Thoughts on “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

April 12, 2010

GCBC In a recent post referring to an upcoming visit to Seattle by noted author and nutrition science rabble-rouser, Gary Taubes, I referred to having already completed a post on his book Good Calories, Bad Calories. Well, the reason why I couldn’t find it is because it was on my blog 1.0 (on spaces.live.com) but I had never transferred it. This post was mostly a recap of the summary of the book with a few comments. Even reading it now, I’d be hard pressed to improve on it. I posted it back in July of 2008 after I had just finished the book.

Almost two years on and I’ve ‘piled on’ more information from lots of great authors (Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Mark Sisson, Joe Mercola, Loren Codrain and many others), but the core paradigm shift that was kicked off by GCBC has had the most lasting effect. While I don’t have a dramatic 100 lb. weight loss story (mine is a very modest 20 lb), I’m constantly reminded of how differently my body functions and looks. It’s a big reason why I have come to regard senescence as mostly optional.

Stick with me over the next 50 years (or so) and see how I’m doing.

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July 24, 2008

Recently completed Good Calories, Bad Calories and will never look at food the same way again. My synopsis would be no better than the text from the web page … it’s a great synopsis. It’s way worth it to read the book. At 640 pages (actually, the main text is only 460 content-packed pages – not much fluff, here) it ain’t no joke but really worth it!

Description
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 long-term 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.

Good Calories
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.

Bad Calories
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, that salt causes high blood pressure, and that fiber is a necessary part of a healthy diet. 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.
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