Monday, June 15, 2009

This Book Changed my Life - "Good Calories Bad calories" by Gary Taubes

A calorie, is a calorie. All that matters is how many you eat.

Or so I thought.

This book examines the deeper metabolic interactions of our food. Did you know insulin can affect your blood pressure? So eating that doughnut can raise your blood pressure! Or that low cholesterol is linked to higher incidences of strokes, so by taking all those cholesterol lowering drugs you could be at greater risk from stroke. It actually makes a huge difference to your body what type of foods you eat and where you get your calories from.

I think the main aim of this book was to sort out "fads" from "facts" about food. Gary Taubes has been interested in this avenue of science for a long time and he first caught my interest when I stumbled upon his article from the New york times "What if its All Been a Big Fat Lie". In his book Taubes shows how scientific method was pushed aside so the conventional dogma could remain unchallenged for decades. Everything is backed up with scientific papers and there is over 100 pages of footnotes. This is a well researched book that anyone who cares about their diet should read.

One of the more shocking stories in this book is how low fat, low calorie diets came to be promoted to diabetics. This type of diet has actually been shown to increase the need for blood sugar controlling drugs and metabolically is not ideal for anyone with a blood sugar problem.

Also worth noting was how little doctors actually know about nutrition. Even more shocking is how little nutritionists know about nutrition, because neither of these groups have been talking to the biochemists, the scientists actually studying metabolism. Sciences have become so specialised that information sharing is almost nonexistent between some groups.

This book is a culmination of over 5 years of research with a lot of direct conversations with the researchers and not just reading their papers. The author is not out to sell a diet, a weight loss system or any products aside from the book and I believe this a a genuine attempt to promote facts about food and health.

This book has completely change the way I look at food and it was a timely reminder to read those science articles in newspapers carefully, to go to the source rather than reading some journalist interpretation. The first thing I wanted to do after reading this book was to run out and buy a copy for every person I care about. But that would have made me look like some sort of evangelical nut! But I do become quite passionate about scientific information and getting the truth out. I feel even the local health organisations are sending out often misguided information on nutrition, health and weight loss.

I completely recommend reading this book, you will be amazed, you will find yourself shaking your head in amazement as some of the bad science that has been presented as hard truths.

If you are wanting to get to the truth about food with some real science then this is a great place to start.


David Brown said...

For about the last six weeks I've been studying gut microbiota in relation to energy absorption from the gut. In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes provided abundant data demonstrating that caloric intake is not so strongly related to fat storage as most scientists suppose. Unfortunately, what was known about gut microbiota activity at the time his book was published did not furnish an explanation for the caloric dissipation often observed by scientists conducting overfeeding studies. In fact, there are still some missing pieces to the puzzle.

I am currently attempting to develop a hypothesis that explains how excess calories get dissipated. It involves the heat generated by gut microbiota as they feed and multiply. Although there are hints in research papers suggesting that gut microbes are capable of producing considerable heat, to my knowledge, no one has ever attempted to measure the amount of heat produced in the stomach or the small intestine or the colon. I imagine heat generated at different locations would have to be measured separately because of the different kinds of microbes involved and the likelihood that aerobic bacteria in the stomach would tend to produce more heat per gram of fecal bacterial content than anaerobic bacteria further along the digestive tract. At any rate, there is probably no easy way to gather data.

If you're interested in looking into the matter, I suggest you visit this web page prepared by Gray Tivendale:

Anonymous said...

two good posts. taubes's gc,bc changed my life too. one thought on the disposition of certain calories. excretion. it maybe not just a raised metabolism but simple unuse and therefore excretion therof.

Nina said...

I'm really looking forward to being 'converted' by you! I love your discoveries. I am so glad you have the science part of the friendship sorted :)

Gaeley said...

Oh boy Sus those last three are almost too much for an oldie like me at 6 in the morning but will work to digest them slowly - keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell!! I MUST give your gardening book to Aaron to give back to you via Zed. It's sitting in the bookcase waiting patiently to be given back to you.


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