Review: The Blood Sugar Solution, by Mark Hyman, MD

Let me cut right to the chase: Do I think this book is worth buying? Yes. With reservations. Before I get to them, though, let me tell you why this is such a valuable resource. Dr. Hyman understands that there are a myriad of factors that affect both our weight and our overall health. One of the things I find most helpful about this book is the focus on environmental factors such as pollution, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in our food. Taken a step or two further he has nothing good to say about heavily processed food, and while there are processed foods that I genuinely enjoy like Nutella (which I will no longer eat because it contains palm oil, which is a whole other issue) I recognize they’re not good for me, and I try to avoid anything that falls into this category. Fair enough, I say, it’s relatively simple to cut much of the processed food out of your diet. You just have to make smarter choices and work a little harder.

It’s also relatively easy to buy foods that are organic, rBGH-free, free of high fructose corn syrup and so forth (non-GMO foods are harder.) Relatively easy. Not simple, and certainly not cheap. If you make a commitment to avoiding these things, it takes some homework, and rebudgeting. But doing these two things are good starts.

Taking supplements because our diets will probably never provide the level of nutrients many of us need, that’s a good start too. Again, quality supplements aren’t cheap, and by now you’re beginning to see that good health is a bigger commitment than you might imagine. It’s not just about eating less and jogging for an hour each morning. Far from it. It’s about making the choices I’ve mentioned, and as Dr. Hyman points out, it’s about advocating for change in every aspect of life that affects our health. Big business isn’t going to worry about whether we’re fat and miserable, they’re just going to keep shoveling cheap, sugary, salty food at us and watching their bottom line. Industry isn’t going to clean up the air and water voluntarily because it costs them money. So part of taking control of your health is becoming an advocate for everyone’s health.

Exercise is another important part of Dr. Hyman’s program, and I can testify to the effectiveness of even a little exercise. It has improved my blood glucose dramatically and put a big dent in my depression. We have to move to be healthy. I hate to say it because I’m sedentary by nature, but there it is. We have to move.

Where I tend to disagree with Dr. Hyman is in the way he’s structured his program. Now I have no argument with the idea that cutting out whole food groups will help pinpoint whether you have a problem with them. That’s just common sense. What I do have a problem with is that you start the program by cutting out all sugar, including the so-called “healthy” sweeteners like honey, agave, stevia and all artificial ones; all gluten, all other flour products, even gluten free ones, all dairy, all processed foods, all grain, all starchy vegetables and all fruit except for 1/2 cup of berries a day. In fact, he says you should start by throwing out everything in these categories, just dump it. I say, I’m sorry, but who — apart from someone in a blind panic about his or her health problems — has the money to do that, not to mention the will power to wake up one morning knowing that you’re going to spend at least six weeks eating virtually nothing but lean meat or fish, legumes and leafy vegetables? I can’t. I can’t afford it and I sure know that I’d maybe last two days on a regimen like that before I’d be running out for a burger or some cookies. To me it’s like setting yourself up for failure and self-flagellation.

You do start adding foods back into your diet once you’ve… I guess de-toxed is the word. Not that I necessarily buy into detoxification diets, but hey, whatever, right? You add them in and you pay attention to how you feel as you do. And that makes a lot of sense in terms of discovering where your problems lie, if any — there are group of questionnaires at the beginning of the book to help pinpoint where some of your problems may lie, and no matter what your score, Dr. Hyman says you need his plan. Well yeah; why would he say you don’t right? So so you might well ask what is the point of all those questions? But I think they’re valuable because they can show you where you really may be having problems. Sensibly, to me anyway, that’s the place to start. By all means work the program, but work it in a targeted manner. There’s so much in it that’s good that you have to start feeling better if you do even part of what he recommends. If you can do it all, then wow! Go you! You’re a star. But for most of us, that’s simply not going to happen no matter how much we may want to do it.

Bottom line: This is a commonsense plan save for the fact that he doesn’t seem to accept that human spirits are always willing, but the flesh is very, very weak in most cases. It’s certainly a plan that’s worth working with, but if you find it overwhelming, you’d be better off working at it slowly than giving up on it entirely.

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Blood Sugar Solution, by Mark Hyman, MD

  1. I am curious abut the comment “which I will no longer eat because it contains palm oil, which is a whole other issue)”
    We have had a problem with palm oil. We ate at Outback and the buttery spread has palm oil and the vegetables are sauteed in palm oil. We became ill.
    Please explain.
    Thank you

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    1. Ed, my objection to palm oil isn’t about health, it’s about the systematic destruction of the rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia to create palm plantations. This destruction of their habitat is killing wild orangutans, and probably hundreds of other species of plant, insect, reptile, etc. This site will tell you more about it.

      Palm oil is insidious; it’s being used widely because it’s cheap and because it was touted as a healthy alternative to trans fat. It’s not. It is associated with an elevated risk of heart disease. None of this addresses the more immediate subject of you becoming ill after eating at Outback, but if the effects of palm oil were that immediate, I doubt anyone would use it. I suspect there was something you ate that was “off.” I don’t eat at Outback (I had a bad experience there where everything was so highly salted I felt hung over the next day due to dehydration.) so I really can’t speak to what they use in their dishes, but that they use palm oil doesn’t surprise me. I’d avoid the place, but that’s just me.

      Hope that helps.

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    1. Susi, it’s been a while since I read the book, but I’d say that people on a mainly raw food diet might well already have the discipline to follow very strict guideleines. Oh the other hand there may well be many things currently in a raw food diet that will be removed by the BSS, at least in the early stages of the program. My best answer is that you need to read the book or at least take a close look at it to decide.

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