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Why We Get Fat

And What to Do About It

By Gary Taubes
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  • Contains 11 key ideas
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

Why We Get Fat (2010) explains why certain types of carbohydrates are the main reason we get fat. The book not only shows why people gain weight, but why the topic is so controversial. It also talks about why some people get fat and others do not, the role genetic predispositions play in this process, and which foods we should all avoid. 

Key idea 1 of 11

The usual explanation for being overweight is based on the flawed logic that fat makes us fat.

We knew enough to be able to stop the spread of obesity as early as the 1960s, but health experts decided to ignore the available findings.

Until the 1950s, hardly a doubt existed that being overweight was caused by a hormonal imbalance. But after World War II, this idea gradually disappeared, only to be replaced by the notion that being overweight was caused by an eating disorder. What was it that brought about this change?

The paradigmatic shift was largely due to the publicity surrounding the drastic rise in the number of cases of heart disease. In the 1970s, this problem dominated the public health interest and in turn the economic and political scene.

Obesity, clogged arteries and heart diseases could at last be simply and plausibly explained by the intake of fatty foods. Nobody doubted the main (albeit false) logic that fat first makes us fat – and then makes us sick.

Doctors and public-health authorities vehemently warned people of the consequences of a fatty diet. This not only became a fixed thought in people’s heads but also influenced an entire generation of medical students.

The fact that today’s medical opinion is dominated by a flawed explanatory model does not necessarily mean that doctors and nutrition experts act carelessly. Rather, they are caught in a paradigm so convincing and appealing that it is difficult to question, let alone to dismiss as false. It is not easy to uproot a firm belief.

And so science spread the doctrine that if we want to lose weight, we should eat less fat. But people did not lose weight. On the contrary, over the years they have gotten fatter and cases of heart disease have been on the rise.

The usual explanation for being overweight is based on the flawed logic that fat makes us fat. 

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