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LucienNicholson
12-30-2007, 07:17 PM
Hi, everyone. I've been lurking on these boards for a while, but after reading Taubes' writing after learning about him here, I have felt the need to actually post something.

So I recently finished Good Calories Bad, Calories and I found it a very interesting and engaging read. He makes some provocative and well-reasoned assertions. Some of the most provacative include:

1. Obesity is a form of malnutrition;
2. Over-consumption causes "internal starvation" by driving glucose into fat cells and that
3. It isn't that people are obese because they aren't active, but that they aren't active because they are obese.

I agree with his overall thesis, but that might be because I found that low-carb eating works for me and I frequent this message board.

I was wondering what people on this board think of his book. Has anyone read any substantive criticism of Taubes or carb-restriction at all that actually raises solid questions as to the validity of the carb-restriction hypothesis? All I've seen is that a diet low in carbohydrates can raise the risk of heart disease, which is probably wrong and I think Taubes did a good job of dispatching that idea in his book.

He builds his case on endocrinology and numerous clinical studies. While I do agree with him and have seen the results on myself, I would like to see a similarly researched and thought-out critique of his book based on the same things. Unfortunately, what I did find in terms of criticism doesn't seem to.

Allen Yeh
12-30-2007, 08:47 PM
On my to read list, the overall premise of the book does seem interesting though.

Patrick Donnelly
12-31-2007, 09:34 AM
I'm #39 on the hold-list in the Fairfax public library system... http://img244.imageshack.us/img244/913/icondisapprovetp3.gif


At least this means there are 39 other health freaks in the county! http://img362.imageshack.us/img362/1091/iconwackobz7.gif

Mohamed F. El-Hewie
12-31-2007, 08:31 PM
1. Obesity is a form of malnutrition;
2. Over-consumption causes "internal starvation" by driving glucose into fat cells and that
3. It isn't that people are obese because they aren't active, but that they aren't active because they are obese.

...I found that low-carb eating works for me and I frequent this message board.

..All I've seen is that a diet low in carbohydrates can raise the risk of heart disease,
I admit that I have not read the book but I have reviewed enough books on the subject.

First, I could not figure out what the claim that “obesity is a form of malnutrition” serves? People become obese because they consume more than they burn. That is malnutrition. That does not add any new fact.

Second, in overconsumption of food, the body does not burn stored fat, since there is abundance of glucose to fuel cells. That is not starvation. I could not figure out what "internal" means, in that context. Any way, in starvation, the body relies on stored fat to synthesize glucose in the liver.

Third, how would the author or any research guess what makes people inactive? Activity is determined by many factors, one of those is the individual physical status of the person. That is the quibble of which comes first, the egg or the hen?

As for the low carb diet, it is well known that low intake of carbohydrates does not disturb the insulin production, which is responsible for anabolic reaction and fat deposition. Again, heart diseases are caused, among other factors, by lack of activity and over consumption of calories. Since fat contains more than double the calories of cabs and proteins, by weight, therefore intake of high fat content is responsible for high percentage of heart diseases.

As you see, we made a full turn back to the basic that proper caloric intake in the healthiest way for heart longevity. As far as the good and bad, in calories, I assume that if you were a vegetarian before the age of twenty and live an active life you might never suffer from any heart disease. High cholesterol intake and saturated fat intake have been proven to associate with coronary heart disease. Furthermore, most coronary heart disease start at the twenties of age yet present clinically in the forties or fifties of age. That a good 30 years of dormant pathological development.

LucienNicholson
12-31-2007, 09:40 PM
First, I could not figure out what the claim that “obesity is a form of malnutrition” serves? People become obese because they consume more than they burn. That is malnutrition. That does not add any new fact.

From my reading of it, the common perception is that people become obese because, as you said, they eat more calories than they burn. Modern experts say this is because Westerners have become rich and inactive, alowing us to eat more than we burn. However, Taubes makes the argument--quite well--that the malnutrition isn't a function of how many calories they eat, but what kind of calories they are. The malnutrition that he gives examples of deal with people in all socio-economic classes. His argument is that it is carbohydrate that makes people obese, not just total calories. I think he did a really good job of dispatching the "calories-in minus calories-out = weight gain/loss" hypothesis. He cites numerous examples of people eating up to 5,000 calories a day of fat and protein, but not becoming obese. On the other hand, people on low-carb find it hard to lose weight. Do you know of any rival hypotheses based on the hormonal effects of food, or any clinical trials? I really would like to get a balanced opinion on this.

