March 16, 2008

You "Ask", I Answer: Gary Taubes/Low-Carb

The low carb movement did not evaporate as suggested above. Just Google "low-carb" and visit some blogs and forums.

You'll find that there is a vigorous discussion taking place among numerous participants.


While many [people] seem to thrive on the low-fat diet that Tom Blogical is so enthusiastic about, a significant portion of the population cannot tolerate high carbohydrate intake no matter how much exercise they get.


These are the ones that Gary Taubes' book was wrote his book for.


So, to suggest that Taubes recommends the same low-carb approach for everyone seriously misrepresents his message.


-- David Brown

Via the blog


Keep in mind that a "low fat" diet can include up to 30 percent of a day's calories purely from fat.

Thereby, if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you can consume approximately 65 grams on a daily basis (roughly 600 calories' worth).

I understand that, due to a variety of reasons, one particular style of eating can not be applied universally.

In fact, this is precisely why I find Gary Taubes' ideas to be particularly narrow-minded and a product of tunnel vision.

He doesn't beat around the bush. In his mind, carbs are evil and they cause weight gain. Simple as that.

This is a man who places refined white flour and potatoes in the same category.

As I have mentioned in the past, potatoes can be eaten in many different ways. Peel off the skin and deep fry them and, sure, you're not getting much nutrition.

Leave the skin on, pop it in the microwave, and top it off with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and you have a nutritious side dish containing fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.


I am not sure what you refer to when mentioning that "a significant portion of the population not being able to tolerate" a high carbohydrate intake.

How many people are we talking about, and how is their intolerance defined?

As far as Gary Taubes not recommending a low-carb approach for everyone, I'll let his quotes speak for himself.

From a December 12, 2007 interview with AlterNet:

"Atkins almost assuredly had it right -- that we get fat because of the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates in the diet."

When asked what he believed were the three biggest myths about obesity, his response was:

"That the difference between calories consumed and calories expended tells us anything meaningful about why we get fat. That eating less or exercising more are viable treatments for obesity and overweight. That all nutrients -- fat, carbohydrates and proteins -- have equal effects on our propensity to gain weight -- in other words, that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, as nutritionists are always telling us."

There still are -- and always will be -- followers of low-carb diets.

From a business and popularity standpoint, however, the low-carb movement has significantly tumbled from its 2003-2004 peak.

Let me make something very clear. I do not advocate that people subsist on refined grains and added sugars. I also do not think drinking two liters of soda a day is "harmless."

However, I am not going to oversimplify things and blame one single nutrient for rising obesity rates. That shallow tunnel vision does absolutely nothing but keep everyone in the dark.

3 comments:

Tom Blogical said...

"This is a man who places refined white flour and potatoes in the same category. As I have mentioned in the past, potatoes can be eaten in many different ways. Peel off the skin and deep fry them and, sure, you're not getting much nutrition. Leave the skin on, pop it in the microwave, and top it off with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and you have a nutritious side dish containing fiber, potassium, and vitamin C."

The friend I'm having a good-natured debate with on this subject also believes that oatmeal in any form, and bananas, are "deadly". I'm certain she got this idea from "Good Calories, Bad Calories". She's an intelligent woman, too.

I wonder what Taubes would think if a scientist with a background in Nutrition science would stop working in Nutrition, and start working in Physics, and proceed to question the theory of Relativity? Perhaps write a few books about refuting that theory, or some other established theory in Physics?

Hugh said...

Dear readers,

I suggest you all read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and form your own opinions. It is hardly radical for Gary Taubes to recommend staying away from foods rich in simple carbohydrates.

I read the book for myself. Based upon the extensive and meticulously detailed evidence, I decided that avoiding sugar at all costs would provide the most benefit to my health. I also decided to avoid products with refined grains and simple carbohydrates. This included for me bread, pasta, beer, and vegetables stripped of their nutrients (skinless mashed potatoes being a good example).

Please bare in mind though - this is not a diet book. His recommendations for what foods to eat compromise all of 2 pages out of 450 pages. He is more concerned with what nutrition science has and has not proven about the effects of sugar and saturated fats on the human body.

The long and short of it is this: if you are a non-smoker the single-most important thing you can do for your health is: AVOID SUGAR. Andy claims this is oversimplifying things, but Gary shows over and over in his book what a toxic substance sugar is and how the rise in obesity over the last 20 years is directly related to the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup into the American diet.

By 1999 we ate 30%more sugar than in 1983 - how could sugar NOT be causing the obesity epidemic?

hugh said...

I just noticed that Andy did not respond to a question posed to him about Michael Pollan, because he had not read the book. I think in the future you should follow that rule with Gary. His book is 450 pages long - his articles and speeches are just a small summary of the vast and nuanced argument he provides in the book, so to me your responses have been inadequate and short on content.

Keep in mind that I found this blog, because I am actively seeking refutations of the science presented in Gary's book. So far everything I have read is high on rhetoric and low on science.