Insulin: Is the Bad Rap Justified?

By Mike Howard


The insulin-makes-you-fat issue is something I’ve come full circle on. My formal nutrition education came mostly in the mid-90’s when low fat still reigned supreme and low carb was a fad and a potentially dangerous one at that.

Fast forward to 7-8 years ago during the peak of low carb popularity and insulin was the evil hormone responsible for our burgeoning waistlines. The rationale was so simple and seemed so logical. Eat lots of carbs – spike your insulin – insulin promotes fat storage and voila! You get fat. I was buying in.

Low carb gurus have been parroting this message for many years now – but has insulin been misunderstood?
I don’t pretend to know the most intricate biological details of insulin’s effect on the body; however I credit 3 very smart individuals in helping dissect the complicated and oft-misrepresented role on insulin: Alan Aragon, James Krieger and “Carb Sane“. A while back, Krieger wrote a phenomenal 5 part series called Insulin: An Undeserved Bad Reputation.

Here are 4 common myths associated with the “evil” hormone

1. A High Carb Diet Leads to Chronically High Insulin Levels
Eating a high carbohydrate meal only temporarily elevates insulin levels in healthy individuals. This means that any fat loss-suppressing affects of insulin are virtually non-existent as the ability to store fat will not exceed the ability to release it – assuming you are not consuming more calories than you expend.

2. Carbohydrate Drives Insulin Which Drives Fat Storage
The body has the ability to store fat under a variety of insulin levels. Insulin does blunt the effect of a fat-releasing hormone called “hormone sensitive lipase” (HSL). Fat, however does this too in the absence of high insulin levels. Therefore overeating fat will still not allow for fat loss despite low insulin levels.

3. Insulin Make You Hungry
Not only is this a misconception but it turns out the opposite may be true. Appetite is a vastly complex subject anyway and pinpointing a single factor is by default ludicrous.

4. Carbs and Only Carbs Drive Insulin
Many are surprised to learn that protein can also stimulate insulin production. This actually isn’t lost on the ardent low carb crowd – with many of them promoting low carb AND low protein to avert insulin production (shakes head). In this study despite nearly twice the carbohydrate consumption and sharply higher blood sugar response, the insulin response was actually slightly LOWER in the higher carbohydrate group.

What to Make of This

It’s a complicated issue – plain and simple. Anyone who tells you weight gain has a singular cause is lying to your face. Weight management is multivariate and multi-layered. I would suggest taking a detailed look at the entire series and the rebuttals if you have a keen interest.

Here are some rebuttals to the series from Jimmy Moore’s site . There are also rebuttals TO THE rebuttals on Carb Sane’s site

Image Credit: Skippyjon


  1. Dan

    Val, it seems like you haven’t read very many words I have written. I have lost and kept off far more weight than you (95 pounds) and I could not have done it without regular exercise. My bmi at 21.5 is considerably lower than Atkins was at 27. Because I continue to exercise, I can consume 3500 calories and not gain weight. Read about the study I cited on the second page which explains why most studies actually show *modest* NOT non existent weight loss effects from exercise, even though the subjects did not exercise that much. Doing more exercise is more effective for weight loss. I don’t get excessively hungry from exercise, because I don’t restrict carbs, which are absolutely necessary for exercise.

  2. Val

    Great reply Josh. And by the way Dan its really not calories its carbohydrates.I eat way more fat now than i did two years ago before I read Taubes book “Good Calories Bad Calories”. Ive lost 35 lbs and have kept it off.I agree exercise is good for you but likes Taubes not for the reason most people think.Exercise does very little to promote weight loss.To further strengthen the exercise argument the American Heart Association (somebody correct me if I have the wrong Association but it was one of the big influential ones)has recently announced that the facts to substantiate the weight loss due to exercise are slim (no pun intended) to nonexistent.

    Furthermore to put this argument in its proper perspective one would only have to look at the Inuit people of northern Canada.Prior to the “conventional wisdom “of western diet all they ate was meat and fat.Diabetes ,heart diseases ,high blood pressure and a plethora of other chronic diseases is now plaguing this People.
    What could have caused this rise to sickness?Do you think refined carbohydrates may have anything to with it.

    In regards to insulin having been given a “Bad Rap” it is what it is.And from what I’ve read so far its insulin that’s causing the problem.
    And just because the science is 50 years old doesn’t mean it isn’t any good.Its just been ignored for over 50 years.
    Increasingly there are new studies being conducted that are beginning to support this 50 year old science.

    Lets look at from a new and emerging perspective.We have following the “Conventional Wisdom” for over 50 years and what has the end result been?It pretty clear that if you take a look around or walk through any mall the evidence is right before our very eyes,
    We have been getting fat and fatter along with all the associated chronic diseases. Time to go in a different direction the one we are in is proving to be a dismal failure and obviously not working for a good 60% of our population.


