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on April 28, 2016
This is an incredible book that, for me, completely redefined what constituted a healthy diet.

I completely believed the calories in/calories out model of dieting: that is, if you consume more calories than you expend, you will put on weight, and that you lose weight by expending more calories than you consume. That model was simple and made a lot of sense. But, Taubes convincingly argues, it is not just too simplistic, it is wrong.

What matters isn't the quantity of calories consumed, but their quality. Rice, potatoes, flour (including cakes, bread, pasta, etc.), sugar, and other refined, easily digestible carbohydrates are converted to simple sugars in our digestive systems. In turn, this sugar enters our blood streams and raises our blood sugar levels. Since high blood sugar is dangerous and fatal if not addressed, our bodies respond by producing insulin which causes that blood sugar to be converted into fat and stored in our fat cells. This is all basic high-school biology, and completely uncontroversial. Taubes, however, goes further and cites study after study that implicate the recommended "healthy" low-fat, high-carb diets as a primary cause of obesity, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers and a whole range of other health problems. He explains the mechanisms that lead to these diseases, and punches holes in the accepted wisdom behind recommended "healthy" dietary guidelines.

I was on a long, domestic flight when I read an in-flight magazine article by Taubes about this book back in early 2008. I was very skeptical, because what he had written flew in the face of what I had come to believe about health and diet, but I was intrigued because of the claims he made about the links between diet and hypertension. I had recently been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and my doctor had put me on a course of medication to bring it under control. He had also told me to cut out as much sodium from my diet as possible. When I asked my doctor what I needed to do to come off the medication completely, he told me there was nothing I could do and that I probably needed it for the rest of my life. I was in my early 40's and didn't like the sound of that at all! So I bought a copy of this book and read it from cover to cover.

It was a revelation!

He cited studies which indicated that hypertension was caused by eating a diet rich in easily digestible carbohydrates. Such a diet raises blood sugar, which in turn raises insulin - in order to convert that sugar to fat, thereby reducing blood sugar, and storing the resulting fat in the bodies fat cells. However, the research indicated that insulin also had other effects on the body, one of which was to cause the kidneys to reabsorb more water back into the blood stream. In other words, insulin acted as an anti-diuretic. The resulting excess water increased blood pressure. (One of the drugs in my blood pressure medication was a diuretic, so it clearly worked by reducing the amount of water in my bloodstream.) At the same time, Taubes pointed out that blood sodium levels, which conventional wisdom claimed was the cause of that excess water (again, without a great deal of evidence to support it), was quite easily regulated by the kidneys and passed out of the body in urine.

This made a lot of sense to me, and so I started a diet that the book indicated would be healthier: one without starchy food, but with fish, meat, dairy products and green vegetables. Within days, I started getting muscle cramps and dizzy spells, and saw my doctor about the problem. It seemed that the combination of the diet and my hypertension medication was giving me low blood pressure and dehydration symptoms. He halved my medication dosage, instructed me to buy a blood pressure monitor, and to come off the medication altogether if my symptoms continued - but to check my blood pressure regularly. In the end, I stopped taking the medication, and my blood pressure was routinely around 118/75. So much for having to take the medication for the rest of my life.

But other effects were happening to me while I was on this diet. I started losing weight (I was, I'll admit, slightly obese when I started the diet), yet I never felt hungry, and could seemingly eat as much as I liked, without ever feeling bloated or full. This was supposedly one of the primary benefits of the diet and one of the main points of the book, but I was still surprised with the results.

Taubes' research also predicted that such a diet would do the following to my blood lipids: it would lower triglyceride levels, raise HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels and possibly raise LDL ("bad" cholesterol). Over the course of a year, the blood work performed by my doctor backed this up: I significantly lowered my triglyceride levels, significantly raised my HDL levls - both unequivocally good things - while slightly increasing my LDL levels. Taubes' studies had indicated that HDL levels had a strong inverse correlation with coronary heart disease incidence (that is, the higher the HDL levels, the lower the risk of coronary heart disease), while LDL had a weak, positive correlation, so I wasn't too concerned about the increase in LDL.

