Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

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Mystery Photo
Mystery Photo

This week’s Mystery Photo
(click to enlarge )

Last Week’s Mystery Photo is of the living quarters for the astronomers at the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert in Chile (see other photos from the area. The photo gallery will not work in this email and you will only see one photo instead of 5). In 2009, after speaking at a conference in Santiago on the occasion of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday celebration, Michael Shermer had the opportunity to visit the observatory in the Atacama desert. His host was Professor Massimo Tarenghi, who orchestrated the design, construction, first light, and full operation of the VLT (Very Large Telescope), which houses four 8.2 meter telescopes and four smaller meter-size telescopes, plus the architectural-award winning hotel, restaurant, and living quarters for the astronomers, staff, and guests, featured in the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

See Michael Shermer’s Skepticblog post for Tuesday, January 4, 2010 to continue reading about his experience there.

We will reveal the answer to this week’s Mystery Photo in next week’s eSkeptic.


About this week’s feature article

In this week’s eSkeptic, Barry Rein reviews Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes (Knopf, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-0307272706)

Barry Rein is an inveterate skeptic and close follower of the nutrition debates of the past decade. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from USC, and currently works in IT security. He is a board member of the Information Systems Security Association. Putting his lipids where his mouth is, he has been eating whole eggs for breakfast for the past eight years.

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Why We Get Fat (image compiled from book cover details)

Good Calories, Good Science
or Bad Calories, Bad Science?

by Barry Rein

There is little doubt that the United States, along with much of the rest of the world, is in the midst of an epidemic of obesity. As we get fatter, the diseases associated with obesity — diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer — continue to rise. Despite the fact that we are constantly exhorted to eat less and exercise more, we continue to get fatter. A neutral observer might conclude that there is something wrong with the science here. Gary Taubes claims to be one such observer, and he’s convinced that there is definitely something wrong with the science of nutrition as it is being practiced today.

The central thesis of Taubes’ new book, Why We Get Fat is that carbohydrates in our diet is the cause of this epidemic. While his thesis is unquestionably controversial, Taubes builds a strong scientific case that this is indeed what is happening. If he is right — and his work has the ring of scientific truth about it — it means that much of the dietary advice we have been following is flat-out wrong.

This book reviews much of the same ground that his previous work, Good Calories, Bad Calories covered. That work was nearly five hundred pages of densely-written, heavily annotated scientific prose. Unsurprisingly, many readers found it to be hard going as it was aimed at a scientifically-oriented audience. One of Taubes’ aims in Why We Get Fat is to cover the same ground but, as he says in the introduction, in a form that husbands, wives, parents, or friends and siblings can read without difficulty.

Gary Taubes is no neophyte in writing about scientific controversies. Before he turned his attention to dietary science, Taubes wrote about physics, such as the highly acclaimed Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion, about Pons, Fleischman, and the problems that ensue from announcing a major scientific discovery by press conference before anyone has a chance to replicate your findings; and also Nobel Dreams, a critical look at Carlo Rubbia and the harm to science in general and to a scientific career in particular that can result from the pursuit of the Nobel Prize. For such work Taubes won the Science in Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times. He is currently a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. So Taubes’ bona fides as a researcher and writer are impeccable. But is his science?

Why We Get Fat is divided into two major sections. The first, Biology, not Physics, is generally a debunking section that endeavors to break down much of what we think we know about getting fat. Among other themes, it explains why the calories-in/calories-out hypothesis is false. The second section, Adiposity 101, clarifies the science behind fat accumulation, and comes up with some startling, but well-supported conclusions as to why we’re really getting fat.

Book I covers a theme that should be familiar to skeptics: that should draw our conclusions from the evidence, wherever the evidence might lead — in this case, why we get fat. If the evidence contradicts our beliefs, do we ignore the evidence, or do we change our beliefs? Taubes wants us to change our beliefs.

The conventional wisdom describing the obesity epidemic is that we eat too much and don’t exercise enough. We live in a “toxic environment” where food is too readily available and where we don’t move around enough to burn off what we eat. Too much food too easily available, sedentary lifestyles — that’s what’s making us fat.

Not quite, says Taubes, beginning with the fact that obesity correlates more closely with poverty than prosperity. He gives examples of several obese populations that had no access to any of the factors that we assume are making us fat today. For example, the Native American tribe known as the Pimas were remarked upon by mid-19th century explorers as being lean and in fine health. By 1900, however, the Pima had been consigned to reservations, living on government rations that consisted largely of white flour and sugar. And, according to the anthropologists who documented their fate, they were fat.

The Pima are just one example of several populations that Taubes references who became fat despite (or because of?) poverty, and despite the absence of the several factors we assume are making us fat today.

Next, Taubes goes into the “Elusive Benefits of Undereating,” and “The Elusive Benefits of Exercise.” Eating less may work in theory, but as Taubes shows, many medical studies show that it doesn’t work in practice. Calorie starved patients didn’t lose much weight, and those who did regained it shortly thereafter. Is this due to the moral weakness of the patients, or is there a biological reason?

Likewise exercise: Taubes acknowledges that exercising may well be good for us, but that it is, generally speaking, not an effective method for losing weight or keeping it off. In an amusing example, he asks: if you knew you were going to a huge feast in the evening, what would you do to ensure you had a good appetite? You’d follow the exact advice we are given to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. So, the method you would use to make yourself as hungry as possible for the evening is the same as the advice for losing weight!

For some, exercise is something we do in a gym, or on a track, or at a sporting venue. While many of us work in sedentary occupations, domestics, gardeners, construction workers and other physical laborers get plenty of exercise as a normal part of their jobs. Taubes points out that, 1) many of the jobs involving physical activity are done by the poor and disadvantaged and, 2) many of these people are still fat. So, if physical activity is the key to staying lean, why do the poor tend to be more obese? This is another argument against the calories-in/calories-out hypothesis.

One other example: A 2006 study of 13,000 habitual runners, all subscribers to Runner’s World magazine, found that, indeed, those who ran the most tended to weigh the least, but that all the runners tended to get fatter with each passing year. The implication is that in order to keep weight constant it is necessary to increase running mileage year after year, as the runner gets progressively older. As Taubes notes, maybe it’s time to question these underlying beliefs.

There is a fairly widespread belief that the calories-in/calories-out hypothesis is supported by the first law of thermodynamics. The first law, also known as the law of energy conservation, roughly states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but only changed from one form to another. In a section entitled Thermodynamics for Dummies, Taubes neatly explains why this law does not explain weight gain and loss any more than Newton’s laws of motion or Einstein’s laws of relativity would. While it is true that in order to gain weight we must eat more calories than we expend, the first law explains nothing about causality: it does not explain why we overeat. This is the real question that must be answered in order to deal with the obesity epidemic, and it is dealt with in Book II.

Finishing up Book I, Taubes attempts to take some of the blame away from the obese themselves. This may not be a popular viewpoint, but if the cause of obesity is biological (genes and physiology) and not moral (gluttony and sloth), then we have been barking up the wrong tree when looking for causes and cures. Why, he asks, would someone voluntarily subject themselves to the opprobrium, and the debilitating effects, of obesity?

Having dispensed with many weighty misconceptions, in Book II Taubes goes into what he argues is the real science of fat. He discusses the role of insulin and insulin resistance in fat regulation, why some people get fat and not others, and individual variations in the way fat is regulated. Little of the science Taubes discusses here is controversial: The operation of insulin, for example, has been established for decades. What Taubes does, however, is to gather and synthesize the known science into a coherent whole. This does not mean his conclusions are not controversial, just that the science itself isn’t.