  3. Dan

    I just read Gary Taube’s criticism of the low fat diet from the NYtimes in 2002. I don’t think it is a masterful debunking of a true low fat diet, that is a Vegan, plant based diet, but it is a good debunking of the bastardized low fat diet in which people thought they could eat all the sugar and refined carbohydrates they wanted, just as long it did not contain fat. If you read Dean Ornish, he never suggested that people could eat all the refined carbohydrates they wanted, just as long as they did not contain fat. Refined carbohydrates are not allowed on his diet. Good, essential fats, such as Omega 3’s are allowed. NO, Taubes did not make a good argument against the true Ornish diet at all in his article, but he did argue rather well against the “eat all the refined carbohydrates you want, as long as they don’t have fat” kind of diet. Of course, people might lose more weight on a low carb diet than a processed low fat diet consisting of low fat soft drinks, ice cream and candy. However, all studies show that Vegans tend to be slimmer and have lower obesity rates than do meat eaters, as well as having lower rates of heart disease and cancer. Non processed, low fat, plant based diets are very effective for weight loss and do not raise triglycerides. My diet is not quite as low fat as Ornish’s diet is, but it is rather low in animal fat- I eat mainly healthier fats, such as from flax and nuts. I also eat one egg yolk most days, whereas Ornish eats only egg whites. Most dietary guidelines state we can eat about 5 egg yolks a week, and I stick with that.

  4. Mike Howard

    Thank you for chiming in – your opinion is appreciated!

    I don’t have time to address all of your points but you commented on my comment so I’ll begin there.

    Regarding the research on insulin and low carb, I’m not buying the conspiracy theory of big pharm or that research was somehow lost. Dismissed by some misinformed officials? perhaps. Note that I have always held that Taubes did an excellent job of debunking low fat.

    The problem is when you selectively cite studies that agree with your premise – especially when they are outdated. Taubes chose not to include doubly-labelled water studies – which became gold standard – the one’s that happen not to agree with his insulin-makes-you-fat theory. Most would find that interesting at the very least.

  5. Lab

    I have to eat considerably fewer kcal on a higher carb diet than on a lower carb diet in order to lose weight, whether I exercise or not. I am extremely obsessive with counting kcal when restricting kcal and counting carbs (and monitoring kcal) when restricting carbs. I’m not one of those persons who “underestimates” what I eat. I’m probably more obsessive that necessary, but in a way, that is good, as I’ve been able to learn a great deal about my own body’s tolerances because of it.

    In addition, I know others who are in positions where following a moderate (or even low) kcal diet that included higher carb levels were unable to lose weight. They diligently measured, weighed, counted and logged what they ate daily to be certain to stay at or under their kcal limits, to no avail. Restricting carbs changed that for them. They have been able to lose weight with carb restriction, even though they may eat a higher number of kcal than they were eating on a kcal restricted diet that included more carbs. This has been found to be the case by physicians over the years as well, who have had patients who had great difficulty with weight loss.

    Before last year, I was a firm, firm believer that a Calorie is a Calorie is a Calories and that it was ENTIRELY about energy consumed vs. energy expended. But, observation of people who were having a terrible time losing weight on kcal restricted only diets, but then had great success by restricting carbs, made me start to wonder. What I’ve come to realise is that the human body is far more complex than any man-made machine in terms of how energy is utilised. We have many factors that get thrown into the mix that machines don’t have. For example, we’ve got hormones and we’ve got enzymes. These direct how energy is broken down and utilised, and how energy from different sources is broken down and utilised. My own experience and observations alone tell me that there is more to it than simple kcal in vs. kcal out, especially in persons whose metabolisms have taken a beating and aren’t very efficient anymore.

    I am not saying that a many people cannot lose weight through kcal restriction and/or kcal expenditure via exercise. I am, saying, however, that there are a number of people who do not have success this way, but who have success with carbohydrate restriction, at the same (or higher) kcal level that rendered fruitless results on a higher carb kcal restricted regimen.

  6. Dan

    One last point. A low carb diet can work within the “calories in, calories out” paradigm. I person can consume 75% of their calories a day from fat and still lose weight as long as the total number of calories consumed and absorbed was less than the number of calories burned. The one advantage of a low fat diet is that a person could consume a higher volume of food and still have an energy deficit since carbohydrates are not quite as energy dense as fat is (4 calories per gram for carbs vs 9 calories per gram for fat). Non starchy vegetables are even better- they have very little fat or carbs and therefore the volume a person can consume of them is quite high. Very lean meats also can be consumed in a fairly high quantity because they have no carbs and few fats. I don’t really follow a low fat diet, since I eat quite a few nuts everyday. Energy surpluses cause weight gain according to this paradigm, not fats nor carbs per se.

