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The Art of Human Hacking

Skeptics are well versed in the many tools of the trade used by charlatans and hucksters to defraud their victims. Some of these same tools—elicitation, pretexting, influence and manipulation to name a few—are also used by hackers, spies and identity thieves to obtain information illegally.

This week on Skepticality, Swoopy talks with Christopher Hadnagy, author of Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking which examines the maneuvers (and the science behind them) used to deceive unsuspecting victims. The book also addresses ways to reduce our own susceptibility to the hackers and security threats in our every day lives.


About this week’s feature article

There is certainly no shortage of diet fads and weight loss myths. The plethora of contradictory information can make it difficult for us to distinguish between sound nutrition science and plain old nonsense. In our second review of the year of Gary Taubes’ latest book Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It (read the first review here), Harriet Hall, M.D. (the Skepdoc) advises against jumping on any bandwagons.

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Myths About Fat
and What to Do About It

by Harriet Hall

Journalist Gary Taubes created a stir in 2007 with his impressive but daunting 640-page tome Good Calories, Bad Calories. Now he has written a shorter, more accessible book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It to take his message to a wider audience. His basic thesis is that:

  • The calories-in/calories-out model is useless.
  • Carbohydrates are the cause of obesity and are also important causes of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and most of the so-called diseases of civilization.
  • A low-fat diet is not healthy.
  • A low-carb diet is essential both for weight loss and for health.
  • Dieters can satisfy their hunger pangs and eat as much as they want and still lose weight as long as they restrict carbohydrates.

Taubes supports his thesis with data from the scientific literature and with persuasive theoretical arguments about insulin, blood sugar levels, glycemic index, insulin resistance, fat storage, inflammation, the metabolic syndrome, and other details of metabolism. Many readers will come away convinced that all we need to do to eliminate obesity, heart disease and many other diseases is to get people to limit carbohydrates in their diet. I’m not convinced, because I can see some flaws in his reasoning. For example, Taubes says that restricting carbohydrates “leads to weight loss and particularly fat loss, independent of the calories we consume from dietary fat and protein. We know that the laws of physics have nothing to do with it.”

He acknowledges that the laws of physics are unavoidable, then contradicts himself by saying weight loss is independent of the calories consumed. He attacks the calories in/out principle with something of a straw man argument. He is really only saying that using that model hasn’t been very successful in producing weight loss. But no one has ever denied that. He says exercising and reducing total calorie intake do not work; then he goes too far and says they cannot work. Most of us would argue that they can and do; the problem is not with the principle, but with its implementation. Simple physics requires that to lose weight, we must burn more calories than we ingest: that is indisputable. The devil is in the details. It takes a lot of exercise to burn off a few calories, so exercise is not a practical solution; and it has proved very difficult in practice to get people to reduce their calorie intake significantly over long periods of time. Weight loss is simple, but it is not easy; and those of us who rely on the calories in/calories-out principle have never suggested that it was. We don’t just berate obese people for lack of will power. We try to understand why most people find it so difficult to lose weight. Perhaps the more intriguing question is why some people maintain a low weight throughout a long lifetime of varying food intake, including people who eat a lot of carbohydrates.

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. In a famine situation, they would be the survivors; in a world where abundant food is available, they are the obese. Taubes is correct when he says, “Those who get fat do so because of the way their fat is regulated.” But they still couldn’t get fat without eating too many calories for their particular metabolism, and if a way can be found to decrease their calorie intake to a level appropriate for their metabolism, they will lose weight.

Diets are just tricks to get people to reduce total calorie intake, and low-carb diets are no exception. A 2003 systematic review in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that weight loss on low-carb diets was principally associated with decreased caloric intake and increased diet duration, but not with reduced carbohydrate content.

Taubes says “In a world without carbohydrate- rich diets, obesity would be a rare condition.” That’s undoubtedly true. But is it the carbs or the calories? The two are confusingly intertwined. Carbohydrate- rich diets are high calorie diets. Cutting calories usually involves cutting carbohydrates, and cutting carbs usually results in cutting calories. On any weight loss diet, dieters avoid “empty calories” and try to pick foods that will satisfy their hunger better and for longer.

