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Good Calories Bad Calories Book Report/Synopsis
Old 10-23-2009, 11:13 AM   #1
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Good Calories Bad Calories Book Report/Synopsis

One word book report: Wow.

If you consider the obesity epidemic to be one of the world's top problems, then this (Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taube) is one of the most important books of the century. Having made that extravagant claim, I'll now tell you that you should not read this book, for two reasons.

Two Reasons Why You Shouldn't Read this Book

First Reason: it's really long. It's 600 pages of detailed, thought-requiring information. Although it's well written, it is a list of most or all of the research done on obesity in the last 150 years, with a discussion of what's right or wrong with each study. You have to pay attention, remember the names of researchers, and follow logic. Yuck. There were a few chapters that I skimmed through, but it still took me about a month to read it (a little at a time). If you have to read the book, I'd recommend reading the first four chapters, then chapters 19-24 and the epilogue. Read the epilogue first.

Second Reason: If you read this book, you are going to believe something that opposes what most people believe, and what health authorities tell us. Namely, you will believe that the obesity epidemic is not caused by eating too much or exercising too little, it is caused by a metabolic disorder that is in turn caused by prolonged consumption of carbohydrates. You will understand that the government's advice to eat a low-fat diet (and, in consequence a high-carbohydrate diet) is what has caused the dramatic increase in obesity over the last 20 years.

This means that every time you see a news report on how the government is going to require that schools serve more carbohydrates, you'll be annoyed. The food pyramid will depress you. You'll have to bite your tongue when people explain how they are improving their diet by cutting down on meat, and eating lots of grains (what I've done for the last 20 years). You'll be irritated every time you hear someone say "It's nothing more than calories in calories out." You'll pity the morbidly obese whose diets are just making things worse for them.

Ignorance is bliss -- stay away from this book.

I'll break the review into three parts. Part I summarizes the most important point of the book (carbohydrates cause obesity), Part II explains why health authorities don't believe this important point, and Part III describes how the book is relevant for us.
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Old 10-23-2009, 11:13 AM   #2
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Part I: The Most Important Point of the Book

Here is the conclusion that most interested me. I apologize if I get some of the terminology wrong.

First, some quick background: the regulation of fat storage and fuel usage is a complex ballet of regulation by hormones, blood sugar levels, and biochemistry. After stuff you eat is digested, and its component parts arrive in the bloodstream, the energy it represents may be stored in fat cells, or used by muscle or other tissue. The body is constantly regulating what gets stored, and what gets used.

Insulin is the big dog on the block when it comes to blood sugar entering the cells (and by "enter" I mean that it is converted into stuff that can pass into the cells and be used or stored by them). When insulin is dumped into the bloodstream, it's like the lifeguard yelling "OK, everybody out of the pool!" and the blood sugar is either stored in fat cells, or used by other cells.

Eating carbohydrates causes the release of insulin into the bloodstream.

OK, now we're ready for the interesting stuff. If you are exposed to lots of carbohydrates over time, your cells tend to become insulin resistant. That is, they don't respond to insulin as much as they used to (this is the metabolic disorder I mentioned). And the muscle cells become more insulin resistant than fat cells. So now, when the lifeguard yells "Everybody out of the pool!" the fat cells say "OK, glucose, you can come in here." and the muscle cells say "Later, Dude."

So now, much of the energy in the food you eat is being stored in the fat cells, and the muscle cells are going hungry. "Hey, where's our food?" they say, "We're starving, we demand that you Eat More or Expend Less Energy!" Consequently, the obese person eats more, despite having huge reserves of fat.

For me, that is the crux of the book. When you eat large amounts of carbohydrates for a long time, your body stores too much energy in fat cells, starving the other cells in the body, which causes you to eat more.

Worse, as the cells become insulin resistant, your body reacts by producing more insulin, leading to more resistance. This positive feedback situation continues until the fat cells become so full that, like overinflated balloons, they release more of their stored fuel, and an equilibrium is reached.

The basic mechanisms of fat storage, insulin production being influenced by carbohydrates, and insulin resistance are not controversial. Yet, health authorities still insist that obesity is caused simply by eating too much. They refuse to believe that carbohydrates play such an important role. Why? See part II of this report.
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Old 10-23-2009, 11:14 AM   #3
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Part II

Why are we told that we should eat a low-fat diet to avoid obesity rather than a low-carbohydrate diet?

