Sunday, October 28, 2007

'Good Calories, Bad Calories' Penetrating The Culture With Low-Carb Message

It has now been one month since the most talked about health book in years was released to the public. But Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes is already penetrating the culture with the low-carb message and having a positive impact on the lives of so many people who have never heard the basic principles of livin' la vida low-carb so brilliantly explained. Sure, people like the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins, Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Dr. Barry Sears, and many others have been trumpeting these concepts for years, but Taubes has ushered in a new wave of interest that will quite frankly do more for the cause of the controlled-carbohydrate nutritional approach than anything else in the years to come.

Regular readers of the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog have been able to keep up with all the latest news and information about Gary Taubes and his blockbuster book right here at my blog in my posts here, here, here, and here. There's been plenty more to happen with Good Calories, Bad Calories since I last updated you, so let's share that with you today.


By popular demand at my new "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Discussion" forum (which is set to break ONE MILLION pageviews this week after less than three months, by the way!), we have decided to create a chapter-by-chapter discussion of Good Calories, Bad Calories to go through this outstanding book over the next six months. Anyone who wants to participate is invited to chime in with your thoughts about each chapter as they are being discussed. Keep in mind we will only have discussion on one chapter a week and then the thread will be closed to focus on the next chapter. Taubes has agreed to answer any questions that we as a collective group would like more information about, so come join the fun!


I've asked various key players in the world of diet, health and nutrition to chime in with their thoughts about Good Calories, Bad Calories and today I'd like to share with you the ones from Colette Heimowitz from Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. Here is her review of the book:

Four years ago, a blockbuster article on the cover of the New York Times Magazine asked the question, "What if it's all been a big fat lie?" The epynonomous "big fat lie" was the belief that "fat" in any form was evil and the root of all disease. Secondarily to that notion was the idea that following a low-fat diet would prevent all manner of illnesses and conditions, from heart disease to obesity. The author, three time winner of the Science In Society Journalism award Gary Taubes, suggested that low-fat diets weren't all they were cracked up to be, and that pioneers- such as DR. Robert Atkins- were onto something when they questioned the wisdom of low-fat.

The concepts presented in that article were so revolutionary that they earned Taubes a much-publicized (and very lucrative) book deal. Now, four years later, the book has arrived. And it was very much worth the wait.

Some critics have already called "Good Calories Bad Calories" the most important nutrition book of the past 50 years. They may be right. In almost 500 pages of closely reasoned, impeccably researched material, Taubes details how the "low-fat" philosophy gained traction in the 60's, largely on the strength of seriously flawed research by Ancel Keys. Keys surveyed 21 countries looking for correlations between diet and heart disease, selected seven that supported his thesis that cholesterol and heart disease were cause and effect, and then tirelessly campaigned for his position to reduce cholesterol by reducing fat. The resulting tale is part sociology, part politics, part medicine, and part detective story, all of it absolutely fascinating.

Taubes painstakingly and carefully explains some basics of research that will make any reader a more knowledgeable and astute consumer of information-- namely the difference between correlation and cause. Correlation is when two things happen together (the rooster crows, the sun come up). But correlation is not cause (the rooster doesn't cause the sun to rise). Yet in much nutritional and dietary research, they are treated as the same thing. High fat diets are indeed often found in societies where heart disease is high. But so is smoking, eating processed foods, low vegetable intake, smog, stress and exposure to chemicals. And-- most important to Taube's brilliantly detailed arguments- so is sugar.

The story of how fat came to be blamed for the ills of western society is more sociology and politics than it is good medicine. Actually, sugar consumption accounts for the "data" just as well- but the sugar hypothesis did not have the same support and political lobby as the "fat hypothesis". Yet sugars- and foods that convert quickly into sugar- are prime culprits for the many diseases that have insulin and insulin resistance at their core. The brilliance of Taube's book is that he explains that those diseases are far more numerous than we might suspect.

Alzheimer's, for example. High levels of insulin actually divert energy from the same pathways that would normally be clearing out the plaques and tangles that are so central to Alzheimer's. Taubes also explains the insulin connection to cancer. And of course to diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A pretty damning indictment, overall, and a pretty compelling case for eating low on the glycemic scale.