For example, in a chapter entitled A Primer on the Regulation of Fat, Taubes reviews the details of the science behind fat metabolism, explaining the processes by which fat is regulated, stored, and released. Basically, when insulin increases fat is stored; when insulin decreases, fat is released. If we keep our insulin levels low, fat will be burned. There is more to it than this, which Taubes explains clearly, but that is the basic idea. There might be a lot less confusion about weight loss and gain, Taubes insists, if facts like these were more widely understood.

Taubes discusses what we can do about the dietary fix we’ve eaten ourselves into. If you haven’t guessed yet, he considers the culprits to be carbohydrates in all their forms: “In a world without carbohydrate-rich diets, obesity would be a rare condition.”

We all know people who can eat as much as they like yet remain slender. Subsequent chapters explain why some of us get fat and others stay lean eating approximately the same amount of food. There is seemingly no justice here! Also covered is why many of us get heavier as we age. Hint: Taubes reckons it has to do with insulin resistance.

Taubes considers fructose to be a serious contributor to being overweight. He quotes biochemists who called it the most “lipogenic” of carbohydrates, the one converted most easily to fat. Many of us are aware of, and try to avoid, the high-fructose corn syrup in sodas and other products. But what about the fructose in fruits? The fruits we eat have undergone hundreds of years of selective breeding to increase their size and sweetness. Many contain substantial amounts of fructose, so Taubes suggests that maybe we should track the amount of sugar we get when we consume fruit, as well as our sodas.

There is a lot more controversy in the remainder of the book. Without reviewing all the details here, Taubes shows how many human cultures in the past obtained most of their calories from animal foods without suffering from heart disease or any of the other diseases that plague Western civilization.

Some other subjects covered that are likely to induce cognitive dissonance in readers accustomed to the party line on obesity:

  • Saturated fat is either harmless or beneficial, and is not responsible for heart disease.
  • Eating fat is not the cause of getting fat.
  • Why there is little genuine scientific support for the benefits of a low-fat diet.
  • A low carbohydrate diet is the best diet for humans.

To be sure, much of what Taubes says is going to be a hard sell. It is diametrically opposed to the dietary advice outlined by such organizations as the American Heart Association. Nevertheless, throughout the book Taubes clearly supports his positions in a way that leaves little room for argument (which is not to say there won’t be any).

Diet and nutrition is not a field that has received much scrutiny by the skeptical community, but Why We Get Fat fits squarely within the canon of skeptical analysis. We skeptics like to believe that we reach our conclusions based on reason and evidence, and we are supposed to be willing to change our opinions in the face of new evidence. Well, here it is: a book that turns upside-down almost everything we think we know about human nutrition.

If Taubes is wrong, well, his error is a doozy! Following his advice will lead to increases in obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all the other conditions Western civilization is heir to. Ironically, this is exactly what we are already experiencing. If bad science leads to bad results, then maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift. That is certainly what Taubes believes.


Skeptical perspectives…
cover The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas & Survive a Zombie Apocalypse
by Jennifer Outlette (CD $15.95 DVD $23.95)

Jennifer ouellette never took math in college, mostly because she — like most people — assumed that she wouldn’t need it in real life. With wit and verve, Ouellette shows how she learned to apply calculus to everything from gas mileage to dieting, from the rides at Disneyland to shooting craps in Vegas — proving that even the mathematically challenged can learn the fundamentals of the universal language. READ more and order the lecture.

cover Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads
by Joel Best (hardback $19.95)

Sociologist Best dissects the dangerous hula hoops of business, medicine, science and education in this exposition on institutional fads. According to Best, American attitudes toward progress (colored by optimism, competitiveness, a belief in positive change and a fear of being seen as old-fashioned) serve as kindling to the fire of the next big cure, technological revolution, business management secret or teaching method.
READ more and order the lecture.


Follow Michael Shermer on Twitter, Facebook, and Skepticblog

NEW ON SKEPTICBLOG.ORG
God and the Astronomers
at the Paranal Observatory in Chile

In 2009, after speaking at a conference in Santiago on the occasion of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday celebration, Michael Shermer had the opportunity to visit the observatory in the Atacama desert. His host was Professor Massimo Tarenghi, who orchestrated the design, construction, first light, and full operation of the VLT (Very Large Telescope), which houses four 8.2 meter telescopes and four smaller meter-size telescopes, plus the architectural-award winning hotel, restaurant, and living quarters for the astronomers, staff, and guests, featured in the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

READ THE POST

FOLLOW MICHAEL SHERMER ON TWITTER Facebook SKEPTICBLOG

Follow Daniel Loxton on Twitter, Facebook, and Skepticblog.

NEW ON SKEPTICBLOG.ORG
Fear of Flying

Having landed safely at the local airport after the seasonal holidays Daniel Loxton discusses his fear of flying and reminds us that skeptics are not immune to false beliefs, despite how irrational our beliefs and fears may be.

READ THE POST

FOLLOW DANIEL LOXTON ON TWITTERFACEBOOKSKEPTICBLOG
104 Comments »

104 Comments

  1. Roland Sassen says:

    “Good Calories, Good Science
    or Bad Calories, Bad Science?”

    by Barry Rein

    We can learn from biochemistry that when we consume carbohydtrates our body does not need, these will be converted into fat, and stored, when we consume fat our body does not need, the body will get rid of it.

    Roland Sassen

  2. Mike says:

    I’m glad the skeptical community is finally taking a closer look at Gary Taubes’ work. His hypothesis fits the evidence just as well, and in fact better, than the low fat paradigm.

    If you come to the same conclusion after reading either Good Calories Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat, you can’t help but see this as a profound paradigm shift like the choice between the red pill and blue pill in the movie The Matrix. The impact on public policy and individual’s lives is enormous.

    I would argue that getting this message out would have a much bigger impact on society that railing against all the homeopaths, paranormals, and other quacks out there.

  3. Adam says:

    “Good Calories, Good Science or Bad Calories, Bad Science?”
    by Barry Rein

    There is no question that the science of nutrition needs critical review, but Taubes is just wrong. Calories-in-calories out is the law of thermodynamics.

    It’s been proven a million times and it should take more than “scientific” babble of Gary Taubes to take it down.

    The worst thing is – the people are starting to fall for another fad diet. Since the 80’s the fad was low-fat. That didn’t work. Now it will be low carb, and it still isn’t gonna work.

    I won’t pretend to have the secret & truth to dieting, but avoiding a certain macronutrient is just plain wrong.

    For a truly scientific review of the field of nutrution I recomend Alan Aragon http://alanaragon.com/ and his Research Review. He one of the best there is.

  4. AZ says:

    I sit here reading the review of Taubes’ work and happily munching away at my first meal of the day – at least seven or eight portions of fruit and a variety of nuts. I’ll have a bran muffin or a bowl(bowel?)of hot oatmeal soon. Oh what a healthy boy am I! Not!?
    Starting tomorrow I’m eating a big greasy pan of chili con carne, standing over the sink with my hat on like a real man. No fad diet for me.
    AZ

  5. Will says:

    Am I wrong, or is this “new thinking” on caloric intake and metabolism a little late to the party? Dr. Atkins? The Zone diet? Basically, all the low carb diets that have already come and are on their way out of fashion? No mention of the twinkie diet?
    Will

  6. Will says:

    Oops, left out of first post; Barry Rein, in your next book review, please consider the how the book fits within a larger context of existing work and less as a stand-alone piece within the topic of discussion.

