Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease [Reading] ➺ Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease By Gary Taubes – For decades we have been taught that fat is bad for us carbohydrates better and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising Yet despite this advice we have seen unprecedented epidem For decades we have been Bad Calories: PDF ✓ taught that fat is bad for us carbohydrates better and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising Yet despite this advice we have seen unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes Taubes argues that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates like white flour easily digested starches and sugars and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in not the number In this groundbreaking book award winning science writer Gary Taubes shows Good Calories, Epub / us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong From the Trade Paperback edition.

10 thoughts on “Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease

  1. James James says:

    It is fitting that I finished this book while descending for landing over Newark airport in the middle of intense turbulence It was the airsickness that the turbulent descent caused that I consider fitting The sickening feeling one is left with after reading this book is similar it starts slowly it rises almost imperceptibly but eventually it seizes you almost entirely and renders you incapable of perceiving anything elseSuch is Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes a book of such significance that it shakes you where you sit And though it will make you sick to read it it will make you sick in all the right ways and for all the right reasons It can only be hoped that it will also lead you to make all the right changes in your personal health worldview because nearly everything you believe about what you eat is wrongThat’s the power of this book its ability to mercilessly unearth issues you thought long ago resolved and buried “Fat people are fat because they overeat and don’t exercise enough” “Eating meat will cause heart disease” “A low fat diet will reduce your cholesterol” These are just samples of the things you believe today that in Taubes’ painfully thorough hands you will come to find have not only never been verified through experimental studies in animals or humans but actually contradict the combined evidence of over a century of researchTaubes’s approach is exhausting He is so thorough – 601 pages attest to this – as to scare away anyone without a basic comfort in health science Though this is a shame it is a necessary one made so because the author hopes to avoid the many sins he enumerates among the researchers he chronicles who have so often selectively favored the slight evidence that supported their hypotheses and ignored evidence that contradicted their sincere beliefs The result is an absolutely dizzying array of studies and references – the bibliography reaches 65 pages in length – that you must not only be led through but which you have to be able to retain in memory over many chapters because they will necessarily re emerge later on It would be impossible to summarize his conclusions in this review for the same reason However there are three observations that one can abstract from the many stories and multiple health studies he weaves together 1 The specialization of all scientific disciplines leaves each discipline with a partial and often incorrect view of the whole; 2 Scientists often become so persuaded of the validity of their hypotheses that they stop looking for any evidence that would contradict it and in fact rationalize or simply ignore such evidence even when collected by their own hands; and 3 Many studies in this area are flawed because they are designed under the assumption that the causality of the variables involved meaning which thing controls which thing is already understoodPerhaps detail on #3 is warranted One of the most poignant examples in the book came from an interview with a scientist who believed in the “law of thermodynamics” as it applies to obesity which led him to conclude – and nearly all of us along with him – that fat people are fat because they eat too much and are lazy When his own research demonstrated that the calorie intake of fat people was not related to their weight gain he avoided this evidence by deciding that fat people may not eat too much but being lazy is enough to make them fat His evidence? We should all just sit in an airport and take note of the fact that the lean people walk while the fat people take the escalators and moving walkways This is particularly appalling because not only is his experience in an airport not a controlled scientific study but also because his hypothesis that fat people are lazy is one explanation of why obese people prefer the moving walkways An eually likely explanation of the same behavior is that it’s harder for the obese to walk than it is to ride In essence the scientist assumed causality went one way lazy fat yet there is no reason other than personal dogmatic insistence on a particular view not to consider an eually rational direction for causality fat”lazy” where lazy is defined as taking an escalator when one is offered This is a radical rethink of our personal assumptions and if there were no evidence to further strengthen this alternative hypothesis then we would be forced to conclude that lazy fat However the evidence points almost completely the other way as Taubes showsBy the first 50 pages I realized I had found a uniue book The opening is spectacularly engaging because it draws on historical examples and evidences such as the heart attack of President Eisenhower and his unsuccessful attempts to reduce his cholesterol though he ate almost no fat after that It makes for good journalistic writing However once it gets through the engaging niceties the book reveals itself as the disciplined scientific literature review it truly is appropriate historical anecdotes mingled in to give the reader an occasional break By the end of that first day I resolved to begin restricting my carbohydrates immediately though I hoped I would fully understand my decision by the end of the book That was ten days ago In the intervening days I have lost 8 pounds Fully aware that this could just be the result of a new enthusiasm for this diet I decided early on not to confound my results by exercising or by cutting back my calories Instead I have used my few free mornings for writing and yes reading of Good Calories Bad Calories Additionally I have given myself license not only to eat whatever fat and protein I want I have consciously tried to overeat both Four pieces of bacon an egg a 4 carb cracker smeared with a thick layer of cream cheese and topped with pancetta – they are all not strangers to me I have steak for dinner when possible and eat sausages of all sorts I regularly dine on cheese whenever I feel hungry and I go through peanuts as though they were going out of style To make my experiment complete I should be cataloging this intake but suffice it to say I am not only not hungry I am stuffedInterestingly this book contains no diet at all a fact that Taubes’s editors must have pointed out leading to the epilogue which summarizes all his conclusions and comes close to recommending specific diet steps It’s not actually his goal to change how you eat rather to change how scientists and researchers approach the important uestions of obesity heart disease and diabetes each of which is reaching epidemic proportions despite our public obsession with all things low fat This is another reason why the book is so credible Not only is the author pedigreed as a science journalist a correspondent for Science a magazine that has in common with a scholarly journal than with Newsweek; and not only is the book astonishingly well researched and documented; but the author hasn’t yet produced a diet handbook to make himself rich This last fact is significant and something that Atkins couldn’t say and for which the research establishment ridiculed him and something that health researchers receiving million dollar grants from refined carbohydrate producers like Procter Gamble MMMars or Post also can’t sayMy advice read the book think through the logic and perform a personal test As one friend with high blood pressure and high cholesterol who experimented with a low carb diet explained to me “My doctor is very bothered by my results – I am eating fat all the time I practically can’t have a glass of water without putting a pork chop in it – but my lab tests are coming back healthier and cleaner than my doctor has ever seen them” I imagine that upon seeing these counterintuitive results the doctor felt a sickening feeling similar to airsickness It is disconcerting even sickening for a doctor to find that everything he believed – and everything he recommended to his patients – was based on faulty assumptions never proven by science yet perpetuated by every expert panel and official report That’s a sick feeling I know and one that may well make us all well if we heed it Update August 2008 I'm at 198 pounds a loss of 20 pounds and still dropping weight without exercise and without restricting calories

