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Mainely Tipping Points

Archive for March 2011

Interesting Information: “A reversal on carbs”

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Interesting Information:  March 27, 2011

“A reversal on carbs”

“A growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates–not fat–for America’s ills.”

Walter Willet, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health:  ” `If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.’ “

Dr. Edward Saltzman, associate professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University:  “`Now a growing and convincing body of science is pointing the finger at carbs, especially those containing refined flour and sugar.'”

Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health:  “`The overemphasis on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our diets to soar.  That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in America today.’ “

Dr. Stephen Phinney, nutritional biochemist and emeritus professor of University of California, Davis, who has studied carbohydrates for 30 years:  ” `However, over time, as our bodies get tired of processing high load of carbs, which evolution didn’t prepare us for…how the body responds to insulin can change.’ ”  Phinney did a 12-week study in 2008 that compared low-fat and low-carb diets.  The low-carb diet lowered triglyceride levels by 50 percent though participants ate 36 grams of saturated fat a day.  (History and evolution show that grain agriculture–in a 24-hour day of human existence–comes in at 23 hours and 53 minutes.)

Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center:  “`At my obesity clinic, my default diet for treating obesity, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome is a low-carb diet.’ “

Naysayers:  Dr. Joanne Slavin, a member of the advisory committee for the failed USDA low-fat diet regime, and Dr. Ronald Krauss, senior scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and founder and past chair of the American Heart Assn.’s Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, a believer in the calorie in/calorie out paradigm–which cannot demonstrate success in weight loss because it doesn’t work.  (See Gary Taubes WHY WE GET FAT.)

 Here’s the whole article:  Marni Jameson, “A reversal on carbs,” LA Times, December 20, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/20/health/la-he-carbs-20101220

Written by louisaenright

March 27, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Interesting Information: The “Sweet 16,” Living Longer Gene

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Interesting Information:  March 27, 2011

The “Sweet 16,” Living Longer Gene

Geneticist Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California, San Francisco, has discovered two genes, one of which helps you live longer with good health (Sweet Sixteen gene) and one of which causes ageing and death (Grim Reaper gene).  Her work has been “successfully repeated in labs around the world,” and “many experts believe [she] should win the Nobel Prize for her research into ageing.”  Eating carbohydrates “from bananas and potatoes to bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes–directly affect two key genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.” 

Ageing, it seems, is NOT caused by wearing out, but by genes affected by insulin.  To turn on the Sweet Sixteen gene, stop eating carbohydrates because they “make your body produce more insulin (to mop up the extra blood sugar carbs produce….”  More insulin means a more active Grim Reaper.  And, Jeff Holly “who specialises in insulin-like growth factor” confirms that the Grim Reaper “is linked to cancer of the prostate, breast and colon.” 

Kenyon herself has cut out all starch (potatoes, noodles, rice, bread and pasta) and eats salads (no sweet dressings), lots of olive oil and nuts, tons of green vegetables along with cheese, chicken and eggs.”  She avoids sweets, except for 80 percent chocolate.

Here’s the whole article:  Jerome Burne, “Can cutting carbohydrates from your diet make you live longer?” Daily Mail, 26 October, 2010:   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1323758/Can-cutting-Carbohydrates-diet-make-live-longer.html.

Written by louisaenright

March 27, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Turkey Tracks: Essence Quilt

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Turkey Tracks:  March 27, 2011

Essence Quilt

 Here is “Essence.” 

You might remember that I made this quilt out of the little triangles cut from the blocks used in the quilt “Spinner”–posted here a few weeks ago. 

I wanted to try this beaded border–it came from “Quilters Newsletter” magazine, April/May 2010, “Bead-Dazzled Bindings,” by Laura West King, pp. 46-47. 

I like the funky nature of it.  I need to measure it, but it’s about 20 inches by 14 or 15 inches.


