Sunday, September 04, 2011

Review: Why We Get Fat

I've pretty much ignored all the Paleo/Atkins/Low Carb diet craze the last few years, and Cynthia recommended Why We Get Fat as a way to see what it's all about.

Taubes has a good writing style and a lucid, clear argument as to why conventional diet and exercise doesn't work:
  • The poorest people in the world don't eat a lot of meat but get fat anyway.
  • The hunter-gatherers that exist today eat as much fatty meat as they can get their hands on.
  • Carnivores are lean while Hebivores are fat.
  • Insulin has been shown to be the agent converting sugars to fat. Having a constantly elevated level of sugars basically floods your body with insulin and therefore eliminates your ability to burn fat.
  • The Atkins-type diets have been shown in some studies to reduce weight faster than other comparative diets.
Boy, vegetarians and vegans must hate this book. The prescription eliminates many items traditionally thought to be healthy and good for you such as fruits! (There's an assertion in the book that if you ate mostly meat, you probably don't need as much vitamin C)

Yet a few questions have answers that aren't very satisfying. For instance, why are the Japanese skinny? They eat plenty of rice (as do most Asian countries), and when you visit Japan, you're not going to see a lot of fat people around. Taubes says that these countries don't drink a lot of soft drinks, which is true, but a trip to your local Japanese supermarket sees plenty of sweet drinks. I'm not sure that this book holds the complete story: there's a lot about nutrition that we don't know.

Then of course, there's the assertion that exercise doesn't work. That one's weird, since I certainly know plenty of people who's lost weight from exercise. In any case, I found the book interesting as far as being an introduction to what all this high-protein/high-fat/low carb craze is about. Recommended.
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