  7. Bob says:

    I’m sorry that I can’t remember the source, it was a television program about nutrition involving several studies. It included monitoring several adventurers ski traversing the length of Lake Winnipeg in winter. The adventurers consumed large amounts of calories (I recall greater than 5000 cal/day)and they all lost weight. In the same program they allowed 1000 college student test subjects to eat whatever they wanted every day provided they eat 12 slices of bread per day. They all lost weight. I’m a firm beliver of the calories in / calories out theory. If you consume 800 calories of pure carbs, pure fat, or pure protein every day you WILL loose weight. If you consume 5000 cal/day you will gain weight. Simple. Your basal metabolic rate combined with how much you move determines how many calories you need to MAINTAIN your current body weight. If you weigh 250 lbs you NEED to consume ~3000 cal/per day + what you burn by moving, otherwise you WILL loose weight. While I don’t advocate bodybuilding, these guys NEED to consume a lot of food to get that big. High end atheletes need to consume lots of food just keep up their energy levels, otherwise thay couldn’t perform. They’re not fat! Simply put, people eat too much and don’t move enough. Carbs are not “the enemy”. Your brain consumes ~10-20% of all your calories per day…all of it in the form of SUGAR (carbs)! People need to be honest with themselves in terms of how much they actually consume. Most people eat MUCH more than they think. I am at an ideal body weight but it takes a lot of effort. I don’t exercise enough. I monitor everything I eat and struggle to keep the calories reasonable. I assure you, most people would be horrfied to find out how many calories they actually consume.

    I’m sorry but the Kreb’s cycle does not care what the source of the incoming molecule is, fat, carb, or protien. As far as biochmistry is concerned, it is all just a source of ENERGY!!!!!

    Eat less, move more…

    Peace

    • Tracy says:

      “Simply put, people eat too much and don’t move enough.”

      I haven’t read this version of Taubes’ book (I have the huge 500-pager) but he specifically addresses the biological WHY of people eating too much and not moving more. Have you read his work at all?

      As I mentioned in another reply, I’m at an ideal body weight as well, after losing 30lbs low-carbing. It’s been 6 years and doesn’t require any effort on my part to maintain that loss. Quite a relief, after being a staunch food-weigher and calorie counter for many years prior. Proves nothing, just a little n=1 anecdote… point being, you gotta do what works for you, and for many people a low/lower carb way of eating works.

      • Bob says:

        No I have not read the book, that is why I haven’t made any statements directed towards the content. I have stuck to posting personal experience. I agree that each of us are unique and need to find what works best for us. Did you ever consider that cutting way back on carbs actually cut back the calorie consumption? Eating a high protien diet dose suppress the appetite.

        • Kevin says:

          Clearly if you gained weight be eating too many carbs, then restricting carbs makes sense but it doesn’t contradict the fact that what Bob says is correct.

    • Zach says:

      Maybe you should read the book. Taubes’ primary point is that everything you are saying makes sense, but that once you look more deeply at the science, it turns out to be wrong. Your argument is analogous to something along the lines of, “I’ve never studied any of the literature on quantum mechanics, but the results seem intuitively wrong to me, therefore the theory must be false.”

  8. Kenny F. says:

    While somewhat akin to Atkins/Zone/South Beach, Dr. Taubes’ is not advocating these diets.

    For anybody who doubts what he’s saying, and backing up with science and statistics, I challenge you to cut out white flour (bread, pretzels, pasta, processed cereals, etc.) and refined sugar (especially that evil high-frustose corn syrup) for two weeks.

    Eat a diet high in saturated fat – lots of (organic) eggs and grass-fed (or at least Angus) steaks, cooked in organic butter – drink raw whole milk if you can find it.

    Two weeks of doing this will not only bring you weight loss, but also a lack of bloating, higher energy levels and better mood.

    It’s a two-week experiment – if you don’t see/feel a difference, feel free to comment negatively on this book.

    • Adam says:

      I’m not saying that high-fat is bad, I’m saying carbs are not the enemy.

      • Kenny F. says:

        agreed…and Dr. Taubes would agree too.
        processed food is the enemy. See above.

      • Will says:

        That 2-week experiment will result in lower calorie consumption. What variables does this experiment control for? What kinda cause and effect relationships can be scientifically made? The main problem with diet studies and “science” is that they are mostly self reported and anecdotal.

        • Kenny F. says:

          <>

          The point is that it’s not just about weight, it’s about better health and better mood. Our bodies need saturated fat…and since encouraging people to eat less of it — even demonizing it — the overall health of the people that live here has declined.

          It’s hard to wrap one’s head around it, but obesity is a symptom of malnourishment…people are not getting enough nourishment from their calories, and this is largely due to “bad carbs”, like white flour and processed sugar, etc.

          Taubes’ studies are seldom based on anecdotal studies, and largely (if not wholly) based on science. Have you even read the book?

          • Will says:

            My point is that any results of your experiment cannot be used to infer any cause and effects as outlined in the book. Those are exactly the anecdotal and self reported flaws I am pointing out, it is just “bad science.” Whether or not I have read the book does not detract from the validity of my statements.

      • Tracy says:

        For some of us… they are. Or to put it a different way, for some of us eating a diet that is carbohydrate-based (ie: whole grains, legumes, etc) isn’t conducive to weight loss or management.

        @Bob… I too am at an ideal body weight (lost 30lbs), and have been for the past 6 years, and don’t have to put forth any effort whatsoever to do so. Cutting way back on carboydrates worked well for me (counting calories, and I mean religious tracking, didn’t work for me… I lost weight eating a higher calorie level, 1,600-2,300 cals of lower carb foods than I did eating a lower calorie level, 1,200-1,500 cals, on a grain-based vegetarian diet and a basic food pyramid style diet), and requires no effort for me to maintain.

        I simply don’t put on weight anymore… I don’t exercise either (shame on me, I know).

        Of course then you have my husband, who eats a ton of carbs (and junk food), has single-digit body fat, and never gets so much as a cold despite his horrid diet. Bastard.

      • Phocion Timon says:

        Carbs ARE the enemy. For the last year I’ve endeavored to keep my carb intake to less than 25 gm/day, and it’s usually about 10 gm in any calendar day. Even though my daily caloric intake is the same or more, I have: 1) lost 30 pounds of fat, 2) drastically reduced my blood pressure, 3) completely reversed my diagnosed “pre-diabetic” condition, 4) after suffering from gout for 20 years, I haven’t had a gout attack in the past year, and 4) I no longer take ANY medications. My medical bills have gone from about $2,000/year to exactly zero dollars per year. Hell, I’ve even begun some light jogging.

        My diet consists of beef, bacon, sausage, some chicken, occasionally fish, lots of eggs, organ meats, etc. Once or twice a week I eat a couple of handfuls of fresh vegetables, usually the green leafy type. I often take a couple of bites of naturaly fermented kimchee while cooking my morning bacon and eggs. I don’t think I’ve had any fruit in the past year. My fats either come with the meat or I use tallow or butter from 100% grass-fed cattle. (If I cook my ribeye steak in the kitchen, I use tallow in the skillet. If I cook it outside, I baste the steak with tallow.) The carbs I do get come strictly from the vegetables. (If food comes in a can or a box, I’d rather take a beating with a wet, knotted rope than buy it.) Except for the butter, I use no dairy products.

        I still have 100 pounds of fat to lose but now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Carbohydrates are definitely the enemy, make no mistake about it.

        • Gaver says:

          You’re lucky you can still go to the bathroom. Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diet.

  9. Adam says:

    Barry Rein,

    There is a good book I think you shoul check out:
    http://www.amazon.com/Carbophobia-Scary-Truth-Americas-Low-carb/dp/1590560868

    • Kenny F. says:

      a 3/5 star book written by a vegetarian? no thanks. I see a hidden agenda.

      People need to get off food that comes in boxes…food that’s got “partially dehydrogenated” anything in it, and/or corn syrup. Don’t buy food that has any ingredients you can’t pronouce, and try to only buy food that’s got 3 or fewer ingredients!

