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

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Overview

For decades we have been taught that fat is bad for us, carbohydrates better, and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising more. Yet despite this advice, we have seen unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates, like white flour, easily digested starches, and sugars, and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. In this groundbreaking book, award-winning science writer Gary Taubes shows us...

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Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight, and Disease

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Overview

For decades we have been taught that fat is bad for us, carbohydrates better, and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising more. Yet despite this advice, we have seen unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates, like white flour, easily digested starches, and sugars, and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. In this groundbreaking book, award-winning science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer Prize winner himself, calls Good Calories, Bad Calories the most important book on diet and health to be published in the past 100 years: "If Taubes were a scientist rather than a gifted, resourceful science journalist, he would deserve and receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine." In this book, the award-winning science writer doesn't mince words about accepted wisdom regarding weight control. In his view, it's all one big fat lie. More specifically, he insists that fat is getting a bad rap; it's refined carbohydrates that are causing our ever-widening waistlines. To prove his point, he notes how the introduction of white flour, sugar, and easily digestible starches a century ago ushered in an age of obesity.
From the Publisher
“A vitally important book, destined to change the way we think about food.” —Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food“Gary Taubes is a brave and bold science journalist who does not accept conventional wisdom.” —The New York Times“A very important book.” —Dr. Andrew Weil “Brilliant and enlightening. . . . Taubes is a relentless researcher.” —The Washington Post“Easily the most important book on diet and health to be published in the past one hundred years. It is clear, fast-paced and exciting to read, rigorous, authoritative, and a beacon of hope for all those who struggle with problems of weight regulation and general health.” —Richard Rhodes“A watershed. . . . Lucid and lively. . . . It could literally change the way you eat, the way you look and how long you live.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune“Taubes tackles the subject with the seriousness and scientific insight it deserves, building a devastating case against the low-fat, high-carb way of life endorsed by so many nutrition experts in recent years.” —Barbara Ehrenreich
Gina Kolata
Gary Taubes is a brave and bold science journalist who does not accept conventional wisdom. In Good Calories, Bad Calories, he says what he wants is a fair hearing and rigorous testing for ideas that might seem shocking…much of what Taubes relates will be eye-opening to those who have not closely followed the science, or lack of science, in this area…[he] convincingly shows that much of what is believed about nutrition and health is based on the flimsiest science.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Taubes's eye-opening challenge to widely accepted ideas on nutrition and weight loss is as provocative as was his 2001 NewYork Times Magazinearticle, "What if It's All a Big Fat Lie?" Taubes (Bad Science), a writer for Science magazine, begins by showing how public health data has been misinterpreted to mark dietary fat and cholesterol as the primary causes of coronary heart disease. Deeper examination, he says, shows that heart disease and other "diseases of civilization" appear to result from increased consumption of refined carbohydrates: sugar, white flour and white rice. When researcher John Yudkin announced these results in the 1950s, however, he was drowned out by the conventional wisdom. Taubes cites clinical evidence showing that elevated triglyceride levels, rather than high total cholesterol, are associated with increased risk of heart disease-but measuring triglycerides is more difficult than measuring cholesterol. Taubes says that the current U.S. obesity "epidemic" actually consists of a very small increase in the average body mass index. Taube's arguments are lucid and well supported by lengthy notes and bibliography. His call for dietary "advice that is based on rigorous science, not century-old preconceptions about the penalties of gluttony and sloth" is bound to be echoed loudly by many readers. Illus. (Oct. 2)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400033461
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/23/2008
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 71,226
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Taubes is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine and a contributing editor at Technology Review. He has written about science, medicine, and health for Science, Discover, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Fortune, Forbes, and GQ. His articles have appeared in The Best American Science Writing three times. He has won three Science-in-Society Journalism Awards given by the National Association of Science Writers—the only print journalist so recognized—as well as awards from the American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society. His book Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He was educated at
Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue: A Brief History of Banting