Second, in overconsumption of food, the body does not burn stored fat, since there is abundance of glucose to fuel cells. That is not starvation. I could not figure out what "internal" means, in that context. Any way, in starvation, the body relies on stored fat to synthesize glucose in the liver.

That is another thing I found so interesting about his hypothesis and it links into the "inactive because they are obese hypothesis." From my understanding of what he said, it is that because of the dramatic insulin response from high carbohydrate intake, the body pushes glucose into fat and away from other cells, thus depriving other cells of glucose. Thus there isn't an abundance of glucose for cells.

Third, how would the author or any research guess what makes people inactive? Activity is determined by many factors, one of those is the individual physical status of the person. That is the quibble of which comes first, the egg or the hen?

I think I'd have to look that up again, but I remember that he cited a number of studies regarding homeostasis whereby the body strives to keep a constant mass, so if it gets too many calories, it will burn off the extra through heightened temperature or increased activity, and if it gets too little animals and people tend to be inactive.

As for the low carb diet, it is well known that low intake of carbohydrates does not disturb the insulin production, which is responsible for anabolic reaction and fat deposition. Again, heart diseases are caused, among other factors, by lack of activity and over consumption of calories. Since fat contains more than double the calories of cabs and proteins, by weight, therefore intake of high fat content is responsible for high percentage of heart diseases ... High cholesterol intake and saturated fat intake have been proven to associate with coronary heart disease.

He addresses that, too, by explaining through a lot endocrinology that the cause of heart disease is not fat and total cholesterol, but rather it has been linked to carbohydrates, which cause the production of triglycerides and something, which I just heard of, called very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). He also links atherosclerosis to insulin levels. Again, because of the hormonal effects, higher caloric contents don't contribute to the production of more adipose tissue.

Thanks for the response. I've just been trying to get a feel for other hypotheses out there, since I really haven't cared about this stuff for long.

For anyone who hasn't read the book, I'd suggest buying it, as it is pretty useful for referencing all sorts of studies and getting a differing view from the dominant view, if that floats your boat.

Allen Yeh
12-31-2007, 10:13 PM
I'm #39 on the hold-list in the Fairfax public library system... http://img244.imageshack.us/img244/913/icondisapprovetp3.gif


At least this means there are 39 other health freaks in the county! http://img362.imageshack.us/img362/1091/iconwackobz7.gif

I'm #30!

Mohamed F. El-Hewie
12-31-2007, 10:39 PM
1) He cites numerous examples of people eating up to 5,000 calories a day of fat and protein, but not becoming obese. On the other hand, people on low-carb find it hard to lose weight.
That would violate the laws of conservation of energy and upset the biochemists and physiologists on the author. Excess calories must get somewhere for storage.


2) the dramatic insulin response from high carbohydrate intake, the body pushes glucose into fat and away from other cells, thus depriving other cells of glucose. Thus there isn't an abundance of glucose for cells.
Insulin is excreted in proportion to excess glucose level. As soon as the excess glucose is lowered in circulation to basic level, insulin level will also drop. Only in insulinoma, where there is pathological secretion of insulin, that when glucose drops to hypoglycemic level.

3) that the cause of heart disease is not fat and total cholesterol, but rather it has been linked to carbohydrates, which cause the production of triglycerides and something, which I just heard of, called very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).
Fat and total cholesterol are synthesized from excess carbohydrates or from fat or protein intake. The body possesses the ability to manufacture fat or glucose from each other. In other words, excess calories, whether carb, fat, or protein will lead to excess VLDL. Exercise lowers the VLDL.


4) He also links atherosclerosis to insulin levels. Again, because of the hormonal effects, higher caloric contents don't contribute to the production of more adipose tissue.

Adipose tissue must come from higher caloric content by the laws of conservation of energy. Hormonal control of homeostasis does not breach the laws of energy conservation. There is now doubt that if you consume 5000 calories of fat or protein or both, with limited activity, you will get fat in short time.

Patrick Donnelly
01-01-2008, 09:39 AM
I'm #30!

Bastard! Hahahah.

I may just buy it... Only $21.51 here:
http://www.buy.com/prod/good-calories-bad-calories/q/loc/106/204182300.html

Garrett Smith
01-02-2008, 09:13 AM
[/sarcasm]I hope all of you are paying attention to the pearls of wisdom being shared on this forum!

I'm so totally going back to my vegetarian, calorie-counting, 6-meal-a-day, low-fat, low cholesterol diet and my light aerobics/Pilates workouts! I have seen the light! [/end sarcasm]

Tom Rawls
01-04-2008, 11:37 AM
This is the best "rebuttal" to Taubes that I have seen. It is a response to a magazine article (an excerpt from the book, I expect).

http://www.cspinet.org/nah/11_02/bigfatlies.pdf

I'm still hoping to see a more complete response to the book, which, like a contemporary meal, is composed of overlarge portions.