      The USDA Food Pyramid is a failed experiment in which the American people have been the rats, and for the past 40-50 years since its introduction,
      obesity has gone up,
      diabetes has gone up,
      cancer has gone up,
      digestive issues have gone up,
      heart disease has gone up

      and the profits for the pharmaceutical companies have gone WAY up!

      • Adam says:

        Well, the ratings are either 5-star or 1-star. Controversial. There probably is a bit of anti-fat, but most is refuting anti-carb people.

        It’s also about scientific studies of nutrition.

  10. Kenny F. says:

    I also highly recommend checking out the movie “Fathead” on Hulu…it’s a lot of the same information presented in an entertaining way.

    • Adam says:

      yeah, pseudoscience was always presented as entertaining..

      • Kenny F. says:

        choosing not to believe scientific studies you don’t agree with does not make it pseudoscience – it makes you closed-minded.

        The truth is out there, but only if you want to find it. I suppose you think OJ Simpson is innocent too….

        • Adam says:

          My bad, didn’t see the movie. Shouldn’t have called it pseudoscience.

          If it says the same as Taubes (that carbs are the enemy) than it’s bad. if not, I don’t know.

          • Kenny F. says:

            it’s worth 100 minutes of your time, and, if nothing else, will have you question the ‘diet’ the US Gov’t has put us on for the past 40-50 years.

        • Dr. Sidethink Hp.D says:

          the problem is not usually disagreeing with a study but withe the interpretation of the study.

          it’s kinda annoying when anyone disagreeing with some fadster’s interpretation is labelled ” closed minded” .

          no Flame intended, but this is often a self-referential description and usuallay pronounced “duh, well, like you know, like “Close” ( as in “You too close..I kin smell ya feet” ) minded.

          Dr. Sidethink

    • Gaver says:

      How many people actually follow the food pyramid, anyhow, though? From the people I know, not many.

  11. Dr. Sidethink Hp.D says:

    Classical statementThe first explicit statement of the first law of thermodynamics was given by Rudolf Clausius in 1850:

    “There is a state function E, called ‘energy’, whose differential equals the work exchanged with the surroundings during an adiabatic process.”

    this is a long way from the
    “calories in…Calories out” pop-blabber

    according to the Mortimer Snerd Version ,
    eating a diet of cardboard chips and hot water should work
    well enough to supply your nutritional needs and while causing you to lose weight.

    Ignored are

    Heredity
    metabolic rate
    Bioavailability of “calories” in ingested substances Amount of Storage as Fat of ingested calories that somehow enter the metabolic whazziz
    .
    I personally like the “Breatharian” diet which claims
    that air alone contains enough spiritual calories to sustain you once a proper weight is reached.

    Unfortunately , “Breatharians” quickly lose 100% of their body weight.
    (Kids, don’t try this without consulting your local PyroQuackter or OsteoQuack.)

    I also like the Mountain Dew Diet
    “Some dew , some don’t)

    My disclaimer here is to follow your M.D. ‘s advice in these matters and not pay attention to Food Magic fads,

    Dr. Sidethink

    • Verimius says:

      The skeleton takes up about 12% of body weight, so even the most devout breatharian won’t lose more than around 88%!

  12. Louise Dotter says:

    FYI – Tohono O’odham is the correct name for the Pima. The word Pima is equivalent to using the “N” word. After working as a biology/art teacher at the Tohono O’odham high school in AZ I can attest to the problem of obesity among members of the nation. I don’t think it was carbs or fat but the introduction of processed (i.e.. store bought) foods that led to their “weighty” problem. Until WWII the Tohono O’odham farmed and hunted for their food, which not only provided sustenance but exercise! I have learned that lesson well and avoid all processed foods by growing my own and buying organic. I still believe the pollution of our food supply; either intentionally, with so called “supplementation” such as folate and iodine etc. or negligently, with pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, is the cause of much of the obesity and other health problems in modern society.

  13. Kenny F. says:

    I defer now to my favorite blog by my favorite blogger.

    http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2010/12/13/arguing-with-idiots/

    have a good day y’all!

  14. Bob says:

    If you looked at the actual chemical names of the ingredients in “organic” foods you probably couldn’t pronounce them either. Oh by the way…cabbage has over 200 known carcinogenic compounds in it. So do most other foods. Carrots are not just ‘carrots’, they are composed of thousands of complex molecules. Made from elements. Yes chemicals! There is no such thing as “Chemical Free”. We are all just bags of chemicals. People ate “organic” for tens of thousands of years. Most didn’t live too long…..

    If ‘A’ & ‘B’ both make a claim and ‘A’ is proven to be wrong, it does not mean ‘B’ is right. They could BOTH be wrong.

    Remain Skeptical.

    P.S.
    No OJ was guilty as hell (proven by the subsequent civil trails where he was found guilty), the prosecution just botched the case.

  15. Will says:

    First man developed ability to control fire – Man then used fire to cook food – eating cooked food ultimately led to evolution of larger brain. Larger brains ultimately led to technological advances, specifically the couch and television. You can figure out the rest.
    Eat less move more.

  16. Bob says:

    Will & Dr. Sidethink.

    Hilarious!!!!!

  17. Bob says:

    Americans are ‘blame’ happy. They eat enough to feed a small village and then look to find someone to blame for their weight problems. It’s always someone else’s fault.

    Oh well…

  18. Kenny F. says:

    “Eat less, move more”.

    Ya….those Mexicans…they *never* move. They just sit in their offices with their white-collar jobs all day.

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/americas/01/04/mexico.obesity/

    (please do not perceive this post as anti-mexican…it’s merely an example of how ‘eat less, move more’ doesn’t really hold an awful lot of water.)

    • Crystal says:

      ‘Eat less, move more’ can entirely apply to that article. Perhaps you didn’t notice where it said “In our market, I can tell you we’ve had a 50% growth in sales of large and extra-large sizes in the last three years” and “school-aged children get at least a fifth of their calories from drinks with a high content of sugar and other sweeteners.”

      The diets are undoubtedly high carb but also filled with excess calories; food with sugar or starch and few other nutrients – it’s not the carbs themselves that are the culprit.

      “Eat less, move more” doesn’t mean to go to extremes. It just means that people in general eat way more than they need (most of it, again, being high calorie with little nutrients). In Canada, a very small percentage of children get the recommended amount of daily physical activity, and at least half of people are considered physically inactive. Just because it’s a mantra that’s been promoted for years doesn’t mean people are doing it.

  19. Roberta says:

    I studied chemistry and I can pronounce all the words on any package of processed food. Does that mean I can eat anything I want?

    “Don’t buy food that has any ingredients you can’t pronouce” is an anti-science, condescending comment. Talk to me like I’m a grown-up.

    • Kenny F. says:

      I suppose if you took the comment as directed at you with the intent of insulting your intelligence, you could be offended. Sorry you read it that way.

      The point, however, was to say that good, nourishing food, for the most part, doesn’t contain ingredients that sound like chemicals.

      • Roberta says:

        “… good, nourishing food, for the most part, doesn’t contain ingredients that sound like chemicals.”

        Yes it does. All food contains chemicals and some of them are quite mind-bogglingly complex.

        This is a complicated subject and simplistic statements like this are not helping things.

        Why not just say “don’t eat food that comes in a box or a can”? I could probably support that.

      • Bob says:

        Again…we are made of chemicals, the entire universe is made of chemicals, many that most people cannot pronounce. Should we end our own existence because we are not “organic”? I am a scientist (chemist…not in the food industry!) and I am so sick of hearing “chemical free”. It doesn’t exist!!!!! There is a sign on the ‘frig’ here at work – “Food only…no chemicals” So even people in the industry don’t get it.

    • Dr. Sidethink Hp.D says:

      I gotta idea about how to solve the “Can’t pronounce” jibberjabber.
      We rename all chemicals with Anglo-Saxon Male or Biblical manes!!!

