Archive for the ‘Gary Taubes’ Tag

‘No Sugar’ drumbeat gets louder

Sugar KillsWell, if you wanted to call me a Gary Taubes fanboy before, I guess you’ve got one more reason to now as here’s one more post about his writings.

Back in October 2010, I authored a post entitled Sugar – Public Enemy Number One. The main takeaway I intended for the article was to argue that if all the diet books and nutrition gurus in all the world would just agree on this *one* thing: elimination of refined sugars from the diet (including fruit juices, by the way) that would be the single most important contribution they could all make to our public health. This would result in vastly healthier people and dramatically lower health care costs.

Back in January when Gary took his show on the road to Seattle, he mentioned he was working on this big article for the New York Times about sugar. The summary was he was taking a look into the claims of Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF who came out and said fructose was a toxin – in the concentrations consumed in the SAD (Standard American Diet). Now that Gary is a left coaster, he’s gotta make nice with the neighbors (he even got his new BFF Michael Pollan to say nice things about his new book – nice going :)). The net of all this is a ‘little’ piece in the New York Times called Is Sugar Toxic?. Of course, Gary doesn’t do ‘little’ so don’t expect a reader’s digest version, but you should expect a thorough and well reasoned article.

Of course, I want you to read it, but the summary is he thinks there’s something to the idea that sugar should be considered a toxin. One small step for man …

Gary Taubes Seattle event – Elliot Bay Books

Last minute notice for those of you in Seattle tomorrow evening. Gary Taubes will be here at Elliot Bay Books to talk about his new book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.

Here are the particulars:
http://www.elliottbaybook.com/node/events/feb11/taubes

When:
Tuesday 02/08/2011 7:00 pm (Tomorrow at the time of this writing)

Where:
Elliot Bay Books
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle WA 98122

More info: 
http://www.elliottbaybook.com/node/events/feb11/taubes
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Knopf) is acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes’ no-beating-around-the bush examination of why so many today are seriously overweight. A three-time recipient of Science in Society Journalism Awards, and presently a Robert Johnson Foundation Investigator in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley, he builds on the strong base of material he presented in his Good Calories, Bad Calories—which Michael Pollan said was "a vitally important book, destined to change the way we think about food." Part of that thinking is seeing the problem lying in particular kinds of carbohydrates, not fats, and not in calories per se.

I’ll be there! Hopefully you can make it as well.

Why We Get Fat: Central Premises

Insulin MoleculeIn the first of several posts on Gary Taubes’ new book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, I focus on the very brief introduction to the book where he sets out his central premises that explain the central issue raised in the title: why *do* we get fat?

They are stated very simply. So simply they may be hard to grasp. Here they go:

  1. When Insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue; when these levels fall, we liberate fat from the fat tissue and burn it for fuel
  2. Our insulin levels are effectively determined by the carbohydrates we eat – not entirely, but for all intents and purposes.

Simple, right?

What’s missing: talk of calories expended or calories consumed. the need for fat-burning exercise, staying just a little bit hungry all the time. All these assumptions will be addressed systematically, but the two paragraphs above essentially explain the ‘Why" to the whole getting fat thing.

There is one more section in the introduction that bears pulling out here:

The science tells us that obesity is ultimately the result of a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one – specifically, the stimulation of insulin secretion caused by eating easily-digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods

Just like the body ‘grows’ early in life in response to hormonal cues (i.e. the presence of growth hormone), fat tissue ‘grows’ later in life in response to hormonal changes (principally, insulin).

Next Post: Section 1: dismantling the going assumptions

Back in the saddle – with a big book note

I’ve been scolded repeatedly over the last month or so about the unconscionable neglect of my blog. What can I tell you? Well, I’m back now!

Not that I’ve been waiting for an excuse to blog. There has been a lot to say, just hadn’t gotten around to saying it. However, the big impetus for me has been the release of the most anticipated book on nutrition in the last couple of years. I’ve posted regularly on the work of Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories. At the risk of repeating myself, GC, BC was a turning point for me in that it opened my eyes to a completely new way of looking at diet and nutrition, and did so in a thorough and convincing way. While the book was not a diet book (no recopies there) I changed my diet to adhere to the general principles laid out in the book (eating meats and leafy vegetables until satisfied, eliminating sugars and starches, limiting fruit, etc.) and lost 20 pounds without any additional changes (i.e. no exercise).

