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WHY WE GET FAT by Gary Taubes


And What to Do About It

by Gary Taubes

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-27270-6
Publisher: Knopf

Science magazine correspondent Taubes (Health Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley) provides “an extension and distillation” of the research that produced his 2007 bestseller, Good Calories, Bad Calories.

The author closely examines a 2007 Stanford University comparative study of heart-risk factors, which showed that low-carbohydrate diets high in saturated fat were the best by all criteria, with the exception of the increase in high-density lipids, which Taubes believes to be insignificant. The author extrapolates from a short-term, one-year research study in which subjects followed a strict Atkins diet for three months only, and he bases his claims that a rise in LDL (so-called bad cholesterol) levels can be considered insignificant on speculative new research which indicates that the size of lipid particles is also important. If this proves to be the case, then it might not constitute a significant risk factor compared to the other positive results, but the jury is still out. Though Taubes admits that, as yet, there have been no definitive trials, he writes that the Stanford “clinical trials alone should put your mind to rest about the idea that eating high-fat or high-saturated diets will give you heart disease.” The author is on firmer ground when he debunks simplistic notions about how to deal with the current obesity epidemic by exercising more and eating less. It's not just how many calories we consume but the kind of calories—sugars such as the fructose and glucose found in fruit, fruit juice and soft drinks—that are key to how the body metabolizes them.

An interesting book, though readers might be advised to take the author’s diet recommendations with a grain of salt.