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Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet,… (1997)

de Gary Taubes

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9174017,239 (4.26)25
Not another diet book: After seven years of research in every science connected with the impact of nutrition on health, science writer Taubes shows that almost everything we believe about a healthy diet is wrong. We are taught that fat is bad for us, carbohydrates better, and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising more--yet we see unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues persuasively that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates, via their dramatic effect on insulin, and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. He also argues that there is no compelling scientific evidence that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. Based on the evidence, he concludes that the only healthy way to remain lean is to eat fewer carbohydrates or to change the type of carbohydrates we eat.--From publisher description.… (mais)
  1. 00
    Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think de Brian Wansink (infiniteletters)
  2. 01
    Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System de Alicia Juarrero (kukulaj)
    kukulaj: Juarrero's book studies the difference between a wink and a blink, developing a theoretical framework to help us understand that difference. Taubes's book is about whether fat accumulation is more like a wink or more like a blink. Obesity is a huge public health problem, so Taubes is doing a great service - but the book is missing a good theoretical framework, which makes its conclusions shaky. Juarrero could provide just the foundation that Taubes lacks.… (mais)
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50% done, so much detail! This book, combined with others have really encouraged my bias toward paleo centric diets. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
I assumed that this book is yet another fad diet, so took no interest in it until recently. Now, I see that is is a summary of research and anecdote over the last 150 years, showing that much of our conventional wisdom about diet is not supported by evidence. Nice neat theories about things such as fat and cholesterol being bad are way too simplistic. Supporters of those theories succumb to the confirmation bias tendency. Along that same line - there is a paucity of data supporting the current widely promulgated dietary recommendations.

A few snippets:

"Since 1984, the evidence that ... statins, are beneficial - proposition number one - has certainly blossomed, particularly regarding people at high risk of heart attack." "Saying that statins reduce heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol, ... is like saying that aspirin reduces heart-disease by reducing headaches." (Page 77)

A study by WHO concluded that "heart disease mortality was declining worldwide, but that decline was independent of cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or even smoking habits." (Page 79)

"Perhaps the simplest example of this kind of erroneous deduction is the common assumption that the cause of high blood pressure and hypertension is excess salt consumption." (Page 145) I have read one book that also mentioned that, for most people, salt is not the villain that modern medicine portrays it to be. (It was delightful reading and is: [b:Lot's Wife: Salt and the Human Condition|1064430|Lot's Wife Salt and the Human Condition|Sallie Tisdale|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1266479397s/1064430.jpg|1051073]). There is a more recent book that I have not read which might relate. ([b:Salt: A World History|2715|Salt A World History|Mark Kurlansky|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347586566s/2715.jpg|73206])

161-163 HDL is protective (Page 161-163). "But the 'good cholesterol' in HDL would be diminished by eating more carbohydrates" (Page 167) Perhaps I am an exception to this conclusion because I eat a high carbohydrate diet and have high HDL. The next few pages go on to explain that it dividing cholesterol into 'good' and 'bad' or HDL and LDL is a simplification that might be problematic. Krauss found 7 discrete subclasses of LDL and they have different properties. Large fluffy LDL is less dangerous. More fat leads to more fluffy, which leads to less heart disease risk.

"The Mythology of Obesity" - what an intriguing title for a chapter. He points out that the current obesity epidemic occurred at the same time as the 'fitness revolution.'

A very interesting book that got me doing some additional searching on Ketosis vs Ketoacidosis, that was even more interesting.

Surprising to me was that "Ketosis is often incorrectly described by nutritionists as 'pathological.' This confuses ketosis with the ketoacidosis of uncontrolled diabetes. The former is a normal condition; the later is not." (P 319) I did a search for Ketosis vs Ketoacidosis, and found a wealth of material confirming what I just read.

Consumption of carbohydrates require additional water, consumption of fat does not.

There is even an explanation of why obesity is most common among the poorest part of the population. (p 235)

Insulin is not just something that type 1 diabetics are missing, and type 2 diabetics are insensitive to. It is portrayed as a hormone that is much more heavily involved in shuttling energy containing molecules around in the body.

