A little over a month ago, we had award-winning science writer Gary Taubes on the show, who my producers aptly nick-named “The Man Who Thinks Everything I Say Is Wrong.” Gary is a well-respected journalist who has been heralding theories that contradict the medical community’s most fundamental assumptions about weight loss. I invited him to the show because, despite our conflicting beliefs, I still respect his drive and research.
The main thing that we clash about is diet. Gary believes that eating fat does not actually make you fat – but rather, that weight gain is linked to the way your hormones respond to carbohydrates. While I generally disagree with this statement (I’m a huge proponent of fruits and whole grains), there are a couple of carbs where Gary’s theory proves sound – white flour and sugar. Although you may not think of the powdery sweetener you spoon into your coffee as being in the same family as bread and pasta, the building blocks of refined sugars called sucrose are carbohydrate molecules: fructose and glucose.
In a recent article in The New York Times, Gary explores the danger of sugar, referring to both sucrose (white and brown sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup, and metabolic syndrome – a group of risk factors that make you inclined to develop heart disease and diabetes. The piece maintains that the way we metabolize sugar has many harmful implications for your health. Although inconclusive, this research raises some very relevant questions about our diets. Gary was certainly persuaded, and he practices what he preaches in terms of what he puts on his plate.
During his appearance on the show, I wanted to put Gary’s ideas to the test, so for 24 hours, I ate only foods that Gary recommended. Because he believes that saturated fat is not detrimental to cholesterol levels, Gary’s diet consists of eggs, cheese and animal protein. My experience was not a pleasant one, and I maintain that the long-term repercussions of such a diet would be detrimental. If I didn’t gain weight, I believe that my overall health would’ve suffered.
As we debated, I challenged Gary to get his blood work done to truly evaluate how his diet was affecting his body. He emailed me back this week and I was surprised by the results. All his cholesterol measurements were in the optimal range. In a person who eats a very high amount of protein, we would be concerned about their kidney function; this factor is completely normal in Gary.
This is wonderful news and I’m truly relieved for Gary and his family. Although he will argue that these tests exonerate saturated fat, I believe that his positive bill of health is a result of him avoiding simple carbs like sugar and processed white flour. Among other consequences, these foods have been shown to increase levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
These results do not sway my stance on what you should eat. I stand staunchly behind the value of disease-fighting foods. Incorporating fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your meals can help prevent everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer, along with providing blood pressure benefits and antioxidants. There’s a lot less sugar in fruit and vegetables than processed foods, and the sugar in these foods is bound by fiber and thus digested more slowly.
I believe this wholeheartedly because I have seen firsthand (both on the show and in the operating room) the real consequences of food. I encourage you to research what you’re eating. The next time you grab a packet of sweetener or are choosing a snack, be aware of how it will affect your body. Your health is too important to not be informed.