      Thus 2,2,5 trimethyl pentane
      becomes
      2,2,5 triMarkin pentArthur.

      likewise
      (R)-(6-methoxyquinolin-4-yl)((2S,4S,8R)- 8-vinylquinuclidin-2-yl)martainol (quinine)

      becomes

      (R)-(6-MarkoxyHerbertolin-4-yl)((2S,4S,8R)- 8-VincentylGeorgeiNortonin-2-yl)Markinol

      Dr. S,

  20. Kenny F. says:

    one last post…

    The ironic thing about calling Taubes’ book and science a “fad” is that the basis for his studies is that people, overall, were healthier and happier before the arrival of (and eventual takeover of) processed food.

    As mentioned in my post above, chronic disease is WAY up from half a century ago. Sure, people are living longer than they did back then because modern medicine is able to keep them alive, even when they’re sick. It’s a quality of life issue.

    I digress…To encourage going back to a time where food was simpler and people were, for the most part, happier and healthier. They didn’t have gyms and trainers that were easily accessible to everyone with the desire to work out.

    He’s not encouraging a “fad” like ‘eat 30 eggs a day’ or count up to 2500 calories/day if you weigh 150 lbs and you’re 5’7″…he’s encouraging eating as people did 50 years ago…stay away from the processed foods and massive doses of processed sugar that are commonly found in today’s supermarkets and restaurants.

    The USDA Food Pyramid is upside down, and the clinical studies are out there to show that it is. Today’s “grains” have been processed to the point that their benefits have been stripped – all you’re left with is ‘dead’ calories and grains that the body turns into sugar, thus releasing extra insulin, thus storing fat.

    This isn’t a “fad diet” – this is how humans were eating for thousands and thousands of years.

    • Adam says:

      @Kenny F.
      I won’t argue with what you think Taubes promotes. Sure, too much of anything is too much.

      Taubes is writing bad science. For example, his explanation of fat metabolism is at best, outdated, at worst – a lie. Insulin is not “the one to blame”.

  21. Bob says:

    Say Kenny F, try not eating for a week and run 5 miles every day. You’ll loose weight. Guaranteed!!!Or try eating 5000 calories every day but don’t get out of bed. Have someone bring the food to you. You will gain weight, 100% money back guaranteed!!!! Try the study. Don’t take ANYONE’S word for it. Be a skeptical scientist and do the experiment. Discover an answer for yourself.

    Could it be that the Mexicans are just eating too much????

    Peace

  22. Kenny F. says:

    I will undoubtedly “loose” weight by not eating, but my body will also be malnourished. I can have somebody bring me 5,000 calories a day without getting out of bed and I’ll gain for sure, because I’ll be “loosing” muscle tone and my body will slow down my digestion.

    The goal here isn’t entirely about weight-loss – it’s about overall health and nourishing the body.

    could it be that Mexicans are just eating too much processed food and sugarry drinks?

    • Kenny F. says:

      btw, “loose” = the opposite of tight.
      “lose” is the opposite of gain and/or find.

      • Dr. Sidethink Hp.D says:

        BTW II

        some people ( like myself) occasionally make typo’s ( yes, that’s grammatically correct)
        also, in haste ,some proofreading is hurride. ( intentionally left that here for fun and irony)

        Actually the spellcheckers and grammar checkers in WORD
        are time wasters and give abusrd suggestions often as not ( knot//)

        ciao
        Dr. S.

  23. Bob says:

    I agree and yes. But…all foods, organic or not are loaded with toxic chemicals that our bodies have evolved to deal with. While we may be performing a grand experiment by processing foods, people ARE living longer AND healthier than they did for all of human history. And improved heath care is not the singular cause. People may have seemed healthier thousands of years ago but they did die much younger than us. People who eat ‘organic’ are not statistically in the 95th percentile in age of death as would be expected if eating ‘organic’ was the answer to a long AND healthy life. The data just isn’t there.

  24. Bob says:

    Thanks for catching the typo.

    Thank you Dr S. for the humor.

    Here’s an example where spell checking is worthless.

    “Mary was quite merry to marry”.

    I try very hard to make sure everything I post is exactly what I want to say and is gramatically correct, but I’m not perfect. I’m glad I’m not perfect, because if I was perfect I would be dead. It leaves room for me to learn and grow.

    Peace

  25. Tim Cashin says:

    Let me get this straight.. This book (Why we get Fat) is written by a journalist with an undergrad physics degree… and the review is written by an electrical engineer.. How surprising is it then that the author basically just summarizes the book and points out that it presents “controversial findings” without providing any real evidence for or against the book author’s arguments? Maybe the book author Taubes knows exactly how to sift through all the contradicting research and pinpoint the holy truth without any education in any field of health at all.. Or maybe he’s just another journalist spouting off on popular subject in a controversial way while doing his best to appear rigorously scientific. Whatever Taubes has done, let’s have somebody qualified tell us, rather than an electrical engineer with an interest in food?

    Of course people can write about things they don’t have PhD’s in.. But come on Skeptic, this is just wretched..

    • Verimius says:

      “Maybe the book author Taubes knows exactly how to sift through all the contradicting research and pinpoint the holy truth without any education in any field of health at all.”

      That appears to be the case here. But, rather than questioning the author’s qualifications you’d do better to criticize his science.

      • Tim Cashin says:

        The science may be accurate or inaccurate, that’s entirely beside my point and I’m in no position to claim knowledge beyond either of the authors. The point is quite simply that anyone “sciencey” can review a book by parroting the book arguments and making a handful of comments about how others in the field disagree with the book arguments in certain ways. When I read a book review in skeptic, I would like to see actual critical appraisal from somebody who is qualified to do so.

    • Adam says:

      @Tim & Verimius

      It’s ok that people write about what they are interested in. Not having a
      Ph.D. does not imply incompetence. Still, the field of nutrition is full of scams and pseudoscience.
      To be able to criticaly review a book, one needs broader and deeper knowledge than the author of the book. I’m afraid Barry Rein does not have it.
      Taubes has been repetedly accused of bad science. I my opinion, the accusations were correct and taubes didn’t refute them. A reviewer of his books should take those accusations into acount.

      • Tim Cashin says:

        Nobody’s implying that anyone with less than a PhD is incompetent. It’s just a thorny subject as you rightly point out, and so Mr. Rein isn’t able to tell us one way or another whether Taubes draws legitimate conclusions or absurd conclusions based on the referenced science. The review author adds virtually nothing but a synopsis of Taubes’ arguments. Journalists writing about science have been known to overstep their bounds while interpreting science. Taubes may have a better grasp on science than most science journalists, but I’d still like a reviewer to at least give me some indication about how much of Taubes’ thesis is correct and how much of it is bunkum. Cheers

  26. Mike says:

    “…domestics, gardeners, construction workers and other physical laborers get plenty of exercise as a normal part of their jobs. Taubes points out that, 1) many of the jobs involving physical activity are done by the poor and disadvantaged and, 2) many of these people are still fat. So, if physical activity is the key to staying lean, why do the poor tend to be more obese?”

    This is some of worst logical reasoning I’ve seen in a long time. There is so much wrong with it that “Skeptic” should be ashamed to have published it.

    If this represents the reviewer’s opinion, he should be chastised for such flawed reasoning. If the reviewer is merely restating the author’s viewpoint, then the reviewer should be taken to task for failing to point out the illogic of it.

    Either way, Barry Rein should have his skeptic card revoked until he can demonstrate a grasp of basic logic.

