Gary Taubes, the acclaimed science writer and author of “Good Calories – Bad Calories,” wrote this in an opinion piece in the New York Times in June of 2012. This quote stuck in my head until I wrote this blog post in 2013.
The full title of his op-ed was, “What Really Makes Us Fat.” The full sentence containing the quote is: “From this perspective, the trial suggests that among the bad decisions we can make to maintain our weight is exactly what the government and medical organizations like the American Heart Association have been telling us to do: eat low-fat, carbohydrate-rich diets, even if those diets include whole grains and fruits and vegetables” (my emphases).
I like the quote because I think it is kind of edgy, even snarky. He is addressing the many who have gained a little weight and may also be starting to have blood pressure and cholesterol issues. Many, like me, who first became “fat” in their 40s, will develop Type 2 diabetes. Many will have developed Metabolic Syndrome and not even know it. (See “Retrospective #9” for the indications.) This, however, is exactly the population that is likely to get one of the myriad Diseases of Civilization – heart disease, stroke, some forms of cancer, and even dementia.
It is now widely believed that Metabolic Syndrome and all of these diseases are related to the Western Diet we have adopted. That is why we are hearing the advice “eat more whole foods” (vs. processed foods), including more “whole grains and fruits and vegetables.” The problem is, Taubes is saying, whole grains and fruits and vegetables are all carbohydrates. And if the “healthy, non-diabetic” population continues to eat these “low-fat, carbohydrate-rich diets” to maintain their weight, that it would be a “bad decision” because it is a “carbohydrate-rich” diet.
With this statement Taubes reminds us of the second of his 10 “certain conclusions” in “Good Calories—Bad Calories”: “The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet, their effect on insulin secretion, and thus the hormonal regulation of homeostasis – the entire harmonic ensemble of the human body. The more easily digestible and refined the carbohydrates, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.” Boy, does he nail it! You should really read all 10 of his conclusions, maybe a couple of times. I listed them all in “Retrospective #5.”
Now, for the “healthy” individual – that means, with no weight, no blood pressure and no cholesterol issues – eating whole grains and fruits and vegetables in moderation, without excessive refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, is okay. That’s a pretty exclusive club – about 14% of the U. S. population, according to the latest survey.
But, the official advice from the government (The Dietary Guidelines for Americans or DGA) is one-size-fits-all. Nina Teicholz, executive director of the Nutrition Coalition, is working hard to change that for the 2020 DGA. She is the author of the best-seller, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.”
If your metabolism is already deranged, as mine certainly is, or is in the process of becoming deranged, you really have no choice if you want to return to or maintain a healthy weight. For me, I have virtually eliminated all grains and almost never eat any fruit (even a few berries wreak havoc with my blood sugar for days). The only vegetables I eat are low-glycemic ones with dinner, usually tossed in butter or roasted in olive oil. This is admittedly extreme, but, unfortunately for me, necessary to deal with my broken metabolism as a 33-year Type 2 diabetic.
If you are prediabetic you may only need to moderate your intake of carbohydrates, especially the refined ones (as in bread, pasta and cereals!) and the simple sugars (as in fruit and honey!). If you do, and you substitute healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats, I am confident you will eat less, lose weight and have healthier blood lipids (including higher HDL and lower triglycerides). It may also help a lot to supplement with a 1-gram fish oil tablet twice a day, and avoid foods fried in corn or soybean oil, or baked goods made with them and HFCS.
To do this you will need to disregard the advice of government, the American Heart Association and your doctor. I know that’s going to be tough: Do what I say, or do what the government, the AHA and your doctor tell you to do. Right? Maybe, but why not ask your doctor. Mine was enlightened; he suggested Very Low Carb to lose weight.