|Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage)
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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 more. 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 us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong.
- Right on the mark
Gary Taubes's research matches what my body has told me. I tried the Rotation Diet back in the '80s and was successful. I didn't mind being on the 600/900 60% protein/fat portion, but absolutely hated the 1200 portion (low-fat ratio), because I was always hungry on it. I've tried the Protein Power diet and liked it, but had problems with arachidonic acid and could never really balance out the carbs effectively. After reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, I'm giving the low-card diet another go with the knowledge I gained from Potatoes Not Prozac about controlling serotonin levels. My thanks to Gary Taubes for explaining why my body has reacted the way it has. The book is very thorough and absolutely informative.
A small note about his comments on cancer. A few years ago, a NIH researcher mentioned that Marin County, California had one of the highest cancer rates in the county. I asked about pesticides. She said that the workers, who actually worked in the areas being sprayed, did not have the high cancer rate; it was the wealthy homeowners and so far they didn't have an actual cause. I suspect that Gary Taubes has found it with the low-fat diet increasing insulin in the blood and revving up the cancer cells.
Enjoy and do buy the book, your life will never be the same....more info
- Big Fat Omissions (published in Washington Post)
Big Fat Omissions: Science, logic sorely lacking in pro-Atkins article
By Vance Lehmkuhl
Back in 2002, when The New York Times was still the most respectable American newspaper imaginable, its magazine section ran a piece by Gary Taubes with the headline "What if it's All a Big Fat Lie?" and people around the nation, journalists, scientists, and the everyday public alike, rushed to reconsider their notions of fat and nutrition. In the ensuing year, the Times has seen its credibility torpedoed by twin scandals of bogus reporting, but so far Taubes' 7,700-word pro-Atkins essay - illustrated by a cut of butter-slathered steak - has largely escaped close scrutiny. Indeed, his fat apologia has been picked up by the mainstream press as the operating story, and newstudies, even when inconclusive or negative toward Atkins, are being spun as further proof of the new paradigm.
In "Big Fat Lie," Taubes gleefully trashed decades of nutrition advice from various experts to prove that "Atkins was right all along." Robert Atkins, who died in March of a slip on the ice, was of course the most famous proponent of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, author of the best-selling "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution." The fact that Gary Taubes, an Atkins devotee, was assigned by the Times to write a seemingly objective analysis of the good doctor's theories is just one of many questions raised by "Big Fat Lie."
A close look finds Taubes misquoting, misrepresenting, equivocating and running logical loop-the-loops to persuade us that Atkins had the answer, before finally revealing that he's on the diet himself and doesn't really care whether it shortens his life. Doubtless most readers are unaware of the CNN report in which scientists quoted by Taubes backed away from the concepts attributed to them. And few probably saw the Washington Post article citing all the peer-reviewed scientific studies that directly contradict Taubes' "low-fat diets don't work" mantra.
Even on its face, "Big Fat Lie" isn't what it appears. Taubes, the daring iconoclast, "exposes" the fact that fat can be good for you and that low-carb diets can cause weight loss, then tries to put these together to form an endorsement of the healthfulness of Atkins' program. But wait: Nutritionists never said NO fat was healthy; and it's not whether they cause temporary weight loss that concerns people about Atkins-style diets - it's whether they're harmful to your overall, long-term health. In other words, Taubes' great achievement in 7,700 words is to knock down two obvious "straw man" arguments that no one ever made.
What he fails to prove, though, is their converse - that SATURATED fat is good for you, or that Atkins' diet ISN'T dangerous over the long term - exactly where the argument has been all along. So he slams the establishment for vilifying "fats," Taubes means "saturated fats," but when he cites positive health effects of "fats" he cites studies on monounsaturated fats.
Similarly, when he warns of the dangers of "high carb" intake, he means sugar, corn syrup, and some starches, not the fruits, beans, and whole grains that make up such a large part of a healthful, plant-based diet. Now, it's true that the USDA Food Pyramid does probably err in presenting grains as an undifferentiated, eat-all-you-want base for our diet, but Taubes wildly overstates the effect this has had on American eating patterns. In his thinking, we've become more obese because we're eating exactly as the Food Pyramid tells us to, so the pyramid must be completely wrong. He conveniently avoids any mention of how few Americans actually eat according to the guidelines (fewer than a third, according to the Department of Health and Human Services), and ridicules the notion that our food choices may be more influenced by our ad-saturated instant-gratification culture than by the opinions of scientists.
Shortly after this piece appeared, an American Dietetic Association survey showed that most of us get our nutrition advice from commercial television. But in Taubes' world, that's irrelevant: We eat junk food because of USDA "low fat" guidelines. We guzzle soft drinks, he says, because "they are fat free and so appear intrinsically healthy." That's right: Soft drinks "appear intrinsically healthy!" Have you ever heard ANYONE make a health claim for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew because they're "fat free?" It's no secret that these things are heavily branded sugar water, or that sugar makes you fat. But it's more important to be cool, to be refreshed, to obey your thirst, to get that jolt of caffeine and sugar right now.
Taubes finds it inconceivable "that the copious negative reinforcement that accompanies obesity - both socially and physically - is easily overcome by the constant bombardment of food advertising and the lure of a supersize bargain meal." In other words, being obese is so punishing that people who continue to live on fast food must be doing so because they consider it healthy. This disingenuousness underlies much of Taubes' analysis, which seeks to tie a decades-long rise in obesity to recent recommendations to lower our fat intake.
The impact of the food pyramid, which replaced the "Four Food Groups" in 1992, was apparently so great that it caused us to gain weight a full ten years before the pyramid appeared!: "The percentage of obese Americans," Taubes reports, "stayed relatively constant through the 1960's and 1970's at 13 percent to 14 percent and then shot up by 8 percentage points in the 1980's." Taubes feigns mystification at the fact that during this rise, we've been eating less fat as a percentage of calories. Yet a few sentences later he mentions that we're also eating 400 more calories every day. As it happens, we're NOT eating less fat now, we're eating slightly more - something he never finds room to mention - but we're definitely eating way more food, way more calories - you know, the thing that makes you fat? So what's the best way to avoid excess calories and still get good nutrition? Easy: Nutritious foods that are low in calories - a description that befits most unprocessed plant foods. Remember that gram for gram, fat has twice the calories that carbs do, without providing twice the vitamins.