"By 2004, ... One in ten adult Americans had Type 2 diabetes - one in five over the age of sixty." (page 401)

I came to think of insulin very differently. It stated that although we think of fat as largely static, insulin is continually shuttling triglycerides into and out of adipose tissue. (I still wonder if insulin actually controls both directions, or if, as in so many body systems there are multiple hormones regulating it. Wikipedia support the book's claim of multiple actions.)

Here is more information on the various actions of insulin:
"Insulin acts on various cells in the body to accelerate facilitated diffusion of glucose into cells; to speed conversion of glucose into glycogen...; to increase uptake of amino acids by cells and to increase protein synthesis; to speed synthesis of fatty acids...; to slow the conversion of glycogen to glucose...; and to slow the formation of glucose from lactic acid and amino acids..." ([b:Principles of Anatomy and Physiology With A Brief Atlas of the Skeleton, Surface Anatomy, |3116081|Principles of Anatomy and Physiology With A Brief Atlas of the Skeleton, Surface Anatomy, |Gerard J. Tortora|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348237293s/3116081.jpg|2478404] page 671) Whew! Insulin does a lot!

Now that a week has elapsed since reading it, it gets moved up to 4 stars because I have been musing on this book ever since.

I also read and reviewed his book: [b:Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It|8727466|Why We Get Fat And What to Do About It|Gary Taubes|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320563681s/8727466.jpg|13600443], where I make some additional comments on the anti-carbohydrate thesis. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
Good, short summary of why we get fat.
  richardSprague | Mar 22, 2020 |
A scathing review of the state of nutritive science today. Taubes blasts a discipline rife with confirmation bias, yes-men (and women) and folks devoted to conventional thinking and for not paying heed to contradictory evidence. Science is imperfect, but the science of nutrition and diet is especially imperfect... and influenced by a healthy dose of politics. The sad part is that what we teach our children, and what is recommended to the public at large, is based on flimsy hypothesis and is leading to a fat, sick, diabetic, heart disease ridden populous with no end in sight.

I dropped the rating by one star simply because I think the editing needed to tighten the book up. It is very dense reading and will turn away folks not ready for the weight of the material. That being said, the rhetoric is damming, and almost needs this much material to ensure the point is made.

Excellent. And mostly satiating. :) ( )
  ErrantRuminant | Mar 13, 2020 |
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 bullshit.

Taubes makes critical errors throughout. The voluminous footnotes gives the appearance of a thorough researcher, but given that he generally misinterprets, slants and selectively quotes them all, the volume only serves to mask his bias. His foundation is equally problematic. Here is a very thorough recap

The current science shows that the makeup of the diet doesn't really matter. In other words, in the end, it really is just Calories In/Calories 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. ( )
  donblanco | Dec 4, 2019 |
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In the prevailing wisdom, a simple caloric imbalance is the culprit: we get fat because we consume more calories than we expend. The alternative is that excess weight and obesity, like all diseases of civilization, are caused by the singular hormonal effects of a diet rich in refined and easily digestible carbohydrates.
Certain conclusions seem inescapable to me, based on the existing knowledge:

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.
2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis -- the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.

3. Sugars -- sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically -- are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

4. Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.

5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating, and not sedentary behavior.

6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter, any more than it causes a child to grow taller. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.

7. Fattening and obseity are caused by an imbalance -- a disequilibrium -- in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses its balance.

8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated -- either chronically or after a meal -- we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.

9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.

10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
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Not another diet book: After seven years of research in every science connected with the impact of nutrition on health, science writer Taubes shows that almost everything we believe about a healthy diet is wrong. We are taught that fat is bad for us, carbohydrates better, and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising more--yet we see unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues persuasively that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates, via their dramatic effect on insulin, and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. He also argues that there is no compelling scientific evidence that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. Based on the evidence, he concludes that the only healthy way to remain lean is to eat fewer carbohydrates or to change the type of carbohydrates we eat.--From publisher description.

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