In this groundbreaking book, the result of seven years of research in every science connected with the impact of nutrition on health, award-winning science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong.
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 with more and more people acting on this advice, we have seen unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues persuasively that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, easily digested starches) and sugars–via their dramatic and longterm effects on insulin, the hormone that regulates fat accumulation–and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. There are good calories, and bad ones.
These are from foods without easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. These foods can be eaten without restraint: meat, fish, fowl, cheese, eggs, butter, and non-starchy vegetables.
These are from foods that stimulate excessive insulin secretion and so make us fat and increase our risk of chronic disease—all refined and easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. The key is not how much vitamins and minerals they contain, but how quickly they are digested. (So apple juice or even green vegetable juices are not necessarily any healthier than soda.) Bread and other baked goods, potatoes, yams, rice, pasta, cereal grains, corn, sugar (sucrose and high fructose corn syrup), ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fruit juices, bananas and other tropical fruits, and beer.
Taubes traces how the common assumption that carbohydrates are fattening was abandoned in the 1960s when fat and cholesterol were blamed for heart disease and then –wrongly–were seen as the causes of a host of other maladies, including cancer. He shows us how these unproven hypotheses were emphatically embraced by authorities in nutrition, public health, and clinical medicine, in spite of how well-conceived clinical trials have consistently refuted them. He also documents the dietary trials of carbohydrate-restriction, which consistently show that the fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.
With precise references to the most significant existing clinical studies, he convinces us that there is no compelling scientific evidence demonstrating that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. Based on the evidence that does exist, he leads us to conclude that the only healthy way to lose weight and remain lean is to eat fewer carbohydrates or to change the type of the carbohydrates we do eat, and, for some of us, perhaps to eat virtually none at all.
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.
Good Calories, Bad Calories is a tour de force of scientific investigation–certain to redefine the ongoing debate about the foods we eat and their effects on our health.
“Gary Taubes's Good Calories, Bad Calories is 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--as who does not? If Taubes were a scientist rather than a gifted, resourceful science journalist, he would deserve and receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine.”
-Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“If Taubes were inclined to sensationalism, he might have titled this book ‘The Great Low-Fat Diet Hoax.’ Instead, he 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. With diabetes and heart disease at stake as well as obesity, those ‘experts’ owe us an abject apology.”
“Good Calories, Bad Calories is a remarkable accomplishment. From a mountain of diverse scientific evidence Gary Taubes has drawn an amazingly detailed and compelling picture of how diet, obesity, and heart disease link together–and how some of the world’s most important medical researchers got the story colossally wrong. Taubes proves, I think beyond doubt, that the dietary advice we’ve been given for the last three decades by the federal government and the major medical bodies rests on, shall we say, a slender empirical base.”
–Charles C. Mann, author of 1491
“A brave and bold science journalist . . . Taubes does not bow to the current fashion for narrative nonfiction, instead building his argument case by case . . . much of what Taubes relates will be eye-opening.”
-The New York Times Book Review
“A watershed . . . Deeply researched and profoundly unsettling, the book proposes a seismic paradigm shift that could well undo our perceptions about the relationship between food and health. It could also literally change the way you eat, the way you look and how long you live . . . an unwavering challenge to conventional thinking . . . Taubes’ most elegant and surprising arguments examine long-held assumptions . . . lucid and lively.”
“Fascinating . . . Mr. Taubes has a gift for turning complex scientific principles into engaging narrative.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“Bound to stir renewed debate . . .”
“His major conclusions are startling yet surprisingly convincing . . . his writing reflects his passion for scientific truth . . . offers plenty of food for thought.”
About the Author
Gary Taubes, author of Bad Science and Nobel Dreams, is a correspondent for Science magazine. The only print journalist to have won three Science in Society Journalism awards, given by the National Association of Science Writers, he has contributed articles to The Best American Science Writing 2002 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000 and 2003. He lives with his wife and son in New York City.
Here we can discuss the book and what we got out of reading it.
One thing not mentioned above, and I'm not sure whether I learned it from the book or from a lecture by a dietitian at the American Association of Diabetes Educators last August is that fructose is not used by any tissue in the body. It goes straight to the liver, and is immediately converted to triglycerides and VLDL, both of which have been shown to be harmful to the heart and blood vessels. Even excess glucose, such as occurs in diabetics, is converted to TGs and VLDL. So while the general population needs to limit fructose, diabetics need to really limit glucose as well, which includes things like potatoes, which convert strictly to glucose. Blood sugar UP!
I laugh with sadness at people like the proprietor of a local coffee-house/Russian cafe who proudly announces that she only uses agave nectar as a sweetener, because it's natural and healthful. Not possible to tell her that 1) it's HIGHLY processed, and therefore NOT natural, and it's 100% fructose, and therefore not healthful. I also hate seeing fructose packaged and sold to diabetics as a sweetener that won't raise blood glucose. Well, yeah! That's because it's being converted into dangerous blood fats instead! I've gotten so that as soon as I hear the word "natural" my hackles go up, because so much junk is sold by using that term.
I have yet to find out about galactose. Lactose, or milk sugar is broken down in the body into glucose and galactose. Glucose, in limited quantities is fine, but I don't know about galactose in people who don't have galactosemia, an inborn error of metabolism. I will continue to try to research it, but if anyone knows anything about it, I'm all ears! :-)
If you find out how steviol glycosides affect the body, please let me know. I'm a diabetic... I am not very trustworthy of sweeteners in Japan, but I used stevia when I was in the states... Still have yet to find it here.
I found one study... If you find more, please let me know!
Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, 3rd Internal Medicine Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Clinical Hospital, National University Asunción, Mayor Bullo 315, Asuncion, Paraguay. firstname.lastname@example.org
Steviol glycosides, isolated from the plant Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni, have been used as safe sweetening agents for more than 30 years. Beneficial effects of high doses of steviol glycosides on hyperglycemia and hypertension have been previously described when these abnormalities are present. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of steviol glycosides on blood glucose and on blood pressure (BP) in 3 groups of individuals. This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, long-term study in three groups of patients: Group 1: subjects with Type 1 diabetes; Group 2: subjects with Type 2 diabetes; and Group 3: subjects without diabetes and with normal/low-normal BP levels. The subjects in each group were randomly allocated to active treatment (the steviol glycoside stevioside: 250mg t.d.s.) or to placebo treatment and followed-up for 3 months. Post-treatment systolic BP, diastolic BP, glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) were not significantly different from baseline measurements, except for the placebo Type 1 diabetics group where a significant difference was observed for systolic BP and glucose. No side effects were observed in the two treatment groups. This study shows that oral steviol glycosides, taken as sweetener are well tolerated and have no pharmacological effect.
I would like to try Stevia -- does it have any aftertaste Ruth?
Stevia can have a licorice-like aftertaste. I use a toothpick to pick up just what sticks to the dry stick. Too much is shockingly awful. A tiny bit is great.
I was aware that fructose caused 12 times as much glycation as glucose, but not that all of it was converted into triglycerides and VLDL. Do you have a reference on that?
We learned about agave nectar from the chef on DLife, a program for diabetics. I've been using it to feed the yeast when I bake bread, instead of honey. If it's that dangerous, I'll need to prove it with a scientific link for my husband to switch.
I heard it in a talk at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) last August by Cindy Brinn MPH, RD, CDE, BC-ADM of PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. And I took notes as well as downloaded the powerpoint slides. She specifically said that NO cells in the body use fructose as an energy source, and that it is immediately converted to fatty acids and triglycerides and ultimately stored.
What was interesting in the talk is that she said there is something in honey and possibly fruit that counteracts the bad effects of the fructose, but they don't know what it is. They did a head-to-head study of honey vs. pure fructose, and honey gave distinctly better results than fructose.
The major sources she gave were
Stanhope, KL et al. April 20, 2009 J. Clin. Invest. doi:10:1172JCI37385
Stanhope, KL AnnNY AcadSci 2010:1190;15-24
plus a whole lot more.
Sorry they aren't URLs! The only one of the multiple other references she listed is Basciano, H et al. Fructose, insulin resistance and metabolic dyslipidemia Nutrition and Metabolism Feb 2005; 2(56):1-14 www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/5
I do tend to trust people more when they are actually engaged in research, and who do NOT have a vested interest in selling you something. And I'll take research that has been duplicated and published in various journals over a chef any day.
Hope this helps! :-)
I just looked over the book quickly -- but it seems similar to the Atkins Diet or Paleo Diet. I actually eat low-carb right now -- I'm actually following Atkins and the Paleo Diet.
I eat low on the Glycemic Index and I don't eat any starches or highly refined carbs (High on Glycemic Index).
The word Monosaccharide comes from mono, meaning "one", and saccharide, meaning "sugar". Common monosaccharides are glucose (also called dextrose), fructose, and galactose. Monosaccharides are a type of carbohydrate. Except for fructose, they are typically high on the glycemic index, which means that, when digested, they cause a rapid rise in blood-glucose levels.
Glucose (derived from the Greek word for "sweet") is the primary form of sugar stored in the human body for energy. Probably the most common source of glucose is table sugar (sucrose). We also obtain glucose from starch, the major storage form of carbohydrate in plants.
Sources of fructose (fruit sugar) include fruit, honey and high-fructose corn syrup.
We get Galactose from lactose in milk. After being absorbed by the body, fructose and galactose are converted into glucose by the liver and then used as fuel for the body.
It's been several years since I read Good Calories, Bad Calories; I'll have to dig it out and read it again. What got me so riled up when I read it was the sloppy research conducted by Dr. Frederick Stare at Harvard, and the way his pronouncements were treated as Commandments from Ghod by the government and the media.
Stare had a very popular syndicated newspaper column in the 1960s, and my mother accepted everything he said as Truth with a capital "T." I think the extreme way she cut back on meats, fatty food like bacon, eggs, liver, butter, et al, was a contributing factor in her developing cancer 20 years later. When she finished with chemo, and was able to keep her food down, that's what I fed her (plus bottled mountain spring water ONLY-we live near where Lockheed Aircraft was located during WW2 and after, and they dumped a lot of toxic chemicals into the ground without even thinking about where the city got most of its drinking water.), her cancer never came back. Of course she also underwent 5 years of an experimental treatment where her immune system was slightly suppressed every six weeks or so. (Very complicated theory.)
I don't know what worked, the diet, immunosuppressant therapy, or a combination, but she lived to be 87. I'm not sure I want to do that!
There is also a section of the book that details dr. Atkins' testimony before a Senate committee chaired by George McGovern. Atkins presented carefully collected data that backed up his claims, but since they were counterintuitive (people tend to see foods like bacon and butter going directly from the stomach to the bloodstream totally unchanged), his findings were dismissed as nonsense. That was in the 1970s, I think, when pasta became such a big weight loss fad. Has anybody ever seen a skinny Italian grandmother? (Sorry. That wasn't nice, but neither am I.)
Anyway, sloppy research makes my blood boil. It's like creationism...you don't change the theory fit the observed facts, you leave out the facts that don't fit your pet theory. GRRRrrrr!