The answer, according to the book, is that the advice is based on bad science. Although there were studies as far back as the 19th century that showed that restricting carbohydrates could alleviate obesity, other researchers conducted studies that they mistakenly interpreted as supporting the hypothesis that fat is bad, and should be eliminated. Unfortunately, these researchers more successfully promoted their results, and without careful review, these results were soon accepted as gospel.

The analysis of the different studies is complicated, but let me just give two examples, and describe how they relate. A researcher named Keys compared heart disease rates in different countries. He found that heart disease rates were lower in countries with lower fat consumption, and lower following food rationing during World War II.

However, a critique by a biostatician from Berkeley and the NY state commissioner of health revealed that Keys had chosen six countries for his analysis, whereas data were available for twenty-two. “When all twenty-two were included in the analysis, the apparent link between fat and heart disease vanished.”

More importantly, there is no way to know that the difference in fat consumption caused the difference in disease for those six countries. That is, there may have been a difference in carbohydrate consumption as well. Fewer calories might have been consumed during rationing, and less availability of gasoline may have resulted in more walking and other exercise. Keys chose fat consumption as the cause because of his previously held belief.

How the bad science can feed on itself is demonstrated by a study begun in 1957 on 5,400 men working at General Electric. Men were questioned about their diet, and then four years later this was correlated with the rates of heart disease. The results showed no difference in heart disease rates between men who ate the most fat and those who ate the least. Further analysis concluded that those who ate less saturated fat had slightly lower risk of disease, but “the amount of saturated fatty acids in the diet was not significantly associated with the risk of death from [coronary heart disease].” But the authors then went on to say this “If viewed in isolation, the conclusions that can be drawn from a single epidemiologic study are limited. Within the context of the the total literature, however, the present observations support the conclusion that the composition of the diet affects the...risk of death [from heart disease].”

In other words, instead of saying “we saw no link” they said “we saw no link, but based on the other research, there must be one, so our study supports it.” Some of the research they cited was that of Keys.

Worse, the NY Times and other media reported that this study “strongly reinforces the view that a high-fat diet can clog arteries and cause heart disease.”

The book has hundreds of pages describing these kinds of problems with the research, as well as conflicting studies that were ignored. Some scientists didn't publish their work simply because it was at odds with the conventional wisdom.

My conclusion after reading the book is that there is no evidence that a low-fat diet is a good idea.
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Old 10-23-2009, 11:15 AM   #4
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Part III

How is this book relevant to us? For me it tells me that the best way to stay slim is to avoid eating lots of carbohydrates. That is, avoid rice, potatoes, bread, and sugar.

If I were overweight or obese, I would immediately go on an Atkins-type diet.

The author reports that a hundred years of studies have demonstrated that diets that simply restrict calories fail for the vast majority of dieters, and in fact usually result in a rebound weight increase. Unfortunately, because health authorities promote this diet, and condemn carbohydrate-restricted diets, many overweight people will continue to futilely try to correct their problem by eating less or exercising more. People on carbohydrate-restricted diets are constantly bombarded with accusations that what they are following is a fad and dangerous for their health (which is exactly what I told my brother-in-law a few years ago).

That concludes my book report. In it I described the most interesting conclusion of the book (carbohydrates cause obesity), described why health authorities don't recognize that conclusion, and looked at how the book is relevant to you and me.
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:16 PM   #5
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Thanks for slogging through the book, and the report. From other surces -DeVany for example DW and I've been following the Taubes type with complex carb (edit add: no simple carbs like rice etc.) diet for about 8 years. Your conclusion are pretty much the same as DeVany's.

As long as the gummint pyramid stays as the mainstream diet, IMHO, we will see the ballooning of the waist lines. Most every public place I go, like malls, supermarkets even the town squares I'm blown away by the preponderance of huge round bellies. Saddest is all the hugely obese kids.
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:30 PM   #6
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The latest government recommendations can be found here: MyPyramid.gov - United States Department of Agriculture - Home

The pyramid has changed mightily from what I remember as a child. Just want everyone to have the government's latest at hand when criticizing what the government is telling us to eat.
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:30 PM   #7
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I am slogging through the book too. Excellent book report Al. Isgoy, do you ever eat sweets?
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:36 PM   #8
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Great report Al! My eyes were opened to this information about 10 years ago when I read Protein Power by Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades. The first few chapters of their book addressed the science of low fat vs. low carb. It was easy to read and understand. They backed up everything they said with solid research.

