Good Calories, Bad Calories in a nutshell

I’m surprised how long it has taken me to get through Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. After 2 and half weeks, I’m still not done. I’m on the last chapter though. Maybe I’m just a slow reader.

The book is dense, bringing together a huge number of scientific studies that date back to the beginning of the the 20th century. His goal seems to be to overwhelm the reader with evidence that many of the assumptions about diet, obesity and disease are wrong. He isn’t content to give you one or two examples of studies that suggest that carbohydrates are the primary factor behind obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a range of other modern illnesses that were rare before the 20th century. He piles it on, determined to make sure that someone can’t read his book and dismiss it as “some fad diet book.” If you say he is wrong, you better bring your citations with you.

I’ve enjoyed the ride, but I wonder how many readers get bogged down and don’t finish it, or don’t care so much about the reams of evidence that Taubes has compiled and want to skip to his conclusions. One passage near the end that jumped out at me as something that people need to know:

By the mid-1960s, four facts had been established beyond reasonable doubt: (1) carbohydrates are singularly responsible for prompting insulin secretion; (2) insulin is singularly responsible for inducing fat accumulation; (3) dietary carbohydrates are required for excess fat accumulation; and (4) both Type 2 diabetics and the obese have abnormally elevated levels of circulating insulin and a “greatly exaggerated” insulin response to carbohydrates in the diet

Continue reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories in a nutshell”

Shangri-La Diet and Science

The theory that underpins the The Shangri-La Diet is in part based on numerous studies that have explored how animals (including humans) develop a desire for flavors that they encounter over and over in association with calories. If we taste a flavor and our body soon after absorbs a good supply of calories, our bodies will begin to crave that flavor. Lately, I’ve been perusing various search engines of scientific journals. I’ve been looking for studies that might support (or refute) SLD. Here is an interesting one I found:Flavor–nutrient learning in restrained and unrestrained eaters

Female participants consumed two differently flavored desserts. Each was presented three times on separate days. One was formulated with a high-energy content (1882 kJ) and the other with a low-energy content (226 kJ). After training, we found little evidence for learned satiation. However, we did observe flavor-preference learning. Specifically, participants acquired a greater liking and desire-to-eat the dessert flavor that was paired with a higher energy density during training.*

* Emphasis added by me. Also, I don’t mean to suggest that the authors of this study are proponents of SLD or even that they are aware of it, only that the author of SLD cites flavor calorie association studies as early inspirations for his own ideas.

In other words,

  • The more we eat high-energy content foods (HECF), the more we will crave such foods.
  • The more we eat foods with the same flavor, the more we will crave those foods, as long as those foods are also dense sources of calories.

Continue reading “Shangri-La Diet and Science”

Sugar, Saturated Fat and Gallbladders

I’ve been reading a lot about diet and disease. The first book I bought for my Kindle was Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It is a thick book and I’m only about half way through but it has been enlightening.

I am probably too easily swayed by these kinds of books, ones which set out to prove that conventional wisdom is dead wrong. Years ago, before the Oliver Stone movie, I read way too many books about the Kennedy assassination and was convinced that elements of the CIA were involved (something I still find credible). Later I read a book about how the primary hypothesis about AIDS may well be wrong, and was, for a time, convinced. So I know that I need to temper my enthusiasm for this book.

Continue reading “Sugar, Saturated Fat and Gallbladders”