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81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you think you know everything about diet...think again, 31 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Diet Delusion: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Loss and Disease (Hardcover)
This is a BIG, highly readable and hugely informative book, written by American science journalist Gary Taubes. I read the US edition, which was published there as "Good Calories, Bad Calories". I assumed that when it appeared in the UK, it would arrive in a blaze of publicity. So far, it seems I was wrong.

Taubes' interest is in the scientific basis for the received wisdom about what makes up a healthy diet and what makes people fat. We all know (because we're told ad nauseam) that the current obesity epidemic is the result of people overeating and having sedentary lifestyles. And overeating is generally interpreted as eating too much fat and too few fruits and vegetables.

Taubes has spent years going back to the original research and interviewing scientists. And he's found that in fact, there is very little real science behind what we are routinely told about dietary fat. Instead, assumptions linking dietary fat to heart disease were made in 1960s America and the "fat is bad for you" bandwagon rolled on from there.

The book also challenges the view that obesity is "caused" by overeating and taking too little exercise. It's like saying that alcoholism is "caused" by drinking too much alcohol - as an explanation, it doesn't get you very far. Taubes argues that obesity is actually a problem of fat accumulation. If an animal's body is working properly, increased energy intake (extra food) will be matched by increased energy expenditure. Conversely, if you restrict food, the animal will be less active. In both cases, fat stores will remain the same. But if the body isn't working properly to maintain this homeostasis, and if instead, it stores calories eaten as fat and is unable to release fat from fat cells to provide energy, the animal is going to be hungry and lethargic, while accumulating even more fat. The typical symptoms of obesity.

And the cause of our obesity problem (and many other chronic diseases of civilisation) Taubes argues, could be a diet very high in carbohydrate (and particularly, refined carbohydrate). That type of diet leads to constantly high blood insulin, which in turn stops fat cells releasing fatty acids for use as fuel. Type I diabetics have difficulty maintaining body fat. People treated with insulin have difficulty not putting on weight. And as a society we are eating far more carbohydrates that ever before, not least because if we try to avoid eating fat, we tend to get our calories from carbohydrate foods.

This book isn't trying to sell us the "Taubes diet" or the "Taubes supplement range" - the author is trying to convince us, our doctors and our scientists that the current received wisdom is not only flawed but may also be causing enormous harm. The book is a fascinating, page- turning read, debunking many of our nutritionists' most cherished platitudes left, right and centre. Well worth reading.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jun 2008 23:36:30 BDT
Chris T says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jun 2008 10:53:40 BDT
tim 333 says:
Huh? I don't think the expression "very little evidence" appears in the review. He says the science behind saying fat leads to heart disease is dubious which is a different thing.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Aug 2008 21:07:52 BDT
GillianBC says:
Did you read the chapter he wrote on the Conservation of Energy? He does not dispute this physical law.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Oct 2008 18:21:39 BDT
Susy says:
High Christopher
that is exactly wrong! And had you read the book you knew why. Many of us women also knew this before reading the book - except the reason. Reading Taubes is essential. Best, A.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2010 09:12:15 GMT
layla says:
The "eat less and exercise more" hypothesis for weight loss contradicts the conservation of energy. Such a hypothesis would mean that all the extra energy expenditure of a hormonally balanced (i.e. thin) person used for running the organs, building bone and muscle, creating heat, and increasing vigor just comes from nowhere, as well as the calories that come out in waste. It would also mean that all the energy of a hormonally imbalanced (i.e. fat) person derived from cannibalizing the body's own muscle, bone, and organs just goes nowhere. The contradiction of thermodynamics is exactly why "eat less and exercise more" makes absolutely no sense, so it rather frustrates me when people try to claim that thermodynamics would support that debunked hypothesis.
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