  2. Dianne Dianne says:

    This book is like the Copernican Revolution of diet advice reverse one key assumption and suddenly all the evidence that didn't fit the previous hypothesis suddenly makes sense Taubes suggests that we've mixed up cause and effect we don't get fat because we eat too many calories and don't get enough exercise It's the other way around we eat too many calories and don't have the energy to exercise because we're fat That is to say obesity is a medical condition caused by our body channeling too much of the food we consume into fat cells instead of using it for other metabolic processes This leaves us tired and hungry because all our cells except our fat cells are being starved So we eat and move less And the cause of this medical condition is excess insulin which is the body's fat storage hormone And the cause of excess insulin is consumption of carbohydrates especially refined sugar high fructose corn syrup and foods made of processed white flourI simply can't do justice to the complexity of the argument and the massive amount of research that Taubes has reviewed in his book You simply must read it yourself

  3. Amy Amy says:

    ill miss you pasta but i think it's for the best

  4. Belinda Belinda says:

    Holy RESEARCH Batman Wow It seems like Gary Taubes maybe took a lot of guff after his controversial piece in the New York Times and decided to just let all his critics have it by burying them in tons and tons of dataI have read about low carb diets before but nothing really convincing to me anyway because I loves my bread This 600 page whopper really drives the point home that of all the variables in our diets the one thing that affects the most change when it's reduced increased or removed is carbohydrate Also fascinating beyond the mechanics of why cutting carbs and increasing fat you heard me increasing FAT can actually improve health is the huge chunk of the book that's devoted to reporting on the political process behind how nutritional theory comes to be common knowledge in this country It's a little scary franklySince finishing this book I've also gone back and re read Protein Power and picked up Protein Power Life Plan as well as a couple of hefty low carb cookbooks I've tossed all the sugar corn syrup and refined carb products out of our house and I'm carefully monitoring the complex carbs that I'm feeding my familyAnd not for nothing but I've lost 9 pounds in a week despite increasing my calorie consumption The next few months should be interesting

