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Good calories, bad calories: challenging the conventional wisdom on diet, weight control, and disease by Gary Taubes

Good calories, bad calories: challenging the conventional wisdom on diet, weight control, and disease by Gary Taubes

Author:Gary Taubes
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Tags: Nutrition, Refined - Physiological effect, Health & Fitness, Diets, Science, Medical, Cooking, Low-carbohydrate diet, Weight Loss, General, Reducing diets, Low Carbohydrate, Nutritionally induced diseases, Health & Healing, Occupational & Industrial Medicine, Refined, Healthy Living, Carbohydrates
ISBN: 9781400040780
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2007-09-25T04:00:00+00:00


For the past quarter century, public-health authorities and obesity researchers have insisted that it is dietary fat, not carbohydrates, that fattens most effectively and causes obesity. This is why low-fat, low-calorie diets are recommended for weight loss as well as prevention of heart disease. This notion is based on four pieces of evidence, all of which are easily challenged.

The one that has been most influential is the association between heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. If heart disease is caused by high-fat diets, as is commonly believed, then so are obesity and diabetes, since these diseases appear together in both individuals and populations. But there is no evidence linking obesity to dietary-fat consumption, neither between populations nor in the same populations.*91 And, of course, if dietary fat is not responsible for heart disease, then it’s unlikely that it plays a role in obesity and diabetes.

Second, laboratory rats will become obese on a high-fat diet. This is the evidence that convinced George Bray that excessive dietary fat would cause obesity in humans, too, and Bray has been among the most influential obesity authorities and the foremost proponent of this dietary-fat/obesity hypothesis. According to Bray, the rats used in his laboratory experiments would grow reliably obese on high-fat diets. “I could feed them any kind of composition of carbohydrates I want,” Bray said, “and in the presence of low fat, they don’t get fat. If I raised the fat content, particularly saturated fat, in susceptible [my italics] strains I would get obesity regularly.”

But some strains of rats, perhaps most of them, will not grow obese on high-fat diets, and even those that do will grow fatter on a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet than a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Moreover, to induce obesity even in susceptible rodents, the percentage of fat in the diet has to be greater than 30 percent, and usually closer to 40 or even 60 percent (which still makes only some strains of rats fat). Though 30 percent sounds like a low-fat or moderate-fat diet for humans, it’s far greater than anything rats would normally consume, either in the wild or in the laboratory. It’s what researchers will call a pharmaceutical dosage of fat. Rat chow is typically 2–6 percent fat calories. Rats will also fatten when fed large amounts of carbohydrates in the form of sugar. Moreover, other animals fatten on carbohydrates, including pigs—whose digestive apparatus is most like that of humans among experimental animals—cattle, and monkeys.

In the 1970s, Anthony Sclafani of Brooklyn College demonstrated that rats get “super obese” if allowed to freely consume a selection of foods from the local supermarket. This made their eating habits and subsequent obesity seem particularly like ours in character. But, as Sclafani explained, his rats fattened preferentially on sweetened condensed milk, chocolate-chip cookies, and bananas. Among the foods they didn’t eat to excess were cheese, pastrami, and peanut butter—the items that were high in fat and low in carbohydrates.

The third supporting leg of the hypothesis that fat is particularly fattening is an assumption that the density of fat calories fools people into eating too many.



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