I hate to admit that I owned Good Calories, Bad Calories for several years before I made it through the first 100 pages. Nutritional science history is not a favorite subject of mine and the first section is pretty dense with history. However, now that I’ve read it, I’ve come to appreciate why the historical discussion is so important to a discussion of nutrition. Much of what is taught today is the result of poor nutritional science that was championed by governmental agencies. Once the government gets involved, it’s hard to get them un-involved.
I’ve been a student of low-carb science since medical school. I started reading Protein Power Plan by the Eades on recommendation from a friend and upper classmate. As I went through biochemistry learning the chemical processes of the human body, a carb conscious diet made more and more sense. However, in my nutrition classes I was taught the prevailing theory of the day which remains still a low-fat, calorie conscious food pyramid/plan/plate. Ironically, my biochemistry professor was also my nutrition professor and a diabetic. I struggled to reconcile what we learned about the human body and what was taught about nutrition. I remember thinking, ‘If I eat the way I’m taught in nutrition class, but my body works the way I’m taught in biochemistry, then the expected result would have to be diabetes and cholesterol disease.’ I didn’t fully understand yet the mechanisms of it all but I realized something wasn’t right here.
Fast forward eight to ten years to when I’m in private practice at Trinity. Randy Pardue, MD, one of Trinity’s founder physicians, recommended to me that I read Taubes’ book. Fully immersed in low-carb science, I take this book on a summer beach vacation with my family. That week I read it twice. I went back and underlined and took notes on everything. It was a game changer for me.
Taubes, better than anyone else I’ve read so far, clearly outlines the reasons nutritional science holds to the philosophy they do and the science, in both anecdotal form and published research, behind the benefits of a carbohydrate restricted diet. He outlines how insulin responds after a carb rich meal and what the myriad effects are. In particular, I remember a light-bulb moment when he discusses the effect of insulin on an adipose or fat cell. Insulin encourages the uptake of triglycerides for storage and slows the outflow of triglycerides for fuel in an adipose cell. The result of faster inflow and slower outflow is a growth of the cell. Fat cells get fuller from the effect of insulin. Therefore, fat cells shrink when insulin is absent. That is the primary principle for all weight loss. Since then, I’ve verified it time and age in patients I treat.
He also begins to discuss what I’ve come to think of as the ‘Unifying Theory of Modern Disease’. High carbohydrate nutrition and high insulin levels can be thought of as the single causative reason for many of modern man’s medical problems including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, lipid disorders, gout, gall bladder disease, and PCOS just to name a few. Like most medical problems, there are actually several things that have to go wrong in the body for these disorders to occur but hyperinsulinemia, high blood insulin levels, is the spark that sets it all in motion.
It’s like a forest fire. Fires can’t spread far in a wet forest but they never even get started without the spark of a kid playing with matches. A high insulin level is a match and a high carb diet is the naughty child.
I definitely recommend you read this book along with his follow up publications Why We Get Fat and The Case Against Sugar. My recommendation for this book is to Study It. You’ll want to reference it for sure as you study how to transition your lifestyle to a lower carbohydrate plan. I have it in my lending library at the office so feel free to come by and borrow it when it is available.
If you’ve read this book please leave me a comment below. I’d like to hear your thoughts.