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Gobs Of Taubes: 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' Getting Great Press

Posted Sep 11 2008 8:27pm

The word is certainly getting out about Gary Taubes' instant classic

Oftentimes when the anticipation and expectations for something that is truly fantastic finally arrives, there is usually a huge letdown shortly thereafter. But that is most certainly not the case with the release of the much-awaited Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Although it has only been available for a little more than two weeks, the ripple effect from this book touting fat consumption and carbohydrate restriction has moved beyond the friendly confines of the low-carb community and right smack dab in the center of the mainstream health arena where it belongs. I'm very surprised to see such a welcoming embrace for a book with the counterintuitive message that this one clearly outlines.

After seeing Taubes take on low-fat diet icon Dr. Dean Ornish in a televised debate a few years back, I was anxious to see what he had to say about the new Gary Taubes book. Since I had interviewed Dr. Ornish last year and felt he would definitely have an opinion about this book, I contacted him about it for a quote. He responded wanting to know what I thought about it. Um, YOU FIRST! We'll see if that ever happens because something tells me Mr. Low-Fat Diet hopes this book gets buried.

One person that most certainly has something to share about Good Calories, Bad Calories is a woman who worked directly with the late great low-carb advocate himself Dr. Robert C. Atkins for three decades. It's Jacqueline Eberstein, R.N., co-author of Atkins Diabetes Revolution, who is arguably the most knowledgeable Atkins diet expert in the world right now. She's carrying on the message that Dr. Atkins championed during his life at her Controlled Carbohydrate Nutrition web site.

Here are some comments from Eberstein about Taubes' book:

Read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (Knopf, 2007). It is well worth
your time.

I worried that the book might be too complex or dry for the consumer. I found it
to be engaging and readable. My husband (not a medical person) found it well
reasoned, thorough and fair. He got as angry as I often did as he learned how
conjecture was turned into the dogma that continues to be foisted on the public
even while the U.S. population is getting sicker and sicker.

This is not a diet book but rather a review and commentary of years of research
examining how low fat and the diet-heart hypothesis has become written in stone.

Not everything in the book was new to me, because I spent more than 30 years
working with Dr. Atkins and low carb. I know how effective, safe and healthy a
low carb approach is.

The book added to my knowledge about the politics of research, how research is
often manipulated or spun and how dissenting voices, however correct, can be and
are squashed. Dr. Atkins and I often talked about how the low carb message would
not be given a fair hearing because the powers that be are too strong and
pervasive while an uncritical media supports the status quo. After reading this
book I have come to realize Dr. Atkins wasn't being unfair—just accurate.

This book can be especially helpful for those who have had success with low carb
and still worry when media, family members or healthcare providers offer
negative or unsupported "advice." This book provides the analysis needed to feel
confident about your lifestyle choice and respond to the naysayer or the simply
ill-informed. The same can be said for anyone sitting on the fence about low
carb as a healthy way of life.

You may not remember details of the studies Taubes reviews, but you'll certainly
have an understanding of the results and how those results have been
misrepresented by those whose interest it is to continue to support the current
diet-heart hypothesis.

This book may also open the eyes of healthcare providers who don't feel quite
comfortable moving beyond the standard protocol. As all of us who provide
patient care quickly learn, one diet does not work for or suit all. Taubes' book
will make it easier for inquiring, unbiased practitioners to satisfy themselves
that controlling carbohydrates makes sense physiologically and is a healthy way
of life.

Taubes' thorough review of the history of diets and why and how the message
changed over the years is instructive even though human physiology and genetics
stayed the same.

I firmly believe that present policy is influenced by politics, money and
lobbyists. I believe this is also true with healthcare--one place where science,
physiology and truth should prevail. After reading this book, you will have a
much more comprehensive understanding how research funding, biased points of
view and closed-mindedness stifles investigating alternative approaches, to the
detriment of our health.

While reading this book, there were many times I would have loved to be able to
discuss various points with Bob Atkins. I think he would have been pleased with
the thoughtful and careful work Gary did to write "Good Calories, Bad Calories."
Those of us who passionately believe that low carb must become an acceptable
lifestyle choice know the struggle continues, and this book provides a welcome,
needed and important resource and educational tool.


Well said, Jackie! I think you echo the sentiment that so many of us low-carbers feel about this book right now and we appreciate your one-of-a-kind take on a book of this magnitude. Here's hoping those healthcare professionals and consumers who need to read it do.

If you haven't been to the Amazon.com page for this book, then you really oughta take a look. Sure, there are some knuckleheads on there who haven't read the book posting negative, low-rated "reviews" of Good Calories, Bad Calories, but there are also some real gems on there, too. Be sure to take a look at Olivia Brown's exclusive video review of the book while you are there. She is a regular reader of my blog and was so excited to share her comments about the book.

One of the Amazon readers named Myrna responded to my interview with Gary Taubes that I reposted there and she had a question about it.

