Book Review - Good Calories, Bad Calories
Book Review - Good Calories, Bad Calories , 03-06-2009 05:46 PM


Junior Low-Carber


I assume I will get hammered in this forum for this mildly critical review, but I can take it and I am interested in others' point of view....

Important Book, But Not the Whole Story
A Review of Good Calories, Bad Calories

As is noted in other reviews, this is not a diet book. Rather, it is a review of the science and history behind high-carb vs. low-carb diets. Taubes
RE: Book Review , 03-06-2009 07:28 PM


Administrator


THANKS for commenting at my forum, Patrick! It's nice to have another voice to share in the conversation here about the healthy low-carb lifestyle. I'll pass your comments along to Gary Taubes directly and see if he'd like to respond. If he does, then I'll post what he says here. Thank you again for being here.

Jimmy Moore, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum owner
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RE: Book Review , 03-06-2009 09:52 PM


Junior Low-Carber


Thanks Jimmy. You are a very welcoming presence on your site. It would be truly exciting to see a response from Gary.
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 12:26 AM


Administrator


Thanks Patrick! Gary's a busy guy, but he usually answers my emails. Cross your fingers.

Jimmy Moore, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum owner
CHOLESTEROL CLARITY BOOK: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1936608...vidalow-20
2009 BOOK: http://tinyurl.com/yh6smyy
OFFICIAL WEB SITE: http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LLVLC
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/livinlowcarbman
BLOG: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog
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ATLCX PODCAST: http://ww.askthelowcarbexperts.com
LOW-CARB CONVERSATIONS PODCAST: http://www.lowcarbconversations.com
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RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 12:59 PM


Administrator


Okay, I heard back from Gary today...he's under a tight deadline right now from his editor, but here's what he said regarding your questions, Patrick:

Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for passing this along. I'm busy at the moment--on a deadline--so the only thing I'll say in response at the moment is that there are many simplifications in GCBC. That even at 500 pages, I could have written far more and that the initial draft was indeed longer.

The insulin response to protein is one of those things that could have been discussed at length. There are two key points: one, we're not just interested in insulin secretion but the speed of digestion. The assumption is that protein is bound up with fat in forms--meat, for instance--that takes considerably longer to digest than refined carbohydrates and starches, so the insulin response will be muted.

In fact, I've often wondered if one reason hamburgers are so popular, is because they are, in a sense, partially digested already and so the insulin response might be more significant than to the same meat in its original form. All that, though, is even less important than the fact that we secrete glucagon in response to protein and not to carbohydrates. Glucagon works opposite insulin on the fat tissue and elsewhere and so it's reasonable to consider the insulin/glucagon ratio as the meaningful determinant of a nutrient's effect on fat accumulation.

With carbs there is no such counter-balancing by glucagon. The reason I implicate carbohydrates as the cause of obesity, rather than protein, though, is fundamentally because of the epidemiology--the diseases of civilization issue. The biology just happens to back it up, which is convenient.

Best,
Gary Taubes


He wanted to say more, but didn't have much time for a more detailed response. Feel free to comment.

Jimmy Moore, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum owner
CHOLESTEROL CLARITY BOOK: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1936608...vidalow-20
2009 BOOK: http://tinyurl.com/yh6smyy
OFFICIAL WEB SITE: http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LLVLC
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/livinlowcarbman
BLOG: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog
LLVLC PODCAST: http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/shownotes
ATLCX PODCAST: http://ww.askthelowcarbexperts.com
LOW-CARB CONVERSATIONS PODCAST: http://www.lowcarbconversations.com
VIDEOS: http://www.youtube.com/livinlowcarbman
E-MAIL ME: livinlowcarbman@charter.net
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 02:13 PM


Moderator


Sounds like he agrees with you, Patrick. At least on the protein issue.
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 02:34 PM


Junior Low-Carber


The glucagon/protein relationship is interesting, and one that I need to look into more. I've read that glucagon and insulin tend to operate in inverse ratios to one another (whereas insulin stores fat and builds muscle, glucagon is its opposite, reducing fat but also reducing muscle). As far as I knew, if one went up, the other went down. But perhaps that is just in response to carbohydrates. The idea that protein boosts both simultaneously is a new one on me, but it wouldn't be the first time.

Ha, now I want to know more!

