Customer Reviews for

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

22 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

This book changed my life

I never buy diet books but one day last fall I was in my favorite Barnes and Noble browsing magazines when I saw this book on the cover of either Time or Newsweek. The odds are better than 50/50 that a magazine I take off the shelf will end up in my basket. That one di...
I never buy diet books but one day last fall I was in my favorite Barnes and Noble browsing magazines when I saw this book on the cover of either Time or Newsweek. The odds are better than 50/50 that a magazine I take off the shelf will end up in my basket. That one didn't. In less than a minute, it was back on the shelf and I was roaming the store for this book. The odds are much lower that a book I take off the shelf will get to my basket. This one did.

I had thought that low carb was a just a fad--another way for writers to make money from desperate dieters. This book convinced me that I was wrong. Mr. Taubes carefully explains why low carb works and why other diets don't.

Beware! The is not an easy book to read--there is a lot of detail and it is dry. However, it is well researched and proves its thesis that low carb diets are healthy while low fat diets are not.

This is not a diet book. There are no rules, schedules or recipes. It is a history of the science of nutrition and diets. Step by step, it talks about the conflict between the 2 competing ideas of low carb versus low fat, and how low fat became popular even though science does not back it up. You learn not only about diets, but also about how science should work and why it often fails.

After starting to read this book, my husband and I went low carb and it is working well for us. His battle with type 2 diabetes is going better. We're losing weight. Blood work is better. All the measurable signs of health of better.

I'm the type of person who doesn't like blind rules. I want to know why and this book clearly gives that info. I know why we need to eat low carb forever, something that makes it much easier to do.

posted by 969065 on February 10, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

The premise is a sham

In full disclosure: I was skeptical going into this book. It was worse than I thought it would be. Here's why: Gary Taubes kicked the Atkins craze off several years ago with an article that's almost identical to this book in the NY Times magazine. At the time, the a...
In full disclosure: I was skeptical going into this book. It was worse than I thought it would be. Here's why: Gary Taubes kicked the Atkins craze off several years ago with an article that's almost identical to this book in the NY Times magazine. At the time, the article was thoroughly debunked by all sorts of people with real scientific/nutrition credibility. It's really worth reading Sally Squires article 'Experts Declare Story Low on Saturated Facts' (just Google search the title) which goes through point by point all the real science that proves Taubes utterly wrong. But the refutations were drowned out for two reasons: 1) people love it when someone tells them they can eat foods that are bad for them (bacon, lots of chicken, etc) and 2) it makes an intriguing story (even if it's wrong) when you say that all the scientists who study nutrition seriously are confused and wrong and claim to be the renegade/savior 'who knows the truth'. The evidence is overwhelming that saturated fat is bad for you. The evidence is overwhelming that a plant-based diet (instead of a meaty/fat-based one that Taubes recommends) is the best action one can take to reduce one's risk of heart disease, many types of cancer, etc. There's no room here to list all of the scientific studies that shred Taubes' claims, but before you start acting on his potentially dangerous diet suggestions, I'd urge you to research it well for yourself and read some opposing opinions, like Squires' article.

posted by Anonymous on November 30, 2007

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    This book changed my life

    I never buy diet books but one day last fall I was in my favorite Barnes and Noble browsing magazines when I saw this book on the cover of either Time or Newsweek. The odds are better than 50/50 that a magazine I take off the shelf will end up in my basket. That one didn't. In less than a minute, it was back on the shelf and I was roaming the store for this book. The odds are much lower that a book I take off the shelf will get to my basket. This one did.<BR/><BR/>I had thought that low carb was a just a fad--another way for writers to make money from desperate dieters. This book convinced me that I was wrong. Mr. Taubes carefully explains why low carb works and why other diets don't. <BR/><BR/>Beware! The is not an easy book to read--there is a lot of detail and it is dry. However, it is well researched and proves its thesis that low carb diets are healthy while low fat diets are not. <BR/><BR/>This is not a diet book. There are no rules, schedules or recipes. It is a history of the science of nutrition and diets. Step by step, it talks about the conflict between the 2 competing ideas of low carb versus low fat, and how low fat became popular even though science does not back it up. You learn not only about diets, but also about how science should work and why it often fails. <BR/><BR/>After starting to read this book, my husband and I went low carb and it is working well for us. His battle with type 2 diabetes is going better. We're losing weight. Blood work is better. All the measurable signs of health of better.<BR/><BR/>I'm the type of person who doesn't like blind rules. I want to know why and this book clearly gives that info. I know why we need to eat low carb forever, something that makes it much easier to do.

