Taubes - Chapter 18 - Nature of a Healthy Diet

- POSTED ON: Jan 01, 2011

 

 

 

Taubes addresses the three primary arguments
which have been made against carbohydrate-restricted
diets, which have been repeatedly made since the 1960s.

“1. That they’re scams----
because they promise weight loss without having to eat less
and/or exercise, thus violating the laws of thermodynamics
and the primacy of calories-in/calories out.

2. That they’re unbalanced
because they restrict an entire nutrient category
--carbohydrates—and the first law of healthy eating
is to eat a balanced diet from all the major food groups.

3. That they’re high-fat diets
and particularly high in saturated fat,
and will cause heart disease
by raising or cholesterol.”

He discusses them one at a time

The Con Job Argument

Taubes refutes this argument by calling attention
to the fact that he has already explained, in the previous chapters,
what happens in the body when we restrict carbohydrates,
and why this leads to fat loss independent of protein and fat calories,
and why the laws of physics have nothing to do with it.

The Unbalanced Diet Argument

Taubes says the unbalanced diet argument makes little sense
if refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars do make us fat,
because then the only rational argument would be to avoid them
to fix the problem.

He says it’s the same thing as when we’re told to stop smoking
because cigarettes cause lung cancer. Doctors don’t care
if we find life less fulfilling without them, they want us to be healthy.
Taubes says the same logic holds here.
Taubes says

“The argument that a diet that restricts fattening carbohydrates
will be lacking in essential nutrients – including vitamins,
minerals, amino acids – does not hold up.
First, the foods you would be avoiding are the fattening ones,
not leafy green vegetables and salads.
This alone would take care of any superficial
anxieties about vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Moreover, the fattening carbohydrates that are restricted
--starches, refined carbohydrates and sugars –
are virtually absent essential nutrients in any case.”

Taubes continues

Even if you believe that weight loss requires cutting calories,
these fattening carbohydrates would be the ideal foods
to cut for just this reason.

A diet that prohibits sugars, flour, potatoes, and beer
but allows unlimited meat, eggs, and leafy green vegetables
leaves in all the essential nutrients,
and may even increase them, since you can eat
more of these particular foods on such a diet, not less.”

More of this, 

“Meat contains all the amino acids necessary for life,
all the essential fats, and twelve of the thirteen essential
vitamins in surprisingly large quantities.”

Vitamin C is the one vitamin that is relatively scarce
in animal products. Carbohydrates increase the body’s
need for vitamin C, and without them in the diet,
we would get all the vitamin C we need from animal products.
Taubes says that Carbohydrates are not required
in a healthy human diet. Both Protein and Fat is required,
but not carbohydrates.

He goes on to describe what ketones are, and how the body
makes and uses them to provide energy.

The Heart Disease Argument

Taubes says that this is the argument that keeps

“Nutritionists’ minds closed to any contrary evidence.
They believe that if we buy into the logic of
carbohydrate-restricted diets, we’ll replace what they consider
“heart-healthy” carbohydrates –broccoli, whole-wheat bread,
and potatoes, for instance – with meat, butter, eggs and maybe cheese,
which we very well might.”

 He says that the first thing to question is the idea that
a diet that makes us lean by removing the fattening carbohydrates
is also a diet that gives us heart disease.

“If we eat fewer carbohydrates, we’ll replace those calories with fat.
We will.
Protein tends to stay in a narrow range in modern diets 15-25% of calories
whereas fat is traded off against carbohydrates;
eating less of one means eating more of the other.

If the one causes heart disease, then the other,
almost by definition, has to prevent it.
So, we have a paradox:

Now the diet that naturally makes us leaner
is also the diet that gives us heart disease.
Getting leaner now increases our risk of heart disease,
whereas it should do the opposite. “

Taubes continues 

“This paradox suggests that only one of those things can be true:
either carbohydrates make us fat
or
dietary fat gives us heart disease
but not both.

And the fact that carbohydrates do make us fat
suggests that these same carbohydrates
are the likely nutritional causes of heart disease as well.
Our obsession with the fat in our diets is misconceived.”

Taubes goes into detail in his description of the history
and politics of the low-fat doctrine, and the untrustworthy
research and conclusions that were drawn.

He describes the effects of fat and cholesterol in the body
in detail, along with the results of various research.
which clearly prove that eating high-fat diets will not
give you heart disease. In fact, recent trials have shown
that low-carbohydrate / high-fat diets appear to improve one’s
cholesterol.

“The fear of fat – saturated, in particular – is based on
the state of the science in the 1960s and 1970s,
and it simply doesn’t hold up in the light of more
recent research and the state of the science today.”

Taubes next talks in great detail about Metabolic Syndrome
which is a combination of heart-disease risk factors,
and concludes that the same carbohydrates that make us fat
are the ones that cause metabolic syndrome.

He ends the chapter by saying that the simplest way
to look at the associations, between obesity, heart disease,
type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and Alzheimer’s
(plus gout, asthma, and fatty liver disease),
is that what makes us fat
--the quality and quantity of carbohydrates we consume –
also makes us sick.