 I do think this kind of edging would be spectacular on a smaller quilt–and King’s instructions are terrific.  It works here, but only just…

The white marks on the left side of the binding are just chalk marks which I didn’t notice when I took the picture.

I had fun figuring which of the geometric shapes to highlight with the quilting and the beads.

Written by louisaenright

March 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Turkey Tracks: Starting Our Seeds

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Turkey Tracks:  March 27, 2011

Starting Our Seeds

Our vegetable seeds arrived about a week ago!

We collected potting soil one day last week.  Then, we waited for an opportune day (a warm day) to set up the sun porch on the third floor (southeast facing, lovely light) (finding where on earth we put the card table and the small white table).  The potting soil came as a peat block which had to be mixed with water in the wheelbarrow.  It’s the same mixture our favorite local nursery uses.  (Last year I used a compost-based soil that did not grow a thing.)  Water means either hauling water from the outside faucetswhich are  up a set of steps or dragging out hoses put away for the winter.  John, god love him, dragged out the hoses and hooked one up, which made our work much easier.  And, he turned the mixture while I sprayed the water.  AND, he carried the flats of dirt-filled pots up two flights of stairs to the sun porch.  In the middle of the effort we decided we had room for more pots, so we made a trip to our local hardware store for three more flats and 54 peat pots.

Here’s John during the front end of this operation.  It was sunny, yes, but there was a cold wind off and on.   

Here John is putting tiny, tiny seeds into our pots.   (The celery seeds were 1/4 the size of a poppy seed!  Look at those fabulous windows.  It was warm enough in this room that we had to shed sweaters.

We planted lOTS of leeks, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, Sun Gold tomatoes,  a mid-season tomato, and some celery.  Margaret dried a little cherry tomato last fall and gave me a quart Mason jar of them for my birthday.  They are as sweet as candy and so welcome now when our taste buds are looking for greens and tangy tasting things.  We’ll be cutting broccoli right up to really cold weather in December. 

We’re going to seed more leeks directly into the ground, along with onions and peas, as soon as we can work the soil–hopefully in April.

Written by louisaenright

March 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Interesting Information: Asthma Rates Soaring

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Interesting Information:  March 25, 2011

Asthma Rates Soaring

From the following article in “Scientific American” magazine, April 2011, “Why Are Asthma Rates Soaring?” by Veronique Greenwood, pages 32-33:

“Asthma rates have been surging around the globe over the past three decades….”

“A reworking of the hygiene hypothesis that focuses on changes in the normal nondisease-causing bacteria that live inside and on the body (in the intestines or the airways or on the skin) has promise.  Studies by [Erika] von Mutius and others have shown that children who live on farms where cows or pigs are raised and where they drink raw milk almost never have asthma, allergic or otherwise.  Presumable because the children drank unpasteurized milk and handled livestock, they have different strains of normal bacteria in their airways that are somehow more protective than those found in city kids.” 

Erika von Mutius is an epidemiologist at Munich University. 

Ha!  It all gets back to having good internal beasties, which commercial milk, which is a highly processed fake, dead food, does not supply or enhance.  Bet the real ingredient for farm kids not having noticeable asthma rates  is NOT handling live stock, but drinking a living, nutrient dense food.  And, maybe, not eating a lot of processed foods made of chemical brews, rancid oils, powdered proteins, etc.  Or, poisoned foods.   Having said that, farm kids living around chemical spraying have high cancer rates…

Written by louisaenright

March 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Turkey Tracks: Chicken Sandbox

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Turkey Tracks:  March 25, 2011

Chicken Sandbox

 We let the chickens out last week.  Even though there is still a lot of snow on the ground, there’s enough open patches where they are not so visible from above.  Or at least we hope so!  They’ve had it with the coop and cage, that’s for sure.

Chickens love spring.

Chickens love dirt baths in spring.

Chickens get into flower beds as soon as the snow melts and the mud dries up a little.   I went over to Rose and Pete’s last weekend on a sunny day, and their chickens had dug holes in the dry dirt under the bushes next to her porch and were hunkered down for sunbaths.

