Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease

Rate this book
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 despite this advice, we have seen unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates, like white flour, easily digested starches, and sugars, and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. In this groundbreaking book, award-winning science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong.

601 pages, Hardcover

First published August 5, 2004

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Gary Taubes

27 books679 followers
Gary Taubes is an American science writer. He is the author of Nobel Dreams (1987), Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion (1993), and Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), titled The Diet Delusion (2008) in the UK and Australia. His book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It was released in December 2010. In December 2010 Taubes launched a blog at GaryTaubes.com to promote the book's release and to respond to critics. His main hypothesis is based on: Carbohydrates generate insulin, which causes the body to store fat.

Taubes studied applied physics at Harvard University (BS, 1977) and aerospace engineering at Stanford University (MS, 1978). After receiving a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in 1981, Taubes joined Discover magazine as a staff reporter in 1982. Since then he has written numerous articles for Discover, Science and other magazines. Originally focusing on physics issues, his interests have more recently turned to medicine and nutrition.

Taubes's books have all dealt with scientific controversies. Nobel Dreams takes a critical look at the politics and experimental techniques behind the Nobel Prize-winning work of physicist Carlo Rubbia. Bad Science is a chronicle of the short-lived media frenzy surrounding the Pons-Fleischmann cold fusion experiments of 1989. [wikipedia]

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4,486 (47%)
4 stars
2,915 (30%)
3 stars
1,445 (15%)
2 stars
420 (4%)
1 star
193 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 886 reviews
Profile Image for James.
Author 6 books491 followers
August 3, 2008
It is fitting that I finished this book while descending for landing over Newark airport in the middle of intense turbulence. It was the airsickness that the turbulent descent caused that I consider fitting. The sickening feeling one is left with after reading this book is similar: it starts slowly, it rises almost imperceptibly, but eventually, it seizes you almost entirely and renders you incapable of perceiving anything else.

Such is Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, a book of such significance that it shakes you where you sit. And though it will make you sick to read it, it will make you sick in all the right ways and for all the right reasons. It can only be hoped that it will also lead you to make all the right changes in your personal health worldview because nearly everything you believe about what you eat is wrong.

That’s the power of this book, its ability to mercilessly unearth issues you thought long ago resolved and buried. “Fat people are fat because they overeat and don’t exercise enough.” “Eating meat will cause heart disease.” “A low-fat diet will reduce your cholesterol.” These are just samples of the things you believe today that, in Taubes’ painfully thorough hands, you will come to find have not only never been verified through experimental studies in animals or humans, but actually contradict the combined evidence of over a century of research.

Taubes’s approach is exhausting. He is so thorough – 601 pages attest to this – as to scare away anyone without a basic comfort in health science. Though this is a shame, it is a necessary one, made so because the author hopes to avoid the many sins he enumerates among the researchers he chronicles who have so often selectively favored the slight evidence that supported their hypotheses and ignored evidence that contradicted their sincere beliefs. The result is an absolutely dizzying array of studies and references – the bibliography reaches 65 pages in length – that you must not only be led through but which you have to be able to retain in memory over many chapters because they will necessarily re-emerge later on.

It would be impossible to summarize his conclusions in this review for the same reason. However, there are three observations that one can abstract from the many stories and multiple health studies he weaves together: 1) The specialization of all scientific disciplines leaves each discipline with a partial, and often incorrect view of the whole; 2) Scientists often become so persuaded of the validity of their hypotheses that they stop looking for any evidence that would contradict it, and in fact, rationalize or simply ignore such evidence, even when collected by their own hands; and 3) Many studies in this area are flawed because they are designed under the assumption that the causality of the variables involved (meaning which thing controls which thing) is already understood.

(Perhaps more detail on #3 is warranted. One of the most poignant examples in the book came from an interview with a scientist who believed in the “law of thermodynamics” as it applies to obesity, which led him to conclude – and nearly all of us along with him – that fat people are fat because they eat too much and are lazy. When his own research demonstrated that the calorie intake of fat people was not related to their weight gain, he avoided this evidence by deciding that fat people may not eat too much but being lazy is enough to make them fat. His evidence? We should all just sit in an airport and take note of the fact that the lean people walk while the fat people take the escalators and moving walkways. This is particularly appalling because not only is his experience in an airport not a controlled scientific study, but also because his hypothesis that fat people are lazy is one explanation of why obese people prefer the moving walkways. An equally likely explanation of the same behavior is that it’s harder for the obese to walk than it is to ride. In essence, the scientist assumed causality went one way: lazy => fat, yet there is no reason other than personal dogmatic insistence on a particular view not to consider an equally rational direction for causality: fat=>”lazy” where lazy is defined as taking an escalator when one is offered. This is a radical rethink of our personal assumptions, and if there were no evidence to further strengthen this alternative hypothesis, then we would be forced to conclude that lazy=> fat. However, the evidence points almost completely the other way, as Taubes shows.)

By the first 50 pages I realized I had found a unique book. The opening is spectacularly engaging because it draws on historical examples and evidences such as the heart attack of President Eisenhower and his unsuccessful attempts to reduce his cholesterol though he ate almost no fat after that. It makes for good journalistic writing. However, once it gets through the engaging niceties, the book reveals itself as the disciplined scientific literature review it truly is, appropriate historical anecdotes mingled in to give the reader an occasional break. By the end of that first day, I resolved to begin restricting my carbohydrates immediately, though I hoped I would more fully understand my decision by the end of the book. That was ten days ago. In the intervening days I have lost 8 pounds. Fully aware that this could just be the result of a new enthusiasm for this diet, I decided early on not to confound my results by exercising or by cutting back my calories. Instead, I have used my few free mornings for writing, and yes, reading more of Good Calories, Bad Calories. Additionally, I have given myself license not only to eat whatever fat and protein I want, I have consciously tried to overeat both. Four pieces of bacon, an egg, a 4-carb cracker smeared with a thick layer of cream cheese and topped with pancetta – they are all not strangers to me. I have steak for dinner when possible, and eat sausages of all sorts. I regularly dine on cheese whenever I feel hungry, and I go through peanuts as though they were going out of style. To make my experiment complete, I should be cataloging this intake, but suffice it to say I am not only not hungry, I am stuffed.

Interestingly, this book contains no diet at all, a fact that Taubes’s editors must have pointed out, leading to the epilogue which summarizes all his conclusions and comes close to recommending specific diet steps. It’s not actually his goal to change how you eat, rather to change how scientists and researchers approach the important questions of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, each of which is reaching epidemic proportions, despite our public obsession with all things low-fat. This is another reason why the book is so credible. Not only is the author pedigreed as a science journalist (a correspondent for Science, a magazine that has more in common with a scholarly journal than with Newsweek); and not only is the book astonishingly well researched and documented; but the author hasn’t (yet) produced a diet handbook to make himself rich. This last fact is significant and something that Atkins couldn’t say (and for which the research establishment ridiculed him) and something that health researchers receiving million dollar grants from refined carbohydrate producers like Procter & Gamble, M&M/Mars or Post also can’t say.