 

Taubes put a great deal of scientific detail in this chapter,
which I chose not to include in this Summary.

Frankly, I just didn’t feel qualified
to pick and choose between the many details
of the technical aspects that are involved with these issues. 
 Not even the condensed amount that is contained
in this less technical book, Why We Get Fat…
…which holds only a fraction of the technical information
that is provided in Taubes’ prior book, Good Calories Bad Calories.
Personally, I’m one of those people who never
believed the Theory that saturated fat is bad,
raises cholesterol, causes heart disease etc.
Generally I chose to ignore it completely
from the 1960s to the present,.
so it did not surprise me to see recent research
dispute that Theory. 
 Since I always chose to disbelieve it,
despite what “Medical Authorities” said,
I doubt that my comments about it would
add much to the discussion.
Regarding the three arguments against low-carb eating,

In my opinion, the second (unbalanced) argument,
and the third (high-fat causing heart disease) argument,
are worthless. 
 The only argument that concerns me is the first one,
which disputes calories-in/calories-out.

I think I followed the information Taubes presented fairly well,
and it all makes a lot of sense…
I think that all of the information he provided is accurate, 
 But, at this point, I just have great difficulty accepting
that his conclusions are sufficient.
My gut feeling is that neither
the “conventional wisdom of calories-in/calories-out “ 
 OR
the low-carb/insulin theories stated by Taubes
are totally correct when taken by themselves
 I just feel like somehow, something is missing….
Like there’s a missing link between the two Theories
that should tie them together somehow.

All experts agree that there is much about the body
that has not yet been discovered,
and while the conclusions Taubes draws appear reasonable,
At this point,
without any evidence whatsoever, to support my opinion,
I believe that there is, somehow, more to it.
 
I feel that each of those Theories have valid issues,
but that each is incomplete.

After giving much thought to the matter,
I'm leaning toward acceptance of a PERSONAL HYPOTHESIS which is: 

First:. The primary reason that people grow fat is due to a genetic defect in their fat regulation,
and due to that small physical defect, they are driven to overeat which makes them fat.
This is a PHYSICAL issue, a problem in the body.
However, even when that issue has been dealt with...
there are additional reasons that can cause people to grow fat. 

1. One of these reasons could be a PSYCHOLGICAL issue, a problem in the mind.
Some people have developed mental, emotional, and behavioral
problems that involve food issues, and even when the body is operating properly,
those mental issues cause them to overeat; and

2. Another of these reasons could be basic CHARACTER and SPIRITUAL issues,
which involves a conscious choice to engage in Greed and GLuttony
even though that person is not driven to do so by a defect of their body
.  

So...to Summarize: Even if a person's body can be normalized
by the restriction or elimination of carbohydrates;
that person can still choose to overeat out of habit; to relieve emotional distress (MENTAL);
or choose to "blindly travel to perdition", ignoring their body's requirements,
by eating an excess of "fat and protein" until they become ill,
or by deliberately loading their body up with substances that thrill their senses..
(i.e. sugars and starches etc.) despite the harm they cause it
with excessive food...including carbohydrates (CHARACTER/SPIRITUAL).

I don't know how valid that Hypothese is....
but for me, it seems to cover most of the bases.
i.e. You might be overeating because your body is genetically defective;
but once you have discovered a treatment or solution to remedy this;
your psychological issues may still prevent you from eating appropriately;
and your basic character may be defective, which can still prevent you from eating appropriately
.

 Perhaps low-carb eating could resolve the first issue (the BODY);,
and calorie counting or portion control is necessary for the second issue (the MIND;
however, there is really no solution for those who refuse to deal
with their basic character and spiritual issues.
If the BODY causes gluttony, and one can change that by their food substance (such as low-carb),
but one deliberately chooses the sensual experience of an excess amount of those carbs,
the issue would be CHARACTER or SPRITUAL.
 


