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Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease by Gary Taubes
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“The laboratory evidence that carbohydrate-rich diets can cause the body to reain water and so raise blood pressure, just as salt consumption is supposed to do, dates back well over a century”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“[T]he salient question is whether the increasing awareness of [heart] disease beginning in the 1920s coincided with the budding of an epidemic or simply better technology for diagnosis.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“The evidence suggests that nicotine induces weight loss by working on fat cells to increase their insulin resistance, while also decreasing the lipoprotein-lipase activity on these cells, both of which serve to inhibit the accumulation of fat and promote its mobilization over storage, as we discussed earlier”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“Making LDL the “bad cholesterol” oversimplified the science considerably, but it managed to salvage two decades’ worth of research, and to justify why physicians had bothered to measure total cholesterol in their patients.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“This research supports the hypothesis that elevations of insulin and IGF will increase the risk of disease and shorten life, and so any diet or lifestyle that elevates insulin and makes IGF more available to the cells and tissues is likely to be detrimental.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“even low levels of insulin, far below those considered the clinical symptom of hyperinsulinemia (chronically high levels of insulin), will shut down the flow of fatty acids from the fat cells. Elevating insulin even slightly will increase the accumulation of fat in the cells. The longer insulin remains elevated, the longer the fat cells will accumulate fat, and the longer they’ll go without releasing it.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“If blood-sugar levels increase—say, after a meal containing carbohydrates—then more glucose is transported into the fat cells, which increases the use of this glucose for fuel, and so increases the production of glycerol phosphate. This is turn increases the conversion of fatty acids into triglycerides, so that they’re unable to escape into the bloodstream at a time when they’re not needed. Thus, elevating blood sugar serves to decrease the concentration of fatty acids in the blood, and to increase the accumulated fat in the fat cells.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“In retrospect, the influential figures in the clinical investigation of human obesity in the 1970s can be divided into two groups. There were those who believed carbohydrate-restricted diets were the only efficacious means of weight control—Denis Craddock, Robert Kemp, John Yudkin, Alan Howard, and Ian McLean Baird in England, and Bruce Bistrian and George Blackburn in the U.S.—and wrote books to that effect, or developed variations on these diets with which they could treat patients. These men invariably struggled to maintain credibility. Then there were those who refused to accept that carbohydrate restriction offered anything more than calorie restriction in disguise—Bray, Van Itallie, Cahill, Hirsch, and their fellow club members. These men rarely if ever treated obese patients themselves, and they repeatedly suggested that since no diet worked nothing was to be learned by studying diets.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“Yudkin also fed high-sugar diets to college students and reported that it raised their cholesterol and particularly their triglycerides; their insulin levels rose, and their blood cells became stickier, which he believed could explain the blood clots that seemed to precipitate heart attacks.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“Yudkin blamed heart disease exclusively on sugar, and he was equally adamant that neither saturated fat nor cholesterol played a role. He explained how carbohydrates and specifically sugar in the diet could induce both diabetes and heart disease, through their effect on insulin secretion and the blood fats known as triglycerides.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“The deposition of fat in men and women is distinctly different. Men tend to store fat above the waist—hence the beer belly—and women below it. Women put on fat in puberty, at least in the breasts and hips, and men lose it. Women gain weight (particularly fat) in pregnancy and after menopause. This suggests that sex hormones are involved, as much as or more than eating behavior and physical activity. “The energy conception can certainly not be applied to this realm,” as the German clinician Erich Grafe observed in 1933 about this anatomical distribution of fat deposits and how it differs by sex.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“The scientific obligation is first to establish the cause of the disease beyond reasonable doubt.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“Our brains, for instance, are 70 percent fat, mostly in the form of a substance known as myelin that insulates nerve cells and, for that matter, all nerve endings in the body. Fat is the primary component of all cell membranes. Changing the proportion of saturated to unsaturated fats in the diet, as proponents of Keys’s hypothesis recommended, might well change the composition of the fats in the cell membranes. This could alter the permeability of cell membranes, which determines how easily they transport, among other things, blood sugar, proteins, hormones, bacteria, viruses, and tumor-causing agents into and out of the cell. The relative saturation of these membrane fats could affect the aging of cells and the likelihood that blood cells will clot in vessels and cause heart attacks.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“For every 5 percent of saturated-fat calories that replaced carbohydrates in the diet, the risk of breast cancer decreased by 9 percent. This certainly argued against the hypothesis that excessive fat consumption caused breast cancer.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“As for women, if anything, the higher their cholesterol, the longer they lived.