Good Calories Bad Calories is an awesome book by Gary Taubes showing us how wrong we have been -and still are!- on nutritional basics such as fats (not really) and carbohydrates (many of which do are bad).
- Limiting calories to reduce weight is the wrong approach
- Carbs, in this order, have shown to be poor for our health: grains, then processing, then sugar
- We need more research to debunk wrong theories and uncover the truths, but all funding goes to test the conventional theories
Gary Taubes has been one of the biggest and highest profile scientist to contend that fat is part and parcel of a healthy diet.
The Link Fat-Cholesterol-Heart Disease is Bogus
Gary Taubes gives us all the historic background on how the mistaken assumption that fat causes cholesterol came to take hold.
To make a long story short, though, it’s not true.
Scientists, led by Ancel Keys, were looking only for confirming data and were discounting all the growing amount of evidence that was piling up against the lipid hypothesis (the lipid hypothesis says that fat causes cholesterol and heart diseases).
Government, Public Opinion & Business VS Science
Once the government took a stance against fat, the public opinion and businesses went along with it. The public took it for granted that fat was bad and businesses didn’t feel like they needed to test they idea: they just went along it with it and used it for marketing.
Low fat lines of pretty much everything started flooding the market and by then research proving the contrary was given even less air-time.
Carbohydrates Are More Likely the Culprit
Gary Taubes notes that as the western lifestyle and foods entered different tribes and cultures, so did the typical western diseases.
He says the culprit is to be found in white flour and sugar.
But, notes Taubes, the stupidity of those previous decades still persists to this day, with diabetic advised to eat little fat and more carbs.
Carbs & Obesity
Good Calories Bad Calories also makes the point that it’s a high carb diet that is most likely to lead to obesity, and not a high fat one.
The author even says it’s impossible to make people fat on a high fat, high proteins diet.
And the difference is huge.
In every case that has been tested, low-carb diets resulted in 2-3 times the weight lost compared to low-fat, low overall calories diets.
That’s the proof that “a calorie is a calorie is BS”.
Carbs + Fat = Bad Combo
However people do get fat when they combine together a fatty diet with carbohydrates.
Gary Taubes goes into the nitty gritty details of how our bodies metabolize sugar and how, again, we all fell prey for weak science.
The mistaken idea with sugar was that fructose was not bad because it was the sugar of the fruits.
That was another huge blunder, says Taubes.
Good Calories Bad Calories Criticism
Gary Taubes takes a very strong stance and he minces no words for the “establishment”.
Let’s look a bit at the criticism he receives:
Seth makes the point that Taubes is biased and vastly overstate the case for meat being good and for carbohydrates being deleterious.
He says the references to studies he makes are also wrong.
Obesity is a complex phenomenon and carbohydrates are not the main driver behind it.
Real Life Applications
Limit Your Carbs
Cut all refined carbs, sugar and, possibly, reduce overall grain consumption.
Calories Are Not All The Same
And it’s not true that you can lose weight no matter what you eat. Make eating healthy a priority.
Good Calories Bad Calories is a very technical book. It’s not necessarily a con, but it can be for some who are looking for an easy peek into nutrition.
Deep Wisdom on How Science, Business & Public Opinion Intersect
If what Taubes says it’s even half true, Good Calories Bad Calories provides a very interesting view of how science and public opinion can sometimes hide or change the truth.
And when the public opinion goes beyond a wrong idea, it becomes very hard to change it.
At the times, when it came out, it was a eye opening book.
And today, at the very least, it stand to caution us against believing all that science recommends on nutrition. And provides another reason to eat more more natural, whole food.
I personally believe that Good Calories Bad Calories overemphasizes the harm grain cause, but it also helped open new doors in the nutrition world.