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

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

by Gary Taubes


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Good Calories, Bad Calories 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
sallygab More than 1 year ago
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.
docsol More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
dave60625 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
HawkLW More than 1 year ago
I finally "get" 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.
patrick peele More than 1 year ago
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.
sdho on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm sure this book has a great deal of good information, but it's just some of the most dull content ever written. I have not been able to get even half way through it -- surely Gary Taubes could have made his point in less than 600 pages.
ericlee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a masterpiece. It will change the way you think about eating.
MojoYugen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a nutshell: Everything you think about food and nutrition is wrong. Gary Taubes makes a compelling case for a low-carbohydrate diet over the conventional low-fat recommendations. He goes through what feels like every major study of the past 100 years and points out the flaws in them. Overall he makes a very compelling case for re-evaluating the western diet.The reason I only gave it five stars is that, like a piece of toast without a nice, creamy, slab of healthy butter on it, the book can be dry in some places where he's hammering at some of the studies. I also get the feeling that he sometimes overlooks the potential flaws in studies that support his low-carb viewpoint.All in all I can't really complain too much about that. I believe this book should be read by anyone seriously looking at our diet and how to fix it. I'd give it 6 stars for content and 3 for presentation. Go get this book today and make up your own mind.
n10lindy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very meticulously researched and persuasive, science-based argument that (1) the principle dietary culprit behind the "diseases of civilization" (obesity, diabetes, and probably cancer) is carbohydrates because they drive insulin production, and elevated insulin levels drive obesity, etc., and (2) that dietary fat in all forms except trans-fat does not cause heart disease and obesity (carbs/insulin do). It would be hard not to change your perspective on what constitutes a healthy diet after reading this book. I really recommend it.
knipfty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Now here is a science writer actually doing research! He claims that he went into this with no preconceived notions and let the science and research take him to the conclusion. And what a conclusion it was. Basically, everything that you have been taught for the last 50 years has been complete garbage!Currently you probably believe that Fat is bad and in particular saturated fat is really bad. Plus carbs are good and in particular complex carbs are even better. And who could blame you after all look at the US FDA food pyramid!This books turns this upside down and weaves a good story on how this thinking came about. The personalities, the politics, the junk science that is taken for granted today. You won't look at nutrition quite the same way after reading this book.
MrDowney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book rocks. It's pretty dry, and he takes a very long time to make his point, but that's also what makes it good. I think with the shorter attention spans people have from skimming the Internet, perhaps not many will finish it. Okay; so my bookmark is past the halfway point¿but I haven't given up yet! I'll get back to it. Seriously, though, it thoroughly debunks myth after myth of dietary dogma using science, both new and old.
jonesjohnson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hope, for your sake, that you do not have the mind-body disconnect that I have. Heinously for me, I possess this mangled need to fully wrap my brain around something before I am willing to believe it is true. Never does this create more of a problem than where concerning my health and dietary needs. I know that the eating plan advocated by this book works. Three separate times in my life I have followed this plan, with no pain and no suffering, and ended up in the "best shape of my life." Yet, because I have never found a proper book that could elucidate the whole thing for me, never found a no-shock, no-awe, no-Oprah, no-best seller that could just calmly state facts- I have never been able to just stay put. The dark evil of sugar always sneaks back into my diet simply because the Lancet and the BMJ and the like don't seem to agree. No more. If you are heavy, or if you are diabetic: read this book.If you have high blood pressure: read this book.If you have arthritis or you just want some more concrete day-to-day advice, then add The Body Knows Diet. It is one of the "quack" books that helped my body so much before this book finally helped my brain.Use it. Lose it. You'll be glad you did.
TheLibraryhag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book tells you more than you ever wanted to know about why a high carb diet is not the way to lose weight, lower cholesterol or prevent heart attachs. It is not a diet book but more an indepth presentation on the research. Dry as the toast on the cover, but very worth reading if you ever had any doubts.