But that's OK, because Atkins' plan is for you to get vitamins elsewhere - namely, from the Atkins Center, which sells "Atkins" brand vitamins at phenomenal prices. The "Diet-Pak," for instance, containing "a month's supply of all the nutritional support your body needs to survive and thrive during controlled carb weight loss," is on sale for $53.96 (marked down from $63.96). That word "survive" is a little jarring - the implication is, if you want to be sure this diet doesn't kill you, fork over $640 a year (assuming that sale price holds) to get the nutrients missing in your "nutrient-dense" food supply. Taubes doesn't bring any of this up, of course, but he tacitly admits that the diet is dependent on vitamin supplements to deliver adequate nutrition. In his prime example of a clinically successful Atkins-style diet, he reports that "the diet was 'lean meat, fish and fowl' supplemented by vitamins and minerals." Note that even the meat is lower-fat. This is a big fat endorsement? There are other interesting omissions in this very long article, not least the many non-vitamin-related health liabilities associated with a high-animal-protein diet (see sidebar). Nor does Taubes seem to want to discuss the charge that Atkins-style diets cause constipation. After all, what's a little discomfort here and there when you're improving your health through the power of saturated fat?
As if weak logic, straw-man arguments, and careful selection of factoids was not enough to drive his point home, Taubes apparently stooped to misrepresenting his sources and to denying the existence of data that didn't fit.
Some would be surprised that in his thorough examination of the relationship of high- or low-carb diets to heart disease, Taubes conveniently forgot to consider the peer-reviewed successes of, say, Dean Ornish, but it's much more than that: his summary of what science has found out about these issues is so skewed as to border on outright fraud.
Scripps Howard columnist Michael Fumento quotes Stanford University cardiologist Dr. John Farquhar as saying "I was greatly offended by how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across as supporters of the Atkins Diet. I'm sorry I ever talked to him."
And, CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen (7/8/02) spoke to three of the Harvard researchers spotlighted in Taubes' piece - the ones representing a major shift in thinking about Atkins - and heard from them that Taubes had misrepresented their positions on the matter of fats vs. carbs. They all explained that there are good fats and bad fats, and good carbs and bad carbs, making the categorical distinctions that Taubes had worked so hard to elide. And "...cheeseburgers, pork chops, butter and bacon," Cohen says, "the folks who I talked to said: 'You know what? We don't like that kind of fat. We don't think that's good for people."
One Harvard researcher Taubes cited is Walter Willett, who has long been a critic of the prevalence of starchy grains in USDA recommendations, among other things. Taubes seems to elicit phrases from Willett supporting his cheeseburger-based regimen. Yet Willett told Time Magazine (12/24/90): "The less red meat, the better. At most, it should be eaten only occasionally. And it may be maximally effective not to eat red meat at all."
Has Willett changed his viewpoint, or has he been misrepresented? If we're to believe the Washington Post, it's the latter. In "Experts Declare Story Low on Saturated Facts" (8/27/02), Sally Squires spoke to Willett regarding Taubes' remarkable advice to "eat lard straight out of the can" to "reduce your risk of heart disease."
Willett recalled speaking to Taubes about lard, but stressed that "I don't think that lard is part of a healthy diet." Instead, he told Squires, the idea is to "'replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats,' such as those found in fish, nuts, olives and avocados." After explaining at some length why those fats, unlike lard, have a positive impact on your cholesterol, Willett added: "And I have gone over this a number of times with Gary, but he barely mentioned it in the article."
That's not the only discrepancy Squires found in Taubes' reporting. As the author contends throughout "Big Fat Lie" that low-fat diets have proven to be "dismal failures," Squires found dozens of peer-reviewed studies that proved exactly the opposite and asked Taubes why he ignored these reams of data - especially when they came from his own sources. A researcher named Arne Astrup, for instance, whom Taubes interviewed for a half-hour, said he provided Taubes with "all the evidence suggesting that low-fat diets are the best documented diets and was extremely surprised to see that he didn't use any of that information in his article."
Taubes' excuses for these omissions - ranging from an opinion that one prominent scientist "didn't strike me as a scientist," to an assessment that another didn't cause quite enough weight loss, to his own "gut feeling" that the head of one peer-reviewed study "made the data up," to a breezy dismissal of the entire science of epidemiology - come off as comically bogus. Squires may have been giving Taubes a taste of his own selective-quote medicine, especially by concluding her article with his quote "I know, I sound like if somebody finds something I believe in, then I don't question it."
Well, yeah, that's just it. Taubes launches his "Big Fat Lie" broadside by explicitly linking the conventional, low-fat wisdom to religious zealotry. In his introductory paragraphs, he stresses this is something "we've been told with almost religious certainty ... and we have come to believe with almost religious certainty." But after a careful examination of the article's construction and its history (at least according to the other people involved in it), it becomes clear that Taubes, an Atkins disciple, is projecting his own zealotry onto those he disagrees with.
While some manipulations in his writing seem very carefully calculated - e.g., waiting until the next-to-last paragraph to include three major bombshells (that he is on the diet himself, that overconsumption of saturated fat can indeed shorten lifespan, and that "Atkins had suffered with heart troubles of his own") - it would seem that Taubes was not exactly trying to deceive his readers. Instead, he just wants us to believe as fervently as he does; his judgement of what's relevant and what's not, what's logical and what's not, is somewhat skewed by his faith in the animal-fat credo.
All in all, the article is not without some merit: It encouraged more discussion of the role of different fats, and the possibility that different levels of fat and carbs may work differently for different people. Since "Big Fat Lie" appeared, some studies have confirmed, once again, that Atkins-style diets can indeed cause weight loss, and without any short-term health effects. On the other hand, a massive Stanford University survey of low-carb trials confirmed that the key to the diet's success is simple calorie restriction rather than any "magical" metabolic process. And, in one of the "success story" studies (New England Journal of Medicine, May 2003), people on the low-carb program gained twice as much weight back after a year than did the low-fat participants, leading the Washington Post to call the "long-term benefits negligible." And in June, another New York Times writer, Jason Epstein, penned a public apology to readers for his earlier Atkins evangelizing.
Who knows? Maybe a new scientific study will indeed find the perfect combination of body type and fat/protein mix to validate Atkins' theories. On the other hand, maybe the answer will be: It worked for some people because, like Taubes, they really, truly believed it would.
Vance Lehmkuhl is a writer and political cartoonist for the Philadephia City Paper. A collection of his vegetarian cartoons is published as a book, "The Joy of Soy." Vance is featured as a speaker and entertainer at Vegetarian Summerfest....more info
- absolute nonsense
There is an old saying: "If you can't do it, teach it." Taubes takes is one step further: "If you can't do it, write about it." The book is horrible science and will undoubtedly lead to the death of many people. It is the equivolent of "journalistic terrorism".
Dr. Sidney Freedman...more info
- Illuminates How Science Policy is Made, but is Incomplete on Dietary Understanding
The author makes a strong case that low fat diets do more harm than good with respect to heart disease, adult onset diabetes, and obesity in this absorbing book, and, in an impressive feat of general science writing, does so with minimal reliance on descriptive biochemistry and quantitative and graphical data. While this enhances the readability of the book, it ultimately prevents Mr. Taube's arguments against carbohydrates in the diet from being conclusive.
