Book Review – The Omega Diet: The Lifesaving Nutritional Program Based on the Diet of the Island of Crete. Artemis P. Simopoulos MD (1999)

By Dante Moroni

Note: The statements below are only my opinion and are not to be taken in any way as medical advice.

I was interested in reading The Omega Diet due to the author’s illuminating research into polyunsaturated oils, particularly omega-3s. She was chair of the NIH Nutrition Committee in the 1980s and a pioneer in shedding light on how deficient western diets have become in omega-3s (n-3). From analyzing the n-3 content of several animal and plant based food sources, to looking into the relationship between health and these essential fatty acids, her work was crucial to moving forward research in this area.

Overall Book Rating: 6.0/10

The book has a lot of good information on the science on omega-3s, general nutrition, and tips for a healthy lifestyle. However, it was written over 20 years ago and some of the information is outdated and did not stand up to the test of time. Also, over half of the book is recipes and a how-to for following the diet, which is not what I read science and nutrition books for. It is probably worth a read if you are wanting to build upon or start learning about omega-3s and the nuances of different dietary oils, though I do not recommend following the diet itself. If you are unsure of a good fish oil supplement to try (after speaking with your doctor), I recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega.

The Good

  • Foundational information on composition of dietary oils and omega-3s.
  • Basic science on dietary fats, nutrition, chemical structure, etc.
  • Ancestral information on essential fatty acid consumption that is hard to find elsewhere.
  • Solid evidence explaining the importance of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and why the western diet is out of balance. Ancestrally this ratio ranged between 2:1 and 4:1 and currently averages at about 20:1!
  • Provides a broad list of associations between omega-3s and several health conditions.

The Bad

  • Touts the benefits of ALA, Alpha Linolenic Acid (n-3), though does not mention its extremely low conversion rate to Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and further to Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).
  • Says her diet is consistent with evolution and genetics but recommends low-fat dairy over full-fat which is an industrialized food product.
  • Believes in the saturated fat / cholesterol theory arising from Ancel Keys, although this has been debunked.
  • Prone to using cherry picked studies to assert grandiose truths and facts on the whole.
  • Doesn’t differentiate between association and causation well.
  • Several associations have changed over time and may not be accurate currently.
  • End of chapter summaries are unnecessary and serve to add more fluff to the book.
  • Way to much of the book is recipes and grocery lists.

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