Gary Taubes’ Seattle Swing

April 9, 2010

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of science, we find that (just like in any other human endeavor), sometimes that which can be objectively verified is superseded by orthodoxy, group-think and big money.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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