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Eating Fat For Health Back In Vogue Thanks To 'Good Calories, Bad Calories'

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:30pm
Sometimes it takes a singular event to shake people back into reality when the lines between fact and fiction become blurry and unclear. That's precisely what has happened in the last six weeks since the hottest health book of the year Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes was released to the public with all the unconventional, counterintuitive information contain therein that was gathered from more than five years worth of research. And the evidence is speaking for itself as people are finally being told the truth about carbohydrate restriction and how eating fat, even saturated fat, is indeed an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.

Best of all, real lives are being changed for the better because of this remarkable new book. Take a look at the following e-mail I received from a reader whose shared how her life was forever changed for the better as a result of reading Taubes' masterpiece. Here's what she wrote to me in her e-mail:

Dear Jimmy,

I have never written on a blog or to a blogger before in my life. But, as I recently found your blog site and have been reading through your posts, I wanted to share my story with you.

I have ALWAYS bought into the low-fat hype as gospel, ever since I was 19 and went through a depressed period in my life that caused me to develop anorexia. Now, granted, most people don't take the low-fat diet to that extreme (I am 5'4" and at my LOWEST was 85 pounds!), but the bottom line is that because I was combining such a low calorie/low fat diet with obsessive exercise, it was relatively easy for me to lose weight and keep it off. Of course I use the term 'easy' in the loosest definition imaginable. I was starving myself to death because of emotional issues - trying to stay healthy was the furthest thing from my mind.

It didn't help that my family is made up of emotional eaters - my mother and two of my sisters are very overweight and my other sister is like me - starving herself to stay in control of her life.

Even later, through my early to mid-twenties as my weight stabilized around 105 to 110 or so, I was able to stay at that weight while eating extremely low fat/high carb food. But, again, I was physically hungry all the time, not to mention pretty NUTS - planning out my meals by the minute, counting calories obsessively, refusing to let even a sliver of anything that might have fat in it past my lips. I thought if I didn't make it to the gym on a particular day, I would surely wind up gaining weight.

As I got older, I was able to work through a lot of my issues regarding food (although I was still a control freak about it) and even gained enough weight to be considered pretty normal looking. I got married and had my son (thank GOD my body recovered from the abuse I put it through in order to be able to carry my baby.) But, still even after having him, I was able to lose the weight pretty quickly with a low fat diet. Still obsessing over whatever I put into my mouth, though. Still angry with myself if I couldn't exercise every day and avoid gaining weight from the tiny sliver of pie I might have allowed myself the night before.

Now, I am 33 and divorced and for the first time in my life, I was suddenly having difficulties with my weight (like, I am up to 127 - the horror!). So alarming for someone like me - who has remained in strict control of my weight and my life for so long. I had recently starting dating (and cooking) for someone I cared about tremendously and I realized that my diet had changed dramatically to include many more carbs than I was used to eating on my own. You know the way to a man's heart is his stomach, right? :-)

My mother sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago about the Gary Taubes book. At first, I dismissed it - the whole idea about it was so crazy - eat a lot of fat to get skinny? Aerobic exercise is meaningless for weigh loss? I would be challenging the very foundations of my identity by even entertaining these notions. But, whether it was my recent inability to lose weight or just the timing - I bought the book to check it out.

I started reading everything I could about Taubes and his opinions and his research. And, it was like someone suddenly pointing out to me that the only reason I thought the sky was blue was because everyone on TV and in magazines and on the radio was telling you so. There was actually a good possibility that it was green. It was literally blowing my mind to think that I (and most of the health gurus) had been totally wrong. That all this low fat stuff was based on shoddy research and corporate agendas. And, as I read through the book IT MADE SENSE.

I started eating the low carb/high fat way (which was REALLY REALLY hard for me....) a few weeks ago. And, I feel better than I have in months. But, although I have not lost a tremendous amount of weight (I feel slimmer due to the water weight, definitely), probably because I really don't have a lot to lose to get to my ideal weight, I no longer feel like a slave to my emotional food demons. Or to the gym. Yeah, now I have to worry about carbs a bit - but the food I am eating is real, solid, satisfying food. I am no longer hungry - physically or emotionally. And, the more I read about Taubes and his research (and related research by others), the more confident I am that I am doing what is good for my health, too.

My point is that if someone who was as crazy and obsessed about the low fat/high carb diet dogma as I was can change their ways, then ANYBODY can do it. Please share my story on your site as you see fit and feel free to respond! As an avid writer and recent low carb convert, I think your forum is phenomenal.

