Now that the dust has settled a bit after the much ballyhooed release of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, I hereby offer a critique of it. It took me a while to finally get a copy, read and digest it, plus a 2 week decompression exercise that consisted of reading nothing but People Magazine. Note: Regina Wilshire wrote a fantastic synopsis/commentary of the book here.
- In terms of depth and breadth of information – both scientific and historical, this book is… intimidating.
- Taubes’ dissertation on the scientific flaws of lipid hypothesis is accomplished the same way that someone would use a grenade to kill a flea. It would be pretty hard to formulate an argument against this.
- Ditto with the carbohydrate/obesity/disease connection – although I would have liked him to make more discernments between refined carbs and sugars vs. low glycemic load carbs.
- Taubes also goes to great lengths to disprove the long held belief that calorie balance is the only thing that matters in weight regulation. While I agree that the theory is imperfect and varies according to genetic and hormonal influence, I don’t think the research is as unequivocal as Taubes purports it to be in this area. I’m not buying what he’s selling either when he implies incessantly that calorie balance has nothing to do with weight.
- On the insulin/fat subject, again there is some very convincing stuff here. It would be very difficult to argue against the fact that insulin does play a prominent roll in the accumulation of fat. Other scientists have also provided strong data to support this.
- On exercise and fat loss (deep breath)… this is where Mr. Taubes and I disagree completely. His contention is that exercise does not produce any weight loss because it makes us hungry. This is what I would call a case of “armchair science” on his part. He seems to cherry pick studies that support his cause, whilst ignoring a wide body of research that says otherwise.
If Taubes had framed it in such a way that suggested that exercise would not likely trump a poor diet – I would agree. Additionally, he does not get into much detail about the varying types of exercise, post exercise calorie expenditure or even the positive impact it has on insulin sensitivity (which is strange considering his near seamless argument on the insulin/fat issue). For the record, I have a teensy, weensy bit of bias in this area . Nevertheless, I have included references that support exercise as an effective intervention in weight management.
Make no mistake about it – this book is downright impressive. It is really worth a read for anyone with a more than casual interest in nutrition.
I’m still fighting an internal battle as to whether this book is;
a) A brilliant and groundbreaking manuscript guaranteed to revolutionize the way we think about nutrition. A must-read for those responsible for dietary policy as well as the discerning consumer.
b) A book in which the most convincing of disputations have already been broached ad nauseam by others before him (albeit not with the same profundity). A long, drawn out way to convince us of things that the nutrition enthusiast already deem to be obvious (Re: Dietary fat doesn’t in and of itself cause disease or obesity, the calorie balance equation in imperfect and hormones and genetics play a role in fat).
Perhaps it is a bit of both.
- Leanne M. Redman, Leonie K. Heilbronn, Effect of Calorie Restriction with or without Exercise on Body Composition and Fat Distribution. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2006
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- Schneider PL, Bassett DR Jr, Thompson DL, Pronk NP, Bielak KM. Effects of a 10,000 steps per day goal in overweight adults. Am J Health Promot. 2006 Nov-Dec;21(2):85-9.
- Slentz CA, Duscha BD, Johnson JL. Effects of the amount of exercise on body weight, body composition, and measures of central obesity: STRRIDE–a randomized controlled study.. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Jan 12;164(1):31-9.
- Ross R, Dagnone D, Jones PJ. Reduction in obesity and related comorbid conditions after diet-induced weight loss or exercise-induced weight loss in men. A randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000 Jul 18;133(2):92-103. Links
- Mougios V, Kazaki M, Christoulas K. Does the intensity of an exercise programme modulate body composition changes?. Int J Sports Med. 2006 Mar;27(3):178-81
- Lee S, Kuk JL, Davidson LE, Hudson R Exercise without weight loss is an effective strategy for obesity reduction in obese individuals with and without Type 2 diabetes. Appl Physiol. 2005 Sep;99(3):1220-
- Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7.
- Ross, R., Freeman, J. A., & Janssen, I. (2000). Exercise alone is an effective strategy for reducing obesity and related comorbidities. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 165-170.