While I still recommend GC, BC, it is admittedly a challenge to take on. It’s over 600 very densely-packed pages with lots of biology, biochemistry and medical terminology. Of all those to whom I’ve recommended the book, only a handful (3?) have reported they actually read it. Given it was so important and influential, Gary (we’re on a first-name basis, these days) got repeated requests for a ‘readers-digest’ version of GC, BC that more people would actually read.

In December, the much anticipated condensed release of the last ten years of Gary’s work was published:

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Borzoi Books)
The much-anticipated condensed version of the groundbreaking work begun almost ten years ago with his New York Times "Big Fat Lie" article and the epic "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

For all the times I’ve recommended GC, BC, replace that recommendation with Why We Get Fat. Not only is the book much more condensed and simplified, it also has the benefit of the previous three years since GC, BC was published. The message is essentially the same – just re-emphasized:

  • The principal driver of fat storage is chronic insulin elevation and chronic insulin elevation is driven by consumption easily-digestible carbohydrates
  • The presumption ‘calories-in, calories-out’ is the principle explanation of why we get fat is an over-simplification and says nothing about a causal relationship between what we eat and why we get fat

That’s enough for this post as I plan to have a series of posts on this book planned. It’s that important.

More very soon.

Spirited exchange about caloric balance

CaloricBalanceFEH A little over a month ago I began an exchange with a blogger (James Krieger) who saw fit to award Gary Taubes with a mocking BullS*#tter of the day award. You see, James is an unwaveringly committed to the principle of caloric balance: the principal cause of fat storage is that we simply consume more calories than we burn. To refute the carbohydrate hypothesis (the principal reason we get fat is because of the consumption of easily-digestible carbohydrates) put forth in Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, James creates his own ‘predictions’ he inferred from the hypothesis and, as one might expect, successfully dismantled each of the straw men he constructed. Touche.

As you may have seen in previous posts, I’m not convinced the simple caloric balance rubric works in cases where the calories that are consumed are in the form of easily-digestible carbohydrates (sugars, white bread, etc.). While he does acknowledge that different macronutrients work differently in the body, his point is that as long as there is a caloric deficit, we won’t have enough calories to make fat.

My bottom line on this line of reasoning is that there may well be some merit to the idea that as long as you live in a caloric deficit, you are not likely to retain fat. For the sake of this discussion, let’s accept this premise. For practical purposes, in an environment where there is relatively abundant, cheap sources of refined carbohydrates, it is TBU: True, but useless. The overwhelming majority of people are not going to voluntarily stay in caloric deficit their entire lives, so why orient your recommendations around an unsustainable approach? Especially since there is convincing and ever growing evidence that if one pursues long-term carbohydrate restriction it is possible to avoid getting fat without having to consciously restrict calories.

Since the original post is no longer up and the blog on which is was originally posted has been retired in favor of a new one (good move on his part, I’d say), I include the full exchange (very long, warts and all) here for posterity.

=====

Keith said…
Having read Good Calories back in 2008, and having read your blog, I’m puzzled by the ‘conclusions’ you extrapolate from the carbohydrate hypothesis. Since I was sure I hadn’t seen these conclusions stated, I re-read the portion of GCBC that laid out the hypothesis (pages 355 to 447, for those of you following at home) and was unable to find these ‘conclusions’ you state.

Now, it is fair to say that the carbohydrate hypothesis stated in the book was short on specific conclusions. For me, that was a good thing and apparently by design. The intent appeared to be to provide as much objectively verifiable information as possible and have that lead the way to re-thinking the conventional wisdom about caloric balance (among other things) so that the hypothesis may be tested clinically.

That said, it seems the burden would be first on you to provide the references for these ‘conclusions’ you offer. They may well be reasonable conclusions – as many other conclusions may be. But they are *your* conclusions, not the author’s because he didn’t state them. I submit if you are not able to find these conclusions stated by the author, then perhaps you did erect straw men to further your own rhetorical ends.

The other observation I have to share is a bit broader in scope. I find the notion of a self-appointed ‘bullshit detective’ (one wonders if this office comes with a sash … and huge epaulets) – especially on issues as complex and multi-faceted as human nutrition to be rather tedious. While I realize some find it good sport to leap to ad hominem attacks, I personally find it rather pointless.

