Nutritional Recommendations Make People Sick

Nutritional Recommendations Make People Sick

Gary Taubes is the most famous American science journalist, author of Why We GrowAccording to him, the theory on which weight management is based is based on bad science, and current nutritional messages are wrong. Interview with an author who disturbs.

In Why we grow, you say that the advice to follow a low fat diet is a humbug.

Gary Taubes. That’s right. When you look closely at the data, there is no real proof that this approach works. Eating low fat foods will not make you lose weight in the long run. You can lose some weight in the beginning, but after six months, you start taking it back. Yet for 40 years Americans have been told to eat fewer fats and calories. The result is that we have never been so fat and so sick of diabetes.

But are not fatty foods bad for the heart and synonymous with high cholesterol?

It’s just as wrong. It is because of this type of affirmation that I began to write on this subject. I was researching the origins of the obesity epidemic, when I came across the results of five clinical trials that tried to prove that if we go on a low-fat diet with fewer calories, then the blood tests will be better, the risk factors will go down and you will lose weight.

What happened?

People on a high-fat, high-fat diet lost more weight, decreased blood pressure and triglycerides, and increased cholesterol levels. What these tests have really shown is that if we tell people to do exactly what nutritionists think should kill them, then they lose weight and their cardiovascular risk factors improve.

How did one come to advise diets that make people sick?

We were driven in two sidings. The first is the assumption calories consumed / calories burned. It seems logical to think that we need to burn what we ate – it looks like a law of physics. If you eat more than you spend, you will get fatter. But it’s just wrong. It’s like saying the sun is turning around the Earth.

And the other way?

We are told that fats make us fat and make us risk infarction. This statement is based on bad science. Some influential figures in the world of nutrition in the 1950s and early 1960s came to believe this, but it was not based on any meaningful research. When they conducted studies, they failed to confirm it.

But then, why did this school of thought survive?

Partly because research costs a lot of money! If health authorities ask research organizations like the NIH in the United States or Inserm in France to spend billions to test the hypothesis that a diet high in fat leads to heart attack, it is better that results are positive. Positive results make it possible to receive other funding. Negative results are important in science, but in politics it is another story. There is a fundamental problem in the way we approach the science of public health.

So this unproven concept has become a fact

Once all the work was done, the money was spent, the scientists needed to convince us that they were right. Quickly, this idea acquired a life of its own. Article after article we were told how fat is killing people. Headlines in all major newspapers. After a while we believed him because he seemed crazy to not believe it.

If their theory was wrong, why do we become fat?

We get fat because we disrupt our adipose tissue. These are special nutrients in the diet that are the cause.


Yes, sugars are involved. Once people thought that fats made us sick, the prevailing thought is that instead of eating fats we should eat a bunch of carbs. So, the base of the food pyramid – or in France the foundation of the recommendations of the National Health and Nutrition Program – is well known: eat starchy foods every day – pasta, bread, potatoes. Interestingly, until the 1960s, the dominant view in science and medicine, but also in the population, was that carbohydrates made you fat. That’s what my mother thought. There is one headline from an article in a 1960s medical journal that I like is that ” All women know that carbohydrates make you fat .” What’s funny is that they were right.These sugars fatten us. And in the 1960s, just when we understood why carbohydrates were bad for health, we threw away the paradigm and replaced it with the idea that starchy foods are healthy and dietary foods, good for the line and the heart. No wonder this corresponds to the beginning of the obesity epidemic.

How do carbohydrates work?

Everything comes back to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that acts to make you store calories as fat in fat tissue. Insulin, together with higher blood sugar, is what makes a fat cell bigger. And the more refined carbohydrates are, the easier they are to digest, the more sweet the food, the higher the insulin.

Why are we so hungry for carbs?

This is still a hypothesis. When you eat carbohydrates, blood sugar increases.Insulin is secreted, and your body tells your cells to burn that blood sugar first, to store fat for later. When insulin falls, we should release the stored fat and burn it.But if insulin stays high, what happens when you eat a lot of these high-carbohydrate foods – sweets and sugary drinks, in particular – the body keeps telling the muscles to burn carbohydrates, even if we do not has more to burn. So, we want to resume. It’s as if there is only one nutrient that your body can use, or want to use, as fuel – carbohydrates.

Why do I crave Coca-Cola and cookies more than potatoes?

Sugar is special. Sugar activates in the brain the same circuits as those of drug addiction.

Kids love carbohydrates. Are they programmed to be obese by letting them respond to their desires?

It scares me to see how much children are obsessed with carbohydrates. In the book, I speak of a vicious circle: women are getting heavier during pregnancy, if they are obese or diabetic, they develop gestational diabetes, they give birth to children who are more likely to become obese or diabetic once adults. Generation after generation. This results in higher insulin levels. So organisms learn to consider carbohydrates as the best nutrients to burn a big part of the day. Are we giving birth to children who, from one generation to the next, will still need more carbohydrates, which would condemn them to health problems later? It’s possible.

