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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Highlights Gleaned From Gary Taubes’ Interviews On The Internet

Gary Taubes, author of Bad Science and Nobel Dreams, is a correspondent for Science magazine. He is the only print journalist to have won three Science in Society Journalism awards, given by the National Association of Science Writers. He also wrote the famous article called, “What If It Has All Been A Big Fat Lie?” that was featured in the New York Times in 2002. It caused quite a stir at the time.

Turn the clock forward to 2007 and Mr.Gary Taubes has written a powerful book called “Good Calories Bad Calories” which he says is intentionally written with the medical professionals in mind, who might read it and help their patients to switch to a low-carbohydrate diet for health reasons.

These excerpts I highlight are gleaned from a few interviews people conducted with Gary Taubes on the internet and my comments are mine and only my opinions, of course. It would be wonderful if everyone would go and buy a copy of his book, because it speaks for itself far more powerfully than any short interview with the author can. I believe it will revolutionize peoples’ thinking about low carb and I believe there will be a renewed resurgence in the WOE. Hopefully, though, we won’t get the same amount of junk, low-carb processed foods that cause upset stomachs, on the market that we saw the last time low-carbing took off. Many people thought that was what low carbing was about.

Gary takes several controversial stances in his book. For instance, he argues that calories have little to do with things in comparison to the amount and kind of carbohydrates consumed. It has been proven that a ketogenic diet is calorically wasteful and that it is possible to consume higher calories than on a low fat diet and still lose weight. Basically, when there is not enough quick glucose energy from starches, protein will be needed to be broken down into glucose and lots of calories are expended in this process. I don’t contest that part; however, personally I have found that if I eat too many calories, even on a low-carbohydrate diet, I can still gain weight. I assume, though, that I can consume more calories on a low carb diet than otherwise. What Gary is trying to say, though, is that refined carbohydrates influence insulin output quickly and also hunger as a result, and therefore those particular calories will do far more harm in the body than calories coming from fat and protein. This is the point he is trying to make about calories, I think, and the point that he hopes will be accepted by the medical profession.

The fact is, if one lowers one’s insulin levels for a prolonged period of time, one will lose weight!! Gary mentions that credible research in the 1980’s was conducted to show that if one kept the calories constant, but increased the carbohydrates, people would gain weight! However, it is also true that without strict caloric restriction that is being enforced, the more carbohydrates one consumes, the hungrier one becomes, and, it stands to reason, the more calories one would consume. So eating more carbohydrates, raises insulin, makes us hungrier, makes us eat more, and makes us fatter! It is a vicious cycle that is a fact, but is little known, because we have been brain washed into thinking that eating too much fat is making us fat.

Gary also states that exercise has very little to do with losing weight. I’m sure he is simply talking about scale weight. However, we all know that exercise firms one up (more muscle) and we look better, even if we weigh a little heavier (muscle weighs more than fat). More muscle means that we can eat more too as muscles burn more calories. It is Gary Taubes’ contention that if we exercise, we naturally will eat more to compensate. This may be true; however, if we are healthier and have more muscle from exercising, I think it stands to reason though that we’ll look better than if we had not exercised at all. I still stand by the benefits of exercising moderately even if it does not affect weight loss per se. Nursing homes are filled with people who were too sedentary, and in their old age they are sometimes sitting in a corner in a wheel chair, and that is so sad.

That said, Gary, mentions that Hispanic people who come to the United States usually do manual labor (lots of exercise). They are usually poor, so they eat mostly cheap carbohydrates and often wind up obese, notwithstanding the above average exercise rates. That is one of the reasons why he maintains that exercise alone will not do it! It makes sense, because I remember that was also the case in parts of Africa that I traveled to. These people would literally walk miles every day, often carrying heavy burdens on their heads or backs, and yet, they too were often overweight or obese. It had to have been their diet, which often consisted of a lot of refined corn flour and a kind of porridge made from it.

Of course, the most controversial thing of all that Gary writes about is that eating low-carb and high fat, according to many scientific studies outlined in his book, would probably be more beneficial to us than eating according to the guidelines that we’ve had with the government-approved Food Guide Pyramid for all these many years, since North Americans started growing bigger and bigger in their waistlines. Gary is stating it is the carbohydrates that are the bad calories and the fats that are actually the good calories, in the absence of these offending carbohydrates. Simply put carbohydrates raise insulin, the fat storing hormone and fats do not. In the presence of too much insulin, the body will not raid its fat stores, but will preferentially store fat. Insulin is also the hormone that stimulates hunger. It is a vicious cycle for the poor carbohydrate addict, a category that many, if not most of us fall into as we get older, and it is an affliction that is affecting more and more young people. The average person in North America eats 300 grams or more of carbohydrates per day. By contrast, a person who follows a low to moderate carbohydrate diet eats anywhere from 10 to 100 grams of carbohydrate a day.

Gary quoted an author, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, from 1825 who stated that eating too many starches and sugars causes obesity. Gary said that whenever he spoke to the hundreds of stout people that he interviewed, they would expound on how much they loved carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice and bread. He also said that in general, the higher one’s insulin levels, the fatter one will be. While writing that, I thought about vegetarians and how much harder it would be for them to steer clear of those items

In one interview, Gary stated that Ron Kraus, a very clever scientist in the metabolism field, who also chaired two different American Heart Association nutrition guideline committees, had discovered differences in LDL cholesterol. It is the small, dense LDL particles that are the problem, and not the big, fluffy kind. Guess what produces the small, dense kind implicated in heart disease – carbohydrates! Saturated fat has no effect. Gary says authorities are still doing their best to ignore the dietary implications of Ron’s significant discovery.

In another fascinating interview, Mr. Taubes said that the low-fat movement was started by two dynamic personalities, Ancel Keys and Jeremiah Stamler who gained enormous influence in the American Heart Association and from there it snowballed, as textbooks followed outlining the new recommended and heart-healthy way of eating. The extraordinary thing about this is that this all happened before any tests were done to support the theory that fat causes heart disease. Gary said that prior to that medical literature in the 19th century and early 20th century proposed getting rid of carbohydrates such as fattening potatoes, bread and beer to address obesity.

To conclude this article, these men and a handful of others that caused the paradigm shift to come about also caused a lot of pain and heartache for millions of people. Probably nobody’s life in North America has not been touched negatively by this unfortunate change in some way, if not directly, then indirectly. Tragic!

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