Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comment Published in Nature

I recently read an opinion piece by Gary Taubes in the scientific journal Nature, titled "Treat Obesity as Physiology, not Physics", in which he promoted NuSI and repeated the statement that obesity research is a "house of cards" because it focuses on calories in/out, at the expense of studying the "hormonal regulatory disorders" underlying obesity (1).  I wrote a letter to the editor in response to Taubes's commentary, which has been published in Nature (2).

I'm used to seeing these kinds of claims in the popular press at this point, but to see it published in a scientific journal is galling (even if it's in the opinion section).  This is the equivalent of a person who has never held an ax telling a group of lumberjacks they need to focus on cutting trees.  It's part of a disturbing trend of popular writers in the low-carb and Paleo world attacking researchers, and even entire fields of research, they have little understanding of.  Of course this only applies to a minority of the community, but this argumentation style smells of desperation and reflects poorly on the community as a whole.

Our lab, along with many others around the world, studies the "hormonal regulatory disorders" underlying obesity.  We use energy balance (calories in/out) as a research tool to get at the underlying biology, which is the same approach NuSI itself is proposing.  The hormonal basis of obesity has always been a key focus of obesity research, and efforts in this direction have only intensified in recent decades.

The editors asked me to greatly shorten my letter for space reasons, and they also watered it down somewhat (journals don't like to publish things that undermine previously published material).  In any case I can't publish it in full here due to copyright concerns, but those who have access can read it (2).  However, I can do even better: below, I'm copying the original version of the letter, before it was cut by 75 percent:
      In his December 12 commentary in Nature, Gary Taubes suggested that obesity research may be a “house of cards” due to its focus on energy balance, at the expense of studying the “hormonal regulatory disorders” underlying obesity (1).  Yet history shows that obesity research has been studying the “hormonal regulatory disorders” underlying obesity for more than 170 years, and efforts in this direction have only intensified in recent decades.
      In 1840, the German physician Bernard Mohr published the first known account of human obesity associated with abnormalities of the basal hypothalamus (B. Mohr. Wschr Heilkd, 6:565–574. 1840).  Initially ascribed to pituitary dysfunction, lesion studies in the 1920s-1950s established that the critical area was indeed the hypothalamus (3).  The 20th century saw the identification of multiple monogenic obesity models, such as ob/ob mice, db/db mice, and zucker fatty rats, exhibiting phenotypes that some initially attributed to alterations in adipose metabolism and/or insulin signaling (4).  Experiments in the 1950s-1990s demonstrated convincingly that these animals lacked a circulating factor (or its receptor) that regulates body fatness by acting in the hypothalamus—and that this factor was not insulin (5).  In 1994, the veil was lifted with the discovery of leptin—a hormone secreted by adipose tissue that acts primarily in the hypothalamus to regulate body fatness (6, 7).  The alterations in adipose tissue metabolism of monogenic obesity in rodents (and humans) were definitively attributed to primary genetic defects in the leptin-brain axis (68).  It was subsequently shown that obesity is associated with leptin resistance in the brain, and the physiological and psychological “starvation response” to fat loss is mediated in large part by a reduced leptin signal in humans (9, 10, 11).  PubMed currently lists nearly 10,000 scientific publications containing the words “leptin” and “obesity”, all of which have been published in the last 19 years.
      Researchers never stopped studying the “hormonal regulatory disorders” underlying obesity, but their findings have not supported Mr. Taubes’s carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis.


Anonymous said...

Did you somehow convey copyright in your letter to Nature by submitting it for publication? If not, then copyright remains with you, its author.

Basil Gravanis said...

I've been very scarce of late, but always reading... Just wanted to stop by and say good on ya, Stephan. ;-)

Manythings said...

I have read the article by Gary Taubes, which is free:

You say the article is "... part of a disturbing trend of popular writers in the low-carb and Paleo world attacking researchers ..."

The article does not attack anyone.

Unknown said...

Stephan, Perez Hilton is a "popular writer." Gary Taubes, according to Wikipedia, "won the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996-97. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy." And he was educated at Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. Not bad schools -- you might have even applied to them.

And of course, he is also the co-founder of NuSI, which alone makes him more than just a "popular writer." It's strange that you accuse him of "promoting NuSI" when you did the same on your own blog in the post Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI).) Further, your metaphor that he is a "lumberjack who has never held an axe" is specious. Taubes is not a researcher, no. But he was enough of a journalist to expose Carlo Rubbia's "discovery" of non-existent subatomic particles, "work" for which Rubbia was awarded the Nobel Prize (!)

In any event, you more than anyone are well aware that Gary Taubes has invested more work in the study of obesity than many PhDs, and know that your metaphor is unkind at minimum.

You will, of course, delete this comment. But your emotions are showing, Dr. Guyenet.

Perhaps you can be more circumspect going forward.

Anonymous said...

This also seems shockingly naive about the public and policy discussion of obesity, which is totally dominated by the same old advice - eat less, move more, avoid fat - which has proven to be so unsuccessful. That said, I think the current two-minute-hate on sugar has probably swung things way too far the other way.

Purposelessness said...

You lament that researches get attacked in a blogpost in which you (subtly) attack Gary Taubes. Well.

Also, I'm eager to see how many comments will get deleted this round.

Peter said...

Excellent Stephan,

this reminds of Chris Kresser whose grand idea is that there are two camps in the cholesterol debate, those who "believe in cholesterol hypothesis" and the skeptics. He enunciates that these two camps are of equal value and claim they are both wrong. Kresser is willing to tell to truth on a price of 147$. It doesn't require more than talented high-school kid to refute Kresser's nonsense. Nevermind the AHA, Jay Heinecke and all other great scholars at your school who knows the science behind cholesterol, just rely on your favourite blogger. It's the internet!

Coach said...

... cause if you dig yourself to China, perhaps you can convince them that it's only food reward.

Hopefully, your mice are residing comfy in a rucksack during your travels so you have some proof for them ...


Jane said...

Nature mangled your letter. They left out the crucial last sentence 'Researchers never stopped studying the “hormonal regulatory disorders” underlying obesity, but their findings have not supported Mr. Taubes’s carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis.'

..without which the letter sounds weak and pointless. I am very angry.

Manythings said...

contd ...

I have reflected further on your startling claim that Nature is guilty of publishing attacks on researchers.

To summarise the original, Nature article: Gary Taubes complains that nutritional research into obesity (to date) has been conducted using methods which are insufficiently rigorous to prove or disprove either of the following theories, that obesity is caused by (a) "perverted appetite" (leading to overeating) or (b) a hormonal, regulatory defect (in which obesity is caused by the quantity and quality of carbohydrates consumed).

He then proposes to conduct trials which are sufficiently rigorous to provide unambiguous evidence of the effects of different macronutrients (and thereby settle the question).

This cannot sensibly be characterised as an attack or researchers or research in general.

After all, the scientific method would not be of much use if it forbade the publication of commentary on the rigour (or otherwise) of research methods. You might say that such commentary is a required part of the scientific method and it seems odd for a scientist to seem to characterise it as "attack".

Equally odd is your claim that Nature shows bias in the treatment of letters to the editor. You see bias in the editor's request to shorten your letter (although he was kind enough to publish it). Not only that, but you claim that Nature has a general policy of bias in favour of existing contributions (even an "opinion" piece) and against letters critical of existing contributions.

If you have a genuine belief in these allegations (of bias and the publication of attacks against researchers) then, fair enough; you must do as your conscience dictates. But I cannot help suspect that if I were a research scientist, I would naturally hope to have a good, and not a combative, relationship with the editors of Nature. I daresay my many colleagues and team-members would also feel this way.

Javeux said...


Indeed, it's knowledge and achievements rather than pieces of paper that should matter in society, and Taubes is showing that you don't need to hold a PhD to be as hopelessly wrong about nutrition as many of those who do. I wonder if Evelyn at CarbSane would have so much content if he had studied physiology to such an extent though.

I really commend his ability to maintain some illusion of relevance, although I do think he may have achieved something meaningful if he'd kept his schtick to debunking the low-fat, anti-cholesterol paradigm, and not playing Mr. revinvents-the-nutrition-wheel Scientist.

Gretchen said...

I recently watched a documentary about naturalist/environmentalist Jane Goodall, in which she said that archeologist Louis Leakey wanted a field worker who had no degree (Goodall couldn't afford to go to college). This was because he worried that being versed in academic theories might prejudice the person's observations. We often see what we expect to see.

Her observations led to overturning the dogma of "man the toolmaker," and she later obtained a PhD (without a BA/BS).

The linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf was a chemical engineer who had a day job: working for an insurance company. But teaching himself a lot of languages, he came up with a theory of "linguistic relativity," that, although it seems to go in and out of fashion, inspired academic research.

My point is that you don't have to have a formal degree in a subject in order to understand it. The probability of making a significant contribution is greater if you do, but sometimes it takes an "outsider" to see the forest instead of the trees.

I think the theories of Taubes should be judged on their merits and not on whether or not he has ever done lab research.

Kindke said...

Everyone agrees that Pizza makes you fat.

But everyone disagrees on "how" it makes you fat.

That is the current state of obesity research.

Unknown said...

@Peter wrote:

"this reminds of Chris Kresser whose grand idea is that there are two camps in the cholesterol debate, those who "believe in cholesterol hypothesis" and the skeptics. He enunciates that these two camps are of equal value and claim they are both wrong. Kresser is willing to tell to truth on a price of 147$."

That's blatantly unfair. First off, I pretty much know everything about the contents of Chris Kresser's paid product, despite never having purchased it. That's because Kresser openly shares information about heart disease and cholesterol in his free blog and podcasts. The paid product is for people who, out of convinience, would appreciate the information summarized down to the most relevant parts, in an easy to digest package, with appropriate guidance on how to apply that knowledge. I see nothing wrong with someone getting paid for their efforts.

Indeed, Taubes earns a paycheck from his efforts too, does he not? He has books to sell after all. Does that mean we should question his motives? I don't necessarily think so. Earning money from one's efforts is the way our economy works. I'm just happy people like Taubes and Kresser are out there, doing the important work they do, so we can learn how to live and eat in more healthy ways.

Simon Carter said...

Steven, it’s “galling” to you to see an “opinion piece” by Gary Taubes published in Nature? Your continuing animosity towards Gary Taubes since he challenged you in public at a conference a few years ago is very unprofessional. Your letter to Nature in response to Taubes is, as Jane put it, “weak and pointless’. Taubes is a journalist, you are supposed to be a scientist, stop taking everything so personally.

Kindke said...

If leptin resistance is the cause of common obesity, then please can someone explain to me how Pizza causes leptin resistance?

Unknown said...

10+ scientific publications on leptin/obesity every week. wow. With a couple new bright-eyed young obesity PhDs birthed every month I hope we have enough conference rooms to hold them all, at least until the fatties start to listen, finally.

James said...
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Robert said...
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Thomas said...


Who says pizza makes you fat? Who says pizza causes Leptin resistance?

