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Infographic of the Day

Pasta, Not Bacon, Makes You Fat. But How?

An infographic laying out the surprising science behind why carbs make you fat, while fat doesn't

One of the most utterly surprising scientific findings of recent decades has got to be that fat isn’t so bad for you after all. (Apart from, you know, potentially bringing on serious heart conditions.) In fact, if you’re looking for a reason for America’s ballooning girth, you’ve got to lay the blame on carbohydrates—in other words, bread and pasta, the very things that the government once advertised as the foundation of a healthy diet in the food pyramids we all grew up with.

The funny thing is, though, that those low-carb diets, at this point, probably feel like another fad. The Atkins rage came and passed, after all. So it’s worth recounting the science behind how carbs make you fat, and it’s all laid out in this infographic created by Column Five for Massive Health, and based on Why We Get Fat by noted science writer Gary Taubes.

The first panel illustrates some basic food science that I’ll bet you didn’t know in much detail. Namely, the long chain of events that leads to you porking up:

Click to view larger.

The biggest culprits seem to be carbs. But does reining in carbs actually make you skinnier? Yes: Even compared with traditional calorie restriction diets, low-carb regimes like the Atkins diet make you lose far more weight while keeping calories the same. Decreasing fat, meanwhile, does nothing to lower your weight:

Click to view larger.

But what’s so wrong with carbs themselves? In short, they cause our insulin levels to go haywire, and that, in turn, causes our cells to pull in more fat:

Click to view larger.

It’s crazy enough that carbs, long thought to be pure and wholesome for so many years, turn out to be the devil—especially since it just seemed to make so much sense that eating fat would make you fat. With that in mind, you’ve got to wonder how many surprises science still holds for us when it comes to food.

Click here for our coverage of Massive Health’s new food app, which uses crowdsourcing to help you make better food decisions.

[Via Massive Health; Top image: Edwin Wurm’s sculpture, "Fat Car Convertible," which was recently on view in ZKM’s "Car Culture" exhibition.]