As you said, be prepared to find out most of what you thought you knew about nutrition is wrong.
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:49 PM   #9
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Thank you for the great book report, Al!

I read the book (well, sort of... I read the first couple of chapters and then I couldn't take it any more, so I skipped and hopped and found the bullet point summary in the latter part of the book and that was it for me.)

Your book report really would have been sufficient for me.
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:11 PM   #10
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Al,

I remember that in the bullet point section, the author listed fat as neutral (not good or bad), and the part I read, he presented a lot of studies and wrote a lot (doubt) about validity of cholesterol as a disease agent.

Personally how do you feel about that? (I remember your thread listing your cholesterol numbers past and present).

What he said in the book rings true for me (at least the part of the book I read), I have read Protein Power, Atkins, etc and I personally feel much better when I eat moderately low carb diets anyway, but if my cholesterol test came back high risk, I couldn't help but worry.
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:12 PM   #11
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It's a tough read, but worthwhile. I really do think he's on to something and also I believe that the "powers that be" behind nutritional policy have not evolved with the science.

The one nagging thought is that the new recommendations for a low carb, higher fat and protein diet are also untested in terms of long-term benefits and risks. The short term safety looks solid to me for healthy people. The long term effects on kidney function and other diseases remains to be seen.

I worry a little about increasing certain fats so I try to favor, nuts, avocado, and poultry and fish. Then again, a nice juicy steak or a rack of ribs have been known to cross my lips. I now usually pass on the roll and fries.

Switching to modest amounts of unrefined carbs (fruits, veggies, whole grains and other low glycemic carbs) instead of sugar and refined carbs seems like a no-brainer. We don't know the long term safety of unusually high protein intake.

Chimps eat lots of complex carbs, plus the occasional protein treat. I'd guess it will turn out that some carbs (complex, low glycemic index) will be OK as the prominent daily energy source, with smaller amts of protein as well. Fat shouldn't be a problem in smaller amounts assuming BMI is decent (<25 or so).
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:19 PM   #12
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Thanks Al! Curious, did the book also impugn non-processed carbs, like whole grains (i.e. steel cut oats or brown rice)? Maybe I need to get me a copy.
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:25 PM   #13
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I know I have great luck with Atkins. I always feel better, less gastro issues, and more clear headed when I do Atkins. But I am a meat and potato guy, so its tough without the potatos!
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:32 PM   #14
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Soooo - Ha should bring back his old bottom line:

"Eat what you want and die like a man."

heh heh heh - turned cold here in KC. BP 130/85, chloresterol 400, 23 lbs overweight.

I think maybe BBQ ribs tonight. I never did like those carrots everone put in those "healthy" micro meals.
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:46 PM   #15
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I am slogging through the book too. Excellent book report Al. Isgoy, do you ever eat sweets?
Martha, assume you are asking me.
I do like chocolate, a lot. Though I limit it to a few binges. DW does sabotage things with brownies at times. By not eating any pasta, rice, potatoes, I can splurge at times. I do live by my signature line. We do eat a lot veggies along with lean meat.
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Old 10-23-2009, 02:54 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
...... it is caused by a metabolic disorder that is in turn caused by prolonged consumption of carbohydrates. You will understand that the government's advice to eat a low-fat diet (and, in consequence a high-carbohydrate diet) is what has caused the dramatic increase in obesity over the last 20 years.

This means that every time you see a news report on how the government is going to require that schools serve more carbohydrates, you'll be annoyed. The food pyramid will depress you. You'll have to bite your tongue when people explain how they are improving their diet by cutting down on meat, and eating lots of grains (what I've done for the last 20 years). You'll be irritated every time you hear someone say "It's nothing more than calories in calories out." You'll pity the morbidly obese whose diets are just making things worse for them.
I learned all about metabolic syndrome several years ago. The information is pretty shocking, and it's not just the high-carb diets pushed causing public health problems, but the enormous amounts of high-fructose corn syrup plus junk in the American diet. Certainly learning about insulin resistance and made me change from a high-carb, low-fat diet to a low-glycemic, more moderate fat (in the Mediterranean style) diet which is a lot more interesting eating anyway.

