Book oversimplifies why we get fat

One of the myths prevalent in our society is that body size is strictly a direct result of our lifestyle.

Fat people eat too much and/or don’t exercise, while lean people are healthy. We blame fatness on sloth and gluttony rather than genetics. This question of what causes fatness is the subject of Gary Taubes’ new book, Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It.

In this book, he challenges the “calories in/calories out” paradigm of weight control and argues that people do not get fat because they overeat, but they overeat because their bodies are getting fat. In other words, obesity is caused by a hormonal imbalance making us accumulate too much fat.

He blames the hormone insulin, describing its role in appetite and fat storage and suggests that if we eliminate carbohydrates, which stimulate the release of insulin, we can lower insulin levels and stop fat storage. As he puts it, “the simple answer to the question of why we get fat is that carbohydrates makes us so; proteins and fat do not.”

I think Taubes asks some interesting questions but he has greatly oversimplified the problem and solution.

I don’t think fatness has a single cause, and we don’t yet understand everything involved. I have also worked with enough diabetics to know that carbohydrates are not the only factor stimulating insulin. Eating too many carbohydrates can make you fat, but I do not think eliminating them is the only or best solution.

Finally, the research on the effectiveness of Atkins-type diets is similar to other diets – people tend to lose weight in the beginning (usually not more than about 10 per cent of their weight), they tend to plateau, and then either maintain their new weight or gain it back  because it is a difficult diet to maintain long-term.

Though the book was interesting, suggesting bacon bits a healthy alternative to Tim Bits is not a recommendation I am quite ready to make.


-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.



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