Farinaceous and vegetable foods are fattening, and saccharine matters are especially so….In sugar-growing countries the negroes and cattle employed on the plantations grow remarkably stout while the cane is being gathered and the sugar extracted. During this harvest the saccharine juices are freely consumed; but when the season is over, the superabundant adipose tissue is gradually lost.
–Thomas Hawkes Tanner, The Practice of Medicine, 1869

William Banting was a fat man. In 1862, at age sixty-six, the five-foot-five Banting, or “Mr. Banting of corpulence notoriety,” as the British Medical Journal would later call him, weighed in at over two hundred pounds. “Although no very great size or weight,” Banting wrote, “still I could not stoop to tie my shoe, so to speak, nor attend to the little offices humanity requires without considerable pain and difficulty, which only the corpulent can understand.” Banting was recently retired from his job as an upscale London undertaker; he had no family history of obesity, nor did he consider himself either lazy, inactive, or given to excessive indulgence at the table. Nonetheless, corpulence had crept up on him in his thirties, as with many of us today, despite his best efforts. He took up daily rowing and gained muscular vigor, a prodigious appetite, and yet more weight. He cut back on calories, which failed to induce weight loss but did leave him exhausted and beset by boils. He tried walking, riding horseback, and manual labor. His weight increased. He consulted the best doctors of his day. He tried purgatives and diuretics. His weight increased.

Luckily for Banting, he eventually consulted an aural surgeon named William Harvey, who had recently been to Paris, where he had heard the great physiologist Claude Bernard lecture on diabetes. The liver secretes glucose, the substance of both sugar and starch, Bernard had reported, and it was this glucose that accumulates excessively in the bloodstream of diabetics. Harvey then formulated a dietary regimen based on Bernard’s revelations. It was well known, Harvey later explained, that a diet of only meat and dairy would check the secretion of sugar in the urine of a diabetic. This in turn suggested that complete abstinence from sugars and starches might do the same. “Knowing too that a saccharine and farinaceous diet is used to fatten certain animals,” Harvey wrote, “and that in diabetes the whole of the fat of the body rapidly disappears, it occurred to me that excessive obesity might be allied to diabetes as to its cause, although widely diverse in its development; and that if a purely animal diet were useful in the latter disease, a combination of animal food with such vegetable diet as contained neither sugar nor starch, might serve to arrest the undue formation of fat.”

Harvey prescribed the regimen to Banting, who began dieting in August 1862. He ate three meals a day of meat, fish, or game, usually five or six ounces at a meal, with an ounce or two of stale toast or cooked fruit on the side. He had his evening tea with a few more ounces of fruit or toast. He scrupulously avoided any other food that might contain either sugar or starch, in particular bread, milk, beer, sweets, and potatoes. Despite a considerable allowance of alcohol in Banting’s regimen–four or five glasses of wine each day, a cordial every morning, and an evening tumbler of gin, whisky, or brandy–Banting dropped thirty-five pounds by the following May and fifty pounds by early 1864. “I have not felt better in health than now for the last twenty-six years,” he wrote. “My other bodily ailments have become mere matters of history.”

We know this because Banting published a sixteen-page pamphlet describing his dietary experience in 1863–Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public–promptly launching the first popular diet craze, known farther and wider than Banting could have imagined as Bantingism. His Letter on Corpulence was widely translated and sold particularly well in the United States, Germany, Austria, and France, where according to the British Medical Journal, “the emperor of the French is trying the Banting system and is said to have already profited greatly thereby.” Within a year, “Banting” had entered the English language as a verb meaning “to diet.” “If he is gouty, obese, and nervous, we strongly recommend him to ‘bant,’ ” suggested the Pall Mall Gazette in June 1865.

The medical community of Banting’s day didn’t quite know what to make of him or his diet. Correspondents to the British Medical Journal seemed occasionally open-minded, albeit suitably skeptical; a formal paper was presented on the efficacy and safety of Banting’s diet at the 1864 meeting of the British Medical Association. Others did what members of established societies often do when confronted with a radical new concept: they attacked both the message and the messenger. The editors of The Lancet, which is to the BMJ what Newsweek is to Time, were particularly ruthless. First, they insisted that Banting’s diet was old news, which it was, although Banting never claimed otherwise. The medical literature, wrote The Lancet, “is tolerably complete, and supplies abundant evidence that all which Mr. Banting advises has been written over and over again.” Banting responded that this might well have been so, but it was news to him and other corpulent individuals.

