Monday, December 31, 2007

The Fat-Cholesterol Hypothesis

calorie box
Originally uploaded by lou tamposi
For Christmas, my grandmother got me a copy of Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I've been reading a little bit each day since then and I just finished the first section. Normally I read faster than this, but this book is very dense. It is literally page after page of the author reviewing and discussing health studies. While the information provided is itself very interesting, after about one chapter, my brain protests and I can't focus on it any more.

The prologue of the book, A Brief History of Banting discusses what is believed to be the first published low-carb diet, Letter on Corpulence by William Banting. Published in 1869, Banting's letter discusses how he suffered from obesity in his later years and a low-fat diet mixed with exercise only left him hungry and in poorer health. Eventually he adopted a low-carb diet and lost the weight.

The first four chapters of the book are grouped together in a section called The Fat-Cholesterol Hypothesis. The primary focus of this part of the book is to discuss the commonly held belief that eating low-fat, low-cholesterol foods lowers your blood cholesterol levels and in turn helps prevent heart disease. Taubes asserts that this hypothesis is based on selective antedotal evidence and runs contrary to the results of what few good studies have been conducted. In 2001, the Cochrane Collaration combed the literature fro all possibly relevant studies and published a review of "reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease."
The review concluded that the diets, whether low-fat or cholesterol-lower, had no effect on longevity and not even a "significant effect on cardiovascular events."
All in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of nutrition. I will warn you that this isn't a diet book -- the author doesn't prescribe a specific dietary plan, but it is clear that he is a proponent of the low-carb lifestyle.

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