Book Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes, 2007

Review by Wm Olkowski, Phd

This read is hailed as one of the most important public health books of the last 50 or so years.  Taubes took seven years to research the scientific literature back into the 1800’s, tracing the idea of what in the diet causes weight gain and cardiovascular problems.  The low fat hypothesis is dead in the water, as his work shows, but it may take another 30 years before the practicing physicians focus their attention on the carbohydrate question.  Nowadays if your cholesterol is over some magic number you get put on statins.  Certainly both Helga and I were so treated without notice to us in the ER and post op.  Note that it’s the release of glucose into the blood stream in excess of what is needed by the brain (ca. 100 calories per day) that puts fat on the body and prevents the use of the already stored fat.  Sure you can try burning the blood glucose off, over that needed by the brain, but it will take marathon-like activities.  Our bodies are very efficient and certainly know how to store energy as fat, since that was one of the most important survival mechanisms as we evolved and survived long-term droughts and ice ages.

According to Taubes, there is no scientific justification for the recommendation to advise people to eat a low-fat diet. This idea he traces to the presidential election and campaign headed by McGovern.  At that time a group of researchers formed to advise the candidate on public health policy, and they came up with the low-fat campaign.  This idea was being pushed by various researchers before definitive studies were done.  Almost the opposite should be the recommendation.   In fact, it may be better to focus on fat as the main energy source, with proteins next, and carbohydrates last, in declining priority for energy.  There are also good fats and bad fats, balanced proteins, good and bad carbos, depending upon your stage of progression to diabetes.  But high fructose corn syrup (principally in juices), and excessive use of white table sugar are really poisons.  There is just nothing good about those sugars except their taste. The empty carbos are simply bad for you, as they over stimulate the pancreas, producing, after years or decades, adult onset diabetes.  This disease is also called Syndrome X.

If you want the real science about fat and sugar in the diet read this book, but the next one will knock your socks off.


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