The diet Taubes recommends allows unlimited amounts of meat, fish, poultry, green vegetables and eggs; limited amounts of cheese, cream, mayonnaise, olives, avocado, lemon, soy sauce and pickles; and no carbohydrates except for a few nutritionally dense, fiber rich vegetables. A sample menu:

  • Breakfast: bacon and eggs
  • Lunch: grilled chicken and green salad
  • Snack: pepperoni slices and a cheese stick
  • Dinner: Burger or steak, green salad, green vegetables

Taubes advises that we protect ourselves from salt deficiency by drinking two cups of bouillon every day, which would not sit well with those who advise limiting salt intake to prevent high blood pressure. He recommends limiting coffee, but this doesn’t appear to be based on good evidence; in fact, a recent study showed that coffee improves insulin sensitivity, which is one of the aims of the low-carb diet.

Taubes admits that the diet can cause side effects, which he attributes to: (1) eating too much protein and too little fat, (2) attempting strenuous exercise without taking the time to adapt to the diet, and (3) most importantly, the body’s failure to compensate for the lower insulin levels. He admits that it is a real challenge to overcome carbohydrate cravings, which amount to an addiction. He admits that high protein diets can be toxic. He also admits that people who restrict carbohydrates tend to eat less, and he says their energy expenditure increases. Wait! This sounds like support for the very calories-in/out principle that Taubes rejects.

Taubes has an “out” to excuse failures— some people will only lose weight on a zero carbohydrate diet and “even this may not be sufficient to eliminate all our accumulated fat, or even most of it.” He says the high fat/cardiovascular disease hypothesis led the American public to replace fat calories with carbohydrate calories, thus causing the obesity epidemic. It seems to me that when we reduce carbohydrate intake, we need to make sure the carbohydrate calories are not being replaced by a worse option. Low carb diets cause ketosis; ketogenic diets have been used to treat epilepsy in children, but they can cause harmful side effects and they raise cholesterol levels by 30%. Meats, especially processed meats, have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

In The China Study T.Colin Campbell argues that all animal products should be eliminated from our diet because it is animal products (not carbohydrates) that cause heart disease, cancer, and a host of other diseases. If he and Taubes staged a formal debate or served together on a committee to develop diet recommendations, there might be some spectacular fireworks. In the Middle Ages disputes were sometimes settled by appointing two champions to duke it out. Interesting idea. No, better stick to science to settle these differences of opinion, even though it may take a long time for a consensus to be reached and there will always be dissenters.

Taubes thinks that low-carb diets reduce cardiovascular risk and that low-fat diets don’t. He says a 2001 Cochrane review concluded that there is still only limited and inconclusive evidence of the effects of modifying total, saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. This is misleading: it is a negatively slanted paraphrase of what was actually a positive conclusion:

The findings are suggestive of a small but potentially important reduction in cardiovascular risk in trials longer than two years. Lifestyle advice to all those at high risk of cardiovascular disease (especially where statins are unavailable or rationed), and to lower risk population groups, should continue to include permanent reduction of dietary saturated fat and partial replacement by unsaturates.

Taubes admits that studies show that low-carb diets tend to raise the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol, but he thinks that this is more than compensated for by rises in “good” HDL cholesterol and by lower levels of triglycerides. Published evidence suggests that he may be wrong. In a 2010 study, adherence to a Mediterranean- like dietary pattern reduced mortality but a carbohydrate-restricted diet appeared to increase mortality in elderly Swedish men. Another 2010 study showed that low-carb diets based on animal sources were associated with higher all-cause mortality in both men and women, whereas a vegetable-based low carbohydrate diet was associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates.

What about weight loss itself? If Taubes’ thesis is correct, we would expect studies to consistently show a strong superiority of low-carb diets for weight loss. A 2010 study showed no difference in weight loss between low fat and low carb diets over a two year period, although low-carb dieters had more favorable changes in lipids. A 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared weight loss from diets with different compositions of fat, protein and carbohydrates and found that low-carb diets were not superior, and that clinically meaningful weight loss results from weight loss diets “regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.” An accompanying editorial suggests that behavioral factors are more important to weight loss than the type of diet, and that a total environmental approach is needed.

