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Gary Taubes summarises Good Calories, Bad Calories in 10 short points

December 28, 2009

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes is one of the most in depth and well research health books of our time.  He goes into the history of how we came to many conclusions about diabetes, insulin, and the heart-fat hypothesis, and basically shows us that these hypothesis’ have many holes and in fact aren’t true.  The book is a great (but long) read, and well worth it if you’re after hard and solid facts and would like to know where the terms “artery clogging saturated fat” and “low fat diets” came from.  In an interview with The Daily Bell, Taubes summarises the 10 main findings in the book:

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 so 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 elevate 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 obesity are caused by an imbalance – a disequilibrium — in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat  metabolism: Fat synthesis and storage exceeds the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We  become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this 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 less 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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2010 6:32 am

    I have no argument with points 2-10. Point one, however, ignores the correlation between excessive omega-6 consumption and chronic disease. Google: “Why Omega-6 fats Matter to Your Health” and learn what Dr. Bill Lands thinks about the matter.

    • January 3, 2010 10:18 am

      If you follow Taubes recommended diet, you would get your Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance just about. In Lands video on youtube he suggests that some meats have very high Omega-6 ratio’s but doesn’t mention how those animals are raised. If they’re grain fed then they will have high levels of omega-6’s stored in their fats, so if you’re eating naturally raised animals, eating the food they are supposed to eat and being in a natural environment, the omega-6 to 3 ratio will be normal.

      Of course you can also supplement with fish oil (DHA and EPA) or Krill oil. I guess you could mention 20-30 other things associated with poor diets, but it all stems back to over consumption of refined carbohydrates.

  2. January 3, 2010 2:16 pm

    Hi Mick,

    You wrote, “I guess you could mention 20-30 other things associated with poor diets, but it all stems back to over consumption of refined carbohydrates.”

    Actually I’m just mentioning this one thing that is being ignored; excessive omega-6 consumption. Ask 20 people what they know about omega-6 fats and you’ll see what I mean. Almost all will have heard about omega-3 (fish or flax) oils but unless someone has actually been diagnosed with an omega-6 problem by an alternative medicine practitioner, the likelihood of any knowledge of omega-6 is nil.

    I got the refined carbohydrates out of my diet more than 30 years ago and thought I was doing great until I developed a skin ulcer on my shin 15 years ago. At the time I was consuming lots of mayonnaise and salad oil to make my salads and raw vegetables more palatable. But the mayonnaise and salad oil were made with soybean oil which is high in omega-6 fat. My immune system was hammered so bad that I’m still recovering from that incident. I recently cut out peanut butter after watching the Bill Lands video.

    We’re aware that grass fed meat is superior to grain fed in it’s fatty acid profile. And it would be nice if we could afford it. But right now our economic situation requires some compromise in terms of food quality. Moreover, taking omega-3 supplements is expensive and the research shows that omega-3 fats do not reduce the risk of heart attack. They only increase chances of surviving one. Best thing is to reduce intake of polyunsaturated fats of all kinds to about 1 or 2 percent of total caloric intake and roughly balance the proportions of omega-3 and omega-6.

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