IMO sedentary lifestyle is still a huge contributor. The folks who eat those traditional "healthy" diets also get way more daily physical activity than the average American. I don't see how that can't be part of the US problem, and it has been well established that regular aerobic activity helps prevent metabolic syndrome/diabetes.

Imagine my extreme annoyance when I later read the recommended diet handed to me by my new primary care Dr as part of a routine check-up. Lunch, for example, recommended 3 servings of bread, and spelled out 2 slices of white bread and 4 saltine crackers. My immediate reaction was WHAAAAAAT?!?!?! Are you kidding!!! Is this same cr@p still being pushed by the American Heart Association? Even the Food Pyramid had been upgraded to recommend most grains be whole grains. And the diet emphasized polyunsaturated fats such as corn, cottonseed, safflower, etc., when I believe that it's been pretty well established that monounsaturated fats are better for you and olive oil is even heart protective.

I'm not sure how to diplomatically tell my new doctor that I think those dietary recommendations are horrible (and way out of date).

Audrey
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Old 10-23-2009, 04:02 PM   #17
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Ask him if you can do it in one fell swoop - Liedenhiemer's French bread(New Orleans) style Po-Boy - toasted and buttered with french fries smothered with brown gravy in the center.

They still will make em on special order down yonder.



heh heh heh - .

P.S. What role does salt play in all this?
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Old 10-23-2009, 04:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
The latest government recommendations
You're right, they are a little better than last time I looked.

Quote:
Personally how do you feel about that? (I remember your thread listing your cholesterol numbers past and present).
I'm pretty convinced, but I'm not sure I want to bet my life on the safety of saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet. I'll hedge my bets a bit. I had bacon and eggs for breakfast this morning, BTW.

Quote:
Curious, did the book also impugn non-processed carbs, like whole grains (i.e. steel cut oats or brown rice)?
No, but Rob Thompson's book does. The glycemic load of brown rice is 222 compared with 283 for white rice.

This is what he says (pg 52, Glycemic Load Diet).

The Whole-Grain Myth. What about whole-wheat bread? Isn’t
that supposed to be good for you? Indeed, real whole-grain
bread—bread that contains whole kernels of grain—has more
vitamins, protein, and fiber than white bread. Unfortunately
though, when it comes to causing glucose shocks, a slice of
whole-grain bread is just as bad as—in fact, slightly worse than—
a slice of white bread.
Indeed, whole-grain bread breaks down to glucose slower
than white bread does, so its glycemic index is slightly lower.
However, those little kernels are packed with starch. Slice for
slice, whole-grain bread contains up to twice as much starch as
white bread. You simply get more food in a slice of whole-grain
bread. The glycemic load of whole-grain bread—which takes into
account the amount of carbohydrate in a typical serving—is actu-
ally higherthan that of white bread.
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Old 10-23-2009, 04:44 PM   #19
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Ask him if you can do it in one fell swoop - Liedenhiemer's French bread(New Orleans) style Po-Boy - toasted and buttered with french fries smothered with brown gravy in the center.
Oh wow - sounds like something they'd serve in Nova Scotia (the last place those cajuns were!)

I'm still getting over the shock of a plate of french fries topped with gravy and cheese. I didn't eat it! I just saw a lot of other people eating it in Nova Scotia.

Audrey
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Old 10-23-2009, 05:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Personally how do you feel about that? (I remember your thread listing your cholesterol numbers past and present).








I'm pretty convinced, but I'm not sure I want to bet my life on the safety of saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet. I'll hedge my bets a bit. I had bacon and eggs for breakfast this morning, BTW.


Hold the toast pleeze


Personally, I still eat white food. I like it.... I eat much less of the white stuff than before though.


The surprise to me from the GC/BC book was the carb/cancer connection. I was aware of obesities/heart health/diabetes and such but not cancer...(YIKES!!)

I do eat meat and eat meat alot (mainly chicken, beef and fish probably in that order of consumption). I eat tons of veggies too. And fruit but only about one serving of fruit (like a half an orange and half an apple per day). No limit on nuts.... I use olive oil, butter and vegetable oil, in that order of consumption.


I even eat some sweets, but I am totally satisfied with maybe 2-3 tablespoons of ice cream or 1/4 of a donut. I never was really keen on sugary stuff anyway.
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