    22 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    A reviewer

    If what he implies is true, many people will respond with hostility to what he says, however, I would point out that this author really seems to have done his homework. 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. This book is backed with solid research by a respected scientist-reporter on concrete, tangible things we can do to improve our health. The background and politics of how the publicly 'acceptable' diet to lower heart disease came to be is both fascinating and a great read for anyone...especially if you question governmental political spins. I recommend this book to everyone who wants some solid information on how to take control of their own health.

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2008

    A must read for those interested in diet and health

    I've been interested in diet and health for many years since my cholesterol started to rise. My family has a tendency for high cholesterol and some heart disease. My doctor prescribed the typical low fat AHA diet and exercise and, frankly it did help. But I had to exercise like a demon and really watch what I ate to lose weight and get the cholesterol down. It was a constant fight. My weight and cholesterol crept back up until the cholesterol was worse than ever even though the weight wasn't. I basically ate OK 'according to the common wisdom', watching the fat, eating whole grains, etc. My family had a lot of success with low carb but I was skeptical and did a lot of reading. This was before Good Calories, Bad Calories came out. I was inspired by the Paleo Diet idea of eating a pre-agriculture diet and decided to base my diet mostly on paleo concepts about the time GCBC came out. I lost about 18 pounds in two months without exercising and without feeling hungry. I just got my blood results back and down 40 points total cholesterol and about 120 in triglycerides. Everything else improved as well. All while eating high fat foods such as meats, nuts, eggs and plenty of oils for cooking and salads. GCBC explains why I, and many others, have had these sort of results. The 'fat hypothesis' as Mr. Taubes calls it, is most likely wrong. The 'carbohydrate hypothesis' fits the data much better and the book goes into great detail as to why that is. It is a fascinating read, almost more like reading a novel than a health book. It contains as much history and sociology as science and medicine. The comments about it being debunked are sheer nonsense. I read the so-called debunking articles and they all make strawmen of Mr. Taubes' ideas that do not represnt what he actually says. GCBC is a very well written and well researched book. About one fifth of the pages of the book are notes and bibliography. One comment I will make is that it can be a difficult book to read in some ways due to Mr. Taubes' style of writing. For one he can be overly dramatic at times which opens him up to criticism. Second, he tends to be very precise with language but sometimes states things in a way that can be easily misunderstood by those not paying careful attention. You need to read the book cvarefully to make sure you get what he is saying. Overall I would say this is an excellent book and a must read for those interested in or concerned about diet and health.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2008

    'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it'

    I am reading this book from the library and am so mad at the establishment, detailed in chap 23, that I'd be dangerous if I had anything in my hand. I am buying 5 books, one I will keep, the others to loan out/give. This book explains WHY low-fat/hi-carb diets can't work, and why the voices of lo-carb diets, some 100 years dead, have been hushed-up and glossed over. Why the Atkins worked for me, and why he was attacked for his diet. Wow, who'd a thunk a non-fiction book could get me so -insert profanity- angry!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommended

    This is an excellent book, as well as a "must read" for any professional who works with obesity or overweight clients. Nutritionists, medical personnel, trainers, athletic coaches, etc. should read this book. Taubes is an incredibly thorough researcher, who has a complete grasp on his subject material, and makes the science perfectly understandable to anyone with some intelligence. Taubes is not afraid to question the established ideas about nutrition, obesity, heart disease, and other so-called 'truths'; his mission seems to be to help the rest of us see the fallacy of our beliefs.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Must Read for Anyone Who Eats!

    This is a well researched work written by an expert from Science Magazine. Most importantly there is no bias or personal agenda. Mr. Taubes presents a well documented case for changing our entire outlook on foods and the eating choices we should make. If you are interested in your health, and if you eat, this is a must read, and should be shared with all those your care about!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Confirmed what I always suspected through observation

