Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories

Filed in ReviewsTags: Books, Health/Nutrition, Low Carb, Weight Loss

I finally had a chance to finish Gary Taubes' book Good Calories, Bad Calories, and all I can really say is, "Wow!"

Taubes' 600-page book is the culmination of five years of work researching a century worth of epidemiological and clinical research into the carbohydrate and fat hypotheses regarding physiology, metabolism, obesity, and the "diseases of civilization" - coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, etc. The volume, which includes some 70 pages of bibliographical references, is divided into three sections: a history of the fat-heart disease hypothesis, a history of the carbohydrate-heart disease hypothesis, and a history of the fat-obseity and carbohydrate-obesity hypotheses.

Taubes reviews this century-worth of data, and comes to the following conclusions:

  1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, does not cause heart disease.
  2. Carbohydrates do, because of their effect on the hormone insulin. The more easily-digestible and refined the carbohydrates and the more fructose they contain, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.
  3. Sugars—sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful. The glucose in these sugars raises insulin levels; the fructose they contain overloads the liver.
  4. Refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are also the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other common chronic diseases of modern times.
  5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.
  6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter any more than it causes a child to grow taller.
  7. Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.
  8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.
  9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.
  10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
  11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.

I found the book to be an enjoyable, if dense, read. While Taubes of necessity sometimes gets into the scientific and physiological details, in general he keeps the prose at an understandable level. With the exception of the forward, which I found to be a bit tedious in my first attempt to read, the book is a page-turner, and reads much like investigative journalism.

The preponderance of the evidence - and if you wish to refute it, start with that 70-page bibliography of references - clearly sides with Taubes' conclusions. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this book is not Taubes' conclusions, but rather the implied indictment of the medical research community with respect to hypothesis regarding the connections between fat, carbhoydrates, heart disease, metabolism, and obesity. That indictment is perhaps best summarized in this line from the Epilogue:

The urge to simplify a complex scientific situation so that physicians can apply it and their patients and the public embrace it has taken precedence over the scientific obligation of presenting the evidence with relentless honesty. The result is an enormous enterprise dedicated in theory to determining the relationship between diet, obesity and disease, while dedicated in practice to convincing everyone involved, and the lay public, most of all, that the answers are already known and always have been - an enterprise, in other words, that purports to be a science and yet functions like a religion.

This book puts the imprimatur on what I have been saying for almost a decade: There is absolutely no rigorous, scientific evidence that dietary fat causes heart disease or obesity. To the contrary: plenty of bona fide evidence places the blame squarely upon the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates.

Simply put: if you care about your health and nutrition, read this book. Come to your own conclusions. But if you want to argue the dietary fat-heart disease or dietary fat-obesity hypotheses, then you'd better read this book first, or else you will only make a fool of yourself.

Others' reviews of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Weight of the Evidence, Beantown Bloggery, Jollyblogger. And of course, plenty of coverage at Livin' La Vida Low Carb.

Linux: Rumors of Its Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

Filed in LinuxTags: Windows

Scott Spoonauer of LaptopMag seems to be spending quite a bit of time trying to insinuate that Linux has missed its opportunity for widespread adoption. For example:

  • Spoonauer claims that the window of opportunity for Linux (as a desktop client) has closed, maybe for good. He gives some examples of the closing window of opportunity, such as BestBuy opting for the WinXP version of the EeePC instead of the Linux version, Wal-Mart "pulling" Linux PCs from store shelves and opting for internet-only sales, and Dell thus far being the only "major" PC vendor to offer pre-installed Linux.
  • After getting slammed in the comments to his previous blog post, Spoonauer then goes about trying to defend his premise regarding the window of opportunity closing, but conceding that he may have been premature in proclaiming a "death knell" for desktop Linux.
  • Spoonauer then attempts to portray some objectivity by interviewing some analysts who essentially say, "not so fast." Their conclusions are that the BestBuy decision has no real bearing on the future opportunity of Linux, and that Microsoft is making concessions with respect to licensing in order to fend off a legitimate threat from Linux.
  • But the Spoonauer goes right back to his premise, interviewing yet another expert in attempt to discount EeePC Linux sales. Here, the premise is basically that while the Linux EeePC has sold over one million units worldwide, it has only sold about 100,000 in the US, which the expert claims have all gone to existing Linux geeks.