Taubes says right off the bat that “these competing ideas should be tested” and admits that such testing has not been done; but since obesity is such a serious problem, he says it is urgent that we institute his diet recommendations now, without waiting for the evidence. Yet he criticizes the low-fat diet campaign for doing just that: we went beyond the evidence and instituted society-wide changes based on inadequate data, with what Taubes considers to be disastrous results. How can he be so certain we should go beyond the evidence this time?

Has Taubes destroyed the old low fat myth only to create his own new low carb myth? Rather than jumping on the low-carb bandwagon before his ideas are properly tested, the precautionary principle suggests that it might be more reasonable to follow a moderate diet like the Mediterranean diet (or to follow Michael Pollan’s stunningly simple advice to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”), to limit “empty calories” from simple carbohydrates like sugar, to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, to choose low calorie density foods that are more filling, to limit meat intake, to limit salt, and to keep looking for behavioral and environmental ways to change our calories in/calories-out balance.END


Skeptical perspectives on food, weight loss and fads…
cover The Gospel of Food
by Dr. Barry Glasner (DVD $23.95)

Glassner’s well-researched and wide-ranging commentary on American eating habits and food-related beliefs offers a welcome antidote to public confusions about obesity and food safety by examining the veracity of numerous food myths. Casting his clear-eyed, critical gaze on nutrition researchers and reformers, food writers, and corporate food marketers, Glassner succeeds in making a persuasive case that Americans take their concern over healthy eating to unnecessarily extreme levels. 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 book.


Mystery Photo

This week’s Mystery Photo
(Click to enlarge)

Solution to last week’s Mystery Photo

The Mystery Photo from April 27th is the Capitoline Wolf, in Rome, with figures of infants Romulus and Remus (legendary founders of Rome).

This week’s Mystery Photo

This is quite possibly the most famous patch of grass on the planet. Where is it? We will reveal the answer to this week’s Mystery Photo in next week’s eSkeptic.


Our Next Lecture

Donald Prothero
Catastrophes! Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters

with Dr. Donald Prothero
Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 2 pm

DEVASTATING NATURAL DISASTERS HAVE PROFOUNDLY SHAPED HUMAN HISTORY, leaving us with a respect for the mighty power of the earth — and a humbling view of our future. Paleontologist and geologist Donald R. Prothero tells the harrowing human stories behind these catastrophic events:

  • The New Madrid, Missouri, earthquakes of 1811–1812 that caused
    church bells to ring in Boston
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people
  • The massive volcanic eruptions of Krakatau, Mount Tambora, Mount Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens, and Nevado del Ruiz.

His clear explanations of the forces that caused these disasters accompany gut-wrenching accounts of terrifying human experiences and a staggering loss of life. Floods that wash out whole regions, earthquakes that level a single country, hurricanes that destroy everything in their path — all remind us of how little control we have over the natural world. Order the book on which this lecture is based from Amazon.com.

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19 Comments »

19 Comments

  1. Travis says:

    Mystery Photo Answer: Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas

  2. Matthew says:

    The grassy knoll, at Dealey Plaza, 411 Elm Street, Dallas, Texas. Someone’s beaten me to it…

  3. Sarah Warner says:

    Just outside OBL’s Abbottabad compound, Abbottabad, Pakistan? … wow Mr. Shermer!

  4. Michael B. says:

    There is still more to the diet picture than Taubes relays in his books. I follow a Paleo style diet, and while it can likely be classified as “low-carb” (around 80g-100g a day), it is very different than the diet that Taubes recommends. Lumping all low-carb diets in one bucket is very naive, just as it is with low-fat diets.

    Satiation matters, Omega-3/Omega-6 balance matters, Sodium/Potassium balance matters, having a full complement of B vitamins matters, etc., and just simply going “low-carb” may not address any of these. A detriment of some nutrient can increase the body’s craving of foods, regardless of calorie content. On a very strict Paleo diet, grains are out, not simply because they are high-carb, but because of other factors such as gluten, phytic acid, and lectin avoidance. Dairy is out, unlike Taubes’ recommendation, and this can be THE tipping factor for weight loss for many that otherwise have trouble on low-carb diets. The majority of food volume comes from vegetables of all colors, high in hunger-satiating fiber.