I could get you to lose weight on a diet consisting of pizza only. I could make you Leptin sensitive eating only pizza (redundant).

You've got to hand it to Taubes, he's taken an important page out of P.T. Barnum's book, namely "There's a sucker born every minute". He plays this very well.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi All,

Looks like the Taubes brigade has showed up to defend his Honour, how touching. I love how defensive people get when anyone corrects Taubes.

The funniest part is that people would deny that Taubes has attacked anyone. This after he said obesity research is a "house of cards", called obesity researchers "idiots", criticized at length an entire field of research (food reward) that he clearly has no scientific understanding of, stated that Harvard nutritional epidemiologists are not "real scientists", and generally maintained an aggressive and arrogant stance toward people who disagree with him. He attacks my entire field, I hit back by correcting one of the gross errors in his piece, and I'm the bad guy. I'm crying a tiny tear right now.

Look, the reality is, Taubes criticized obesity researchers for not studying the hormonal basis of obesity, which is a blatantly false claim that he has been repeating for years. I myself study the hormonal basis of obesity. All I did was correct his claim, and the Taubes-osphere got its knickers in a bunch. To me, that is extremely telling because it shows how far down the path of religion this stuff has gone. No evidence required anymore, because Taubes is always right. Anyone who says different gets attacked.

I see people repeatedly stating that I'm going to delete their comments-- this shows once again a complete disconnection from reality. In the five years since I've been operating this blog, I've deleted comments from maybe half a dozen people (excluding ads)-- only those who were being exceptionally disrespectful. The reason I've developed a rep among the zealots for deleting comments is that 1) I deleted the comments of one extremely disrespectful zealot, who more than earned it, and now spends her days whining about it, and 2) the zealots take pleasure in spreading nonsense about my work.

Peter said...


LOL. You get beautifully edited and rigorously researched textbooks on the issue for under 40$. Unlike in paleo books, you cannot find folklore about Ancel Keys allegedly having cherry picked countries in these books.

1)Cholesterol and Beyond: The Research on Diet and Coronary Heart Disease 1900-2000

2)Dyslipidemia and Atherosclerosis Essentials 2009

The point I tried to make was that low-carb and paleo stands for nothing but fraud, snakeoil salesmen, hucksters & scammers. Chris Kresser makes no exception. I was glad Guyenet stood up for science. Science over fraud.

Peter said...

Here's Plant's new serie:

"Nutrition Past & Future"

This serie is the best kept secret of all low-carb paleo advocates. It includes 16 videos of Gary taubes and his fraudulent gimmicks. All low-carb themes coverered, Atkins foundation paid studies, cholesterol, Yudkin, Keys, Eskimos, PUFAs, LDL oxidation, etc.

Gretchen said...

Any discipline has good and bad members.

I used to be a journalist (daily newspaper). People were always criticizing newspapers. And let's face it, some newspapers are sleazy.

For that reason, if someone whined to me about "my field" I didn't see a reason to defend it.

The same is true of scientists. Most scientists do good work. Some don't. I think a lot of nutritional research (not food reward) is questionable because it often relies on recall of what people eat. I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, much less how often I ate chicken this month.

I'm a little confused about Stephan's reply. I couldn't find any reference to "idiots" or food reward or Harvard nutritionists in the Nature article I read. Maybe I read the wrong one.

Nor did I find the tone of the article "aggressive and arrogant." As I said before, sometimes we see what we expect to see.

I'm not a Taubes groupie. I think he has interesting ideas, and I think Stephan has interesting ideas. It's too bad so much verbiage is wasted in conflict instead of science.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Some of those were comments he has made previously. Calling an entire field of research a "house of cards", in the same breath that you grossly misrepresent it, is aggressive, and his prior behavior is indisputably arrogant.

Galina L. said...

From the title of Gary's article (the article is not available) it is possible to guess that he criticizes the use of Physical Laws of the Thermodynamic as a tool to understand obesity. According to SG post, obesity researches agree with that completely. Indeed, GT was wrong in his blatant statement about that field of research, and could be criticized for that.
"...obesity research has been studying the “hormonal regulatory disorders” underlying obesity for more than 170 years, and efforts in this direction have only intensified in recent decades."
I wonder, why the idea of micromanaging calories (CICO) for a weight-loss is still so prevalent in a medical community after 170 years of the obecity research and right now is the foundation of the standard medical advise when it is known for a quite long time that starvation is not a cure for the obesity
"It was subsequently shown that obesity is associated with leptin resistance in the brain, and the physiological and psychological “starvation response” to fat loss is mediated in large part by a reduced leptin signal in humans".
So, if I understood it correctly, obesity researches agree with G.Taubes that the are " “hormonal regulatory disorders” underlying obesity, but their findings have not supported Mr. Taubes’s carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis". So,according to the post of Dr.SG,insulin is excluded from the hormones that can possibly underline obesity . However,for other people it may look like that the final knowledge in that area is yet to be achieved. Recent comment made a research scientist Dr.J.Johnson on the Carbsane blog supports such impression:
"We have lots to still understand. I think the discussion is constructive, but overly focused on a few tidbits of information. I disagree that every mouse model have to elucidate the details of every other mouse model and every patient. There are many types of human obesity, and obviously to me, many causes. I see hyperinsulinemia as a requirement, but I don't see it as sufficient, especially at all ranges of insulin.",
and another quote from the same person
" Dr. Kieffer has some great stuff on its roles in glucose homeostasis, which appear to be at least partially distinct from its roles in food intake. Interestingly, he and others have identified links between leptin-deficiency and hyperinsulinemia."

David said...

The "New Stephan" (tm) is the best. Let's look at the sequence:

- Nature publishes an article from Taubes.

- Stephan gets his panties in a bunch.

- Stephan responds with a blog entry about "attacks", "desperation", and other "disturbing" things.

- Some people point out that Taubes didn't attack anyone in the Nature article.

- Stephan accuses those people of getting their panties in a bunch.

Love it. :-)

Medjoub said...
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Unknown said...

"NuSI aims to fund and facilitate the trials necessary to rigorously test the competing hypotheses, beginning with inpatient feeding studies that will rigidly control dietary interventions for participants so that we know unambiguously the effects of macronutrients — protein, fat and carbohydrates — on weight and body fat. These studies will be done by independent, sceptical researchers."

What's the worst that could happen from this? Not sure what's so disagreeable. Seems the worst case scenario is it's just another in a long line of research that fails to help a single obese person but feeds researchers' families and careers.

If anything it should be encouraged, what better way to put the nail in the coffin of carb-insulin shenanigans than letting em do it themselves?

It's just research, it won't hurt you.

That zealot on the other hand sounds fukn cray. o_OOOOOOOO

Javeux said...

"Indeed, Taubes earns a paycheck from his efforts too, does he not? He has books to sell after all. Does that mean we should question his motives?"

Of course we should, and you've explained exactly why. He's invested in LC - his whole professional reputation is built on it - and he can hardly start telling you to carb up now, can he? He's been wrong about so many physiology issues that I'm not sure why he still deserves any credibility anyway. I hope you don't reread his books, because you'd be reading a lot of stuff he doesn't currently belive himself.

It seems a lot of people in the LC/"paleo" world are more interested in being part of some kind of cult than genuinely learning about science and nutrition. It's more important to be part of the cause than to be healthy. Why would you so readily defend Kresser's shilling gimmicks? You don't like insulin and leptin resistance? Stop proliferating pseudo-science and go do some sprinting - and be sure to take some damn carbs with you

Robert said...

Dear Dr. Guyenet,

Please correct me if I'm mistaken, but your view seems to be that leptin resistance is driving insulin resistance, and you may be correct, but, let's hypothesize for a minute that Robert Lustig is correct when he says that hyperinsulinemia/IR is driving leptin resistance at the hypothalamus and the subsequent rise in setpoint for a significant proportion of obese people (~40% of the obese if we pretend this study is generalizable to all obese people

Wouldn't this mean that you and Taubes are pretty close on your views?

I guess you'd still be advocating a brain-driven setpoint versus his body-driven settling point, but still -this would affirm his insulin obsession for at least 40% of the obese while leaving your hypothesis possibly causally responsible for much of the other 60% of obesity.

Could the IR/LR be so entangled that we can never ultimately determine the causal origin? What if it's all one big massive positive feedback loop with LR and IR driving one another while raising the set point???

Robert said...

The validity of Taubes's beliefs aside, the most annoying thing to me about his behavior is not that he is condescending (though that is annoying) but that he has been focusing his condescension at the wrong target -basically ALL obesity researchers who lived over the past 150 years.

Instead, Taubes should be attacking the puppets of the food industry, namely: health educators (like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, discussed here in Marion Nestle's blog and the press (who blindly reports all studies regardless of quality and even if they're funded by industry).

He then should attack the processed food industry head-on and call out Coke for this

He's starting to do this (eg., in his Mother Jone's article about the sugar industry

His comments are becoming counterproductive, which is frustrating because his work is what got me and many others interested in obesity to begin with.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...


I hope you don't reread his books, because you'd be reading a lot of stuff he doesn't currently belive himself.

Actually, I haven't read any of Taubes books.

It seems a lot of people in the LC/"paleo" world are more interested in being part of some kind of cult than genuinely learning about science and nutrition. It's more important to be part of the cause than to be healthy.

That's probably true, because people want to feel as though they're a part of something. They want to belong and have their beliefs validated by others. Basic psychology I suppose.

That said, most lay people (I'd consider myself one of them) do not have the time or skills to adequately learn about the science of nutrition on our own. We need to depend on "experts" to boil it all down for us.

I don't know who's correct or which theory is most accurate, but I'd wager that anyone moving from the SAD to any of these theories is probably going to enjoy improved health. Hopefully the "experts" out there can continue to debate on a professional scientific level so we can more easily determine what's correct going forward.

Why would you so readily defend Kresser's shilling gimmicks?

I wasn't defending Kresser per se. I just don't think it's fair to dismiss anything he says simply because he makes money from it. As I said, I've learned from his blog (e.g. it's where I first learned the truth about cholesterol when I first started reading about this stuff), but I don't hold him up as infallible. (Also, it's worth pointing out that the price of eBooks in all fields can often be very expensive versus "real" published books. Capitalism says you charge what your customers will pay. Example: Apple. Again, I have no problem with that. I chose to not buy his program, and instead more recently spent $10 on the PHD book instead.)

Manythings said...

@ Galina, I found Gary Taubes's article at It is free. The second law of thermodynamics is not discussed (although there is a post on Gary Taubes's own blog in which it is).

Thomas said...


I don't think Stephan wears panties. Are you speaking from experience?

Unknown said...

I'd totally jump in to the debate, but I'm going to go for a walk instead. Gotta maintain my insulin and leptin sensitivity!

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Nathan,

I support NuSI, as I have stated in the past. I have a good relationship with Peter Attia and we frequently correspond. Peter is a smart person and always willing to learn-- I hope the same can be said about me. What I don't support is criticizing an entire field of research on a false premise.

Manythings said...