  7. Dan

    I don’t think I made myself clear enough. I was not talking at all of how much exercise people are doing in general, but rather how much exercise is done under experimental conditions in most research studies to measure weight loss effects by exercise. Here is a summary from

    The role of physical activity in producing
    and maintaining weight loss
    by Victoria A Catenacci and Holly R Wyatt
    The majority of the adult population in the US
    is overweight or obese.1 Consequently, effective
    interventions are needed that will help people
    achieve and maintain a healthier body weight.
    Addressing the issue of body weight should start
    with a basic understanding of energy balance.
    Negative energy balance is required for weight
    loss. People lose weight when energy expenditure
    exceeds energy intake for a defined period
    of time. Successful maintenance of weight loss
    occurs when expenditure and intake are matched
    at the reduced body weight for a continued
    period of time. Although these states of energy
    balance are clear, identifying the optimum strategies
    to achieve them is challenging. In particular,
    there is controversy about the relative importance
    of changes in diet versus changes in physical
    activity in body-weight management.
    The majority of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) show only modest weight loss with exercise intervention alone, and slight increases in weight loss when exercise intervention is added to dietary restriction. In most
    RCTs, the energy deficit produced by the prescribed exercise is far smaller than that usually produced by dietary restriction. In prospective studies that
    prescribed high levels of exercise, enrolled individuals achieved substantially greater weight loss—comparable to that obtained after similar energy deficits
    were produced by caloric restriction. High levels of exercise might, however, be difficult for overweight or obese adults to achieve and sustain.

    This article later states,

    With few exceptions, the RCTs we reviewed
    suffered from notable limitations that might
    confound interpretation of the results. In the
    majority of these studies, energy expenditure
    resulting from physical activity was neither
    rigorously controlled nor accurately measured,
    and the negative energy balance induced
    by exercise was modest to the degree that one
    would not expect substantial weight loss.
    Frequently, the levels of exercise prescribed in
    weight-loss studies are derived from exercise
    standards intended to promote cardiovascular
    health or fitness, not weight loss. The majority of
    studies that we reviewed used exercise prescriptions
    of ~60–180 min per week.

    Taubes may have actually reading the results of the research correctly, but he didn’t delve beneath the surface and see that persons in these research studies were only doing enough exercise to improve their health, not lose weight. It takes an energy deficit of 500-1000 calories a day to usually lose weight. It takes about an hour an hard running, swimming or bicycling a day to produce this kind of energy deficit. One hour a day is 420 minutes a week, which is much higher than 60-180 minutes a week. If a person exercises this much, they would not have to cut, AND they cannot increase the number of calories they were consuming, as long as what they were consuming did maintain their weight. Therefore, exercise shouldn’t cause excess hunger. Certainly eating 2000 calories a day and exercising will cause much less dangerous hunger than consuming 1000 calories a day and not exercising. A person can get far more of the nutrients the body needs on 2000 than 1000 calories and therefore a person should have less hunger while exercising, but eating better than the amoung of hunger someone just dieting would experience.

  8. Lab

    You may call the studies “shabby,” but I don’t ever recall reading that anyone denies that most people are only burning about 200 kcal per day with exercise. In fact, that’s often part of the issue that is brought up by those presenting the results – that the average person’s exercise program doesn’t burn many kcal. For many people, their very busy lives only leave about 1/2 an hour for exercise. They aren’t likely to achieve a great deal of energy expenditure from exercise. Despite this, many (including Taubes) do exercise for the many other benefits it provides.

    I will say that I do get hungry about 1/2 an hour after exercise, especially heavy exercise. If others experience results that differ from that, that’s fine. I can only give you my experience. There is an immediate decrease in appetite followed by a sharp increase in appetite.

  9. Dan

    I actually watched the Youtube debates. I thought Taubes’ argument that America with all the high fat fast food we eat is on a low fat diet was rather shabby. Anyway Krieger does not really come from a low fat perspective that fat is more fattening than carbs, but not vice versa either. He and I come more from the perspective that a calorie is a calorie. However, fat has more calories per gram than carbs, so we have to eat smaller portions of fats. Krieger makes a good argument that Americans now eat 600 more calories than before and that is why we have gained weight, it isn’t because of low fat diets or from exercise. It is because we eat more and are more sedentary because of technology. If the “science” agrees with Taubes about exercise, it is because most studies on exercise and weight loss are rather shabby- given that the exercisers are only burning 200 calories a day by exercise, whereas the dieters cut their calories from 500-1000 a day, which gives the illlusion that dieting trumps exercise. The national weight control registry is solid scientific evidence against Taubes on exercise. The vast majority of those who have successfully maintained a weight loss did lose weight and maintained that loss with exercise being a major component of not just the maintenance, but also the loss.

  10. cowanj2002

    I don’t have a lot of time right now but I wanted to address one thing rather quickly. The far east definitely ate a lot of good carbohydrates. As I said before we all understand the big problem is refined carbohydrates. The far east ate a lot of grains that took much more time to digest therefor not flooding their blood with glucose which in turn raise their insulin through the roof. They also didn’t have diets high in calories. So they were eating long burning carbs and probably less than we do today. The big problem today is that when you cut fat out of your diet you are forced to get your calories from either protein or carbs. People getting their calories from carbs tend to get tons of it from sugar and flower. If they ate only whole grains I’m sure the would not be nearly as bad as when they mix them with refined poison. As far as lowering calories in your diet. I would put money that you didn’t lower your protein, and unless you went down to next to nothing fat you were getting less carbs. Just a guess. As far as Taubes attitude, he does come off as sort of an elitist however, he isn’t making up facts. The science is there. He didn’t fudge numbers to make his case as has been done by others. And as far as what you Ornish and what you talked about, Taubes and Ornish have a video where they discuss those trials. There is reason to believe that the way he conducted the lab work limited the results. Check it out. I’ll be back tomorrow to write more.

