How We Get Fat

Submitted by Arthur on Sun, 11/30/2014 - 23:52
   "Why We Get Fat" is a fascinating read and a very informative book written by Gary Taubes. Taubes, an investigative journalist, in his book, "stand the received wisdom about diet and exercise on its head". Taubes goes back through the history of the study of obesity and finds that prior to WWII, scientists had a very different view on what caused obesity; he goes through study after study, but finds no support for the current theory of cause for obesity. The current theory is base on what seems to be solid logic, that you get fat by eating too much or exercising too little, but he explains how the current wisdom is really just begging the question. We get fat (take in more calories than we burn) by eating too much (take in more calories than we burn). Our bodies are designed to regulate themselves. We only get hungry when we need more energy. So the real question should be why do we eat more than we need.
   In the second part of his book, "Adiposity 101", Taubes explains the biology behind obesity, or getting fat. In short, the whole process is driven by insulin levels, which are driven by carbohydrates. Insulin is the primary hormone that regulates the fat tissues. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas. Eating carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar, and the body deals with the spike by secreting insulin into the blood stream. When insulin levels are raised, fat cells will take the fat in our blood stream (and sometimes converting carbohydrates into fat molecules) and store it away within the fat tissues. The insulin also causes other cells to stop using fat as fuel (the favored source of energy) and begin burning the carbohydrates. If you are continually eating too many carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, your body will continue to store its fat, instead of using it as fuel. So, though you may still have plenty of energy stored in your fat tissues, it's stuck their until your insulin levels are lower and it is released. But the news gets even worse. Cells become insulin resistant. The more cell are exposed to insulin, the more the cells become insulin resistant. Fat cells are the least effected. To deal with this resistance, the pancreas pumps out more insulin, causing the fat tissues to store more and more fat. This results in a harsh cycle: the more carbohydrates you eat, the fatter you get, the more easily you get fat.
   On the other side of the coin, Taubes looks at fat and reveals how it is, strangely enough, not at all the cause of obesity. In fact, he shows them to be very healthy, even heart healthy. In short, fatty foods are not fattening foods, but are quite healthy for you.
   Taubes has thoroughly convinced me that fat is not the culprit to being fat, but I believe he has understudied one area, and thus misrepresented it. Though he cites much data and many studies, he fails to differentiate between different kinds of fats and different kinds of carbohydrates. He deals more fairly with fats, actually discussing effects of different types of fats, and to his credit, he does clarity that trans-fats are unhealthy. But he completely fails to do this with carbohydrates. He does, every so often, clarify that simple carbohydrates are worse, but I don't remember him ever mentioning complex carbohydrates by name. None of the studies he cited differentiated between simple and complex carbohydrates, thus we really cannot know if complex carbohydrates are really fattening.
   Taubes shows a grave error in his thinking: evolution. He uses this standpoint to assert that the human race has been living off meat for hundreds of thousands of years and that only until very recent times have humans cultivated carbohydrate-rich foods. He concludes that humans did not evolve in such a way as to allow the consumption of large quantities of carbohydrates. The Bible clearly teaches to the contrary. It seems that ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, humans have been cultivating grains. After the flood, there were many people groups who were "hunter-Gatherer"societies, but many too were farmers. I doubt the ancient Egyptians were obese or even slightly fat. Because of this, I do not accept that all carbohydrates are fattening, but rather only simple carbohydrates are fattening. This matches up with the history of obesity quite nicely. The obesity epidemic has exploded at the same time that simple carbohydrates--refined flours and sugars--have become a main part of our diet.
   Taubes may be right that when dieting and trying to lose weight, the exclusion of even complex carbohydrates may be very helpful. Again, this cannot be discerned from his book due to the lack of differentiation between simple and complex. Still I found it a fascinating read, and would encourage anyone who wishes to understand basic nutrition on fattening to read "Why We Get Fat".
Author's age when written

I thought I would let you all enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and eat plenty of pie before I shared this. :)


Very good read. There is a view out there that when you over mix your carbs and fats is when you are more likely to gain weight (or body mass). Our family has looked into the THM "diet" and what they have to say makes a lot of sense.
But there are SO many views that sometimes it's hard to know who is right and who is wrong. :) But it is a fact that most people overindulge and we are commanded in the Bible to "Let our moderation be known in all things" and we are told that gluttony is a sin.
Thanks for sharing!
God bless.

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.

I read this in the summer after Mama mentioned it to me at your house. My mom and I discussed it a lot since she knows more of the science behind nutrition, being a dietitian.
I agree with Taubes in part, but have some big issues with other parts – like he recommends artificial sweeteners since they’re lower carb, doesn’t mind vegetable oils/omega 6... and with the exception of leafy greens even suggests limiting carbs from veggies, as well as brushing off exercise (in his defense, he was specifically talking about for weight loss, but he doesn’t really say that it still has other benefits, and I can point to exercise bringing weight loss myself - when I started running distances farther than 5k it just happened). He also thinks that it’s pretty much the only way for everyone, although he admits the level of carbs we need to cut out varies from person-to-person.

What I do agree with is that higher protein/fat diets are more satiating than higher carb diets, that we DO eat too many carbs for the most part (though most specifically I think we eat too much grain, if you consider cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta/rice/other grain with dinner – so I try at least one meal/day grain-free), and I’m pretty sure I agree that weight loss isn’t as straightforward as calories in/calories out.
But I think too that whether or not cutting carbs is the ultimate way, when people are cutting carbs they are cutting more sugar, white flour and stuff that almost everyone agrees is bad.
His scientific explanations make a lot of sense but I don’t really know enough to know if they’re accurate or not.

Damaris: I've looked into THM some as well, but never have gotten into it because of the sweeteners they promote, most of which I'm not comfortable using. ... not to mention I love slathering my carbs with lots of butter...

:) Yeah I LIKE to mix my carbs and fats! ;) I am always the first to "wimp out" on THM because I LOVE pb&j and buttered toast, and sour-cream on my burritos, but thankfully I can lose weight pretty fast. :)
Some people do have a problem with using Stevia as a sweetener. I personally don't. I do know that the way Truvia is processed makes it unhealthy so I stay away from that. Xylitol and Erythritol can cause stomach issues for some people but I haven't had a problem with either of those. But I can definitely understand why you would want to stay away from the THM diet. :)
God bless you!

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.