Gary Taubes has written a sequel to his controversial book of a few years ago, Good Calories, Bad Calories. The new book is called Why We Get Fat, and What To Do About It. It presents the same material as GCBC, but without all the technical information and research citations.
Taubes' hypothesis is that the diseases of western civilization (heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes) are caused by increased intake of refined carbohydrates, not fat as has been the accepted medical wisdom for decades. I recently summarized the details of Taubes' hypothesis in the soon to be closed Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes thread, see Message 423.
My hope is that this thread will see significantly less discord and dissension. No one wants to be fat. Winning a discussion does no good if your position is wrong. It's in everyone's best interest to get this right, and that can only happen by cool consideration of the known facts, and only if those facts are sufficient for reaching a conclusion.
One thing we know for sure: Western civilization and other increasingly western-style countries are getting increasingly fat, and there must be an explanation. To this extent I'm on-board with Taubes: the most significant factor ain't dietary fat.
I hate preemptive conditions in opening posts, but the experience of the predecessor thread tells me that it might be prudent in this case. I'd like to propose that those who believe that Taubes' position is that all carbohydrates are equally bad or who would like to dispute other views that no one is advocating should propose their own thread to discuss them. Discussion in this thread should be limited to claims that Taubes or other thread participants actually make. I would like to avoid having this thread diverted to discussion of claims that someone would like to dispute but that no one happens to be making.
Recent discussion in the predecessor thread has been about the effect of fructose on obesity.
There's one big issue I'd like to enter into the conversation. If calories-in/calories-out is wrong, if it's really the food categories rather than the calories consumed that matter, then where do the extra calories go in a low carb diet?
Let's compare two diets that are equal in calories. One diet is low fat, the other is low carb. You try the low fat diet and do not lose weight. You then try the low carb diet and you do lose weight. For the low carb diet, where did the calories that were not used to maintain your weight go?
Let's look at this in just a little more detail. You try the low fat diet. The food you eat is turned into nutrients in the bloodstream. These nutrients are sufficient for maintaining your weight, so you do no lose any weight.
Now you try the low fat diet. The food you eat is also turned into nutrients in the bloodstream. These nutrients are not sufficient for maintaining your weight, so you do lose weight, but there were an equal number of calories in the food, so where did those calories go?
Many people report being more energetic and less hungry on a low carb diet, so one possibility is that the extra calories were consumed by additional activity. Whether true or not, I don't believe there's any compelling research for or against this.
Another possibility is that it is excreted. I don't know whether this is a reasonable possibility, but again, I'm unaware of any compelling research.
So that's my big question: On a low carb diet where you're still consuming the same number of calories, what happens to them?
The BMI is bunk. I've tried a couple times to get my BMI below 25, and when I succeeded I was told by family, friends and coworkers that I was overdoing it, who I of course ignored. Then my doctor chimed in and I said to myself, "The doctor's not going to say it, but he knows and I now know the BMI is bunk."
Looking at your picture, you look a lot like me, and I'd say we're both pretty typical of the population. Where does the research come from that comes up with a formula that classifies thin people with mainstream body types as fat? What nonsense! I ignore the BMI now.
The body fat percentage (I'll call it BFP) is more bunk. As we age it becomes harder and harder to maintain muscle mass. If you're a male over 50 then your BFP will very likely be over 25%, which makes you obese. Ignore that, too.
The food pyramid that made carbohydrates the basis of a healthy diet for so many decades was bunk, and has now been revised. It has become my opinion that a high percentage of government and institutional diet advice is bunk. It mostly reflects institutional and political influence, not research. Taubes has convinced me that sufficient research to actually nail down what is true and not true regarding nutrition has not yet been done.
I don't think we've defined any strict criteria for what can and can't be discussed in The Book Nook. I've always thought of it as a subcategory of Coffee House. But if people feel uncomfortable having this discussion here then we can move it to a Coffee House thread.
When I created the first thread, Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes, I expected little discussion, and it received little attention for a while, but that changed. I didn't expect such antagonism and animosity. Even just expressing a willingness to entertain the idea that refined carbohydrates might be bad for health attracted a lot of negative attention. I can't even imagine what Taubes has had to endure.
If you'll indulge me a little, I'll relate a little of what I read yesterday.
In WWGF Taubes does something he didn't do in GCBC, which is to lean a bit on potential allies. After the mid-point of the book he begins citing Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Pollan says much the same thing Taubes does, but evidently in way much less threatening to the diet/nutrition industrial complex. Pollan says that if we eat pretty much the same foods our great, great grandparents did that we'll do pretty well. That means we should cut out the refined carbohydrates.
