Tim Boyd recently reviewed our book SPEED. This review was published in the Spring 2010 issue of the WAFP magazine, Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts and is also on there website. As confident as we are in the material that we have published we know that there will be people who disagree with varying amounts of it. In fact, we hope that others can find some weaknesses in our arguments so that we can continually improve our recommendations. But the errors in Mr. Boyd’s review are so egregious that you would think it was a joke or we were being punked. But it was not a joke and Ashton Kutcher did not jump out of a van. Again, a thoughtful critique is welcomed, but one that seems to be blatantly flawed in its facts and logic is not acceptable. The following is our attempt to set the record straight. The flow of the rebuttal will follow the flow of the review.
We start with the third paragraph. Mr. Boyd states “The authors eventually get around to talking about calorie restriction and tell us 20-40 percent restriction is necessary for weight loss. This is followed by a long list of benefits to calorie restriction. Lower insulin tops the list. There is no explanation of the fact that calories from carbohydrates tend to spike insulin levels while calories from fat tend not to. So, is calorie restriction a radically new idea? I don’t think so.”
Before discussing the calorie restriction aspect specifically, we wanted to touch on the “eventually get around to” aspect. To us, based on what was written, the reviewer does not give a fair representation of the main them of the book, which is the Bio-Psycho-Social concept. We start out the book by explaining the need for following a comprehensive approach if long-term success it to occur. We go on to describe the first four parts of SPEED, which are sleep, psychology, exercise, and environmental before we even get to the diet chapter. We thoroughly explain the importance of these factors and support our views with copious amounts of high-quality references. Why does the reviewer not mention anything about these very important chapters? We are confused why the majority of what we have written was not discussed. The author spends the majority of his review critiquing the diet chapter. This brings us back to the third paragraph of the review.
We assume that the reviewer agrees that there are many potential benefits to calorie restriction (CR). We also discuss intermittent fasting (IF) which seems to have similar benefits as CR and is one method for reducing calorie intake. Additionally, there is some evidence that IF without a reduction in overall calorie intake has health benefits. Yes, CR does lower insulin levels. However, the reduction of insulin occurs with all types of macronutrient intakes (see the multiple references in the book). This means that both high carb, low fat and low carb, high fat diets BOTH have this effect. Although it is likely that a low carb diet would do this a bit better, the majority of CR research is not done with a low carb diet and the plethora of benefits are still achieved. We did not get into much detail on the carb-insulin topic. So what? As we state at the beginning of the book, our writing style for the book is based on brevity and simplicity. We are not trying to write a biochemistry textbook. We want people to get the gist of it. However, we do explain the benefits of a low GI/GL diet (pp. 91-92). We also state that a low carb diet decreases INSULIN and other markers of health (p.93). At the end of the paragraph he states “So is calorie restriction a new idea? I don’t think so.” What is the reviewers point? We didn’t say that this is a new idea. We are stating that there are multiple benefits, besides weight loss, with consuming fewer calories.
In paragraph four Mr. Boyd states “Calorie restriction has been tried from every angle for many decades now. It can give you short term results but unless you have the willpower to starve yourself for the rest of your life, those lost pounds will be back with their friends. Calorie restriction has been literally tried to death. Is the population thinner as a result? I don’t think so”. There are multiple reasons why people cannot stick to a weight loss program. This is really the main point of our book. There are biological, psychological, and social aspects that must be considered if long-term success is to occur. When it comes to diet, there is a certain way of eating, i.e., a low carb, medium protein, high fat diet, that will modify multiple hormones in a way that will make it easier, not necessarily easy, to be able to eat less on a consistent basis. We would argue that a low fat, high carb diet, the most common diet recommendation, is one of the main factors for the poor success rates. Additionally, is the reviewer saying that there is no need to cut back on intake (calories) to lose weight? If so, how does a person lose weight? Where is the evidence that a person can eat the same amount of calories and lose weight? We are well aware of the “metabolic advantage” (MA) research on low carb diets (see our references). We do feel that there is a possibility of a MA with low carb diets. However, the actual amount of weight loss that can be elicited by this effect itself is very small. Therefore, to cause a substantial amount of weight loss, which many people need, a certain amount of a calorie reduction, such as 20-40%, is needed. Another aspect is the view that calorie restriction is the same things as starvation, “starve yourself for the rest of your life”. This is done by many people including Mr. Boyd. Starvation leads to poor health and death, calorie restriction, a 20-40% reduction done properly (we cover how to do this in the book) leads to numerous health benefits. He makes another logical error. Because people are not losing weight and people are tending to get bigger does not mean that calorie reduction does not work. This is a non-sequitor argument. There are multiple reasons for the lack of success. Again, that is the main point of our book, the bio-psycho-social model of change. It is clear that the reviewer does not represent the facts well in this paragraph. On to the next paragraph.