Low-Carb Man, I appreciate your interview very much. But, like J L West, I was really struck at Taubes remark about the "40 percent of what I wrote in the Times article I no longer believe." I understand your explanation that your interview questions were not real-time, but I sure would like to hear the man, himself, elaborate on that comment. Since you are so connected and into all of this, maybe you can be the conduit. Thanks.

Since he was kind enough to agree to an interview with me for my blog, I went ahead and forwarded the question to Taubes for a response. Within a few hours, he answered it clarifying what he meant by the statement in my interview.

When I reported and wrote the NYT Magazine article, I implicitly believed that fattening and obesity were caused by consuming more calories than we expend. This means I also believed implicitly that excess calories are just dumped into the fat tissue when we don't use them. This is why I gave credence to David Ludwig's hypothesis that perhaps we get fat on refined carbohydrates because they cause this overshoot of insulin and in turn a dip in blood sugar that makes us eat more. I also took seriously Michael Schwartz's notion that insulin works primarily to inhibit appetite in the brain. I believed that Atkins diet might work by suppressing hunger in the brain, perhaps via some effect of ketones.

Again, all these ideas are based on the assumption that the primary causal factor in weight is eating too much -- hence, hunger -- rather than a direct effect of insulin and carbohydrates on the fat tissue itself. By the time I had finished researching the book (if you could say, I'm ever finished) I believed that fat accumulation is regulated very carefully by hormonal and neural factors and that the only way to accumulate excessive fat is to screw with this regulation, which is what carbohydrates do. Overeating is then a side-effect that facilitates fattening, not a cause. When I wrote the NYT Magazine article, I also had no reason to question the glycemic index concept. Now I think it may have done more harm than good because it directed attention away from the fructose component of sugar and high fructose corn syrup and it's conceivable that the high fructose concentration in modern diets is the primary health problem.


I like the fact that Gary Taubes did not go into the writing process with any preconceived notions. He simply followed the data and let the science dictate what the truth was. That's what makes Good Calories, Bad Calories so special and people are beginning to realize that. That's why this book will have legs well beyond the 60-90 days that are typical for most books.

Speaking of Amazon, Gary Taubes was as shocked as anyone when his book shot up the charts seemingly out of nowhere on Wednesday afternoon. But, little did he know at the time that arguably the most prominent media figure in America today had mentioned it on his program. That's right, Rush Limbaugh gave a shout out for Good Calories, Bad Calories in the opening segment of his popular radio talk show on Wednesday and sales skyrocketed! The book quickly moved from #75 up to #15 within a couple of hours.

Limbaugh's take on the "fat is bad for you" crowd is a refreshing change from those who would prefer to keep their head in the sand pretending that the failed low-fat diet approach is the gospel truth. While Limbaugh himself has struggled managing his own weight, he supports people making their own personal choices about what's healthy for them. It's obvious the government hasn't got a clue what is actually good for us or not.

The man Rush Limbaugh was quoting from in his segment where he talked about Good Calories, Bad Calories was John Tierney from the TierneyLab column at the NY Times. You must read his thought-provoking column "How the Low-Fat, Low-Fact Cascade Just Keeps Rolling Along" for his theory about cascading theories that become perceived facts since they remain unchallenged and generally accepted. Low-fat diets are best for health and help you live longer is one major cascade Tierney discusses. It's a fascinating concept to think about...one that ties in well with the Taubes book. Look for more nuggets of wisdom from Tierney about Good Calories, Bad Calories coming soon.

Friend and fellow low-carb blogger Regina Wilshire from the "Weight Of The Evidence" blog has also weighed in with her review of the Taubes book. She said the "the silence around the release of the book is deafening" and I don't disagree with her about that. But like I said regarding Dr. Dean Ornish refusing to comment about it, they're just hoping it goes away. I'm gonna make sure it DOESN'T by celebrating Gary Taubes Month (and it may be YEAR before we're done with it)! :)


Is Gary Taubes releasing a follow-up book this soon?

Incidentally, there has been some confusion going around recently over another seemingly new Gary Taubes book on Amazon.com set to release in January 2008 entitled The Diet Delusion: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Loss and Disease. If the subtitle looks familiar, it should! It's the EXACT SAME SUBTITLE as Good Calories, Bad Calories because this is the EXACT SAME BOOK--it's the UK version set to release on January 17, 2008. The book is 640 pages long (not 448 as Amazon shows) and will be released by Vermilion, a division of Random House--who published the American version of the book. If you're still confused, just remember this--IT'S THE SAME BOOK! End of story. :)

Much of the press around Good Calories, Bad Calories has been rather great! After some pretty major appearances on Good Morning America and ExtraTV recently, the echo factor from that exposure has found its way into the op-ed pages of some major newspapers and blogs. Here's just a small sampling:

- Health & Nutrition Blog

The ever-entertaining and informative Dr. Mike Eades from Protein Power fame took a good look at the Tierney hypothesis about cascades and extended it with his own unique brand of commentary and analysis. If you aren't regularly reading Dr. Mike's blog, then BOOKMARK IT NOW! You won't EVER want to miss what he has to say.

