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Customer Review

1,311 of 1,342 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Biochemistry text book agrees, November 3, 2011
This review is from: Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Kindle Edition)
I've read quite a few books that make some of the same points this one does about nutrition. I was already convinced saturated fat wasn't bad, and didn't cause heart disease. I was already convinced that sugar wasn't good for you--nor was a lot of bread and pasta. BUT I had never questioned the calories in/calories out theory. I knew plenty of people carrying extra pounds who exercised a lot and who didn't appear to eat any worse than I did (as a thin person), but I figured they must. I never questioned to think WHY do people eat more than need. The short answer is: glucose drives insulin drives fat. Taubes states that this is inarguable. I thought, well if it is inarguable than if I go read this Biochemistry, Fifth Edition: International Version (hardcover) book sitting on my bookshelf it will say the same thing. Sure enough it did, granted using a lot bigger words than Taubes does. Fatty acids will not be released into the blood stream to be used as energy if the glucose level is high. Thus it is logical to conclude that if you eat a diet that causes your blood sugar to frequently be high, all energy you consume that is not immediately needed will be stored in your fat cells and will not be released. You will not get to use all of the 800 calories you eat at one meal, only the 100 or so you need immediately, and thus you will soon be hungry again, and will overeat. And in contrast if your blood sugar is stable and you can access that stored energy you will not be hungry and won't overeat. Also it doesn't matter if you are eating fat or glucose your body will convert what its got to what it needs.

Another controversial claim he is that exercise does not help people lose weight permanently. I am a champion of exercise. How could this be? Honestly his arguments made sense, kind of, but didn't completely convince me. However when I pulled out the Biochem book it says, "Muscle retains glucose, its preferred fuel for bursts of activity...In resting muscle, fatty acids are the major fuel, meeting 85 percent of the energy needs." So there you go. If you are trying to lose weight, and are doing so by keeping your blood sugar stable, which is releasing fatty acids into your blood stream, and you want those fatty acids to be used, versus having your body (ie muscles) crave glucose, then intense exercise will not help you. Your body will more readily use those fatty acids if it is resting.

The other question is whether ketosis is a desirable state to be in. There is a bit of controversy on this and I haven't resolved an opinion one way or the other. I have epilepsy and know that a ketogenic diet is a viable treatment for epilepsy. I know that there are some societies, particularly the Inuits, that ate a mostly ketogenic diet, so it is not unheard of. Maybe humans are supposed to enter ketosis seasonally? Your brain and muscles do like glucose--can they run as well on a ketogenic diet? Some say they can, it just takes an adjustment period. Either way, I definitely think for a person who has excess weight Atkins is vindicated. Cut your carbs, drop significant amounts of weight (probably feeling crappy in the transition, but resting muscles can use the fuel better anyway so crashing on the couch is fine till you get used to it and end up having more energy than before). When you hit a desirable weight slowly add back a small amount of carbs until you start gaining again, and start an exercise routine with all your new found energy. As exercise is good for weight maintenance, and it's good for you brain (read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey). Then do that forever. I would really love to see a long term study where the participants stay on the diet.

I found the book very readable and engaging. How much fruit is too much? Will eating more fat really improve your cholesterol profile? How many carbs are too many? I don't know. Taubes makes some guesses, but nutrition is a very complex science that I don't think anyone completely understands. If you read vegan arguments they make many of the same claims that Taubes does (better cholesterol levels, weight management, etc). However it does seem that every major nutritional philosophy pegs sugar as being a major problem. It may be as simple as that. I'll process this information. Read Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage). Experiment on myself (finger pokes here I come), and have increased anxiety about what I feed my kids--especially the pasta, bread, fruit and sugar loving one.

(*I edited this section after my initial review.)
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Tracked by 10 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 46 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 2, 2011 9:52:48 AM PST
Great review! Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2011 4:55:25 AM PST
M. Cohen says:
Taubes does not say that obese people should not exercise. He states that the concept of exercise as a means to burn calories for weight loss is a losing battle, proven by controlled experiments. He admits that he exercises and does yoga. Excercise is good for lessening muscle insulin resistance and improving muscle tone but not for burning calories to lose weight.
Fruit in moderate amounts will not give one fatty liver disease. It would be practically impossible to ingest the amount of fructose needed to induce fatty liver disease by eating whole fruit. Eating 150 lbs of sugar a year(present American avg) plus a diet high in refined carbs could .

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2011 6:07:36 AM PST
Agree. I guess my point about the exercise was really if you were obese and didn't want to tackle diet and exercise at the same time, you would be justified.

Posted on Feb 12, 2012 2:05:40 PM PST
M. Matzner says:
You're dead on, but don't worry about fruit. It's a bit extreme to believe that eating something nutritious as most fruits would be bad for you. Fruits, when eaten in moderation, are great conserving what the bring to the table for the small about of calories they contain. And another thing to consider is the glycemic index score of fruits, especially fibrous fruits, which is actually quite acceptable, thus having a mild effect on blood sugar. Eating fruit in addition to other refined carbohydrates could intensify hepatic steatosis but certainly shouldn't be the main focus of those shoe are overweight, especially considering it's probably one of the only sources of micronutrients in their diet. Rather we shouldn't waste our time on fruits and the focus should be on refined grains/high glycemic carbohydrates that have to be fortified with nutrients.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2012 10:23:11 PM PDT
Synrgii says:
Exercise is also vitally important for lymph activity (the "sewage" system of the body in some ways, since it doesn't have it's own heart to pump. Requires the diaphragm's breathing movements and other body movement to keep things flowing and cleansing the toxins out (which is also why dry skin brushing works good too.)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 8:42:17 PM PDT
I think fruits are fine so long as you eat the whole fruit and not bottled fruit juices. OJ for instance is loaded with sugar but the whole fruit mitigates the effect of the fructose because of all the fiber you eat from the whole orange.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2012 8:08:29 AM PDT
Good review of a very good book. I do have to agree with M. Cohen, though, that Taubes does not say not to exercise. In fact, he says just the opposite. He says there are many good reasons to exercise and to be physically active, and that doing so is very important. He just points out that exercising more (at least on a typical American diet) has not been shown to be effective for weight loss.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 3:29:26 AM PDT
I have been on a low-starch diet for over 25 years - initially because I discovered it stopped my IBS symptoms. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It But the added bonus (apart from feeling really good) is that I lost weight and have never gained a pound during those years. Still wear many of the same clothes (not necessarily a bonus!) and I look younger than most of my contemporaries. I am a great admirer of Gary Taubes. I could tell from the first book of his that I read, (Good calories, Bad calories) he was right, and I've gone on admiring his immaculate research and bravery in the face of hostile reaction from some critics. I eat no starch, but limited amounts of sucrose and honey. Bake cakes with ground almonds. Lovely diet - wouldn't change for the world. Carolyn Ching

Posted on Sep 6, 2012 11:40:11 AM PDT
As of today, I've lost 30 pounds by simply understanding the concepts discussed in this book and letting it inform my eating habits. 30 pounds. My feet don't hurt now and I don't feel "fat".

Posted on Sep 14, 2012 2:05:37 PM PDT
In my 20's and 30's I was on and off the Atkins diet. I lost weight but I just couldn't stay on it. The call to carbs was too strong and I wasn't enjoying my life. Many kinds of fruit were a no-no. Beer, a no-no. Bread, pasta, etc. no-no. One day I cut up a bunch of carrots and ate them with salad dressing with such craving that I went off the diet never to return. Have been a vegetarian for 22 years and maintain a steady healthy weight. Very little sugar, but do treat myself once a week. All things in moderation, including moderation.
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