Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Magic of Taubes

I have recommended Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" to several people over the years. Of those that have gone ahead and read it, they have all been....for want of a better phrase, 'blown away'.

Of those that have declined to read it, those that borrowed my (highly prized) first edition claimed to have 'not had the time' to read it, whilst the remainder (whom I left to obtain their own copy), seemed to be convinced that it would simply be 'another diet book'.

I continue to recommend the book to calorie restriction and low fat obsessed dieters around me but despite my results they seem to think that I must have blessed genes that allow me to eat what I want and to remain lean. Or that I must be 'burning it all off'.

When these doubters witness with horror the piles of red meat and fat that I consume, they trust that I must be doing myself untold damage and that 'it is only a matter of time' before the reaper comes to claim me'.

By the same token, many of these same people seem to think 'it is only a matter of time' before their low fat diets produce results. Years go by and despite the absence of long term weight loss, they find consolation in the fact that by following governmental and NGO nutritional advice, they must be achieving optimal metabolic health.

What prompted this post was the fact that a few of my latest batch of converts or ahem...'disciples'...have had staggering success. Not all of them needed to read Taubes to be convinced of the benefits of 'going paleo'. Some chose to read it and then went on to make the necessary dietary changes and others were simply convinced by my chronic hectoring (which involved me bearing my abs in frustration and shouting in a wild-eyed rant "look, look, I cannot put fat on no matter how much I eat").

Their success has lead a few of them to confide that they "must be my star-pupils" - but I have told all of them that what they are experiencing is well within expectations. Against any other dietary principle (i.e. caloric restriction), the LC diet does appear to involve voodoo and/or magic beans - such are the results. But LC just works. Simple as!

I still get wrapped up in disagreements and the most popular line of attack is that, despite the examples/evidence I give, not only am I going against just about every piece of governmental and NGO advice on nutrition, but I have no formal medical training. This is true. But the science I am able to fall back on, and the research I can quote, leaves them with contradictions to address.

This leads back to Taubes' book - a key weapon in my armoury. I picked it up again the other day and have now found myself reading it yet again. It is a staggeringly beautiful piece of work. Comprehensive, thought provoking, riveting, controversial, compelling....

And for me, one passage stands out - and raises a smile every time I read it. It comes from pages 168-169 of the first edition. I have copied it below. It sums up everything about the whole sorry mess of what passes for modern nutritional advice. It also sums up everything that is billiant about 'Good Calories, Bad Calories'. Try not to smile as you read it:

  • "The observation that monounsaturated fats both lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL also came with an ironic twist: the principal fat in red meat, eggs, and bacon is not saturated fat, but the very same monounsaturated fat as in olive oil. The implications are almost impossible to believe after three decades of public-health recommendations suggesting that any red meat consumed should at least be lean, with any excess fat removed."

He goes on,

  • "Consider a porterhoues steak with a quarter-inch layer of fat. After broiling, this steak will reduce to almost equal parts fat and protein. Fifty-one percent of the fat is monounsaturated, of which 90 percent is oleic acid. Saturated fat constitutes 45% of the total fat, but a third of that is stearic acid, which will increase HDL cholesterol while having no effect on LDL. (Stearic acid is metabolized in the body to oleic acid, according to Grundy's research.) The remaining 4% of the fat is polyunsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterol but has no meaningful effect on HDL. In sum, perhaps as much as 70% of the fat content of a porterhouse steak will improve the relative levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, compared with what they would be if carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, or pasta were consumed. The remaining 30% will raise LDL cholesterol but will also raise HDL cholesterol and will have an insignificant effect, if any, on the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. All this suggests that eating a porterhouse steak in lieu of bread or potatoes would actually reduce heart-disease risk, although virtually no nutritional authority will say so publicly. The same is true for lard or bacon."

Did you smile?


Beastie Girl said...

I SURE DID SMILE! You mean I get to eat the fatty meat I crave so much AND protect my heart? It's like a dream come true! *cries tears of joy*

Asclepius said...

Glad you enjoyed it. Every time I read it I smile!

I'd wager that a porterhouse steak beats a statin in terms of taste and implications for heart health.

I wonder if Pfizer, Merck or Novartis will try to patent 'the cow'?


rich w said...

haven't read the book, but wondering if it makes a difference if it's grass fed vs. corn fed beef?

anyone know?

Asclepius said...

I have read on other blogs (so might not be scientifically based), that corn fed cows are not that bad in that the cows take the grain 'hit' for you.

In terms of a paleo food, if you aim for quality 'organic' meat that has roamed around outdoors and been fed on something close to its natural diet, its nutritional profile will approximate much closer to what we are evolved to eat.

Personally I'd try to eat fresh meat that is 'free range' and 'grass fed' on moral grounds as much as health grounds.

I definitley recommend reading the book!