  11. Lab

    One of the things that the article writer may not realize is that Taubes, like most, does acknowledge that for a some people, especially people who haven’t experienced insulin resistance and people who are not genetically predisposed to store fat, eating natural, unrefined carbs is often fine because these foods are packaged with fiber that slows the blood sugar/insulin response. But there are many of us who have reached a point where reducing carbs to a low number of mostly non-starchy vegetable-based carbs (and moving up from there as tolerated,) is a great way to go.

    I am capable of decreasing mainly fat (not carbs) in order to most easily lower kcal intake in order to lose weight. I do lose weight in this fashion. Taubes acknowledges that plenty of people can do so. However, when I do this, I also get light-headed, uncomfortably hungry, tired and it ends up being unsustainable for me. Because of my insulin resistance (diagnosed by a physician following tests,) I become hypoglycemic with too many carbs.

    I now don’t have to deal with any of that. I get adequate kcal and nutrition. I no longer suffer at all from the severe acid reflux that plagued me daily for decades. No other way of eating has even reduced, let alone eliminated, this for me. My blood pressure is good now (my main reason for choosing to change my diet.) Further, I’m learning more about how MY body works that I ever have before. All this, and I’m losing weight, too.

    The ability to lose weight by limiting carbohydrates has been shown to work since the late 1700s. It is nothing new. The science behind insulin issues leading to excessive fat storage in many people is also not new. Taubes does not state that other methods of weight loss don’t work. He simply states that this method works very well for many. I am one of them, and I know plenty of others.

  12. Dan

    Very briefly, I will sum up my objection to Taubes- it is his rude insistance that certain things don’t work for weight loss, such as calorie counting and exercise. Idon’t insist the low carb idea doesn’t work for a lot of people- I respect what anyone finds if helpful for them. I don’t object if he was just positively expounding his own ideas, but it is very rude to deny the value of something that has clearly helped millions, and has gotten me down the lowest weight I have been since high school. I have known many other people who were greatly helped to lose weight by exercise.

  13. Dan

    I tried losing weight by mainly dieting for 20 years and that made me hungry and miserable. This last time that I lost weight by eating moderately and exercising a lot, I hardly ever felt any hunger whatsoever, contrary to Taubes. I also did the opposite of Taubes and I made sure that I ate a very high fiber diet. Possibly Taubes feels hungry from exercise because he doesn’t eat any carbs and carbs are necessary to fuel exercise. Also, people in the far East eat a lot of carbohydrates and have very low rates of obesity. Now that they are eating high fat fast food, they are gaining weight. Also, my weight now is about 160 at six foot, a weight that I have maintained since this past June. My former high weight was 255- doing the opposite of Taubes suggests has really worked for me. I don’t see how Ornish reversing hardening of the arteries in his subjects is not impressive scientific evidence.

  14. Dan

    I don’t think I was trying to accuse anyone of why they are fat, such as they are sedentary. Some people are sedentary, but not fat, but that in most cases is because they have a faster metabolism. It was just my experience that when I didn’t exercise very much that I would gain weight very easily. Once I started to exercise everyday by bike riding, as well as moderately controlling my caloric intake, did I begin to lose weight, and now in maintenance, because I have continued to do regular exercise, I don’t seem to gain weight very easily from eating some carbs or some fats. I thought that statement was actually an argument against both the low fat and low carb crowd- it is not eating one thing that will make a person fat, because either carbs or fats in excess will cause weight gain. If a person gains weight by a small amount, then they probably have a slow metabolism. A slow metabolism can be revved up by regular exercise, both cardio and strength. Before I really lost and kept off a lot of weight doing the very opposite of what Gary Taubes suggests, I tested out running during one holiday season. I ran regularly and only gained 5 pounds. Most holiday seasons I would gain 20 if I didn’t exercise very much. A year ago, I exercised everyday and counted my calories and lost 10 pounds during the holiday season, even though I ate a lot at times. This past holiday season, I was not trying to lose but just to maintain my weight, and I did hold my weight, mainly by doing regular exercise and doing maintenance calorie counting, even though I did eat a lot on some days. I don’t have any problem with Gary Taubes stating that a low carb diet works for him, or for you to say it works for you. My problem is that calorie counting, as well as exercise and a plant fiber rich diet has worked beautifully for me and it really infuriates when Taubes is so rude and disrespectful to the thousands of people who have been greatly helped to lose weight by exercising and moderate calorie to insist that these things don’t work. Taubes denies the experience of millions. I try not to deny anyone’s experience and if your experience is that low carbing is helpful, then I will respect that. But please, don’t be as disrespectful as Taubes is to those who are greatly helped by doing something the opposite of what he suggests. The main points that should be stressed- 1. *slow metabolism can cause easy weight gain- exercise is the only thing that can speed up a person’s metabolic rate- no diet can do that. I am now 50 and as a person gets into their 40’s their metabolism tends to slow- making weight gain easy. Exercise takes on a heightened importance in Middle age and beyond* 2. I can respect what works for you. It is the height of rudeness for Taubes to claim that exercise is not helpful, when in fact it has helped thousands of persons to lose weight, esp. when they do moderate calorie control. Even Selene Yeager, who stated she came from a “Paleo” perspective probably similar to your own wrote a book called “Riding your Way Lean, The Ultimate Plan for burning Fat and getting Fit on a Bike,” in which she spoke of many people who have lost even over 100 pounds by regular bike riding. Clearly the many examples she cited shows that Taubes was clearly wrong that exercise doesn’t help anyone, although there probably are people who aren’t helped to lose weight by it. My view is that it takes a lot of regular, long duration exercise which raises the heart rate for it to impact weight- it is a lot more than what is necessary just for health. A person also cannot increase their calorie intake to compensate for the calories burned, if they want to lose weight. A person may not have to decrease their caloric intake from before they were losing weight, but they cannot increase their calories because they are now exercising. A lot of people might increase their caloric intake and therefore they don’t lose weight by exercise. I think most of the examples Taubes cites of person’s not losing weight by exercise, they weren’t practicing any dietary restraint, such as the man he cited who ran marathons but did not lose weight. Contrary to Taubes, just as Mike Howard stated before, most research doesn’t support Taubes that exercise causes excessive hunger. Taubes states the research literature doesn’t show weight loss by exercise, but that is because in the vast majority of studies, the subjects were only burning 200 calories a day by exercise, whereas the few studies in which subjects burn at least 500 calories a day by exercise, does the exercise show weight loss effects. A person can easily burn between 500 and 1000 calories an hour by hard running, bicycling or swimming.