We can't help ourselves from feeling somewhat vindicated. Here's a serious book, with serious, detailed, meticulously documented research, that supports what we at Atkins Nutritionals have been saying in one form or another for decades. Fat is not the enemy. But a diet high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and trans-fats most certainly is. This book deserves a wide audience, probably wider than it will actually get, since it's a long and tough read. But if you take the time to get through it- time which the material richly deserves- you may never think about your diet, and about food, in quite the same way.

And that would be a very good thing indeed.

Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc.
VP Nutrition Communication & Education
Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.

I am still working on getting many more exclusive reviews from various voices in the world of nutrition and health to share their comments about the Taubes book. Stay tuned!


In my previous update, I shared with you this book review from Taubes' fellow New York Times colleague Gina Kolata where she was not impressed with what was shared in Good Calories, Bad Calories. So Gary Taubes responded this week with a well-reasoned response to Kolata's premise that a "calorie is a calorie is a calorie." In fact, you can even read a snarky follow-up from Kolata herself to Taubes' rebuttal where she ignorantly states about low-carb diets "if they work so well, why are so many people still searching for an effective way to lose weight?" Um, Ms. Kolata, could it be because people like yourself who refuse to look at what Gary Taubes describes as "any reasonable alternative hypotheses" keep feeding the public a steady diet of nutritional insanity (aka the low-fat, low-calorie, portion-controlled diets)? Start PROMOTING livin' la vida low-carb and watch how fast obesity and disease rates PLUMMET!


Last week I shared an e-mail exchange with a woman who e-mailed me thinking I was Gary Taubes. Even still, I answered the e-mail and shared about my low-carb experiences with her. Well, it happened again this week with another woman who had a few things to say to Gary Taubes after hearing him on "The Lionel Show" on the liberal talk radio network Air America. Here's the e-mail I received:

Dear Mr. Taubes,

I heard you speaking the other night on the Lionel Show regarding your high fat low carbohydrate diet philosophy, and, although I respect your opinion, my own life's experience with losing weight, along with my mother's and my son's seem to seriously challenge some of your theories.

Number one, at the age of 22, I lost 25 lbs. on a self-prescribed diet of fried chicken, English muffins, saturated in butter, candy bars and a minimal amount of greens. Since that time. In the 27 years since, my diet has consisted of not necessarily the same foods, but the same category of foods, especially in the candy department, and I have not gained a single pound. I have since gained five pounds, deliberately, because people kept telling me I was too thin.

The same is true for my mother, who put herself on a "donut diet" which included two large buttermilk donuts at around 11:00 a.m. and a dinner of steak, salad, bread and potatoes around 6:00 p.m. She too, lost 25 lbs. and for the remainder of her life, never gained it back. And, as for my son, at the age of 15, he was 5'8" and weighed 228 lbs. By the time of he graduated from high school at the age of 18, he weighed 135, and again on a high carbohydrate diet of his own creation. He is now 28 yrs. old and has since maintained his weight.

Though you might think I am stretching the truth, I have found it interesting that, despite the fact that at no time in my life has the success rate of dieters exceeded 3%, nor has the rate of recidivism fallen below 97%, that three people in the same family (genetics anyone?) were able to defy the odds via diets of their own creation consisting primarily of high carbohydrates, and high fat food. It is also true, that the three of us are the only ones among an entire extended family of over 50 people who wound up maintaining a normal weight through the course of their lives, a feat accomplished by eating according to the philosophy that there is no such thing as "forbidden" foods," but there are "forbidden portions."

I have, on numerous occasions experienced the envy of many overweight people watching me scarf up dessert and wondering out loud, "how the hell can she eat that stuff and remain so thin? If I even looked at such and such, I would gain 10 lbs." Many times I would want to reply, "if you ate the same amount I did you would stand a better chance of defying gravity, then of gaining 10 lbs." I have also learned through experience, that due to the uniqueness of everyone's biological make-up, that although, your theories might work for some, there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" food plan. Thank you for your time.

Well, I guess she told Gary Taubes, didn't she?! HA! Sounds like this lady should be writing her own diet plan called Good Carbs, Even Gooder Carbs if it works so well. Nevertheless, although I am not Taubes, I was happy to respond:

THANKS for writing to me, but I'm not Gary Taubes. My name is Jimmy Moore and I am the author of the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog. I lost nearly 200 pounds on the Atkins diet in 2004 and have been able to maintain that weight loss by consuming a diet that closely resembles what Gary Taubes wrote about in his book GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES.