P.S. If there is any chance for a further response, Jimmy, make sure he sees the latest version of that post up top. After I thought there was a chance Gary might look at it, I added more to it.
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 02:37 PM


Moderator


I remember seeing a chart that showed this in Protein Power.
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 05:01 PM


Administrator


Send me everything you want me to ask Gary about in an e-mail, Patrick. He's tight on time right now, so I don't want to disturb him again yet.

Jimmy Moore, "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum owner
CHOLESTEROL CLARITY BOOK: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1936608...vidalow-20
2009 BOOK: http://tinyurl.com/yh6smyy
OFFICIAL WEB SITE: http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LLVLC
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/livinlowcarbman
BLOG: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog
LLVLC PODCAST: http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/shownotes
ATLCX PODCAST: http://ww.askthelowcarbexperts.com
LOW-CARB CONVERSATIONS PODCAST: http://www.lowcarbconversations.com
VIDEOS: http://www.youtube.com/livinlowcarbman
E-MAIL ME: livinlowcarbman@charter.net
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 05:57 PM


Junior Low-Carber


Jimmy asked me to forward some questions. I did, and here they are. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts....

(1) Once you are on a low carb diet, do calories (and dietary fat consumption) matter?

In my experience, they do. It appears that the higher one's intake of dietary fat, the lower the level of body fat burned off. This becomes more obvious the lower one's level of obesity (i.e., the obese can consume more fat and still lose weight, but as they lose weight there is a point below which this is no longer true). In my view, this explains some of the plateau issues that some people run into on low carb diets, and also suggests that to achieve optimal weight, at some point you need to add calorie and fat restriction on top of the low carb diet. What is his read?

(2) While Gary points out that exercise is largely ineffective as a weight control strategy in a "balanced" diet, does that change when you are on a low-carb diet?

In my experience, shifting to a low carb diet transforms exercise from an ineffective strategy to an effective one, particularly weight training. What does he think?
RE: Book Review , 03-07-2009 07:00 PM


Junior Low-Carber


On the glucagon issue, Gary is right that protein is associated with increased glucagon. But in this case it may not be offsetting the insulin increase as he suggests, but rather working with it to convert protein first into glucose so insulin can then store it away as glycogen or increased fat. In other words, glucagon isn't offsetting insulin increase in a way that would help weight loss.

Under most circumstances, we tend to think of glucagon as associated with fat loss. This is because one of its major functions is to maintain minimal blood sugar levels by breaking down glycogen in the liver and/or body fat into glucose.

But protein is a special case. When you eat protein, glucagon is present because it is breaking the ingested protein down to glucose (as opposed to doing the same thing to body fat or glycogen as described above). This is an important first step before insulin can do its usual thing, storing away the glucose in the liver or body fat. This intermediary breakdown process from protein to glucose is one reason why the insulin response is not quite as high as for carbs, which don't need to be converted like this, but the resulting insulin increase has the same (if slightly diminished) effect.

It is bizarre to think of your body converting a hunk of meat into sugar, but that's what's going on.

See: http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pat...cagon.html

"other conditions are known to trigger glucagon secretion:

* Elevated blood levels of amino acids, as would be seen after consumption of a protein-rich meal: In this situation, glucagon would foster conversion of excess amino acids to glucose by enhancing gluconeogenesis. Since high blood levels of amino acids also stimulate insulin release, this would be a situation in which both insulin and glucagon are active."
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 01:24 PM


Moderator


Patrick Wrote:This notion is reinforced when you look at who is experiencing the greatest success on low carb diets, namely those who are the most obese. Stories of people losing 50-100 pounds on Atkins are common enough, but the underlying reality is that those people had 50-100 pounds to lose, and usually much more. What is notable about this group is that overall they have the worst dietary habits to begin with (think donuts, ice cream and potato chips), so any improvement in their diet is relatively easy to make and will result in dramatic weight loss. This more or less fits the description of the patients that Pennington, Donaldson, and Atkins himself treated with their low carb approach, as Taubes describes them. What is notable, in my observation, is that many of these people achieve major weight loss on their way from obese to merely overweight, but they tend to plateau well short of their ideal weight if they rely on low-carb diets alone.