Mr. Taubes based the book on a prodigious review of the literature of the relationship between diet and overall health covering the last 200 years or so. It therefore provides an excellent illustration of how scientific knowledge evolves, how the scientific method works in an institutional context (government and industry supported, "big" science), and how science based policy is established. The main lessons on the latter, especially on how little hard evidence actually supports policy recommendations, that policies are confidently presented to the public as "truth" to get them accepted, and when established they become axiomatic and very difficult to change, deserve to be widely known. Another important aspect of this is that academic self-interest groups, whose funding and reputation depend on maintaining the conventional wisdom, arise to defend it. That is, academics and professors should be no considered no less suspect of self-serving arguments than industry or trade association scientists. The understanding Mr. Taubes brings to science policy is the most valuable aspect of his book, and is relevant to other issues, e.g., global warming.
The book is not without problems, however. Mr. Taubes adopts an unfairly critical attitude towards the pioneers of 20th century diet policy, Keys and Mayer for example. He is able to do this using hindsight, applying what has been learned in the 40+ years since Keys and Mayer promoted their ideas to discredit them. The positions of Keys and Mayer were plausible at the time they were made, based on an unbiased reading of the evidence available to them. That we now have a better picture is an overall demonstration of how science works. There is no need for dietary villains just because the process of changing the conventional wisdom does not occur as rapidly as we would like. If the current official dietary guidelines are incorrect, the scientific process will find it out in due course.
The treatment in the book of the "energy balance" (basically, intake calories - output calories = calories stored, leading to weight change) is confusing if not downright misleading. If this concept is based fundamentally on a mass or energy balance or the first law of thermodynamics, which Mr. Taubes does not deny, it must be obeyed, period. What Mr. Taubes appears to be trying to say is that weight change is function of the type of calories consumed and the "energy balance" relationship is not discriminating enough to be applied to diet management in specific situations. Rather trying to discredit the impact of the energy balance on weight change, he should have clearly explained that the input and output terms are variable depending on diet, age, genetics, and so on.
Human metabolism is incredibly sophisticated and flexible, and the attempt to broadly generalize the impact of diet is bound to fail; it would be like trying to explain day-to-day weather patterns by studying the sun. A conclusion that can be drawn from the book is that further dietary studies are highly unlikely to be conclusive, and future research on weight control should be focused on understanding the metabolic process. The dietary factors that Mr. Taubes deemphasizes, such as total caloric input and physical activity, can't be dismissed without quantitative data showing their effect is indeed negligible. Anecdotal evidence about 3000 calories per day high fat diets is not sufficient, because individuals undoubtedly can be found that consume a 3000 calories per day high carbohydrate diet without gaining weight. Also, if carbohydrates are turned (in part) to fat, and the body does not discriminate between dietary fat and synthesized fat, metabolizing fat means metabolizing carbohydrates.
The Mr. Taubes identifies "refined" carbohydrates (e.g., white flour and sucrose) as particularly harmful. However, he does not actually cite any physical evidence to support this characterization; it appears instead to be based on reported disease rates in primitive populations that get access to modern, western diets. For example, insulin levels are a key aspect of the "carbohydrate hypothesis", but the glycemic index values, which reflect the ability of a food to stimulate insulin secretion, for refined white and whole wheat flours are nearly the same, indicating that "refinement" by itself is not a problem. Also, the reliability of epidemiological data obtained from primitive populations is not discussed, but is probably suspect due to a lack of historical medical records. Mr Taube's arguments in this respect are have no better foundation than those of Keys.
Overall, 3 stars for the dietary argument, 4 stars for its exploration of science-based policy.
- Incredible overview with a point of view
Good Calories, Bad calories is a very tough read. It is full of facts and data. Buy and read this book if you are really interested in the topic.
I have heard criticisms that he is biased in this reporting. That's probably true. However, his point is that what he presents is an alternative hypothesis to the US government-sanctioned low fat approach. There is a lot to support the hypothesis and it has not been disproven as in normal scientific method.
The low fat hypothesis also has a lot of support, but there have not been definitive tests of it either.
This is not a diet book. It is not proof that low-carb is good or high fat is bad. It lays out an alternative hypothesis along with a history of how the low fat hypothesis came to be accepted.
I will say that this book has changed my life and how I think about diet in general. I changed my own diet and for the first time in years, my blood pressure is normal, triglycerides are down, and I have energy. Oh, and I have lost 15% of my body weight without losing strength. (Implication is that it is mostly fat.)
You don't need to read this book to affect your life, but if you're interested in the science, this is an amazing piece of work....more info
- Confirms what Schwarzbein recommends in her book
The information in this book is very interesting and confirms what I've long suspected about the marketing of healthy eating guidelines by special interest groups. I highly recommend this book along with one written eight years ago by a Santa Barbara endocrinologist which recommends the dietary guidelines supported by the scientific studies cited in "Good Calories, Bad Calories". It's good to see the science behind her recommendations.
The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger...more info
- Looks like it WAS all a big fat lie ...
In 2002 Gary Taubes wrote an cover article for the New York Times Sunday magazine entitled "What If It's All Been A Big Fat Lie?" It caused an uproar among doctors and nutritionists everywhere for it stated the exact opposite of what Americans have been told--that it's not dietary fat that raises our cholesterol and causes obesity, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes, but the refined carbohydrates that have replaced fat in our diets since the 1970s. Five years later, Taubes expanded his eye-opening article to book length, and "Good Calories, Bad Calories" is a fascinating look into how the American public--indeed, the world--has been sold a nutritional bill of goods dictated by politics and personality that is literally killing us.
Taubes, a scientific journalist (not a doctor or anyone shilling a diet plan despite insistence from other reviewers) lays out the interesting history of how a low-fat high-carb diet got to be the consensus cure-all for obesity and heart disease in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The opening of the book sets the tone--six days before Dr. Ancel Keys, the foremost advocate of the "fat causes heart disease" idea appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1961, then-President Dwight Eisenhower was being lied to by his doctor about his cholesterol levels, which had skyrocketed after a heart attack despite following the exact regimen Keys was pushing. Taubes goes into very fine detail regarding the science involved in the role diet plays in health, and notes quite astutely that doctors as a rule are not scientists. It's astonishing how some ideas took root after only one study because they were sanctioned by the "right" organizations, while numerous studies showing an opposite effect were ignored because they didn't have the right connections. While Dr. Robert Atkins is the most famous--or notorious, depending on one's view--proponent of the low-carb diet today, the idea that keeping carbs low was optimal for both weight control and health has been around since the nineteenth century. However, an small but influential corps of doctors, whose studies were funded by such health-food purveyors as General Mills and Frito-Lay, got no less than the United States Congress drinking the high-carb Kool-Aid in the early seventies--to the detriment of us all.