My advice: read the book, think through the logic, and perform a personal test. As one friend with high blood pressure and high cholesterol who experimented with a low-carb diet explained to me: “My doctor is very bothered by my results – I am eating fat all the time, I practically can’t have a glass of water without putting a pork chop in it – but my lab tests are coming back healthier and cleaner than my doctor has ever seen them.” I imagine that upon seeing these counterintuitive results the doctor felt a sickening feeling similar to airsickness. It is disconcerting, even sickening for a doctor to find that everything he believed – and everything he recommended to his patients – was based on faulty assumptions never proven by science yet perpetuated by every expert panel and official report. That’s a sick feeling I know and one that may well make us all well if we heed it.

-- Update, August 2008. I'm at 198 pounds, a loss of 20 pounds, and still dropping weight, without exercise and without restricting calories
72 reviews13 followers
October 16, 2007
This book is like the Copernican Revolution of diet advice: reverse one key assumption, and suddenly all the evidence that didn't fit the previous hypothesis suddenly makes sense. Taubes suggests that we've mixed up cause and effect: we don't get fat because we eat too many calories and don't get enough exercise. It's the other way around: we eat too many calories and don't have the energy to exercise because we're fat. That is to say, obesity is a medical condition caused by our body channeling too much of the food we consume into fat cells instead of using it for other metabolic processes. This leaves us tired and hungry, because all our cells except our fat cells are being starved. So we eat more and move less. And the cause of this medical condition is excess insulin, which is the body's fat storage hormone. And the cause of excess insulin is consumption of carbohydrates, especially refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and foods made of processed white flour.

I simply can't do justice to the complexity of the argument and the massive amount of research that Taubes has reviewed in his book. You simply must read it yourself.
Profile Image for Amy.
35 reviews
July 16, 2012
ill miss you, pasta, but i think it's for the best.
Profile Image for Belinda.
208 reviews41 followers
March 2, 2009
Holy RESEARCH, Batman. Wow. It seems like Gary Taubes maybe took a lot of guff after his controversial piece in the New York Times, and decided to just let all his critics have it by burying them in tons and tons of data.

I have read about low-carb diets before, but nothing really convincing (to me, anyway, because I loves my bread). This 600+ page whopper really drives the point home that of all the variables in our diets, the one thing that affects the most change when it's reduced, increased, or removed is carbohydrate.

Also fascinating, beyond the mechanics of why cutting carbs and increasing fat (you heard me, increasing FAT) can actually improve health, is the huge chunk of the book that's devoted to reporting on the political process behind how nutritional theory comes to be "common knowledge" in this country. It's a little scary, frankly.

Since finishing this book, I've also gone back and re-read Protein Power, and picked up Protein Power Life Plan, as well as a couple of hefty low-carb cookbooks. I've tossed all the sugar, corn-syrup, and refined carb products out of our house, and I'm carefully monitoring the complex carbs that I'm feeding my family.

And not for nothing, but I've lost 9 pounds in a week, despite *increasing* my calorie consumption. The next few months should be interesting.
Profile Image for Duffy Pratt.
470 reviews133 followers
August 1, 2011
I've often been asked what's the best way to lose 10 lbs quickly, usually by someone who is getting ready for some major event. A few times, I've answered: "You could cut off one of your legs." For some reason, this answer never goes over that well. And yes, its not as funny as I first thought, but it does have a point.

Of course, most people mean they want to lose some subcutaneous fat. That is why most people ridicule the early weight loss on a low carb diet: it's only water that you lost, so it doesn't mean anything. Similarly, everyone gets reassured if they gain some weight when starting an exercise program: muscle is denser than fat and it raises your metabolism. That's a good weight gain.

But there are people who want to lose weight for other reasons. I recently went back on a low carb diet, partially to lose some fat. But my immediate goal was to get some pressure off of my aching knees, and maybe to lower my blood pressure. The diuretic effect of the diet did both of those things very nicely. And going back on the low carb diet also led me to this book.

Taubes is great at challenging conventional wisdom. This book divides basically into two parts. Part one criticizes the idea that dietary fat causes heart disease. Part two challenges the idea that overeating and lack of exercise cause obesity. The amazing thing is that on both fronts, Taube is very convincing.

The first part is the easier one to swallow, and I think its the more important point. Taubes does a great job of showing the growth of misinformation about dietary fat, cholesterol, and heart disease. He does an even better job of showing how things can go astray when science and public policy get intertwined. He also gives a decent alternative hypothesis for the causes of "diseases of civilization," which include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc... These diseases tend to appear in populations along with the increased consumption of refined starches and sugars. Taubes argues that high carbohydrates may be the culprit, and not high fat. The key evidence for me personally is the relationships between carbs and triglycerides and HDL. A low carb diet tends to raise HDL, and will almost immediately bring triglycerides into line.

The second part is a bit tougher going. The typical thinking about obesity is as follows: it's governed by the conservation of energy. Consume more calories than you burn and you gain weight. I've had my own reservations about this simple idea for a long time. First off, energy has no mass. Thus, this reasoning is at best derivative. Weight gain or loss is a question of the conservation of matter not energy. Mass only gets turned into energy in atomic reactions, and I don't think I have all that many nuclear explosions going on in my body. That's not a promising road for weight loss.

Thinking about it as mass, how does a body gain weight? Eating, drinking, and inhaling. How does it lose weight? Shitting, pissing, sweating, shedding, and exhaling. The surprising thing, I think, is that most of our actual weight loss comes from the difference between inhaling and exhaling. We inhale O2, and exhale C02 which is almost twice as heavy as the inhaled molecules. The CO2 is basically our way of getting rid of the ash that's left when we burn our fuel. But this is just my aside, and one that points out the significant jumps that are made by the calorie in, calorie out idea.

Taubes criticism is quite different. He basically says that the calorie in, calorie idea is correct, but that it says nothing about the cause of obesity. Suppose you saw a club that was really crowded and you wanted to know why. You could ask someone like me, and I might tell you that its because more people came into the club than left it. Well, duh. But you wanted to know why the club was crowded. Taubes says its the same thing with obesity. The trouble with staying with the calorie in/calorie out idea is that it says nothing about the cause. People then fall back and say the cause is a lack of willpower. (How would a determinist respond to this one, I wonder?)

Taubes instead says that both obesity, and the caloric imbalance, are symptoms of something else. His hypothesis is basically that the obese suffer from a type of insulin resistance. Their muscles are insulin resistant while their fat cells remain sensitive to insulin. This causes their fat cells draw fat and energy out of the body. The muscles sufficient energy because the fat cells have hogged it up. This leads to a state of semi-starvation as far as the muscles are concerned. Metabolic rate drops and the person conserves energy by moving less.

