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Why we get fat

From, “Why we get fat”, the fantastic follow-up to “Good calories, Bad calories” by Gary Taubes:

In other words, the science itself makes clear that hormones, enzymes and growth factors regulate our fat tissue, just as they do everything else in the human body, and that we do not get fat because we overeat; we get fat because the carbohydrates in our diet make us fat.

The science tells us that obesity is ultimately the result of a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one—specifically, the stimulation of insulin secretion caused by eating easily digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods: refined carbohydrates, including flour and cereal grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and sugars, like sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup.

These carbohydrates literally make us fat, and by driving us to accumulate fat, they make us hungrier and they make us sedentary.

…and later…

If your goal in reading this book is simply to be told the answer to the question, “What do I do to remain lean, or lose the excess fat I have?” then this is it: stay away from carbohydrate-rich foods, and the sweeter the food or easier it is to consume and digest—liquid carbohydrates like beer, fruit juices and sodas are probably the worst—the more likely it is to make you fat, and the more you should avoid it.

Published inLife


  1. Stefan Seiz Stefan Seiz

    To that i’d like to add, that not moving your body does surely not help stay lean either. So one should at least do the 10K steps a day or such. Just occasionally leave your car where it is and walk instead. Does wonders.

  2. Chris Johnson Chris Johnson

    It’s funny. Our mothers knew all about this stuff when they were younger. Back in the first part half of the 20th century, the common wisdom was that “starch and breads make you fat” so to speak. Then some inaccurate studies about fats and lots of press convinced people otherwise. By the 1980s, high-carb, low-fat diets were the rage, and companies like Cargill had figured out how to make even more profit from corn and high-fructose corn syrup was in virtually every pre-made food imaginable. Even to this day, all kinds of things contain sugars which have no need for it. It’s used to cover bad/bitter tastes introduced by chemical additives and poor quality, and to enhance shelf life (sugar itself is pretty good preservative).

    Matt, my wife and I are “all over” this topic, so to speak. We’re SlowFood members, buy local and organic, etc. We’ve even (!) just started a blog on related subjects at

    Sadly, I have a sweet tooth and always have — not for junk food and candy, but for things like home-made cookies and pies. I’m trying hard to break myself of that habit, but the craving may never go away.

  3. Matt Henderson Matt Henderson


    Thanks for the comments!

    After I’d gotten into the paleo and slow-carb diets (probably about 1.5 years ago), I became aware, during a visit home, just how sweet everything is in the US — the labels on things like “whole wheat” bread, and even flavored water contained high-fructose corn syrup. When I ordered grilled salmon at a restaurant, and it tasted sweet, I asked and was told that they put a sweet glaze on top.

    Anyway, though, I have to say that I couldn’t be more pleased with the diet. Consuming far less carbs, I expected to feel less energetic, but the surprising thing is that hasn’t happened at all.

    About the sweet tooth — I take care of that with one “cheat day” per week, in which I eat anything I want! 🙂

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