This is not an easy, breezy read, but Taubes is able to make even the most esoteric terms and theories readable and understandable. The bibliography for the book is well over sixty pages, and Taubes conducted hundreds of interviews as well, all impeccably cited. If nothing else, "Good Calories, Bad Calories" will get you thinking about the absolute power organizations like the American Medical Association wield--even when they're completely off the mark. ...more info
- Is there a Noble prize? Then Taubes might be a candidate.
There are too few writers today who have the skill, insight and keen eye to take on the food-industrial complex. Gary Taubes has done this. One of the most valuable aspects of the book is Taubes' meticulous unraveling of the tangles of university researchers, industry research grants and journalists who create, promote and police weak information. Carbohydrates are cheap, taste good, and come from sources that on the surface fit cultural constructions of nature (waving grain, fresh-picked corn, etc). Industry favors carbohydrates for their easy portability, ability to provide instant gratification, and their maleability. History will make the idea that humans can grow thin and righteous eating pasta and fat free fruit snacks look like the hoax that it. The reliance on powerful, exalted experts enfeebles too many academic pursuits. It takes courage to look beyond the cult of personality and nutritional pop culture that valorizes the innocent, pastoral world of starches and sugars while demonizing protein and fat. How did a loaf of bread ever become the symbol for all that is good about the Earth and nature? Taubes' book exposes the machinery of current food mythology. This book is an example of careful, diligent research and writing in the fine muckraking tradition. I read the book from cover to cover, almost in one sitting. ...more info
- A book that changed my life
If you have ever tried to lose weight or just eat healthy, you must read this book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. This book changed my thinking about food, health, nutrition and exercise. I didn't realize how much of what doctors said that I just believed. I didn't realize that what they recommend is based on little proven evidence. Or how much contradictory evidence is just ignored.
This isn't a diet book. It's a book about the history of nutritional advice. Our understanding of food and obesity, how it's come about and how it's changed over the past century. I'll be writing more in future posts but here's what I've definitely taken away:
1. A calorie is not a calorie. A lot of other factors matter like what kind of calorie, what kind of person, metabolism, exercise, external environmental factors, ...
2. Calories in does not always equal calories out. Or we are not measuring all the calories in and out correctly.
3. Dietary fat does not make you fat. Fat is not necessarily better or worse than protein or carbs. It's not necessarily equal either!
4. Many of our current doctors are 100% convinced of what they know and not really willing to consider radical shifts in thinking. Like they continue to recommend eating less calories and exercising to lose weight when it's obviously not working for many people. (Do you really lack the will power?)
I definitely recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories. You can read a good excerpt written by the author, Gary Taubes, on ABC News....more info
- Excellent Book, consider it REQUIRED READING!
This is one of THE best books on health, diet and nutrition I have ever read! It blew me away!
Gary Taubes spent 5 years researching and writing this book, and going into it he in no way anticipated the conclusions he would reach! The science out there actually reaches very different conclusions than what we are taught by the bulk of health "professionals."
Read the table of contents to know the breadth of what is covered, but amongst it is how society arrived at the "evil fat/saturated-fat/cholesterol" theory, the effects of insulin on the body, and how a calorie is not just a calorie. It's not as simple as the common truisms of "you get fat if you eat too much" and "eat less, exercise more to lose weight"!
I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE, especially anyone who is interested in health, AND anyone who is dealing with the "civilized" health problems of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. However, be forewarned, this book is dense, full of information and studies (the last 100+ pages are notes and bibliography), so it can be slow going, and it is long - about 450 pages. Not a light read, but it is very worth it!...more info
- Best Diet / Health Book Ever!
This is without a doubt the best book I've ever read on the subject of diet and health. It should be read by everyone concerned about his or her health. ...more info
- Up is down...black is white....that's what this book does for diets.
If you presume to know what's healthy, you watch your fat intake, calories....you eat salads and rarely touch a steak then you MUST read this book. It most definitely IS NOT a Diet Book. Its science, its facts, its the TRUTH and its amazing.
I started reading online articles by Taubes about 6 years ago and eagerly awaited this book. I changed the way I viewed nutrition and "healthy" foods based on those articles as well as many, many others by many, many authors (see Mary G. Enig and Sally Fallon), and I'll never by fooled into eating tofu or rice cakes again. And cholesterol meds! I'd have to be bound and gagged before I'd take them....even if my levels were sky high.
Every new so called "study" that shows up on the evening news makes me cringe. And I often get online, go directly to the source and read the study for myself. You'd be shocked at how much they leave out or twist on the evening news. Truthfully, I have to wonder if it's all been a mistake or quite on purpose seeing that health care in the USA is now the number one industry.
I've seen a lot of reviews that claim the book is difficult to read. Yes....it's big and there is a lot of science....but I'm one of the reviewers that found it hard to put down. I hate to admit it's the only book I've read in about 3 years.
Read this book.
- Good Calorie Bad Calorie by Gary Taubes
I am an R.N. with a passion for nutrition and found this book to be in accord with my thoughts and personal findings when dealing with nutrition. It will make you question the ethics of our medical community and government. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand in great detail the workings of the body and the impacts of refined flours, sugars and high glucose foods. Reclaim your health!!!...more info
- Read it.
The book is hard to read, but it is well worth the effort. If you keep an open mind, it will definitely change the way you think--and eat. I admire the author's courage, because he is setting himself up for a wave of backlash from the establishment, even though all he is saying is "let's look carefully at the science."...more info
- Question the Underlying Assumptions
We all believe that we are adept at thinking critically, but how often do we really question our underlying assumptions? I heard Gary Taubes interviewed on NPR and thought that although he made several good points, he was basically an "Atkins Diet wacko." I started this book believing that I would quickly spot the obvious holes in his logic. After reading about 50 pages I realized that I agreed with virtually everything he had written. I searched the web to see if anyone had done a reasoned rebuttal. Everything I found fell into one of two categories: condescending--"I'm sure he means well, but he is just plain wrong"--with no documentation or evidence to back up their assertions; OR vitriolic--anger spewing, personal attacks that, once again, didn't offer any evidence that Gary Taubes was wrong.
Scientific history is replete with examples of the conventional wisdom being just plain wrong. Is it so astonishing that we could go so far astray for 60 years? After reading this book I believe that is the case.
Some people have complained that it was difficult to wade through all the information on the diet studies. I agree that it was densely packed with information and slow going in parts. I also understand why the author had to provide the level of documentation that he did: I, for one, wouldn't have accepted that my beloved COMPLEX carbohydrate grains could be a problem without all of the detail provided.