We can cut insulin by cutting carbs, so cutting carbs should bring an obese person back to health. It's a nice theory. Unfortunately, the dispute is now more political than scientific. The establishment simply wants to show that low carb diets are bad for you, or that they are just reduced calorie diets in disguise. So they have no interest in genuinely testing the ideas. The low carb community tends to create zealots of their own, with as little interest in the science as the establishment. So it doesn't seem likely that anyone will do controlled tests on these hypotheses.

I find the whole thing to be fascinating. I've read that Taubes has succumbed to some of the biases that he criticizes -- mainly that he has ignored some studies that might be uncomfortable to his ideas. Getting to the bottom of that would require more effort than I'm willing to put in. In part, I like this book because I always like a book that convincingly stands the conventional wisdom on its head. I also think he writes amazingly well, especially for a book this heavy on science. And I think the ideas are worth considering, especially the idea that our received "wisdom" about dietary fat may be all wrong.

47 reviews3 followers
February 26, 2008
First the bad - this book is a slog, especially the first third of it. It definitely takes some effort to read.
That said, if you're interested in nutrition, or fitness, or biology or, as I am, debunking and exposing bad science, you should read this book.
Taubes makes a convincing case for the idea that the dietary guidelines we Americans have been getting for the last forty years are not healthy and are making us fatter and less fit. He shows how obesity is considered a moral failing (laziness and lack of self-control) in this country, and how that prevents rational discussion and treatment of it. He shows that the so-called "diseases of civilization" inevitably appear with the arrival of processed sugar and flour. He argues that all calories are not equal (and that therefore you can't use a simple "burn more calories than you consume" strategy for weight loss) and that carbohydrate not only doesn't provide the same food value as proteins such as meat, but that overconsumption of carbohydrate causes obesity. That part bummed out this former vegetarian and current light-meat-eater.
Am I qualified to evaluate the science of this book? I am not. I've been scouring the internet for opposing points of view and all the criticisms I've found have said there hasn't been enough research, which is exactly what he's arguing for. I want every smart person out there to read this book and then tell me what they think of it. Get on that.
Profile Image for Glenn Dixon.
14 reviews
June 10, 2018
I am leaving my originsl review of this book here (below) but ten years later and I have completely, utterly changed my mind. This book is generally bullshit.

Taubes makes critical errors throughout. The voluminous footnotes gives the appearance of a thorough researcher, but given that he generally misinterprets, slants and selectively quotes them all, the volume only serves to mask his bias. His foundation is equally problematic. Here is a very thorough recap

The current science shows that the makeup of the diet doesn't really matter. In other words, in the end, it really is just Calories In/Calories Out.

NOTE: This review (below) is old and completely wrong. I leave it here as a reminder of how easy it is for authors to mislead
Still in the first part of this book, but so far it is a thorough overview of the history of medical research into diet. It has almost completely shattered my view of the state of government-funded research in America. It is disturbing to discover that everything you have heard about healthy eating your whole life might be totally wrong.
19 reviews
January 17, 2008
This is by no means an "easy read" nor an easy argument. Taubes reviews the scientific literature relating to diet, obsesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. He tells us why the recent focus on low-fat, high carbohydrate diets is not based on credible scientific evidence. The argument has been that high fat diets cause heart disease. Taubes argues that consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates causes the body to produce excessive insulin which causes fat retention. This hormonal alteration leads to the major "diseases of civilization" that plague us: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Practical implications? If you are searching for a weight loss plan, avoid low-fat, high carborhydrate "semi-starvation" diets. You may lose weight temporarily, but you will regain it. If you are conderned with proper weight and high trigylcerides and blood sugar, then eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet. This should not simply be a diet but a change of life.
Profile Image for Karin Williams.
Author 10 books3 followers
October 24, 2007
This is NOT a diet book (as one might imagine from looking at the cover)... it's an quietly revolutionary treatise by a very accomplished science journalist. It's a very dense book that requires a lot of thought, especially from somebody like me with only cursory background in biology. Nevertheless, I find it absolutely fascinating. Taubes not only undermines a lot of the basic nutritional wisdom we all grew up with, he details the historical evolution of scientific thought about nutrition in a way that's made me question my faith in the scientific establishment as well as the FDA.
Profile Image for Laurie Thomas.
Author 5 books8 followers
January 5, 2016
Gary Taubes has no training whatsoever in medicine or nutrition, and his ignorance shows. We know from a combination of epidemiological and clinical studies that a high-fat diet contributes to high cholesterol levels, which in turn are a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of atherosclerosis. Coronary artery disease is practically nonexistent among populations that eat a low-fat, high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diet. When wartime rationing limited the public's access to fatty, cholesterol-rich foods in various European countries, the death rate from heart attacks and type 2 diabetes plummeted. When the people could resume eating rich, fatty foods after the war, the rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes rose again.
It's actually hard to fatten or even to stay fat on a starchy, low-fat diet. The human body can turn sugar to fat, but it rarely does so because about 30% of the calories are wasted in the conversion. If your body has a few calories' worth of extra carbohydrates, it would rather burn them off by raising your metabolic rate. You may burn them off through extra activity or simply through producing a bit more body heat. But you don't have to take my word for it. Read the scientific literature on "de novo lipogenesis," which is the scientific term for making fat out of nonfat.
49 reviews1 follower
July 16, 2008
I read this 500 page tome in 2 days. Resisted starting to re-read because I promised it to others. This is by outstanding science journalist Gary Taubes. I had so many light bulbs going on while I read this that I was almost blinded. I'm a chemist and I have taken a course in chemical thermodynamics. His treatment of 'all calories are not created equally' was revelatory. For a long time the nutritionists argument that because you can extract (by testing with a bomb calorimeter in a lab) 9 calories/gram from fat versus 4 calories/gram from carbohydrate, that was all they looked at to assert that fat was more fattening. But what if those values are merely the 'maximum' extractable (in a lab setting) calories. So, for example, what if a human body upon ingestion of a gram of fat only gleans 0.5 calories compared to getting 3 calories for every gram of carbohydrate. No laws of thermodynamics were harmed in the writing of this book.
Profile Image for Kevin Rose.
1 review211 followers
January 2, 2009
This book is extremely technical, you almost need a background in nutrition to understand some of the research presented. For an easier digestible book about glycemic load, check out the Glycemic-load Diet
27 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2021
Nutrition is hard. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who is bewildered by the complete lack of a scientific consensus on what constitutes a healthy diet. The two main underlying questions are 1) what causes us to accumulate unwanted bodyfat, and 2) what causes heart disease. If you are very certain that obesity is caused by eating too many calories and exercising too little, and that heart disease is caused by dietary fat, this book is for you.