So, it worked for me.

However, this is not a book primarily about diet. It might be more accurate to say that it's a book about the science of diet, nutrition and health, and Taubes is happy to acknowledge that we still need to do a lot more research on the subject, but without any preconceptions. Indeed, throughout the book, Taubes points out the lies, errors, misinterpretations and failed critical thinking that led to the current dietary recommendations of a predominantly low-fat, high-carb diet. If those recommendations are right, he asks, why are we seeing such an explosion in obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes diagnoses?

He certainly doesn't claim to have all the answers, but he does put a lot of pseudo-scientific diet & health claims to the sword - and he explains why. He convincingly argues that Ancel Keys' "lipid hypothesis" - that diets that are high in fat, and high in saturated fat in particular, cause coronary heart disease - not only has no evidence to support it, but is contradicted by the evidence that is available. Taubes also demonstrates that in all likelihood saturated fat, far from being unhealthy, is actually an essential component of our diets.

I highly recommend this book!
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on April 27, 2010
I've worked in hospitals or have been in a teaching position in health care since 1972. That entire time I marched to the unceasing drum of dietary-fat-and-cholesterol-lead-directly-to-heart-disease, now called the lipid theory of heart disease. It never occurred to me to ask "Where is the hard evidence?" I assumed it had been irrefutably proven. Then factors in my own life led me to eventually question that ever present mantra.

My own mother had her first heart attack when she was just 48 years old. In her seventies she was put on a statin for elevated cholesterol and became someone I barely recognized; argumentative, irritable, forgetful, poor coordination and very depressed. Nothing in my own medical care education lead me to blame any of that on statin drugs. What was even more puzzling was that she had never been one to eat fatty foods or things laden with cholesterol. But I never stopped to think about that. I did know she struggled with weight her entire life and hence was vigilant in eating things low-fat, as well as only using polyunsaturated oils for cooking. But it is also true she had a problem with carbohydrates - they always were the majority of her diet. I lost her to a heart attack in 1995.

Three years ago, as my own cholesterol nudged up a bit, but still within traditional normal range, I did not hesitate to comply with my doctor's suggestion to begin a statin (Lipitor). If anything, I felt I was getting ahead of the danger of losing my life as my mother had. But also like her, I struggle with my weight and like her I gravitate to carbohydrates. I was strictly avoiding all saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, cooking with the supposedly "healthy" polyunsaturated oils and always choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products. In all that time in hospitals and health education we had a two other mantras - "a calorie is a calorie" and its corollary "calories in calories out" as the only approach to weight management. But every calorie restrictive program I tried just left me hungry and with only short term weight loss.

I developed, in those three years, various aches and pains, initially too varied to form a pattern. I was aware that I was having a marked increase in short term memory problems, and my joints were getting so troublesome I was unwilling to do the exercise my doctor kept harping about to keep my weight under control. I found myself getting irritable, less interested in life and feeling O.L.D. @ 60. Out of frustration with both weight and how crummy I was feeling, I read a couple of food advice books, and one, "In Defense of Food" started making sense to me. Two other books were mentioned within that one, so I moved on to one of them - "Good Calories, Bad Calories." The author already had an excellent track record of science journalism.

Just imagine how startled I was while reading Gary Taubes book to find out there never has been definitive reproducible studies to prove the connection between consuming dietary saturated fat and cholesterol to the development of high blood cholesterol, nor to cholesterol numbers being a directly predictive factor in heart disease mortality. This was a jaw dropping revelation to me. Then I went on to read about the abundance of information revealing "healthy" seed oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soy and canola, showed no evidence of lowering either heart disease itself or the mortality rate from heart disease. Then the came the real shocker.......the most consistent risk factor for developing heart disease, as far as diet is concerned, is the intake of carbohydrates. I was dumb struck. He also challenges, then destroys, the assumption that all calories are created equal and that saturated fat is harmful. One whole chapter is devoted just to how our bodies manufacture and use insulin and the stress that excess carbohydrate puts on our system, leading eventually to insulin resistance and finally type 2 diabetes.