I just wanted to chime in to say that I must be an exception to this. I only had 50 pounds to lose and losing those 50 pounds has put me at a weight that many consider to be under-weight. I'm 5'7" tall and I weigh just over 120 pounds. I had actually gotten as low as 116 pounds at one time and certainly not by restricting calories. It took me about 10 months to lose the weight and I never stalled even once even though I ate very high fat. I kept carbs very low the whole time, probably eating in the range of 10-30 per day most of the time. I never exercised at all until I'd been maintaining for a few years. Also, although I ate my share of junk food in my life, I was quite nutritionally aware and ate a relatively healthful diet most of the time as I was getting fatter and fatter. I just didn't know that carbs were the problem because I'd been told that it was calories and fat that were making me fat. In any case, I've been maintaining my weight loss for almost six years by eating the same high fat diet that helped me lose the weight in the first place.

My sites:
Linda's Low Carb Menus & Recipes
In the Kitchen with Linda Blog
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 02:58 PM


Junior Low-Carber


Thanks Linda. I think you are right that I overstated my case in that paragraph. Clearly there are some people who plateau, and some who do not. And many who benefit from low carb diets were merely eating "healthy" high carb diets before, not donuts and ice cream. I got carried away with the generalizing there.

I made some edits to the original to account for your response. Thanks!
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 04:17 PM


Moderator



I just wanted to chime in to say that I must be an exception to this. I only had 50 pounds to lose and losing those 50 pounds has put me at a weight that many consider to be under-weight. I'm 5'7" tall and I weigh just over 120 pounds. I had actually gotten as low as 116 pounds at one time and certainly not by restricting calories. It took me about 10 months to lose the weight and I never stalled even once even though I ate very high fat. I kept carbs very low the whole time, probably eating in the range of 10-30 per day most of the time. I never exercised at all until I'd been maintaining for a few years. Also, although I ate my share of junk food in my life, I was quite nutritionally aware and ate a relatively healthful diet most of the time as I was getting fatter and fatter. I just didn't know that carbs were the problem because I'd been told that it was calories and fat that were making me fat. In any case, I've been maintaining my weight loss for almost six years by eating the same high fat diet that helped me lose the weight in the first place.
LindaSue,
I doubt you are an exception, but I don't think everyone is the same in this regard. I think it's all about finding what works for your body.

My wife is not fat, but about once a year she decides she needs to lose an extra 5-7 pounds. She usually does this through weight watchers. She's Asian so she loves her carbs so while on weight watchers she eats the exact same foods she did before, just less of them, and it usually takes her about a month to take off those last few pounds and though she doesn't love it, she isn't miserable on it.

Since I actually got fatter when I did Weight Watchers, and never lost weight until I got on low carb (about 50 pounds), I always thought she would find it so much easier to lose if she tried Atkins too. So this past year, she did. Guess what happened?

Absolutely nothing.

She had no induction flu, she experienced no appetite suppression, she lost no weight (nor gained), it was almost a non-event in her life. The only difference was that she didn't experience any food bloat after eating a big meal...which is something she rarely did anyways.

I think part of it is because she is so close to goal, but I also think we are all wired differently.
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 04:21 PM


Moderator



(1) Once you are on a low carb diet, do calories (and dietary fat consumption) matter?

In my experience, they do. It appears that the higher one's intake of dietary fat, the lower the level of body fat burned off. This becomes more obvious the lower one's level of obesity (i.e., the obese can consume more fat and still lose weight, but as they lose weight there is a point below which this is no longer true). In my view, this explains some of the plateau issues that some people run into on low carb diets, and also suggests that to achieve optimal weight, at some point you need to add calorie and fat restriction on top of the low carb diet. What is his read?

(2) While Gary points out that exercise is largely ineffective as a weight control strategy in a "balanced" diet, does that change when you are on a low-carb diet?

In my experience, shifting to a low carb diet transforms exercise from an ineffective strategy to an effective one, particularly weight training. What does he think?

I don
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 05:08 PM


Junior Low-Carber


Yes, individual cases are probably somewhat different (we vary in insulin resistance, for instance). That tends to make individual experience less trustworthy, and that's why I dropped out the paragraphs on my personal experience with Atkins, which were included in the original version of this review.

That said, an interesting side note (for me) is that Gary's comment about protein made me do some additional research on it, and it was only then that I realized how much a high meat, high protein diet can undermine Atkins, and this is probably why my own experience with Atkins was a failure (I gained weight during induction). My previous diet had always been high protein, relatively speaking, because my focus had been on muscle building and weight training. When I experimented with Atkins, I dropped out the vegetables and fruit and replaced them with cheese, eggs, and butter, and as a result, my waistline grew. I assumed that this implicated the high calories and high-fat content of the new additions to my diet.