Sometimes you can give chickens such a powerful gift that your yard is spared:  a sandbox.

But, when you first put it out, they aren’t so sure about it…

For two days they weren’t sure, then on the morning of the third day, John called me, saying “Come quick and see!”

Here’s a close-up of the Wheaten Americaunas, Sally and Nancy.  They hog the sandbox and won’t let the bigger Marans into it.  These two dainty hanks of feather and bone lay, every day, the most beautiful blue eggs.

Dirt baths keep chickens clean.  Use play sand, not all purpose sand, which has silica in a form that can be inhaled and hurt chickens or children.

Written by louisaenright

March 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Turkey Tracks: Leslie Muir-Volpe’s Miniature Quilts

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Turkey Tracks:  March 25, 2011

Leslie Muir-Volpe’s Miniature Quilts

Leslie Muir-Volpe makes REALLY TINY quilts.  I tried to take some pictures, but it’s hard to see HOW tiny they are unless you catch them in the background.  Or, go to her web site:   http://www.mainecraftsmen.org/flying-fox-studio.aspx.

She gave a terrific talk and trunk show to Coastal Quilters March 12th, and she will be teaching at Pine Tree Quilters’ Guild annual meeting next July.  She’s an engaging speaker and a talented quilter.   Here’s a picture of her:  note the TINY hanging quilts in the background.


Here’s one of my favorites, but there were many, many favorites where the picture I took just didn’t do the quilt justice.

The “flying geese” in this quilt can’t be bigger than 1/2 inch!  Leslie does machine quilt these tiny blocks, but she hand quilts the quilt itself.  This quilt is about, as I remember 5 by 6 inches or so.

If you’re looking for a very special gift for someone, consider Leslie’s tiny quilts.  She also frames them so you don’t have to.

Written by louisaenright

March 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Turkey Tracks: The Absolute Best Way to Learn How to Knit

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Here’s another draft lurker post!
Turkey Tracks:  February 15, 2011
The Absolute Best Way to Learn How to Knit
Coastal Quilters met last Saturday, the 12th.
We have a table where we all bring timely magazines to share, and I picked up a May 2007 CREATIVE KNITTING magazine from the pile.  Inside was a glowing review of this DVD on learning to knit, so I’m posting it for any of you who would like to learn to knit, but need help getting started.
The review says “Leslye takes the time to explain each step in exquisite detail, with careful scripting to avoid the annoying `ums’ and `ahs’ that are so much a part of many how-to videos.”  And, “the production quality of this DVD is superb, easily navigable, with clear closeups of hands and yarn, seen from the knitter’s point of view.”
The internet is full of “how to” videos, and you can learn how to do any particular knitting thing that way.  But, having a tutorial all in one place could be a terrific way to jump start a new skill.  The DVD is pricy, just under $30.  But, but, it’s cheaper than taking a class…  And, the reviewer said that “beyond-the-basics knitters may want to practice…[their] methods as an alternative to their current practices, and knitting teachers can learn a thing or two from watching this experienced teacher at work.”
It’s available on-line, but not at amazon.com.  Just google the title.
Product Details
The Absolute Best Way to Learn How to Knit – DVD
Cover photo from  Amazon.com: The Absolute Best Way to Learn How to Knit: Movies & TV.
Leslye Solomon
Fiber Fantasy
Glyndon, MD

Written by louisaenright

March 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Turkey Tracks: Bamboo Silk Scarf and KJ’s Purse

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aha!  Here’s the missing post on KJ’s purse–and the bamboo silk scarf.  Will post it and delete the newer post.  It was lurking in “drafts” which I don’t seem to be able to find…  Thought you could only have one at a time

Turkey Tracks:  February 2, 2011

Bamboo Silk Scarf and KJ’s Purse

I’ve finished two projects in the past few days.

