Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine
By Robery H. Lustig
Harper Wave; hardcover, 416 pages; $28.99; available tomorrow, Tuesday, May 4th
Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D., M.S.L, a pediatric neuroendocrinologist, has been on the cutting edge of medicine and science throughout his forty-year career, dedicated to treating and preventing childhood obesity and diabetes. He is emeritus professor of pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco, and the New York Times bestselling author of Fat Chance.
In his new book, Metabolical, Dr. Lustig aims to expose the truth, both scientifically and politically, underlying the global pandemic of diet-related diseases. On the title, he writes, "Metabolical is a portmanteau (a word blending two others) of 'metabolic' - the workings of the body - and 'diabolical' - the workings of food, pharma, and the Feds. All claim to be on your side, but they're on their own sides, and you're the victim of their propaganda."
In his prior work on this topic, The Hacking of the American Mind, he examined how the processed food industry has hacked our bodies and minds to pursue pleasure over happiness, fueling widespread addiction and depression.
Meatabolical addresses nutrition, food science, and global health, and explains how focusing on real food can reverse chronic disease and promote longevity. Dr. Lustig pulls together all strands of this pandemic - the medical, economic, and environmental - into one clear narrative, which has never been done before.
Dr. Lustig describes the eight pathologies within the cell that belie all chronic disease to illustrate how they are not "druggable" but rather "foodable," which means medicine can't cure what nutrition can, by following two basic principles: "protect the liver, and feed the gut." He attributes it to the breakdown in our current health care paradigm, which has succumbed to influence from Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Government.
"In this book," Dr. Lustig writes, "I will provide evidence for three separate, yet related immoral hazards perpetrated by Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Government. As people get sicker, Big Pharma benefits from complicity, the food industry is protected from the costs of its actions, an the government profits from tariffs on processed food shipped to other unsuspecting countries. We've accepted this as normal. It's not, and we have the power to change it, for ourselves and for society at large - for health and healthcare, for economics, and for the environment. It's time to expose the maneuvers of the food industry and the pharma industry, and their influence on Congress to make us all fat, sick, and broke."
In one especially relevant chapter, "Food in the Time of Corona," Dr. Lustig addresses the way "pre-existing conditions," which include diet-induced chronic diseases, make us vulnerable to succumbing to acute infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Dr. Lustig weaves together the interconnected strands of nutrition, disease, medicine, environment, and society, and gives the scientific bases for a series of iconoclastic revelations, including: Medicine for chronic disease only treats symptoms, not the disease itself; You can diagnose your own biochemical profile; processed food isn't just toxic, it's addictive; the war between vegan and keto is a false war - the combatants are on the same side; Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Government are on the other side.
In this excerpt, Dr. Lustig lays out the foundations of this landmark work: "Nutrition is not the same as food science. Nutrition is what happens to food between the mouth and the cell. Food science is what happens to food between the ground and the mouth. Each is dependent on the other, yet both are 'opaque' to the public. That's on purpose - because the food industry and the government don't want you to know that it's the food processing that's rendered the current concepts of nutrition moot.
Food processing isn't listed on the Nutrition Facts food label. The label tells you what's in the food. This is mostly irrelevant - what you really need to know is what's been done to the food, and no label tells you that. In this book, I will make both nutrition and food science transparent. Essentially, all you need to know are two precepts, six words total: 1) protect the liver, 2) feed the gut. Those foods that satisfy both precepts are healthy; those that do neither are poison, and those that do one or the other are bad (but less bad) - no matter what the USDA and FDA allow to be stated on the package. Only items that meet both of these criteria qualify as Real Food, i.e., that hasn't been stripped of its beneficial properties and sprinkled with toxins that will hasten our demise.
So buckle up - I'm going to take you on a ride. Now that you're strapped in, we are going on a journey from the ultra-micro to the ultra-macro - from molecule to planet, and everything in between. We're going to get both the subcellular and the thirty-thousand-foot view. And we're going to travel through time, over the last fifty years. The reason for this bottom-to-top and backward-to-forward excursion is to answer these questions: why has our health status declined, our healthcare system devolved, and our climate immolated?
Some might argue that these alterations are unrelated to each other. But it all starts with the changes in our food supply chain that shifted five decades ago in order to support the production and consumption of processed food. To make and bolster his case, I've connected several dots for you: the food to the biochemistry; the biochemistry to the disease; the disease to the medicine; the medicine to the demographics; the demographics to the economy; the economy to the agriculture; the agriculture to the climate; the climate to the planet; and the planet back to the food yet again.
I know this sounds like a nightmare ride on an academic Tilt-A-Whirl, but I'm asking you to hold on to your seat. When you see how these factors are all interlinked with one another, two incontrovertible truths emerge. First, the change in food processing, starting about fifty years ago, has fueled a slow but unrelenting medical, economic, and climate vortex downward. It's picked up speed with time and overwhelmed our medical resources, now evidenced and accentuated by the social disparities of the coronavirus pandemic. It threatens to overwhelm our planetary resources to boot. Second, in today's society, food is the only possible lever that we can apply immediately to effect change. If you do not fix your food, you continue to court chronic disease and death. If we do not fix our food, we continue to court societal and planetary oblivion. This book explains what's needed to fix both."