  27. Steve says:

    OK, didnt read all the responses but Ill throw in my two cents based on Pollan’s work (Omnivores Dilemma, Food Rules, etc) as well as what Dr. Oz talked about a few times. From an environmental point of view, we should look at cultures that do not have obesity/diabetes/heart disease crisis. What do THEY eat (and do)? Its hardly anecdotal if you compare multiple cultures and see the underlying trend. One: Exercise, Two: Caloric limitations (of any kind). Fat/Carb/Protein do not seem to matter in the long term. The main reason people gain weight as they age is their metabolism slows but their food/exercise habits remain the same.

  28. Mike from Atlanta says:

    It would seem a many of the commenters critical of Taubes have not read his books.

    Taubes does not say that the laws of energy conservation don’t apply, but they don’t explain causality. Saying someone is overweight because they over eat is like saying someone is an alcoholic because they over drink. Yeah, that’s kind of the definition. Telling alcoholics simply not to drink isn’t very helpful and doesn’t get to the root cause.

    No one would say kids grew tall because they ate more than they took in, so why do we say they grew fat for the same reason? The regulation of fat tissue in your body is governed by hormones and biochemistry just as growing tall is. Kids get hungrier and even crave certain foods when they are going through a growth spurt. What drives this behavior in adults? Is it just sloth and gluttony? Or are there underlying processes driving that behavior?

    The link that Adam posted wasn’t very helpful in refuting insulin’s role. It’s assumptions were simplistic, it cited studies that supposedly compared meals where one was a low carb meal that alone was 75g of carbs (nobody would call that low carb), and even the abstract of the study says that the subjects had greater levels of satiety compared to the “high carb” meal when the web site referenced these studies to back up it’s claim that insulin doesn’t make you hungry.

    Anyone on a low carb diet will tell you they are satiated and don’t have wild swings of hunger throughout the day. If this allows you to eat less calories without starving and improving your lipid profile, I don’t see why everyone is up in arms about that.

    I eat 3 eggs and bacon or sausage every morning. Since I’ve done so, my triglyceride levels are the lowest they’ve been, my HDL levels are the highest, and my VLDL levels are very low. I’ve lost 25 pounds, my blood pressure is lower, and I’m not hungry all the time. I don’t count calories, but “magically” remain at a stable weight.

    That was after trying the classic “eliminate fat, starve yourself, eliminate salt, exercise more” approach that only led to more weight gain and a crappy lipid profile.

    Which lifestyle would you rather lead?

    If the (now) conventional low fat mantra is right, it should explain all the data. Taubes presents us with an equally valid explanation and calls for more studies.

    Why We Get Fat is well supported, and Good Calories Bad Calories more so. You can get the most recent book on Kindle for $10. Read the book, THEN cite errors with corresponding research.

    • Adam says:

      @Mike from Atlanta
      I haven’t read the book. I’m comenting this article.

      There are more approaches than “classical” and “taubes'”. Both are wrong. Fat avoidance is beeing replaced with carb avoidance. Nothing new here.

      I don’t agree that cal-in-cal-out doesn’t explain causality. I do agree It’s not enough to make a succsesfull diet. Satiety should be taken into account. Protein is the most satiety-creating macronutrient. Increasing protein makes dieting easier.

      Most of the studies comparing low-carb to low-fat diets find them equaly good for losing weight.

      Recomend, again, Alan Aragon’s Research Review.

      • Mike from Atlanta says:

        I’ve seen many studies that show a low carb approach is superior to the others and some of these are referenced in Taubes’ book and elsewhere. Superior in the sense that people lose more weight, improve their lipids and blood pressure, and can maintain it as a lifestyle–more so than other diets like Ornish, etc. If you want, I’ll be glad to qualify it and say it was superior for me, but I think Taubes is onto something.

        I’ve also seen many misconceptions about what a low carb lifestyle means. People think it’s the induction phase of Atkins and that’s it.

        The problem with the book review is that it can only summarize points, and then by definition, leave out most of the supporting details (except for a few examples).

        The reason I picked up Good Calories Bad Calories (GCBC) in the first place, is that I already gave up on the classical approach and went back to low carb and was doing fine. The problem was I can’t use a book like South Beach or Atkins and follow a meal plan. That, and South Beach had some inconsistencies that I wasn’t comfortable with.

        I have a real life with a real job and kids and everything, and we’re not big foodies or cooks, so any meal is a challenge at our house, let alone something out of the mainstream (all the quick easy meals are high carb).

        I was looking for something more at the bookstore like the low glycemic index books or something similar. I wanted the theory more than a meal plan and recipes so I could essentially invent my own diet (if we must use that word). I stumbled on GCBC and it was exactly what I needed. It was heavy on theory and references and I read it like a novel. Other people have tougher sledding with it, so that’s the reason for the latest book.

        I looked at Aragon’s web site, but it seems like he barely scratches the surface.

        • Adam says:

          Well, I guess the solution is found if you are satisfied with your health, diet and other things concerning food.

          btw. It’s the Research Review that’s valuabe on A.Aragon’s site. Perhaps you’ve missed it. It’s a small magazine he is publishing. He also has a book with a ridiculous title: “Girth control”, but as far as I know, as backed up by real science as it could be at the moment. not more, not less. He also writes at forums around the net.

  29. Will says:

    Hey, the guy that tried the twinkie diet lost weight and his good cholesterol went up and bad cholesterol dropped.

  30. Bob S. says:

    Louise Dotter – Apparently the poor ignorant Native Americans of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community (up near Phoenix) don’t share your finely-tuned sensitivity to that awful name!

    http://www.srpmic-nsn.gov/

  31. Lucy Hahn says:

    Doesn’t Dean Ornish of UC San Francisco give the most convincing peer-reviewed case for a 10% fat plant-based diet (e.g. ‘Eat More, Weigh Less’)? This plan reverses heart disease and leads to weight loss (Bill Clinton is doing it). Most “low-fat” plans are based on 30% dietary fat.

  32. Kevin says:

    It is quite disappointing to see reputable skeptical societies starting to adopt the “party line” on many dogmatically held views. This book review is a case in point.

    First off is the implicit acceptance that there is such a thing as dieting or, at least, that somewhere out there, there exists a “diet” which will work. We now have decades of observational and scientific evidence that this assumption is untrue. The simple fact is that if you want to lose weight and keep it off you must rearrange your eating habits to eat a well balanced diet, which is calorie-matched to your energy expenditure, and do this for the rest of your life. Most reputable health professionals, who have more that the dangerous “little bit of knowledge” and do not have a barrow to push, will recommend this. They will argue that balance is best and low carb, low fat or low whatever diets can never work.

    Other dogmatic statements which are alarming to hear from skeptics include: “calorie in/calorie out is false” when clearly it is a good first approximation and must be a starting point for serious weight loss; the assumption that there is an obesity pandemic (Stephen J Gould specifically addresses this in “life’s Grandeur”); that low income and lack of freely available high calorie food sources are highly correlated, when clearly by the Pima Indian example they are not(!); and the bigoted idea that if you choose do manual work you must be “poor and disadvantaged”. Surely the foremost skeptics society is above this?

    From this review it seems the book will have a contribution to make, especially in psychological factors as to why people eat too much – there will be no single answer. But readers (as always) will have to carefully pick their way through the unsubstantiated assumptions, misinformation, and author’s own biased opinion.

  33. Neal W. says:

    This is my first time to the Skeptic website. After reading this article, I can’t say I’m very impressed at the level of scientific knowledge from your authors.

  34. Mario says:

    Certainly this has been sort of a blind spot in medical science, we understand a lot of the biochemicals process but in the field of physiology we still have a lot to learn, we are just beginning to understand about adipose tissue, the role of not only insulin but also of other hormone like molecules in charge of fat storage and distribution.
    People want to hear that it’s not their fault for getting fat or not losing weight, that science will give us a pill to get lean and so on; this indirectly avoid scientific discussions about the topic by instead moralizing it; and of course the food industry just can’t be more happy about it (they sell don’t conspire against us IMHO).
    I’ve been waiting for a paradigm shift for quite some time now, maybe books like this one can be the beginning; and people get that light and “organic” food are just overpriced products.

