A Thumbs Up Book Review
The Schwarzbein Principle
By Diana Schwarzbein, MD and Nancy Deville
Reviewed By Stephen Byrnes, PhD, RNCP, ©2001
This book gets a qualified Thumbs Up. Dr. Diana Schwarzbein is a an endocrinologist who worked with type 2 diabetics at her first medical clinic following her residency and internship. In the beginning, Dr. Schwarzbein followed the standard dietary and pharmaceutical protocols for adult-onset diabetes: a high carbohydrate, low-protein, lowfat diet in conjunction with oral diabetes medications. Things started to change, however, when, in response to pleas from her patients, she allowed them more red meat and fat in their Spartan diets—things that are supposed to make diabetes worse, according to her medical training.
Schwarzbein then noticed that the blood sugar profiles of several of her patients improved considerably. When she quizzed them as to what they’d done differently, they all confessed to the same “crime”: instead of eating just a little more red meat and fat in their diets as she told them, they ate lots of the forbidden foods while simultaneously dropping their carbohydrate intake. Dr. Schwarzbein had to admit the obvious: the standard of care for adult-onset diabetes was wrong. From that point on, she changed her whole approach to diabetes and nutritional health in general, realizing the dangers of high-carbohydrate diets and the misinformation on saturated fats promulgated by the establishment.
The Schwarzbein Principle should be subtitled “Everything You Wanted to Know About Insulin Resistance, But Were Afraid to Ask.” It is an important antidote to the many books promoting lowfat or low-protein diets for insulin resistance. Schwarzbein links high insulin levels, primarily caused by high-carbohydrate, lowfat diets to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, oxidative stress, depression, eating disorders and obesity.
Her sensible approach to weight loss and general health is a lower carbohydrate, higher fat, moderate protein diet of natural foods. She points out that those who get a lot of exercise, such as athletes, need to eat more carbohydrates for energy. But for those who are more sedentary, excess carbohydrates will cause weight gain.
The great asset of the book is its down-to-earth explanations of complex biochemical processes—the reader is not left confused by endocrinological double-talk.
Our Thumbs Up is qualified because of several serious errors. Schwarzbein endorses processed soy foods (listed in several of the menu plans) and canola oil products. For a book that exhorts readers to avoid “man-made foods,” these recommendations are strange indeed. Schwarzbein is also curiously down on coconut oil and incorrectly states that heating of oils creates trans-fatty acids—wrong on both counts.
For a weight loss program you can live with, though, as well as a sensible eating pattern that does not relegate saturated fats to the realm of poisons, The Schwarzbein Principle is a good pick.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2002.