Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs And the Controversial Science of Diet and Health
By Gary Taubes Anchor Books (2008) Reviewed by: Lona Sandon, MEd, RD
Taubes provides a compelling historical perspective of nutrition research throughout the last century and how we came to many of the conclusions that remain relatively unchallenged today. He asserts "obesity is not a disorder of overeating or sedentary behavior, but rather a disorder of excess fat accumulation," and a diet rich in refined carbohydrates and added sugars is driving high rates of obesity and related chronic health conditions. Consuming poor-quality carbohydrates increases insulin secretion, which promotes fat accumulation. In addition, the author asserts the science behind the dietary fat, cholesterol and heart disease connection is flawed by misinterpretation and bias; evidence that conflicts with conventional wisdom has been ignored to support influential researchers and governmental agendas.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan:
No specific meal plans or calorie counting methods are found and according to the author, total calories and portion sizes do not matter when it comes to obesity. He states "eating less and exercising more doesn't make a bit of difference" and what really matters is the type of calories we consume. His message is readers should stop worrying about fats and focus on decreasing refined, easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars, advocating a diet of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and non-starchy vegetables.
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
The author neither offers an extreme diet that excludes specific food groups, nor proposes avoiding all carbohydrates -- just refined and easily digestible carbohydrates. He believes if we simply eat fewer carbohydrates, we will be leaner. A balanced diet providing the nutrients our bodies need is achievable by reducing refined and simple carbohydrates.
This is not a book for the average consumer. If anything, the book is reminder to the nutrition research community that we must continue to conduct and critically evaluate nutrition research while maintaining healthy skepticism about what we believe makes up a healthy diet.