Good Calories Bad Calories: A Must-Read for Anyone Who Cares about Health and Nutrition

What is Good Calories Bad Calories?

It is a long, scholarly book that lays out a case that the refined carbohydrates in our diet (as opposed to the fats and cholesterol) drive obesity and other diseases. Science writer Gary Taubes spent nearly a decade researching this book. He builds an argument against the conventional wisdom by synthesizing research from dozens of disciplines.

Taubes walks us through the history of the low fat diet and explains why the original research on fat restriction was flawed. He then builds a case that carbs make us sick and fat, citing compelling evidence to support every main point of the argument. He also delves into the mechanics of fat tissue metabolism -- a subject which our public health authorities rarely, if ever, mention when they debate topics like obesity, disease, and healthcare.

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Who is this Gary Taubes, and what are his credentials?

He is NOT a doctor or dietician or diet guru. He is an award-winning, Harvard-educated science journalist. Here is a link to his bio.

What are the main points of Good Calories Bad Calories?

For a good summary, click here.

Here is a link to the ten conclusions from Good Calories Bad Calories that Gary Taubes says are "inescapable" to him "based on the existing knowledge."

And if you have 70 minutes to spare, watch this video, in which Taubes defends the hypothesis that calories do NOT count. (warning: the video is not exactly the highest quality, and the sound-sync is off in places, which can be distracting. Try to ignore the technical problems: the content is worth it.)

Did Taubes come up with all this stuff on his own?

Obivously not. But he did aggregate and synthesize a lot of technical research. The book has hundreds of citations. Key researchers he quotes include:

  • Hugo Rony
  • Carl von Voit and Max Rubner
  • Hilde Bruch
  • Carl von Noorden
  • Eugene Du Bois
  • John Yudkin
  • William Harvey
  • Vilhjalmur Stefansson
  • Alfred Pennington
  • Blake Donaldson
  • George Thorpe
  • Margaret Ohlson
  • Charlotte Young
  • Robert Kemp
  • Stephen Ranson and Albert Hetherington
  • Graham Lusk
  • Julius Bauer
  • Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson
  • James Neel
  • Robert Atkins
  • Peter Cleave
  • Jacques Le Magnen
  • M.R.C. Greenwood

Why does this site have such a bias towards Good Calories Bad Calories?

This site's authors have zero affiliation with the author. We are just excited about these ideas and want to get as many people as possible to consider them. We believe that it is unlikely that an open-minded individual could read GCBC without coming away with a changed understanding – not only about what constitutes a "healthy" diet – but also about what constitutes good science and bad science.

Are other people this excited about it?

Yes. Consider this quote from Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Rhodes:

"Gary Taubes' Good Calories Bad Calories is easily the most important book on diet and health to be published in the past 100 years. It is clear, fast paced, and exciting to read, rigorous, authoritative and a beacon of hope for all those who struggle with problems of weight regulation and general health – as who does not? If Taubes were a scientist, rather than a gifted, resourceful science journalist, he would deserve and receive the noble price in medicine."

Okay, perhaps Rhodes may be slightly "over the top."

Here are more positive reviews from: Livin La Vida Low Carb, The Beantown Bloggery, Ukiah Community Blog, and Atkins website.

Here is another good review of GCBC from Dr. Eades.

Okay, so some people clearly like it. But what about the critics? What do they have to say about the book?

For reference and balance, here are links to criticisms of GCBC. Read these reviews! This site's authors believe that the criticisms don't pan out. For instance, take special note of the back and forth between Taubes and critics like Gina Kolata, Michael Fumento, and George Bray.

This article by Michael Fumento from the March 2003 issue of Reason Magazine attacks Taubes.

And here is Taubes' response to Fumento's criticism.

Here is a negative review of Good Calories Bad Calories written by Gina Kolata, a science writer for the New York Times.

And here is Taubes' response to Kolata's piece.

And here Dr. Michael Eades weighs in on the Taubes-Kolata debate.

War of words between Gary Taubes and George Bray over GCBC. (By the way, Taubes provides an excellent summary of his case here, if you want to cut to the chase of this whole debate.)

Read more about the clash of Taubes and Bray here.

These reviews (positive and negative) are by no means comprehensive, but hopefully they can give you a flavor for the debate.

How could a science writer possibly have "gotten it right" while so many trained medical professionals "got it wrong"?

This is a key question, and it speaks to an issue that makes most people feel uncomfortable. How could an outsider -- someone who's not even a doctor -- possibly identify gaping flaws in perspective, methodology, and so forth that medical experts all missed? One reason might be "groupthink." If you're taught in medical school that low fat diets work and that "a calorie is a calorie," then you will pass these ideas down to others in your field and reinforce them.

Someone like Gary Taubes, on the other hand, enters the debate as an unencumbered observer. He can look at the evidence from different perspectives without worrying about upsetting the apple cart and disappointing peers and mentors.

By the way, to the knowledge of this site's authors, GCBC's key ideas have never been publicly refuted -- particularly the ideas about the Lipophilia Hypothesis. They have been ignored. This website challenges skeptical scientists, clinicians, and others who disagree with the read of the evidence to pony up: offer counter evidence and / or counter arguments.

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