*”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“To cultivate the faculty of observation must then be the first duty of those who would excel in any scientific pursuit, and to none is this study more necessary than to the student of medicine.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“WHEN IT COMES TO THE CAUSE of chronic disease, as we discussed earlier, the carbohydrate hypothesis rests upon two simple propositions. First, if our likelihood of contracting a particular disease increases once we already have Type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, then it’s a reasonable assumption that high blood sugar and/or insulin is involved in the disease process. Second, if blood sugar and insulin are involved, then we have to accept the possibility that refined and easily digestible carbohydrates are as well.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“THOMAS HAWKES TANNER, A Manual of Clinical Medicine and Physical Diagnosis, 1869”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“Keys’s hypothesis was “still questioned by some researchers with conflicting ideas of what causes coronary disease.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“If this hypothesis of hunger, satiety, and weight regulation is correct, it means that obesity is caused by a hormonal environment—increased insulin secretion or increased sensitivity to insulin—that tilts the balance of fat storage and fat burning. This hypothesis also implies that the only way to lose body fat successfully is to reverse the process; to create a hormonal environment in which fatty acids are mobilized and oxidized in excess of the amount stored. A further implication is that any therapy that succeeds at inducing long-term fat loss—not including toxic substances and disease—has to work through these local regulatory factors on the adipose tissue.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“A colleague once defined an academic discipline as a group of scholars who had agreed not to ask certain embarrassing questions about key assumptions. MARK NATHAN COHEN, Health and the Rise of Civilization, 1989”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“influenced her suspicion that carbohydrates would also cause chronic disease in humans through their effect on insulin and insulin-like growth factor.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“A common feature of epidemiological data is that they are almost certain to be biased, of doubtful quality, or incomplete (and sometimes all three),” explained the epidemiologist John Bailar in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1980. “Problems do not disappear even if one has flawless data, since the statistical associations in almost any nontrivial set of observations are subject to many interpretations. This ambiguity exists because of the difficulty of sorting out causes, effects, concomitant variables, and random fluctuations when the causes are multiple or diffuse, the exposure levels low, irregular, or hard to measure, and the relevant biologic mechanisms poorly understood. Even when the data are generally accepted as accurate, there is much room for individual judgment, and the considered conclusions of the investigators on these matters determine what they will label ‘cause’…”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“If we make the observations with preconceived notions of what the truth is, if we believe we know the cause before we”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“(Saturated fats, in particular, the ACS added, “may have an effect on increasing cancer risk,” a statement that seemed to be based solely on the belief that if saturated fat causes heart disease it probably causes cancer as well.)”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“observe the effect, we will almost assuredly see what we want to see, which is not the same as seeing things clearly.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“Though glucose is a primary fuel for the brain, it is not, however, the only fuel, and dietary carbohydrates are not the only source of that glucose. If the diet includes less than 130 grams of carbohydrates, the liver increases its synthesis of molecules called ketone bodies, and these supply the necessary fuel for the brain and central nervous system. If the diet includes no carbohydrates at all, ketone bodies supply three-quarters of the energy to the brain. The rest comes from glucose synthesized from the amino acids in protein, either from the diet or from the breakdown of muscle, and from a compound called glycerol that is released when triglycerides in the fat tissue are broken down into their component fatty acids. In these cases, the body is technically in a state called ketosis, and the diet is often referred to as a ketogenic diet.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“It also makes us question the admonitions that carbohydrate restriction cannot “generally be used safely,” as Theodore Van Itallie wrote in 1979, because it has “potential side effects,” including “weakness, apathy, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, postural hypotension, and occasional exacerbation of preexisting gout.” The important clinical question is whether these are short-term effects of carbohydrate withdrawal, or chronic effects that might offset the benefits of weight loss. The same is true for the occasional elevation of cholesterol that will occur with fat loss—a condition known as transient hypercholesterolemia—and that is a consequence of the fact that we store cholesterol along with fat in our fat cells. When fatty acids are mobilized, the cholesterol is released as well, and thus serum levels of cholesterol can spike. The existing evidence suggests that this effect will vanish with successful weight loss, regardless of the saturated-fat content of the diet. Nonetheless, it’s often cited as another reason to avoid carbohydrate-restricted diets and to withdraw a patient immediately from the diet should such a thing be observed, under the mistaken impression that this is a chronic effect of a relatively fat-rich diet. In”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease
“White flour and sugar were singled out as particularly noxious, because these had been increasing dramatically in Western diets during the latter half of the nineteenth century, coincident with the reported increase in cancer mortality.”
Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease

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