  15. cowanj2002

    I actually had to set an alarm on my phone in the beginning to remind myself to eat every six hours. And I was eating around 700 calories each meal with about 65-70% of them coming from fat. Because of all this success I started reading books on the subject. The one that has best explained what I was going through was Gary Taubes “Good Calories Bad Calories”. I seen debates where Taubes is placed with Dr. Dean Ornish and was still impressed with him with his compilation of hundreds of scientific studies versus the very little amount that favored the low fat/high carb diets. And as far as it has been presented to me, the quality of the research supporting such a low fat diet are usually of the low quality or manipulated variety. I won’t even break down the Ancel Keys 6 country study that got him onto the cover of time magazine in the 60’s that helped perpetuate fear of fat into the American public and is now assumed conventional wisdom (It was actually a 22 country study but only 6 countries were used because the other 16 were either neutral to his hypothesis or proved it wrong. How convenient).

    Guess I have wandered a little. What’s important is that this low carb thing you so easily right off works. If you don’t understand why or how that is fine. If you need need a reason to dig further it would be that since the low fat/high carb diet has been pushed upon Americans we have just gotten more fat. It’s not working. So instead of blaming the diet people end up blaming the individual people. Maybe, just maybe, something other than just “lazy people” is happening. I welcome you to visit and their forums and discuss with them their success and how easy it was. I love the forums because it’s very ensuring that I’m not alone with all the public scrutiny abound. Here is my journey in short to date:

    Started Low Carbing:

    Weight: Date: Time: BMI:

    269.2 15Jan2011 0900 39.7
    265.0 18Jan2011 0800 39.1
    262.8 20Jan2011 1128 38.8
    260.6 21Jan2011 0718 38.5
    259.0 22Jan2011 0948 38.2
    257.8 24Jan2011 0756 38.1

    Started Atkins:

    256.6 25Jan2011 0734 37.9
    255.8 26Jan2011 0745 37.8
    256.0 27Jan2011 0744 37.8

    254.2 02Feb2011 0800 37.5
    252.8 11Feb2011 0830 37.3
    252.0 13Feb2011 0807 37.2
    251.2 14Feb2011 0950 37.1
    250.2 15Feb2011 0840 36.9
    249.2 16Feb2011 0800 36.8
    248.8 17Feb2011 0910 36.7
    248.4 18Feb2011 0928 36.7
    248.0 19Feb2011 0838 36.6
    247.0 24Feb2011 1000 36.5
    246.2 26Feb2011 0844 36.4
    245.6 27Feb2011 0930 36.3
    245.6 28Feb2011 0900 36.3

    244.8 01Mar2011 0840 36.1
    244.4 02Mar2011 0810 36.1
    243.6 03Mar2011 0800 36.0
    243.4 04Mar2011 1030 36.0

    Here are a few points I think I might have left out. I might have already mentioned them but I don’t plan on reading what I just wrote.

    * Taubes does not say that exercise is bad. He said it is very difficult to lose weight while exercising because it makes you hungry and therefor people tend to eat more. If they don’t eat more they are hungry. Who wants to live like that. If you were to learn about Mr. Taubes you would realize that he exercises daily and believes that it is great physiologically. When he was talking about it’s a new thing to exercise he was speaking of the giant American exercise craze of the 70’s. Meaning running on treadmills and pumping iron. It’s popularity BOOMED in the 70’s after the low fat/high carb and tons of exercise was going to cure obesity and diabetes and heart disease.

    * The government has been wrong about things in the past. So have the pharmaceutical companies. They are the ones doing the mass amount of research and they have an agenda to begin with. Don’t be so naive.

    * I eat more vegetables now than I ever did before. I probably eat more vegetables than the low fat crowd.

