I don’t know how much you want to know about nutrition, the sorry state of our current nutritional recommendations, or how scientists and politicians have failed us. If you are like me, and have an inquiring mind, you want to know. I have been in practice for 31 years. I have seen the effects of dozens of diets on the patient’s in my practice. I have often wondered why there was not a more scientific approach to this subject. I have told patients for years that if they want to be really confused, go to their local book store and buy all of the diet books that they can find. Then, take them all home and read them! That will lead to incredible confusion!
In Good Calories, Bad Calories, science writer Gary Taubes has managed to pull it all together. All the research, counter-research, hypotheses, theories, diseases, recommendations and controversies are found in this single volume. To say that it is crammed full of information is an understatement!
The detail in this book is incredible! Taubes is like a hungry dog who worries a bone from all angles. He grabs hold of a topic and doesn’t let it go until he has exposed the truth.
This book deals with the diet/cholesterol hypothesis (bet you didn’t know that it was just one of several hypotheses about the cause of heart disease), the carbohydrate hypothesis, diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, weight loss, and aging. There are no sacred cows left when this book is through. You will understand, more completely and clearly than ever before, exactly what we (humans) should and should not eat and, most importantly, why we should eat it.
We are genetically programmed by our evolution to do well, be lean and healthy, on one type of food, and become obese and diseased on another type of food. We do this because our bodies have an off switch for proteins and fats. We become satisfied when we eat our fill or meat. We lose our hunger! It will stay lost for a long time, too.
However, we do not have an off switch for carbohydrates. Carbs were rare treats for our hunter/gatherer ancestors. They had to fight, hunt, and scrape for every morsel of food that they consumed each and every day! Most of what they ate was meat/fats because they were very good hunters. Lots of non-starchy veggies also populated their diets. Fruits were only eaten during their seasons. Then the people had to compete with animals, birds, and insects for these treasures. The fruit was tough, hard, and sour tasting. An apple to them was like a modern-day crabapple to us. Before the advent of fire, people chewed and fed for 12 hours a day due to the tough, fibrous nature of the foods they ate.
Carbs were rare and special. They boosted our blood sugar as we gorged on them during their seasons. Carbs are quickly digested and we are, once again, hungry. Time to gorge again! This would cause a spike in our blood sugar and insulin would be triggered to control it. Insulin has several jobs. It puts glucose (sugar) into the cells, moves vitamin C into cells, and stores excess glucose as fat in fat cells. Insulin is the fat storage hormone! Hunter/gatherers needed what fat they could get in case of lean times.
So, our bodies stay lean and healthy on meat and fats. The rare carbs we would encounter were precious and saved as fat to help us get through the tough times. That is how it was for the hunter/gatherers. So, what happened to us?
Agriculture happened! We switched our diet from one of mainly meat and fats to one of mainly grains and domesticated plants. We got smaller in stature and sicker in health then the hunter/gatherers. (This topic will be discussed in more detail in another post.)
Taubes goes through all of the myths, misconceptions, flawed research, and dogmatic recommendations that have led us down the wrong dietary path. This experiment that we are a part of has been going on for a very long time, but it has taken a nasty turn the past 100 years. We are living, suffering from chronic diseases, and dying prematurely because of this experiment! It is time for all of us lab rats to revolt!
I will leave you with this quote from Maurice Arthus, Philosophy of Scientific Investigation, 1921: ” In reality, those who repudiate a theory that they had once proposed, or a theory that they had accepted enthusiastically and with which they had identified themselves, are very rare. The great majority of them shut their ears so as not to hear the crying facts, and shut their eyes so as not to see the glaring facts, in order to remain faithful to their theories in spite of all and everything.”
Read the book. Read it with an open mind. It will not be a quick read due to the amount of scientific detail, but, it will be a rewarding experience, a true revelation.