You might remember an earlier blog on 3 different yarns I had bought.  Here’s the finished scarf from the bamboo/silk yarn:

The pattern was daunting for me, but it came out nicely, don’t you think?  I had to keep track of different stitches and use a cable holder for all 30-something rows of the pattern.  But, about halfway along, it became much easier as I “got” it.  Nevertheless, such intricacy is slow.  I have new-found respect for people who knit those Aran sweaters with all those different patterns and cables.  The scarf is VERY long–enough to double so that the wearer can thread the ends through the middle loop–something Mainers do a lot–and still have generous tails falling down the front.

It’s going to a dear friend who has been so generous with her spirit, her knowledge, her time, and her love.

Karen’s Purse

So, Karen Johnson, the Community School student who graduated last year and who is now the intern at The C-School (GO KAREN!), has admired my versions of this purse off and on for as long as I’ve known her.  I’ve made about six or seven purses from this “Bow-Tie” purse pattern, and I think I myself ha’ve had two versions while I’ve known Karen.  (Bow Tucks Tote, #PS008, Penny Sturges)

Anyway, Karen’s birthday was Christmas week, so we went to Marge’s Maine-ly Quilting store in Nobleboro, and Karen picked out fabrics for her purse.  Karen, you might recall, made a quilt last year with me.  So, it was pretty amazing to see how much confidence she had in picking out her fabrics for her purse.  And, mercy me!!, is it cute or what?  I’m letting her choose the fabric for my next project for sure.

Karen loves pink, so that was the starting point for the bag.  She chose a soft black for the bottom, so it would not show dirt.  (This bag is washablel, however.)  And, she chose the stripe for contrast.

Inside, is a bright, lime green, which looks way too muted here.  And, you can’t see it well, but the stripes match perfectly on BOTH sides!  John made the hard bottom, and I covered it with fuzzy fleece and fabric and glued it to the back of the board John made.

These fabrics did not come all together; Karen hunted all over the store to put them together.

Here’s the end detail, with the small ties “gathering” up excess fabric under the “bow-tie tuck” of the purse’s name.

And, here’s the purse pocket detail up close.  Karen chose a different big closure button, but I began to see tiny white antique buttons for the pocket stripes–from a collection I inherited from my great aunt Margaret. (People used to cut the buttons off worn-out clothing before using it in other ways.)  There are 20 small buttons and, with the large button, 21 buttons total.  Karen is 20 and will be 21 next year, and I hope she will still be using her purse then.  All these buttons have been handled many times by many hands, so each touching sends along its own energy to Karen.

Here is Karen’s bag, ready to be delivered to her this Friday (Feb. 4th.) when we will have a visit.  Below, Karen’s purse is sitting alongside my bag and is atop the scarf, wrapped and ready to be mailed.

Karen was to have helped me cut out the bag (no sewing, I promise!) and do the ironing while I sewed, but she has been so busy with her work (at a local nursing home where she is getting training to be a Personal Care Assistant) and with her new internship responsibilities at The C-School, and as I am leaving Feb. 18th for 10 days or so (quilting in Williamsburg with my quilting friends, attending the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show, and visiting with family), I just went ahead and made the bag.  We will do another one down the road, I’m sure.

Written by louisaenright

March 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Mainely Tipping Points 28: Why We Get Fat

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Mainely Tipping Points 28:  WHY WE GET FAT


In WHY WE GET FAT (2011), Gary Taubes—a highly respected science researcher and writer, drives a scientific stake into the heart of the “calories in/calories out” paradigm that began developing in the 1950s and grew to become the medical orthodoxy we experience today.  Taubes explains the proven science behind why some people get fat—a question totally lost in the wilderness of the “energy balance” paradigm and its attendant low-fat/high carbohydrate diet.  The circular logic of this paradigm holds overweight people in a vicious, unscientific, damaging, deeply cultural  polarity:   either people of low character eat too much (gluttony) or exercise too little (sloth).  