Do you limit the consumption of your own children in sugars and carbohydrates?

I try to avoid eating sugar without being a fanatic and limit refined sugars, carbohydrates and starchy foods. I do not like when parents of overweight kids force them to run or eat less. They can not run because they store energy in the form of fat. They are hungry because they eat the wrong foods. Efforts to make them lose weight by starving them or getting them to exercise are bad. The problem is not that they are sedentary. It is a side effect of the deregulation of their fat.

Everyone must avoid carbohydrates?

Everyone should not follow the Atkins diet, it’s not my message. I want to convey the simple idea that some foods make you fat and others do not. The quantity and quality of carbohydrates is what makes the meal fat or not. Carbohydrate-free foods do not make you fat, so you can eat as much as you want, that’s the Atkins principle. You do not need to eat more than you should, but you do not have to worry about gaining weight. Foods without carbohydrates simply do not get fat.

What are these foods?

Well, foods that have little carbohydrate or carbohydrates are bound to the fiber and are therefore digested relatively slowly. The first group is politically incorrect, because this group includes virtually all animal products – meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, butter. The second group is green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale…

How can one immediately improve one’s diet?

By stopping eating easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. Again, these foods are fattening, and if we do not eat, we will be healthier. And they are almost certainly the same ones that promote heart disease, diabetes, and I would even say cancer and Alzheimer’s . I dream that in five years when someone overweight will go to see his doctor, this one instead of saying ” Eat less and get more exercise, ” says, ” These foods make you fat. foods rich in carbohydrates and sweets. Do not eat any more. 

It is terrible to say that we are not even entitled to a cupcake!

I wrote this book for both people who care about their weight and for the doctors who treat obese people. If you want to lose 3 or 4 pounds, maybe you just have to give up sugar, or eat pasta less often. For someone overweight 30 kilos who wants to be as thin as possible, you have to do more. It’s a question of dose. The changes to be made depend on your body and the extent of the problem. For someone weighing 130 kilos, moderation will probably not make much difference.For someone who has taken 10 pounds since graduation, maybe the simple moderation is the answer and the occasional cupcake is not a problem.

You write that exercise does not lose weight. Why are runners so lean?

We think it was the race that made them meager, but this reasoning is not good. Leaner people run better than others, so they are more likely to run. The reason that skinny people are good runners is because their bodies want to burn their energy rather than storing it as calories. Energy drives them to become runners.

Can not everyone do some running?

No, contrary to popular belief, you can not take a sedentary person and force them to exercise and expect the fat to melt and that person to be slim. You can not starve an obese person, nor can you turn a basset into a greyhound by forcing him to run. You’ll end up with an exhausted and hungry basset. And over time, if he has access to food, this basset will gain weight because it is his nature. The same is true for those of us who are fat, but this nature depends on the food environment – a high carbohydrate environment.

What should be done?

We do not have to eat foods that promote fat. In lean foods, fat has been replaced by carbohydrates. So, if you eat cereals with skim milk and zero percent yogurt, you eat in a way that promotes adiposity. If you remove carbohydrates, you can be considerably thinner.

I guess you’ve removed the carbs. You do not miss anything?

Pasta. And the orange juice in the morning. Fortunately, I am a carnivore, so I am happy to eat meat all the time. Not that you have to eat meat to avoid eating carbohydrates. I eat green vegetables because my mother taught me how to eat them, and I love them. I probably eat more vegetables than before because I eat them instead of starchy foods. I eat a lot of eggs and bacon, a lot of beef and chicken.

Do we have less desire for sweets when we stop eating them?

This taste for sweetness disappears. It’s like any addiction. When I was younger I smoked – and I could not imagine life without cigarettes. But when I stopped, the urge to smoke lasted for about three weeks. Then there were two years in which the cigarettes just missed me, I always had to be on my guard not to go back to smoking. But after a while, I could not imagine going back, and I found it hard to imagine why I had never smoked. This is true of nicotine, bad relationships and carbohydrates.

What were the results for you?

Personal stories like mine are anecdotal, they have no scientific value. But I first tried this diet as we tried an experiment 10 years ago – an economist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggested to me to try – and I continued. I weigh 4 kilos less, but I gained a kilo a year at the time, so I think I weigh 12 to 13 pounds less than what I would weigh if I did not follow this diet. I have more energy. I need less sleep. My skin is better. I could go on listing the benefits, but it sounds like an advertisement, which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.

Your conclusion?

The message of this book is that it is science, and when you study scientific data without a priori, things are clear.

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