Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Good Calories, Bad Calories

I just finished reading this new groundbreaking book which is a must read for anyone seriously interested in diet and health. Based on the existing knowledge, the following conclusions seem inevitable to science writer Gary Taubes:
  1. Dietary fat is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease.
  2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis.
  3. Sugars, specifically sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup,  are particularly harmful.
  4. Refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic diseases.
  5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating or sedentary behavior.
  6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss.
  7. Fattening is caused by an imbalance in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism.
  8. Insulin is the primary regulator of the fat storage. 
  9. By stimulating insuline secretion, carbohydrates make us fat. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.
  10. Carbohydrates increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
I completely agree with all of these points. It seems to me that we have been force-fed the wrong dietary advice by our governments, medical bodies and media for decades. I suspect it will take years before the 'experts' are willing to accept this new fresh vision. 
For me personally none of this came as a big surprise as I've been living along these guidelines for well over a decade now. Still I'd say studying this 600-page opus was exciting and certainly time well spent as Mr Taubes provides a huge amount of new ideas and raises several interesting questions. For instance, see what he writes about the fat content of the Paleolithic diet (on page 455):

"...the type and quantity of fat consumed assuredly changed with season, latitude, and  the coming and going of ice ages. This is the problem with recommending that we consume oils in any quantity. Did we evolve to eat olive oil, for example, or linseed oil? And maybe a few thousand years is a sufficient time to adapt to a new food but a few hundred is not. If so, then olive oil could conceivably be harmless or even beneficial when consumed in comparatively large quantities by the descentants of Mediterranean populations, who have been consuming it for millennia, but not to Scandinavians or Asians, for whom such an oil is new to the diet."

That's just one of hundreds of possible quotes that shows why Good Calories, Bad Calories is such an inspiring tour de force of scientific investigation.


Kim said...

Thank-you for your post, I am in the middle of reading this book right now and can relate. I am getting so tired of everyone talking about low fat, and then using artificial sweeteners and processed foods instead of real foods. I say what I believe, but am not so much of a living example as I'm still chubby. People do not take me seriously (yet). Thank-you for this post, it's really nice to hear that someone has had long-term success with this way of eating. Wow what a pioneer, to be eating this way in the 90's when everyone was counting fat grams and buying fat-free snackwells. hats off to you...


Paleo Runner said...

Thank you for the comments Kim. I agree most people do not seem to take any of this seriously yet, but I feel books like this one are starting to make a difference. Yes I've been doing this for a long time, because that's what it takes. The trouble is everyone seems to expect instant success. If you can believe in yourself and have patience, the results will be there. All the best to you.