For most of us, it's an impossible task to comb through the scientific literature from the last 100 years or so and pin down a few facts. Luckily, people like Gary Taubes exist. This book is a guided tour of the history of nutritional science (Gary wouldn't use the word science), with a focus on the questions of obesity and heart disease. It was extremely well written, and made a very compelling case for a number of things. I don't think that I'd be able to do the book justice with a summary, so I'll instead encourage you to take the journey yourself. For those that want to skip straight to the destination, Gary summarizes his findings very succinctly late in the book, and here they are:

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.

2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis- the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.

3. Sugars- sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically- are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.

4. Through their effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization.

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. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.

7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance- a disequilibrium- in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this balance.

8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated- either chronically or after a meal- we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.

9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.

10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.

If you find yourself wondering how it can be possible that most of those conclusions go against modern health dogma, this book is for you. Gary very specifically avoids calling the handful of people that built this nutritional house of cards "scientists" for a very good reason; they weren't really doing science. I would call it motivated science.

This is the best book that I've read to date on this topic (by far), but I think that it's still critically important to remind people that the variation in individual response to various eating plans is enormous. Some people can eat carbs to their heart's content and not get fat until their 60s, or maybe never. Some people have are genetically predisposed to heart disease, and need to be extremely careful about their LDL cholesterol particle count, and probably therefore saturated fat.

Penultimately, for those audiobook aficionados out there, this book is very digestible in that format, and the narrator is not annoying.

Lastly, if you do choose to read this book and find your curiosity on this topic set ablaze, feel free to get in touch to discuss a few other books and resources that I've found helpful for thinking about nutritional biochemistry.
Profile Image for Chrissy Wissler.
Author 1 book2 followers
June 24, 2010
Nothing is more frustrating than following all the right steps, sticking to your good eating and exercise habits, getting on the scale and seeing absolutely no drop. Or worse, you've gained.

But what if they were wrong? You know, all those rules your mother or father instilled into your young mind about staying away from cheese and butter, eating low-fat and limiting red meat. What if the government's famous food pyramid was actually based on incomplete data, that when actually looked at closely, contradicts their statements?

"Good Calories, Bad Calories," isn't perfect, nor is it a one-stop-guide to weight loss. What it does, however, is bring to light facts that have been long buried. Experiments and hypothesis's from the early 1900s to today, scientists who were ridiculed because what their experiments proved the conventional information taught to the public were flawed. When there's a lot of money backing up this incorrect information, those some associations aren't suddenly going to turn around and embrace the new wisdom and science. They'll do everything they can to discredit the experiments, the scientists, the trials, those who were studied.

Of course, we go on, eating as much refined-carbohydrates as we want because high-carb diets were safe and that's what we're continually being told.

If you want to know the truth about weight gain, why we can't lose weight and obesity, look at the science. That's where the truth is.

Dr. Gary Taubes gives you the facts, from the myths that created the fat-cholesterol hypothesis, how it became so powerful both in the public and scientific communities, but then he explains the basic physiological science, including the important role insulin plays on weight gain by prohibiting the breakdown of fat in our adipose tissues (and more, oh believe me, there's much more).

There's a lot of science here, but Dr. Taubes explains it in a way the non-researcher can follow. Truthfully, the physiological science simply makes sense.

Regardless, it's your decision to read this book, and further, it's your decision whether or not to believe it. But I'm someone who likes to understand the details and why things happen the way they do. Clearly, if the current mode of eat less fat, eat less calories, and exercise more isn't working, there's a reason for it. I'd like to know what that is rather than stumble along, continually following on blind faith alone.

I'd like some answers.
7 reviews3 followers
December 23, 2014
I had thought about the theme of this book for awhile -- what explicit scientific research supports our knowledge of nutrition. Taube answers these questions particularly in his contention that refined carbohydrates lead to a myriad of "diseases of civilization". What differentiates this book from the endless advice of health magazines, doctors and pop nutritionists is the specific scientific studies he uses in the construction of his argument and the historical research concerning how our current thoughts of nutrition health have arisen. Taube's training in the philosophy of science comes through in both the way he attacks dubious scientific knowledge. I recommend this book for understanding one of the most frequent problems in science -- confusing association with causation.
Profile Image for Jenny.
8 reviews1 follower
January 11, 2010
This book changed the way I thought about food. Taubes' analysis of existing studies is convincing and I'm relieved that he has done all the reading for me. To summarize, sugar will kill you and you should cut back on carbs. At times, it is exhausting to read through endless verbal descriptions of graphs and tables. I'll also point out that he lambastes scientists for having biases and agendas, while the book has a very dominant agenda throughout.
Profile Image for Vilena.
17 reviews26 followers
March 25, 2017
One big, fat, disrespectful slap in the face of nutritional science

Avoid this book at all costs, for it is extremely misleading about nutrition. I couldn’t bring myself to finish it, nor did I want to, in all honesty. I even feel somewhat conflicted to be writing this review because I don’t want to contribute to this aberration of a “research” in any way, even if it’s to dismantle the junk science and ignorance of the author.

My only points of agreement are as follows:
1. I agree that low-carb diets are effective for treatments of diabetes and weight loss (but then, so are low-fat, high-fiber diets);
2. I agree that high glycemic index carbs should be included in the long list of risk factors for heart disease (but animal fat is as least as bad if not much worse);
3. I agree that total cholesterol below 150 is associated with a greater risk of stroke, but only for people with untreated hypertension or who smoke or drink alcohol/caffeine.

As for the remainder of the book... My oh my where do I even start?
First of all, I am amazed at the fact that this book has such high ratings which only serves as proof to show how easily people buy into these fad diets, junk science, and are ready to believe anything so long as it’s sold convincingly (which I’ve got to admit, Gary Taubes does in an excellent fashion).

However, if one bothered to familiarize himself with some independent research, first thing that stands out as a bothersome fact is that the author has no training whatsoever in medicine or nutrition, and his ignorance shows. Gary Taubes is a journalist. It appears nonsensical to me that someone would attempt to write and sell a book way beyond their area of expertise.

You have to remember: this is a man with a degree in physics and journalism attempting to give medical advice based on his own weight loss from a low-carb Atkins-like (“Eco-Atkins”) diet.

Whilst a few of his arguments have some merit (see above), I, as a nutrition professional, was enraged by what I read. I’m sorry but nobody will ever be able to convince me or any other medical/RD professional for that matter that a processed piece of sausage/cheese is better than, say, a peach or squash.

“Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.” Carbohydrates (wheat, fruits and berries, legumes, milk and sugar in all forms) are to blame!

Are they, though?