This is the kind of transformational story you WON'T be hearing about in the mainstream press. But this woman is merely one example of how Good Calories, Bad Calories is changing the way people think about what a healthy diet really is. If the past three decades has taught us anything, then it should be that fat-phobia is indeed foolish. Fat is your best friend and it is the excessive amount of refined and even those highly-touted whole grain carbohydrates that you should be leery of. That's the clear-cut message that Gary Taubes delivers throughout his book.

I've been keeping you up-to-date on all the latest news regarding Gary Taubes'Good Calories, Bad Calories book and you can access those previous posts by clicking here. There's still so much happening with the book that it's time to give you yet another update about what's going on. ENJOY!


Examples of the kind of bad research that Gary Taubes wrote about in his book abound and actually are easier to identify now. Take this Junkfood Science blog post about a so-called "study" on the glycemic index and diabetes. One of my readers was very concerned that the conclusions made about consuming carbohydrates ran directly counter to what Taubes wrote in Good Calories, Bad Calories. But leave it to Gary Taubes to explain why studies like this one published in scientific journals are bogus. Here's his analysis of the study:

It's an association study. They measure glycemic index of the foods people ate and follow them for however many years. Such studies tell you nothing about cause. (See my recent NYT Magazine article "Unhealthy Science." )

In this case, for instance, if people who were constitutionally predisposed to gain weight, who will also have an increased tendency to become diabetic, altered their eating habits to maintain their weights -- say, they ate less white bread, drank less beer, etc. -- then this would "confound" the results because the study would identify these people as eating the lower glycemic index foods and yet being more likely to become diabetic.

The problem with all such studies is that if there is any self-selection involved -- and diet is all about self-selection -- and if the self-selection is related to the endpoint being studied -- in this case diabetes -- then the results you get will be impossible to interpret. These people interpret them to fit their preconceptions, and that's classic junk science.

The only way to establish whether sugar or high glycemic index carbs cause diabetes is to do a randomized controlled trial. Take a few thousand people, randomize half of them to a low carb, low sugar diet, tell the other half to continue eating the massive amount of carbs (150-odd pounds of sugar a year, etc.) they're already eating, and follow them for say a half dozen years and see which group has more diabetes. They should fund such a trial to find out the results.

If health and weight management are the true objectives of those researching dietary concepts like carbohydrate consumption and the glycemic index, then why wouldn't they want to fund such randomized, controlled trials as Taubes has suggested? Unless those things don't take precedence and maybe protecting the financial interests of big corporations does...hmmmm?


Many of you have asked about an audio version as well as a more reader-friendly version of Good Calories, Bad Calories to share with your friends and family members who are more likely to check it out in these formats. So far the publisher Knopf, a division of Random House Publishers, has not indicated that either of these is forthcoming anytime soon. But if the book performs well during the upcoming holiday season and shows sustained sales into the new year, then perhaps an audio book will be in order.

Keep in mind that would be one long audio book since Good Calories, Bad Calories is still about 400 pages even after you remove the references. So an abridged version of the audio would be warranted. The greater likelihood is that a paperback and even a mass paperback version of the book will be released about one year from now that will reduce the size of the book to expose its message to a broader audience. When you see this happen, then all of us should start gobbling up copies and distribute them to everyone we know who has weight and health problems.


In my previous Taubes updates, I shared with you a critical review that Taubes' fellow New York Times journalist colleague Gina Kolata had to share about Good Calories, Bad Calories. Let's just say she wasn't impressed. Taubes then responded to this negative criticism which was again tersely answered by Kolata, who has her own self-interests to look after regarding the diet hypothesis she put forth in her book Rethinking Thin.

Respected nutrition expert and Protein Power author Dr. Mike Eades was pleased with Taubes' response to Kolata and added a few more observations of his own as only he can. Dr. Eades was not at all pleased that the New York Times allowed Kolata another opportunity to slam Taubes and didn't pull any punches about it either:

Gary should have been allowed his rebuttal without her refutation of his rebuttal. That would have been equal time for all, with her getting four times the space that Gary did. But that’s not the way the media works when one of their own is attacked. Nor is it the way the media works in general when one of its shibboleths - in this case, the idea that carbs may be unhealthful - is under attack.

Keep spreading the truth, Dr. Eades! We need strong voices like yours to break through loud and clear for these imbeciles to wake up and listen!