    * Cholesterol is more than just total amount or LDL vs HDL. LDL can be very dense little LDL which are harmful or the big fluffy LDL which are neutral. Saturated fat has an effect of increasing the fluffy LDL and the HDL therefor increasing your ratios. And by the way, it’s pretty common science these days that cholesterol has no bearing or predictability of heart disease.

    * People that low carb do not think all carbs are bad. White flour, caloric sugars of all sorts, white rice, and starchy vegetables are the ones we avoid. The more carbohydrates some of us eat it stalls our weight loss or we start to gain. It’s important to find an equilibrium and then you can eat whole grains. As long as they aren’t combined with any of the refined poison that is normal these days.

    * Basal insulin levels very from person to person, rat to rat, monkey to monkey and every type of mammal. Insulin is no doubt the fat storage hormone. If you have a higher basal insulin level you will naturally have more fat storage hormone in your system.

    I’m brain dead after writing all of this. I just suggest when pushing your opinion base it on more than just your own personal experience. I guarantee I exercise more than most people and I counted my calories and I still had problems with weight. Just like you can have blond hair and I can have brown we can both handle carbohydrates and thus insulin differently. As I stated before the culprit we can all agree on is unnatural carbs as well as starchy vegetables. After that it’s just the amount of the complex carbs that we can eat and maintain our weight. Open your mind. I challenge you to read “Good Calories Bad Calories” at the least. It’s not a diet book. It’s a scientific book. He isn’t selling diet products. He’s trying to challenge conventional wisdom because conventional wisdom is making things worse.


  16. cowanj2002

    Sup Dan,
    You seem very secure in your beliefs. Almost as if it is a religion. I have strong beliefs about things as well and find it an admiral trait. The only problem with beliefs are is that they are not based on science or by trials. I’m going to debate some of your posts on this subject and then give a small background of myself.

    “This goes along with a statement that I made in a previous post, that exercise mitigates the effects of eating either refined carbohydrates or even saturated fat. I think when someone gains weight easily, it may be that they are too sedentary and not that there is particular food, whether a fat or a carb, even in a small quantity that causes them to gain weight. Now that I exercise a lot, I don’t gain weight easily, from either refined carbohydrates or fats.”

    This statement is very accusatory in nature. You are saying that fat people get fat because they are sedentary. There is a complete reverse way of thinking in that fat people are actually sedentary BECAUSE they are fat. So what would be important is to figure out WHY people are fat. The first law of thermodynamics is as absolute as absolute can be. However, humans vary from person to person and it is very ignorant to say that all humans hormones work exactly the same. Just as we don’t all have the same hair color or our feet vary in size our internal mechanisms are all different as well. To say that because you yourself exercise and don’t have a problem with weight gain and that you eat whatever you want is specific enough to groups of people that share your height, your hair color, your exact ethnic background, and while we’re being specific your exact genetic makeup. So if you have an identical twin this would apply to only one person. Infinitesimal differences in the hypothalamus, that little thing that controls hormones and homeostasis in our bodies can effect everything from sexual vigor to our ability to take on and maintain muscle. Why would it be so out of question to think that small differences in our reactions to insulin would be so different. Some people’s insulin takes longer to get back to their basal insulin level than others. Some people take in so much insulin inducing foods that their basal insulin levels stay at a higher level than others. So not only can you naturally have a slightly different level of basal insulin but you can do damage unnaturally by going through extreme spikes over and over again through the years. Hence diabetes. Some people eat in this unnatural cycle more so than others and yet they don’t get any symptoms. Just like only 1 in 10 smokers get lung cancer. I know someone that has smoked 2 packs a day for like 60 years and has never had a drop of cancer. Does that mean it’s healthy? I think recommending refined carbohydrates or starchy anything as long as you exercise is no only irrational but very irresponsible advice. And as far as saturated fat goes I’ll just post a link and you can take what you want from the experts from Harvard. Remember conventional wisdom can, has and will be wrong again.

    “Dan! Taubes is being exposed a bit now for his cherry-picking and misrepresentation of the facts. He selectively cited outdated studies to “prove” his insulin theory and essentially ignored the fact that overweight people under report their caloric intake – sometimes to the tune of almost 50%.” – Mike Howard

    I know you didn’t write this Dan but I guess it’s probably safe to assume that you agree with this statement. If not I apologize in advance for assuming you agree with it. I still think it’s important to address this issue. The research is old for a reason. In the past, before the late 60’s and early 70’s there was tons of research on a low carb lifestyle. Going all the way back to the 19th century when William Banting wrote a book about eating less carbohydrates. The Germans before WWII were effective in their research in effectiveness of low carbohydrate weight loss as well as the health benefits. A lot of this research was lost or dismissed by American health officials. As far as research today, let us discuss briefly how big money research is done today. Much is funded by big pharmaceutical companies who do this research to prove it’s necessary for their products. Their results are more of a TV advertisement than anything else. Do you honestly think that the makers of statins (cholesterol medication)would disseminate research that says their medication is not necessary? Also you have the all the associations of America. The American Heart Association is branded on the sides of cereal boxes and other supposed “heart healthy” products. Do you honestly believe that Fruit Loops is a good way to be raising our children. It’s loaded with refined sugar. You would think that would be a giant concern considering diabetes is so prevalent. With the AHA in mind, do you think that they would fund any scientific exploration into the benefits of anything other than whole grains. To go against the corporations is exactly what gets your funding halted. Only independent studies today would be effective at getting to the truth. My question is who has the giant dollars and the motivation or care to fund such a giant necessary scientific study? Obviously no one because they haven’t been done. Good science needs to be totally subjective and without any obligation to anyone.