Carbs are not your enemy. Our brain, nerve cells, and red blood selse all function exclusively on glucose, which is a byproduct of, guess what? That’s right, carbohydrates! When there’s not enough carbs in our diet, the body uses protein first, NOT FAT, to fuel its own sources. It basically starts eating itself from within in a desperate attempt to maintain proper organ functioning. Not only a diet low in carbs hinders muscle growth & strength, messes with one’s mood and cognitive abilities; it also significantly impairs muscle tissues of our vital organs such as the brain and the heart because no matter how much protein you stuff yourself with, if you aren’t providing your body with a sufficient amount of carbs, it will turn to protein as a costly energy source diverting it to be used as energy.

Protein is needed to maintain and build muscle, hormones, enzymes, and cells in the body. When the body is lacking in carbs or energy, protein's use is shifted from its aforementioned primary role to fuel provision. In the end, it’s like trying to repair a leaking roof in your house by taking away material from any other part of the house, not outside of it, - gaining by losing and eventually, just losing. Deterioration ensues.

People lose weight on low-carb diets because they devour their own protein tissues as fuel.

Don't even get me started on ketogenic diets. There is quite a lot of research done to suggest ketones might be carcinogenic, and as for ketosis - only half of the brain's cells can use these compounds for energy. A person on a low-carb diet is in it for a slow suicide, miserable, fatigued, depressed, and starved.

I wish I could etch these basic facts into the brains of those who swear by low-carb diets and completely ignore any research that doesn’t serve to further support their own confirmation bias.

And boy, does the author have some.

For example, Taubes is nihilistic about any evidence against animal fat. To him, every study has a flaw, nothing is ever certain. But when it comes to uncontrolled observational studies of other cultures (evidence that's much weaker than the evidence he finds fault with), he accepts it without critical thinking.

One of the many things I found laughable and infuriating at the same time was this claim: "By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be."

Good banter. In rural China during the 80s, they ate 75.8% carbs (but they're healthy carbs) and more calories than Americans and they had extremely low rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These facts about China are not in dispute. By ignoring them “Good Calories Bad Calories” misleads us about the complexities of physiology and the fact that some people do best on low-carb while many others do best on low-fat.

Yes, insulin is a hormone responsible for fat storage, but most of the carbs we eat are being stored in the liver in the form of glycogen. In healthy, non-sedentary people, glycogen reserves get used up and emptied within an approximate of 3 to 6 hours (unless at night). What happens to the remaining carbs? They get stored as fat but unless you consume huge, unreasonable with your metabolic rate and daily needs, amounts of carbs, you shouldn’t worry about it, - the fat is spent by the time your insulin levels peak again (which is, at the time you have another meal). Also, having small but frequent meals throughout the day keeps high peaks of insulin at bay, thus resulting in lower fat accumulation.

Another fun fact (grossly neglected by the author, of course): oats and barley contain beta-glucan and resistant starch which can lower fasting blood sugar, insulin and improve the HDL/total cholesterol ratio. Insoluble fiber like wheat bran is very important for digestive health. For the small percentage of people with celiac disease (1%) or gluten sensitivity (3 - 15%) there are many grains without gluten. Cultures where people live the longest eat more whole grains, beans and yams than the average American.

Most people handle low GI, high-fiber carbs just fine (these include fruit, non-starchy vegetables, peas, beans, whole grain pasta cooked al dente, rolled oats, corn on the cob, brown rice, sprouted grain bread, yams etc). They don't cause the metabolic syndrome or increase the number of small dense LDL particles. The American public has never tried replacing saturated animal fat, sugar, white flour and baking potatoes with low GI, high-fiber carbs, nuts, olive, or canola oil and fish. And the average American is eating out more often (sometimes twice a day instead of twice a week) and getting bigger portions than we would at home. Therefore, the obesity epidemic proves nothing about beans and peas and whole grains and yams.

Not to mention that excess insulin is just one factor in a long list of things that induce most of poor quality lifestyle-associated diseases. Excess calories, excess IGF1 (insulin-like growth factor hormone), vitamin D insufficiency, a sedentary lifestyle, a shortage of phytochemicals from fruit and vegetables, a shortage of omega-3, consuming too much sodium, drinking and smoking all have huge effects on Western diseases.

More stupid sh!t: Taubes tells us people can be healthy eating 100% meat, but fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans contain phytonutrients that act like “low-dose chemotherapy” which is the biggest BS I’ve heard and I can’t nor do I want to use a different epithet to describe such an ignorant and egregious statement (well, looks like I just did). This deserves an eyeroll and a condemning headshake.

In conclusion, “Good Calories Bad Calories” is a very poorly written book with an abundance of bad diet advice, false information derived solely from the author’s own experience and founded on his ignorance about the science of nutrition, and selective research that serves to sell the reader the confirmation biases of the author . Taubes seems to focus so intently on issues regarding carbohydrates versus calories that he misses the bigger picture and misleads people, taking advantage of his popularity to sell utter BS to the masses.

Do not be an idiot, use your independent mind and do your own research. You don’t even have to be a Registered Dietitian or a medical professional for that. All it takes is possessing basic nutritional knowledge.

PS. I would recommend this article from The NY Times to anyone who's not convinced by my review (which is exactly what I expect anyone possessing high critical skills to do).
Profile Image for Mindi Bennett.
95 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2010
{This is a long review, but I wanted to quote from the Epilogue because I think it sums up with whole book in fairly simple language. So if you read this you can pat yourself on the back and say "I just read a 601 page book today, summed up". I think Gary Taubes findings will surprise you, it seems to go against everything I thought I knew about nutrition. And since I have a tendency to believe everything I read, I'm very confused right now.}
The whole time I was "reading" this book (I read two chapters, "Sugar" & "The Carbohydrate Hypothesis", and skimmed the rest) I was thinking "Geez I wish I knew what he was talking about!" The language is heavy with medical jargon, I wish I had the background and knowledge to comprehend. The only parts I think I understood were in the Epilogue:
"Throughout this research, I tried to follow the facts wherever they led. In writing the book (which took 5 years of research), I have tried to let the science and the evidence speak for themselves. When I began my research, I had no idea that I would come to believe that obesity is not caused by eating too much, or that exercise is not a means of prevention. Nor did I believe that diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's could possible be caused by the consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars. I had no idea that I would find the quality of the research on nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease to be so inadequate; that so much of the conventional wisdom would be founded on so little substantial evidence; and that, once it was, the researchers and the public-health authorities who funded the research would no longer see any reason to challenge this conventional wisdom and so to test its validity.
"As I emerge from this research, though, certain conclusions seem inescapable to me, based on existing knowledge:
"1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.
2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis--the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.
3. Sugars--sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically--are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.
4. Through their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, 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 the other chronic diseases of civilization.
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. Expending more energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.
7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance--a disequilibrium--in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this balance.
8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated--either chronically or after a meal--we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.
9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.
10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity."
Profile Image for Greg Linster.
251 reviews81 followers
August 8, 2013
What makes people fat? Is red meat unhealthy? Will a diet low in saturated fat reduce your risk for heart diseases? It’s fair to say that most of us have grown accustomed to the conventional wisdom that is often used to answer these questions, i.e., being lazy makes people fat, red meat is unhealthy, and, of course, a diet low in saturated fat is better for you than one high in saturated fat. Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, asks us to consider one more question though: have any of these claims been verified through rigorous science or are they merely the pet views of certain individuals?