But an alternative explanation was that I was eating too much meat and protein. This wasn't much of a problem before because it occurred on a moderate calorie diet that included a lot of exercise. But during the Atkins experiment, I stopped that so I could view the impact of Atkins without any confusing side issues. I think what happened is that the excess meat and protein I was eating was generating a significant insulin response, which in turn stored all of the additional dietary fat I was taking in, causing weight gain. It is pretty well accepted that foods that are high fat and high carb at the same time are a dietary nightmare (like ice cream). I hadn't really thought of the possibility that excessive protein + high fat could be nearly as bad.

What would have happened if I had not only eliminated the carbs, but also substantially reduced my meat consumption? I am going to find out.

Finally, I should say, my research into all of this does suggest that there are different dietary strategies that are appropriate depending on your goal. I am beginning to think that the best fat loss mix is low carb-low protein-high fat, while the best muscle building diet is the reverse: high carb-high protein-low fat. Insulin, by the way, while promoting fat storage, also happens to be a key ingredient in muscle building.

The best way to achieve optimal fat and muscle composition is to shift back and forth between these two strategies. Usually you lose a little muscle along with the fat on the way down, and you gain a little fat along with the muscle on the way up, but both end up being better after this shifting back and forth. The process is called bulking and cutting by body builders (I am not one, but I still prefer having a toned, muscular body).
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 07:09 PM


Moderator


See, what's so weird to me is that I personally can't see how anyone could eat enough meat to cause this to happen. Every time I've gone to an all meat diet, I find myself eating less voluntarily after a few days. It's just not worth the trouble to eat more.

I guess we are all different.
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 10:05 PM


Junior Low-Carber


It's really hard to tell in hindsight. I looked at a record I kept during that period, and my ratio of calories ranged from 50-50 to 35-65 protein-fat. In terms of shear grams, my protein intake routinely jumped over 300 grams, which was way over twice my normal amount and pushing the limit of what is supposed to be safe. It was freaky. My fat intake was generally over 200 grams, and total calories usually in the range of 3,000-4,000 per day, which was nearly twice what it had been before I started. The result was a waistline that grew a half inch and an increase in 3-4 pounds in weight. There was little indication that glycogen was being depleted, which is supposed to happen under a low-carb diet. My muscles were swollen as if I had eaten a high carb meal.

That last bit was really strange to me, but makes sense if what is going on in the body is that it converts excess protein into glucose, which does happen to some degree, according to the science reading I have done in the last day. Under this explanation, my protein intake was simply too high (certainly in terms of grams it was), and I needed to ramp back the meat and increase the eggs and cheese to get the fat ratio higher. I suppose if I really wanted to push it, I could try the Atkins fat fast, but I am not especially keen to go that far.

On the other hand, perhaps I needed to go the other way, as you suggest, going the all-meat path and not eating the cheese (which was really the biggest addition, calorie wise). If I had done that, I might have voluntarily restricted calories, as you suggest.

It could also be that my closeness to ideal weight (only 5 pounds over), meant there was too little room for error, which would put me in a category similar to your wife. Or finally, I could just be a metabolic oddity, though I doubt the last one. I suppose the only answer is to go back and do a bunch more testing, which I think I will do.
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 11:34 PM


Moderator


Where you hungry for all that or where you trying to eat a specific amount of protein a day like body builders do?
RE: Book Review , 03-08-2009 11:55 PM


Junior Low-Carber


I only ate when I was hungry. That was my condition of the test, and how I allowed the calorie intake to soar so much higher than usual. I found that I was usually hungrier after eating meat. Also, the meat was pretty high in protein and low in fat because I was grilling it, which what I have always done. My previous diet was lean meat, vegetables, fruit, and a lot of vegetable soup. I need to figure out how to find fatter cuts of meat and learn to cook differently if I am going to repeat this experiment (which was only a short while ago).

The funny thing is, I consider myself a low carber, though I backed into it by simply deciding to eat natural foods. Doing that eliminated sugar, bread and all the processed foods, and I lost weight on it. That made me a believer, but it was really more of a Paleo diet and all the vegetables and fruit meant it had more carbs than many would allow. I never actually pushed the carb limit until I tried the Atkins induction experiment in an attempt to knock off that last five pounds. I was actually surprised that it worked out the way it did. That is what made me begin to think that while low carb diets work, they probably have their limits.