I'm sure Taubes will agree with me that people should find the plan that will work for them not just for improving their weight, but also their health--something his research into carbohydrate restriction piqued his curiosity to a point that he just had to go find the data to prove it. And that's what he did in his book.

Let me just say how very proud I am of you and your family for implementing the necessary changes in your lifestyle to lose weight and get healthy. If we could just get more Americans to care about themselves enough to eat more healthy whole foods rather than the high-carb processed junk and fast foods that dominate our society, then obesity and the related diseases would cease to exist.

Limiting carbohydrates is not so much about simply managing your weight as has been so easily bantered about since Dr. Atkins, but it is also about controlling blood sugar levels, insulin spikes, and other health markers that lead to such ailments as insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's and even cancer. Carbohydrates feed every single one of these diseases and the data backs up those claims. Read GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES to see for yourself.

The fact that you can eat so many carbs and not have it impact your weight in a negative way means you are one of the fortunate few who can tolerate carbohydrates. When I weighed 410 pounds about four years ago, it was obvious I was highly addicted to sugar/carbs. Not until I restricted those carbs to an average of about 30-40 per day was I able to manage my weight and health. Today, i STILL eat less than 50g carbohydrate and happily so. I've never been this healthy in my entire life.

Absolutely, we are all different and there is no "one size fits all" dietary approach. That's something Dr. Atkins often talked about and I'm confident Gary Taubes believes it as well. But that wasn't the purpose of his book. This isn't a diet book and Taubes is not pretending to be a diet guru of any sort. He is simply challenging the conventional wisdom of the nutritional dogma that has dominated our culture for decades--namely that fat makes you fat and that carbohydrates are a necessary part of the human diet. His conclusion based on five years of meticulous research says both of those statements are probably inaccurate.

THANK YOU again for writing and I appreciate hearing from you! CONGRATULATIONS on your success and I urge you to keep living a happy and healthy life! God bless you!

Unlike the reader last week, I never heard back from this one. I guess my answer satisfied her. Or she went back to eating her donuts, potatoes, and candy bars again. Anyone else wanna write to me this week thinking I'm Gary Taubes? You WILL hear back from me whether you like it or not. :)


Gary Taubes has been an interviewing machine since his book launched late last month and this time he appears in the Los Angeles Times. This was by far the VERY BEST interview I have seen about the concepts shared in Good Calories, Bad Calories. The interviewer Andreas von Bubnoff was extremely fair and in-depth with the interview questions and you could tell this person actually read the book (unlike those clowns Joy Behar, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Jillian Michaels who were on "Larry King Live" with Gary Taubes recently). Kudos to the LA Times for getting it right with this and doing Gary Taubes and his book justice! However, from the looks of the letters to the editor in response to this interview the readers aren't so happy about it!


The word is most certainly getting out about Good Calories, Bad Calories in the blogosphere in recent weeks with so many prominent health-related blogs featuring little snippets about the new Taubes book, including "The Heart Scan Blog," "The Divine Low-Carb" blog, "The Huffington Post" blog, Seth Roberts' blog, Sara Davidson's "Leap!" blog, The Jollyblogger, The Diabetes Update blog, The Which Up! blog, and The Jackie Danicki blog. Some supportive, some not-so-much, but all of them encourage people to at least READ THE BOOK and come up with your own conclusions.


Wanna know why Gary Taubes got so interested in this subject of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet? You REALLY need to listen to this interview he did with Dr. Ronald Hoffman from WOR Radio and you'll see why he decided to pursue it. Actually, he was working on another story about salt intake when this one kinda fell in his lap regarding the role of fat and carbs in obesity and health. LISTEN NOW to that interview and ENJOY!


Ever since Gary Taubes appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" a couple of weeks ago, the buzz around what was said by the other guests on the show has been the topic of disgust and anger from low-carbers who thought they ganged up on the Good Calories, Bad Calories author without ever reading the book. The very best part of the interview was when Dr. Andrew Weil basically endorsed the Taubes book. But it was the rest of the interview that got under the skin of some of my readers.