I am not easily swayed, so it is important to me that when someone makes such revolutionary counter-to-accepted-belief statements, they had better be able to back it up. Taubes book has over 60 pages of just reference sources. It is exhaustively researched, going back through dietary research for the past century. His book led me to a few others that focused on carbohydrate dangers. cholesterol, fats and the harmful effects of statins. For those interested, here are some recommendations: Natural Health & Weight Loss,Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food,The Statin Damage Crisis,The Modern Nutritional Diseases: And How to Prevent Them : Heart Disease, Stroke, Type-2 Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer,Cereal Killer,The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It and The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy Four of these are written by MDs - informed, well educated, science background people working with current research information.

Information I uncovered left me shocked about how manipulative Big Pharma is as far as pressuring doctors to use their drugs, (complete with "incentive" packages that can only be compared to flat out bribery) about how they fund their own studies and then get to interpret their own results to be sure they are favorable, and/or they can choose to fail to publish anything negative. Agribusiness is also enormously influential in getting studies done, with their own highly lucrative contracts with research groups, to "prove" that oils made from their excess harvest, that are cheap and highly profitable, must be part of our daily diet at the expense of traditional fats. The power the pharmaceutical industry and the agribusiness has on such supposedly trustworthy institutions such as the American Heart Association, the FDA and the NIH is not to be believed. So sad for all of us.The food pyramid is absolutely wrong for heart health, weight management and avoiding type 2 diabetes.

As I read these books, I began to have hope about finally managing my own weight. Taubes book is all about arming you with proper facts, about making intelligent choices for your own dietary direction. It is not focused on the use of statins (I found that informations in other related books listed above) - rather, he is making the point that while we have been concentrating on fats as the cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, it has really been the shift toward more carbohydrate and seed oil consumption for the last 60 years.

But Taubes is NOT offering "program" as such. Rather, for someone like me, who really wants to understand WHY things are the way they are, this is a wealth of information about how we went down the wrong path as far as national nutritional health advice and who was behind it all. He lets you connect the dots for yourself. If instead you would rather have help with a program for redesigning your nutrition, two of the books I listed are better for that, specifically "Deep Nutrition" by Dr. Shanahan, or Mark Sisson's "Primal Blueprint". Both books have at their core a target of total carbohydrate in a day of about 70 mg if you need to lose weight. Using these guidelines, I dropped 25 pounds in 11 weeks, without feeling hungry, and I feel excellent. I have also slowly tapered off, then stopped my Lipitor. I will not know my lab numbers for several months until my next check up, but I can report that my body aches have lessened, I have more energy, my short-term memory is better and my depressed mood has vanished.

I bought two extra copies of Taubes book and will be giving them to both my Family Practice doctor and my Endocrinologist. This information is vital. I believe my mother would have remained her normal self until her passing if she had not been given a statin and I also believe we may have had the joy of having her longer if any of us (including her doctors) had fully understood the implications of the carbohydrate laden low-fat diet she consumed for years.

Good luck to you. Be well.

P.S. - An eye-opening DVD is "Food Inc." that lays out the case for how we as citizens are at the mercy of only a handful of agribusiness companies. Profit, not our well being or the the survival of family farms matters to them. Their influence on our government's policies at all levels is truly shocking.
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on September 1, 2013
"Good Calories, Bad calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health" says it all and does just what it says it's going to tell you about! It chronicles excellent research that has been conducted for years on vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs and exercise etc that IS available but has not been fully and accurately interpreted or utilized by medical professionals, nutritionists, policy makers and scientists. Why and how this happened is eye opening and informative to readers that have thought that the research conclusions that they might have believed to be accurate and "true," may not be. More importantly, this book highlights information that may not be "new," but maybe new to them. Their quest to make more informed nutritional choices, is provided in a manner that is not dry or so fact laden that it losses the reader, rather it makes you want to keep reading as each major area of the science of Nutrition is updated. For those people dieting, this book offers information that clarifies why it may seem that many times a recommendation regarding what "good" Nutrition is, is later retracted. The science of Nutrition is still in it's infancy, but while there are profits to be made and a need for policy makers from many diverse areas seeking data to support their agendas, research information should be questionably applied. This book may validate some of the confusion, guilt and possibly anger over the personal findings that readers themselves may have experienced. This book was a surprise in how informatively riveting it was!
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on July 15, 2016
Taubes present the two conflicting hypoteses of calories restriction vs carbohydrate restriction, as the means to loose weight, in great detail- and the overconsumption of the same as the basic cause of gaining weight and ultimately obesity. A real eyeopener!