The best part about a book like Good Calories, Bad Calories being released to the general public is it fosters an open discussion of livin' la vida low-carb in the form of some very intriguing questions. Here's an example of that in an e-mail I received from a reader:

I just finished Gary Taubes book, Good Calorie-Bad Calories; I now know more than I ever wanted to know about the history of diets but still don't know if you can have a glass of wine or not or if he thinks one should use lard instead of butter as he said on Larry King. After all that reading I guess I'm back to the South Beach thing....wish I knew his email address! Or maybe you could answer my question.

While I don't pretend to speak for Gary Taubes, I did feel confident about what he would say regarding this inquiry. Here was my response:

THANKS for writing! If you'd like an occasional glass of wine and your blood sugar can remain stable from it so you are not producing high levels of insulin, then I'm sure Gary Taubes would tell you it is okay to drink it. It's all about finding how much your body can tolerate so you reduce insulin production which is at the heart of obesity and disease.

As for fat, butter and lard are both excellent ones for cooking as is coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, and others. Just stay away from margarine and other low-fat substitutes because they don't provide your body any nutritional benefit.

THANK YOU again for your e-mail! And pick up GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES to find out more about what Gary Taubes has been talking about.

Remember that drinking alcohol stops the fat-burning process because it has to be burned up just like carbohydrates do. For more information on why fat is healthy, check out this blog post I compiled about the subject.


Ever since Gary Taubes appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" show a few weeks back, people who missed it have been clamoring to see the video. I released this segment featuring Dr. Andrew Weil endorsing Good Calories, Bad Calories on YouTube, but CNN had been slow to post any video of the interview.

Now they have about 17 minutes of snippets from the show you can watch by clicking here. Again, this was not the totality of the show, but a pretty good representation of what transpired. Dr. Mehmet Oz shows his arrogance, Joy Behar exhibits her ignorance, and "Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels exudes her intolerance of ideas that run counter to her own.

Whether you've seen the "Larry King" interview or not, you'll DEFINITELY want to watch this again to see what we're up against challenging the conventional wisdom. The status quo hates it!


Another example of alarmist research regarding cancer was recently released that had one of my readers who started livin' la vida low-carb last year in a tizzy. It was about the subject of cancer, something I've blogged about how changes in the diet may help with as has Gary Taubes in his book. Here's what my reader wrote:

Hi Jimmy,

Love your blog! A low carber by need myself (I follow Dr. Berstein's program since being diagnosed as a diabetic last March), I have to defend myself often from ignorant (misinformed) people who just don't believe that low-carb is healthy. Using Gary Taubes' masterpiece to back me up I have recently started 'educating' my surroundings a bit more strongly.

Today however, I am faced with the publication of the latest report on Diet and Cancer by the World Cancer Research Fund going against red meat, salt, energy dense foods (fat isn't mentioned explicitly but implied) and pro-exercise.

It would be great if Gary Taubes could comment on this report, as it seems to contradict his findings partially and is IMHO another piece of bad science. As I am not able to reach Gary, and I'm pretty sure you can: Could you ask him if he plans to comment (and post it if he does)?

As a matter of fact, he did have a comment about this study to share:

The report is typically disheartening. First, it concludes that excess fat is the primary risk factor for cancer, but then goes back to the 1900s to say that the cause of excessive fat is nothing more than eating too much or sedentary behavior.

It actually does talk about the role of insulin and insulin-like growth factor in cancer formation, a major step forward, but then comes down only on red and processed meat based on the same kind of meaningless observation studies I discussed in my recent NY Times Magazine article.

In fact, clinical trials have been done to test the hypothesis that eating more fiber or fruits and vegetables and less meat has any ability to prevent colon cancer -- the cancer that these experts say red meat causes -- and the trials have shown no effect.

So these experts ignore the clinical trials and instead focus on the observational studies. By not raising the role of insulin in fat accumulation, the report manages to do an excellent job of avoiding an explanation that would cover all their evidence. Instead, it's just more of the usual.

Insulin is credited with a role in cancer formation, but the carbohydrates that elevate insulin are not considered cancer-causing (although, of course, foods with dietary fiber are considered potentially cancer-preventing). Excess fat is credited with a fundamental role in cancer, but the insulin that causes us to accumulate excess fat is not discussed and so it's all about calories.

It's probably worth noticing that the authors are the usual suspects in this business and the report matches up well with the preconceptions they've had since the 1980s.

You hate to say FOLLOW THE MONEY when it comes to dietary research, but that seems to be where we are at right now in the oftentimes dicey world of bad science.


Have you ever wondered why we got to be so fearful of fat in the first place? Well, take a trip down memory lane with a history lesson on dietary fat by reading this brilliant timeline published in the Ottawa Citizen explaining the evolution that has taken place since the 1960's. From the introduction of margarine as a replacement for butter to the trumpeting of omega-3 fats in 2007, this is one column you won't want to miss. Taubes' book is listed as part of the change in mindset regarding fat consumption.