Here is one comment:


I would love to have you respond to Jillian Michaels from the Biggest Loser where she dares Gary Taubes to present anyone who has lost 100 pounds using low carb. She was actually saying that her way was the only way. She was vicious!

I know that you saw the original telecast on CNN. I missed it when it aired but saw the video. Didn't it infuriate you?

In a way, yes it did. But what do you expect from a show like this? It would have been nice to have a low-carb weight loss success story sitting there with Gary Taubes, but it doesn't work that way unfortunately. I'm thinking of going back through the entire Larry King Live show and pull out the idiotic comments and respond to them. That may take some time...something I don't have a lot of right now. But I'd love to share my triple-digit weight loss success via livin' la vida low-carb.

One other e-mailer analyzed this CNN broadcast superbly:

I saw the Larry King thing, and was amazed at how irrelevant everything was that Dr. Oz brought up. It was very, very obvious that he made no effort to read any portion of the book, yet feels qualified to critique the conclusions!

One of the main things a reader takes away from Taubes' book, is that, even before he draws any conclusions, he exposes the reaaaaaaaallllly bad science of so many involved in metabolism research. Oz has no idea of this exposure, so every time he cites some clinical work, he doesn't know that Taubes has probably already exposed it as flawed. The meticulousness of Taubes' work is irrefutable, and Dr. Weil makes one of the best summaries of Taubes work, the LKL segment is worth it for that alone.

I saw the bit by the FoodDude and it was great! It addressed nearly every point of Oz's irrelevant issues. What both the FoodDude and Oz don't seem to get, along with so many others involved in food and metabolism work, is that there IS a certain percentage of people that do better with more plant food. The Drs. Eades bring this up in their first book--25-35% of the world population do better with less meat, more plant food. It strikes me that Oz may be one of these people, and as passionate as he is about improving the health of his fellow Americans, he may not be the guy to give advice to 75% of the population.

EXCELLENT! Incidentally, the FoodDudeTV guy on YouTube has since mysteriously removed his video "Calling Out Dr. Oz" suddenly over the weekend. I was planning on posting it here for you to watch, but it's now gone. I've contacted him directly to find out why he took it off of YouTube. We'll let you know!


Although it is the diet aspect of Good Calories, Bad Calories that most people are paying attention to regarding his comments on sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fat and their role in obesity and disease, Taubes is also catching flack for his comments about the inadequacy of exercise for the sake of weight loss. CBC-TV in Canada featured this video story about his premise. It's funny how people misunderstand what Taubes is stating in his book because he's not anti-exercise or anti-fitness. His point is there may be benefits to exercise, but becoming lean is not one of them.


A letter to the editor of the OC Register asks them to get low-fat diet guru Dr. Dean Ornish to "write a reply to this outlandish column and set the record straight" regarding a positive review of Good Calories, Bad Calories. Interestingly, I have been trying to get Dr. Ornish to provide me with his commentary about the new Gary Taubes book and his response to me was, "What do you think about it?" Um, I asked you first, so why not share what you think of it with all of us? You told me in my interview with you last year that if someone can present the evidence that shows why fat consumption doesn't make you fat and unhealthy, then you'd be happy to look at it. Well, here it is, Dr. Ornish! How about reading the book and rebutting anything that is wrong with it? Otherwise, your silence must mean you totally agree with everything Taubes presented in the book. THANKS for your ringing endorsement.


Whether Gary Taubes ever meant for his book to be used in the marketing efforts of companies that make low-carb foods like beef, pork and eggs or not, that's exactly what is proposed in this BrandWeek column. Since the focus of this magazine is about marketing products, it was interesting for them to see Good Calories, Bad Calories as a catalyst for pushing high-fat, low-carb as healthy to combat the high-carb, low-fat diet trend. Fascinating! The entire article is well worth reading for those of us who are livin' la vida low-carb. Could the pendulum be swinging back to a low-carb marketing trend? Hmmmmm...