The downside of this book is that I feel it can be really heavy on the facts and details unless you like to dig in to the subject.

I will certainly go on to buy Taubes next book, which I think might be offering a more popular version of his conclusions- and perhaps some more advise.
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on May 24, 2011
This book is one of the most important health books I have ever read.

(My copy was called 'The Diet Delusion' which is the UK and Australian etc. title of this book, I think.)

The author is incredibly intelligent and that this book took the author more than five years to write, shows. I've read few health books so intelligently written as this one.

I thought I was quite well educated about diet and the need to restrict refined carbohydrates (for good health and to stop weight gain) but I learned so much from reading this book.

This book is not a simple book offering practical advice and a diet sheet but a detailed analysis of why low calorie diets don't work and why restricted carbohydrate/high fat diets do.

The book explains that:

1. The 'calories in, calories out' mantra is a myth

2. 'A calorie is a calorie is a calorie' is a myth

3. The 'just eat less and do more exercise to lose weight' message seems to be logical but is actually wrong and unhelpful

4. Overweight and obese people often eat no more calories, or even less, than their thinner counterparts

5. Low calorie diets also reduce the amount of nutrients in the diet

6. It is a myth that the brain and CNS needs 120 - 130 grams of carbohydrate as fuel in order to function properly, as the body can use fat and protein equally as well, and these fuels are likely the mixture our brains have evolved to prefer.

7. Restricting calories with a low fat/high carb diet just makes you hungrier and more lethargic and slows your metabolic rate. Weight loss is only maintained if the patients stays on a semi-starvation diet forever, which is impossible for most people and also undesirable. Being far more active just makes you far more hungry.

8. It is a myth that reducing calories slightly or increasing activity slightly will lead to weight loss.

9. It is a myth that we evolved through periods of feast and famine to be very good at holding onto fat. Fat gain is due to excessive insulin levels caused by high dietary refined carbohydrate intake. It is a sign of something in the body going wrong, not a healthy adaptation.

10. Fructose is not much better than glucose and the two together may cause more harm than either individually.

11. The idea of a weight 'set point' is a myth

12. Insulin is the overall fuel control for mammals. High insulin levels cause the body to store fat and stop the body from using fat as fuel. This means that high carbohydrate foods make you put on more fat, and also leave you still feeling very hungry and unsatisfied.

13. Our bodies have evolved to do best on a diet of plentiful fat and protein (including saturated fat), lots of greens and minimal fruits and starchy vegetables. This diet is the best for health and also for losing weight and stopping weight gain.

14. Dietary fat, including saturated fat, is not a cause of obesity. Refined and easily digestible carbs causing high insulin levels cause obesity.

15. To say that people are overweight due to gluttony and slothfulness is just not correct and it is very unfair. Overeating and a sedentary lifestyle are often CAUSED by eating a high carbohydrate diet! This association has wrongly been interpreted as a cause of weight gain, rather than an effect.

16. Hunger caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet (or excessive exercising while on a low calorie diet) is a very strong physiological drive and should not be thought of something mild and psychological that can be overcome with willpower. This is something serious occurring in the body, not the brain!

Thus psychological 'treatments' for obesity are inappropriate and cruel. Most people are overweight due to bad medical advice, NOT a lack of willpower, greed, laziness or because they lack 'moral fibre'

17. People have different insulin secretory responses. Even if insulin secretion is slightly off, weight gain can occur.

18. Eating large amounts of a high sugar and high fat food like popcorn is easy because the body will not use most of the carbohydrate and fat for immediate fuel but will store much of it as fat - leaving you able to eat a lot of it and still be hungry a short time later as well.

