Truth And Lies About Fats And Obesity With Gary Taubes

the truth about obesity

Gary Taubes isn’t a household name (unless you’re a big reader of Science or The New York Times Magazine). But this scientific journalist has done as much for the cause of understanding obesity and fats as the food journalist Michael Pollan has done for understanding our food and where it comes from.

If you want to understand the obesity epidemic, if you want to know why you or a loved one is overweight, if you want to know the truth about healthy fats and what they are, if you want to know the true cause of coronary heart disease, Gary Taubes has the answer.

He shouted it from the rooftops when he published his groundbreaking book Good Calories Bad Calories. And although the book weighs in at a whopping 640 pages of scientific research, he somehow managed to squeeze the gist of his research into the hour long video below.

The following talk was given last year at the OSU Medical Center. In it, Taubes convincingly busts the biggest myth related to fat that we’ve all had ingrained into our psyches: namely, that people are obese because they overeat or are too sedentary.

It’s simply not true.

Watch the video.

(photo by melliegrunt)


  1. says

    Hi Kristen,

    Those billboards are priceless! I have “Good Calories Bad Calories” sitting on my bookshelf. It’s one of the many books I’m anxious to read. I did read one chapter from it, and as you said, it is pretty dense with research!

    Another great resource in regard to healthy fat and how it doesn’t cause heart disease is “The Cholesterol Myths” by Uffe Ravnskov. If you’re interested, I wrote an article about it called Busting the Cholesterol Myths

    Vin |

  2. says

    Vin — It is, isn’t it! Fortunately, I’m a bit of a nutrition geek so I really like all that stuff, particularly when Taubes went through heroic efforts to make it so readable.

  3. says

    Well…o…kay…I guess. Maybe I’ll give the low-carb thing one more shot. I did lose on South Beach, that’s true, but it came back with such a vengeance when I slacked off even the least bit. But he offers compelling evidence, for sure.

    Local Nourishment

  4. Kelli says

    I read Good Calories Bad Calories and tried the low-carb thing again, and only lost a small amount of weight following it strictly. I don’t know what the answer is. I eat healthy and am overweight.
    I also tried the Eat Fat Lose Fat 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil before meals, and got through gagging it down until dinner, and then RAN to the bathroom with painful cramps.

  5. says

    Local Nourishment — I’m not aware of your complete history. When you did the South Beach Diet, were you also eating REAL foods and getting lots of healthy fats (i.e. fats from wild/foraged/pastured animals, coconut oil, EVOO, etc.) in your diet? I ask because most low-carbers don’t. They focus strictly on eliminating carbs, not on proper nourishment. So, they inevitably experience cravings & failures. A more holistic approach to your diet & health could be helpful.

    Kelli — One thing I appreciate about Taubes’ work is that he doesn’t paint all carbs in an evil light, nor does he ignore our genetic predispositions. I think the right approach to weight loss comes in a more holistic approach. Diet is just a part of the picture, and it’s a convoluted one at that. I’m a firm believer that we need to understand our personal ancestry and metabolic type to discover what our own version of a “balanced” diet should be.

    Yes, it’s important to stick to traditional, REAL foods. But within that boundary, there’s a lot of variation. The native Inuit eat a diet in which 80% of their caloric intake is in the form of fats from seafood. The native Masai subsist primarily on milk and blood. Other native/traditional peoples rely heavily on abundant, fresh fruits and vegetables. You get the picture. We all come from somewhere. For thousands of years, our ancestors mostly ate the same foods as their predecessors, and our genes are primed to eat whatever they ate. We’re the first generation to radically experiment with our diet on such a massive scale. If losing weight is important to you and the answer eludes you, there are tests you can take to pinpoint your real metabolic type. They’ll tell you not just what nutrients to focus on, but which FOODS are best suited to you.

    All that said, I believe going low-carb is a good corrective for the modern American diet. We simply eat way too many sugars, in much greater excess, than ANY people in the known history of the world. That’s saying a lot. But I also don’t want to lump myself in as an advocate for what most people consider going “low-carb.” First and foremost we need to eat REAL, traditional foods (a step many low-carbers never take). Secondly, we need to consider our ancestry.

  6. says

    First and foremost we need to eat REAL, traditional foods (a step many low-carbers never take)

    You just nailed it. Many people think Low-carb is bacon and cheese all day long. Then, when people do start to get sick of all that bacon and cheese, they turn to the low-carb products or the Splenda sweetened things. This is what we did the first year (well, not all bacon & cheese). I got sick of the weird funky taste of Splenda sweetened things, so I branched out, cut the “sweet taste” out and went towards traditional foods.

    My hubs lost 50+lbs in the first 9 months. Then he stalled. The stall has lasted for 6 months now. He’s bummed he’s not losing, but at the same time, he’s realizing how much healthier he(we) is not eating the carbs.


  7. says

    I’m about half-way through GCBC and I am in love! It’s so refreshing to see an analysis and history of the low-fat phenomenon he research is meticulous and that is really nice to see. I’m looking forward to finishing the book.

    Jenny @ NourishedKitchen

  8. says

    Erica — You normally have to find them through some sort of alternative health care provider like a holistic nutrition counselor/coach. In general, almost everyone does best on a hunter/gatherer type diet, but many lucky ones do well with dairy & meat from grazing animals thrown into the mix, and a few can do well on traditionally prepared grains. The biggest thing you’ll learn from doing a test is whether you’re better at metabolizing heavier or lighter foods. In the heavy camp are things like red meat & tubers; in the light camp are things like fish & fruit.

    Motherhen68 — Have you ever heard of intermittent fasting? It’s periodic fasts at random, unpredictable intervals. Maybe you skip a meal or two, and when you break your fast you do it with a grain/sugar-free high protein, high fat meal. Whenever people hit a weight loss plateau before they’re at their ideal weight, I recommend giving IF a shot. Basically, you’re trying to mimic the food intake patterns of a hunter-gatherer who feasts immediately after a kill and lounges around for a day or more before bothering to go hunt again when the need arises. There are a lot of studies demonstrating it’s benefits, as it seems to help our metabolisms perform much more ideally and not get into “ruts” simply by experiencing the same intake of the same foods at pretty much the same times every day. If you do that long enough, eventually your metabolism reaches a kind of stasis of predictability and you hit a plateau. Think of IF like giving your body a bit of “shock and awe.”

    Jenny — I agree. The research is just so compelling.

    Grunniens — You’re welcome!

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