    About myself a little now. 30 years old. Just got out of the Army. I exercised at least two hours a day at work and on my own time I loved taking my dog hiking daily for at least an hour in the Cheyenne Mountains in western Colorado Springs. I was never a big eater, no gigantic meals or loads of meat because I hated cooking and I was single. One of the staples of my diet was a cup and a half or so of white rice. I ate lots of corn and potatoes. Never been one for sweet stuff. I ate whole grain cereal for breakfast. Tons of sandwich’s with very moderate amounts of mayo. And I always hated white bread so I would always pick up the fresh whole wheat bread from my local Safeway grocery store. I was never an over eater. I never woke up in the middle of the night to have a snack. No eating a couple hours before dinner. And I drank tons of water, a little milk and never soda. I despise soda. Hard to say what my daily calories were but I definitely wasn’t consuming an obese persons amount. And with all that exercise you would think I’d be the picture of health. I am 5’9” and was always right around 195-200 pounds. That was a BMI of 29.5 which is .5 from being in the obese range. It was really frustrating because in the Army at my height you needed to be below 182 or you had to be “taped”. This meant that you had to strip down to your shorts and have someone else measure various parts of your body. If your percentage (not sure how it was calculated) was below a certain level you were fine. If you were above you had to lose the weight or percentage points in a certain amount of time or you were gone. I always had to be measured. As much as I worked out and as moderate of an intake I had you would think I’d be thin and fit as a rabbit. Nope. I had belly fat and love handles and slight fat buildup in my arms. Don’t get me wrong I easily have a lot of muscle for someone of my height as well. I did have enough fat that I had no idea how to rid myself of.

    I just exited the Army recent. Less than two years ago after 8 years service. It was time to start a family. I met my wife before making my decision to leave the Army and new it was time. All those deployments make it hard to settle down. In the two years since I have been gaining weight fast. I still exercise at least an hour a day, play softball and sometimes I get bored and use the elliptical I purchased after my first 20 pounds of gain. I was preaching a healthy lifestyle to my wife, who is stick thin even though she eats exactly the same foods as I and in almost equal proportions might I add. We stayed away from high fructose corn syrup. Avoided white flour and sugar as much as we could, which was a lot. Hardly ever ate out. After I gained some of the weight I started keeping track of my calories by weighing and measuring everything I ate. I never exceeded 2600 calories and my typical day was around 1800-2200 calories. All of this and I still kept gaining. In about two years I ballooned up to 269 pounds. That is 35 pounds a year on 2200ish calories a day with at least an hour of hiking (usually an hour and a half on weekdays and around two to three on the weekends) with the dog and wife and a half hour on my elliptical a few times a week. You can only bet that I was concerned about where this was going to end. Scared out of my mind is more like it. My doctor told me to start eating meat every meal and eat at least 4 cups of leafy greens a day. I started doing just that and started started dropping weight almost immediately. I was eating 2000-2200 calories a day. I measure all the meat and vegetables I eat. Every gram of butter is inputted into my food journal. I am definitely not underestimating my calories. Losing so fast made me very curious about what was going on. It made no sense that I was eating a very similar amount of calories and yet I was flying down the scales. Because of the calorie dense foods I eat now I actually eat less and yet I always feel satiated. I haven’t been hungry since I started low carbing. I’m not just saying that. I actually had to set an alarm on my phone in th

  17. Larry Clark

    Regular exercising really means a lot in our health with a healthy diet. Drinking plenty of water contributes also, it regulates many stuffs in our body. Insulin regulates carbohydrates and fats metabolism in our body but it also prevents the use of fat as an energy.
    So, I guess we have to be balance in any ways.

  18. Dan

    I found this quote on Youtube in a comment on what Taubes stated about exercise fueling the obesity epidemic as well as being ineffective for weight loss. It is actually very apt. Here it is;

    He said that exercising as part of your daily life is “new” to the West. What the hell? Actually, sitting around on your ass all day is what is actually “new”. Of the thousands of years humans have been around, sitting around doing nothing is new. People used to hunt and farm and do all kinds of things that were physical in nature. They never had tv’s or computers or anything like that. They went out and did things. Exercise has always been a part of life until now.

    Taubes makes irrational correlations and then tries to even infer causation from these. The two examples of course are his suppositions that exercise and low fat diets caused the obesity epidemic even though there is little evidence that many people exercise that much or that many people really eat genuine low fat diets. And in the vast majority of studies that he cites, the subjects are not really exercising enough to spur weight loss anyway- they do only 1-3 hours a week, when they should exercising at least an hour everyday to lose weight. People are actually far more sedentary overall than they used to be and of course one cannot completely make up for this by just going to a gym. Activity has to be built into a person’s lifestyle. The Amish are one example of people who do this because they don’t rely on technology that much.