This is not a diet book, but it can point to a different definition of what constitutes a healthy diet. As Gary Taubes points out, the research still needs to be done....more info
- Food Bible
The reading is a bit dry, but the information is invaluable! Everyone should have a copy on their coffee tables, this is a must have. Exceptionally revealing and informative. Gary covers everything from old studies that were brushed aside or covered up, to our modern obesity epidemic and how it all happened....more info
- Clear, Well Researched, Convincing
This book is a very impressive. I learned more from reading this book in five days(wouldn't be surprised if this is a world record)than in my entire nutrition and exercise obsessed life.
The first part very accurately chronicles how the current conceptions and misconception of the health and diet were formed. The sections on the origins of the U.S.D.A. dietary guidelines and the low fat diet craze were revealing. Aso, Taubes supported his arguments concerning the link between carbohydrates and diseases of civilization convincingly with with a plethora of data. This book does not suggest a specific nutrition plan, however it sufficiently educates the reader to formulate their personal diet. I appreciate how in depth the book was(60+ pp. bibliography). It was definitely written for someone with a stronger nutrition background and might be slightly over the head of a beginner.
It is unfortunate that Taubes limits his viewpoint to out-dated research and focuses narrowly on a few food items, such as processed sugar and white rice, as the source of obesity and related health problems. This view is as narrow and incomplete as the research he derides. Taubes is correct in suggesting that there are powerful political forces at work in connection with research. Take for instance the United Dairymen and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association - both spend millions of dollars lobbying researchers so that we may continue to believe the completely false notion that cow's milk (which contains casein - a protein linked to various diseases, yes, including some forms of cancer) is healthy for us. Likewise, we have been taught that we need to eat meat for our protein, when the reality is that a diet rich in meat and dairy provides too much protein and is linked to osteporosis and digestive disease. I recommend reading The China Study to get the rest of the story. Taubes certainly doesn't tell it here which I'm sure big businesses, like those I've mentioned above, very much appreciate....more info
- Loses me with with his "facts"
This book lost me in serveral areas. In the beginning, Taubes talks about cholesterol and sites examples where having a high cholesterol did not evolve into heart disease. What he misses here is that he only looked at total cholesterol in the beginning of his book. Anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that it is ratios that count, not totals.
Secondly, he loses me when he says that fibre does not help with weight as he recounts studies that show that. What he doesn't tell you about the studies is that the fibre was not increased that much. When you compare the fibre increase in studies to what we should really be eating for fibre it is a nothing increase and therefore, of course would show no benefit.
After reading it and finding his errors, I don't believe anything he says. I would like a real doctor to talk to me...hello Dr. Ornish...more info
- Not a Diet Book, But Points The Way
I bought this book last January and read it twice. I'd read The Omnivore's Dilemma the year
before and together, these two amazing books created a paradigm shift in my thinking. It's
now seven months later. I've lost 41 pounds and am still loosing every week. I didn't need a
diet, just common sense. I'm a woman who has been obese most of her life and tried every
diet out there. After reading this book, I said to myself, I'll try it. It was my last resort. I decided
that if this didn't work, I just be fat. I refused to starve myself anymore on all the diets out there.
I'm 58 . Here's are the results after seven months. Eating this way I'm never voraciously hungry.
I don't think about food all the time. And miracle of miracles, I can actually tell when I'm full.
I haven't exercised once. I'm still just over two hundred pounds, but am beginning to feel like I have
the ability to exercise, which I didn't before. I went to my doctor after eating this way -- few carbs,
lots of meat, fish, poultry, butter, cream, good fats, salads, some fruits (mostly berries) and vegetables -- and my cholesterol had dropped almost into the normal range. (290 to 210.) My triglicerides which
were off the scale had dropped to normal. My doctor was thrilled and told me to go home and keep eating low fat, high carb. She doesn't get it and I didn't bother explaining it to her. But, next time I go -- in November -- I'll bring her this book and give it to her. I would think my experience would go a long way toward getting her to read it. Finally, I've found something that makes sense to my life. I couldn't have
done it without Pollan's and Taube's wonderful research. ...more info
- Great Book
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage)This book is amazing. Applies critical thinking and the scientific process to shatter myths about food. Certainly has changed the way I look at my food choices. I recommend this read for anyone interested in eating healthy based on scientific fact rather than myths, hype, and misleading marketing....more info
- High fat/low carb diet
I liked the book because of the enormous amount of research that went into it. I like a technical read and this book is technical. In spite of that, the author made it very readable by not writting a lot of scientific terms but using common language. He follows the history of the many theory's of weight loss back to the mid 1800's and the many degrees of ideas from high fat/low carb to low fat/high carb. This is a very good well written book!...more info
- Very Informative For the Layperson
This book is about so much: diet, carbohydrates, insulin resistance, etc. I am already a low carber. I have lost near 100 pounds on low carb and kept it off for over 7 years, so I admit I already have a bias. But this is not really a "diet" book. Gary Taubes is a science journalist, and this book is really about the science of diet.
Now, I am a numbers person, and I have never been into science in any meaningful way, so I was worried that this book would be a hard slog. I was shocked to find out that little old me got through the whole book with nary a glazed eye to be found. It's just so INTERESTING.
There has been a lot of criticism of Taube's chapter on exercise, which is really kind of ridiculous. He doesn't say NOT to exercise, he says not to depend on exercise for weight loss. Seems like sound advise to me.
If you are wanting more information on diets and carbs, why we eat what we eat (or not), try this book. You may be very surprised....more info
- Very dry and tedious read
I was so looking forward to this book, but when I started reading it, I couldn't pay attention. It's a very dry and scientific read. Way Way too much info. I wish he had focused more on the facts than a bunch of flowery scientific mumbo jumbo. Despite all the rave reviews, I would not recommend this book. ...more info
- remarkable results in men, not so much for the ladies
Read the whole book, loved it. Not overweight myself or high cholesterol, but I am interested in the food I eat. The nation is getting heavier becasue of the quality and quantity of the food we eat. Refined white flour and sugar have to be bad for you, his research seems right on. High Fructose Corn Syrup is a big factor in type 2 diabetes, don't you agree? I recommended cutting out carbs to 3 friends- all male, slightly heavy and their weight dropped and cholesterol went from the 220's to the 180's. Great amateur-science results. For the women, recommended it to 2 women and weight didn't change at all over the same time period of 2-4 weeks. I wonder what the difference is. ...more info
- Good Calories, Bad Calories and Cereal Killer
This review offers a comparison of Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom of Diet, Weight Control, and Disease, and Alan Watson's Cereal Killer: The Unintended Consequences of the Low Fat Diet. The primary thesis of both books is that the established health advice of the last few decades--avoid fats in favor of carbohydrates--is wrong. Both cite ample evidence that we should depend on diets that are relatively higher in fats, and relatively lower in carbohydrates, especially the highly refined carbohydrates including sugars. Both single out a particular sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, for special avoidance. Both question the value of today's preoccupation with cholesterol. Both authors have spent years researching the topic, and while their positions are congruent, there are a number of interesting differences.
