9th December 2020
Gary Taubes has a new book out called ‘The Case for Keto,’ which he sent to me in the form of a real book with real pages, that he wanted me to read. Which I have.
I then suggested I should do a review and stick it up on my blog. I shall say, right up front, that I strongly recommend this book.
This may not be a surprise to those who know my thoughts on diet, heart disease and suchlike. In my case Gary is preaching to the converted. This is a book which covers the fact that fats, saturated fats, indeed any fats (other than trans-fats, and the industrially produced fats from grains) are perfectly healthy. Humans have eaten them for millennia.
You don’t see cave paintings of early humans out scything autumn wheat fields. No, you see pictures of men, because men always get the easy jobs, chasing woolly mammoths with spears. They are not just taking the mammoths out on early morning exercise, and throwing the spears to play catch. They are throwing those spears at the mammoths, and chasing them into spike filled pits, then eating them – saturated fats and all.
Anyway, as Gary makes very clear, despite the endless claims that animal fats are bad for us, when you get down to it, the evidence simply does not exist. The idea that fats make us fat and diabetic and kill us with heart disease is simply a ‘meme.’
An idea so widely held that everyone just believes it must be true. So much so that there is no need to even think about it. Fat gets into your body, floats about and gets stuck to your artery walls. Fat, cholesterol, same thing innit? ‘My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts.’
I think I should mention that Gary first gained considerable fame in this area with his book ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories.’ In the UK and Australia, it was called. ‘The Diet Delusion.’ This is where he first looked at the idea that fats were bad for us and found it to be based almost entirely on hot air.
So, if it is not fat in the diet that is capable of causing weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other such nasty things, what is it? As Gary points out clearly, and inarguably, the answer is sugar. By sugar, he means carbohydrates (all sugars are just simple carbohydrates).
Slightly more complex carbohydrates are bread, and pasta, and rice and potatoes. These are just made up of lots of glucose molecules stuck together. Many people are unaware that our body takes in pasta, bread, rice etc. and simply breaks them down into sugar. So, pasta = sugar. Bread = sugar. Potatoes = sugar. Just as much as sugar = sugar. They all have the same effect.
Gary goes through the history of the brave individuals who have been those pointing out the damage that can be caused by excess carbohydrate intake for decades. Those who have been squashed flat by the mainstream. An English professor of nutrition, John Yudkin, tried to make this all clear in his book on sugar(s): ‘Pure, white and Deadly’ first published in the early 1970s. He was attacked and shouted down by Ancel Keys – the main promoter of the diet/heart hypothesis.
Gary maintains a calm and reasonable tone when discussing some of these events. Which is admirable. If I were him, I would be breaking the furniture, and chewing the curtains. He also calmly points out where the evidence is strong, and where it is weak, or where it does not exist at all. He does not overclaim, nor suggest that cutting down on carbs is a panacea that will benefit everyone. It is the calm reasonable tone that is actually most impressive. He knows his stuff, and he lays it out carefully and clearly.
What of the title of the book itself? ‘The case for Keto.’ For those who know this area ‘Keto’ is the metabolic state achieved when the body stops using sugar for energy and starts to break down the stored fats instead. These stored ‘fatty acids’ are converted to molecules known as ketone bodies in the liver. The body is perfectly happy to use them for energy. This is ‘ketosis’. Explaining the title of the book.
Many people think ketones are the preferred energy source for most organs in the body. Virtually the only exception being some processes in the brain, that require glucose, and only glucose, to function.
The downstream benefit to entering ketosis is that, when you burn up fats and ketones, you are also using up your “energy stores” aka fat. So, once you stop burning glucose, and start using ketones, you can finally lose weight. Also, your blood glucose levels fall, your insulin levels fall, and the body has a chance to reset itself.
Gary has spoken to many, many doctors and researchers who are now absolutely convinced that the best way to prevent, even reverse, the wave of obesity and diabetes sweeping the modern world is to change from eating carbohydrates and eat more fats. I agree with him. If you read this book, I believe you will agree with him too. He makes a compelling case. It is the Case for Keto.