History and Benefits of Diets Calories Don't Count

About the history and benefits of Dr. Herman Taller's Calories Don't Count diet plan.


Calories Don't Count

The Head Man: The low-calorie diet is a humbug, Dr. Herman Taller declared in his best-selling book, Calories Don't Count (1961). A native of Romania, he studied medicine in Italy and became a Brooklyn obstetrician-gynecologist specializing in natural childbirth. He was also a chronically hungry dieter whose weight ballooned up to 265 lb. on a 5-ft. 10-in. frame. In 1955 a cholesterol researcher suggested a mysterious oily substance to help bring down his high cholesterol level. Taller also found that he was losing weight--65 lb. in 8 months--even while consuming 5,000 calories a day. Researching the process of "lipoequilibrium," or the "balance between fat formation and fat disposal," he decided that the villain was pyruvic acid, a product of metabolized carbohydrates, an excess of which prevents the body from burning stored fat. The "mystery substance," on the other hand, a polyunsaturated fat, stimulates the body to burn fat. Taller therefore recommended a high-fat diet supplemented by polyunsaturated safflower oil, capsules of which were marketed in conjunction with his book under the brand name CDC, for "calories don't count."

Overview: There is no need to count calories, Taller claimed, as long as you avoid carbohydrates, which produce pyruvic acid, and concentrate on foods that are high in fat and protein. He prohibited all sugar and starches, including high-carbohydrate fruits, vegetables, and juices, and of course cakes, cookies, and bread (except gluten bread). Alcohol is also discouraged. Fish, which is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, should be eaten daily, as well as foods fried in unsaturated oils. Also desirable are meats, cheese, eggs, shell nuts, and low-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables. As for beverages, diet soda, tea, and coffee are permitted, plus one cup of milk daily and plenty of water.

Taller specified three full meals a day, with as much meat, fish, and fats as desired. Overall, the diet should include 2 oz. of corn oil margarine and 3 oz. of highly unsaturated vegetable oil daily. The easiest way to insure that you are getting enough of the vital oils is to take two CDC safflower oil capsules before each meal. This should afford a permanent lifelong solution for 95% of obese people, Taller claimed.

Pro: The attractions of this diet are obvious: lots of fat, countless calories, and a magic mystery capsule that promises to make weight come off quickly. "You have nothing to lose but your girth," Taller joked.

Con: Soon after the publication of Calories Don't Count, the Food and Drug Administration filed charges against Taller and the CDC Corporation. Taller's business associates admitted their inability to substantiate the book's claims and pleaded guilty to drug violations, postal fraud, and conspiracy. Taller maintained his innocence, but a jury found him guilty of the same charges in 1967. He was fined and put on probation, his reputation gone along with his girth.

Specifically, Taller's legal difficulties arose from the marketing tie-in of the capsules with the book. It was legal for him to publish his theory of diet and also to market diet capsules, but only so long as he eliminated mention of the pills from the book and vice versa.

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