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Of all the dangerous ideas that health officials could have embraced while trying to understand why we get fat, they would have been hard-pressed to find one ultimately more damaging than calories-in/calories-out. That it reinforces what appears to be so obvious—obesity as the penalty for gluttony and sloth—is what makes it so alluring. But it’s misleading and misconceived on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine how it survived unscathed and virtually unchallenged for the last fifty years. It has done incalculable harm.

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Gary Taubes is an American investigative science and health journalist and low carbohydrate diet advocate. He has published numerous books and articles about the role of fat and sugar in the diet, including the bestselling book Good Calories, Bad Calories.