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05 January 2023

Our top 10 lifestyle book recommendations

What's on your reading list this year? We asked our medical advisor, Dr. Jonathan White, to share his top lifestyle and wellness book recommendations to help you follow the Overcoming MS Program in 2023.

1. Milk and Health by Walter C. Willett M.D., Dr P.H., and David S. Ludwig M.D., PhD

Dr Jonathan White says: “A great review article from 2020 on milk and general health – why it perhaps isn’t always the healthy choice. This book is reviewed in the NEJM (The New England Journal of Medicine) too which is extremely well respected.”

Synopsis: This review summarises the evidence for the benefits and possible risks associated with the consumption of cow’s milk. The authors describe the relationship of milk consumption to the risks of fracture, obesity, cardiovascular disease, allergies, and various cancers.

Since avoiding dairy is one of the recommendations of the diet aspect of the Overcoming MS program, this makes for interesting reading.

2. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD

Dr Jonathan White told us: “A definitive nutritional epidemiological study, examining the links between common Western conditions (heart disease, diabetes and cancer) and diet, in comparison with those in Asian populations who eat a much more plant protein-based diet.”

Synopsis: The science is clear. The results are unmistakable. You can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes just by changing your diet. More than 30 years ago, nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell and his team at Cornell, in partnership with teams in China and England, embarked upon the China Study, the most comprehensive study ever undertaken on the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. What they found, when combined with findings in Colin’s laboratory, opened their eyes to the dangers of a diet high in animal protein and the unparalleled health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. 

Diet is a key aspect of the Overcoming MS program, so understanding the broader benefits of choosing the right diet is important.

3. Food for Life by Tim Spector

Dr Jonathan White says: “The message and science underpinning this is really important, and closely in keeping with the Overcoming MS guidance on diet quality. [It contains] lots of microbiome stuff, which is the next frontier in MS research too.”

Synopsis: Tim Spector has pioneered a new approach to nutrition, encouraging us to forget misleading calorie counts and nutritional breakdowns. In Food for Life, he draws on over a decade of cutting-edge scientific research, along with his own personal insights, to deliver a new and comprehensive approach to what we should all know about food today.

Investigating everything from environmental impact and food fraud to allergies and deceptive labelling, Spector also shows us the many wondrous and surprising properties of everyday foods, which scientists are only just beginning to understand.

Again, with diet playing a key role in the Overcoming MS program, this is an important read to help understand the role of diet.

4. How not to die by Michael Greger and Gene Stone

Dr Jonathan White’s view: “This book is probably the one that ties closest to the Overcoming MS dietary recommendations, and an extremely detailed account of the evidence for food and morbidity and mortality.”

Synopsis: In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-renowned nutrition expert, physician, and founder of NutritionFacts.org, examines the fifteen top causes of premature death in America – heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and more. He explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other surgical approaches to help prevent and reverse these diseases, freeing us to live healthier lives.

Since Dr White sees this as the closest to the Overcoming MS dietary recommendations, this is an important book for understanding the benefits of the diet aspect of the program.

5. The Longevity Diet by Dr Valter Longo

Dr Jonathan White told us: “A great work on the role of fasting and health – through the lens of the world’s longest-living populations.”

Synopsis: The culmination of 25 years of research on ageing, nutrition, and disease across the globe, this unique combination of an everyday diet and fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) to be done only 3-4 times per year lays out a simple solution to living to a healthy old age through nutrition.

Valter Longo, Director of the Longevity Institute at USC and the Program on Longevity and Cancer at IFOM in Milan, developed THE FMD after making a series of remarkable discoveries in mice and humans indicating that specific diets can activate stem cells and promote regeneration and rejuvenation in multiple organs to reduce the risk for diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Longo’s simple pescatarian daily eating plan and the periodic, fasting-mimicking techniques can both yield impressive results.

Understanding the results of this long-term study is fascinating.

6. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Dr Jonathan White says: “This book is about the power of incremental habit change. I recommend this to people all the time, it is completely brilliant!”

Synopsis: People think that when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions: doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call.

For anyone looking to make changes – such as implementing any part of the Overcoming MS program – this is a must-read book.

7. The Imaginary Patient by Jules Montague

Dr Jonathan White’s view: “This is a book on my to-read list, recommended by a consultant neurologist, on the person behind a diagnosis.”

Synopsis: As a consultant neurologist, Dr Jules Montague saw the relief a diagnosis could bring, but she also came to see its limitations. In this eye-opening and humane account, Montague meets with the patients and families who have had their lives turned upside down by a diagnosis they never deserved.

She speaks to parents fighting for recognition of their children’s symptoms; men and women whose bodies have been stigmatised by society; and to the families of young black men who are being diagnosed posthumously with a condition that could exonerate their killers. Through these stories of heartbreak and resilience, Montague shines a light on the troubled state of diagnosis and asks how we might begin to heal.

For anyone living with any kind diagnosis, this book broaches some important topics.

8. How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body by David R. Hamilton PhD

Dr Jonathan White says: “This is a great read on the mind-body connection, written by a scientist.”

Synopsis: There is no longer any doubt that the way we think affects our bodies: countless scientific studies have shown this to be true. For former scientist Dr David Hamilton, the testing of new drugs highlighted how profoundly the mind and body are connected. Time and time again, the control group of patients in drug trials improved at similar rates to those who actually received the medicines. Astounded, Dr Hamilton decided to change the direction of his work to explore the relationship between the mind and the body.

At Overcoming MS, we recognise the important role of medication. But also know that the mind plays an important role, such that managing your stress is a key part of the Overcoming MS program. This book is an interesting read for those ready to dive further.

9. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Dr Jonathan White’s view: “So definitive it is a little cliched now, but it is still very good – the effects of trauma on health will speak to many people with MS.”

Synopsis: The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. Here, one of the world’s experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

For anyone who has experienced trauma in their life, this book is fascinating and can open up your thinking.

10. The Telomere Effect by Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr Elissa Epel

Dr Jonathan White says: “One of Dr Phil Startin’s favourites, and a Nobel prize-winning piece of work, on lovely little telomeres and how to make them longer, so you live longer!”

Synopsis: A groundbreaking book on the history of telomeres offering fresh advice on how to slow down ageing and lengthen life. Nobel prize-winning Doctor Elizabeth Blackburn and leading health psychologist Dr Elissa Epel have discovered biological markers called telomeres which can help to understand how healthy our cells are and what we can do to improve them.

The book specifically looks at ideas including how biological age is not chronological age, a biological basis for the mind-body connection, how sleep and diet can affect telomeres and shockingly how mothers who are highly stressed during pregnancy have children with shorter telomeres. It also offers tools and advice on how to determine cellular age and telomere health.

This book is relevant for anyone wanting to understand the factors involved in longevity so that they can seek to live longer.

 

References: 

1. Milk and Health | NEJM
2. The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health : Campbell, T. Colin, Campbell II, Thomas M.: Amazon.co.uk: Books
3. Food for Life: The New Science of Eating Well, by the #1 bestselling author of SPOON-FED: Amazon.co.uk: Spector, Tim: 9781787330498: Books
4. How Not to Die by Michael Greger, Gene Stone | Waterstones
5. The Longevity Diet by Dr Valter Longo | Waterstones
6. Atomic Habits: the life-changing million-copy #1 bestseller: Amazon.co.uk: Clear, James: 9781847941831: Books
7. The Imaginary Patient: How Diagnosis Gets Us Wrong: Amazon.co.uk: Montague, Jules: 9781783785841: Books
8. How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body: 10th-Anniversary Edition: Amazon.co.uk: Hamilton PhD, David R.: 9781788171496: Books
9. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma: Amazon.co.uk: Kolk, Bessel van der: 9780141978611: Books
10. The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer : Blackburn, Dr Elizabeth, Epel, Dr Elissa: Amazon.co.uk: Books