  35. Robyn Graves says:

    The sugar industry, the vegetarian movement, and the low-fat diet industry will no doubt be very upset by this work. However that’s exactly where the science is leading us. I have experienced the truth of this book personally. Following a low-carb lifestyle has helped me to shed a tremendous amount of weight without being left unsatisfied or in poor health. On the contrary, it has made my life much better. We must be willing to follow the science where it leads…even if we don’t like it or if we have been wrong. Don’t the vast numbers of obese people deserve to know the truth on this matter?

    • Adam says:

      @robyn graves
      Well, of course. But.
      When proving a scientific theory, one needs to try to disprove it. There may be a lot of cases where removing carbs from diet has beneficial consequences. Typical american diet consists of a LOT of carbs. There are also people who do not benefit (lose weight) from removing carbs.
      That means that the things are not as simple as “carbs are the enemy” or “processed food makes you fat”.
      The central thesis of the book, according to this article, is not correct.

  36. Michelle B. says:

    I read Good Calories, Bad Calories three years ago. The book changed my life. I did not realize it was actually refined carbs that were keeping me fat. I, too believed in the “calories in, calories out” story. I thought I was greedy and slothful and could not understand why I could not why I could not get my weight under control. Well, after eating less carbohydrates, I lost 60 pounds and have kept it off for 3 years. I have not gained any of my weight back, unlike when I have tried to cut calories in the past. And yes when you eat a lower carb diet, you do eat less calories, but the key is you are not hungry. On other diets like Weight Watchers, I was always hungry. I now have 40 pounds to lose and am now following a lower carb diet again, (60 grams of carbs a day).

    Yes the law of thermodynamics is valid, and Gary Taubes states this. The question is why do people consume more calories than they need? People consume more calories than they need because they are eating too much sugar and carbohydrates and when you eat too much sugar and carbohydrates, your body wants more of it.

  37. kennwrite says:

    I would agree with some of those posting comments that carbohydrates as the cause of becoming fat is suspect. However, I could see the possibility that different metabolisms will store or expunge carbohydrates at different rates, hence, the reason for contrary results from different studies.

    The best way for any individual to surmise how or why he or she gets fat is to try different combinations of food. When he or she gains less weight, the diet is good. When not, the diet is not good. I still think the time-honored idea of pushing oneself away from the table or eating less than six meals per day is good advice.

  38. Gaver says:

    I’m a big fan of Skeptic (paper) magazine and have been getting E-Skeptic for awhile now.

    I really didn’t like this review, which is prompting me to reply. No skepticism, just support of the book.

    The comment that stuck out was the one about construction workers still fat. OK, what kind of physical activity are they getting? I can’t believe they are all burning a few thousand calories a day. If they’re working hard, and are on their feet a lot, I’m sure they are getting some resistance training. But, what about aerobic or even anaerobic exercise? Sorry, I don’t buy that explanation for still being fat.

    I’ve been a runner for a (whopping) 38 years, have run 20 (26.2 mile) marathons, and countless half marathons, 10 and 5 kilometer races. I’ve also been involved in my corporate fitness centers in my jobs and been surrounded by fitness people and dietitians, not to mention all the runners in my training groups. So, I can give my experience after all these years.

    Moderation, moderation, moderation. Balance, balance, and then balance.

    There are also some keys on this weight chase:

    Heredity
    Age
    Exercise
    Injury
    Calories in

    When someone says they have the answer and have lost a bunch of weight from say running 10 miles a day. I say, what’s your age, because you’re probably young. When I was young, I could drop 10 pounds in a few weeks by just increasing my mileage. Not so today at over 50 years of age … I would get injured!

    So, the key is to exercise more within your abilities and likes (age, injury tolerance, talents, enjoyments), eat a nutritionally balanced diet (avoiding fast food and processed food as much as possible), and don’t keep going on “diets” (I see more people going on a “diet” to lose weight for a wedding, for example, only to gain it back a few months later, and then start talking about the next diet).

    At the extremes, no food is “bad” (you think a starving person would refuse a McDonalds hamburger?). But moderation is key. You have to balance the calories in, balance the food groups (including enough fiber!). As you age, the portion sizes must go down for most people.

    Exercise enough to avoid injury. This also changes with age. Incorporate aerobic (running, various machines, walking at a good clip), anaerobic (weights, “sprints”…sparingly to avoid injury), resistance (weights), and stretching (incl yoga, etc.).

    So, why are we so fat? Because most of us don’t follow this advice, for whatever reason. Because we’re uneducated, can’t afford nutritious and balanced food (i.e. poor), don’t care, are lazy, can’t help it for health/physical/age reasons.

  39. Helge says:

    Adam

    It seems that you not are up to date with the newest research about the carbs role in the diet. Why dont you read Taubes book to begin with, and after that read the research, since
    you want to debate the subject.
    Heres a link to a four year study about, if fat in the diet increase or decrease the risk of diabetes.

    http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/1/14.abstract

  40. Helge says:

    Adam

    Also this study is Wrth reading, if you think “carbs are not the enemy”:

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/213214.php

    Helge

  41. Kevin says:

    Read many of the posters lips. Biochemically animals can convert proteins and many fats to carbs. Physiologically, being omnivores, humans are very good at it.

  42. Helge says:

    Kevin is absolutely correct. You do not have to eat carbs. If you do not, the body will create glucose through gluconeogenesis. If you eat fat and protein your body will create the glucose you need from the fat that is stored in the fat cells.
    If you eat carbs instead, especially high GI carbs, or a lot of carbs, the body will then produce insulin, to avoid high level of blood glucose which is poisonous to the body, and then the body will store the energy, and the bloodsugar will drop, and you will become hungry again, and you will become both fat and hungry if you eat to much carbs.
    So my friends Ancel Keys was wrong. It was the carbs not the fat.
    Of course thats a lot more to it. But that is the short story.
    So Rein,Taubes et al is doing a great job!

    • Miguel says:

      Their is soooo much misinformation about Ancel Keys and what he actually did. Please watch this video series about it on YouTube starting with “Primitive Nutrition 36: The Infamous Ancel Keys? Part 1″

  43. Black Bart says:

    Started September 1, 2010.

    Diet: 70 percent protein, 30 percent carbs.

    Excercise: About 1 hour cardio per day.

    Result: dropped from 235 lbs to 177 lbs (or 55 lbs or 23.4%) by December 31, 2010.

    It seems that adjusting calories (both in and out) and carbs were contributing factors.

    Now comes the hard part: Sticking to it.

  44. Helge says:

    Black Bart!

    Without fat is it impossible to survive. Omega 3 and 6 are essential food, and those who do not eat natural saturated food get more heart problems and strokes then other people. So in the long run you need fat!

  45. Helge says:

    Sorry!

    Fat not food! Saturated fat !

  46. Helge says:

    Adam wrote: “This is true even if carbohydrate intake is high. In fact, there are populations that consume high carbohydrate diets and do not have high obesity rates, such as the traditional diet of the Okinawans. ”
    Well Adam do the mistake comparing Okinawans low GI carbs with high in fiber, and american pizza and other typical US carbs, so look at GI Adam!

  47. Helge says:

    The question is not calorie counting,but WHY in so many cases more calories go in ,than is consumed, and stored as fat instead.

  48. Helge says:

    Low carb is not a “new diet”.