wester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book that unravels all the "conventional wisdom" we have about food. He takes "facts" such as: Fats (or saturated fats, or cholesterol) are bad, carbohydrates are good, and obesity is caused by overeating and underexercising. He then exposes the poor science behind it, and gives alternative hypotheses as well. He does have a strong opinion about what the final truth is, but still manages to keep quite an open mind. It's a nice tight argument, with all bases covered, and some nice extras such as why Inuit don't get a vitamin C deficit.It's not an easy book, I admit, but very rewarding. It might make you go on a carbohydrate-restricted diet though - you've been warned.I strongly recommend this to anyone who is interested in food, has a good command of medical/scientific terminology, and who can handle having his beliefs thoroughly shaken up.
imhip on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book really makes the case that our simple carbohydrate rich diets are the main cause of so many of the diseases pharmacuetical companies and big food manufacturers make fortunes off of. The research that proves cholesterol is public enemy number one is not proven and seems to be an easy target to "cure"with drugs. People with high and low cholesterol die of heart attacks. Lower cholesterol levels are not associated with lower death rates. Convential wisdom is wrong as evidenced by an increasingly fatter society with more heart disease than ever.
kukulaj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Does eating high fat foods lead more readily to accumulating fat in one's body than eating low fat foods? Is gaining weight controlled by the relationship between calories eaten and calories expended, or more by the types of foods one eats? If two quantities, e.g. rate of weight gain and the difference between eaten and expended calories, are tightly correlated, which quantity controls and which is controlled?Taubes does a great job of walking us through these issues, and through the research and researchers that have explored them. It's a long enough book - 460 pages - but the dozen pages of epilogue sum it up very well. The crucial point is well stated, on pg 451: "The urge to simplify a complex scientific question so that physicians can apply it and their patients and the public embrace it has taken precedence over the scientific obligation of presenting the evidence with relentless honesty."Taubes does not just focus on the weakness of the present orthodoxy of low fat diets. He points the finger squarely at refined carbohydrates. Eating these drives up insulin levels, which drives fat accumulation, which drives appetite. We don't control our appetite, our appetite controls us. But we can, indirectly, control our appetite, by controlling our diet, by cutting out refined carbohydrates.Taubes presents this as a strong hypothesis, but not as something solidly established. Beyond the missing thorough and direct experimental testing of the hypothesis, many side questions remain. Clearly there is a wide variation in different people's response to food. The pattern of insulin response to food is not fixed or dependent merely on one's history of carbohydrate consumption. Surely genetics is a large factor. Taubes mentions the effects of nicotine and adrenaline. This is more a book that raises questions than a book that settles answers. It does a great job of painting the landscape to make the questions meaningful and pointed. Actually, one can step back a little further. Look at the monstrous debates over health insurance. These debates are fundamentally a waste of time. The problem is not at root one of who ought to pay health care costs. The USA spends a large fraction of GDP on health care, yet the results returned are disproportionately low by global standards. Redistributing the costs among the various payers will do very little to change that. Taubes book addresses some of the most basic health care issues in the USA and industrialized countries - especially diabetes and heart disease. Dealing effectively with these diseases would cut costs, and then the question of who should pay would become much less contentious. This book is just a scouting report. Which details are accurate is not the point. Clearly the terrain we hear about is richly fertile. If our vast health care industry truly wants to improve public health in a cost effective way, the direction sketched by Taubes clearly deserves greatly increased research and development investment. Or maybe this will just be left to individual exploration, if industry actually has other priorities.
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good Calories, Bad Calories is a battle tank of a book: Gary Taubes assembles a seemingly invincible machine of studies and data that grinds right through the last century of public opinion on diet and weight, crushing ignorant resisters wherever they may be found. It¿s not pretty, it¿s not fast, but it¿s certainly effective.In brief, Taubes identifies and traces out a long-standing thread of nutrition research that blames eating too much carbohydrate (in particular refined carbs and starches) for making us fat. In several very convincing sequences, he demonstrates how this consensus, common-sense proposition got buried under an alternative ¿ and highly counterproductive ¿ wave of US government-sponsored research in the 1950s onward that blamed dietary fat instead. Good Calories, Bad Calories is relentless, thorough (sometimes to the point of saturation) and convincing. But taking seriously the implications of Taubes's conclusions is much harder: it means radical change in the average diet, with far more proteins and fats, and far fewer carbs. I recommend this book strongly, but with one warning: it is a project to read. It¿s well over 500 pages, and it¿s very densely-written at points. But hey ¿ lots of fluffy prose is much like all those fluffy carbs; they taste good but don¿t do you much good. Sometimes it¿s better to sink your teeth into something more substantial.