Gary Taubes, in Good Calories, Bad Calories, traces the historical development of the recommended low fat diet and the carbohydrate-heavy food pyramid. Rather than lambasting the process by which our nutrition advice went so awry, he dispassionately traces, in incredible depth, the medical studies, people, organizations, and events that led to this situation. In so doing, he built credibility with me. Considering the well-documented sequence of events and influences, it became convincing that the organizations we respect for guidance actually got it quite wrong. However, I found the convoluted and voluminous detail to be excruciating; the book goes 453 pages before it provides us with Taubes' well-reasoned conclusions. But, it was certainly worth the effort to read, and it provided me with new information. For example, a) weight gain or loss is not determined primarily by total calorie intake vs. calorie expenditure, or b) while the glycemic index is widely respected as an indicator of the metabolic impact of carbohydrates, fructose does not register on that scale.
I think of Alan Watson's very inviting and easy-to-read 144-page Cereal Killer as a handbook. Both authors address a gamut of health issues, but Watson centers on cardiovascular health while Taubes spends more time on weight gain and obesity. Watson's style is brief and to the point. His succinct review of fats, a complex subject, seems exceptionally understandable. Bulleted lists are presented in place of paragraphs of prose. Each chapter ends with a friendly "More to Explore..." section that provides helpful suggestions for further reading. A sprinkling of photos--of the Watson family, cows, and such--give it a pleasant and homespun quality. Cereal Killer goes beyond the narrow focus on carbohydrates vs. fats, to other related topics, such as grass-fed beef, and lard, but it left me wondering whether these topics were as well-supported by clinical studies as the fundamental carbohydrate vs. fat issue. Throughout, this book is a model of clarity and conciseness while presenting valuable information about which the author is passionate.
One of Gary Taubes' excellent New York Times articles was titled: "Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?" I have to conclude that we may not, and that these books provide important challenges to the conventional health wisdom that can help bring us closer to that knowledge. I highly recommend reading both and keeping them within easy reach on your bookshelf.
- Meticulously thorough and highly insightful
Anything I could possibly say about this book has probably already been said, so I will keep it simple: this book is amazingly thorough and detailed in its analysis of the past 150 years of obesity research. If you take the time to actually read the book, every chapter, especially the last four chapters, you will find the book highly insightful.
This book has also given me a jumping-off point for reading countless other books and articles on the subject, such as William Banting's Letter on Corpulence, A. W. Pennington's journal articles, Herman Taller's Calories Don't Count, or Atkins's New Diet Revolution.
My experience has mirrored the claims in the book. Over the last three months, I have lost 20+ pounds very easily, all with no exercise and no feeling of hunger, just by eating more meat, cheese, nuts, and less breads, pasta, sweets. The whole time, my only exercise was reading (this book, and a few others). I should also note that my full time work requires little or no labor....more info
- An interesting read, but flawed
In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes argues that we've gotten it wrong - that fat doesn't cause obesity, that saturated fat isn't bad for us, and that the dietary recommendations suggesting carbohydrates being the foundation of our diets are based upon faulty science.
Taubes takes these positions mainly based upon holes he pokes in the studies that seem to demonstrate the opposite of his position. There are several problems with this:
1. We don't have studies on diet that prove causality because we don't do double blind tests with diet (people know what they are eating). Just because we haven't proven causality doesn't mean that the opposite is more likely. In cases like this, you must look at the weight of the evidence.
2. If one is going to debate the validity of the studies suggesting that something is true, to be honest, one must hold any studies that suggest the opposite to the same standard. Taubes does not do this. In fact, I would argue that most of the studies he sites to prove his points are of much lower quality than those he criticizes.
3. You cannot set out with the intention of proving a particular viewpoint when doing a survey of the available research without biasing your opinion or view on the matter (related to #2). Taubes' funding for Good Calories, Bad Calories came from a publisher that wanted him to write a book based upon his What if it's all Been a Big Fat Lie? article in the New York Times during the height of the Atkins diet craze. Naturally, Taubes set out to prove the same points he suggested were true in this article.
4. Taubes seems to "twist" the perspective of the data he is presenting. For example, he states that the percentage of fat in the American diet has actually fallen in the past few decades, while obesity has increased dramatically. What he fails to mention is that TOTAL calories actually increased and the amount of fat (as well as everything else) increased as well. It's this sort of convenient omission of details that lend less credibility to his arguments.
5. He cites numerous epidemiological studies and observations to prove his points. For example, he notes that Vilhjalmur Stefansson lived with native Eskimos for years and observed them eating a diet consisting almost entirely of animal fat and protein and that these people had low incidence of disease. Modern studies will show you that these people suffer epidemic proportions of osteoporosis. In other words, individual observation is not nearly as powerful as population study.
6. Then we come to the organizations that Taubes cites and even thanks at the end of his book. Two of these that stood out in my mind were The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS). The WAPF is a group that bases its entire existence around the "studies" of a dentist named Weston Price that traveled the world and observed the teeth of various native peoples. He noted that people eating their native diets had less tooth decay and went on to note such odd things as face "elongation" being a sign of health. We now know that sugar causes tooth decay. That should have been the end of it, but the WAPF has twisted these observations to mean that we should all eat lots of fat and drink raw milk (despite the fact that none of the people Price visited did so). THINCS is a network of folks who all believe that the basic idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease is wrong. For many of the same reasons I feel Taubes' arguments have problems, I feel THINCS's arguments do as well. These organizations are both considered "fringe" by the scientific community. Certainly, if they have something of value to provide to the nutrition discussion, they should invest their efforts in funding studies and getting them published. That's how progress is made in the scientific community, not by standing on the sidelines and screaming "that's not right!!"
- Most life-changing book I've ever read
From the anecdotal evidence of one (myself) I've long believed that low carb diets were the way to go, after discovering the original Protein Power book by the Drs. Eades in 1997 and losing 80 pounds on it over the next 14 months. I loved the PP book as it did present actual science, rather than the more overhyped sales pitch of Atkins. I felt better on it, and all my blood lipids and other health indicators improved too. But all the overwhelming "conventional dietary wisdom" blasting me from all sides eventually eroded my confidence in the low carb plan and after maintaining my weight loss for 2 1/2 years I fell back to the dark side, and ended up regaining all the weight I had lost plus the proverbial "and then some".
In the intervening few years I've made half-hearted attempts to go back to low carb, but it took Taubes to finally give me the kick in the seat of the pants I needed to make a whole-hearted commitment. I bought this book, without having heard anything about the controversy surrounding it, because it popped up on one of my amazon "recommended" lists. Little did I know it would change my world forever!