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On Feb 18, 2011 wrote:
My parents are both chemists, my oldest daughter wants to be a research scientist, my son wants to be a pediatrician, and my eyes glaze over when I read through anything scientific. There was a lot in this chapter that just flowed right over me. Here are key points that I saw……………………………………………………………………….1. The Atkins diet resulted in an average weight loss of 9.9 pounds in a year. In a footnote, Taubes says it's not that bad because people didn't stick with it. I had to chuckle at that. Isn't the problem with dieting that people don't stick to diets? I am not impressed by a 9.9 pound weight loss because I got above that with my version of The No S Diet. ………………………………………………………………………..2. The information on metabolic syndrome was very interesting. My waist when I was single was 24" and it's now about 37". In the summer before I started The No S Diet, I had blood sugar of 108, making me pre-diabetic. I also had high cholesterol. I got a book on lowering cholesterol and by the next year had it down to normal levels. Also, my blood sugar is now normal as well. What happened? Did eating almonds really help? Is it possible that giving up snacking was what really caused the big change? I sold the cholesterol book at the library's used book fair, and I think my information on levels was in the book. At any rate, I think I'm going to try this fasting approach and see the impact on my blood work after a few months of fasting. My physical is in late June. ……………………………………………………………………………The information Taubes presents is interesting, but I just don't understand it all that well. I'm still maintaining that it is at least possible that intermittent fasting could produce the same effect as low carb. ,……………………………………………….In fact, Taubes says exactly that …………………………….. "Whenever we're burning our own fat for fuel (which is, after all, what we want to do with it), our livers will also be taking some of this fat and converting it into ketones, and our brains will be using them for energy. This is a natural process. It happens any time we skip a meal and, most conspicuously, during the hours between dinner or late-night snack and breakfast, when our bodies live off the fat we stored during the day (or at least should be loving off that fat). AS the night goes on, we mobilize progressively more fat, and our livers up their production of ketones. By morning, we're technically in a state known as "ketosis," which means that our brains are primarily using ketones for fuel. This is no different from what happens on a diet that restricts carbohydrates to fewer than sixty or so grams per day." (p177-178)……………………………………………………………. While the effect may be small, Taubes does say that insulin levels are affected by someone just thinking about eating carbohydrates. My question is this: Is there also an impact on a person who is determined to restrict portion size? Does the insulin level go up as a way to encourage a person to break a diet? ……………………….. I'm not sure, but I do know that anyone who sticks with a calorie restricted diet must have an iron will, an ability to voluntarily put up with a constant feeling of starvation. What is the body's reaction to starvation? Doesn't it shut down? …………………………………………..Whatever gene produces scientific curiosity bypassed me and went to my kids. I am far more interested in a traditional (read: religious) approaches to controlling weight, only it used to be called gluttony. There is something in me that rebels against the idea that I have to constantly control what I eat and how much I eat, and I think it comes down to trusting that God didn't give us an appetite as a way for us to feel tortured. Taubes has a great line…………………… When people, experts or not, decide to review the evidence on an issue dear to their hearts (me included), the tend to see what they want to see." (p 183)………………………………………………I don't like the idea of low-carb and have observed many people lose weight only to gain it back, I have a deep respect for my religious faith, and I trust that something is amiss in our culture and not in our bodies that has led to the obesity epidemic. Those are my biases, and I'm self-aware enough to identify them. I'm finding the information here useful as a way to encourage me in trying fasting.


On Feb 19, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Regarding people who lose weight on low-carb, only to gain it back................................If a recovering alcoholic starts drinking, he becomes a drunk again............. If a recovering drug addict starts using drugs again, his behavior changes accordingly............... If a person who has a genetic defect with their fat regulation............... is able to control it and lose weight by eating low-carb, then returns to carbohydrates again, that person will get fat again.


On Feb 19, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
BEVERLY WROTE: I am far more interested in a traditional (read: religious) approach to controlling weight, only it used to be called gluttony. There is something in me that rebels against the idea that I have to constantly control what I eat and how much I eat, and I think it comes down to trusting that God didn't give us an appetite as a way for us to feel tortured. ...................................................Taubes says............When people, experts or not, decide to review the evidence on an issue dear to their hearts (me included), they tend to see what they want to see." (p183) ................................................................................................................................................................................ My reply to this is:.... There is a scripture that says: "Every good and perfect gift cometh from the father (meaning God)". However, there are many things in this world that are neither good nor perfect. I won't waste our time talking about specific diseases, and wars which have wiped out entire populations But I will mention that there are now a great many diseases in the modern world that cause a very large number of people to live with tremendous amount of pain and suffering. I will mention the existence of Diabetes type I and type II which perhaps were not in existence at the time of world's creation, but which became prevalent in civilization after those societies were introduced to the massive use of sugar and white flour. ………… ……………………………There is no doubt that many poisonous plants exist in the world, and the body of man was not designed to eat or tolerate them. .......... I propose that it is possible that God created the body to be nurtured by "real" foods, but that Man has chosen to alter foods that alter the body, in a way similar, but not as immediately harmful, as poisonous plants alter it. It isn't that the Basic foods caused man harm, it's what man chose to do with those foods, how that choice has affected generations over time, and ultimately what we, as individuals now choose to eat….. ....................... …….............. As you are a religious woman, I am certain you are aware of the concept of "perverted appetite"...... Although God gave man his senses and appetites, man can choose to pervert or corrupt them................ There is nothing in scripture that indicates that God intended for man to eat as much of everything he wants whenever he wants. In fact the old testament is packed with eating restriction references, as well as restrictions on other appetites...such as man's sexual appetites......................................... I also think Taubes was correct when he said that people will see what they choose to see


On Feb 19, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
I hope the Heart Association & Diabetic Association will be taken to task with the same vigor as the "low carb' diets have been. maybe then, society will start giving people helpful advice. It will come though because the staggering health care costs associated with this problem will force people/governments to acknowledge the truth. The internet is also another great help. I think the obese will find themselves targeted in the same way smokers and alcoholics have been.

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