You obviously have a lot of passion and a strong background in these issues. I am sure many people are helped in your practice. I’m at a loss, though, as to how personal attacks help us learn what we need to learn to help people get better or avoid falling into a state of disease in the first place.

Can’t we just argue the facts and leave the middle school stuff somewhere else.
April 26, 2010 1:02 AM

James Krieger said…
Keith,
They aren’t conclusions. They are predictions that naturally follow if the carbohydrate hypothesis were true. Then it’s a matter of whether those predictions hold under experimental conditions.

Regarding my style of blog, people have varying opinions on it. I will eventually be scrapping this blog and starting a couple other ones which won’t have the same style.
April 26, 2010 6:42 PM

Keith said…
I stand corrected. Predictions, not conclusions. Thank you.
The original question remains, however. Where does the author state the predictions you cite.

I still can’t find them.
April 27, 2010 3:54 PM

James Krieger said…
Keith,
That’s the whole point of my post…that Taubes doesn’t approach the carbohydrate hypothesis like a scientist and actually test the hypothesis by making testable predictions and seeing if they hold under experimental conditions. I came up with the predictions because they are predictions that must hold true if the carbohydrate hypothesis were true.

Basically my whole point is that Taubes never attempts to falsify the carbohydrate hypothesis, which is exactly what he should be doing. Instead he only looks for confirmatory data (and even some of his confirmatory data is flawed, like the data that uses self-report of food intake).
April 27, 2010 7:05 PM

Keith said…
Predictions out of whole cloth
Thank you, James. That does clarify. So you did not obtain these predictions from the author.

You take nearly 100 pages of carefully crafted and researched prose and condense it down to an elevator pitch. You construct predictions out of whole cloth predicated on an incomplete understanding of the hypothesis. You take care to construct these predictions to be imminently falsifiable and you dash your hastily-constructed straw men almost as quickly as to stand them up. By way of just one example, you assert a prediction about fructose that is in opposition to what the author clearly states in his hypothesis … and he does so only four pages in to the 90+ pages describing the hypothesis (you can look it up yourself – page 359). To say nothing of the more recent work by Dr. Robert Lustig on the lipogenic effects of fructose (hepatic synthesis of triglycerides, etc.). Hardly inspires confidence that you’ve really done your homework here.

It could be taken a bit more seriously if you had at least made some specific references to the text as you constructed your straw men, but you chose not to. What is most dismaying is that you clearly have the requisite cognitive ability to make a real go at challenging the hypothesis, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t use what you have.

I don’t know if the whole of Taubes’ hypothesis is right – it has not been tested in any completely verifiable and conclusive way. The hypothesis he puts forth, however, is as complete, coherent and cogent a one on the causes of obesity that I’ve seen – and there is a large body of clinical research over many decades that comports well with the hypothesis. Moreover, the choices I have made in light of what I learned from "Good Calories, Bad Calories" have been more beneficial than I could have imagined – as has been the case for many others with whom I have shared this information.

I also know there are clinical results that support his hypothesis and some that do not. But your attempt at disproving the hypothesis fell short right out of the gate as you demonstrated an utter lack of understanding of the source material and a lack of seriousness in grappling with the issues in any depth.
April 28, 2010 11:56 PM