@ Galina, Dr J Johnson recently posted quite extensive comments on this blog about (among other things) the role of insulin in obesity:

Fat Bastardo said...

Reality check!!

Take five groups of 100 people each who are overweight. Lock them up so that they can't sneak food.

Calculate how many calories it takes them to maintain their current weight. Feed half the people that amount of calories but very the types of food for your stupid dishonest hormone theory.

Be the rest of the people differing varieties of food but at their basal metabolic rate. Here's what will happen. The group fed the same number of calories they're eating will maintain their current weight. The group fed at their basal metabolic rate will lose 1 pound per week per 100 pounds of body weight.

That's reality folks. It's called the laws of physics which are immutable and anyone who says that it's not as simple as calories in versus calories out is a charlatan and anyone who believes that it's not as simple as calories in versus calories out it's stupid.

To calculate an approximate basal metabolic rate for human safety multiply the body weight in pounds by 10 for a man and subtract 10% for a woman.

I cannot believe how stupid people actually are. Anyone who would deny the immutable laws of physics and over 100 years of calorimeter testing really needs a high pressure enema with the nozzle stuck in one of their years.

The so-called Palio diet is the biggest bunch of bull to ever come down the pike. Humans were designed to eat mostly plant-based diet. That is why we evolved with so many molars. The meat that early humans ate was extremely lean and hormone free. Palio is just repackaged South Beach and Atkins. We know that Robert Atkins died from heart disease and we know that that other charlatan Arthur Agatston author of the deadly South Beach diet is a fat boy on statin drugs. Barry Sears of the zone diet is also a lard ass.

Galina L. said...

Thank you. I've just read the article. It that short article GT criticized the standard ( in the medical community in the US) view on the obesity and cited the opinion of one out of probably several researchers whose opinion obviously prevailed in the US for last several decades " physicians embraced the ideas of the University of Michigan physician Louis Newburgh, who argued that obese individuals had a “perverted appetite” that failed to match the calories that they consumed with their bodies' metabolic needs. “All obese persons are alike in one fundamental respect,” Newburgh insisted, “they literally overeat.” This paradigm of energy balance/overeating/gluttony/sloth became the conventional, unquestioned explanation for why we get fat." Do many people here agree with the fact that the standard medical advice to treat obesity in US is not effective? It is what GT said in the article. Researches who were and are behind that advice were wrong.
G.Taubes didn't say that everybody in research community shared that point of view " the obesity epidemic was caused at least in part by the research community's failure to understand the nature of the disease, and by the food industry's exploitation of that failure." The story started long time ago.
It looked for me that the purpose of that short opinion piece was just the introduction of Nutrition Science Initiative. Since Dr.SG doesn't belong to the branch of obesity researches GT criticized, no offense was made toward the line of thought he represented.

G.Taubes collected funds to test his theory. He doesn't plan to function as a scientist. So far I saw nothing inappropriate in his effort to promote that initiative in the "Nature" or elsewhere.

Unknown said...


The so-called Palio diet is the biggest bunch of bull to ever come down the pike. Humans were designed to eat mostly plant-based diet. That is why we evolved with so many molars.

The average adult human has 8 incisors and 10 molars. If the number of molars we have is indicitive of what our diet should be, then I guess we should eat 45% meat and 55% plants? Sorry, but that doesn't hold up.

Every "paleo" diet plan that I know of includes vegetables as a major part of the diet. Indeed, even VLC proponents like Dr. Rosedale eat tons of colorful vegetables as part of their diets. So you're correct that humans are adapted for eating plants as a majority of the diet, which is why most paleo diets have veggies as the main bulk of the diet too. (Remembering that most veggies contribute very high amounts of nutrients but very low amounts of net calories -- after you subtract their fiber content and also subtract the amount of calories required to digest the veggies.)

Some paleo diets (e.g. the Perfect Health Diet) even advocate eating a fair amount of "safe" starches on top of vegetables/fruit.

None of the paleo diets/experts I follow advocate high amounts of protein and zero plant based foods. They all advocate low/moderate protein, low/moderate carb, with the rest of calories coming from fat. And most of the ones I follow do acknowledge that a calorie restriction is required to lose weight, even in ketogenic diets.

Additionally, I don't know of any "paleo" diet plan that focuses soley on food. They all deal with supplements (okay, technically food), stress, sleep, exercise, and a host of other aspects of lifestyle.

It doesn't sound like "bull" to me.

Thomas said...

@Bally B.,

Funny! Despite the ad hominem comments, you are right. But you are also wrong. No need to super simplify the whole thing as it is not THAT simple (although it is). Get it?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the response.

Abe said...
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Abe said...


I'm a big fan of Gary Taubes, but I agree with you that he was out of line to call the entire field of obesity research a house of cards. I don't think he meant it literally, but more as hyperbole.

Anyway, I haven't been following your blog too long, but I am enjoying it thus far. Sometimes I get confused though. I don't feel like I have a thorough understanding of your view on obesity and nutrition. I plan to read through all your posts at some point, but in the meantime, could you point me to a few posts and/or articles that give a good summary of your position?

I'm just seeking for truth. :)

Galina L. said...

Unfortunately, it is the sad reality that many people in our society share the ridiculously simplified idea of that personBally Balldez. I am really glad he readily presented his cookie-cutter grade opinion, it reminded to all of us about the sad state of common knowledge about obesity.

"That's reality folks. It's called the laws of physics which are immutable and anyone who says that it's not as simple as calories in versus calories out is a charlatan and anyone who believes that it's not as simple as calories in versus calories out it's stupid."

With that line of thinking in mind the short article by GT was titled "Treat Obesity as Physiology, not Physics".

Stephen Boulet said...

Stephan, I've gotten the impression that you've shied away from promoting a specific diet lately. Presumably you're still eating. ;) What's on your plate lately?

WoLong said...

I am surprised that Nature would publish something from Gary Taubes. I know Mr. Taubes is a award winning science writer, but this does not make him a scientist.
A scientist needs to formulate hypothesis and then conduct rigorous experiments to test his hypothesis. Half of the time, these experiments don't work b/c a piece of equipment broke down or b/c of data inconsistency. Then you need to find the cause and redo your experiments. It's a long and difficult process that non scientists can hardly relate to.
Has Mr. Taubes conducted any experiments? Has he published anything in peer reviewed journals? I think not. He is not a scientist, no matter how many books he read or wrote.

Grinch said...

Let's face it, the insulin hypothesis of obesity is one big joke. I believed this hypothesis for about 6 months when I stumbled upon it and read GCBC among other sources of information. What surprises me is that there are apparently smart people on the internet who still believe it, even after years of doing their own research (ie. Peter Attia, etc.)

What I find when trying to debate this is believers constantly moving the goal posts. First they recite Taubes' claims nearly verbatim. Then when you throw metabolic ward studies at them, they then switch to, well insulin just makes you hungry but doesn't decrease energy expenditure by locking away fat. Then its oh well fructose is the primary cause of leptin resistance. And then of course its anyone who doesn't believe its all about INSULIN must be a CICO freak, as if leptin isn't a hormone? I have used the words 'leptin' in my arguments dozens of times and every time I encounter a member of the church of Taubes, they feel the need to convince me that obesity is hormonal. No crap, thats why I'm talking about LEPTIN.

Anyways, yes Taubes claims that obesity researchers don't study the hormonal effect on obesity, and he belittles those in the field, and yes he is completely full of it when he does this. How can you honestly reconcile the thousands of published papers on how hormones are involved in obesity and then say that researchers have been derailed into this CICO crap since the 1950s? How can you honestly believe this garbage?

Diana said...


" Your letter to Nature in response to Taubes is, as Jane put it, “weak and pointless’.

This is nasty and misleading, even for you. Jane said that NATURE mangled the letter. Shame on you, Simon. Do you just say things to sound clever? Well, you failed. You sound like an ass.

As regards Taubes' continued slagging of obesity research, it's mystifying to me how he can cite J.R. Flatt's seminal findings on how carbohydrate is metabolized and deny its implications.

Galina L. said...

I just googled "obesity cure" and choose the , not a shady place which is suppose to be aware of modern research in all areas of medicine. There are their recommendation -
low-calories diet, based on fruits, veggies, whole grains;
physical activity, 150 minutes a week, or "you may need to get as much as 250 to 300 " minutes for a better weight-loss results;
counselling and group therapy in order to achieve behavioral changes;
Prescription weight-loss medication;
weight-loss surgery.
They don't discuss leptin, insulin, or any hormones at all. Who is behind the research which declares obesity to be a behavior issue and recommends poorly strategy ?

Unknown said...

I'm not particularly a supporter of Taubes (anymore) after having stumble on this illuminating blog by Stephan, but doesn't history show that many advances in science have come from non academics?

Sanjeev said...

> doesn't history show that many advances in science have come from non academics
The vast majority who claim this status are quacks, even Taubes admitted this little tidbit.

If you ever get a chance to talk to a working physicist with a public presence ask about their "special" file of "outsider" "reformers".

read/talk to Phil Plait, David Gorski, probably ANY oncologist in one of the low-survival specialties.

A related phenomenon is that the ages of Nobel prize winners has been increasing for more than 60 years.

The issues that need to be solved get more and more complex, and biological systems, simply in the combinatorial explosion of dependencies within the systems are far more complex than physics, IMHO.

(can't WAIT to read the mis-representations that the following bit will spawn)

Taubes is on the thicker part of the normal curve that if you follow it a short distance (closer to the thin part) includes Joe Rogan, then the climate change denialists, go further and it reaches the 9/11 denialists, then the anti vaccine crowd.

All of these folks claim to be presenting THE TRUTH that ONLY an outsider can see because TPTB are stuck in their ways.

I'm surprised Taubes hasn't played the Galileo card yet.

I don't know where to put Matt Taibi on this curve yet.

Sanjeev said...

He'll cry like a hurt little baby, declare he's a fan of Stephan and therefore should be allowed to comment in any way he likes.

Who are you to try to stop him from commenting anyway?

Weird adaptations for a troll.

Sanjeev said...

Has Lenski been experimenting on trolls instead of E. Coli?

Unknown said...

Well, I think even today, things are discoverd by accident quite a bit. Viagra being a pretty good example. Scientists did that, I guess, but it didn't plan out as predicted.

How does viagra work for enhancing circulation generally, I wonder.

Travis Culp said...

I thought Taubes jumped to the fructose ship he still pushing the insulin hypothesis?

I really think he needs to preface anything he says with "Step right up, folks!"

Did any of the Garylatans ever reconcile the theory with Japan? High carb, highest longevity, lowest obesity rate in an industrialized nation last I checked.

Grinch said...

"They don't discuss leptin, insulin, or any hormones at all. Who is behind the research which declares obesity to be a behavior issue and recommends poorly strategy ?"

Because there are no available hormonal solutions that people can implement that actually work.

The behavioral cure can work, but all the real researchers know that it is limited, which is why they are still studying this stuff.

Jane said...

I think we have to ask why Nature published Taubes' letter in full, and truncated Stephan's reply. The point about Nature is that it isn't really a science journal, although on one level it is, and a very good one. It depends on advertising revenue.