Others are picking up on the meme, and refuting it. See Linux Watch and Linux Solutions. Let's do the same, shall we?

As I have already pointed out, Microsoft's dual actions in extending the end-of-life for Windows XP and in offering pennies-on-the-dollar licensing for ULCPCs is a de facto concession of the threat of Linux. These actions are a stop-gap gambit to avoid loss of market share, and are neither sustainable nor viable, long-term.

OEM licensing (presumably, Windows and Office) accounts for 95% of Microsoft's revenues. Thus, Microsoft finds itself in a no-win situation in the ULCPC market: either concede the market to Linux, and thus generate no revenue due to no OEM licensing, or else give away OEM licenses (essentially for free) and thus generate no revenue from the OEM licenses they do procure.

The Linux business model is entirely different. With a few rare exceptions (SLED, Xandros, etc.), Linux distributions do not make money by selling OEM or end-user licenses for use of their OS; rather, the Linux business model is to give away the software and then make money by selling support contracts.

So, extrapolating the current environment several years: Microsoft continues to generate no revenues by giving away OEM licenses and offering support for an otherwise end-of-life operating system, while the Linux revenue stream is entirely unaffected. Linux is positioned to win any protracted desktop market share battle of attrition.

The second fatal flaw in Spoonauer's argument is the inherent assumption that US market share will continue to dictate the adoption rate for desktop Linux. While this assumption may hold true today, it is quickly being invalidated.

While Microsoft has entrenched itself in the various sales channels in the US (retail outlets, vendor online sales, etc.), it is quickly losing its grip outside of the US, due to increasing open source (and, in some cases, anti-Microsoft) trends, especially in Europe and Asia - not to mention the growing computer-user market in third-world countries.

Government agencies, educational institutions, and others are moving desktop installations wholesale from Windows to Linux, by the thousands and tens of thousands. Each one of these desktop Linux installations directly impacts Microsoft's bottom line.

In short, the jury may still be out regarding the ability of Linux eventually to realize its full potential - and market share - but if Windows remains the only viable threat to Linux desktop market share, Then the Linux window of opportunity will remain open in perpetuity. Microsoft's business model will ensure it.

Obama Insults Flyover Country

Filed in Politics, ReligionTags: Democrats, Economy, Elections

Obama's recent insults of America's heartland were so egregious, even the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made mention of his remarks [emphasis added]:

The Huffington Post Web site reported Friday that Obama, speaking of some Pennsylvanians' economic anxieties, told supporters at the San Francisco fundraiser: "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. ... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Needless to say, the Conservative side of the 'sphere has taken these statements and run with them:

Of course Hilary Clinton, ever the opportunist, jumped at the chance to take a shot at her opponent:

"It's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who face hard times are bitter," Clinton said during a campaign event in Philadelphia. "Well that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania. I meet people who are resilient, optimist positive who are rolling up their sleeves."

"Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them," she said. "They need a president who stands up for them, who fights hard for your future, your jobs, your families."

The McCain campaign has also responded:

Asked to respond, McCain adviser Steve Schmidt called it a "remarkable statement and extremely revealing."

"It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," Schmidt said. "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

And now, caught red-handed in his arrogance and elitism, Obama is trying to make quick work of spinning his remarks. Unfortunately for him, he's not doing a very good job of it.

First, the Obama campaign spokesperson tries a diversionary tactic [emphasis added]:

"Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities. And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent,

Then in Terre Haute yesterday, Obama tried the "Nuh-unh" approach in response to the McCain campaign's assertions that Obama's statement indicated that he was "out of touch with average Americans" [emphasis added]:

In Terre Haute, Obama chided McCain for not responding promptly to the home mortgage crisis and criticized Clinton for voting for a bankruptcy bill supported by credit card companies.

"No, I'm IN touch," he said. "I know exactly what's going on. People are fed up, they are angry, they're frustrated and they're bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington."

And finally, in the same speech, he tried to re-phrase his message [emphasis added]:

"People don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody is going to help them," Obama told a crowd at a Terre Haute, Ind., high school Friday evening. "So people end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. They take refuge in their faith and their community, and their family, and the things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington."

Man, the cheap-seat view of the Democratic primary is so fun to watch!