February 14

Brillat-Savarin on carbohydrate in the diet

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The New York Times just can’t quit. After practically nonstop coverage of the JAMA studies showing that dietary fat doesn’t seem to be the cause of breast or colon cancer or heart disease, there is yet another giant article covering more than one-half of the front page of the Science section.
I encourage everyone to read the article because it’s kind of a fun ramble through the history of diet along with some commentary from modern day researchers on the surprising (to them, at least) findings of the JAMA studies.
I want to excerpt one little section containing a quote from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer and food writer from the early 19th century whose book The Physiology of Taste is a wonderful read and is still in print today. Oh, and Brillat-Savarin was a low-carb aficionado long before William Banting.
I love this quote because I know just how Brillat-Savarin felt. He, as I have often done, informed people that if they want to lose weight and get healthy, they must reduce the carbohydrate in their diets. Brillat-Savarin obviously got the same response that I’ve gotten so many times.

‘Oh Heavens!’ all you readers of both sexes will cry out, ‘oh Heavens above. But what a wretch the Professor is! Here in a single word he forbids us everything we must love, those little white rolls from Limet, and Achard’s cakes and those cookies, and a hundred things made with flour and butter, with flour and sugar, with flour and sugar and eggs!

He doesn’t even leave us potatoes or macaroni! Who would have thought this of a lover of good food who seemed so pleasant?

‘What’s this I hear?’ I exclaim, putting on my severest face, which I do perhaps once a year. ‘Very well then; eat! Get fat! Become ugly and thick, and asthmatic, finally die in your own melted grease.

Perhaps that’s what I should say to people when I suggest low-carb diets to them and they tell me, ‘Oh, no, I could never do that. I couldn’t live without bread or pasta. I love those carby foods. I need a different kind of diet.’
A bunch of new scientific papers have come out on low-carb, so stay tuned. If the New York Times will quit publishing stories on the failure of low-fat that I feel compelled to share, I’ll get to this other exciting research.


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  1. Interesting article, and even more interesting study. But I think the article is subtly implying that, since low fat diets do not make any difference, then all diets that emphasize one macronutrient over another will not make any difference.

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