Modern civilization was built with carbohydrates. It seems to me that the carbophobes sometimes blur the distinctions between various forms of carbs (notably whole grains versus processed) and some of the anti-carb crowd argue with an almost theological zeal, which, like all theology, I find unpersuasive.

I also enjoy endurance workouts (which are not nearly so catabolic as some would have you believe) and dump refined sugar in my coffee. I try to remain cheerful about my shortcomings, while continuing to take teensy steps to improve myself.

LucienNicholson
01-06-2008, 11:36 AM
This is the best "rebuttal" to Taubes that I have seen. It is a response to a magazine article (an excerpt from the book, I expect).

Thanks for the link. I wouldn't call that a very good rebuttal, though. They didn't really do the things a scientist should do when his/her hypothesis is attacked. 1) Explain anomalies, like why people don't lose much weight on low fat diets and 2) They didn't really give a good explanation for chemical process of why people get fat. Honestly, I find Taubes much more persuassive.

Modern civilization was built with carbohydrates. It seems to me that the carbophobes sometimes blur the distinctions between various forms of carbs (notably whole grains versus processed) and some of the anti-carb crowd argue with an almost theological zeal, which, like all theology, I find unpersuasive.

I don't know if you've read this from Jared Diamond of Guns Germs and Steel fame:

wfs
http://www.environnement.ens.fr/perso/claessen/agriculture/mistake_jared_diamond.pdf

But, he gives a good account of what grains do. But, I can see where you're coming from, on the other hand.

I guess we have some waiting to do before the "scientists" finish reading the book and come up with a good response.

Scott Kustes
01-06-2008, 12:45 PM
This is the best "rebuttal" to Taubes that I have seen. It is a response to a magazine article (an excerpt from the book, I expect).

http://www.cspinet.org/nah/11_02/bigfatlies.pdf

I'm still hoping to see a more complete response to the book, which, like a contemporary meal, is composed of overlarge portions.

Modern civilization was built with carbohydrates. It seems to me that the carbophobes sometimes blur the distinctions between various forms of carbs (notably whole grains versus processed) and some of the anti-carb crowd argue with an almost theological zeal, which, like all theology, I find unpersuasive.

I also enjoy endurance workouts (which are not nearly so catabolic as some would have you believe) and dump refined sugar in my coffee. I try to remain cheerful about my shortcomings, while continuing to take teensy steps to improve myself.
An interesting read. Unfortunately, the first ding is that it's written by the CSPI, the same people that villified saturated fats in favor of trans fats and are now tripping over themselves to backtrack from that recommendation in favor of "no saturated fat or trans fat". I don't feel bad about making such an ad hominem because they make a similar type of attack by noting that Taubes received a $700K advance, as if that somehow discredits him.

As for modern civilization being built on grains, check the records of what happened to human health with the onslaught of grains. Yes, agriculture is necessary for huge civilizations to flourish. But that doesn't mean people are flourishing on an individual basis.

Third, why would we expect an unbiased rebuttal from a biased source? The CSPI is anti-fat and therefore, they are going to attempt to deny anything anyone has to say to the contrary. Taubes very well may have taken creative liberties with what some of his interviewees said and if so, shame on him.

Note: I haven't yet read the book.

Garrett Smith
01-06-2008, 01:25 PM
Everyone is biased, put quite simply.

Mike ODonnell
01-06-2008, 02:38 PM
Modern civilization was built with carbohydrates. It seems to me that the carbophobes sometimes blur the distinctions between various forms of carbs (notably whole grains versus processed) and some of the anti-carb crowd argue with an almost theological zeal, which, like all theology, I find unpersuasive.

I also enjoy endurance workouts (which are not nearly so catabolic as some would have you believe) and dump refined sugar in my coffee. I try to remain cheerful about my shortcomings, while continuing to take teensy steps to improve myself.

I believe there are plenty of studies that go back to ancient Egypt to show the affect of grain dependent societies and the sharp increase rates of heart disease, arthritis, bad teeth and the likes.

But I also enjoy endurance events here and there so carb loading in the form of tubers and brown rice is my prefered method vs gluten based carbs. Any event over 30-45 min will start a catabolic state only because of the rise of cortisol. Also it depends on the intensity as if it varies more anaerobically vs steady state aerobic then muscle loss can happen quicker. On my longer endurance, I do use a slight mixture of carbs/protein (like gatorade/whey and water) to sip on to keep the cortisol at bay and then try for more whole food replenishment pwo.