Here is what is said in paragraph five, “Next is a discussion of low carb diets which are put in a positive light. There is some discussion about what is the right amount of protein but no mention of fat. Do they mention that a low carb diet must be a high fat diet or it is doomed to failure? I don’t think so”. No mention of fat or a high fat diet; you must be kidding! This is probably the most egregious error in the review. At this point we are feeling that the reviewer didn’t even read the book. We state multiple times that we recommended a high fat diet. The first page of the diet chapter (p.85) we state “Eat a low carbohydrate, medium protein, HIGH FAT diet” [emphasis added]. This is the second of nine bullets of the Do this… section. Does it get any clearer than that? Here are some more examples. On page 90 we state “We recommend a low carb, medium protein, high fat diet”. We then discuss the benefits and safety of ketogenic diets, which is, or should be, a high fat diet. We state “During a ketogenic diet…the body makes ketones in the liver from fats, which are a great fuel source for the muscles and the brain” (p.98). Then in the Doing SPEED chapter our example diet plans are high fat. Based on the example for calculating the macronutrient needs of a person, the resulting diet is 49% fat (p.158). For the week of example meals, the average intake has 49% fat (p.160). How does this information equate to “no mention of fat’?
Paragraph six is “The advice starts to get really dizzy after this point. The authors mention the importance of sleep prominently on the front cover and elsewhere in the book. They also say caffeine is a good way to lose weight. Do they also mention it is a good way to lose adrenal function? And sleep? I don’t think so”. What we say is that caffeine and/or coffee has the ability to decrease appetite and has thermogenic properties. There are also many other potential benefits. We also mention that there is the potential for side effects such as “difficulty falling asleep” (p.113-114). The reference to adrenal function is likely based on the work of Dr. Wilson (Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome). We have read this book and are aware of this “new” syndrome. The problem is that the amount of quality evidence for this new syndrome is not strong. Additionally, the evidence that the use of caffeine/coffee at reasonable dosages, such as those described in our book, actually causes adrenal fatigue is lacking. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that caffeine can lead to feeling less stressed (Weinberg et al; Smith). So if feeling stressed is a cause of the Adrenal Fatigue syndrome, then caffeine could actually help prevent it. However, there is the potential for side effects even at reasonable amounts as well as the potential for people to abuse it. These last two aspects do not diminish the fact that there is good evidence for weight and health benefits from the use of caffeine and coffee.
Here is paragraph seven, “They go on to say stevia is the best sweetener and their second choice is a good, old-fashioned, traditional. . . artificial sweetener? We are going from dizzy to scary now. We are also led to believe canola oil is a good oil. Oh, and try the Zero Impact bars too. I never heard of them so I looked them up. The listed ingredients include yummies like maltitol, glycerin, low DE corn syrup, brown rice syrup and xanthan gum. Elsewhere on the same page they say the bar has no maltitol. And the dizziness returns. Are these things components of traditional diets? I don’t think so”.