19. Eating foods with a large bulk or high in fibre wont fill you up, you need the correct proportion of macronutrients and will stay hungry until you get them.

20. Those advocating the low calorie and high carb diets for health and weight loss are not involved in legitimate science. These approaches are not supported by the evidence.

I have still not covered so many other great points!

The bottom line is that we have evolved to eat a diet that contains enough fat and protein to cause satiety, lots of green vegetables and minimal amounts of fruits and starchy vegetables. Our bodies really can't cope with huge levels of refined carbohydrate as have recently been added to the modern diet.

More detailed information about this type of diet (and the benefits of traditional foods as well such as raw milk, organ meats, bone broths and fermented foods) can be found in books such as 'Nourishing Traditions' and 'Eat Fat, Lose Fat' by Sally Fallon (of the Weston A. Price Foundation) and Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan and Luke Shanahan, among others.

This book is a *very* dense read. (Those that are very ill and can't read such a long and complex book may do best to read just the first chapter and the last 2 chapters as these provide a summary to some extent.)

My only criticisms of the book are that a brief, maybe half page summary, of each chapter at the end of each chapter may have been very helpful for those of us that struggled taking in so many new facts at once due to illness or any other reason. I'd also have liked the ideas of Weston A. Price to be featured a bit more prominently than just on the acknowledgments page! But I accept that space was a concern for the author, as he states.

To the author, thank you so much for all your hard work. This is such an impressive body of work. I wish we had more investigative jounalists writing about 'controversial' topics to such a high standard.

I highly recommend this book. Check your library for a copy, at least!

Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E. (HFME) and Health, Healing & Hummingbirds (HHH)
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on April 26, 2013
Although I have not finished the book, Gary Taubes research has opened my eyes in the same way the book Sugar Blues opened them years ago. Almost the entire reason we think the way we do about 'what is the best way to eat for good health' is politically based....whether it is politics at the research level, or politics at the federal level.

Unfortunately, we in this country are all victims of ego-driven rhetoric and bias when it comes to why we think we should eat less saturated fat, or more mono-unsaturated fat, or fewer carbs, or more carbs, or more fat, or no animal products, etc. It's crazy when you read this book and begin to understand that the health headlines you read telling you that 'the best way to avoid cancer' or 'the best way to avoid atherosclerosis', etc. is really all a distilled-down version of this ego-driven rhetoric and bias in research.

Although I haven't finished the book, as a result of what I've read so far (and I'm 2/3 of the way through) I'm currently left with a newly-advanced skepticism about any health headlines when it comes to our diet. Who is being quoted in the headline articles? What is the source? How did they arrive at this information and decision? From where did the research originate? Although I'm not sure if Gary has a bias on this topic, I do feel he has presented the information and history of our food choices in a rather unbiased manner. I'd be curious to hear other's comments in this regard.

