Preventive Medicine: Truth about (and lies about) food

Dr. David Katz

Dr. David Katz

I write this week to share with you the whole truth about food. I can’t do that in the less than 800 words of one column. I am doing it across the 738 pages (yes, really) of my new book — aptly called “The Truth about Food.” I hasten to note I am unconflicted here; all proceeds from the book go to support the True Health Initiative, a federally authorized 501c3 nonprofit.

When this project began, a couple of years ago, I intended to call the book “Bamboozled,” and focus in particular on the lies about food. Bamboozled still appears in the subtitle, and the lies get their own, whole section of dedicated attention. But with the encouragement of some smart friends and colleagues, the scope evolved.

I originally intended to publish in a conventional way, on my own behalf, and benefit financially from whatever royalties ensued. I am especially pleased that approach evolved, too, and that the book is now published on behalf of The True Health Initiative, with all proceeds going to support that crucial, timely effort. These days, the truth — on seemingly any topic — needs all the help it can get. The “Truth about Food” and the True Health Initiative, both children of my ambition to add years to lives, add life to years, and try to help save the planet into the bargain, are siblings that derive strength from unity, and one another’s company. Both efforts are about science, sense, and the global consensus of leading experts. “The Truth about Food” is based entirely on these; the True Health Initiative exists to make knowledge and understanding of just that confluence far more common.

The book, at 738 pages (give or take) and roughly 200,000 words, is admittedly a beast. I think there’s good reason for the length. First, I wanted to include more or less everything I know about nutrition based on nine years of post-graduate education; 25 years of counseling patients; 20 years of running a clinical research lab; and the writing of three (to date) editions of a leading nutrition textbook. There’s a fair amount of content there. But the main reason for the scope of the book is that I wanted to cover not just what I know, but how and why I know it. That’s the crucial element for differentiating truth from lies; that’s the essential element for immunization not just against the last fad diet (which we can identify), but also the next fad diet (which we can’t predict). To cover the simple truth, the complicated lies in their many guises, and the reliable ways of knowing the difference now and in the future, took the space that it took.

While available as print-on-demand for those who still like actual pages, the primary version is the e-book, for several reasons. First, e-books just shift electrons around, they don’t send any trees to slaughter. I like trees. Second, the e-book allows for electronic searching. Type any reference word, lectins, fructose, gluten, protein, soy, coffee, Paleo, ketogenic, meat, dairy, grains, nutrigenomics, etc., into the search box, and find all the places in the book the topic is covered. For a book this length, that’s a handy feature the print version can’t provide. And third, production costs for e-books are much lower, and thus so is Amazon’s “cut.” This means more of the money spent goes to the nonprofit, while lowering the price of the book for you (the e-book is $9.99).

The truth about food — truly is simple. The book might have been a one-line variant of Michael Pollan’s famous: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” But simple is not the same as easy, and recognizing the truth amidst the incessant barrage of nonsense, deception, and distortion is hard. Knowing what’s reliable and what’s not when idle opinion and self-interest can so readily compete with earned expertise is hard.

It is also profoundly important. Incredibly, diet is now the number one cause of premature death and chronic disease in the United States, and increasingly so around the world. Armed with the science, sense, and consensus-based fundamental truths about food, diet can be the No. 1 resource for adding years to your life, adding life to your years, and reducing your environmental footprint, too. You and those you love deserve to have that resource at your disposal.

My fervent hope is that…now you do. Find it at the Kindle store at by entering “Katz truth food.”