Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat, the Problem with Calories, and Why Eating Eggs Won’t Kill You

Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories

Gary Taubes is an award-winning science writer and the bestselling author of the groundbreaking and controversial books Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat. Gary has been a contributing correspondent for the journal Science since 1993, and has contributed articles to The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and Slate.

Gary studied applied physics at Harvard University, aerospace engineering at Stanford, and journalism at Columbia University. But fortunately for all of us, he’s dedicated himself to tearing down conventional nutritional theory with his research, books, as well as the co-Founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSi).

My first response to Gary’s work in Good Calories, Bad Calories, was giddy delight. Why? Because I believe that the underlying cause of the obesity epidemic isn’t in eating too much and exercising too little. People are fat because they are malnourished and their bodies malfunction. This is a thesis I hadn’t seen articulated sufficiently before discovering Gary’s work.

A few other reasons why Gary’s books are must-reads:

  • They’re are dripping in solid science. When someone demands, “I want proof that carbs are fattening, restricting calories isn’t healthy, whole wheat is dangerous, and eggs won’t kill me,” throw this book at them. Watch their eyes roll back in their head when the happen upon the formidable references section.
  • Gary provides historical insight into how conventional wisdom about a “healthy diet” was confounded by bad science and commandeered by special interests.
  • Although the books can be heady, they’re certainly readable. Generally, slogging through science is tedious, but these books are surprisingly accessible and entertaining.

Another very cool side-effect of getting Gary on the show was an unexpected insight. It was difficult to find a time to get us both on the horn because Gary tends to write until 1 pm on most days with limited distractions – no shows / interviews / unnecessary technology, etc.

Doesn’t that sound nice? Actually reserving time for yourself in the mornings to crank out work? I’ve started reserving my mornings for work, as well, and it’s been amazing. No phone, no e-mail, no Facebook, no junk. Just clear-headed, creative work. Loving it.

Alright, onto the show. This one’s content-packed, so grab your notebooks and get stoked. We cover:

  • Why before the 1960’s, everyone knew what actually makes us fat
  • What makes us fat and why
  • Why eating eggs won’t give you a heart attack
  • Whether or not there’s such thing as a safe starch
  • As well as the one thing that Gary cut out of his diet to lose 15 pounds effortlessly

Here’s the show.

(download link)
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  1. There’s a lot of people hating on Taubes, especially over at MDA and FTA. And I’m not sure why. I think out everyone, Taubes has the most research-intense theory — it just seems like people who have never been metabolically broken don’t see it as a plausible occurrence or something.

    Thanks for having him on. I haven’t listened yet but intend to do so this weekend.

    • Thanks Kevin. Whenever you get big, the haters aren’t far behind. Some people trash Mark Sisson on his own forum and blog! It’s just crazy… trollers should spend less time trolling and actually contribute something to the world instead.

      Whether people agree with Taubes’ arguments or not, there is no doubt that he does excellent work. Personally, I think he’s brilliant.

  2. The laws of thermo, as with all other Laws of Nature, are effects, not causes. We are bound by these laws, and hence can’t violate them. So, it’s easy for for most people to get in the cognitive trap of if it had to happen, it must be causal. Counting calories is kind of obsessive since they are observing something that absolutely has to happen. I mean, how often do you see people confirm that gravity pulls you towards the Earth? But, it’s particularly pathetic when so-called professional scientists don’t understand the distinction between cause and effect. It’s fundamental in how a system is modeled: is the phenomenon being observed a boundary condition or an initial condition? If they don’t know the difference, it’ll be like Ralph Wiggum proudly proclaiming he found his trowel blade in Lisa the Skeptic episode of The Simpsons.
    “It was then, in the middle of the nineteenth century, that Justus Liebig conducted animal studies and recognized that proteins, carbohydrates, and fats were oxidized in the body. Finally, pioneering contributions to metabolism and nutrition came from the studies of a Liebig’s protégé, Carl von Voit, and his talented student, Max Rubner. Voit demonstrated that oxygen consumption is the result of cellular metabolism, while Rubner measured the major energy value of certain foods in order to calculate the caloric values that are still used today. For example, carbohydrates and proteins produce approximately 4 kcal/g of energy, whereas lipids can generate up to 9 kcal/g. Rubner’s observations proved that, for a resting animal, heat production was equivalent to heat elimination, confirming that the law of conservation of energy, implied in Lavoisier’s early experiments, was applicable to living organisms as well.”

  3. interview I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Gary Taubes, imho the man who provides the most thorough arguements that the low fat high carb model is totally broken. Looking forward to more of the same 🙂

    PS, the audio for Gary was very bad at times and made listening to the great man very difficult, maybe just my problem ?

    • Hi Phil, glad you enjoyed the interview. Yes, Gary didn’t have Skype so we had to record via his phone line which had weak audio at times. We’ll just have to get him back on the show! 🙂

  4. Great interview with Gary Taubes……sure hope you interview him again, soon. My audio was also marginal as well and I think I missed some of it. Encore, encore please.

  5. I agree, it was a great interview, the parts I could hear, but the audio was terrible, I had to crank the volume to 11 to hear Gary, then when you talked it blew my ears out.

  6. Great interview, as always. Gary is fascinating and brings so much information to the table. Listening to him always reminds me that it’s not our fault if we struggle with weight. We were taught the absolutely wrong things to be eating. Love his research-based views and really enjoyed your conversation with him. Thanks for doing what you do, Abel!

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