Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review of Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet's "Perfect Health Diet"

by Chris Masterjohn

Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet's The Perfect Health Diet is a great book.  I have discussed some caveats, but ultimately I think it is excellent and many people would benefit from reading it.  You can read my review here:

Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet's The Perfect Health Diet

If you'd like, come back and post your comments here!

Read more about the author, Chris Masterjohn, PhD, here.


  1. Hi Chris-

    Thanks for providing this thoughtful review. I am really impressed with how you are aware of such a wide variety of cutting edge information that you are constantly evaluating and integrating in to the complex understanding of human systems.

    I know it takes a lot of time and cognitive effort to stay updated on all this stuff, be constantly integrating it, and then developing well thought out and clearly written posts on these subjects!

    Looking forward to your future posts.

  2. hey chris,

    great review! but it looks like most of the links are broken.

  3. I've been very achy since I started eating sweet potatoes daily. Why would some of us be maladapted to oxalates?

  4. Thanks Tyler and Justin!

    I have fixed the links, and also updated the review with two sentences addressing the argument that all mammals eat high-fat diets, which constitutes a whole chapter and which I shouldn't have neglected.

    Lisa, I do not think that some of us are maladapted. I think, rather, virtually none of us eat sweet potatoes daily, and that in some populations where they are a staple source of calories, they leech the oxalates out of them with extensive processing. On the other hand, Stephan said that to his knowledge the sweet potatoes eaten in the Pacific Island diets he talked about were not processed as such. So perhaps some of us are adapted to process oxalates, rather than the reverse.

    That said, it is rather chicken-and-egg. I suspect that some people have bacteria in their guts that break down oxalates and others don't and that this accounts for most of the variation, but that's just a plausible hypothesis at this point.


  5. Chris,

    I also recommend the Perfect Health Diet. To me, a main innovation of this book is a focus on how the body converts one macronutrient to another and the possible toxic byproducts of such conversion.

    I added sweet potatoes to my diet largely based on the Jaminets' recommendations. It is disheartening to learn that you and possibly many others are allergic to them. I also hope to learn more about research into beef allergies.


  6. One piece of circumstantial evidence that I use when looking at macro ratios is that that of the hen egg where the energy ratio FAT:PRO is 2:1 - I may be biased as I like and thus eat a lot of eggs. I end up with more protein and less fat than the Perfect Diet - more towards LoBAG ratios CHO:PRO:FAT of 20:30:50 being researched by Mary Gannon for Diabetics.

    As far Hunter Gatherer diet ratios are concerned Dr Kerin O'Dea reported on seven weeks' of a group of Aborigines living in the wild that their protein consumption ranged from 54 to 80% of calories, fat from 13 to 40% and CHO from <5 to 33%, from on animal 64%, fish 19% and yams 28%. Cordain's animal:plant of 35:65 was not chosen by this group, in fact, the reverse.

  7. Jeremy, I agree that's an important point. I just added this paragraph:

    They also make important points about the conversion of carbohydrate to fat. If our livers convert much of the carbohyudrate in a high-carb diet to loads and loads of saturated fat, how can eating saturated fat itself be harmful? The Jaminets make a compelling argument that eating fat might be much safer than letting excess glucose hand around until it is eventually converted to fat anyway.

    And I added this to the end:
    The excellent discussion of the interconversion of different macronutrients that the Jaminets provide would certainly shake anyone out of their fat-phobia, once they realize that any excess carbs they eat are just turned to fat anyway.

    Leon, interesting. There are a wide variety of ratios consumed by healthy groups, but each data point is nevertheless of interest.


  8. Authors' work sounds well researched. Other peoples methods is not always so simple to interpret. We lack context and see most what we look for.

    Here's a reference point for modern cultures divergence. Famine is not our common lot, but it was for our ancestors. We like to say survival of the species is a genetic determinant.

    Archaic pregnant women needed genetic help to keep ovulating and hold on to their fetus despite episodic famine. They had to be able to lose weight and still have energy for sustaining a full term pregnancy. In practical terms this meant that if the mother's epi-genetics paradoxically favored insulin resistance then circulating "sugar" (glucose energy) was ready for the fetus.
    Excess food of our modern era plays havoc with that quirk.