It looks like Gina Kolata is just about the only major reviewer who has a problem with Good Calories, Bad Calories because most others have been highly supportive at least of the research and the call for a second look at the "fat makes you fat" theory for obesity and disease. this Chicago Sun-Times review by Dr. Tony Miksanek does exactly that and he summarizes the book best at the end of his review:

"The problem of obesity is getting bigger. Already one out of every three Americans is obese, and over a billion adults in the world are overweight. Whether you agree with the Taubes' analysis and conclusions on what kind of diet best promotes longevity and health or not, Good Calories, Bad Calories offers plenty of food for thought."

And that's all Gary Taubes wants people, especially those in the medical community to do--take a second look at the conventional wisdom on diet and health to determine whether it is accurate or not. Dr. Miksanek gets it!

That's all the news I have for you about Gary Taubes and his book Good Calories, Bad Calories this week, but I'll keep my eyes open for even more as it happens. Feel free to pass along anything you find about it by e-mailing me at

10-29-07 UPDATE: I was taken to task today by one of my readers who didn't like the way I described Oprah Winfrey's diet guru Dr. Mehmet Oz in this post:

Dear Mr. Moore,

I view your blog every day and I think it is the most comprehensive site for up to date information about Low Carb living. I was disappointed that you referred to Dr. Oz as a clown, ("unlike those clowns Joy Behar, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Jillian Michaels who were on 'Larry King Live' with Gary Taubes recently").

I respect Dr. Oz even if I do not agree with him on many of his beliefs. I do believe he cares about his fellow man. He did not treat Gary Taubes with disrespect and if ever he came to change his opinions, he would be an invaluable help to those fighting obesity.

I think comments like this are not worthy of someone who also cares so much for others and is doing so much to improve their health.

I provided my own response to her concerns, but what say you? Was I inaccurate in my description of Dr. Oz who clearly did not read the book prior to the "Larry King Live" appearance? Or was my comment completely justified considering the way Tabues was treated by Dr. Oz on the program?

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Blogger Craig said...

Hi Jimmy,

Based on all of the discussion that seems to be taking place on TV, radio and blogs such as yours (an excellent blog!) I think that even in the face of some very vocal opposition Gary Taubes is achieving the mission of his spark debate and encourage people to take another look at the root cause of obesity and disease.

I just completed reading Good Calories, Bad Calories and found it to be very informative and thought provoking. I even purchased several additional copies to give to my doctor and my companies' wellness plan administrator!

10/29/2007 8:09 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

ABSOLUTEY, Craig! That's why I wrote that the book is "penetrating the culture." It's pretty awesome, isn't it? :)

10/29/2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger Kevin M. said...

The Brandweek idea is great and overdue, I wonder what it would take to get the meat, egg and dairy groups to actually take action on it? They have been browbeat into doubting and hating themselves, but Taubes shows that it is time for them to hold their heads up again and refute the self-righteous, vogue-worshipping, sycophantic and hypocritic majority of the medical profession, including Dr. Oz. Taubes provides them with the ammunition. This book is the first unbiased, thoroughly researched, intelligent, critical review of the last fifty years of medical policy. As such, it is a watershed. This book needs to be kept in the public eye for years to come, whether it is appreciated or not by the "consensus" of inertia.

10/29/2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger Pot Kettle Black said...

Can it be possible that Dr. Oz is both well intentioned and a clown? I dunno. I don't think of him as being quite as clownish as Jillian Michaels (who is still an advertiser on LLVLC, so I applaud you taking her to task and taking her ad revenues, though I'm gonna bet that LKL dropped her click through on this site a bit) or Joy Behar (who was a commedienne if I recall correctly, and therefore a Clown of the first or second order). But, the guy's claim to fame is giving healthy soundbites to Oprah Winfrey's audience. Number two claim to fame would be the goofy (yet somehow addictive) Real Age test (why doesn't an insurance company run this, since they probably have better risk assessment tools), and his third claim would be as author of the "You!" books, which are closer to magazine writing than serious non-fiction. Yes, he's a heart surgeon (who always seems to fit in a triple bypass right before being on TV with Taubes), but among other cardiologists and surgeons, he's probably seen as something of a clown.

So, I think he can be well meaning and still be a clown.

PS- When he talks about what he does on a daily basis with the soy eating and the nut grazing, you have to wonder about the long term health and wellness of Mehmet of Oz.

10/30/2007 9:02 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home