When it comes to health and diet, everything you think you know may in fact be wrong. In the book, Taubes rigorously analyzes the mounds of scientific literature on the subject and he claims the following: “I had no idea that I would find the quality of research on nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease to be so inadequate; that so much conventional wisdom would be founded on so little substantial evidence; and that, once it was, the researchers and the public-health authorities who funded the research would no longer see any reason to challenge this conventional wisdom and so test its validity.”

After reading this book, there is no doubt in my mind that the dietary advice we’ve been given for the last three decades by the federal government has been based on shaky science and that is has been harmful to our collective health. I think it would be fair to say that those who demonized saturated fat owe us an apology. Taubes convincingly shows that much of what is believed about nutrition and health is based on political agendas coupled with only the flimsiest of “science”.

Taubes reminds readers that the human body is complex and it’s very tempting to oversimplify it, especially in field of science. When studying complex systems, it’s also very easy to confuse cause and effect. Taubes demonstrates this point by asking the following question: do we overeat because we are fat or are we fat because we overeat? It’s important to note that the answer to this question is not trivial; the causality is quite different in each case. In case you’re wondering, he believes that former answer is correct.

So what, then, constitutes a healthy diet? Like Taubes, I trust Mother Nature much more than I do the federal government or nutritionists. Most humans have been eating saturated fat and meat for a long time. I am, however, weary of any dietary zealots who claim to know with certainty that their way of eating is superior. In my opinion, people have evolved different levels of tolerance for different things. Processed foods, however, are very new in the evolutionary picture, so I think you can’t go wrong with the advice to focus on eating real food, even if it’s mostly meat.

- See more at: http://coffeetheory.com/2010/05/27/bo...
Profile Image for Jonathan-David Jackson.
Author 7 books32 followers
April 10, 2016
To decide if you want to bite into a book this dense, read this article: The Sugar Conspiracy - The Guardian. It speaks about nearly everything this book does, but in a much more readable way and with a lot less detail. If the article satisfies you, look no further. If it leaves you wanting more, then get this book. I enjoyed reading it because it confirms the book, and I enjoy having my opinions confirmed.

Here are the 8 main points made in this book, paraphrased:

1. Eating fat does not cause obesity, high cholesterol, or heart disease. In fact, it's good for you.

2. Eating carbohydrates causes those things, and may also cause Alzheimer's disease and many cancers.

3. The more refined carbohydrates are, the worse they are. Sugars (especially white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup) are the most harmful carbohydrates.

4. Fattening is not caused by overeating or not moving enough. Eating more calories does not cause us to grow fatter, any more than it causes a child to grow taller. Using more energy than you consume (through exercise) makes you hungrier, not leaner.

5. Fattening is caused by an imbalance in how your hormones regulate fat tissue and your metabolism. We become leaner when those hormones (of which insulin is one) are in balance.

6. Carbohydrates make us fat by stimulating insulin production. They also increase hunger and decrease the energy we use through our metabolism and exercise.

7. Many experiments, scientific studies, and clinical experiences show these points to be true.

8. We are not publicly aware of these points because of a) science done badly, including influential people ignoring results when it doesn't fit what they already believe, b) vested interests, c) inertia in government, public, and medical opinion, and d) the complexity of the science.

After the 460 page main book, there are 50 pages of notes and a 70 page bibliography. There's no way I could go through all the sources and independently verify what he's saying - it took him 5 years in the first place. He does make a very convincing case for me, though. Since I've started reading this I've switched from muesli to eggs (cooked in fat) for breakfast, and I'm intending to make more changes. If I feel healthier in a year or so, I'll update this review. If I die of a heart attack, I will not.
Profile Image for Paul Magnussen.
195 reviews27 followers
September 16, 2022
People who’ve read this will be unsurprised to learn that a great deal of material was cut out (including, interestingly, comments on the work of Weston A. Price) at the instigation of the publishers, simply because the size of the book was getting prohibitively large.

It’s been suggested that Gary reassemble this material and publish it as GCBC, Part 2. In the meantime, Google “Gout: The Missing Chapter”.

I’m one of those who think that Gary should get the Nobel Prize for GCBC.
Profile Image for Tucker Carney.
4 reviews4 followers
December 29, 2008
Honestly, I never finished the book. At first I thought it was incredible, and the explanation of how our culture came to embrace the food pyramid and the switch to processed carbo-loaded foods was fascinating and infuriating. But like any good contrarian, as I got further into the book I started to question many of the authors sources too. It's too one sided. I'd like a little more give and take even if it ultimately ended up with the same conclusion. With the one sided format you start to question its veracity. Perhaps I'll finish it at some point and amend my review.
Profile Image for Diane.
29 reviews
June 27, 2008
Lots of science, lots of suggestion that the hypotheses have driven the interpretation of the evidence, rather than the evidence supporting or refuting the hypotheses.

I don't know what to think about the overall book yet--I still have some pages to wade through. It almost feels like being persuaded that the world is flat.
45 reviews2 followers
January 16, 2008
It's difficult to recommend this book highly enough. There are at least three topics about which the common wisdom is completely overturned by the author in this book: the physiology of fat accumulation and obesity, the causes of the "diseases of civilization" such diabetes and heart conditions, and the nature of a healthy diet which will produce weight loss along with physical and mental well-being. Pretty much everything we have been brought up to believe regarding these subjects is fundamentally flawed, as Taubes demonstrates convincingly, and the popular science behind current recommendations about diet and weight loss has been thoroughly compromised by misconceptions and a stubborn refusal to honestly assess the evidence on the part of health "authorities."
There are also possibilities for a valuable social critique based on Taubes' analysis, though he does not address them. Perhaps most important is the social status of the overweight and obese in out society, who have suffered being labeled as "weak-willed," "gluttons," and "lazy." Some health authorities have even gone so far as, and feel perfectly justified in, condoning a form of ostracism and a social quarantine for the overweight in order to confine their negative, unhealthy lifestyles that perhaps, the latest wisdom pronounces, are contagious.
As Taubes shows, all of this is guided, or misguided, by a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature and causes of obesity. A person does not get fat because he or she overeats or does not exercise enough; rather, a person eats more and exercises less because they are fat. Once this basic truth is realized, almost all the current dieting and exercise advise streaming daily from the health industry, including its recent social assault on the overweight, goes out the window and into the garbage where it belongs.
Furthermore, Taubes reveals that the correct methods for weight loss and health have been known for sometime, but have been ignored in the popular media and scientific community, all based on the simple refusal to believe that neither the consumption of fat, overeating, nor a sedentary lifestyle are the causes of obesity. Instead, the cause of obesity is the fat accumulation that occurs from the effects of insulin, excessive quantities of which are triggered by the over-consumption of carbohydrates, indicating that the currently recommendations regarding the best ratios for fat and carbohydrate consumption in a healthy diet have things completely backwards.
This should amount to no less than a revolution in the way we think about dieting and health, even though anyone actually paying to the scientific evidence would already have come to Taubes’s conclusions. It will be interesting to see the popular reaction to this book, assuming there is any at all.
Profile Image for Jodi.
Author 5 books72 followers
March 10, 2012
This book is one of the most important health books I have ever read.