    Researchers look at things from a vantage point and yet there is immense individual and ethnic genetic variation. We adults can undergo epi-genetic input during our first 1 - 2 weeks after conception. In general, if these were DNA hyper-methylation events our risk factor(s) for adult pathologies increases.

    4.5 weeks into pregnancy the fetal placenta implantation makes the mother's affect profound. The placenta still takes +/- 6 months to fully develop. Not only are the mother's life factors driving epi-genetic alterations, but her estrogen interacts with male and female fetuses to promote gender biased tendencies.

    Post-natal is no steady state for us either; child development is not just getting bigger. A leptin hormone excessive surge at that stage and our developing hypothalamus will make less leptin receptors. This is one reason some are life long leptin resistant. Traditional cultures breast fed and mothers delivered just a steady state of serum leptin from their own adipocytes.

    The spectrum of human metabolism and pathology has more of the same to confound us. Paleo and agro are not immune to epi-genetics. A concise definition of epigenetics is: "effect on a gene but not mutation of that gene".

  9. Chris,
    Thanks for an incredibly detailed analysis of this book. I can't wait to read it. My own, about-to-be-published-by-a-real-publisher book, looks at everything you can do to increase a baby's IQ, starting in the womb, relying on 1300 scientific references.

    Our diet recommendations are pretty close to the "Perfect Health Diet" based on your description. I'm particularly impressed with the recommendations to avoid biogenic amines, which often get overlooked.

    My own research (and a chapter in my book) deals with mycotoxins in foods. Are those covered adequately in the PHD book? My copy is on order now!

    I'm blogging at www.betterbabyblog.com and just retweeted your review. Excellent!

  10. ...AL, thanks for your thoughts.

    Dave, glad you're interested, and hope you like the book! They don't really cover biogenic amines or mycotoxins too much -- if you go back to the review you'll see my list in of toxins they do emphasize.

    To anyone interested, in the concluding paragraph of the macronutrient section I added this sentence:

    "Indeed, well controlled studies have clearly shown that low-carbohydrate diets are superior to low-fat diets by a multitude of criteria for people with various markers of the metabolic syndrome (references here, here, and here)."

  11. Excellent review, Chris, learned a lot just reading it.

    I recently discovered the Jaminet's blog and I will definitely be buying this book. Especially after reading your review.

  12. Excellent review! I find it interesting that not only do they recommend sweet potatoes, but also white rice(not brown) as a safe starch and only count starch as carbs; really saying do not worry about carbs from veggies. How do you feel about the white rice inclusion?
    Thank you

  13. Praguestepchild, thanks, awesome!

    Also, Dave, please let us know about your book when it's out.

    Steve, thanks! I know white rice is common in Asia now, but my understanding is traditionally they discarded a portion (10%?) of bran, ultimately winding up with something that is essentially brown rice. I do think some people might have intolerances to the bran or some phytochemicals or something, so I can see why white rice might be used on an elmination diet, and I'm sure this might be fine long-term if the rest of the diet is nutrient-dense enough. However, I use brown rice. If I simmer it for at least one hour with a little bit of salt, it doesn't give me any problems.


  14. My internet usually flubs posting here. By the third re-do my phrasing can make the sentences read poorly. My persistance is respect for our blog host. I am not denigrating the book's authors.

  15. I ordered the Jaminets' book and I'm looking forward to it but I'm also looking forward to your future posts on food intolerances. I'm wondering if after a long stint of LC/paleo eating I've become intolerant to oxalates or to starch in general. I'm also very curious as to how your GFCF diet did more harm than good.

  16. Hi ...AL, do you think it's your internet, or my site? Thank you for all your effort in your posting. Usually when I make a comment I copy and paste it somewhere before hitting submit so it doesn't get lost. Sometimes people think they lose their posts and it just gets caught in my spam filter, in which case I also receive it by email, although that doesn't seem to happen for your posts.

    Lisa, I look forward to writing them. I think I might write a general toxicology post tonight or tomorrow. I'm glad you're looking forward to them! As for GFCF, I can't say it did terrible harm, though it certainly didn't help anything and I had a number of problems that I had back when I was vegetarian start recurring, including my first panic attack since those days. It'd difficult to separate the effects of GF from the effects of CF as I did them both at the same time.