    Meat can be dangerous, not because it’s from an animal, but from other factors related to modern lifestyle. A Paleo diet advocates eating EVERY part of animal, including all organs and skin, not just simply muscle meat. Eating nothing but muscle meat can actually cause several vitamin deficiencies due to these vitamins being much more abundant in organs and skin. How an animal is raised also makes a difference. For instance, there is a large difference in the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio of fatty acids between an cow raised on corn-feed versus one raised on a diet it evolved for: grass.

    Why do I follow a Paleo style diet, which is only followed by a small minority of people, even though I am normally a very skeptical person? To me, it makes the most logical sense to eat the diet we evolved for (although there is still room for debate as to exactly what that is) until there is sufficient empirical data to disprove it. It is my “default” position until the evidence says otherwise.

    It is unfortunate that many of the most high-profile diet debates ignore so much that has nothing to do with calories at all, but still can make a large difference in both weight loss and overall health.

    Some sample links to learn more about the diet I’m talking about:
    http://thepaleodiet.com/
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/

  5. Bjørn Østman says:

    to limit meat intake, to limit salt

    Dr. Hall, what is again the evidence that salt is bad for you? There once was a famous study (that I have not read) that suggested high salt intake decreases cardiovascular health, but I hear the significance came from an outlier (Eskimos).

    • Michael B. says:

      Just saying to limit anything says nothing. Limit it to what? Would 2 grams of salt a day be “limiting” because so many ingest 5+ grams a day? Would eating meat once a day, or once a week be “limiting”? These kind statements are so devoid of information, they are completely useless and should be left out.

    • Leo Lincourt says:

      Bjørn, here’s a just published study from JAMA which concluded that not only does reduced salt intake not lower blood pressure, but increased salt consumption actually lowers the risk of heart disease.

      US News/Healthday article: http://goo.gl/8gvzy
      Reuters report: http://goo.gl/KkO0g
      Abstract: http://goo.gl/SwQwE

  6. Alan Harris says:

    Regarding Harriet Hall’s review of Taubes’ books, I would say Taubes overarching message is that “conventional wisdom” to restrict fats in the diet may be barking up the wrong tree: the more likely villain may be carbohydrate, particularly refined carbs (sugar, white rice, white flour, etc.). Weight gain or loss, as well as “calories in, calories out”, is secondary, the primary effect to be watched for is what has come to be called “metabolic syndrome”, a pattern of elevated blood pressure, low HDL cholestrol, and elevated serum glucose — essentially pre-diabetes, or eventually full blown type 2 diabetes. It is this condition that is claimed to lead to increased heart disease and the other ills of civilization. Obesity is highly correlated with this condition, but is in itself perhaps not the main risk factor, but rather an indicator that the other clinical signs of metabolic syndrome may be present. Some individuals can eat carbs with impunity, and some can remain healthy even if obese, but an underlying condition of metabolic syndrome leading toward type 2 diabetes is bad news for anyone. If you have it, I suggest looking carefully into your carb consumption.

  7. Leo Lincourt says:

    Harriet Hall claims that Taubes attacks the calories-in/calories-out argument with a straw man. Unfortunately, Hall constructs her own straw man when she says, “He acknowledges that the laws of physics are unavoidable, then contradicts himself by saying weight loss is independent of the calories consumed. … He is really only saying that using that model hasn’t been very successful in producing weight loss.”

    What Taubes is really saying is that calories-in/calories-out is a tautology that doesn’t explain how or why people become obese. Taubes argues that calories-in/calories-out turns obesity into a behavioral disorder when it is, in fact, a metabolic disorder. Taubes believes that high carbohydrate diets are really high fructose diets which causes insulin resistance which in turn causes the body to store more fat, and induce greater hunger in the individual.

    There’s a whole lot to criticize in Taubes book. I’m almost through reading it and it has raised some serious questions with me (it has generally given me a lot to think about; especially the historical information). But let’s look at what Taubes is actually saying, and not debunk what we think he’s saying.

