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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  9,337 ratings  ·  874 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, First edition, 601 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Knopf (first published August 5th 2004)
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 ·  9,337 ratings  ·  874 reviews

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Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: important, health, science
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 s
Oct 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
ill miss you, pasta, but i think it's for the best. ...more
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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,
Duffy Pratt
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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 i
Lala Hulse
Feb 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Glenn Dixon
Jan 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 ma
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 h ...more
Karin Williams
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Kevin Rose
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Laurie Thomas
Jan 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
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 fo ...more
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 calori ...more
Chrissy Wissler
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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,
Richard's Bibby
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 curre ...more
Jan 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
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
Mindi Bennett
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
{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
Greg Linster
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 a ...more
Jonathan-David Jackson
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 obe
Tucker Carney
Dec 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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 ques ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 02, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, avoid
Why? Check out the NY Times review. She puts my objections very well.

Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 fundamenta ...more
James Bartel
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ga
Heather in FL
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 ...more
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 sci
Philip Mcclarty
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Taubes is an unbelievable researcher. Obviously with any book quoting studies, data and conclusions can be manipulated, however his ability to pull examples and studies from many different disciplines and time periods have thoroughly convinced me that sugar in more than small amounts is very, very bad.....tobacco smoking bad.....at least when is comes to chronic disease. It also convinced me to substitue fat calories for sugar/carb calories. I have lost 15 lbs so far and feel great.....just from ...more
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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 ...more

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