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More controversy on diet front: Is fruit making us fat?

April 11, 2011

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Best-selling science writer Gary Taubes should have expected serious pushback when he recently declared to a room full of Tufts University nutritionists that Americans became fat from fruit — not burgers. Yet, he tells me, he was a bit surprised by the negative reaction:

“I think I may have insulted much of the faculty by giving the lecture from the standpoint that I knew the truth and they don’t.’’

The “truth’’ as Taubes asserts in his latest book, “Why We Get Fat,’’ is that weight gain isn’t about eating more calories than we burn; rather it’s about basing our diets on starches, cereal, sugar — and yes, berries — rather than on steak, chicken wings, and fried eggs.

Can anyone say Atkins?

Taubes, who caused a national stir with a 2002 New York Times Magazine piece questioning the vilification of dietary fat, admits that’s the plan he is advocating. He lost weight on Atkins more than a decade ago and has been off and on it ever since. “I eat scrambled eggs and bacon and lose weight effortlessly,’’ he tells me.

It’s all about hunger, he says. Eating carbohydrates drives up the hormone insulin — which rapidly clears glucose (the component of all carbs) from the blood and shuttles it into fat cells. Blood sugar levels drop and we get hungry again, making it easy to overeat.

“It’s hard to get people to overfeed on fat,’’ Taubes contends, whereas studies have shown that people on high-carbohydrate diets can easily overeat because they don’t feel full for very long.

Exercise presents the same hunger problem, he says. Sure, we burn off calories when we sweat, but then our bodies compensate by making us hungrier to replace all that expended energy.

Taubes insists, though, that the calories in, calories out theory of weight gain and weight loss is just plain incorrect.

Of course, most nutritionists — which Taubes is not — would say that he’s the one who’s wrong.

“The problem is people’s inability to know how many calories they burn and eat,’’ said Dr. George Blackburn, associate director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School, in a previous interview with the Globe. “If you put a person in a metabolic chamber, where you know exactly what they eat and what they burn, the calories in, calories out idea is always reconfirmed.’’

Taubes is keenly aware that he’s controversial. “I get accused of being too rigid,’’ he says. “I think the medical community is scared to embrace a diet high in saturated fat.’’ Or one that rejects high-fiber whole grains and fruits bursting with antioxidants.

Since Taubes prefers to write about science rather than dietary advice, the eating plan in his book, developed by Duke University Medical Center, is buried as a seven-page appendix. It calls for eating red meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, as well as salad greens and nonstarch vegetables such as cucumbers.

Cheese, cream, and mayonnaise (low-carb) are allowed in limited quantities. All fats and oils are allowed — except, oddly enough, nuts.

But no beans, peas, or potatoes. Nor bread, nor cereal of any kind. No whole grains, rice, flour, or sugar. And, most controversial of all, no fruit.

Taubes contends the eating plan is easy to stick with for life. Others may beg to differ.


78sman3 wrote: It’s not surprising that Taubes met resistance from nutritionists. I have found that most nutritionists will not accept any new scientific evidence that is different from the doctrine that they learned in grad school.

BostonVamp1 wrote: Every person has a different metabolism, so these diets don’t work for everyone — one size does not fit all. Increase your metabolism — eat certain foods in the correct amount — and some exercise (walking is good) and anyone who wants to should be able to lose weight.

whatever wrote: Almost any diet will help you lose weight. That’s the easy part. Keeping weight off is the real challenge.

thenextone wrote: We consume more animal products per capita than any country in the world — and we are by far the fattest and most unhealthy country in the world. Since going vegan, I’ve lost 20 pounds and feel better than any point in my life. If you think pounding burgers on a regular basis is your way to health, you are out of your mind.

AwesomeCatwoman wrote: I have no food drama, I eat stuff that’s got fat in it, I exercise. I just don’t eat a ton of food.

Boston one of the best cities for staying young

Boston residents are among the healthiest in the nation — at least those who took the RealAge Test to determine if they’re physiologically older, younger, or the same as their chronological age. Bostonians are, on average, a year younger than the year on their birth certificates.

That’s according to results issued last week based on a random sampling of 1,000 residents of 50 metropolitan areas. Boston ranks fifth among cities after Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Austin, Texas, and Denver. Cities likely to make you old before your time? Knoxville, Tenn., Greensboro, N.C., and Nashville.

Boston does best in alcohol consumption — at least among female drinkers, who rank first among all the cities. “Drinking about half a drink a day and avoiding binging altogether can slow aging,’’ says Dr. Keith Roach, chief medical officer of RealAge and cocreator of the test.

Both men and women of Boston rank near the top for income, sleep habits, and marital status, meaning they’re not as likely as those in other cities to be divorced or stuck in an unhappy marriage.

Bynxers wrote: I really wish I could believe this. You can take data and quantify it any way you want with the proper parameters. I have aged quite a bit living here.

phonyuser wrote: Are you serious? Pick any crowd of over 30 people around this area. 99% of them will be overweight.

Encouragement on estrogen therapy

A new study reported last week provided reassurance for some women taking estrogen therapy to relieve menopause symptoms. The research — part of the landmark Women’s Health Initiative — involved more than 10,000 women who had previously undergone hysterectomies and found that the overall benefits of estrogen-only therapy (protection from heart attacks, colon cancer, and breast cancer) outweighed the risks (strokes and blood clots) for women in their 50s. Study coauthor Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, sorted out the findings.

Do these findings change the way women and doctors should think about hormone therapy?

Younger women with hysterectomies can be reassured about the safety of estrogen to treat their menopausal symptoms.

Is the credo still to take the smallest dose for the shortest period of time?

Yes, it still applies, especially for those who take estrogen with progestin, since breast cancer risks rise after four to five years of use.

Why can’t all women simply take estrogen alone to relieve their menopause symptoms?

It’s not a good idea for a women with a uterus to take estrogen alone because studies show this increases the risk of endometrial cancer by as much as 800 to 1,000 percent, compared with a 23 percent lower risk of breast cancer that we found in our study.

noname49 wrote: I’d rather continue on my hormones than return to the poorer quality of life I endured before going on them 16 years ago.

Holyhormones wrote: I wouldn’t take Prempro or Premarin on a bet.

According to Gary Taubes:
Eat meat and fat, but don’t eat fruit or starches

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