Saturday, October 20, 2007

"GoodCalories, Bad Calories"

Before I get into my review, I want to make this qualifying statement. This is not a "diet book". It is a book written by an esteemed science journalist. Gary Taubes is a correspondent for Science magazine. The only print journalist to have won three Science in Society Journalism awards, given by the National Association of Science Writers, he has contributed articles to The Best American Science Writing 2002 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000 and 2003. He is not just another diet guru trying to sell a book. In this groundbreaking book, the result of seven years of research in every science connected with the impact of nutrition on health, award-winning science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong.

If there is one book I would recommend everyone to read it would be this one. It is a long book and very detailed as far as the science goes. But Taubes does a good job at breaking it all down so anyone can understand it. It's not a "light" read by any stretch of the imagination. He picks apart many of the held beliefs when it comes to nutrition. Even showing how many studies are twisted around to prove the exact opposite of what the press release stated. All of this done to not go against mainstream thinking.

One of my favorite parts has to do with appetite, weight gain and eating. As someone who was formerly morbidly obese, I dealt with the notions from others that I was fat because I was just lazy and sat around stuffing myself all day. Taubes turns things upside down by claiming you eat too much as a result of getting fat.

Whoa!! Wait a minute. That makes no sense......Well actually, if you look at the explanation in the book you will see it makes perfect sense. Dr McCleary explains it better than I ever could:

Why is appetite so important? We need to eat to survive. When animals are offered diet chow in a solution they drink enough to meet their bodily energy requirements. When water is added, they drink more of the solution; but the same number of calories. Hence we eat because of the need to deliver the appropriate level of nutrition to the cells of our bodies. We can use calories in the form of protein, fat or carbohydrate. However, to be utilized they must be made available to the active cells. Since we don't eat when we sleep, we must overeat during the waking hours to compensate for the nocturnal period of fasting. As this is done, we store what we don't metabolize in our adipose tissue (fat stores). During sleep periods or between meals, the fat must be released from our fat cells into the circulation for delivery to the active cells throughout the body. If this doesn't happen and the fat is confined in our storage depots, we can't access the nutrients we require and become hungry. Since the body can't discriminate calories coming out of storage from what we eat, our appetite increases and feeding is initiated.

What is the controlling factor that prevents fat from being released by the fats cells? It is an enzyme (functional protein) that transports fat out of the adipose cell and into the bloodstream. Think of it as a switch that can be turned off and on. When turned off, fat stays where it is. When turned on, it is released into the blood to be burned in the cellular furnaces of the heart, muscles, brain and other organs. Unfortunately the switch gets stuck in the off position. What determines this is the level of the hormone insulin in the bloodstream. Not only does insulin regulate blood sugar levels by transporting sugar out of the blood into muscle cells, it also acts as the fat storage hormone. So, in a sense, weight gain is a hormonal problem. The hormone responsible is not low thyroid levels, but high insulin levels. Thus, the key to successful weight loss is to release fat from fat tissue instead of eating more. Low insulin levels do just that.

Looking at things another way, if we very effectively store food in our fat cells, we will need to eat more to met our metabolic energy needs. It is as if the body is blind to the calories stored as fat if it has no access to them. All that is required is the ability to make them available, which means letting them move into the bloodstream. This involves turning on the fatty transport switch by lowering insulin levels. Insulin levels are determined by carbohydrate levels. The way to think about the process is sugar raises insulin levels, which prevent the release of calories stored in adipose tissue, which prevents us from using them as a fuel source, which increases appetite, which makes us eat more. So it is the storage of fat that drives us to eat more, not the consumption of excess calories that drives obesity.
So we get fat because we eat too many carbs---carbs turn to fat when not used. And the more carbs we eat the hungrier we are. The hungrier we are the more we eat and the fatter we get. So by limiting your carb intake you lower your insulin which lets fat cells be used for energy and you lose weight.

The 11 Critical Conclusions of Good Calories, Bad Calories:

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, does not cause heart disease.
2. Carbohydrates do, because of their effect on the hormone insulin. The more easily-digestible and refined the carbohydrates and the more fructose they contain, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.
3. Sugars—sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful. The glucose in these sugars raises insulin levels; the fructose they contain overloads the liver.
4. Refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are also the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other common chronic diseases of modern times.
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.
7. Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.
8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.
9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.
10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.
Taubes has really done a wonderful job with the science research behind this book. But you don't have to take my word for it. Read the book yourself. Also check out some of these other reviews. There are many. Not all are positive. You should be given all the info and decide yourself on the facts. The best way is to read the book yourself.

I warned you there would be many of these to look at. But once again READ THE BOOK!!! Ten you will be able to make an informed decision about your health and nutrition.


Anonymous said...

I agree with this completely, thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Gary proves that all the credentials in the world do not mean that the information someone reports and his/her beliefs are correct. He got #1,6,7 right. The rest is garbage science that has been disproven for decades.

Unknown said...


Taubes as documented in his book all th science that supports his conclusions. Which leaves me to believe by your comment that you have not read the book. Carbs ARE the cause of the majority of todays diseases. So the rest of the points are well proven by decades of science. Not the other way around as you concluded.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I am a medical professional who has spent 30 years in research on obesity and nutrition. But you are welcome believe a journalist who has carefully picked and chosen and spun the data to support his low-carb beliefs.

Unknown said...

I do not believe Taubes has spun the data. It is the interests of the food industry and the pharmaceutical industries who have consistently done this.

I am a medical professional with over 20 years experience myself. Not that being a medical professional actually means anything. Just because someone has a string of letters behind their name does not mean they are better qualified. Nor do they know more than anyone else.

I also believe in the anthropological dietary history of man. Which happens to be one without carbohydrates. I am also living proof that a carb restricted, high fat dietary approach works.

Being a journalist has nothing to do with not being able to interpret data properly. In fact it lends him more credibility in my book. He does not have an agenda to push as researchers, nutritionists, scientists, and physicians do. He just states the facts of the data.

Unknown said...

Well said BG!

Gary Taubes also is not anonymous... ;)