As others have said this is a dense and challenging read. It's not for everyone, but it was absolutely for me. The closet nerd in me loves being absolutely overwhelmed with relentless facts and figures. To those who say there was too much of that in this book I can only say, "Bring on more!" and despite the book's size I could happily have read one twice as long.
Other reviewers have given wonderful reviews of the actual facts presented by Taubes. I won't repeat them all, and can't give details anyway as I have lent the book to my son. The basic premise, as mentioned many times, is that the "low fat" dogma proposed as the healthiest way of eating for many years now, is predicated on totally flawed and biased data pushed hard by a strong-willed personality, and that it is sugars and refined carbs that are the more likely villains in the onward march of the "diseases of civilization".
Once again I can return to low carb eating without having to feel I need to be defensive about it to all and sundry, though *most* folks still take me to task for eating this way. How I wish they could all read this book. But because of Taubes I am now back on a journey to good health. I still have 45 pounds to go just to get back the low I had reached in 1998, but now I have the conviction that I have the tools and the absolute knowledge, both intellectual knowledge as well as mere "gut" knowledge, to get there and surpass there, and *continue* to eat this way life-long.
As a last point, as others have said, this is *not* a diet. If it convinces you to go low carb there are other books that will tell you how to actually go about it. My personal recommendation is the "Protein Power Lifestyle Plan" by the Drs. Eades - possibly because their own stress on the science of why low carb works appeals also to my inner nerd.
And as for preparing my food, the second most life-changing book I have read is "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon - the best cookbook ever. I don't agree with Fallon on many points - far too much sugar and white flour allowed in various recipes, and I don't feel that chocolate (dark bittersweet), caffeine or wine are inherently evil. But she made me look at *all* food with a new eye. These days I'm preparing everything from scratch. I can't even buy bottled salad dressing and condiments anymore after reading the labels.
So go out now and read Taubes for the WHY, then read Eades and Fallon for the HOW. ...more info
- great book!
My son, a phys ed major and personal trainer, took this book back to school with him, leaving my 82-yr-old father, a retired chiropractor and nutrition expert, heartbroken. So I bought it for my father's birthday, and he says it's one of the best he's ever read....more info
- awesome product
a great eye opener for everyone
if you eat, you need to read this book TODAY!...more info
- Not a diet book
I thought this was a diet book but it's not. It's a history of how the people who recommend what to eat came to their conclusions. The book is interesting and full of good information with 70 pages of sources cited. The book was a bit much for me. I could have gotten by with just an executive summary....more info
- Important Book, But Not the Whole Story
As is noted in other reviews, this is not a diet book. Rather, it is a review of the science and history behind high-carb vs. low-carb diets. Taubes' book is an important contribution to this literature, but it is not without its flaws.
Taubes makes a compelling case for why high-carb diets high in sugar, bread, rice, etc. may have contributed to a host of diseases of civilization (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.) and progressively worsening national obesity rates. He explains how high-carb diets heighten insulin, which may be the real driver of weight gain. This is familiar territory that is well covered in other books, but Taubes makes a decent contribution.
But Taubes over-reaches in several areas. First, while Taubes makes the usual case that insulin is a major contributor to both hunger and increased body fat, and that elevated insulin blocks fat loss, he overstates the importance of carbohydrates as the sole contributor to insulin production. First, while Taubes notes the existence of anticipatory insulin secretion, even before anything is eaten (called the cephalic response), he fails to note that this insulin secretion will drive fat storage regardless of the macro nutrients that are actually eaten. Insulin is also triggered by smelling or even thinking about food, the latter of which is probably the reason I often get hungry when reading diet books (grin).
Moreover, while carbohydrates elevate insulin more than the other macronutrients, they are far from the sole contributor. Protein, an important component of any low-carb diet, generates about 60% of the insulin production of carbs on a gram for gram basis. Most meat, which has little or no carbohydrate content, nevertheless generates a very significant insulin response. While protein also spurs an increase in glucagon (normally thought of as a fat-reducing hormone), in this case glucagon is merely helping to break the protein down into glucose, which is necessary before insulin can do its thing. For more about insulin production, Google "Insulin Index" to see the true insulin production associated with different types of food.
These analyses show that just about every food heightens insulin, and the differences between foods are not quite as large as most low-carb practitioners would expect. To truly reduce insulin production, you must do more than just change the macro-nutrient balance, you must also reduce the amount of food consumed. In other words, you not only need to reduce carbohydrates, you must also control calories.
This leads us to Taubes' second over-reach, the claim that calories don't matter. Taubes does a good job outlining the poor track record of low-fat, calorie-controlled diets and also why they fail, namely that elevated insulin levels on these diets are blocking fat loss and, in fact, contributing to fat storage. A lot of bodily wreckage occurs as a result of the battle between heightened insulin and calorie constriction, including a drop in metabolism, obsession with food, depression, and loss of sexual appetite, to name a few, all of which suggest we are doing something wrong. Not surprisingly, insulin usually wins these battles in the end.
But the failure of calorie control on a low-fat, high carb diet does not mean that it will also necessarily fail on a low-carb diet. Once the barrier of heightened insulin is removed, calorie restriction may once again become a viable option. Taubes himself illustrates this when he cites the success of studies that restricted both carbohydrates and calories simultaneously (such as Ohlson's). Taubes points out that hunger was lessened on low-carb calorie-restricted diets, so the two approaches complement one another, but that does not make calorie restriction irrelevant or unimportant. Even Atkins accepted the need to control calorie intake, though he did not highlight this very clearly.
A similar case can be made for exercise, probably the third over-reach in this book. Taubes makes a point of indicating how little evidence there is that exercise helps with fat loss in the long run. But it is worth noting that the evidence that Taubes cites is all in the context of a high-carb, "balanced" diet. This is a repeat of the error made with calorie control. The failure of exercise on a high-carb diet does not mean that it will also fail once elevated insulin levels are removed during a low-carb diet. But Taubes doesn't explore the impact of exercise in a low-carb environment. He also doesn't differentiate between weight training and aerobic exercise. Weight training in particular seems to also have a number of beneficial hormonal side effects that influence fat loss, especially for men.
The limits of low-carb diets as a stand-alone strategy become more clear when you look at who is experiencing the greatest success on low carb diets, namely those who are the most obese. Stories of people losing 50-100 pounds on Atkins are common enough, but the underlying reality is that those people had 50-100 pounds to lose, and usually much more. What is notable about this group is that overall they often have the worst dietary habits to begin with, so any improvement in their diet is relatively easy to make and will result in dramatic weight loss. This more or less fits the description of the patients that Pennington, Donaldson, and Atkins himself treated with their low carb approach. What is notable, in my observation, is that many of these people achieve major weight loss on their way from obese to merely overweight, but they often plateau well short of their ideal weight if they rely on low-carb diets alone.