    Though I'm not a nutritionist, this book makes a lot of sense in terms of what I have observed throughout my life. At age 47, I have been thin my entire life and with good cholesterol numbers, despite the fact that I rarely pay attention to the amount of cholesterol or saturated fat that I consume (especially eggs which I love and consume--yolks and all--with almost total abandon). I'm sure that this book will infuriate a lot of people who will be unable to counter its claims factually, but who will have to resort to reiterating--but not supporting--the current quasi-religious nutritional high carb/low fat dogma. The premise of this book also supports the politically incorrect notion that eating red meat is O.K. nutritionally and perhaps even downright healthy. The Diet for A Small Planet folks sure won't like that idea being accepted. One aspect that I wish Mr. Taub had covered or at least mentioned is the effectiveness of the low-carbohydrate Ketogenic diet in treating epilepsy. The super high fat/extremely low carbohydrate Ketogenic diet was created and implemented at Johns Hopkins University during the 1920's to treat epilepsy. This diet has successfully treated many epileptics for over eighty years. It is less in favor today not because it is less effective than most anti-epileptic drugs, but because it is less convenient. I have always wondered how a high fat/low carb diet which is supposedly so 'unhealthy' for the heart can be so beneficial to at least some particular brains. This book touches on why this may be so, but it would be nice to have more details.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2008

    Eye Opening, Thorough and Disturbing

    I expected to read GCBC and come away with a good feeling about doing my LC diet (which I've lost 55 lbs with and maintained that loss for over a year with). I came away mad as hell. Mad at poor dead Ancel Keys. Mad at the low fat journalist. Mad at everyone who preaches low fat based on no facts. Mad at everyone who says, 'Eat less, move more.' At everyone who pushed volumetrics. At doctors who push statins. At the medical establishment in general. What if it has all been a big fat lie? Clearly, the results point to yes, yes it has been a big fat lie. PS- the article the above reviewer refers to is hard to google for, 5 years old, and written by a low fat advocating journalist. It also happens to have nothing to do with this book, and everything to do with the article that started the book. It is, in fact, low on facts.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2011

    Changed my way of thinking about food

    I have been on a diet pretty much since I was 13 years old. At my highest, I have been 50 lbs over my ideal weight.

    I have read "diet" books, even those that were low carb or food balancing and it never made much sense to me and the ideas in the books were too far fetched.

    After reading Goood Calories, Bad Calories, I have a new understanding of how food affects our bodies. Not just weight, but every part of our being.

    This is not a diet book, it is a book outlining clinical studies and tests from the 1800's to present day. It explains what we have been told about diet and exercise and why the current system does not work.

    I finished this book a few days ago and have changed my way of eating. I cut out processed carbs (things from boxes), and sugar. I have dropped 10 lbs in 10 days by doing nothing other than that.

    I have eaten small amounts of bread and potatoes, even a couple slices of pizza and the weight is melting off.

    I also have had problems with psuedolymphoma, which I had surgicall removed several years ago and which came back with a vengance. This also appears to be subsiding (see the part about cancer in this book).

    All in all, this is information that I will put to use everyday.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Quite possibly the greatest book on nutrition ever written

    This is not an easy read, but if you care about nutrition and the impact the food you eat has on your health then it is well worth the effort. The amount of research Taubes has done not only within the U.S. but across the globe on the diseases of the Western World is just staggering. He explains how we ended up with the leading authorities on nutrition in the U.S. advocating a low fat, high carbohydrate diet and the unintended consequences that have been borne by the population in the form of large increases in obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2007

    Extremely Important Reading for All, Especially Physicians

    The worsening epidemic of diabetes and obesity in the U.S. is the result of bad advice given by many physicians, nutritionists and public health officials. Gary Taubes analyzes the past 100 year history of nutritional research and lays it out in a logical sequence to show that we have taken the wrong road to health, thanks to misinterpretation of the research data and the lack of common sense. As a physician, I am astounded by the bad advice being given by many other physicians to their patients. It violates the rule of 'do no harm.' Some of the research presented in this book may be difficult to understand by some lay people, but the underlying message is so important, that it is a worthwhile reading for everyone. After reading the book, the best thing you can do is give it to your doctor. It should be required reading in all medical schools.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2012

    I finally "get" it. The book took me awhile to get thr

    I finally &quot;get&quot; it. The book took me awhile to get through. I
    appreciated every study and every page.I bought another for my doctor.
    Already my auto immune problems are gone. My blood sugars finally are
    normal. My cholesterol is wonderful. I am off of all meds. I feel 20
    years younger. Thank You Gary Taubes.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Must read, if interested in nutrition

    One of the best reads about nutrition and disease. Will change the way you think about food and the conventional wisdom we were taught to think about proper nutrition.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2012

    Sally Squires?

    I think that anyone who acts on the advice in this book should; 1., read Taube's original article, Sally Squires' critique, and Taube's rebuttal of that critique. Judge for yourself whether her issues are with Taube's premise, or with her misrepresentation of it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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