James Krieger said…
Keith,
*************
You take nearly 100 pages of carefully crafted and researched prose and condense it down to an elevator pitch.
****************
Carefully crafted?
Yes, maybe carefully crafted to tell a story. But a carefully crafted story that leaves out large amounts of conflicting information isn’t correct.
Keith, it takes me just a few minutes of reading his book to find glaring ommissions and errors in it. Maybe it’s because I’ve done over 75 lectures on obesity and obesity related research so that I’m intimately familiar with the work in the area.
For example, let’s take the very beginning of Chapter 14, where, down the page, Taubes states:
"Lean people will often insist that the secret to their success is eating in moderation, but many people insist that they at no more than the lean….surprising at it seems, the evidence backs this up."
But the EVIDENCE DOESN’T BACK THIS UP. There are dozens and dozens of studies that show that overweight people don’t accurately report their food intake and consume much more than they report. But Taubes says nothing about this. He took the self report data and assumed it was accurate, when it’s clearly not.
It took me a few minutes to find this major error in such a "carefully crafted" book.
Or how about page 273 where Taubes talks about the differing tendencies of people to gain weight, and then goes onto claim on page 274 that "something more is going on than mere immoderation in lifestyle – metabolic or hormonal factors in particular. Yet the accepted definitions of the cause of obesity do not allow for such a possibility."
Yet Taubes is wrong here as well. There are dozens of studies on the phenomena of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) and how it plays a large role in people’s differing tendencies to gain weight, and it also fits in with the concept of energy balance. Yet Taubes says nothing about this work despite the large body of data out there.
Again, it only took me a few minutes to find this.
GCBC is nothing but a story….a story that leaves out information that doesn’t fit with the story.
*************
You construct predictions out of whole cloth predicated on an incomplete understanding of the hypothesis.
**************
If my understanding is incomplete, then please explain where and how. Please explain why each prediction wouldn’t follow from the carbohydrate hypothesis.
*****************
By way of just one example, you assert a prediction about fructose that is in opposition to what the author clearly states in his hypothesis … and he does so only four pages in to the 90+ pages describing the hypothesis (you can look it up yourself – page 359).
*******************
I discuss the issue of fructose here:
http://www.thebsdetective.com/2010/02/partial-bullsht-of-day-fructose-makes.html  
****************
To say nothing of the more recent work by Dr. Robert Lustig on the lipogenic effects of fructose (hepatic synthesis of triglycerides, etc.)
********************
Dr. Lustig unfortunately leaves out important information when discussing the effects of fructose. This is thoroughly discussed here:
http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/
**************
The hypothesis he puts forth, however, is as complete, coherent and cogent a one on the causes of obesity that I’ve seen
*****************
But it’s not complete. It’s horribly incomplete. When it takes me a few minutes to find major errors in the book, that’s a problem.
April 29, 2010 5:58 AM

Keith said…
I get it, now …
At least I think I do. It appears you have decided that every hypothesis that does not confirm the energy balance hypothesis is wrong. OK. I am not convinced of its correctness and, as I said in a previous comment, nor am I convinced that 100% of Taubes’ carbohydrate hypothesis is correct either. I’m still learning and despite my disagreement with you, I have gained from this exchange.

Your 100% surety produces its own blind spots in entertaining another points of view. The core reason why I decided to comment on your blog was the flippant nature of it – as if you are the only one in possession of the truth. Yes, I know you’ve said ‘it’s just a tone thing, get over it,’ but it does matter. Even in your own very long treatise on how fructose is processed by the liver, you admit that some lipogenesis takes place in the absence of an insulin response, and use a single 6-day study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11068955?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=1)  to assert categorically that it is energy balance that is the key to whether fructose leads to lipogenesis. Isn’t that just another example of confirmation bias?

At the risk of conflating two issues here, my reading of Lustig is that he is very mindful of ‘dose and context’ in the context of fructose consumption, which is where he differs with Taubes’ hypothesis, instead emphasizing fructose in the presence of dietary fiber is a key element to whether the fructose becomes lipogenic (as well as the dose, of course).

Where I believe your own blinders have not allowed you to completely understand the carbohydrate hypothesis is that you (at least in this exchange) do not seem to take into account the key premise of the carbohydrate hypothesis which is that obesity is a disorder of fat metabolism which is engendered by metabolic and hormone imbalance (principally triggered by consumption of refined carbohydrates). Perhaps you have taken that on in other posts. Since I have not searched your blog exhaustively, I may have missed it. As long as you believe you have all the answers already and dismiss others points of view immediately when they disagree with yours, then decide to attack the person; it diminishes your argument for people like me. Maybe I’m just an outlier. I don’t watch ‘reality’ TV either.

Thank you for your time and I wish you – and those with whom you work to get and remain healthy – well.
April 30, 2010 9:55 PM

