Some of the stuff listed is fairly technical. But one thing that is important to realize is that a lot of the technicality in biochemistry is big words. Don't get scared off by terms like "fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase", instead try to grasp the big picture. Similarly, biological systems are "complex", in the sense of having a lot of interacting parts. But in the end, it's pretty much "the leg bone is connected to the hip bone". You don't need to build a radically new mental framework to think about this stuff, as you might with something like quantum field theory. And the details of many processes aren't really so important in making health-related decisions, e.g. knowing the precise chemical reactions by which lipoprotein lipase cleaves fatty acids from triglycerides isn't as important as knowing that in the neighborhood of fat cells, insulin makes it occur more.
Enough babbling. Here's the list (with more specific babbling), roughly ordered from easiest to hardest:
- The Protein Power Lifeplan by Michael R. Eades and Mary Dan Eades: Packed with very readable accounts of the relevant science. The Eades are good about delineating what appears clear from available scientific evidence, and what they've inferred "makes sense".
- Life Without Bread by Christian B. Allan and Wolfgang Lutz: Another readable account, complementary in many ways to what is presented in other books. The discussion on hormonal balance is pretty interesting by itself.
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price, DDS, and Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation: After you read this, you'll never look at someone's face the same way. Nutritional information is largely observational, but at least some of Price's conclusions are being borne about by more detailed biochemical research. Price guessed a lot of stuff we seem to be rediscovering today. Also has lots of anthropological information, particularly illustrating connections between food and culture.
- Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture by Marvin Harris: Very entertaining and thought-provoking, and should start you thinking about the interrelationships of food and culture.
- Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition by Robert M. Sapolsky: A detailed but funny and readable account of how the body's hormonal systems work, with a particular accent on stress.
- Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes: Very detailed and dense accounting both of how several "sacred cows" of modern nutrition came to be, as well as the (largely ignored) scientific evidence against them. A great read both for the sociology and the science, and packed with info. Worth reading more than once, and required reading before diving into any textbooks.
- Cholesterol and Health Website by Chris Masterjohn: Very thorough and detailed write-ups of various nutritional topics, mostly centered around lipid metabolism. About the same level as Taubes. Definitely read Masterjohn's discussion of The China Study for a good example of bad science.
- Metabolic Regulation: A Human Perspective by Keith Frayn: A good stepping stone to the more detailed textbooks. Reading Frayn after Taubes is recommended, since they cover a lot of the same ground, Frayn in more technical detail. Frayn tries to connect the biochemical details to current nutritional dogma. Ignore this and draw your own conclusions.
- Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism by Sareen S. Gropper and Jack L. Smith: The hard stuff. Similar comment applies in following the science to your own conclusions.
- Nutrition and Metabolism Society Website: All about including knowledge of metabolism into health-related decisions. See also their open-access journal, Nutrition and Metabolism.
- Reviews on Appetite: An entire issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B devoted to the details how hormones and the central nervous system control energy intake. Great stuff, and hopefully the subject of my next blog post.