    Hall also gets Taubes arguments about LDL cholesterol wrong. She says that, “Taubes admits that studies show that low-carb diets tend to raise the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol, but he thinks that this is more than compensated for by rises in “good” HDL cholesterol and by lower levels of triglycerides.”

    Actually, Taubes argument is that LDL in general isn’t a problem but the type of LDL is important. LDL isn’t really cholesterol, but the molecule that transports cholesterol around our blood stream. The LDL molecules come in two sizes — small and large and that it’s the small LDL molecules that cause atherosclerosis. Taubes further argues that high carb diets increase the number of small LDL molecules and can actually increase artery plaques, while low carb diets do precisely the reverse.

    While I’m no doctor, there does seem to be some science behind what Taubes claims. For instance, here’s a Men’s Health article from last February which says the same thing: http://goo.gl/mqaH Obviously, I’ll take Harriet Hall’s expertise over Men’s Health any day, but my problem isn’t with Hall’s expertise. My beef is that she just doesn’t seem to be reading Taubes very closely.

  8. Dr. Strangelove says:

    I agree with Dr. Hall that the calorie in/out principle is indisputable. Of course, that’s based on the 1st law of thermodynamics. Why isn’t it very successful when applied to losing weight? Because dieters use an incomplete equation:

    calorie intake – calories burned = weight gain (loss)

    The complete equation is:

    calorie intake – calories burned = weight gain (loss) + calories in stool

    We forget that our stool contains energy. That’s biofuel. It’s a function of metabolism. The more efficient our body in storing energy, the less energy in our stool. There are many dieting techniques but they all follow the same equation.

    • Destry says:

      This is what I was thinking too.
      > The complete equation is:
      > calorie intake – calories burned = weight gain (loss) + calories in stool

      We have diet drugs the block the absorption of fat in the intestines. Why can’t a natural process of the body be altered by diet so that more calories are merely excreted?

    • Pandaemoni says:

      Thanks. After reading the article this point stuck with me. It is in fact possible that a low carb, but high calorie, diet could in fact result in weight loss, if the bulk of the calories were excreted rather than stored by the body. (I am not advocating that as true, but rather as merely possible.) There would still then be the challenge of arriving at a healthy version of such a diet, and sticking with it despite the very powerful mechanisms the body has to coax us back into regaining the pounds after they are shed.

  9. Dr. Mike says:

    If I understand correctly, Dr. Hall is calling into question the idea that you can eat unlimited protein and fat because calories in/calories out has to come into play at some point, However, it’s not a question of how much food you process through your body, but how much of that food the body stores vs. how much it passes through. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an expert, but that how it seems to me, and that’s how I interpreted Taubes’ book. I think he was making the argument that only carbs create the glucose which is later stored as fat. I’ve tried to lose weight for years, and nothing has worked for me, not even Taubes’ advise. I imagine that I’m insulin resistant at age 67.

  10. Still Skeptical says:

    Taubes is not some nutcase diet guru. He’s a responsible journalist with many awards to his credit. He’s spent 10 years reading and studying the research in this field and probably knows it better than most people. Moreover, he doesn’t merely report authors’ abstracts or speculations.

    Cochrane reports are notorious for conclusions and recommendations not warranted by the data reviewed — often a function of who writes the report. The authors of the 2001 review recommend dietary change to reduce or modify fat intake despite the actual results, which were that dietary fat modification had no statistically significant effect on total mortality or on cardiovascular mortality. Sure, it could be that there weren’t enough people in long-term trials. Or it could be that there is no such effect. And the authors acknowledge this.

    Of course, there are different ways that this body of literature can be interpreted. Rein (eSkeptic, January 5th review) concludes: “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.”

    Taubes deserves a great deal of respect and the way we’ve been taught to diet merits serious reconsideration. Clearly, something’s not adding up.

  11. Ray says:

    Taubes has both scientific and anecdotal evidence on his side. Michael and Mary Eades have also researched the problem of high-carbohydrate diets and provide some interesting anecdotal information to go along with the factual data.