In short, it seems that the closer you get to your ideal weight, the more you may need to do. Dietary composition is one tool, and probably the most important, but it probably must also be supplemented by calorie control and exercise to achieve optimal body fat and fitness.
Taubes' book is a very interesting and important contribution to the literature, but it is merely a step along our journey to understanding obesity and health. In fairness to Taubes, he does not argue that he has all the answers, merely that the prevailing wisdom deserves some serious questioning. In this, Taubes is absolutely right. Our knowledge of these matters should be driven by science, not faith-based assumptions, which too often is the case....more info
- Statistically conclusive Science
Finally someone just points out the facts without bias with extreme caution. He is constantly searching for good science, which most people have no idea how is executed. He simply points out the flaws of the research in the past and how it should be done in the future. He never goes into a specific diet but does implicate refined carbohydrates as primary suspects for diseases of civilization....more info
- This I know to be True
I have been in the fitness industry for over 20 years and what Taubes says I have found to be true time and time again. Each person I have wrote a diet for and or personal trained is and has been overweight and or over fat due to starch. I have never met a carnivor, green vejetable eater who is fat or unhealthy. I myself did the anabolic (simular to the adkins) diet 12 years ago and was in the best shape of my life and did little cardio. Years earlier I did a "fat free" diet and did excess cardio and lost a lot of muscle. This book is spot on. All my clients who are diabetic or pre-diabetic ALL have one thing in common. Love of starch. I wanted to write a book 13 years ago on this and was too lazy to do the research. Anyone who says anything negative about this book has little if any experience in the industry and or has never done the Adkin's diet. Most people think the Adkins is bacon and eggs and cheese. It is not. It is full of vejetables and low glycemic carbs, fish and all the foods that feed one's lean body NOT one's fat body. I am telling you, his book is spot on. Everything he says I have found to be true in all my experience in 20 years of helping people loose fat. ...more info
- A Life-Changing Experience of Einsteinian weight but on a personal level
There are books that inform. There are books that educate. There are books that prescribe. Some books inspire. This is one of those.
In the accumulation of wisdom the most useful tool is an overarching explanation of a serious matter whether it is Warren Buffet explaining the core principles of successful investing or Albert Einstein giving us the key to understanding the universe.
Mr. Taubes has drawn together many threads of knowledge of human metabolism into a coherent explanation of how modern diet impacts us. I have, so far, bought three copies for relatives and friends.
By necessity, in order to influence the bastions of conventional wisdom, it is academic in tone and dry in its delivery. But those that read it with an open mind will gain immeasurably from the experience.
And the four star rating? A bit more editing could have made the information more easily digestible.
- Well written and well argued.
Does a good job articulating how nutrition and diet research has been full of bad science....more info
- A Great Read
Loved the book. I plan on implementing this information into my lifestyle and hoping the endometreosis will clear. Considering all the alternatives... ...more info
- "It's the insulin, stupid"
I first heard Gary Taubes interviewed on Canadian CBC radio in the Fall of 2007. I laughed and I laughed and I laughed... How could someone who was so clearly ignorant of nutrition and health be invited to appear on the venerable science show "Quirks and Quarks"? Another one of those Atkins nutcases- "Why don't they just go away!" I fumed.
Anyway, some months later I picked up a copy, mainly to show Peggy-Sue that I was still open to others' opinions (hers). I was hooked right from the opening pages. It is not a light-hearted read, but I couldn't put it down. I should add that I am a bit of a science geek, have a PhD in engineering (why is everyone surprised about that?), and a long term interest in nutrition. I have to admit that back in the 80's as a younger man I totally bought into the Pritikin low-fat diet, and until recently was a whole-grain, low fat, semi-vegetarian kind of guy.
I found Gary Taubes writing, logic and conclusions so compelling, there was only one option - undertake a personal experiment. It was pretty obvious what was needed to be done. I did consult Atkins, South Beach and a few other "diet" books for some "how-to" tips, but basically cut out sugar, bread, rice, beer (sigh) etc, and focused on fish, meat, nuts, dairy and vegetables. It was almost scary at first, taking that first sinful mouthful of roast chicken with the skin on!
Now in my mid 40's I have been experiencing a few of those problems that seem to plague men of a certain age. Weight starting to creep up, midnight trips to the bathroom, poor quality sleep, unstable blood sugar, and also rather severe reflux (GERD), for which I had begun to take prescription proton pump inhibitors. I was on the basic middle-age downhill run. Since cutting right back on sugar and starchy carbs the weight just fell off over a few months, effortlessly, with no hunger. I'm down about 20lbs and look better in a pair of speedos than any man my age has a right to *wink*. I don't even really get hungry anymore, not in the "God give me a muffin right now before I collapse" way. My reflux is gone, completely, 100% cured. No more prescription antacids. I sleep like a baby, and rarely make a nighttime trip to the bathroom. Pegs' reaction whenever I take off my shirt (OMG!) makes it all worthwhile. She claims I have the heart and circulatory system of a 25 year old.
Good Calories, Bad Calories is primarily a science book, not a diet book, and is targeted at least partly at the medical profession. Taubes is careful to frame his conclusions largely as hypotheses that require further clinical study. Those looking primarily for a low-carb diet book might want to look elsewhere. A good place to start is Living the Low Carb Life: Controlled Carbohydrate Eating for Long-Term Weight Loss by Jonny Bowden. I am also impressed with Diane Schwartzbein The Schwarzbein Principle, The Program: Losing Weight the Healthy Way. Both these books provide a good overview of the science, and are an easy read. And if you are going to "do Atkins", then fer Gawd's sake read his books!
This is a powerful read that cause me to discard some deeply-held convictions about diet and nutrition. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Congratulations to Mr Taubes for an outstanding contribution. Now, if I could only get Peggy-Sue (nee Gubermann) to cut back on the bagels, rugoleh and matzo balls, our life together would be perfect.
Dirk Manly (not real name)
- Good Calories Bad Calories an eye opener
I found the information in this book more than complete and for someone in the fitness industry a wonderful resource.
Well Done Dr. Taubes!...more info
- Great learning read
This book is a wonderful and shocking learning experience, anyone who is a fan of Michael Pollan's work will get the background of from where he speaks....more info
- Great Book!
A very well written book by an outstanding journalist committed to the practice of good science. I can't say enough good things about this book. Yes, it's a slow read. There is a lot of information to digest, so to speak, but it is worth it. I just finished reading it a second time.
Gary Taubes deserves thanks for having the courage to write about a subject that, knowing the supporters of the conventional wisdom, has probably caused him to now be labeled a quack. Taubes is no quack and I can't imagine a finer writer/researcher to put your trust in. I encourage you to buy and read this book....more info
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