    What major changes did you make with paleo and for how long? Any changes to your intake of fish oil or fatty fish?


  17. People who report on tribal diets don't always live among them year round without translators (Aussie aborigines maybe so) . If we see a yam growing, cached, on a plate and think of our grocery store tuber it's cultural dissonance.

    There are hundreds of yam varieties. If you visit the same tribe in a different season you'll find a varietal difference. There are chemical compound variations among them.

    When visitors see a pregnant woman eating yams they don't worry which variety it is. If the % of phyto-estrogen content is unique for pregnant women the fetus is influenced. And we don't know how pregnant women are mixing yam varieties in the course of the day or months.

    We see nursing mothers eating yams, but we don't know if it's a traditionally selected variety. The developing child is also likely to be reared according to old wives taboo on what they're given and when.

    In hunting and herding cultures we see people eat meat. We think of what we know in our markets and how our culture shares out food.

    Those men generally eat the select muscle meat and get to suck the bone marrow; for women the culls, so to speak. Children eat with the women until initiated into manhood (if a boy). We don't track the age muscle meat and it's special amino acid composition becomes part of their child's diet.

    We see pregnant women drink milk. If we come at a different season their milking stock's pasture affects the milk. The composition of milk is not uniform like in our shops.

    The Masai are admired, and being known to drink milk, we think to emulate them. At certain times they boil milk with tree bark. Even should we notice that detail it doesn't mean pregnant women use the same part of the bark.

    We are ignorant of the chemical compounds specific seasonal barks impart. For that matter we may be oblivious to any womanly wisdom on it's use for pregnant and/or lactating women.

    In frigid climates the Sami milked their reindeer and brewed that with specific seasonal wild flowers and/or leaves. The hunger of winter was less severe as they consumed that concoction.

    That extract of plant chemical compounds is going to affect their internal organs' metabolic processes. We don't likely know what mash their pregnant women are ingesting during the long winter.

    I don't know if nursing Sami children are exposed to any unique "herbal", so to speak, blend. We only notice the tribe is healthy, drinks milk and assume we can parse their diet.

    Subtle ethno-botanical factors are all tied in with genetics of different people. Our dietary scientists are looking at fascinating details to me; perfect knowledge would be rare.

  18. Hi Chris,

    Thanks much for the review!

    I decided some reflections on issues you raised might make a good year-end series of posts. The first one is here: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=1687. It discusses the carb issue.

    Best, Paul

  19. re brown rice:

    i've read somewhere that due to high content of phytic acid in brown rice, and its high chelating ability, it is advisable to eat brown rice only occasionally: on occasions it is consumed, it 'sucks' out enough bad stuff (like heavy metals) but as those occasions are rare brown rice consumption does not affect body's supply of necessary minerals

    what do you think?

  20. Hi Chris,
    I have very much been enjoying reading your posts here and on Facebook. I hope my question isn't too dumb as I am just getting into some of this.

    you say:
    "They also make important points about the conversion of carbohydrate to fat. If our livers convert much of the carbohydrate in a high-carb diet to loads and loads of saturated fat, how can eating saturated fat itself be harmful? The Jaminets make a compelling argument that eating fat might be much safer than letting excess glucose hand around until it is eventually converted to fat anyway."

    I have been wondering the inverse of this question- if saturated fat is good, and excess glucose turns into saturated fat, then why is excess glucose bad?

    Are you saying it is what glucose does before it turns into saturated fat? Can you shed any light on that for me?

    I have a feeling this might be answered if I read this book... I am planning to order it.

    Thanks for such an informative review!

  21. For those of you who have problems with sweet potatoes you might find this post on Perfect Healthy Diet.com informative.


    Also, I love this very detailed review and I'm now looking up some of the references linked to especially the one one fermented wheat and the other on cultures that eat 90% carbs.

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

  22. I'll definitely be reading PHD, thanks for your thorough review Chris! You mentioned in your post "It is important to remove foods to which one is intolerant while one is trying to heal." I'm wondering if you can recommend a food elimination protocol that will expedite healing prior to reintroducing foods for intolerance testing? I want to identify my intolerances but not sure the best way to go about it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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