    Read this short old book:

    http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/Cleave/cleave_toc.html

    Helge

  49. Helge says:

    There is a growing intreats in low carb diet to patient with diabetes. :

    http://www.ltblekinge.se/download/18.483745d1110dfd532008000736/Lasting_Improvement.pdf

    But increased medication have not been successful:

    http://public.nhlbi.nih.gov/newsroom/home/GetPressRelease.aspx?id=2551

    How were diabetics treated before insulin treatment was introduced? Diet changes could keep them alive for years instead of dying in weeks on “on normal diet”. Check this old book “Diabtic
    cookery recipes and menus”:

    http://www.archive.org/stream/diabeticcookeryr00oppeiala#page/n7/mode/2up

    There is of course a lot more to read one the subject.

    Helge

  50. Helge says:

    More athletes are changing to low carb:

    http://www.colting.se/pdf/jonas_colting_eng.pdf

    Helge

  51. Joe Dokes says:

    I read Taubes’ book Good Calories / Bad Calories it is an excellent read. The key problem with the discussion of Taubes’ writing is that he like a lot of science writers uses both anecdotal evidence and scientific studies as illustrations in his books.

    Thus, the anecdotes which are most interesting are what appears in reviews and discussions but it fails to convey the level of depth that Taubes’ books goes to in order to support his hypothesis. It was this combination of anecdotal and citations of scientific studies that convinced me that Taubes was on to something significant. He cites study after study and if you read the forward to the book it is clear that he was not looking to prove his pet theory when he started, he simply wanted to find a clear reason why people were getting fatter.

    Like many posters here, prior to reading Taubes work, I completely believed the hypothesis of calories in versus calories out. I used to joke to my wife that every diet could be summarized in the following sentence, “Eat less, move more.” Yet, I watched my wife struggle with her weight for a decade, constantly battling hunger and losing. Constantly trying one diet after another. She failed over and over again. While this was going on my weight crept slowly and continuously upward. Finally last spring it peaked at 252 LBS. which at my height of 6’1″ clearly put me in the obese category.

    Then last spring I found Taubes article on the NY Times

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html

    I almost immediately began to cut down on my carb intake. I didn’t read Atkins. (I have since then and am now convinced that they are interested more in selling books and protein bars than helping people lose weight.) I lost ten pounds, we went on vacation, while on vacation I simply avoided carbs but ate as much as I wanted. I ate until full, I was never hungary. After two weeks on vacation while eating fast food, fair food, grandma food, I came home stepped on the scale and had lost another 5 LBS.

    For the last five months I’ve been avoiding carbs and the carbs I do eat are all loaded with fiber. Heres my diet for today: Breakfast: 1/4 cup almonds 170 Cal, Block of Cheese 230 Cal, Protein Bar 200 Cal Lunch: Salad with ranch dressing 250 Cal Sandwich 300 Cal Block of Cheese 100 Cal Two hardboiled eggs 160 Cal Dinner: Beef Brisket 800 Cal Roasted Vegetables 100 Cal For a total of 2300 Calories. Now that is VERY typical for me and yet on this amount of food I have consistenly lost .6 to 1.2 LBS every week. Yet according to a normal semi-starvation diet I shouldn’t be losing anything, yet by the end of the week, I’ll probably be down another .6 to 1.2 lbs.

    What’s most interesting is writing the above paragraph was the first time I EVER counted the calories I was consuming as par of this low carb diet.

    The absolute best part is that I am NEVER hungary. If I do get hungary I eat a handful of peanuts or almonds or have a piece of cheese, I eat until I am full and satisfied.

    I am now down to 219, I hope to get to under 200 by the one year start date of my diet. My wife actually worked for Jenny Craig (gained weight) I tried it for about a month lost eight pounds and was miserable. I woke up hungry and went to bed hungry, was irritable and cranky. Low fat diets fail. I would argue they are an Epic fail.

    Regards,
    Joe Dokes

  52. Helge says:

    The drug companies marketings of statin drugs are far from correct.See this important
    meta analys:

    http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/170/12/1024

    Helge

  53. Adam says:

    If anyone’s interested in a more skepticak review of Taubes’ book, check this one:
    http://weightology.net/?p=265

  54. Adam says:

    @helge
    You’re one of those low-carb talibans, aren’t you? :D

  55. Dyson says:

    For those of you who think the lower-carb diets are fads on the way out, think again. The Zone came out 1995. Adkins and South Beach followed. Thus we’ve had 15 years of this “fad.” (Not sure if The Zone was the first of the lower carb diet books or not; if not the “fad” could be longer lasting.)

    Sears in his book also blamed insulin and other hormones for creating a difference in how calories are manipulated and used in the body. The assertion that Sears’ or Rein’s theories in any way debunk the calories-in-calories-out or the first law of thermodynamics is shortsighted thinking. Calories are counted outside the body in a process that makes no attempt to mimic the body’s complex system for burning them. In other words the body is not a Bunsen burner. To assert that some foods require more effort to be put to use, either as stored fat or as immediate energy reserves, in no way negates the First Law or the basic premise of calories in, calories out. It simply admits that more is going on inside out bodies than a calorie burning devise can tell us.

  56. Tom Sullivan says:

    Those interested in a different take on Taube’s book should check out Skepdoc Harriet Hall’s take down posted on the Science based medicine blog, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org. Also, personal experiences, ie annecdotal evidence, are not a valid basis for general dietary conclusions for two reasons. First a person may be misreading their body signals. Success with a weight loss method may not mean it is the wisest or discomfort mean it is a poor choice. Also the specifics of one persons body, even if correctly interpreted, may not translate into general truth. Exazmple:

  57. Tom Sullivan says:

    Sorry. Example: my body tells me via bodily waste that I need more fiber than I would recieve from a typical low carb diet without a fiber supplement. This does not mean that a low carb diet is better or worse, only that a critical inefficiency in my body’s waste disposal system, ie water reabsorbtion, requires that I eat high fiber cereal for breakfast on most days or I will face discomfort that is best left undescribed.

  58. Helge says:

    Tom Sullivan eating fibers is not a problem if you want to eat a low carb diet. Its Low carb not NO carb. Brocaolli is a good source of fiber, and as well as of minerals. How strict one have to be depends on way you eat low carb.

    Harriet Halls 5 points:
    Nr 1. The problem is not mathematical. But why people eat ,so they become fat.

    nr.2 The easiest way to lose weight is low carb diet. Suagar, flour play and other high GI carbs play en important roll in “the fat explosion”.

    nr.3 As you see in links above. People who eat low fat diet get more strokes and heart problem.

    nr.4 Well, it is good for weight loss and for health.

    nr. 5 Yes that what many says who do eat low carbs. J em one of them who have that experience.

    Hariett Hall says:
    “There are social and cultural influences and practical considerations; but the basic problem is that because of their genetic makeup, some people’s bodies are more efficient at storing calories. ”
    That is only prejudice. It is no scienc behind it.

  59. Tobias Duncan says:

    So does all this mean I get to eat Braunschweiger again?

  60. Helge says:

    Yes, Duncan but not with bread!

    Helge

  61. Helge says:

    LCHF include greens with low GI(mostly greens that now grow under the surface of
    the ground.). There on get the fiber you need.

  62. inquisitivejim says:

    When you mention Calories IN and Calories OUT, I have a question about calories IN. I understand that we measure calories in food before we eat them by Burning the food in a Calorimeter. I also understand that when we eat the food, it passes the mouth and stomach and moves into the intestines and is absorbed INTO the body there. It is not IN the body until it gets absorbed through the intestinal wall right? When you mention calories IN, how do you accurately measure the amount of calories passing through intestinal wall and entering (IN) the body versus the food/calories just passing through? Does calories IN mean IN my mouth, or does it mean IN my Body, as in being absorbed through the intestinal wall? Or, are they the same thing?

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