James Krieger said…
Keith,
*************
Even in your own very long treatise on how fructose is processed by the liver, you admit that some lipogenesis takes place in the absence of an insulin response, and use a single 6-day study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11068955?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=1) to assert categorically that it is energy balance that is the key to whether fructose leads to lipogenesis. Isn’t that just another example of confirmation bias?
******************
I would contend that you are creating a strawman out of the argument I’ve made, and that’s probably partly my fault as I may have not been totally clear in my presentation.
First, of course lipogenesis can occur in the absence of an insulin response. In fact, that was one of the points of my original post on Taubes. Taubes likes to demonize insulin, and one of the points of my post was that you can get fat without it.
Second, lipogenesis is not a light switch. It’s not like fructose is non-lipogenic in an energy deficit and then suddenly switches to lipogenic in an energy surplus. These states exist on a continuum, with the degree of lipogenesis changing with shifts in the degree of energy status.
You also can’t just look at lipogenesis. You also have to consider fat oxidation rates at the same time. Again, it’s a matter of balance. Sure, fructose can be lipogenic, but if the rate of fat oxidation matches the rate of lipogenesis, then there will be no fat accumulation.
The body is constantly undergoing anabolic and catabolic reactions. Tissue mass only increases if the anabolic reactions, all summed up, exceeds that of the catabolic reactions, all summed up. In this case of fat, lipogenesis must exceed the rate of fat oxidation. And this is again a matter of energy balance.
**************
take into account the key premise of the carbohydrate hypothesis which is that obesity is a disorder of fat metabolism which is engendered by metabolic and hormone imbalance (principally triggered by consumption of refined carbohydrates)
****************
No, I certainly do take that into account. But there are two major problems with that tenet. First, all the hormones in the world can’t make you fat if they don’t have the substrate to work with. Hormones can’t trump energy balance. They are just signaling molecules. But they can’t cause the synthesis of new tissue if there is no substrate to build that tissue with. You can bark all the orders you want to construction men, but they can’t build a skyscraper unless they’ve got the materials to do it with.
The second problem with that tenet is the implication that obesity has a single primary cause. However, the scientific literature is quite clear that there are numerous factors all contributing to obesity. Even simple things like portion sizes have been found to be contributors. You could eliminate refined carbohydrates from the diet, and you will still have an obesity problem.
May 1, 2010 7:35 AM

Thoughts on “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

GCBC In a recent post referring to an upcoming visit to Seattle by noted author and nutrition science rabble-rouser, Gary Taubes, I referred to having already completed a post on his book Good Calories, Bad Calories. Well, the reason why I couldn’t find it is because it was on my blog 1.0 (on spaces.live.com) but I had never transferred it. This post was mostly a recap of the summary of the book with a few comments. Even reading it now, I’d be hard pressed to improve on it. I posted it back in July of 2008 after I had just finished the book.

Almost two years on and I’ve ‘piled on’ more information from lots of great authors (Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Mark Sisson, Joe Mercola, Loren Codrain and many others), but the core paradigm shift that was kicked off by GCBC has had the most lasting effect. While I don’t have a dramatic 100 lb. weight loss story (mine is a very modest 20 lb), I’m constantly reminded of how differently my body functions and looks. It’s a big reason why I have come to regard senescence as mostly optional.

Stick with me over the next 50 years (or so) and see how I’m doing.

====

July 24, 2008

Recently completed Good Calories, Bad Calories and will never look at food the same way again. My synopsis would be no better than the text from the web page … it’s a great synopsis. It’s way worth it to read the book. At 640 pages (actually, the main text is only 460 content-packed pages – not much fluff, here) it ain’t no joke but really worth it!

Description
In this groundbreaking book, the result of seven years of research in every science connected with the impact of nutrition on health, award-winning science writer Gary Taubes shows us that almost everything we believe about the nature of a healthy diet is wrong.
For decades we have been taught that fat is bad for us, carbohydrates better, and that the key to a healthy weight is eating less and exercising more. Yet with more and more people acting on this advice, we have seen unprecedented epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Taubes argues persuasively that the problem lies in refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, easily digested starches) and sugars–via their dramatic and long-term effects on insulin, the hormone that regulates fat accumulation–and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. There are good calories, and bad ones.

Good Calories
These are from foods without easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. These foods can be eaten without restraint.
Meat, fish, fowl, cheese, eggs, butter, and non-starchy vegetables.

Bad Calories
These are from foods that stimulate excessive insulin secretion and so make us fat and increase our risk of chronic disease—all refined and easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. The key is not how much vitamins and minerals they contain, but how quickly they are digested. (So apple juice or even green vegetable juices are not necessarily any healthier than soda.)
Bread and other baked goods, potatoes, yams, rice, pasta, cereal grains, corn, sugar (sucrose and high fructose corn syrup), ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fruit juices, bananas and other tropical fruits, and beer.