(My copy was called 'The Diet Delusion' which is the UK and Australian etc. title of the book 'Good Calories, Bad Calories'.)

The author is incredibly intelligent and that this book took the author more than five years to write, shows. I've read few health books so intelligently written as this one.

I thought I was quite well educated about diet and the need to restrict refined carbohydrates (for good health and to stop weight gain) but I learned so much from reading this book.

This book is not a simple book offering practical advice and a diet sheet but a detailed analysis of why low calorie diets don't work and why restricted carbohydrate/high fat diets do.

The book explains that:

1. The 'calories in, calories out' mantra is a myth

2. 'A calorie is a calorie is a calorie' is a myth

3. The 'just eat less and do more exercise to lose weight' message seems to be logical but is actually wrong and unhelpful

4. Overweight and obese people often eat no more calories, or even less, than their thinner counterparts

5. Low calorie diets also reduce the amount of nutrients in the diet

6. It is a myth that the brain and CNS needs 120 - 130 grams of carbohydrate as fuel in order to function properly, as the body can use fat and protein equally as well, and these fuels are likely the mixture our brains have evolved to prefer.

7. Restricting calories with a low fat/high carb diet just makes you hungrier and more lethargic and slows your metabolic rate. Weight loss is only maintained if the patients stays on a semi-starvation diet forever, which is impossible for most people and also undesirable. Being far more active just makes you far more hungry.

8. It is a myth that reducing calories slightly or increasing activity slightly will lead to weight loss.

9. It is a myth that we evolved through periods of feast and famine to be very good at holding onto fat. Fat gain is due to excessive insulin levels caused by high dietary refined carbohydrate intake. It is a sign of something in the body going wrong, not a healthy adaptation.

10. Fructose is not much better than glucose and the two together may cause more harm than either individually.

11. The idea of a weight 'set point' is a myth

12. Insulin is the overall fuel control for mammals. High insulin levels cause the body to store fat and stop the body from using fat as fuel. This means that high carbohydrate foods make you put on more fat, and also leave you still feeling very hungry and unsatisfied.

13. Our bodies have evolved to do best on a diet of plentiful fat and protein (including saturated fat), lots of greens and minimal fruits and starchy vegetables. This diet is the best for health and also for losing weight and stopping weight gain.

14. Dietary fat, including saturated fat, is not a cause of obesity. Refined and easily digestible carbs causing high insulin levels cause obesity.

15. To say that people are overweight due to gluttony and slothfulness is just not correct and it is very unfair. Overeating and a sedentary lifestyle are often CAUSED by eating a high carbohydrate diet! This association has wrongly been interpreted as a cause of weight gain, rather than an effect.

16. Hunger caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet (or excessive exercising while on a low calorie diet) is a very strong physiological drive and should not be thought of something mild and psychological that can be overcome with willpower. This is something serious occurring in the body, not the brain!

Thus psychological 'treatments' for obesity are inappropriate and cruel. Most people are overweight due to bad medical advice, NOT a lack of willpower, greed, laziness or because they lack 'moral fibre'

17. People have different insulin secretory responses. Even if insulin secretion is slightly off, weight gain can occur.

18. Eating large amounts of a high sugar and high fat food like popcorn is easy because the body will not use most of the carbohydrate and fat for immediate fuel but will store much of it as fat - leaving you able to eat a lot of it and still be hungry a short time later as well.

19. Eating foods with a large bulk or high in fibre wont fill you up, you need the correct proportion of macronutrients and will stay hungry until you get them.

20. Those advocating the low calorie and high carb diets for health and weight loss are not involved in legitimate science. These approaches are not supported by the evidence.

I have still not covered so many other great points!

The bottom line is that we have evolved to eat a diet that contains enough fat and protein to cause satiety, lots of green vegetables and minimal amounts of fruits and starchy vegetables. Our bodies really can't cope with huge levels of refined carbohydrate as have recently been added to the modern diet.

More detailed information about this type of diet (and the benefits of traditional foods as well such as raw milk, organ meats, bone broths and fermented foods) can be found in books such as 'Nourishing Traditions' and 'Eat Fat, Lose Fat' by Sally Fallon (of the Weston A. Price Foundation) and Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan and Luke Shanahan, among others.

This book is a *very* dense read. (Those that are very ill and can't read such a long and complex book may do best to read just the first chapter and the last 2 chapters as these provide a summary to some extent.)

My only criticisms of the book are that a brief, maybe half page summary, of each chapter at the end of each chapter may have been very helpful for those of us that struggled taking in so many new facts at once due to illness or any other reason. I'd also have liked the ideas of Weston A. Price to be featured a bit more prominently than just on the acknowledgments page! But I accept that space was a concern for the author, as he states.

To the author, thank you so much for all your hard work. This is such an impressive body of work. I wish we had more investigative jounalists writing about 'controversial' topics to such a high standard.

I highly recommend this book. Check your library for a copy, at least!

Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Profile Image for Heather in FL.
2,022 reviews
February 11, 2016
Wow, this was a long book. I've listened to The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet and Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, so the first part of this book wasn't new to me. Doesn't mean I'm not still annoyed that the entire basis of our United States low-fat diet is based on someone's ego and faulty science. At the end of this one, the author said he had a hard time calling these people scientists, and I completely see his point. While it's nice to be right, it seems like the basis of science is to be able to prove you're right. But instead, it seems these people found some situations that appeared to support their theories and completely ignored information that didn't. And then somehow it became the recommended diet in America. And look how well that's gone.

