Life Without Bread

Great title, huh?  This is the English-language, updated version of the 1967 book “Leben ohne Brot.”  Published in 2000, it reviews the evidence from 40+ years of Dr. Wolfgang Lutz’s clinical practice in Germany treating patients using low carbohydrate diets.

While the specific information and extensive long-term data from Dr. Lutz’s practice is truly valuable, to me the most valuable part is the book’s calm tone.  I infer that Dr. Lutz was not subjected to the ridicule and ostracism that U.S. doctors working with low carbohydrate diets experienced in the same period (and continue to experience today).  There is none of the hysteria you encounter in the US about using low-carbohydrate diets to treat obesity in general, and obesity in children in particular.

“In Dr. Lutz’s practice, a low-carbohdyrate diet was always successful in children’s weight loss.  Weight loss in adults was more variable–that is, many were successful, but not all.  In treating more than 100 extremely overweight adolescents, not one case ended in failure.*    In patients who appeared not to respond, it was always discovered that the diet had either not been strictly followed or had been given up too soon.  Apart from very extreme cases, a normal, slender figure was achieved within a year.”

*Lutz, W.  ”Das endocrine Syndrom des adipoesen jugendlichen” Wien. Med. Wschr. (1964): 451.  (The Endocrine Syndrome of Adipose Youth).

Christian B. Allan, Ph.D and Wolfgang Lutz, M.D.; Life Without Bread, p. 140.

Before World War II, the bulk of the research work on obesity and its causes was done in Germany and Austria, and the leading hypothesis at the time was that obesity was caused not by overeating but by “lypophilia,” a defect in fat metabolism.  The underlying hormones weren’t yet isolated or understood, and much of the literature was based on clinical observations.  I am guessing that as the science became better understood, Dr. Lutz, if he even knew about the US research, was insulated from the distorted interpretations of the research that occurred in the US and that Gary Taubes documents in Chapters 21 and 22 of Good Calories, Bad Calories.  In the US, any information or research that didn’t conform to the conviction that overeating causes obesity–calories in/calories out–was discarded or ridiculed.

Therefore Dr. Lutz in 1967, and his colleague in 2000, didn’t feel the need to publish a polemic disguised as a diet book, as Dr. Robert Atkins did in 1972 with Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution.  Even as recently as 2011, Dr.s Phinney and Volek, who also co-wrote The New Atkins for a New You, wrote a one-sided review of low-carb eating plans to counteract the flood of low-fat eating plan dogma:

“Critics will correctly state that our arguments in favor of carbohydrate restriction seem one-sided and smack of advocacy. But we ask you: what is the proper response when three decades of debate about carbohydrate restriction have been largely one-sided and driven more by cultural bias than science? Someone needs to stand up and represent the alternate view and the science that supports it.”

Phinney, Stephen; Volek, Jeff (2011-07-08). The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable . Beyond Obesity LLC. Kindle Edition.

The state of war that exists in the United States between low-fat and low-carb makes parental decisions about eating plans for our children fraught with anxiety.  There are many personal stories in the low carb community of people giving up the low carb lifestyle because of pressure to do so from the low-fat, “balanced diet” eating side of the fence, even though the individuals felt unambiguously better eating low carb.  Life Without Bread reassures me, because it tells me things are likely more harmonious in Germany, and it matter-of-factly recommends a low carb eating plan for overweight children.

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