It's all equvialent to what you do and like to do...but I try to stay away from grains if I can help it. Of course someone with lower bf% will have less issues with obesity but there are still other negative health issues associated with consistent grain eating. Moderation and rotational when in doubt.

LucienNicholson
01-06-2008, 02:51 PM
If anyone cares to read how Taubes responded to the claims brought up in the linked article and others,

(w/f/s)

http://www.reason.com/news/show/28721.html

It is kind of a long read, though, he does justify the use of his quotes. Further, in the beginning of his book, he says outright that the fact that he quotes scientists doesn't mean that they support his hypothesis at all.

Tom Rawls
01-06-2008, 03:50 PM
Lucien--

Thanks for the link to the Diamond piece. Thought-provoking.

Do the health problems associated with the large populations that agriculture can support result from the food that is produced or from the poverty inherent in those populations? Let me try an example: the cheapest calories you can buy today are those from the most highly processed foods. So those who choose to pay less for food or have the means only to buy the cheapest food will be getting the junk. Do we fault of agriculture and grains, per se, or is the problem more complex?

I didn't mean to suggest that the CSPI "rebuttal" (note the quotation marks) was persuasive, only that it was the best I had seen. For me, part of the challenge in discerning the truth is that I quickly beomce skeptical of people like Dr. Sears, who now looks as much like a carnival barker flogging his various offerings as a true medical man. People get so invested in their positions, literally, that it can be difficult to have an honest give-and-take.

Tom Rawls
01-06-2008, 03:50 PM
Lucien--

Thanks for the link to the Diamond piece. Thought-provoking.

Do the health problems associated with the large populations that agriculture can support result from the food that is produced or from the poverty inherent in those populations? Let me try an example: the cheapest calories you can buy today are those from the most highly processed foods. So those who choose to pay less for food or have the means only to buy the cheapest food will be getting the junk. Do we fault of agriculture and grains, per se, or is the problem more complex?

I didn't mean to suggest that the CSPI "rebuttal" (note the quotation marks) was persuasive, only that it was the best I had seen. For me, part of the challenge in discerning the truth is that I quickly become skeptical of people like Dr. Sears, who now looks as much like a carnival barker flogging his various offerings as a true medical man. People get so invested in their positions, literally, that it can be difficult to have an honest give-and-take.

Jonathan Reik
01-06-2008, 04:24 PM
Kudos to your for finishing it! I'm still working through the book. It's quite a slog... I like it in general, and I understand his need to give the history of where the fat-causes-cholesterol-causes-disease comes from, but it's sometimes hard work up the enthusiasm to tackle the book because it's so dense.

I generally was convinced by the first part of the book which focuses on the problems with carbs and how they relate to health problems. I had a harder time swallowing the second part about how people get fat for reasons unknown. The conservation of energy is always brought up to argue this point, and of course that law is not broken. I think that the thrifty gene hypothesis and the set-point hypothesis are ackowledgements by the general medical establishment that there are many cases where fat people don't seem to eat a lot of calories and yet don't lose a whole lot of weight.

I think Taubes does make a good point that we freely acknowledge that kids grow or pregnant women get big (pleasantly so, Jamila!) because of the actions of both hormones and calories, rather than saying the kid got taller because he ate a lot. But when someone gets fat, we (the general public, not the PM nutrition nerds) assume it must be strictly a calories in/calories out thing.

I really appreciate the book because he looked at the science, at all the studies that generated the fat hypothesis. Ultimately, he suggests that refined carbs may be the actual root of the obesity/diabetes/heart disease problem and that this carb hypothesis would better explain the observed data. It's convinced me to reduce my carbs and go more paleo with my diet, that's for sure.

Really, the scary thing about the book is finding out how many of these national dietary recommendations were made with only the flimsiest of science behind them, or, in some cases, no science at all, just conjecture.

I think you'll find that most people on this board don't buy the standard 1980's advice to minimize your fat intake and get most of your calories from carbs like pasta and whole wheat bread and yogurt. Some here (myself included)find the Protein Power and the Paleo Diet particularly compelling. It seems to me that even the establishment is starting to come around:

Saturated health might not be so bad:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22116724/

Milk might not be so great after all:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22349307/

Even the American Diabetes Association says low-carb diets (horrors!) might be okay:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/28/AR2007122801106.html

As was acknowledged earlier, I think that there are differences between inviduals which cause some people to be able to tolerate carbs better than others. I suspect that a higher activity level probably allows one to tolerate more carbs as well, which is handy, because they're pretty helpful for endurance events.