Taubes traces the history of when research in nutrition and obesity “lost its way” and observes that these fields have “resisted all attempts” at correction.  Much understanding, Taubes writes, was lost after World War II with “the evaporation of the European community of scientists and physicians [particularly the Germans] that did the pioneering work” (ix).  Since that time, writes Taubes, “individuals involved in this research have not only wasted decades of time, effort, and money but have done incalculable damage….Their beliefs have remained impervious to an ever-growing body of evidence that refutes them while being embraced by public-health authorities and translated into precisely the wrong advice about what to eat and, more important, what not to eat if we want to maintain a healthy weight and live a long and healthy life” (ix). 

Taube’s earlier book GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES (2008) is an extended, densely researched book written to start a conversation with “the experts.”  Taubes believes that it might take another lifetime to change this paradigm, but, meanwhile, he sees that the disease burden (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer) being created by eating the wrong foods is “overwhelming not only hundreds of millions of individuals but our health-care systems…” (x).  Taubes wrote WHY WE GET FAT so the lay person could understand what’s wrong and have the courage to take personal charge of his/her health rather than relying on “some of the misconceptions that pass for public-health and medical advice in this country” (xi).

So, why do some people get fat?  All real food, as compared to some of the chemical brews passed off as food today, is composed of fats, proteins, and/or carbohydrates.  In a nutshell, people have genetic tendencies toward fatness or thinness that combines with a hormonal chemical disorder caused by eating too many carbohydrates—which throws off the body’s ability to regulate fat accumulation appropriately in both fat and thin people. 

Here’s a gross simplification of Taube’s main explanation:  Fat accumulation is regulated by hormones, and the most important hormone is insulin.  Ideally, when our insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue.  When insulin levels fall, fat is liberated from fat tissue and is burned for fuel.  However, easily digestible carbohydrates, like highly processed sugars and grains and starchy vegetables, make the body produce more insulin.  And, this insulin works to trap fat inside fat cells; it does not release them to burn for energy.  Thus, obesity is a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric imbalance.  Worse, this hormonal imbalance makes an overweight person hungrier because the body is growing larger, and it makes that person sedentary because all the food energy is being stored, not burned.  Gluttony and sloth are effects of this hormonal imbalance, not causes (10). 

Insulin, Taubes writes, works also with other hormones, like the sex hormones, and countless enzymes to partition fuel around the body.  This chemical process decides what food energy is burned, what is stored, and in which tissues it is stored (fat, muscle, liver).  An insulin disorder can partition a disproportionate amount of consumed calories into storage as fat, rather than having them used for energy by the muscles.  In lean people, the factors work to burn as fuel a disproportionate share of the consumed calories, which creates high energy levels (128).   

Some people, Taubes explains, develop insulin resistance, which means the body has to secrete higher and higher insulin levels in order to perform the same tasks—a “vicious cycle” intensified by eating easily digestible carbohydrates.  Next, these people start to manifest the precursor to heart disease, metabolic syndrome.  Body fat accumulates, especially around the waist; blood pressure rises; triglycerides levels rise; LDL cholesterol particles become small and dense; HDL cholesterol levels fall; and blood sugar becomes erratic (glucose intolerance).  Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer secrete enough insulin to keep the body balanced.  And Alzheimer’s and most cancers are “associated with metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes” (195-198). 

Taubes’ subject is why we get fat, so he does not address the health effects on the lean, energetic person whose leanness is created by this hormonal disorder, which is, in turn, caused by eating too many of the wrong kinds of carbohydrates.  He does note that that as we age, our muscles become increasingly resistant to insulin and more energy gets partitioned into fat (130-131).   