Ancient pre-humans presumably lived as hunter/gatherers, and if their diets were anything like modern hunter/gatherer cultures then their diets were high in protein, high in fat, moderate in carbohydrates, and had a near zero content of refined carbohydrates. Throughout 99% of our evolutionary history refined carbohydrates were not part of our diet. It is only in the last few hundred years that refined carbohydrates have become readily available. If is refined carbohydrates that represent the significant change in our diet, and it is therefore refined carbohydrates that must be considered the most likely factor in the declining health of western civilization, particularly increasing rates of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Without going into the reasons, my endocrinologist has placed me on a regimen of 2000 mg metformin/day (Wikipedia article on metformin). The reasons have nothing to do with diabetes, blood sugar levels, obesity or even overweight.
Weight loss is one of the side-effects of metformin, and suddenly I'm losing weight easily. I've tried gradually increasing the amount that I eat, but the weight loss continues.
If a simple drug can cause weight loss with no change in diet, with even an increase in caloric intake, then what does this say about "calories-in equals calories-out"?
So where did the calories go? In the case of fats, they may have been ingested but not absorbed, meaning that they left the body in the feces. Why were they not absorbed? Because the body may have responded to high body fat levels by opting not to absorb them.
I'd include urine along with the feces, and sweat and respiration and even spitting and nose drips as well.
"Calories-in/calories-out" says that if you want to lose weight that you have to either take in less calories, burn more calories, or both. It says diet and exercise are the only available avenues.
But this isn't true. The health/diet industry doesn't even know how many kcal/day people actually burn, or maybe it's that the estimates of how many kcal are in food is off, but something is sure way out of whack. According to the standard metrics anyone over 130 pounds consumes over 2000 kcal/day, even if they spend all their waking hours sitting at their job. So anyone consuming just 1200-1400 calories a day should be losing weight hand over fist.
Except that it doesn't seem to turn out that way. I'm sure it depends upon many factors, but the one I care about is age. As people get older, the number of kcal/day they need drops way below 2000 kcal/day, unless they're obese (it's takes a lot of calories to maintain a high weight). The health/diet industry refuses to recognize this fact. If you tell them you can't lose weight on a diet of 1200-1400 calories per day they'll say that you must be mistaken, that most likely you're seriously underestimating how much you're eating.
I eat 1200-1400 calories a day and am maintaining weight, or was until I started on the metformin. I am typical for people in my age group who are not overweight. But according to this calculator (http://www.health-calc.com/diet/energy-expenditure-advanced), which provides data consistent with many other websites, I am eating so many calories less than what I need that I should be losing weight rapidly.
My point isn't that there are still a few details about"calories-in/calories-out" that have yet to be worked out. My point is that it is wildly, crazily wrong, and that the evidence that it is wildly, crazily wrong is clearly and copiously available in the most obvious fashion, no research necessary. It doesn't match reality for most people.
Even when I was 20 it didn't add up, but in the opposite direction. I was probably 30 pounds underweight, probably ate 3000-4000 kcal/day, and could not gain an ounce. When I hit age 35 I began to gain weight, and the problem became not how to gain weight but how to keep it off, and then when that eventually failed, how to lose it.
Would that it were as simple as "calories-in/calories-out", but it's not. I think there's a growing realization that it is only a small part of the full story. Certainly the possibility you mentioned, excretions, could be a significant factor. Anything promoting the passage of food through the digestive system without being absorbed is a factor. But metabolism is also a factor, and I'm sure there must be others.
As most people age their body becomes a calorie Scrooge. The health/diet industry in conjunction with the medical industry blames the victims: As we age we tend to become more sedentary, so we must consume less calories to maintain a healthy weight. This is just more "calories-in/calories-out." They're just Johnny-one-notes and should be ignored when it comes to diet advice.
I think that the main difference is in insulin production. Insulin encourages calories that would otherwise be burned to be stored...as fat. The low fat diet would hypothetically generate more insulin and thus more stored calories, whereas the low carb diet would encourage fat to be burned rather than stored.
There's one little detail I don't agree with that I'll get to in a minute, but I agree with all the rest. The low fat diet permits the refined carbohydrates that cause insulin spikes that in turn cause the uptake of blood sugar by fat cells. The low carb diet strongly discourages refined carbohydrates. Insulin levels do not spike and there's less encouragement for fat cells.
The little detail is where you say, "Insulin encourages calories that would otherwise be burned to be stored...as fat." This is true, but insulin also encourages energy to be stored in all other types of cells as well, including muscle cells. All cells need energy.