If you want your eyes opened, and you like knowing all the facts about why our government advocates a food pyramid in the manner they currently do, and why the diet-bandwagons get developed (low-fat, high fat, low carb, high carb, Mediterranean diet, Paleo diet, etc.)....then read this book. You won't be disappointed.
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on May 19, 2012
I read Why We Get Fat by the same author. I was seriously thinking of following that suggested eating pattern so I wanted more, in-depth, researched information. This book is well researched, well documented and if you are more science based you will like it more than the authors more "mass public" version. The following is the same review I wrote for Why We Get Fat but since it is the same meal pattern it applies to this book too.
I found this book to be very enlightening. I've struggled with my weight all of my life with kind of hit and miss success. As I got older it became impossible to hold the line and slipped into an extra 25-30 pounds. Add a knee replacement to that and I'm feeling all of my 60 years plus a few extra. I know about nutrition. I have a masters degree in public health nutrition and actually worked in some of the national nutrition education programs that this book talks about. I am utterly horrified at the shabby research that I took as gospel and that I, personally, spread their doctrine wide and far. In fact I was so horrified that I did not believe this book could be correct, so looked long and hard for informed, educated rebuttals. And I found several rebuttals but none of them questioned or refuted that the research at the basis, of the increased exercise, low fat, high carb diet that is recommended by the government, was intentionally flawed to the point that it is virtually meaningless. Frankly it is so flawed that it is just a lie. Not only that, but a great many follow up studies show the same bias--the researchers were out to prove one thing and refused to look at other interpretations of their data, or they just left out data that did not fit what they wanted to show. Face it, you can show that cell phones cause obesity if all you look at is weight gain and cell phone use! You HAVE to look at the other events happening in people's lives and not just consider the one you want to prove. Another common rebuttal is to look at research that does not actually follow this eating plan yet claims their research proves that it is wrong. The basic theme of the rebuttals I found was that they thought this book was oversimplified, or they just "felt" it was wrong, or "how could so many be wrong" or the one I liked the best, "we just don't have all the answers" as if we haven't been pretending we had all the answers for 40 years with the low fat, high carb diet! Somehow if the government, the American heart Association, etc took the same stand--as if they are not all connected-- it had to be right. Yet I could find no researched based complaints regarding this book. In fact I found a researcher who sits on the board of the American Hearth Association who had to agree that research did show that the high carb diets did cause problems.
So I decided to follow this general diet plan myself. After 9 months I've dropped 30 pounds (and, darn it all, seem unable to drop the last 5--somethings in life just don't change.) I've lost the constant craving I had for sweets (I used to wonder when I'd 'grow up' and stop eating every sweet thing in sight--seems to have happened, finally). I feel great and life is good. No I don't eat brownies etc but I really don't miss them. I can go to an event that has tables full of sweet, carbohydrate loaded snacks and just not even want them--no will power involved. I had a physical with blood work and my results were better than they've been forever. I told my doctor about my dietary changes and asked her what she thought about it. She looked at my lab results and said, "keep doing what you are doing because this is working very, very well for you." And my blood work is pretty much exactly what you would expect after reading this book--nothing special about it, just the same results researchers always report with this diet pattern.
I suggested this book to my book club. They all found it very readable and well worth the discussion. If you have struggled with your weight, or your cholesterol/blood lipid profiles I suspect you that you might find this book well worth reading. Personally I'm enjoying not pounding my head against the same low fat/low carb/constant hunger/seesawing weight life style. I much prefer the stability this way of eating offers.
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on May 13, 2014
I have been with food allergies, addictions and compulsions for all of my years of living. Gary Taubes has the ability to write to the average mind, so that one can understand the science and chemistry of foods and how they interact with our physical body. I better understand what happens to my body when I take in sugar, grains and flour. I refer this book to all of those people in my life who suffer from food allergies and addictions. I keep it on both kindle and in book for easy references.

Gary supports his writing on research and he has done his research. Using his suggestions, I have not craved foods I use to crave, I do not over eat, and I make food choices that I understand will support not only my personal weight but my whole self, organs and brain health. I will gladly attend anything that Gary Taubes is involved in around the food and health lifestyle.

If you have a weight problem and find you over eat or crave and give into cravings. If you find that even with those books that tell you how to heal your thinking around food is just a bandaid, read this book! I trust the research and the authors who found their work on studies and truths. Our brain and how it functions, both emotionally and intellectually is largely guided by diet. Change your food, change your mind!
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on August 26, 2017
I haven't read the whole book yet, but it is great information. I already had "Why we get fat" by Gary Taubes, and I love that. I read it and stopped eating starch and sugar, and have lost 14 pounds in less than 3 weeks. So I wanted this book too. Can't have too much of a good thing. With more info, I thought I could get my husband on board. We will see.
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on February 24, 2015
This book takes some time to read and concentration as well. There is so much so much history of scientific studies for the 1900 era forward. These studies have helped me understand to a much greater extent what refined carbohydrates and sugars are doing to my body inside and out. I now understand how dangerous these foods are not only to obesity and cavities, but also several other chronic and debilitating side affects, even death
Thank you Gary for this undertaking. It is easier to avoid these foods when I understand the true side affects and not just weight loss.
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