- The Waco (TX) Tribune

Columnist Rowland Nethaway wonders out loud if we have been lied to by our government and health leaders about high-fat diets being the culprit behind obesity and disease, then what else have we been lied to about? What else indeed!

- The Huffington Post

Contributing writer Nora Ephron, a self-proclaimed livin' la vida low-carb supporter, was excited about the Taubes release because it's what she has been doing her entire life. I love her matter-of-fact writing style ("Let me explain this: you can eat all sorts of things that are high in dietary cholesterol--like lobster and cheese and eggs--and they have NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on your cholesterol count. NONE. WHATSOEVER. DID YOU HEAR ME? I'm sorry to have to resort to capital letters, but what is wrong with you people?"). Sounds like something I would write! LOL! Go Nora!

- Media Blog

Reviewer Jeff Bercovici noted the huge backlash that Gary Taubes received after his infamous NY Times column in 2002 undoubtedly prepared him to be extremely thorough in Good Calories, Bad Calories so that the information he presented was beyond reproach. And he has succeeded at doing just that and more, Bercovici explained. Interestingly, Taubes was quoted as saying he inadvertently became the "savior of the low-carb diet community." Well, I'll at least call him an angel for bringing the right message at the right time.

- Mr. Low Body Fat's Blog

Blogger Muata, who subscribes to and has been very successful on a calorie-controlled, low-carb diet a la what Australian independent researcher Anthony Colpo describes in his Fat Loss Bible book, believes Good Calories, Bad Calories is uniting the low-carb community at a time when people are asking questions about the role of fat and cholesterol in a healthy diet. Be sure to read his three concluding points about the book that will have you cheering in agreement. EXCELLENT REVIEW, Muata!

You'll notice Muata mentioned at the end of his post that there would be a chapter-by-chapter discussion of Good Calories, Bad Calories at my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum coming soon. Yep, by popular demand from this thread discussing the book, I have decided to host one chapter a week for discussion beginning on Monday, October 29, 2007. In fact, Gary Taubes has agreed to answer any questions where we are all stumped by something in the book, so this should be quite exciting. Be sure to register now at the forum so you can participate in the discussion.

We'll be keeping our eyes open for even more news about this book (and will hold out hope that Dr. Ornish may wise up and actually say something about it one of these days). If you haven't even picked up a copy of Good Calories, Bad Calories yet, then what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE and find out for yourself why it's the most talked about health book of the year!

10-12-07 UPDATE: Well, it's not Dr. Ornish, but he's just as inflammatory about fat consumption--Dr. Joel Fuhrman has weighed in on the new Taubes book (hat tip to my regular reader Mr. Fritz):

Amazing how stupid people are. Gary Taubes is a known Atkins' devotee and nutritionally naïve and led by the Atkins' crowd. Now he has his own book. All I can say is that this makes me look like a genius comparatively when I am only stating the obvious. All I can say is:

Heath = Nutrition / Calories


What the heck is "Heath?" Oh, I see, he meant to say HEALTH! Ah, sitting here banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what HEATH meant. :P

Dr. Fuhrman makes the claim that Taubes is simply parroting what the low-carb community is telling him to say. Um, that would be news to him, sir. This man is about as thorough and meticulous as anyone I have ever met. He simply followed the evidence and took it where it led him. Just because you personally disagree with his conclusions, that doesn't mean they are wrong.

But we are talking about a known radical low-fat, anti-meat zealot who enjoys resurrecting the debate over the death of the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins, describing low-carb diets in his Eat To Live book as a "dangerous weight loss scheme," and regularly blasting the low-carb lifestyle for being an unhealthy nutritional approach (with very little real evidence to back up that claim).

Consider the source. He's no "genius"--Dr. Fuhrman refuses to acknowledge that livin' la vida low-carb is helping real people like you and me lose weight and get healthy. Even I am not that "nutritionally naïve" to foolishly believe there is one set diet for everyone as he believes.

My philosophy for a healthy lifestyle is this: Find the plan that works for you, educate yourself completely about that plan, follow that plan exactly as prescribed by the author, and then KEEP doing it for the rest of your life. If people like Dr. Furhman and Dr. Ornish would simply adopt a similar strategy as I have, then perhaps we could actually make a positive difference in the obesity and health problems people have.

Will Dr. Fuhrman be a real leader by toning down the sensationalism so that people could actually be helped for a change? And why is Dr. Fuhrman still refusing my request for an interview? The invitation is still wide open and I don't have any idea why he wouldn't do it like Dr. Ornish did last year.

Share your feedback about Dr. Fuhrman's comments at the "Disease Proof" web site.

Labels: book, carbs, Dean Ornish, Diet Delusion, Gary Taubes, Good Calories Bad Calories, John Tierney, Livin' La Vida Low-Carb, low-carb, Rush Limbaugh

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