In fact, Banting properly acknowledged his medical adviser Harvey, and in later editions of his pamphlet he apologized for not being familiar with the three Frenchmen who probably should have gotten credit: Claude Bernard, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, and Jean-François Dancel. (Banting neglected to mention his countrymen Alfred William Moore and John Harvey, who published treatises on similar meaty, starch-free diets in 1860 and 1861 respectively.)

Brillat-Savarin had been a lawyer and gourmand who wrote what may be the single most famous book ever written about food, The Physiology of Taste, first published in 1825.* In it, Brillat-Savarin claimed that he could easily identify the cause of obesity after thirty years of talking with one “fat” or “particularly fat” individual after another who proclaimed the joys of bread, rice, and potatoes. He added that the effects of this intake were exacerbated when sugar was consumed as well. His recommended reducing diet, not surprisingly, was “more or less rigid abstinence from everything that is starchy or floury.”

Dancel was a physician and former military surgeon who publicly presented his ideas on obesity in 1844 to the French Academy of Sciences and then published a popular treatise, Obesity, or Excessive Corpulence, The Various Causes and the Rational Means of Cure. Dancel’s thinking was based in part on the research of the German chemist Justus von Liebig, who, at the time, was defending his belief that fat is formed in animals primarily from the ingestion of fats, starches, and sugars, and that protein is used exclusively for the restoration or creation of muscular tissue. “All food which is not flesh–all food rich in carbon and hydrogen–must have a tendency to produce fat,” wrote Dancel. “Upon these principles only can any rational treatment for the cure of obesity satisfactorily rest.” Dancel also noted that carnivores are never fat, whereas herbivores, living exclusively on plants, often are: “The hippopotamus, for example,” wrote Dancel, “so uncouth in form from its immense amount of fat, feeds wholly upon vegetable matter–rice, millet, sugar-cane, &c.”

The second primary grievance that The Lancet’s editors had with Banting, which has been echoed by critics of such diets ever since, was that his diet could be dangerous, and particularly so for the credibility of those physicians who did not embrace his ideas. “We advise Mr. Banting, and everyone of his kind, not to meddle with medical literature again, but be content to mind his own business,” The Lancet said.

When Bantingism showed little sign of fading from the scene, however, The Lancet’s editors adopted a more scientific approach. They suggested that a “fair trial” be given to Banting’s diet and to the supposition that “the sugary and starchy elements of food be really the chief cause of undue corpulence.”

Banting’s diet plays a pivotal role in the science of obesity–and, in fact, chronic disease–for two reasons. First, if the diet worked, if it actually helped people lose weight safely and keep it off, then that is worth knowing. More important, knowing whether “the sugary and starchy elements of food” are “really the chief cause of undue corpulence” is as vital to the public health as knowing, for example, that cigarettes cause lung cancer, or that HIV causes AIDS. If we choose to quit smoking to avoid the former, or to use condoms or abstinence to avoid the latter, that is our choice. The scientific obligation is first to establish the cause of the disease beyond reasonable doubt. It is easy to insist, as public-health authorities inevitably have, that calories count and obesity must be caused by overeating or sedentary behavior, but it tells us remarkably little about the underlying process of weight regulation and obesity. “To attribute obesity to ‘overeating,’ ” as the Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer suggested back in 1968, “is as meaningful as to account for alcoholism by ascribing it to ‘overdrinking.’ ”