Taubes traces how the common assumption that carbohydrates are fattening was abandoned in the 1960s when fat and cholesterol were blamed for heart disease and then –wrongly–were seen as the causes of a host of other maladies, including cancer. He shows us how these unproven hypotheses were emphatically embraced by authorities in nutrition, public health, and clinical medicine, in spite of how well-conceived clinical trials have consistently refuted them. He also documents the dietary trials of carbohydrate-restriction, which consistently show that the fewer carbohydrates we consume, the leaner we will be.
With precise references to the most significant existing clinical studies, he convinces us that there is no compelling scientific evidence demonstrating that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease, that salt causes high blood pressure, and that fiber is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Based on the evidence that does exist, he leads us to conclude that the only healthy way to lose weight and remain lean is to eat fewer carbohydrates or to change the type of the carbohydrates we do eat, and, for some of us, perhaps to eat virtually none at all.

The 11 Critical Conclusions of Good Calories, Bad Calories:

  1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, does not cause heart disease.
  2. Carbohydrates do, because of their effect on the hormone insulin. The more easily-digestible and refined the carbohydrates and the more fructose they contain, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.
  3. Sugars—sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful. The glucose in these sugars raises insulin levels; the fructose they contain overloads the liver.
  4. Refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are also the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other common chronic diseases of modern times.
  5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.
  6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter any more than it causes a child to grow taller.
  7. Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.
  8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.
  9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.
  10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
  11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be.
  12. del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Gary Taubes’ Seattle Swing

Readers of these pages know that if I were to point to one book and one authorGaryTaubes   who most inspired me to take an entirely new look at nutrition and diet it’s  Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I touch on it on an early page I wrote for my blog, but I’m afraid I gave it short shrift. Why? Perhaps because I talk about it so much, I assumed I had written about it too, so let me explain.

No. There is too much. Let me sum up.

Gary Taubes is an award-winning science writer who, for years, has trained his sights on science that doesn’t pass his ‘sniff test’ and peeled away the layers of obfuscation, self-interest and cutthroat politics that often dominates science. Unlike the calm, rational, evidence-driven image we assume rules the roost when it comes to all matters of science, we find that (just like in any other human endeavor), sometimes that which can be objectively verified is superseded by orthodoxy, group-think and big money. As it turns out, this is especially true as it regards dietary science.

To put things the the proper context, it is exceedingly difficult to come to definitive, one-size-fits-all answers on dietary questions. There can be no blinded, controlled trials of different dietary approaches in the real world (hmm, I can’t tell, is this broccoli or an apple fritter I’m eating?). There are almost incalculable variables involved, so the certainty we strive for in science, is barely applicable to this field.

Yet and still, there has been a nutritional orthodoxy of which we are all familiar:

  • If you want to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume
  • Stay away from fat
  • A calorie is a calorie is a calorie (I think you get the picture).

In short, Good Calories, Bad Calories painstakingly and in astounding completeness and detail dismantles this dietary orthodoxy and leaves it like a steaming, quivering, gelatinous mass that cannot be reconstituted. The central tenets are:

  • Some calories are actually worse than others if your aim is to limit the amount of fat you store
  • Foods that quickly raise insulin levels prompts the body to store fat
  • Dietary fat (for various reasons) actually associates with a lower propensity to store fat in the body

I’m leaving a whole lot out, but I did say this was a ‘sum up.’ In the three years since GCBC was published, I have seen enormous changes. We are now starting to see more clinicians and researchers take these issues seriously and I’m actually starting to be hopeful for change. So to the real topic of this post.

The American Society of Bariatric Physicians and the Metabolism Society are sponsoring the “Western Regional Obesity Conference” in Seattle April 14-18, 2010. This is an amazing opportunity to hear some leading researchers speak on the many topics related to diet, nutrition and weight loss AND a great opportunity to get an update on Gary Taubes’ work. You will find Gary and many others cited in the program (PDF) for the event.

In addition to his appearance at the conference, he will also be delivering his lecture that lays out his obesity hypothesis in detail at both Swedish Medical Center and University of Washington Medical Center:

Why We Get Fat: Adiposity 101 and the Alternative Hypothesis of Obesity
Date: Thursday, April 15

Swedish Lecture
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM
Swedish Medical Center/First Hill – Glaser Auditorium

U of W Lecture
12 noon – 1pm: Lecture
1-2pm: Q&A
Hogness Auditorium (A420)

Let me know if you’ll be attending.

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