Monday, August 18, 2014

Science of Nutrition Podcast

I recently did an interview with Seth Yoder, who has a master's degree in nutrition science and writes the blog The Science of Nutrition.  Seth caught my attention recently with his withering review of The Big Fat Surprise, the latest book to claim that ideological/incompetent scientists and public policy makers got the science of nutrition backward and we should all be eating low-carb, high-fat, high-meat diets.  I was impressed by how deeply Seth dug into the reference list, and how well he picked up on subtle but troubling misrepresentations of the evidence.

Last week, Seth and I got together at a local brewpub to do an interview.  We were joined by Carrie Dennett, an MPH/RDN who has a nutrition blog and writes for the Seattle Times.  I'd probably do a lot more interviews if I could ride my bike to them and have my interviewer buy me a drink.

Speaking of drinks, by the end of the interview I had a little buzz-- you might hear it in my voice if you listen closely.  As usual, I had plenty to say about body fat regulation, food reward, and other topics, with plenty of side trips to discuss particularly fascinating studies.  Also, the word of the day was 'compelling'.

Enjoy the interview!


JWO said...

You drink! Alcholhol does far more destruction than diet.

@NaturalWorkwear said...

Wow - first comment from a hater. Life is more than just optimization for some unknown future. Begone!

Aegirsson said...

Hi Stephan,

I have a question regarding your AHS14 presentation (nice talk by the way!)

My question has to do with teh section of the talk dealing with saturated vs unsaturated fat regarding metabolites, etc. You seemed quite reluctant to talk about it in greater depth. Is it because you would have touched a nerve in the paleo oriented audience and its love for saturated fats ?

I remember a study showing that eating sat fats + carbs raises more insulin than say olive oil with same carbs. I can't really say if there is an indirect connection with what you mentioned, but it does make one wonder whether sat fats (usually from animals) were usually eaten with carbs way back when people were hunting and gathering. It seems to me, from a non expert perspective, that fat types do matter when you also ingest other major "fuel" types at the same time.

Care to comment on that ?

David said...

When I started reading this blog, you were one of those people assaulting the mainstream scientific community has having everything all wrong - which in some respects gives you more credibility; in other respects, it makes me angry i didn't listen to mainstream scientific consensus all along instead of bothering with these alt nutrition blogs.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi David,

I wasn't assaulting the mainstream scientific community as having everything all wrong, but I did have some strong critiques for certain aspects of it. It's true that my perspective on some of that has changed over time, and certainly my attitude toward mainstream research and public policy has changed.

When I first began to write about nutrition and health, I was under the spell of certain advocates who I now recognize as misguided, and it took me a while to fully extricate myself from their views. I apologize for any harm or confusion that period of my writing may have caused. I've removed some of my older posts that I'm no longer comfortable with, and edited others.

Ned said...

Stephan, have you done a post that summarizes your current perspective?

As an old fat guy, I would love to go back to high carb, low fat. But mainly, I'm still trying to figure out what matters and what doesn't in nutrition.

janu said...

Hi Stephan,

What is your stand on whole grains & legumes especially for those who are obese and those who are vegetarians?I know that mainstream community is all for it. Does the anti-nutrients in the grains pose a difficulty in losing weight. I've been following your posts on preparing the grains properly to remove phytates.

Unknown said...

Hi Stephan,

It would be interesting to know which of your views have changed. Do you now think a diet high in saturated fat is unhealthy or a paleo diet is unhealthy? I am talking about meat consumption here and also saturated fat in general. One person whose blog you recommended certainly seems to think that way. Lot of people visit your blog for scientific no-nonsense nutrition advice/findings, I think they would want to know which of your views have now changed. Do you agree with the American Heart Association that we should have a low fat diet high in carbohydrates?

Rok Osterman said...

I am interested in which of Stephan's views have changed as well.

@Unknown, August 27, 2014 at 3:41 AM
I think there are at least two issues here:
1. diet can't be generalized: for example, "is meat consumption unhealthy?" depends a lot on what kind of meat. There is poor quality* meat, excellent quality meat and a lot in-between. That's why proper scientists won't ever say, for example, "meat diet is healthy". If they did someone could eat poor quality meat and claim the diet didn't work.

2. healthy is subjective: someone may poorly digest (tolerate?) milk for example, so a diet that is heavily based on milk wouldn't be a good choice for that (wo)man. Also, some of the healthiest most nutritious foods suddenly become problematic for a sick human body. Kind of a paradox but that's how it is. Just like the harder it is to relax (and stay centered) the more such situation promotes relaxation for that (wo)man but only if (s)he manages to relax. If (s)he can't then it's stressful and unhealthy.

*By quality I mean nutritional quality not processing quality (like big companies tend to use the term).

JoAnne said...

As a long time reader of this blog, I would also be interested in reading how Stephan's views have changed over time.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi folks,

To answer the question about which of my views have changed. It's been years, but for a brief period in the early days I was a proponent of the idea that carbohydrate is the main cause of obesity, that calories are irrelevant to body weight, and that exercise is useless for body weight control. Essentially, I had read Good Calories, Bad Calories and I was under its spell. It took me a while to realize how badly I had been misled by that book, and that sentiment played a role in my subsequent critiques of it.

I had also internalized Taubes's cavalier and antagonistic attitude toward researchers and public policy experts who disagree with him.

My views on saturated fat haven't changed much, but I'd say I'm more agnostic than anything at this point. I doubt saturated fat is a major dietary villain, but I don't need to shout it from the rooftops, and I also don't think that means we should eat a large amount of saturated fat. Even if there's only a small chance that it's harmful, it would be imprudent to eat a large amount of it in my view (i.e., substantially more than the typical intake).

Also, I think the argument against n6 PUFA has collapsed somewhat. I still think it's best to avoid seed oils, but I just don't see the rationale for avoiding things like nuts.

It's true that my views have become more mainstream over time. I began writing back in those heady days when low-carb seemed to be taking the world by storm, and it felt like the field of nutrition was being turned completely on its head. Most of us came to realize over time that many mainstream scientific positions are based on a more solid foundation of evidence than we initially gave them credit for.

There is, however, still a gap between the research and the public understanding of diet/health, and there's still a lot of nonsense floating around, so we still have plenty to talk about.

ICG said...

"Also, I think the argument against n6 PUFA has collapsed somewhat. I still think it's best to avoid seed oils, but I just don't see the rationale for avoiding things like nuts."

Do you think there's any merit to the idea of whole wheat, brown rice, beans, nuts, etc., having "anti-nutrients"? To me, those arguments seem like a stretch, but I'm not an expert. I think this idea began in the low-carb/paleo world, but others (e.g., Anthony Colpo) have also latched onto it.

The McDougall/Fuhrman crowd eat a lot of those foods (nuts in moderation). As you've pointed out, many of them appear to be very lean and healthy, even into old age.

Unknown said...

Thank you Stephan. The main reason why I keep coming back to this site is because of the fact that you are able examine and reflect on your own conclusions and correct yourself when your views shift. And you do so publicly, which can be even more difficult!

I feel this kind of self analysis is the most important intellectual trait a person can have. And unfortunately, perhaps the most lacking, I certainly struggle against internalizing emotional biases. Far too many people align themselves with ideas so strongly and so vociferously that they back themselves into an intellectual corner.

Keep up the excellent work.