  19. Spectra

    I think physical activity is extremely important for managing insulin levels. When muscle tissue is active, the muscle cells develop more insulin receptors so they can take it in more effectively. That helps to reduce the amount of insulin circulating in the bloodstream, so that explains why very active people can eat a lot more carbohydrates yet not have elevated blood sugar levels.

  20. Dan

    As an addendum, there is an obese woman where I work who read what a Gary Taubes article in Reader’s Digest. She commented on how much weight I lost doing exactly the opposite of what Gary Taubes suggests are the right things to do. I counted calories, I ate more fruits and fiber, I exercised more- Taubes thinks all of these things cause people to gain rather than to lose weight. The only thing I didn’t do that did not contradict Taubes is that I didn’t really lower my fat consumption that much, but I didn’t lower my carb consumption that much either. I mainly just tempered my entire calorie consumption. Counting calories, as long as I also exercise works. Also, like I kind of stated in the “Russell” posting, for many people to lose weight without exercising, they really have to cut calories a lot. That may be why a lot of obese persons find they cut their calories, but do not lose that much weight- they may not have cut them enough, given their low level of activity. A person cannot eat *all* they want if they exercise, but they don’t have to go on a draconian diet if they exercise regularly while raising their heart rates sufficiently. Russell did the low calorie diet correctly- that is by eating a lot of low calorie, but nutrient dense foods, such as greens.

  21. Mike Howard

    Very sound summary, Dan! Taubes is being exposed a bit now for his cherry-picking and misrepresentation of the facts. He selectively cited outdated studies to “prove” his insulin theory and essentially ignored the fact that overweight people underreport their caloric intake – sometimes to the tune of almost 50%.

    It’s complicated for sure and calories in vs. calories out isn’t the whole story but it’s generally the big of it when it comes to weight management.

  22. Dan

    I looked at the whole series, as well as some links and found some interesting rebuttals to Taubes, who of course really emphasizes how bad insulin supposedly is. Taubes claims that physical activity drives the obesity crisis, but Kreiger showed that persons are actually not that physically active on the whole, and that it has actually trended downward while obesity rates have gone up. It really takes at least an hour a day of hard exercise to drive weight loss and Kreiger stated that only 1% of the population exercises that much. Even at that level of exercise, persons usually have to engage in some but not severe dietary restraint. Taubes claimed it isn’t calories itself that causes weight gain, but Kreiger showed that people often underreport their calorie intake. It really isn’t always a matter of dishonesty per se, but rather mindless eating that causes people to underestimate their calorie intake. I think sometimes people don’t lose weight when they cut calories, but it is because they aren’t active enough. Metabolic rates DO make a difference, but metabolic rates are not immutable and can be raised by a good resistance and cardio and nutrition program. Nevertheless, I think it is calories rather than carbs or fats per se that have an influence on one’s weight. Of course, Kreiger stated that energy expenditure is also important. For instance, the Pima Indians in Mexico have a much higher energy expenditure than the American Pimas and therefore have a much lower rate of obesity. Taubes also claimed that Americans are on a low fat diet which he claims has caused obesity rates to increase, when in fact the only way a person can be on a genuine low fat diet is when they are Vegan or Vegetarian and only 2% of the population is Vegan or Vegetarian. It is very difficult to be low fat if one eats meat. Of course, fast food is definitely not low in fat, but the consumption of it has certainly not gone down. Cheese is high in fat and consumption of that has gone up. Sweets, such as candies or pastries generally have a fairly high fat content, and there is no sign that the consumption of them has gone down. I generally believe in “calories in, calories out,” but maybe to account for the complexity of it to restate, as a possibility, “calories actually absorbed, calories actually burned.” This could account for some calories actually not being absorbed such as Melanie stated about nuts, as well allowing that there are metabolic disorders that impair the actual burning of calories. This would also allow for differing metabolic rates which would explain how some people can eat more than others and not gain weight, whereas some eat very little and at least don’t lose that much weight. Of course the actual intake probably has the greatest impact on the actual absorption, but it is not 100%.

  23. Dan

    I have not finished the whole series, but I did find this statement from James Kreiger that I really liked,

    “I should also note that there are many people who do consume a lot of refined carbohydrate yet never have obesity or insulin resistance. They expend the energy through high activity and NEAT (not necessarily formal exercise). Thus, there is an interaction between nutrient intake and energy expenditure that affects the risk of developing insulin resistance, which is why sedentary behavior, the mechanization of our society, etc. cannot be ignored as a component.”

    This goes along with a statement that I made in a previous post, that exercise mitigates the effects of eating either refined carbohydrates or even saturated fat. I think when someone gains weight easily, it may be that they are too sedentary and not that there is particular food, whether a fat or a carb, even in a small quantity that causes them to gain weight. Now that I exercise a lot, I don’t gain weight easily, from either refined carbohydrates or fats. I have improved the quality of these, so as to build health, but the exercise helps with weight control. The sweets I eat usually have some nutritional value as well as being high fiber, and I eat more MUFAs than SFAs.