Taubes and NuSI have links to MONEY. Three of NuSI's five directors are big shots in the pharma/healthcare industry, which advertises in Nature. Stephan will never earn Nature any advertising revenue. Who is it going to favour? What choice does it have? I have seen Nature do things like this before. Once something gets established by this means in the pages of Nature, that's it. Nobody can ever question it again. I'm afraid Taubes has won.

Manythings said...

@Jane, from Wikipedia. Nature does, indeed, appear to be a science journal:

"Nature, first published on 4 November 1869,[1] is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports.[2] Most scientific journals are now highly specialized, and Natureis among the few journals (the other weekly journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are also prominent examples) that still publish original research articles across a wide range of scientific fields. There are many fields of scientific research in which important new advances and original research are published as either articles or letters in Nature.
Research scientists are the primary audience for the journal, but summaries and accompanying articles are intended to make many of the most important papers understandable to scientists in other fields and the educated general public. Towards the front of each issue are editorials, news and feature articles on issues of general interest to scientists, including current affairs, science funding, business, scientific ethics and research breakthroughs. There are also sections on books and arts. The remainder of the journal consists mostly of research articles, which are often dense and highly technical. Because of strict limits on the length of articles, often the printed text is actually a summary of the work in question with many details relegated to accompanying supplementary material on the journal's website.
In 2007 Nature (together with Science) received the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanity..."

It seems easy to understand why the letters editor of Nature asked Stephan to shorten his letter. The first draft of Stephan's letter made three, main points, that:
(1) Gary Taubes's article (wrongly) gives the impression that obesity researchers do not seek to investigate the hormonal causes of obesity, whereas some of them do and it is they who discovered leptin; (2) Gary Taubes has a carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis; and (3) the work done by obesity researchers to date does not support Gary Taubes's carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis.

The editor, in effect, accepted point (1) but not points (2) and (3). It would appear point (1) adds something to the original article, in that there patently has been research into leptin. Points (2) and (3), however, are redundant.

They are redundant because the main thrust of Gary Taubes's article is that (a) existing obesity research is too ambiguous (because of flawed methods) either to prove or disprove any carbohydrate-insulin, or "perverted appetite", hypothesis; and (b) he proposes therefore to conduct research that will be sufficiently unambiguous to settle the question.

In conclusion, it would would be unreasonable to feel aggrieved by the editor's decision: Stephan was allowed to make his point about leptin but was not allowed to repeat redundant material already covered in the original article.

Simon Carter said...

Hi Diane, re your comment to me above, I should have made myself clearer. I do not believe that Stephan actually submitted what he wore above. I read his letter in Nature and it is weak and pointless. I think he is trying to save face by writing this post. To me, (my opinion!) Stephan is always trying to save face. Have you read his recent interaction with Dr. Jim Johnson? What did you think of that?

Manythings said...


Gary Taubes's submission is a short article, not a letter.

I wonder how you can know that it is published "in full".

Fritzrips said...

Let the difference of opinion be recognized, but lose the emotion, less the message be lost in it.

Take the higher road, and keep up your good work, Stephan.

Grinch said...

"So,according to the post of Dr.SG,insulin is excluded from the hormones that can possibly underline obesity ."

Nice straw man. Too bad Taubes' carbohydrate insulin hypothesis says that insulin is #1, primary fat regulator of fat metabolism, the whole reason that refined carbohydrates are implicated as the root cause of obesity.

Stephan never once said that insulin doesn't play a role, just that the role insulin plays is very different than what Taubes claims.

Diana said...

@Simon, I'm assuming you meant what Stephan wrote, not wore.

To say that you don't believe Stephan actually submitted something he said he did is a serious charge. I will have no further comment on it, other than to say I trust that Stephan is an honest man and I would never make such a charge without ironclad proof. Shame on you twice.

As for Stephan's exchange with JJ, I quickly tuned out, although at some point I may read it again. I am tired of these slagging exchanges, whose only effect is to produce more heat than light. It reminds me of schoolyard fights (which in my day didn't involve guns or knives, just endless exchanges between two people who could let the other guy have the last word).

The simple fact is that Taubes claims something that ain't true. Obesity research does indeed focus on the hormonal effects of the major macronutrients.

In my own case the discovery of the word of Dr. J.P. Flatt (whom Taubes references in GCBC, only to ignore Dr. Flatt's findings) were crucial to my understanding the carbs/insulin/fat in body fat gain, body fat maintenance, and body fat loss. These arguments don't distinguish between those very distince three metabolic states, therefore I'm not interested in them. I'd rather just read Dr. Flatt's work.

Diana said...

"endless exchanges between two people who could let the other guy have the last word)."

should have been "couldn't let the other guy have the last word."

Unknown said...

Diana, if you "tuned out" Dr. Johnson, it says more about you than you know. To describe anything Dr. Johnson wrote as "slagging" is foolish (as is characterizing things you have admitted not reading.) Dr. Johnson's behavior has been utterly impeccable and his comments have been precise, on the science and lacking in any personal umbrage. Dr. Johnson is simply correcting Stephan where he thinks Stephan has mischaracterized Dr. Johnson's research.

Moving on.

- - -

The real point I wanted to make today is this: The premise that it's an outrage for Taubes to be published by Nature collapses in view of the fact that they published him in World View, the column that Nature reserves for op-ed piece by outsiders. It's not inappropriate; it's the point; it's the column's raison d'etre.

Many of the World View op-ed pieces are by journalists like Taubes. Colin Macilwain has not catheterized a single rat, yet here is Science publishing his opinion piece as well: Science should be ready to jump off the (fiscal) cliff.

Your anger at Taubes blinds you, Dr. Guyenet. And it does not reflect well on you. You are creating quite a footprint for yourself, one you might regret as the decades grind on. You will probably outlive Taubes but you will not outlive your reputation.

It's obvious to me and perhaps others that your real beef here is with Nature for giving Taubes a bylined article before you.

But do you really want Nature to run your work in the space it reserves for non-scientists?

Diana said...

"Diana, if you "tuned out" Dr. Johnson, it says more about you than you know."

I didn't say I tuned out Dr. Johnson, I said I tuned out an exchange on a subject I wasn't interested in.

Isn't it just like rabid partisans to say turn a general comment into a personal one?

This says more about you than you know.

Unknown said...

No doubt. Why would you be interested in the science of why people get fat?

Diana said...

Why are you interested in what I'm interested in? What's it to you?

Teech said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manythings said...


"To say that you don't believe Stephan actually submitted something he said he did is a serious charge ..."

Stephan has reproduced (in his blog post above) his original draft of the letter to Nature. He explains that:

"The editors asked me to greatly shorten my letter [i.e. the original draft] for space reasons ..."

It appears that Stephan complied with this request and shortened his letter, but to what extent is difficult to say: looking more closely, it is not clear from Stephan's post whether it was Stephan or the editor who removed the last sentence of Stephan's original draft and thereby, in Jane's words, rendered the letter "weak and pointless".

Diana said...


1. My name is Diana.

2. Did you read what Simon wrote, to which I wrote the above response??

" I do not believe that Stephan actually submitted what he wore above."

Of course Simon meant "wrote"; I am not going to make a dumb joke because he made a careless mistake, which we all do.

(That's because unlike some of the infestations hereabouts, I'm an adult.)

Simon is charging that Stephan lied.

Get it?

I am not going to give you reading lessons. If you don't see that Simon charged Stephan with lying, you are an idiot.

Grinch said...

Not to mention Simon cited Jane's comment completely out of context.

Diana said...

Yes, that was the point of my original response to Simon.

Shame on all the people who ignored that. I don't understand how Stephan can stand dealing with these idiots.

I do not for the life of me understand the motivation behind bad faith arguing. Legit differences, fine, but deliberately distorting what someone has plainly said sickens me.

Simon Carter said...

Hi Diana, I did mean to write "wrote" and not "wore".
I can see how you think that I quoted Jane out of context and rather than getting into a semantic argument about that with you I apologize to Jane and you for doing that.
I still think that "weak and pointless" nicely sums Stephan's published letter in Nature.
And I still do not believe that Stephan actually submitted what he wrote above. Why? because I have seen a pattern of dishonesty in Stephan.
Finally, this is a blog on the internet and I am just expressing my opinion, take it for what it is worth.

Galina L. said...

"Because there are no available hormonal solutions that people can implement that actually work."

I like that you said it.(I am not trying to get you into some verbal trap. In my mind we are here discussing very complex issue, and I guess in such situation no one is 100% right) So, Is It your opinion that current not-effective weight-loss recommendations are not based on finding of scientists who study obesity just because it is currently impossible to use their findings in practice? Actually, I think that current recommendations are often in a contradiction with obesity research. My family physician stopped telling his patients to go on a diet to loose weight because he found out from reading research articles and professional observations that it often backfired or at least not-working. He was pleasantly suprised with my case.

About leptin therapy. There is at least one known for me case (I believe well-documented) when leptin injections worked perfectly for a person to offset negative effects from previous massive weight-loss. Not all obese people leptin-deficient, but many who lost weight are. And it is a well-known problem, that keeping weight off, or reaching a weight-loss plateau are common. May be, there are some practical application of hormone therapy that could be helpful to SOME people. What if the use of leptine injections is under-researched?

About insulin driving obesity. Individual levels of insulin are almost never measured, but diabetics know how much they inject, and many report amount of injected insulin affects their appetite and weight. People who , like me, have a very positive experience with a LC diet, believe that the insulin-based theory of a weight-loss works , and they could influence their insulin levels through their diet. I am sure most of us see the picture in a very over-simplified form. There is too much guessing and speculations. I want that theory to be well-researched and tested. I don't agree with G.Taubes on everything, but I want to know more about why LC works so well for me (and not so for people like you), why I gain weight so easily, why I used to have so abnormal appetite, thet is was the curse of my life. Just, please, do not try to tell me I was a lazy slob eating junk food. Not my case.

At the end of the day I don't care who is right. I have some bias against diet recommendations on a WHS just because it will not work for me, and I incline to be more on a GT side because his theory helped in my case. If he, is wrong, I want to know why.So, lets test it without declaring "Let's face it, the insulin hypothesis of obesity is one big joke".

Manythings said...

@ Diana

I don't read Simon's comment in the way that you do.

Stephan explains that he submitted at least 2 versions of his letter to the editor of Nature.

I read Simon's original comment as conceding that the "weak and pointless" (to use Jane's phrase) form taken by the published letter was the result of unilateral, editorial amendments and was not Stephan's own, final draft.

As I understand it, this is the view Jane takes.

On the other hand, it seems equally possible (from Stephan's account) that Stephan submitted the final draft, having rendered the letter weak and pointless by excising the final sentence himself.

Manythings said...

@Simon Carter,

Sorry, it looks as though I misunderstood what you were saying about Stephan's letter to Nature.

As you will have seen from my comment above, it seems to be unclear whether it was the letters editor, or Stephan himself, who came up with the final "weak and pointless" draft.

Given that, I am not sure that the question you and Diane are debating even arises.

glib said...

I am certainly no obesity researcher, but since one of the comments (by Unknown) states that Taubes found an error in Rubbia measurements, let me discuss that since I had a ringside seat.

Rubbia was a guy with less than orthodox methods. He won the Nobel, not for one of at least two wrong results post-1983, but for the discovery of the W and Z bosons. These particles have been produced millions of times since then, and the Nobel Committee comment leaves no doubt as to why they gave the Prize.

Taubes wrote a book where he discussed (and exposed) at length the office politics and various other shenanigans that happen in a large laboratory like CERN, where the discovery took place. He sold well by discussing the human aspect, if you wish, but he has no basis to find or not find an error in anybody's measurement. Again, errors in subsequent analyses were found simply because the competing experiment, UA2, was unable to find what Rubbia thought his experiment had found.

If that describes Taubes' capability in data analysis, there is no piece of paper from Harvard that can change his skill level. Besides, I will believe 2300 Kitavans much more than one Harvard graduate.

Diana said...


Your comment inspired me to look up an old review of the Taubes book in the NY Times:

"First, Mr. Taubes never makes of Carlo Rubbia the monster that his drama seems to require. The case against Mr. Rubbia often seems lame and petty: ...."

"too often he plunges us into a swamp of terminology through which we aren't prepared to navigate despite a glossary at the back of the book. The occasionally impenetrable jargon combined with Mr. Taubes's studiedly casual style can be most annoying."

I'll say.


"But something seems to have distracted him as well - some urge to strut instead of inform. Instead of a conduit, he acts as an obstruction. Or in the jargon of physics, he decays instead of conducting."

That must have hurt.

CarbSane said...

@Unknown, B minus students generally don't get accepted to PhD programs anywhere.

Right around the 1 minute mark

glib said...

Or taking another tack, if Taubes is a scientist, how can he not see that we evolved as primarily carb-eaters over million of years? And according to him, all that genetic material must be gone, replaced by a brand new metabolism. Or perhaps he does not believe in evolution.

In regard to the book on Rubbia, the guy was a paranoid. Once a graduate student wrote a slightly sarcastic comment about him on the UA1 log book, and Rubbia xeroxed it to have proof that the guy had disrespected him. He also made the careers of a number of lesser scientists who chose of their own volition to work with him.

His behavior, described as rotten in the book, was actually quite nuanced. There were a number of people he treated not just OK, but well. And there were a few he could not stand. I feel free to say I could not stand some of those people either. I have seen more gratuitously aggressive behavior in US laboratories.

But you don't sell books by giving nuanced descriptions. The distortion of the human reality of UA1 (never mind the science) was probably a template for the distortion of dietary facts in his subsequent book.

Diana said...

@glib. Interesting observations. Nor do you sell books by telling them what they don't want to hear about diet and exercise.

I used to work for physicists and retained an amateur's interest in the subject. It's as full of intrigue and injustice as anything. Ralph Alpher being snubbed by the Nobel C'tee was a major scandal and for me, I can't look at the Nobel as anything other than a very big prize given by fallible people...

As regards carb metabolism, etc., I don't speak for Taubes but I guess he would say that "our" move towards meat-eating during the Upper Paleolithic is the decisive turn in human history, blah blah. Needless to say I think this is absurd but that's what he would say, I think.

The fact is that a good deal of the research he says hasn't been done as to the differing metabolic effects of carb, fat and protein calories has been done, as a cursory glance at Pubmed can prove.

Also decisive research about carb metabolism has been done since the early 1980s. Carbs do not make people fat, period. It is extremely difficult absent massive overfeeding to turn carbs into human body fat. Taubes mentions this research, only to drop it. I admit am I just beginning to work my way through this stuff, so I'm scarcely an expert, but the big picture is: carbs don't put weight on you - and they make it difficult to take fat off as they inhibit fax oxidation. Which makes total sense in the context of evolution to which you refer.

So why are modern Americans so fat? We overfeed repeatedly on calorie dense combinations of carbs and fat, or carbs/fats/proteins. We do exactly what Taubes says we don't. He says that somehow we've gotten fat even though exercise doesn't matter, food intake doesn't matter - and it sells, because it's what people want to hear: they have nothing to do with their weight issues.

And it's absolute bullshit.

Unknown said...

Diana, your refutations of Taubes would be more persuasive if you actually read him at some point. Yes, it's inconvenient to actually have to know what you're talking about; blithering uninformed hate is indeed more efficient.

The problem is that it leaves you looking like a complete idiot.

Jane said...

I am well aware Nature is a science journal, as I have published a scientific paper there myself. Are you saying it does not depend on advertising revenue?

The point you are missing is that Taubes claims there are two competing hypotheses of obesity when actually there are three. One is gluttony, the second is carbs->insulin, and the third is REFINED carbs->insulin. There is a large literature of which Taubes seems to be completely unaware showing hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance to be caused mainly by magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is mostly or completely removed from refined carbs, and carbs cannot be processed correctly without it.

I find it shocking that this glaring omission from the discussion can be tolerated and even encouraged by a prestigious international science journal such as Nature.

Grinch said...

"Taubes seems to be completely unaware showing hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance to be caused mainly by magnesium deficiency"

Apparently Stephan is too right? I haven't heard him talk about this, he's always talking about energy excess causing IR.

Rok Osterman said...

Discussions like this draw a smile on my face. People always misinterpret text because they process it through their own behavior. In other words, they assume people meant certain things like themselves would mean them. See how easy it is? I am doing it right now! :)

Diana said...


" One is gluttony, the second is carbs->insulin, and the third is REFINED carbs->insulin."

I have my own theory: binging repeatedly on refined carbs/fat, or refined carbs/fat/protein bombs.

It worked for me! When I binged on such foods, I weighed more. Stopped the binging, lost weigh, duh.

True, I'm not a peer-reviewed scientist, but then neither is Taubes.

You don't gain weight on carbohydrates, Jane. Not even refined carbohydrates. Surely you are aware of the peer-reviewed ward studies where people are overfed glucose and they gain very little weight (fat)? What's missing? The real world combo of carbs/fat or carbs/fat/protein.

Grinch said...

"The point you are missing is that Taubes claims there are two competing hypotheses of obesity when actually there are three. One is gluttony, the second is carbs->insulin, and the third is REFINED carbs->insulin"

Which obesity researchers believe the gluttony hypothesis of obesity? Where does Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, discoverer of leptin, fit in two the three hypotheses of obesity?

Diana said...


I guess Jane can speak for herself but my interpretation of the word "gluttony" would be "willful and knowledgeable overeating." Just to clarify, I don't consider bingers to be gluttons. They are usually anxious and desperate people who are sincerely unaware of the consequences of what they are doing.

Grinch said...

But how do you explain Dr. Friedman's point of view that obesity is almost as hereditary as height? That doesn't sound like a gluttony hypothesis of obesity to me, nor is it an insulin hypothesis.

Unknown said...

I've read about the carbs/insulin theory repeatedly over the years. First, in Drs. Eades' books, then Mark Sisson's work, finally Taubes. Maybe Dr. Atkins was also on that page?

Can anyone explain, considering its wide acceptance, exactly where the carbs/insulin theory comes from? I'm assuming scientists came up with it, not journalists?

Having said that, and even though I've been able to lose weight rather easily by cutting starchy carbs, and even though I remember my mother, back in the 50's telling me that avoiding bread, potatoes and sweets was the way to stay thin (apparently the conventional midcentury wisdom!) I think I'm convinced by Stephan's thinking...the "food reward" concept just makes sense. And my energy level is very low if I don't eat enough carbs.

Galina L. said...

The book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes contains a lot of information about the history of the obesity research. The low-carbing definitely didn't start with Dr.Atkins or Dr. Eades. The first book about it is available on-line for free It is very short and contains records of personal experience of an undertaker(not scientist) how he lost weight. Probably, the web-site of Dr. Feinman has some references to satisfy your curiosity. Some people find the ketosis, which results from a very low level of carbs in a diet, to be a very benefitial state
Even as a person who eats a LC diet, I don't think that everyone should do the same. Different people can tolerate different amount of carbohydrates in their diets, but it looks like that the more carbs you eat, the more fat you should cut from your diet and over-wise. I believe more people have to own a blood sugar meter and be aware of dynamic of their BS during the day and after meals. It will give people a very good information about how their body reacts on the eaten food. Here is the good example of the person(a registered dietitian, btw) who choose to reduce carbohydrates in her diet because her blood sugar readings after meals were abnormal

Sometimes it is difficult to judge from the reading alone how one diet or another suits your physiology. I thought so about the Anty-inflammatory Diet (red meat and saturated fats limitation, more fruits and veggies, whole grains, tofu)recommended by Dr, Weills, but it was the complete disaster for me.
I don't imply that the diet on the WHS will not suit your purpose, it is for you to decide. I am glad LCarbing works for me - I don't have to cook separately for myself, and it is easy to eat out if I choose to do so. But LC food is what I like, so I don't feel deprived.

Reijo said...

Well done. There are many who appreciate your continous efforts Stephan. Thanks again.

Jane said...

Yes, Stephan talks about energy excess causing IR. What is energy excess? Surely, an excess of things like fats and carbs over the tools needed to process them. One of which is magnesium. Did you know that the substrate for ATP synthase is not ADP but MgADP, and the product is MgATP? No magnesium, no ATP. If 'energy' doesn't mean ATP I don't know what does.

About Friedman and obesity being hereditary. There is some work suggesting the hereditary element might be due to junk DNA, which is involved in gene regulation and which evolves much faster than genes. It would explain a lot. It could be that changes in junk DNA are a response to micronutrient deficiencies, although I don't know of any direct evidence for this.

Yes I agree. Apparently in recent years the rise in obesity correlates with a rise in frequency of eating rather than with size of meals, which was a factor earlier. Thanks George for that information. And 'gluttons' may be people whose pancreas and hypothalamus aren't working properly and they have fluctuating blood sugar which makes them hungry, tired and anxious. I know how this feels, and eliminating refined carbs put an end to it.

Chris Wilson said...

Folks, Taubes would be a more credible dissenting voice if: a) he displayed a greater mastery of the material he's bashing, and b) he didn't cleave to patently false hypotheses. The other day I clicked on his recent interview with Andreas Eenfeldt in which he opened by saying, flat-out, that the carb-insulin theory of obesity (where insulin is the primary hormone regulating fat storage, and dietary carbs are the primary regulators of insulin) is the "null hypothesis" which we should only reject with "overwhelming and remarkable evidence".

I didn't watch any more because the manner in which he delivered this silly proposition was enough to tell me that he's not pursuing an honest inquiry into this subject anymore, and has moved into rhetorical strategies to defend a simplistic hypothesis he should have rescinded years ago...


Diana said...

@Simon, ". Have you read his recent interaction with Dr. Jim Johnson? What did you think of that?"

As I said, I tuned out (misinterpreted by one of the infestations here as a personal slag on Dr. Johnson). I do apologize for mischaracterizing it as a "slagging exchange", however. Having not read it, I should have been more charitable in my description of it.

Since writing the above, I've caught up with my reading and I have read Dr. Johnson's study.

My takeaway of it is, mice (and humans), unless genetically engineered to do so, should not eat high fat diets.

Just saying.

I'll have to ponder the implications for insulin insensitivity. My gut reaction is that unless absolutely necessary, you would not want to lower insulin levels with drugs for fear of side effects, unintended consequences, etc. Lowering insulin levels might mimic the effects of insulin resistance - very bad.

Better to cut the high fat. Something tells me this is NOT what the LC/Paleo/satfat cult wants to hear.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Gadfly, for pointing out what is really going on here. I have been reading Stephan's (Dr. Sillypant's) blog for years and have been absolutely shocked by his behavior ever since the incident with Tuabes at the AHS. He used to be so level-headed and now just seems childish and hysterical a lot of the time. Really a 180 from the way he used to be.

Medjoub said...

No, thank YOU, "Unknown" for clarifying Gadfly's insipid satire. I imagine you're very proud to have seen through his clever onomastic play and, for one glorious moment, to be able to share in such a resplendent wit.

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm extremely skeptical of these acid-spitting rants coming from the peanut gallery. What kind of interested parties are they, really? The gulf between the content of the original post and the wild, gun-toting accusations and vitriol it has inspired is MASSIVE. But this sort of machismo - this know-it-all impudence - has become part and parcel to the discussion. Depressing.

I'm also skeptical of all the summary scientific explanations offered by both sides. But I'm not angered by this; in fact, it only engenders greater curiosity to be in a position of unknowing. The nuances of Stephan's position -- rather, the way it seems to jive with a huge amount of anthropological and other kinds of real-world evidence -- gives it real interest.

Some dimensions are undeniable: why is it, for instance, that white rice sucks unless it is covered with butter? Add a little salt and it is even better. Plain butter for dinner? Gross. Plain salt? Even grosser. It's an undeniable, crystal clear fact that certain kinds of additions and subtractions alter real-world taste, and, further, it seems irrefutable that SOMETHING is happening when I finish a huge meal and am repulsed by -- am quite literally unable to even consider -- the idea of another bite of steak or greens but could *easily* eat a slice or two of rich, creamy cheesecake. I find it impossible to imagine a total explanation of obesity (something we are very, very far from) that doesn't consider the way taste functions in the real world, the way we manipulate it (and it manipulates us).

It's really tragic that so many scientists and thinkers are on the cusp of real insight, but that our collective view of truth is routinely marred by clouds of useless Gadflies.

Diana said...


And thank you! Thank you for your thank you!

(Let's see how far we can take this...)

Diana said...


Hope you got the joke.

Regarding protein, there's been a lot of research about how its intake is self-limiting. It takes a lot of energy to process protein. It's hard to eat too much of it. That's where the vaunted LC protein satiety sack-dance comes from. And yes, for many of us, the satiety is only for more protein. I never feel as if a meal is complete without carbs and proteins and fat.

Medjoub said...

@ Diana,

Got it.

I happened to think: my original "Hmmm" moment with Taubes came when I watched an interview in which he claimed to feel at times as if he were the only voice out there saying the truth (sic). I was thinking, Wait -- I know at least a dozen people that routinely use the Atkins diet to lose weight. What's this weird self-championing about? While the fact that the Atkins diet IS still popular might lend credence to its usefulness, its champions are always such strident, eh, individuals. Taubes has been an important voice in a lot of ways, but his private mythology has only been an impediment to his being taken seriously. By me anyway. That tack and tone are only useful to others of the same kind (we all know who they are).

Galina L. said...

Dr. Atkins was not a LC pioneer at all.

Unknown said...

Medjoub, I'm not taking sides with Taubes. I'm simply dismayed at the behavior of Stephan. The science itself is interesting, although not particularly useful at this point. It would be much more pleasant to come here and read about it minus the posturing and temper tantrums. Bring back the old Stephan!

Diana said...


My "aha" moment with Taubes came when I owned up to all the problems I had with his account of how the Pima got fat and diabetic. It is a masterpiece of gobbledygook and utter misrepresentation of the historical record. Interestingly, he is very proud of this -- it's Taubes' triumphant moment in his dramatic confrontation-with-Stephan "Obese mothers with starving children" (BULLSHIT). It's absolute garbage, total nonsense.

But that "aha" moment didn't come until I lost 20 pounds on a "broken metabolism" by eating less and moving more. I was very much a low-carb chump for years.

Anonymous said...

Chris Kresser is not a low-carb guy. He is constantly recommending The Perfect Health Diet which is a book that turned an army of Paleo eaters on to potatoes and white rice.

TJ said...

You lost 20 pounds! You've got to tell us more about how you did that!

Galina L. said...

@ Puke,
don't think that I read in books by Taubes that everybody should eat a LC diet. If I remember properly, it was a whole chapter in GCBC about epidemiological studies of traditional societies in Africa, some Pacific Islands, New comers to Israel changing their way of traditional eating (not devoid of carbohydrates) to the Western one with ample refined flour and sugar and getting Western health issues in 15 - 20 years.
He also wrote on his blog "Instead of thinking of low-carbohydrate diets like Atkins as deadly, which was formerly the case, nutritionists and dietitians (or at least most of them) now think of these diets as useful, just as other diets, low in calories or fats, are also useful. The idea now is that some people do well on carbohydrate-restricted diets and some people do well on low-fat diets, and maybe this is a result of whether they happen to be insulin sensitive or insulin resistant or maybe its just a product of their particular food tastes and preferences."

About hormones influencing body fat levels. Does anybody remember how we discussed that not long time ago all over the internet?

and that

Medjoub said...


Well, yeah, "sides" -- those are counterproductive and, frankly, embarrassing. Tons of folks are stepping up to show everyone across the line what's what and the result is total embarrassment.


I'm not sure that I buy Taubes's equitability. But anyway I'm not ready to throw him out entirely because I think if nothing else he HAS jostled more than a few MDs from their own complacent know-it-allness. (Plenty of anecdotal evidence on this front.) But lest we forget, Taubes is no theorist and hardly has "ideas." He's a good critic. A good journalist. And like a good critic or journalist, he's been able to direct the public's attention to certain interesting key areas, areas that for many were shrouded. Setting aside the question of his transparency for a moment. But Good Lawd the man has been arrogant and inhospitable to his *many* opponents. And I think anyone accusing Stephan of hysterics has failed to map the gestation of what's become a total horrorshow here in Blogland. All the lambasting, insult-slinging churls should be asking themselves why exactly they are so riled up. I've never understood the general loudness of the LC'ers. So many of the major voices are so. damn. LOUD.

On the plus side, this kind of display has brought plenty of unexpected things onto my radar, questions like whether the LC/ZC life is even sustainable outside of its ghetto -- and I don't just mean personally sustainable, but economically/culturally sustainable. What excites me about Stephan's position is that it can encompass and reinforce what we know of these other important issues. The theory, even as it dips deeply into neuro-biological sciences, exists with explanatory respect to social behavior.

Of course, I am more skeptical of LC because I personally felt godawful the whole time I ate that way. My cholesterol went apeshit (and not just a little apeshit, but very, very apeshit), I stopped being able to sleep, had zero appetite, etc etc. But I never needed to lose weight, so its essential and only (IMO) justifiable perk was lost on me from the get-go. My insulin and blood sugar were fine before and after.

Diana said...

@TJ, I ate less! Exercised more!

@Medjoul, Eek, whyever would anyone go on LC if they didn't have to lose weight? I was an LCer for years (on and off) and it made me very mean and very unhappy.

Taubes on calories:

"Yes, I believe that calories are a useful measure of the energy contained in the foods we consume and a useful measure of the energy our bodies expend. (Just as I believe miles are a useful measure of how far I have to travel to get, say, from Oakland to Los Angeles.) Yes, I believe in the laws of thermodynamics and I believe, as I say in both my books, they always hold true. That’s why we call them laws. But, no, I do not believe that we can learn anything useful about why people get fat or why they get the diseases that associate with getting fat, by focusing on the calories they consume and expend. It’s not about the calories."

Galina L. said...

Actually, I care more about defending the idea of LCarbing and the fact that it is crucially important for people like me, than to claim that Gary Taubes is always right, or discussing the level of his arrogance . I defend here myself and the appropriate place for my diet (against very loud people who mostly use the expression of a "low-carb dogma") to be among legitimate ways of healthy eating, to go to a hospital and be sure I wouldn't be give inappropriate for me food.Even vegetarians have such privilege. GT definitely didn't invent diets based on lowering carbohydrates,or worked on developing healthy-eating theories, just attracted attention with his books and articles to the shortcomings of the dominating right now the low-fat paradigm and benefits of LC diets (for the people who need better sugar control, or with the particular type of metabolism). He also found financial resources to test what he advocates for. May it is a disrespectful thing to say, but he is a toll which serves my purpose in some ways.
I don't completely get the rabbit reaction of people who can well tolerate carbohydrates in their diets on the fact that it is not so for everyone. There are few loud mouths here too. Why is it so important for them to try trump LC way of eating? They could perfectly well continue counting calories , walk around the block 30 minutes a day, avoid junk food, join WW, if it works for them. For me ELMM sort-of worked till 45 yo (without attending my appetite issues), now it is a LC way to go. Probably if I didn't do much physical activity and atet deserts by carts, my first attempt to go on a diet at middle age would be a success story too, but I did the first serious diet at 20, then at 27, then at 32, then at 38, while being physically active all my life and eating self-cook food.

Frank said...


I'm just curious on what basis you think that LC is healthy. LC usually means high animal products. To anyone not blinded by any ideology, the science is overwhelming on the negative effect of animal products on health. There's also enviromental factors, ethic factors, and personnal finance factors that make it pretty easy to throw away the meat. Then, except for spontaneous reduction in caloric intake, there is no scientific basis by which LC diet would make weight loss easier.

Study after study found that LC diet worsen lipid parameters. Obviously it's non inconvenient for Low-carber because they don't buy in the lipid hypothesis. Or they don't change even in the presence of weight loss which is well known to ameliorate lipids parameter. If a diet negate the effect of weight loss on metabolic markers, it's a pretty bad diet. Or LCarber focus on subtype when latest studies makes it clear that subtype does not matter.

So , out of curousity, on what basis is LC supposed to be healthy? Long-term I mean? High-fat diet are also linked to worsen insulin sensitivity.

It's one to make a personal choice and decide to eat a certain way. It's another altogheter to claims and defend that a diet is healthy when we know eveyrthing we know about high-fat, high animal products diet. Recommending these kind of diet to the general population would be a terribly irresponsible thing to do.

Taubes is a liar and an incredibly bad journalist. Please, do yourself a favor and listen with an open mind and from a different perspective the 15 first videos from the new PlantPositive series on you tube, the one about Good Calories and Bad Calories. I can't believe anyone would take Gary Taubes seriously after being exposed that way.

Gadfly said...

Frank says,

"the science is overwhelming on the negative effect of animal products on health."

That damn B12 will get you every time!

François Létourneau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank said...

Welcome to the 21st century Gadfly where you can actually supplement! Wonderful ain't it? And please don't go toward the appeal to nature route. What could have been done 10,000y+ ago is of no concern to me in these days and age. I'd rather take one supplement and avoid all the problem that comes with animal food than rest my case on the fact that a animal-free diet would not have been possible some distant past and increase my odds of dying of cancer or CVD.

glib said...

Frank, do you actually supplement B12, Vit D, carnitin, alpha lipoic, zinc, iron? What's wrong with one lamb spleen a week?

Galina L. said...

As I told, I tried several food regiment during my life-time and experienced almost unbelievable health improvement eating LC (no seasonal flues last 5 years, all infections I had from time to time like urinary tract infections, yeast infections, all allergies got 100 times better to the point that I don use my asthma inhaler for last 5 years, migraines improved, all pre-menopausal symptoms are gone). All that(documented in my med records) besides weight-loss and keeping it off without being hungry. Many LCarbers report similar experience. Would it be sane to drop all that just because some vegan made few videos? You know, there are different ideas on the internet, I incline to believe things that are supported by my own experience. I think you exaggerate the amount of information of unhealthiness of animal products, it is overwhelming to those who read about nothing else, there is enough data around to question vegetarianism and to support health benefits of eating meat, eggs and butter. I don't find the argument about approaching eating from the modernity position (It is a 21 century!)convincing. Cancer and cardiovascular diseases belong the cluster of diseases of Western civilization, and probability of getting it much higher in groups of people with abnormal blood sugar readings - diabetics and ones with Metabolic syndrome. My diet keeps BS within healthy range. I guess, the less civilized my food is, the better-off I would be. There are questions about how adequate supplementing is, but it is not my concern. I mind my own business and don't care how vegetarians compensate for the deficiency of their diet, I want my diet to be legitimate choice. I see Gary works in that direction and I appreciate it. May be he is not perfect in several regards, but who is?

About saving Earth. I think from that point of view my way of eating is very reasonable. Besides cup of coffee with some heavy grass-fed cream and couple pasture-raised eggs with butter, I eat just one normal meal which consists of 3 - 4 oz of meat , veggies, soup or salad. I support with my money grass-fed cattle which is beneficial for Earth and land. Agriculture is not, btw. Since I eat less amount of food than before,I don't waste money on snacks, boxed food and beverages, I can afford better and more expensive choices.

Your guess is right, the cholesterol is not an issue for me, all my health markers are very good.However, If I had a choice between having a low cholesterol and being fatter, with more allergies, migraines and infections, or having abnormal TC with no infections, asthma and the rest, I would choose higher cholesterol number.

Jane said...

'..there is enough data around to question vegetarianism..'

Please can you provide these data.

Frank said...


Thanks you for you detailed response.

''Would it be sane to drop all that just because some vegan made few videos?''

It's not just some video. Have you actually been looking in depth at the litterature on meat and health? Not just what popular books and bloggers writter tells you but actually reading the study? You will see that it is universally accepted by every researchers in the nutrition field that meat increases diseases risk. We can come to this conclusion from multiple lines of evidences. We have a biological plausibility by which it would happen and it is well supported by epidemiological evidences and from animal researchs too. Why do LCarbers keep saying that epidemiology is not good science, even if it's about the only science we can use to study the effect of nutrition on long-term health? Because it keeps finding thing they don't want to hear.

''I think you exaggerate the amount of information of unhealthiness of animal products''

Pubmed would disagree.

''there is enough data around to question vegetarianism and to support health benefits of eating meat, eggs and butter.''

Please, can you provide evidence that vegan/vegetarian die younger than meat-eater? I've been going through these evidences many time already, and I know that such study does not exist. Every study done on vegetarian/vegan find reduced odd of diseases.

I'd also be curious to see evidences that meat reduce cancer or CVD risk. Unless studies have come out in the last few days that i'm not aware of, such study does not exist. What evidences do you have in mind when you make such statement?

I mean this is just one of the first result that popped in google scholar from meat+mortality

Do you have such study that show the contrary?

'' I don't find the argument about approaching eating from the modernity position (It is a 21 century!)convincing''

Well, like it or not, we're in the 21st century now... things are changing and things will keep changing. We're facing new challenges that will take new solutions. You might as well stop using your car and start walking everywhere as in the past if you want to adopt that kind of mindset, this will help too with you BG control.

''Besides cup of coffee with some heavy grass-fed cream and couple pasture-raised eggs with butter, I eat just one normal meal which consists of 3 - 4 oz of meat , veggies, soup or salad''

Would it be possible to sustain the world consumption of meat through grass fed meat? 250 beef are killed an hour in one farm in the USA. How many farm is there? Grass fed would not be possible for everyone. Eating grassfed is not a solution in regarding to saving the planet. Eating less meat is.

You say that agriculture is bad for the earth but I doubt it is as bad as farm factory, as farm factory is incredibly bad for the earth. Do you have data that show otherwise?

You say you don't buy boxed food and beverage anymore. Maybe your prior diet was not that healthy?

I see you have to make either a short-term health choice or a long-term health choice. That's unfortunate for you. But most people don't suffer from the same symptoms as you and, regardless of what some book sellers and blogger want you to believe, the causal role of LDL in the etiology of heart diseas is well-establish and accepted in the scientific community, and it remains irresponsible to go running around telling people that eating meat is healthy on the basis of personal success story.

I hope i'm not coming off as too harsh here, as it is not my intention. I'm glad you found a diet that is doing you good. I'm just curious how one could defend from a scientific standpoint that meat is healthy.

Galina L. said...

Why do you ask, Jane?
On almost every Paleo blog-post which I read which discussed health benefits of consuming animal products I saw your comments, so you already had a chance to get familiar with line of arguments you want me to produce (am I expected to repeat Dr.Kruise's trick on Peter's blog?). I get it that you disagree. but your own diet is rather strange by most people standards.However, I am glad you are at least not a vegetarian and consume healthy animal fats and vitamins associated with animal sources from milk and milk products.(Do you eat anything else besides wheat bread and milk?). I want to give you several examples of my reading that influenced my opinion. I think you don't visit that blog I noticed you read Dr. Emily Dean, it is her post that possibility that vegeterian diets are may be not optimal for mental health, people in comments there made a stronger point.
Probably, you noticed, that I agree on many things with Weston Price Foundation , here is their take on vegetarianism It is their post about health benefits of bone broth

The most important thing is that all that doesn't contradict my experience, my general health, mental health and visual appearance all got way better.

Diana said...

I think Stephan should shut down these comments.

Vegetarianism v. meat-eating is a never-ending argument and it has nothing to do with the Taubes letter to Nature.

Frank: my maternal aunts and uncles were the kind of people who never paid attention to their health, and they ate meat. They were exceptionally long-lived, most living to past 90. On my father's side, same deal about health, but they died at "normal" ages, in their 70s and 80s.

What's the answer: choose the right parents, don't smoke, be moderate in your habits.

A little meat never killed anyone, except the animal.

Are you opposed to eating flies? That's a legitimate source of animal protein. Is there an ethical objection to eating flies?

Galina L. said...


Thank you for your concern about my health, I realize you put a lot of effort into your response and references.

First of all, I think the argument that the grass-fed meat eating is not for everyone, should not be really concerning for people who made the quality of their meat sources a higher priority. General population always consists of different people with different diets, preferences,priorities, health issues... I see a lot of people in stores who buy things like boxes of cereal bars, different snacks. The price by pound of that packaged staff is outrageous. I think it is a myth that all grain-based foods are cheep, only if you cook it from a scratch, but most people from all socioeconomic levels happily buy creatively decorated boxes. I never did it (I am from a different culture,came to US in my 30-s,and ready-to serve food tastes too strange for me), except out of circuity soon after arriving to Canada. Conveniently for me, organ meats, even grass-fed , are not in demand in US and cheep, grass-fed lamb from NZ is priced cheaper, than prime grain-fed stakes from convenient sources, there are always reasonable ways to do what you think is important. After changing my way of eating to the one I described, I saved on the general amount of food, I consume much less of deli items,pb butter, milk products, fruits and even veggies, and, of course, bread.

You are curious how I can defend the healthiness of eating the red meat. I remember that during last year people on paleo-blogs were discussing results of some research that in one case red meat was unhealthy, in another - eggs eating was as bad as smoking. Gary Taubes posted that about meat study - If you want me to do it, I will try to dig the discussion on different blogs out and give you my summery of it in a more easy to read way . I just not sure you will be reading it. If you do, I will take that trouble.

As I told before, the reading of the book of Weston Price left a strong impression on me. He explored a wide variety of traditional diets world-wide, and, of course , diets were quite different. It is free on-line. I know it is too much to expect from anyone to read a whole book, but it is a very good chance that you will find pictures there amusing. My yoga instructor , who is a vegetarian, found that book worth reading. There were healthy societies who ate traditionally hefty amounts of animal proteins. My take from all my reading - meat eating is often researched in the context of consuming it within standard American Diet, together with excessive carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, among people who often overeat in general. Overeating of anything is very unhealthy. I am sure, if eating red meat and animal fats keeps me from overeating through higher satiety of my diet, it is beneficial for my health.

If vegetarian diets require intelligent modern supplementing to be healthy, there are supposed to be traditional diets which are healthy without use of supplements. I think it is strange from the evolutionary perspective, that the diet which contains all necessary elements, is disease-promoting at the same time. I am not declaring I am on a such perfect-for-everyone-diet, but I hope, it is easy to get my point without explaining it too much.

Galina L. said...

I think Diana is right. Meat-eating-versus-vegetarianism was discussed many times before and is not in the content of SG post.

Frank said...

Hi Galina

First off, sorry for going on a tangent here, I did not mean to hi-jack the post with an off topic discussion and I understand that people are probably over discussing this matter as each side most likely won't change their view (althought I was a low-carber, high meat eater 3 years ago, and it took my 2 years to take my meat consumption down to twice per week as it is now - i'm still debating if I supplement or if I keep it like that) so I think people defenitively can change.

I won't give a too detailed answer as I don't think anything I say will change anything.

The sustainability of meat is not so much about price but about quantity. It would not be possible to produce enough meat that way to feed every meat eater on the planet. It's just not efficient enough. It's not really about the price.

As for red meat, I've read the western price book myself so i'm aware of what is being discussed there. I've also read protein power, the Eades blog for a while, GCBD, anthony's colpo book, etc etc, actually I've been really active in the low-carb community for a while. If you could direct me to actual study, rather than blog post, that would be better. I don't care so much about someone else interpretation of evidence.

You have a good point here, as it is true that a meat-based diet, with lots of vegetable, unprocessed food, gentle cooking method will never be studied because not enough of a large group of people eat this way. That's a fair point, but we still have a lot of fundamental mecanisms by which meat could promote diseases (iron oxidation, AGEs, contaminants, cholesterol and saturated fats, cancer-promoting agents from well-cooked meat) to name the principle one.

Regarding your last point, from the evolutionnary perspective, you must not lose sight that what evolution care about is passing it's gene. Once this is done, it does not care so much about what is going on, so an ancestral diet had to be just good enough so that the species would live long enough to pass its gene. There's a big gap between a diet that does this and a diet that promote longevity. Evolution does not care about you living to old age. We're in modern age now and we have modern science and technologies. We can understand the effect of different foods on our health and we can chose to avoid eating these food and to supplement what could be missing from the avoidance. To me evolution does not make any sens when considering what to eat. We did not evolve to eat anything in particuliar. We were eating what we could so that we could survive to pass on our genes. It was not about health.

Thanks you also for you detailed answer. I read the blog post from gary Taubes already, I believed I commented on it actually hehe. Again, if you have revelant studies i'd gladly look at 'em tho' i've been discussing this litterature at length, especially on the imminst forum 2 years ago, where my mind was opened to the possibility of a vegan diet being superior.

Sorry again for hi-jacking.

Diana, yes, genetic is the biggest factors. Especially with medecine now, the difference from not eating meat is maybe a few years at top. But i'd gladly take them, and if I can help the planet while I am at it and save some cash i'm all for it! As for smoking, Japan have (had) a low rate of CVD even in the presence of high smoking rate, probably because of their low TC.

Galina L. said...

Your request (I think it was a fair one) lives me only with one study that meat-eating females in Australia have better mental health. Their red meat is of a good quality. For that reason I think studies from NZ and Australia could be more relevant to my point, and not to the studies about unhealthiness of processed meat.
There is Pubmed article about healthier nutrients composition in a grass-fed meat (CLA, vits.A, E," grass-finished beef tends toward a higher proportion of cholesterol neutral stearic FA (C18:0), and less cholesterol-elevating SFAs such as myristic (C14:0) and palmitic (C16:0) FAs. Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione"

and epidemiological data that societies eating red meat withing traditional non-western cultures were not plugged with caries, appendix earlier in life and cancer, high blood pressure and so forth later in life. I believe it is in the WP book and in GCBC.

I am living all other points unanswered in order to keep it short. In my attempt to return to the theme of the post, I want to repeat, that there is more than one way to eat healthy and address body weight in the most efficient for a particular individual way. So far I feel that people like me are left behind , and I hope the NuSy initiative will change it. As a realist, I am not holding my breath, but one can hope.

Jane said...

Why do I ask? You talked about 'data', and I expected a scientific answer. I see you didn't mean vegetarian at all, you meant vegan.

I too have seen reports from people who did not do well on a vegan diet. Chris Masterjohn and Denise Minger come to mind. They both say their vegan diet gave them rampant tooth decay, and I believe they both think it was due to calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency is not a plausible explanation, in my view. I still don't know the answer. I tried asking Denise about it and had no reply. I also asked Chris whether he ate any refined carbs when he was a vegan, and had no reply.

Diana said...

"I think Diana is right. Meat-eating-versus-vegetarianism was discussed many times before and is not in the content of SG post"

So why are you doing it? Can't you control yourself? Everywhere I see you post, you go on and on about the same thing. You appear to be incapable of controlling yourself.

Galina L. said...

I don't think you are in a position to tell me when I should finish a conversation with a person or what to tell in my comments. Use some self-control , please. To tell you the truth, I also am under an impression that you go on about the same thing in your comments.

Diana said...

"I think Diana is right. Meat-eating-versus-vegetarianism was discussed many times before and is not in the content of SG post."

Unknown said...

As someone coming from academia and in the process of finishing a terminal degree I greatly appreciate Stephen's ability to put forth his opinions to the public articulately and as unbiased as possible. In the "research world", putting forth an opinion, taking a stance, and being public with your point of view is not something most researchers do. In fact, Stephen makes that quite clear here when he mentions the fact that Nature removed a significant portion of his response. Strong statements are not typically welcomed in the scientific community but Stephen has the ability and gall (in a good sense) to let the facts speak for themselves.

For those who follow the research but are not involved the actual research, I implore you to examine your position and decide if you have grounds to make a position and criticize researchers of Dr. Guyenet's status. It is remarkably easier to read a handful of books, sit behind a keyboard and surf PubMed and Google Scholar, formulate an opinion and harp on those actually in the trenches of research. Stephen has obviously devoted enormous amounts of time and effort to this area of research. If you have been following his work it is quite apparent that he has maintained his integrity as a scientist and a person.

Although I do not know Stephen personally, I suspect Stephen's professional goal is not to berate or castigate Gary Taubes but rather to aid in developing a clearer understanding of obesity and aid in solving it. His letter to Nature, when read from a critical lens, makes this quite apparent as there is no "personal" attack or hidden agenda in the letter, it is a simple and straightforward presentation of the facts.

Jane said...

I should have mentioned two more things: one, what Emily Deans said about 'vegetarian diets may not be optimal for mental health'. You know as well as I do that this was not her conclusion, which was that people with mental health problems are more likely to go vegetarian.

'I get it that you disagree. But your own diet is rather strange by most people standards. ...Do you eat anything else besides wheat bread and milk?'

If you know so little about what I eat, how can you conclude my diet is strange? It is a perfectly normal lactovegetarian diet. I occasionally eat meat or eggs. How is this strange, by anyone's standards?

Galina L. said...

It is a pity , Jane, you missed again the chance to tell more about your everyday diet in order for people not to think you normally eat only bread with milk.

However, I don't think it is particularly relevant right now. Returning to the theme of the post, I just want to express my satisfaction that NuSy initiative will finance research about healthy benefits of eating animal fats and meat as a part of a healthy diet(not SAD), I want to see more of modern data , as I discussed it with Frank.

Sanjeev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana said...

"Returning to the theme of the post, I just want to express my satisfaction that NuSy initiative will finance research about healthy benefits of eating animal fats and meat as a part of a healthy diet(not SAD), "

The purpose of research is not to furnish proof of one's biases.

And Jane - thanks for giving Galina the excuse to continue this thread, which ended long ago.

Galina L. said...

I slightly worry about your level of stress, Deana. It must be exhausting to try to make sure old threads to end in time, patrolling bastions of LC dogma making sure you are keeping track on their endless BS.

Just, please, don't overstretch yourself, I continue to find your rudeness very genuine and refreshing and want you to preserve your energy.I live in one of South States now among strangely polite people, and only internet gives me nowadays the nostalgic reminder of really rude population in my native big city. Now you can thank yourself for making that long trend even longer.

Diana said...

You are quite welcome Galina. I don't patrol anything. I subscribed to this thread's email response feed, or whatever it's called.

Rest assured I would not bother to respond to you on the myriad other blogs you comment on, one of which shall be nameless here. It doesn't matter. You always end up saying the exact same thing.

Seen one Galina comment, seen 'em all.

thhq said...

I'll use this old post as a muse if you don't mind. I've been thinking about Taubes in respect to my experience in 30 years of industrial research.

After I finished school at Berkeley I went to work in a pulp and paper research facility. I started to do studies related to process improvement and cost reduction. The output was hard-to-read lab reports, often 25-30 pages long. I was not trained to write, and through a series of hard knocks (sometimes having a paper torn in half in front of my face) I learned the value of writing a good abstract, and being able to defend it with details if called upon. I learned to condense data, and became pretty adept at regression analysis on the small expensive sets of data I usually worked with (similar to 20 patient studies). After 10 years I was pretty good at this, and was gradually put on broader studies affecting much larger amounts of money.

I see in Taubes the ability to write reasonably well for a journalist. He isn't Proust, or Sinclair Lewis, or Ancel Keys, but he's adequate. This skill makes him very good at writing magazine pieces which are entertaining. He shocks people by challenging conventional wisdom, and tells first-hand colloquial stories well. However, he's never had to write abstracts so it's impossible to know where he's coming from, and he maunders on and on stuck in lit review and story mode. I'll use this piece on exercise as an example

When I finished reading this I was left with the impression first that the scientific community were a complete failure in proving that exercise does anything useful for weight loss. Second, I was led to think "What does it matter?, Why not cook up another stack of pancakes and blog away while eating them. It makes me feel all warm and cozy that those people out walking and at the gym are a bunch of morons. I'm glad Gary Taubes woke me up to the truth!"

Reinforcing bad behavior is not at all what Gary intended. He's on a mission to reduce obesity. This article is the exercise section of GCBC slightly modified for the popular media. But with out any sort of direction his challenge to the academia smarties ends up encouraging obese behavior. If he'd included an abstract, his intent would be clearer. Here's my proposal, and I'm trying to help out, not trash him:

"The induction ketosis phase of Atkins dieting is very effective for weight loss. In order to maximize fat loss in this phase, it is important to keep activity to a minimum. Exercise preferentially shifts metabolism from fat to glucose."

An abstract referencing Atkins could be applied to almost everything Taubes writes, and would clarify what he is about to say so that people draw right conclusions (ketosis is good) rather than wrong ones (sitting around eating more pancakes is good). The NYT article on salt could be similarly improved if the abstract stated the benefit of increasing salt intake while ketosis dieting.

One lesson which was driven home repeatedly to me in industrial research was not to be presumptuous in front of your audience. They often don't know where you're coming from, and they don't like to be talked down to. Gary's not good at that (and his acolytes are much worse). Abstracting and stating his Atkins HFLC objecives at the outset would greatly help the rest of us idiots and morons skimming the NYT and drawing the wrong conclusions.

The other never forgotten lesson in industrial research is that providing donuts and coffee is always good, especially if your motives include industrial espionage. The higher quality the donut, the more information your audience will reveal (if you've watched the film Strange Brew you've seen how it works). For professional reasons I'll never be in ketosis.

thhq said...

Continuing on with the Taubes NY Mag exercise article and the advantages of abstracts, I think with sadness about how much damage this inflammatory piece did to public health. I'll be generous and guess that 100,000 people read it. Of those, probably 1000 got it without the context of the full GCBC text - a mixture of mostly acolytes who nodded in agreement, and a few people who understood it and tore their hair out in frustration. These people didn't have an obesity problem, so they got no benefit whatsoever. But what about the 99,000 others who took it at face value? Maybe 100 especially insightful ones got it, started doing ketosis, and took care of their obesity. I'll posit 10,000 at-risk obese people who didn't get it, stopped exercising, and gained 10 pounds over the following 6 months. Of those, maybe 1000 had a major event triggered by their weight gain, such as a stroke, heart attack or T2 diabetes. At a treatment cost of $50,000 per year, they/their loved ones/insurance companies/medical care workers bore new expenses of possibly $50 million a year.

So while the article was written with all good intentions to help control the obesity epidemic, it measurably abetted the epidemic's growth IMO. The inflammatory pieces Taubes has written for the NYT would have had even bigger negative impacts.

The sooner Taubes completely submerges himself in his NUSI project and disappears from the bookshelves, blogs and airwaves the better.