Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dr Weil's "Eating Well For Optimum Health"

My neighbor, a pharmacist working in the same hospital as I, lent the book to me, Dr. Andrew Weil's Eating Well For Optimum Health: The Essential Guide to Bringing Health and Pleasure Back to Eating. I'm about half through. I just checked the readers' reviews on Amazon. It's amazing; even with 135 reviews, it's still 4-star (normally when the number of reviews goes up, the rating goes down).

This is an extraordinary book on health, nutrition, and general and his "integrative" medicine. Dr. Weil is a graduate of Harvard Medical School (HMS). While excellent education doesn't automatically translate to excellent real-life experience, I generally have more trust in people attending a more competitive school than otherwise; their intelligence and ability to self-teach to keep up with new discoveries in science play a role here. That aside, Dr. Weil has extensive clinic experience and travels and/or talks to people around the world, Eskimos, Native Indians, Africans, and of course those an ordinary traveller would also have a change to talk to.

The pharmacist neighbor is a "picky" lady. Sure enough, the book she recommends is not a disappointment at all. It thoroughly examines macronitrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates including sugar) and micronutrients (vitamin, calcium, etc) in words perfectly understandable to readers with higher education not specialized in medicine. (My Ph.D is in analytical chemistry.) I believe the technical accuracy is pretty much guaranteed, based on my other readings over the years, and some memory of basic knowledge of biochemistry. The writing is clear and logical, and as a bonus, occasionally entertaining; after he reveals the "secret" why an Atkins diet follower can lose weight quickly but get no further afterwards, he "suggests" eating high-fat cheese cake, and only cheese cake, to lose weight. You sure will lose weight, because you're so fed up with cheese and stop eating. There's so much new stuff in the book to a non-professional like me. We don't lack Omega-6, but Omega-3, and so their ratio is not right; we shouldn't blame fat indiscriminately, but should know what oil is good or bad and why (olive oil is good overall but remember it lacks Omega-3, etc). I wish the book index was more extensive to help the book serve as a reference for easy lookup.

Dr. Weil unintentionally demonstrates his appreciation for the health benefit of Oriental, and of course Mediterranean, diet. With Chinese origin in my background and personal interest in traditional Chinese medicine, I feel gratified to read that, and hope my Mom and Dad and others in China live a better longer life. In case you didn't pay attention, there's not too much of variety of vegetables in a typical American grocery store compared to one in China town; in other words, Americans probably don't eat with as wide a selection as Chinese. Not that everything Chinese eat is good (some eat exotic animals and get uncurable diseases). But generally a greater variety of food is a good thing. Nevertheless, obviously unhealthful features of Chinese food should not be overlooked, deep oily stir-frying, possibly smoking of pork, etc.

The book was published in 2001. Some new findings were not incorporated. For instance, the risk of taking vitamin E supplements was not well known until recent years.[note] Readers should always have a balanced reading "portfolio" even if emphasis is placed on honest and earnest researchers like Dr. Weil.

[note] 1. Supplemental Vitamin E May Increase Heart Failure Risk
2. WHS: Women's Heath Study -- Aspirin and Vitamin E for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, "qualified success for aspirin in cardioprevention, but no benefit associated with the use of vitamin E."
3. Meta-analysis Results Suggest High-Dose Vitamin E Increases All-Cause Mortality

No comments: