Seth Roberts is a University of California psychology professor known for going his own way. His
latest publication is a diet book, which is something scholars at world-ranked universities don't write too often but which Roberts
believes is an excellent way to get an important health message across to the general public.
, 52, is an experimenter with a penchant for the odd angle.He
once taught a course on left-handedness and read each issue of Spy three times when that satirical magazine was at its peak - he
says it had an analgesic effect. He's
interested in how animals learn and how successful businesses slip and fall because their leaders, like lab rats in a Skinnerian experiment, keep doing what worked in the past.
A unifying theme in his
research is that the human brain was shaped to work well under Stone Age conditions and that modern life lacks crucial features enjoyed by our prehistoric ancestors such as being on one's feet a lot, seeing faces in the morning, not seeing faces late at night, sunlight exposure in the morning, variation in the flavors of one's food.
To test his
ideas, Roberts turns time and again to the human subject he
knows best: himself.Roberts
believes downing unflavored foods upsets humans' built-in link between taste and calories.
"The Shangri-La Diet is based on the discovery that there are foods far more powerful than raw vegetables in lowering your set point," Roberts
Mark Schrimsher, who runs the diet Web site calorielab.com, has looked at the diet closely and interviewed Roberts
critically for a news article on his site.
...As a young professor, Roberts struggled with his weight.He
tried lots of things but never got the dramatic drop he
was looking for.Then, six years ago, he
lost 35 pounds in 17 weeks after chancing on fructose as an appetite inhibitor.He
later switched to oil.
"Under normal circumstances, that amount of weight loss is incredibly difficult," Roberts
said the other day."I found a way that was incredibly easy."
The eureka moment happened on a trip to Paris in 2000.Roberts
was surprised when his
usually robust appetite deserted him.Aware of other researchers' work on the theory of a metabolic set point, he
found the answer: The sodas he
was drinking to stay cool were knocking down his
appetite because he'd never tasted French soft drinks before. He
theorized that familiar sugary soft drinks cause weight gain, but unfamiliar ones do the opposite because they lower the set point. Roberts
, who eats one meal a day plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil and small snacks, said at least 100 and possibly as many as 1,000 other people have tried the diet.He
said all the reports have been neutral or positive - with the exception of one person who dropped it after six months because she
had early signs of diabetes.