After the publication of Banting’s “Letter on Corpulence,” his diet spawned a century’s worth of variations. By the turn of the twentieth century, when the renowned physician Sir William Osler discussed the treatment of obesity in his textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine, he listed Banting’s method and versions by the German clinicians Max Joseph Oertel and Wilhelm Ebstein. Oertel, director of a Munich sanitorium, prescribed a diet that featured lean beef, veal, or mutton, and eggs; overall, his regimen was more restrictive of fats than Banting’s and a little more lenient with vegetables and bread. When the 244-pound Prince Otto von Bismarck lost sixty pounds in under a year, it was with Oertel’s regimen. Ebstein, a professor of medicine at the University of Göttingen and author of the 1882 monograph Obesity and Its Treatment, insisted that fatty foods were crucial because they increased satiety and so decreased fat accumulation. Ebstein’s diet allowed no sugar, no sweets, no potatoes, limited bread, and a few green vegetables, but “of meat every kind may be eaten, and fat meat especially.” As for Osler himself, he advised obese women to “avoid taking too much food, and particularly to reduce the starches and sugars.”

The two constants over the years were the ideas that starches and sugars–i.e., carbohydrates–must be minimized to reduce weight, and that meat, fish, or fowl would constitute the bulk of the diet. When seven prominent British clinicians, led by Raymond Greene (brother of the novelist Graham Greene), published a textbook entitled The Practice of Endocrinology** in 1951, their prescribed diet for obesity was almost identical to that recommended by Banting, and that which would be prescribed by such iconoclasts as Herman Taller and Robert Atkins in the United States ten and twenty years later.

Foods to be avoided:

1. Bread, and everything else made with flour . . .
2. Cereals, including breakfast cereals and milk puddings
3. Potatoes and all other white root vegetables
4. Foods containing much sugar
5. All sweets . . .

You can eat as much as you like of the following foods:

1. Meat, fish, birds
2. All green vegetables
3. Eggs, dried or fresh
4. Cheese
5. Fruit, if unsweetened or sweetened with saccharin, except bananas and grapes

“The great progress in dietary control of obesity,” wrote Hilde Bruch, considered the foremost authority on childhood obesity, in 1957, “was the recognition that meat . . . was not fat producing; but that it was the innocent foodstuffs, such as bread and sweets, which lead to obesity.”

The scientific rationale behind this supposed cause and effect was based on observation, experimental evidence, and maybe the collected epiphanies and anecdotes of those who had successfully managed to bant. “The overappropriation of nourishment seen in obesity is derived in part from the fat ingested with the food, but more particularly from the carbohydrates,” noted James French in 1907 in his Textbook of the Practice of Medicine. Copious opinions were offered, but no specific hypotheses. In his 1940 monograph Obesity and Leanness, Hugo Rony, director of the Endocrinology Clinic at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, reported that he had carefully questioned fifty of his obese patients, and forty-one professed a “more or less marked preference for starchy and sweet foods; only 1 patient claimed preference for fatty foods.” Rony had one unusual patient, “an extremely obese laundress,” who had no taste for sweets, but “a craving for laundry starch which she used to eat by the handful, as much as a pound a day. . . .” So maybe carbohydrates are fattening because that’s what those with a tendency to gain weight eat to excess.

To others, carbohydrates carry some inherent quality that makes them uniquely fattening. Maybe they induce a continued sensation of hunger, or even a specific hunger for more carbohydrates. Maybe they induce less satiation per calorie consumed. Maybe they somehow cause the human body to preferentially store away calories as fat. “In Great Britain obesity is probably more common among poor women than among the rich,” Sir Stanley Davidson and Reginald Passmore wrote in the early 1960s in their classic textbook Human Nutrition and Dietetics, “perhaps because foods rich in fat and protein, which satisfy appetite more readily than carbohydrates, are more expensive than the starchy foods which provide the bulk of cheap meals.”

This belief in the fattening powers of carbohydrates can be found in literature as well. In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, for instance, written in the mid-1870s, Anna’s lover, Count Vronsky, abstains from starches and sweets in preparation for what turns out to be the climactic horse race. “On the day of the races at Krasnoe Selo,” writes Tolstoy, “Vronsky had come earlier than usual to eat beefsteak in the officers’ mess of the regiment. He had no need to be in strict training, as he had very quickly been brought down to the required weight of one hundred and sixty pounds, but still he had to avoid gaining weight, and he avoided starchy foods and desserts.” In Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, published in 1958, the protagonist, Prince Fabrizio, expresses his distaste for the plump young ladies of Palermo, while blaming their condition on, among other factors, “the dearth of proteins and the overabundance of starch in the food.”

