Sunday, November 18, 2007

Good Calories, Bad Calories

In his new 601-page tome, Good Calories, Bad Calories, science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong. Taubes argues that obesity and diabetes stem from refined carbohydrates and sugars via their dramatic and longterm effects on insulin, the hormone that regulates fat accumulation. Furthermore, he claims that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. Given the not-so-distant popularity of the Atkin's diet, carb-bashing surely seems like nothing new. But has it once and for all been definitively validated?

In her New York Times review of Taubes' book, Gina Kolata writes: "Taubes ignores what diabetes researchers say is a body of published papers documenting a complex system of metabolic controls that, in the end, assure that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." Harvard Medical School recently published an article in which they listed several concerns with low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets: they contribute to kidney stress, cause ketosis, often lead to increased cholesterol, and may offer insufficient plant-based nutrients.

Throughout his book Taubes debunks many historical studies, asserting that, due to the limitations of nutritional experiments, most research eventually gets overturned. Therefore, the question begs to be asked: how do we know that years from now scientists won't once again be arguing in favor of carbohydrates and telling us to put our butter knives away?


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