There are generational components to these disorders.  Taubes notes that worldwide studies demonstrate that children born to a mother with hormonal imbalances that have created obesity are likely, also, to struggle with obesity.  The nutrients the mother’s body supplies to her baby affects his/her levels of glucose, which, in turn, affects the pancreas so that it develops more insulin-secreting cells, which, in turn, makes the baby fatter at birth.  These babies have a tendency both to oversecrete insulin and to become insulin-resistant (132).            

Exercise, Taubes demonstrates effectively, will not make one lose weight.  Indeed, for weight loss, exercise is counterproductive because it creates hunger (40-56).  And, undereating  does not work.  At some point one must return to eating normally, and the weight returns.  Taubes reports that the eight-year, billion-dollar National Institutes of Health initiative, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) of the 1990s, showed that a low-fat diet did not result in weight loss and “did not prevent heart disease, cancer, or anything else” (33-39). 

Taubes looks at many current studies, among them the 2007, two million dollar, government-funded A TO Z Weight Loss Study from Stanford University which compared four diets:  Atkins (low carbohydrate), LEARN (a traditional diet with 55-60 percent carbohydrates), Ornish (low fat), and the Zone diet.  The Atkins diet won, substantially and significantly, across the measured categories (weight loss, dropping triglyceride levels, dropping blood pressures, and improved cholesterol conditions)—prompting lead researcher Christopher Gardner, a twenty-five year vegetarian, to note that the results were, for him, a “`bitter pill to swallow’” (191-192). 

Taubes notes that Atkins diet participants were allowed to eat as much red meat and meat fat as they wanted (191-192).  And, that “since the 1960s, when it was first argued that animal products could be bad for our health because they contains saturated fat, nutritionists have typically refrained from pointing out that meat contains all the amino acids necessary for life, all the essential fats, and twelve of the thirteen essential vitamins in surprisingly large quantities.”  Meat, writes Taubes, “is a particularly concentrated source of vitamins A and E, and the entire complex of B vitamins.”  Indeed, “vitamins B12 and D are found only in animal products….”(176).

Vitamin C is the “one vitamin that is relatively scarce in animal products.”  But, “the more fattening carbohydrates we consume, the more of these vitamins we need.  We use B vitamins to metabolize glucose in our cells.  So, the more carbohydrates we consume, the more glucose we burn (instead of fatty acids), and the more B vitamins we need from our diets.”  When we eat carbohydrates, we “excrete vitamin C with our urine rather than retaining it” (176). 

Without carbohydrates in the diet, Taubes notes, “there’s every indication that we would get all the vitamin C we ever needed from animal products.”  Thus, Taubes concludes, “Carbohydrates are not required in a healthy human diet.”  And, “another way to say this (as proponents of carbohydrate restriction have) is that there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate” (176).             

The solution to both obesity and leanness accompanied by excessive energy is actually pretty simple:  stop eating carbohydrates, especially the easily digestible ones, like, bread, pasta, potatoes, sweets, beer, fruit  juices, and sodas.  (I’d add cold breakfast cereals to this list.)  Taubes notes that before the 1960s, conventional wisdom recognized that these foods were “uniquely fattening.”  And, he notes that this message has been at the heart of an “unending string of often best-selling diet books” (11).  He also notes that “when physicians stopped believing it, a process that began in the 1960s and concluded in the late 1970s,” their change coincided “with the beginning of the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes” (150).     

Taubes does note that if the obesity has gone on too long, the body may not be able to reset its own chemistry (205).  And, that if one is taking medications to lower blood sugar or blood pressure, one should work closely with a doctor because following a low-carbohydrate diet lowers both so that a dangerous “double whammy” effect can occur (216). 

Taubes reproduces the Atkins-version diet used by Dr. Eric Westman of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at the Duke University Medical Center.  Westman has been working with this diet since 1998 (202).  And, Taubes points to four other doctors with similar clinical practices across the country (202).   

My only critique of this diet is that it allows artificial sweeteners and does not distinguish well between good fats and bad fats.  But, you can read Tipping Points 14 to understand how to sort those fats out for yourself.