Protein Power Diet

Protein Power by Michael R. Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D., Bantam Books, 1996

“If you’ve been struggling with your weight, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, or your blood sugar on a diet of pasta and whole grains, living the fat-free, low-fat, no-fat way and failing, stop blaming yourself,” exclaim Michael and Mary Dan Eades, husband and wife authors of this compelling yet controversial book. “You haven’t failed: you’ve just been on the wrong diet.”

The right diet, they say, is one that contains ample protein and limited carbohydrates and sugars, with few restrictions on fat. The Eadeses, both physicians, base these radical recommendations on your body’s fine-tuned metabolic biochemistry, which they say is supremely ill-served and unhappy on the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet championed by today’s nutrition experts.

That diet aims to improve weight and health by limiting the fat coming into your body (good-bye succulent steaks and creamy cheeses). The Protein Power diet does it by selecting high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods that chemically enhance your body’s built-in ability to burn fat and fight the underlying causes of many health problems. Because most fats, when not ingested with carbohydrates, are irrelevant to this metabolic miracle, you can eat fat once again – guilt-free. Hello succulent steaks and creamy cheeses!

How does this all work? The Eadeses’ magic bullet is a tight regulation of insulin and glucagon, two counterbalancing hormones that control your food-burning, health-maintaining, energy-producing metabolism. Insulin is released in response to carbohydrate and sugar intake. While necessary to sustain life, it can be damaging in chronically elevated levels. This condition, called hyperinsulinemia, is common to many people struggling with the high-carbohydrate diet, they say. So insulin is the evil hormone. It encourages the kidney to retain salt and fluid, stimulates the liver to produce cholesterol, sends a strong message to the fat cells to store incoming sugar and fat, fuels an increase in triglyceride (blood fat) production, and increases the risk for high blood pressure by thickening the muscular portion of the artery walls.

Glucagon, your white-knight hormone, is released in response to elevated levels of insulin, but can become overwhelmed when fighting hyperinsulinemia. Glucagon sends signals to the kidneys to release excess salt and fluid, to the liver to slow down the production of cholesterol and triglycerides, to the fat cells to release stored fat to be burned for energy, and to the artery walls to relax and drop blood pressure.

The Eadeses goal, then, is to reduce fat accumulation and the host of negative health effects associated with high insulin levels by minimizing the release of evil insulin and maximizing the release of heroic glucagon. The most effective way to do this, they stipulate, is through diet — specifically the diet outlined in Protein Power.

Written for an educated but non-expert audience, the book devotes the first eight chapters to logically organized, easy-to-understand explanations of the diet’s biochemical foundation, emphasizing the cause of hyperinsulinemia, the relation of hyperinsulinemia to major diseases, the metabolic role of the eicosanoids (potent hormone-like substances), and insulin’s role in cholesterol production. Mercifully, these chapters don’t resemble those in your high-school chemistry text, but actually include many entertaining historical and personal anecdotes that provide illuminating context and a sprinkling of humor. But if biochemistry, no matter how entertaining, just isn’t your thing, the Eadeses have thoughtfully included end-of-the-chapter summaries that give you the biochemical big picture while forgoing the gritty details.

The ninth chapter assesses your personal risks for health and weight problems and includes a medical history quiz, a suggested list of medical tests for your doctor to perform, and tables with formulas to help determine your body fat percentage and ideal body weight. By the tenth chapter the specifics of the diet are laid out. This chapter is packed with information on appropriate types and intake levels of protein, fat, fluid, alcohol, starch, and sugar, as well as suggestions about vitamin and mineral supplements. This key chapter also includes worksheets to customize your own diet, suggestions for restaurant food choices, answers to commonly asked diet questions, tables guiding protein source selections, and pages of charts listing the amount of carbohydrates in every food from passion fruit to tortillas. Protein Power concludes with three chapters covering motivation, exercise, and recipes.

The Eadeses, founders of Medi-Stat Medical Clinics, claim over and over throughout Protein Power that their diet has helped thousands of their own patients lose weight and improve health. They emphasize that the diet’s biochemical underpinnings are 100% accepted by the medical community. What’s less medically accepted, they admit, is the unique way those underpinnings have been combined to justify their dietary recommendations. Basically, they challenge you to accept the seemingly unacceptable, as expressed in their opening quote by Voltaire: “Every man is the creature of the age in which he lives; very few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time.”

The Eadeses, right or wrong, give it a good shot.

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