Why We Get Fat | Gary Taubes

Summary of: Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
By: Gary Taubes


Embark on an insightful journey into the world of weight gain, its causes, and effective solutions with Gary Taubes’ book, ‘Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.’ This eye-opening work debunks the longstanding myths surrounding obesity and offers groundbreaking revelations about the role of carbohydrates in our bodies. Through a mix of scientific evidence and practical suggestions, the book lays bare the fact that it’s not the quantity of food we eat, but the quality that determines our weight. Discover the true culprits behind obesity and learn effective ways to tackle weight issues by re-evaluating dietary habits.

The Flawed Logic of Obesity

In the 1950s, the medical community believed hormonal imbalances caused obesity. However, after World War II, the perception of obesity shifted towards it being an eating disorder. This change was primarily due to the rise in heart disease cases, which was plausibly linked to fatty diets. The belief that fat makes us fat was born, leading to doctors and public-health authorities warning individuals about the consequences of fatty diets. Unfortunately, this flawed logic became ingrained in society’s thinking, influencing the medical community and even future generations of medical students. Despite the evidence against this paradigm, it has remained the basis of medical opinion, leading to an ineffective recommendation of eating less fat to lose weight. The result has been people getting fatter over time, while heart disease cases continue to rise. It is time to question this pervasive belief and seek a new understanding of the underlying causes of obesity.

Beyond Exercise and Diet

Unhealthy eating and sedentary behavior are not the sole culprits of weight gain. Instead, hormonal imbalances may play a significant role. Excess fatty tissue triggers hunger and lethargy, making weight management challenging. Physical activity may also increase appetite, making weight loss difficult. A study on physically active Mexican immigrants illustrates that exercise and low-calorie diets are not always effective in combating obesity. More than diet and exercise, it is the kind of food we consume that leads to weight problems. In the following sections, the book delves into how carbohydrates affect our weight.

Insulin and Carbohydrates

Our body’s response to carbohydrates is the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for recycling the nutrients that provide us with energy- carbs, fats, and proteins. The hormone facilitates the transfer of energy into the muscle tissue, where it is burned. Simultaneously, it stimulates the fatty tissue to store excess energy. When we eat carbs, our bodies tend to burn the energy immediately. The amount of insulin provided depends on the carbs absorbed. The higher the amount of insulin, the stronger the body is stimulated to form fatty deposits. Thus, insulin makes us fat, and carbohydrates control insulin production. Therefore, carbohydrates hold significant influence on the mechanism that regulates the accumulation of fat in our bodies.

Understanding Obesity

When we think of growth, we often associate it with processes controlled by hormones. This is true for tumors and the growth of fat cells in overweight individuals. The hormone insulin plays a crucial role in the formation of fat deposits. When our bodies respond to high blood sugar levels by producing excessive insulin, it impairs the growth of fat cells, making us feel hungrier and more lethargic. Contrary to popular belief, being overweight is a biological growth process, and not caused by gluttony or laziness. Those who are overweight should be understood as having a growth disorder, and not a nutritional disorder.

The Evolution of Our Eating Habits

Our bodies are not adapted to the abundance of carbohydrates in our modern diets, which are a relatively new addition to human consumption.

Humans are creatures of habit when it comes to food, adapting to the nutrients present in their diets over time. Carbohydrates, which make up a significant portion of our current consumption, are a relatively new addition to human diets. While humans have been on earth for millions of years, the consumption of flour only began 12,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture. White flour and sugar only became popular in the 19th century.

The era of carbohydrate-rich food is a mere blip in human history, ruling out the possibility of genetic adaptation to these quickly digestible carbohydrates in such a short period of time. Our ancestors, who were hunters and gatherers, preferred fatty meats to quell their hunger.

Some present-day hunting and gathering cultures, isolated from modern civilization, subsist mainly on meat and fish, with some not consuming any vegetables, fruits, or grains. This diet is the opposite of the modern Western diet, where carbohydrates make up two-thirds of consumption.

Health experts blaming Western lifestyles for obesity often overlook the fact that carbohydrates have not traditionally played a significant role in people’s diets until very recently. Our bodies cannot process the abundance of modern carbohydrates, which are a relatively new addition to our diet.

Carbohydrates: The Silent Killer

Our bodies’ metabolism is largely influenced by what we eat. Consuming high-carb foods over a long period of time can disrupt the insulin signaling function, leading to an oversupply of insulin. This imbalance results in fat deposits and higher susceptibility to diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. The likelihood of contracting these diseases among immigrant groups increases significantly after being exposed to Western foods. By targeting the specific cause, carbohydrates, we can address the problem. Ancestors and isolated indigenous peoples who rarely consumed carbohydrates didn’t suffer from these “Western diseases,” indicating that carbohydrates are the culprit. Therefore, reducing carbohydrate intake could help prevent these diseases and avoid the associated health risks.

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