LucienNicholson
01-06-2008, 04:42 PM
Lucien--

Thanks for the link to the Diamond piece. Thought-provoking.

Do the health problems associated with the large populations that agriculture can support result from the food that is produced or from the poverty inherent in those populations?

I tend to believe that the problem is with the grains themselves. I think most people on this forum would agree. There are a few reasons that I can think of. I don't think they are in dispute by many people.

1) Grains have anti-nutrients that have been associated with auto-immune disorders. 2) Chemicals in grains bind to nutrients and make them unusable by the body. 3) Grains have a high GI which leads to hyperinsulinemia. 4) Grains don't have B12, which is only present in meat.

Like Diamond pointed out, with introduction of grains, average height decreased and a host of other diseases flourished, such as rickets, berri-berri, and pellagra. By federal law, manufacturers of grain products have to fortify grain because it is so devoid of nutritional content, compared to meat. I'm sure you'd find that even the richest ancient Egyptian royalty were shorter than Eskimos or Massai, but were "richer" in other ways.

I live in Hawaii. White rice comes in 50 lbs sacks here, since everyone can afford it. I've noticed that the less well-off tend to eat rice with every meal and subsequently, they are overweight. When I stopped eating rice--sacrilege in Hawaii--somehow I dropped 30 pounds. My food budget went up, but I had to drop 2 pants sizes. I think that the less you can spend on food, the more grains a person will eat. Heck, a box of Ding-Dongs costs less than a pound of spinach. In a nutshell, having less money predisposes one to eating more grain-based products.

For me, part of the challenge in discerning the truth is that I quickly become skeptical of people like Dr. Sears, who now looks as much like a carnival barker flogging his various offerings as a true medical man. People get so invested in their positions, literally, that it can be difficult to have an honest give-and-take.

I can see your point. I've started the Zone, but modified it by dropping carbs and adding fats. I find that it is actually a good way to keep your blood sugar low and I haven't noticed a drop in performance. The way I see it is if you want an honest give and take, look past all the marketing, try it out and evaluate for yourself. The measuring alone at least lets you realize how much of what you're eating.

Tom Rawls
01-06-2008, 05:26 PM
I tend to believe that the problem is with the grains themselves. I think most people on this forum would agree.
. . .

3) Grains have a high GI which leads to hyperinsulinemia. 4) Grains don't have B12, which is only present in meat.

I live in Hawaii. White rice comes in 50 lbs sacks here, since everyone can afford it. I've noticed that the less well-off tend to eat rice with every meal and subsequently, they are overweight. . . . Heck, a box of Ding-Dongs costs less than a pound of spinach. In a nutshell, having less money predisposes one to eating more grain-based products.



Lucien,

I largely agree with people here, but will post on issues where I have misgivings. I do this as a way to challenge my own thinking and test the received wisdom. We tend to be tribal, clustering with like-minded people and reinforcing each other. As a doubting Thomas, I'm inclined to ask questions.

For example, I have quoted your items 3 and 4 because while they are true in isolation, I think they may be misleading when presented in isolation. If you eats refined grains only, they have a high GI, but do people eats grains alone, without protein and fat? Grains don't have B12, but you only need to eat occasional animal products to get whatever B-12 you need. In the context of an overal diet, is the lack of B-12 truly an issue?

Your point about Hawaiins and white rice concludes where I started my question. Processed grains provide the cheapest calories you can find, and those with limited means are likely to eat more processed-grain products and be at higher risk for the problems resulting from the consumption of "empty" calories. Is the problem rice per se, or is the problem that polished (processed) rice is so cheap?

LucienNicholson
01-06-2008, 10:36 PM
Well, Tom, I really don't know the answer to that question. I suspect that no matter the GI of a meal, that glucose is going to hit the blood stream eventually, cause an insulin response, and get driven into fat cells. That's just my guess, though. As for the B-12, you're probably right. The other points, though, seem to be good enough reasons for me not to eat grains.

As for the people in Hawaii and their rice, they might be healthier with brown rice, but I really haven't thought about it. I mean, brown rice doesn't taste as good as white rice, so I doubt people would be tempted to eat 2 cups of it a day. Regardless, I guess the question would be whether the bran on the white rice would have the effect of reducing an insulin response. I suspect it would have some effect, but I can't really make an informed comment on that.

Scott Kustes
01-07-2008, 06:04 AM
Everyone is biased, put quite simply.
Bingo