Let’s start with the sweetener aspect. First, our main recommendation on the use of sweeteners is to minimize the use of ALL of them, natural or artificial (p.87, bullet #8). Nowhere do we call splenda or any other sweeteners “good, old fashioned, traditional…”. We actually give a fairly detailed description of artificial sweeteners (AS’s) and their connection to health and weight management. When it comes to health it seems that for most people small amounts of AS intakes will not likely cause any negative health effects. When it comes to weight loss they may help a bit. So, within the context of weight loss, which is what our book is about, the use of AS sweetened beverages instead of regular sugar based, typically HFCS, drink is a better choice. It doesn’t mean it is the best choice. But for many people the choice, particularly at first, is between a beverage or food product that has sugar or one that is similar that is sweetened with an AS. Stevia and xylitol (also erythitol) are the better sweeteners, but the use of small amounts of AS’s is likely fine and if a person loses 30, 40 or more pounds, then the overall balance of health is still with the weight loss. We are not surprised by the canola oil comment. We are aware of the WAPF position on this oil. Again, we think it is important to keep in mind that this is a weight loss book, not a “How to eat the perfect diet based on Dr Price’s work and/or paleo principles, for perfect health” book. It is a book about a comprehensive approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight that is likely to get a person to be much healthier than they were when they started, not eat a perfect diet. Is canola oil the best oil? Probably not, but it is better than soybean oil or the other high omega 6 oils. We clearly recommend people avoid soybean oil and the other high omega 6 oils and partially hydrogenated oils (p.159). The canola oil is recommended mainly as a type of mayo. We felt that this was a better choice than a soybean oil based mayo. We also recommended a canola based mayo because we have not found a purely olive oil or coconut oil based mayo. Again, a better choice but not the best. Also, it is not like we only recommend canola oil. We recommended many fats that anyone associated with the WAPF should fine pleasing; extra virgin olive oil, butter, cream, coconut oil, and palm oil. Therefore, the majority of fats we do recommend are very much in-line with the WAPF. Next is the discussion of Zero Impact bars. First, keep in mind the better verses best line of thinking. We are the first ones to say that these and some of the other bars we recommend are not perfect. But, due to their convenience and overall macronutrient amounts and ingredients, we think they can be a helpful ADJUCT to a WEIGHT LOSS diet. Here is the macronutrient breakdown of the Zero Impact bar, pumpkin flavor:
Protein- 30 grams, 27% of calories
Fat- 20 grams, 41% of calories
Total Carbs- 35 grams, 32% of calories
Fiber- 5 grams
Net Carbs- 30 grams
Here is what the ingredients are (I am holding a bar in my hand): whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, natural almond butter, natural sunflower butter, semisweet chocolate, purified water, glycerin, brown rice syrup, erythritol, pumpkin, rolled oats, natural & artificial flavors, lecithin, potassium sorbate, salt, sweet potato, mixed tocopherols, xanthan gum. Not perfect, but not too bad either. It does NOT contain maltitol and so what if it does. Maltitol is one type of sugar alcohol, although not the type we think is best. Anyway, we are curious where we say what the specific ingredients of the Zero Impact bar are or any bar for that matter. The fact is that we do NOT mention that anywhere in the book. This is another example of factual errors. One final error before concluding; the Fucoprotein bar from Garden of Life does NOT contain any soy, see for yourself at http://fucoproteinbar.com/. Another factual error.
It is clear that Tim Boyd, the reviewer, has made many factual and contextual errors in his review. We would agree that there are a few dietary items that are not perfect, but so what. Our goal was not to get people to eat a perfect diet. Our goal is to get people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight in a way that is very likely to also increase their level of health. It seems clear to us that Mr. Boyd has never worked with real people who have struggled with their weight. This tends to lead to overly idealistic stances, which tend to get in the way of progress. Our final gripe has to do with our research skills. Mr. Boyd wrote in the final paragraph “were they Sleeping when they did their research?” He seems to be accusing us of not doing our homework when it comes to the research for our book. Where is he getting this stuff? We obviously cannot prove that we read all of the 298 citations that we have in the book, but we did. Our book is meticulously referenced to high-quality research. A jab at our research and efforts to support our recommendations with quality evidence is clearly not justified. Do to all that we have stated above we feel that this review is shameful and it tarnishes our view of the WAPF.
Smith, A. (2002). Effects of caffeine on human behavior. Food Chemical Toxicology; 40: 1243-1255.
Weinberg, B.A. & Bealer, B. (2002). The caffeine advantage. New York. Free Press.