  5. Duffy Pratt Duffy Pratt says:

    I've often been asked what's the best way to lose 10 lbs uickly usually by someone who is getting ready for some major event A few times I've answered You could cut off one of your legs For some reason this answer never goes over that well And yes its not as funny as I first thought but it does have a pointOf course most people mean they want to lose some subcutaneous fat That is why most people ridicule the early weight loss on a low carb diet it's only water that you lost so it doesn't mean anything Similarly everyone gets reassured if they gain some weight when starting an exercise program muscle is denser than fat and it raises your metabolism That's a good weight gainBut there are people who want to lose weight for other reasons I recently went back on a low carb diet partially to lose some fat But my immediate goal was to get some pressure off of my aching knees and maybe to lower my blood pressure The diuretic effect of the diet did both of those things very nicely And going back on the low carb diet also led me to this bookTaubes is great at challenging conventional wisdom This book divides basically into two parts Part one criticizes the idea that dietary fat causes heart disease Part two challenges the idea that overeating and lack of exercise cause obesity The amazing thing is that on both fronts Taube is very convincingThe first part is the easier one to swallow and I think its the important point Taubes does a great job of showing the growth of misinformation about dietary fat cholesterol and heart disease He does an even better job of showing how things can go astray when science and public policy get intertwined He also gives a decent alternative hypothesis for the causes of diseases of civilization which include obesity heart disease diabetes hypertension etc These diseases tend to appear in populations along with the increased consumption of refined starches and sugars Taubes argues that high carbohydrates may be the culprit and not high fat The key evidence for me personally is the relationships between carbs and triglycerides and HDL A low carb diet tends to raise HDL and will almost immediately bring triglycerides into lineThe second part is a bit tougher going The typical thinking about obesity is as follows it's governed by the conservation of energy Consume calories than you burn and you gain weight I've had my own reservations about this simple idea for a long time First off energy has no mass Thus this reasoning is at best derivative Weight gain or loss is a uestion of the conservation of matter not energy Mass only gets turned into energy in atomic reactions and I don't think I have all that many nuclear explosions going on in my body That's not a promising road for weight lossThinking about it as mass how does a body gain weight? Eating drinking and inhaling How does it lose weight? Shitting pissing sweating shedding and exhaling The surprising thing I think is that most of our actual weight loss comes from the difference between inhaling and exhaling We inhale O2 and exhale C02 which is almost twice as heavy as the inhaled molecules The CO2 is basically our way of getting rid of the ash that's left when we burn our fuel But this is just my aside and one that points out the significant jumps that are made by the calorie in calorie out idea Taubes criticism is uite different He basically says that the calorie in calorie idea is correct but that it says nothing about the cause of obesity Suppose you saw a club that was really crowded and you wanted to know why You could ask someone like me and I might tell you that its because people came into the club than left it Well duh But you wanted to know why the club was crowded Taubes says its the same thing with obesity The trouble with staying with the calorie incalorie out idea is that it says nothing about the cause People then fall back and say the cause is a lack of willpower How would a determinist respond to this one I wonder?Taubes instead says that both obesity and the caloric imbalance are symptoms of something else His hypothesis is basically that the obese suffer from a type of insulin resistance Their muscles are insulin resistant while their fat cells remain sensitive to insulin This causes their fat cells draw fat and energy out of the body The muscles sufficient energy because the fat cells have hogged it up This leads to a state of semi starvation as far as the muscles are concerned Metabolic rate drops and the person conserves energy by moving less We can cut insulin by cutting carbs so cutting carbs should bring an obese person back to health It's a nice theory Unfortunately the dispute is now political than scientific The establishment simply wants to show that low carb diets are bad for you or that they are just reduced calorie diets in disguise So they have no interest in genuinely testing the ideas The low carb community tends to create zealots of their own with as little interest in the science as the establishment So it doesn't seem likely that anyone will do controlled tests on these hypothesesI find the whole thing to be fascinating I've read that Taubes has succumbed to some of the biases that he criticizes mainly that he has ignored some studies that might be uncomfortable to his ideas Getting to the bottom of that would reuire effort than I'm willing to put in In part I like this book because I always like a book that convincingly stands the conventional wisdom on its head I also think he writes amazingly well especially for a book this heavy on science And I think the ideas are worth considering especially the idea that our received wisdom about dietary fat may be all wrong