    What often seems to be ignored in these discussions is the relevance of bodyweight in general. It’s not so much an issue of how much an individual weighs but what makes up that weight. A person can stay the same in weight or even lose weight but actually be “fatter.” It’s body composition that should inform the discussion more than weight.

    While Taubes seems to create a paradox in stating that calories in versus calories out is wrong but the laws of physics cannot be avoided, in truth he could be right to a great extent because it’s more about what the body does with those calories. If you believe the basic premise of low-carbohydrate diets, then you acknowledge a qualitative difference in the source of the calories consumed.

    Diet gurus tout the “thermic” effect of lean proteins like chicken and fish. Your body has to burn a certain percentage of those calories to metabolize the food. Thus eating a 100-calorie piece of lean chicken is not the same as eating a 100-calorie cookie. The net effect of consuming those two food types is that your body has fewer calories to play with from one than from the other because it takes fewer calories to digest the cookie.

  12. Jeannette says:

    I was never fussed about my weight and never tried to diet. Then I was diagnosed with Menieres Disease and advised that the only way to manage it was to reduce salt. I aim at a max of 1g per day. This involves giving up all processed food – no processed meat (bacon, ham), no cheese, only salt free butter, no commercial bread, cakes, nothing much in a tin, bottle or packet (it’s amazing how much salt goes into tins of tomatoes etc.), no pizzas or most takeaways. So basically fresh meat (whatever I feel like), veg and fruit, pasta, rice etc. On the other hand, chocolate has little salt so I indulge, neither does alcohol or wine, olive oil and some other nice things. I make my own chili and pasta sauce, my own (great) bread, and bake with plain flour and potassium bicarb. This is not carbo free or fat free – it’s a processed food free regime. My (poor) exercise habits are unchanged -most of my work is in front of a computer. To my surprise I have just shed weight – had to buy a whole new wardrobe and feel better than for years. (How do I stick with this system? Abject fear of a recurrence of Menieres, whose sometimes daily vertigo attacks feel like the worst seasickness during the worst hangover).

  13. Jeannette says:

    By total coincidence, after I posted the last message, I watched Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution’ on local (Australian) TV. The episode (2011) was set in LA, where he was banned by the LA School Board from visiting any schools. He demonstrated how ‘pink slime’ is made in the US from meat scraps by processing with ammonia (which is not required to be listed as an ingredient) and added to hamburger; and filled a school bus with the 56 tons of sugar in the flavoured milk drunk by LA schoolkids each week. (Flavoured milk is banned in schools in the UK and Europe because of the excess sugar). Re the obesity epidemic, the diets discussed above would seem to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (because regardless about their specifics, they will help only the few dedicated people) – you really need to do something about that iceberg – the dependence on unhealthy processed and fast foods.

  14. Jack McIntyre says:

    Dr. Hall challenges 10 years of highly annotated research by Gary Taubes with vagaries and inadequate annotation hoping skeptical readers will trust her interpretations. She also includes a few hackneyed recommendations (limit salt) to stimulate responses from readers like us. Marvelous! Fortunately I found more balanced and credible responses from some of the replies to her original post.

  15. susan yager says:

    Gary Taubes has found his topic and is making the most of it, evidence based proof be damned. Japan, with the lowest rate of obesity and heart disease in the (OECD) universe, is a high-carb-diet country. So are Italy and France, although both countries have high-carbohydrate intake as well. The title of the book is catchy, and has a best-seller ring to it, but misleading because it suggests an easy solution, and there is none. When calories were first quantified it was shown that only consuming fewer of them will result in a loss of weight, and this has been proven many times in the past 100 years. Taubes book is just another fad diet pretending to be a scientific treatise, and adds to the terrible confusion about what to eat. And if, as a nation, we continue to flit from one loopy, illogical diet to the next, we will never reverse the obesity epidemic. Not to be self-promoting (heaven forbid)! but I traced the origins of the low carb diet in my last book, The Hundred Year Diet. America’s Voracious Appetite For Losing Weight. (Rodale,2010) http://www.thehundredyeardiet.com. It is no more valid than any other diet scam.

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