This was what Dr. Spock taught our parents and our grandparents in the first five decades, six editions, and almost 50 million copies of Baby and Child Care, the bible of child-rearing in the latter half of the twentieth century. “Rich desserts,” Spock wrote, and “the amount of plain, starchy foods (cereals, breads, potatoes) taken is what determines, in the case of most people, how much [weight] they gain or lose.” It’s what my Brooklyn-born mother taught me forty-odd years ago. If we eat too much bread or too much spaghetti, we will get fat. The same, of course, is true of sweets. For over a century, this was the common wisdom. “All popular ‘slimming regimes’ involve a restriction in dietary carbohydrate,” wrote Davidson and Passmore in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, offering this advice: “The intake of foods rich in carbohydrate should be drastically reduced since over-indulgence in such foods is the most common cause of obesity.” “The first thing most Americans do when they decide to shed unwanted pounds is to cut out bread, pass up the potatoes and rice, and cross spaghetti dinners off the menu entirely,” wrote the New York Times personal-health reporter, Jane Brody, in her 1985 best-selling Good Food Book.

* When the first American edition of The Physiology of Taste was published in 1865, it was entitled The Handbook of Dining, or Corpulence and Leanness Scientifically Considered, perhaps to capitalize on the Banting craze.
** Endocrinology is the study of the glands that secrete hormones and the hormones themselves.

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Table of Contents


Prologue: A Brief History of Banting ix Part 1 The Fat-Cholesterol Hypothesis
1 The Eisenhower Paradox 3
2 The Inadequacy of Lesser Evidence 22
3 Creation of Consensus 42
4 The Greater Good 60 Part 2 The Carbohydrate Hypothesis
5 Diseases of Civilization 89
6 Diabetes and the Carbohydrate Hypothesis 100
7 Fiber 122
8 The Science of the Carbohydrate Hypothesis 136
9 Triglycerides and the Complications of Cholesterol 153
10 The Role of Insulin 178
11 The Significance of Diabetes 186
12 Sugar 195
13 Dementia, Cancer, and Aging 204 Part 3 Obesity and the Regulation of Weight
14 The Mythology of Obesity 229
15 Hunger 252
16 Paradoxes 270
17 Conservation of Energy 292
18 Fattening Diets 305
19 Reducing Diets 313
20 Unconventional Diets 327
21 The Carbohydrate Hypothesis, I: Fat Metabolism 355
22 The Carbohydrate Hypothesis, II: Insulin 376
23 The Fattening Carbohydrate Disappears 404
24 The Carbohydrate Hypothesis, III: Hunger and Satiety 425 Epilogue 449 Afterword to the Anchor Edition 461 Notes 469 Bibliography 515 Acknowledgments 583 Index 585
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 79 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

    24 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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.

    19 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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

    14 out of 14 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!

    8 out of 9 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.

    7 out of 7 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!

    7 out of 7 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.

    6 out of 6 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.

    6 out of 6 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.

    4 out of 4 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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2007

    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 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.

    3 out of 19 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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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    Completely worthless! Just another "Over Weight Person" Rip Off!

    I fought my way through about half of this book and couldn't make it any further.

    The entire book, from the Prologue to end isn't written by anybody because it's nothing more than a collection of short stories about medical research from as early as 1813 to 1970. These short stories aren't written by anyone, they are just pasted into the book in their original form.

    I never once saw anything about any "Good Calorie / Bad Calorie". There was no part of the book that was written by any Doctor because it's just a collection of ancient medical mother goose bedtime stories.

    I did find one paragraph that noted that animals that are carnivorous meat eaters are never fat and that animals that are vegetarians are fat (Hippopotamus, Elephant). I'm so thankful they pointed that out, maybe the Serengeti Plane would be a good place to loose some weight.

    If you really want this book, you can have mine for free.

    2 out of 20 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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    Posted October 9, 2011

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    Posted August 2, 2010

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    Posted January 15, 2012

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    Posted June 4, 2010

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