There was a lot more science in this one than I recall in the other two. I have to admit, I found myself losing focus during quite a bit of that, but I think I got the basic gist: low-fat is bad because carbohydrates are *really* bad for insulin and cholesterol, and when we remove the fat, we replace it with carbohydrates. Not only carbohydrates, but refined carbohydrates which have an even worse effect on things. I found interesting all of the discussions of the indigenous tribes whose diets were diametrically in opposition of ours. They were, apparently, pretty darn healthy despite eating all of that fat and protein. And then the Europeans moved in and brought their refined flour and sugar, and everyone got fat and sick. I also found it interesting that Japanese POWs during WWII who were fed polished white rice became ill, but once they were moved and the polished white rice wasn't available so they were fed unrefined rice instead, those illnesses went away. Hmmm...

I also found it interesting that, for the most part, exercise hasn't proven to be a factor in weight loss. And the calorie-deficit idea of weight loss is more harmful in the long run, mostly because the body reacts negatively to semi-starvation. Sure, you might lose some weight, but what kind of weight did you lose? And what happened elsewhere in the body as a result? I think exercise is beneficial, especially with the sedentary lives many of us lead, but I'm not so sure it's for the weight loss anymore. The idea that carbohydrates don't satisfy the appetite was also an intriguing discussion... that I can eat tons of popcorn and probably want more, but I wouldn't want to consume the same number of calories in cheese. Or meat.

So it seems I need to start paying closer attention to the carbs in my diet. It's hard to "undo" the idea of daily caloric limit since it's been a huge part of our recommended diet since the 1980s. It's ingrained. But it seems that insulin is super important (yes, I knew that) and carbohydrates' impact on insulin (and cholesterol) is kinda crappy, but insulin is critical to the regulation of so many bodily functions. So, while I don't think I can go no carb, and I don't think I'm supposed to, I think I can reduce my carbs and pay attention to the kind of carbs I'm eating.
Profile Image for Justine.
13 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2008
scientific journalism in regards to how to evaluate science. Persons with last names liek "Keys" are generally bad for our society (i.e. Ancel Keys, Alan Keyes, John Maynard Keynes, Alicia Keys etc). Okay I just made up that hypothesis myself. But it helps me remember Ancel Keys name. He's the Univ. of Minnesota physiologist who first demonized cholesterol despite the fact that there wasn't any conclusive evidence that it caused heart attacks or other problems.

This book is very heavy on research on science as well as the political history behind "nutritional science" which Taubes doesn't consider to be a real science because of the lack of testing of hypotheses.

He does a great job of explaining the process of fat storage in the body and the role of insulin in signaling to our bodies what to do.

The epilogue summarizes his findings in a 10 point list:

1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.
2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis -- the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, teh greater the effect on our health, weight and well-being.
3. Sugars -- sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup specifically -- are particularly harmful, probably because the combination of fructose and glucose simultaneously elevates insulin levels while overloading the liver with carbohydrates.
4. Thru their direct effect on insulin and blood sugar, refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars are the dietary cause of coronary heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the other chronic diseases of civilization
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. Expending mroe energy than we consume does not lead to long-term weight loss; it leads to hunger.
7. Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance-- a disequilibrium -- in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed the mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner with the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this balance.
8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated -- either chronically or after a meal-- we accumulate fat in our fat tissue. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and use it for fuel.
9. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. The fewer carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
10. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cathy.
55 reviews11 followers
September 29, 2011
This book turns everything we thought we knew about good nutrition on its ear. For starters, the idea that you have to burn the same number of calories that you eat every day to avoid gaining weight is a myth. You think you can burn off that 500-calorie dessert you just ate? You would have to run for miles..and miles...and miles-- in a word, it's impossible. So is it hopeless? No. It's not the number of calories (though I suppose it's possible to overdo), it's the KIND of calories.

Believe it or not, there has been a significant change in "settled science" regarding what's healthy since about the 1960s. Prior to that, doctors and dieticians understood that a diet heavy in carbohydrates increased ones risk of weight gain and certain illnesses, specifically diabetes; and that the remedy for both these problems was to restrict those carbohydrates drastically. Only in the 60s did dietary fat become the villain.

Gary Taubes, the author, is not a doctor or a scientist. He is an investigative reporter. His book is extensively documented with both well-published and not-so-well-published research from highly respected sources such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and the National Institute of Health, as well as direct interview with many of the authors of studies done over the recent past (140 pages of citations, small print!) Taubes began this effort as a "skeptical inquiry," not really expecting to discover much of what he learned during the process. He writes, "When I began my research...I had no idea that so much of the conventional wisdom would be founded on so little substantial evidence."

If you're at all interested in the affects of diet on health, this is a must read. Science is continually discovering new information about the human body and how it works. What is the role of hormones? How does the body metabolize the fats, sugars, and protein it takes in as food? What makes us store fat rather than burn it? Why are some people prone to disease and others are not -- and is there anything we can do about it? These are all questions that are probed in depth, many of which have surprising answers.

The book deals with a lot of medical and technical terminology and there's a lot to absorb, but even the slow reader that I am was able to finish it in about three weeks (468 pps.) If you can get through it, it will change the way you think about food... and the low-fat hype!
Profile Image for Bill.
51 reviews4 followers
February 5, 2011
My new motto is "145 by July," meaning I would like to trim 50 pounds of fat accumulated over 20 years in approximately six months. In the process, I am hoping to see a reduction in my blood pressure and the level of triglycerides in my bloodstream to a more acceptable level. For anyone who subscribes to the conventional wisdom about dieting, this is a truly Quixotic aspiration.

Gary Taubes, in Good Calories, Bad Calories, attempts to turn the conventional wisdom on its a head. A historian of science and a writer for Science magazine, Taubes argues trenchantly that the fundamental assumptions driving popular wisdom about diet in the United States are based on bad science, and that the studies necessary to draw truly scientific conclusions about diet have not been performed.

Taubes assails the notion that every extra calorie consumed adds to the bulge on the waistline, and that the only way to lose weight is semi-starvation. Rather, he suggests, the root of our modern obesity epidemic is more likely to be found in our consumption of refined grains, refined sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, all of which are comparatively recent phenomena in evolutionary terms.

Taubes posits that weight gain has more to do with hormonal regulation of energy storage than with the simple addition of calories. In simple terms, heavy carbohydrate consumption causes an insulin rush that halts the body's use of fat for energy and encourages the conversion of glucose into fat, which both contributes to weight gain and encourages overconsumption.

Taubes' response is to encourage a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. To critics who suggest that such an approach is fraught with peril in that it increases the risk of heart disease, Taubes argues that the best science suggests that the risk of heart disease has far more to do with being overweight than with the consumption of fat or cholesterol. And, he argues, being overweight has more to do with carbohydrate consumption than fat consumption.

In one sense, Gary Taubes is the Robert Caro of diet writers. His book is so thoroughly researched, tightly written, and copiously annotated that it hard for a layman to contest his assertions. If you find a better explanation of the origin of obesity and effective strategies to counter it, read it.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 886 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.