Gary Taubes was given an opportunity recently to appear on NPR's "Science Friday" with host Ira Flatow to talk about his book Good Calories, Bad Calories. Appearing on the program with Taubes was Dr. Robert Krauss from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California. You'll recall I highlighted this study by Dr. Krauss regarding how low-carb is beneficial to cholesterol. In my previous blog interview with Taubes a few months ago, he described Dr. Krauss as "one of the smarter scientists in the metabolism field."

My favorite part of this interview on "Science Friday," which you can hear by clicking on the play button at the program link, is when Taubes rather bluntly stated "you need to eat carbs to get fat." I never really thought about that before, but there's a lot of truth in that statement since carbohydrates are the root cause of obesity and disease for so many people. Listen to the entire interview and smile if you're livin' la vida low-carb!


There are certain people who have access to a newspaper column and use that power they have been given to spread their absolute disgust and disdain for anything positive related to the healthy low-carb lifestyle. One such person is Bryant Stamford whose "Body Shop" column appears in the Louisville, KY-based Courier-Journal newspaper. I've previously blogged about his anti-Atkins drivel here and here.

Now he's at it again with this recent column where he attempts to discredit and rip apart Good Calories, Bad Calories bit by bit. In fact, Stamford hates low-carb so much that he doesn't even mention the name of the book in the first of a two-part column. He again repeated his ridiculous claim that this way of eating failed because people are now fatter than they've ever been. Um, then why isn't it the fault of the low-fat diet recommendations that have been hammered down our throats for three decades, Mr. Stamford? I can hardly wait for part two of this column--NOT!

Tell Bryant Stamford what you think about his idiocy regarding livin' la vida low-carb by sending him an e-mail at


Of all the people in the world who would oppose the concepts of Good Calories, Bad Calories, one person you would not name is Australian independent researcher Anthony Colpo. Once an ardent supporter of livin' la vida low-carb and the creator of an outstanding low-carb bodybuilders forum, Colpo's views have noticeably shifted this year as he moves away from the "metabolic advantage" that happens with a controlled-carbohydrate nutritional approach.

In light of that, it's probably not surprising that Colpo would make some strong statements against the new Taubes book at his forum. One of the members there asked Colpo what he thought about Good Calories, Bad Calories and Colpo responded in typical fashion from him:

"If Taubes' message is that the current obesity epidemic is not due to insufficient activity and/or excessive calories, but simply due to high carbohydrate consumption, then his message is complete bullsh*t."

There are at least 10 pages of comments discussing the book, although most of the people, including Colpo, have NOT read the book. READ THE BOOK, people, before making comments based on your own preconceived notions of what you think the book says. You'll save yourself a lot of embarrassment over a lack of knowledge. I'll be blogging more about Colpo's change of position on low-carb in a future post. Stay tuned!


I wanted to share an example of how the message presented in Good Calories, Bad Calories is now helping to shape the discussion regarding dietary fat, especially saturated fat. Once thought of as the great evil nemesis that leads to heart disease, Gary Taubes has opened a lot of eyes with what he uncovered in his research about saturated fat and it is making an impact on some popular diet and health media outlets.

Check out this Men's Health column entitled "What if Bad Fat Is Actually Good for You?" by Nina Teicholz. Absolutely, positively INCREDIBLE!!! You wouldn't have seen this kind of column in the 1980's or 1990's with people like Dr. Dean Ornish or Susan Powter out there claiming fat is why you're fat. Those days are becoming ancient history! Taubes' book is merely the beginning of the end for the low-fat lie.


Finally, you are invited to get in on the conversation about Good Calories, Bad Calories that we are having over at my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum right now. In this chapter-by-chapter discussion, led by my intelligent and enthusiastic moderator Charles Washington, the members there are able to talk about what they learned in each chapter. So far we have covered the Prologue and Chapter 1. This week we'll be moving to Chapter 2 as we continue looking at each chapter one week at a time until we're finished. Won't you join us?

We'll keep updating you on a lot more news about Gary Taubes and his book Good Calories, Bad Calories as it continues to make a difference in the lives of doctors, nutritionists, and patients who are looking for a way to manage weight and health.

Labels: Anthony Colpo, book, Bryant Stamford, cancer, fat, forum, Gary Taubes, Good Calories Bad Calories, junk science, Larry King Live, low-carb, Mike Eades, research, Science Friday, study

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