and American College of Endocrinology: define obesity as a body fat percentage over 25% in men or 35% in women
  • By using only Body Mass Index (BMI), doctors may misclassify more than half of obese individuals as being just overweght or even normal weight and miss an opportunity to intervene
  • Important: not the label but the health consequences. Ironically, Body Mass Index (BMI) appears to be an even better predictor of cardiovascular diseases death than body fat percentage → suggest that weight from any source—fat or lean—may not be healthy in the long run

Low-fat Diet Dumps More Calories

  • The majority of the calories most of us burn is just from existing, called resting metabolic rate, not like exercise.
  • Eat a low-fat diet (11% calories from fat) → burn more calories in sleep than when on a [high-fat diet]
    • People on low-fat diet may inexplicably start to move more too
    • Those on the high-fat diet lost significantly more lean body mass, down 3 pounds in 6 months compared to a gain in lean mass in the low-fat diet
  • Fat appears to be absorbed more efficiently from the digestive tract → mean: it takes fewer calories to process it. A really low-fat diet (3% of calories from fat) cost about 65% more calories to digest than a high-fat diet (40% fat) → you’re doing more work just by eating low-fat diet, though the benefit may only come out to be about 40% calories a day. In addition, to the three primary components of calories out, there’s actually a 4th component: the calories we poop out. Those eating low-fat diet flush more calories down the toilet.

Author: Michael Greger, M. D., FACLM

Publication date: 10 December 2019

Number of pages: 608 pages


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