  6. Lala Hulse Lala Hulse says:

    First the bad this book is a slog especially the first third of it It definitely takes some effort to read That said if you're interested in nutrition or fitness or biology or as I am debunking and exposing bad science you should read this book Taubes makes a convincing case for the idea that the dietary guidelines we Americans have been getting for the last forty years are not healthy and are making us fatter and less fit He shows how obesity is considered a moral failing laziness and lack of self control in this country and how that prevents rational discussion and treatment of it He shows that the so called diseases of civilization inevitably appear with the arrival of processed sugar and flour He argues that all calories are not eual and that therefore you can't use a simple burn calories than you consume strategy for weight loss and that carbohydrate not only doesn't provide the same food value as proteins such as meat but that overconsumption of carbohydrate causes obesity That part bummed out this former vegetarian and current light meat eater Am I ualified to evaluate the science of this book? I am not I've been scouring the internet for opposing points of view and all the criticisms I've found have said there hasn't been enough research which is exactly what he's arguing for I want every smart person out there to read this book and then tell me what they think of it Get on that

  7. Glenn Dixon Glenn Dixon says:

    I am leaving my originsl review of this book here below but ten years later and I have completely utterly changed my mind This book is generally bullshitTaubes makes critical errors throughout The voluminous footnotes gives the appearance of a thorough researcher but given that he generally misinterprets slants and selectively uotes them all the volume only serves to mask his bias His foundation is eually problematic Here is a very thorough recapThe current science shows that the makeup of the diet doesn't really matter In other words in the end it really is just Calories InCalories Out NOTE This review below is old and completely wrong I leave it here as a reminder of how easy it is for authors to mislead Still in the first part of this book but so far it is a thorough overview of the history of medical research into diet It has almost completely shattered my view of the state of government funded research in America It is disturbing to discover that everything you have heard about healthy eating your whole life might be totally wrong

  8. Jim Jim says:

    This is by no means an easy read nor an easy argument Taubes reviews the scientific literature relating to diet obsesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes He tells us why the recent focus on low fat high carbohydrate diets is not based on credible scientific evidence The argument has been that high fat diets cause heart disease Taubes argues that consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates causes the body to produce excessive insulin which causes fat retention This hormonal alteration leads to the major diseases of civilization that plague us obesity diabetes heart disease cancer and Alzheimer's disease Practical implications? If you are searching for a weight loss plan avoid low fat high carborhydrate semi starvation diets You may lose weight temporarily but you will regain it If you are conderned with proper weight and high trigylcerides and blood sugar then eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet This should not simply be a diet but a change of life

  9. Pcallist Pcallist says:

    I read this 500 page tome in 2 days Resisted starting to re read because I promised it to others This is by outstanding science journalist Gary Taubes I had so many light bulbs going on while I read this that I was almost blinded I'm a chemist and I have taken a course in chemical thermodynamics His treatment of 'all calories are not created eually' was revelatory For a long time the nutritionists argument that because you can extract by testing with a bomb calorimeter in a lab 9 caloriesgram from fat versus 4 caloriesgram from carbohydrate that was all they looked at to assert that fat was fattening But what if those values are merely the 'maximum' extractable in a lab setting calories So for example what if a human body upon ingestion of a gram of fat only gleans 05 calories compared to getting 3 calories for every gram of carbohydrate No laws of thermodynamics were harmed in the writing of this book

  10. Karin Williams Karin Williams says:

    This is NOT a diet book as one might imagine from looking at the cover it's an uietly revolutionary treatise by a very accomplished science journalist It's a very dense book that reuires a lot of thought especially from somebody like me with only cursory background in biology Nevertheless I find it absolutely fascinating Taubes not only undermines a lot of the basic nutritional wisdom we all grew up with he details the historical evolution of scientific thought about nutrition in a way that's made me uestion my faith in the scientific establishment as well as the FDA

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