The ExASPerating Gary Taubes
Yes, I'm going to address Part I of Taubes' ... um ... what would you call that bout of verbal incontinence he unleashed yesterday? When someone writes a 4731 word blog post with a 30+ word title, ultimately about nothing of consequence, words to describe it escape even this usually ... shall we say ... less-than-concise blogger. Yes, folks, the irony will not escape me when this post undoubtedly runs lengthy.
We're treated to Taubes' "shaggy dog story", whatever the heck that means, in which Gary yip yaps out the "iconic moment numero uno punch line" like the not-so-shaggy Taco Bell dog who just had his paw run over by some wayward scientist chasing a pair of dimes in his wheelchair:
In the Q&A session following my hour-long presentation, a member of the PBRC faculty, a distinguished-looking gentleman who I’d guess was in his mid to late sixties, raised his hand and said, “Mr. Taubes, is it fair to say that one subtext of your talk is that you think we are all idiots?”
Certainly one subtext of my talk (and my work) is that a journalist is getting it right and sixty-odd years of nutritionists and obesity researchers got it wrong (with maybe a half dozen exceptions who were marginalized for their beliefs.) So, yes, it was fair to say that I think a large body of otherwise very smart people, Ph.D.s and M.D.s all, were operating with suboptimal intelligence. Certainly in a pursuit — science — in which the one goal is to get the right answer, getting the wrong answer on such a huge and tragic scale borders on inexcusable.
First, what does the age or physical characteristics of the person asking that question have to do with this? Had I asked the question wearing an outfit that emphasized my ... erm ... assets, would he have mentioned that a buxom blonde of whatever age he guessed asked the question? Instead of 32 words intended for his audience to picture some sort of doddering, past-his-prime scientist, a mere 9 words would have sufficed: "During the Q&A session, a PBRC faculty member asked". In a field where words certainly do count, was Taubes so overcome by his own brilliant rhetoric that he didn't realize when proofing the post, just how "surprisingly" arrogant that sounded? Perhaps he feels scientists are such idiots they are unable to even formulate "good" questions, but surely this is not the first time Mr. Taubes has read such interpretations of the way he writes about researchers. Such a question should not have even been surprising let alone "surprisingly good".
Then, with more verbal flourish, Taubes answers the question. Any Armageddon (movie) fans in my readership today? Taubes ought to ditch his Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) act, and channel his inner Oscar (Owen Wilson).
Oscar: Ok, Mr. Truman, let's say that we actually do land on this. What's it gonna be like up there?
Truman: 200 degrees in the sunlight, minus 200 in the shade, canyons of razor-sharp rock, unpredictable gravitational conditions, unexpected eruptions, things like that
Oscar: Okay, so the scariest environment imaginable. Thanks. That's all you gotta say, scariest environment imaginable.
Taubes would have come off better just saying that he really felt that, yes, they're all idiots. It's obviously how he really feels anyway. Of course he didn't have the chihuahua jewels to tell the old gent he was an idiot in person. Good thing he has a blog to do that where he can be all Che Quiero rather than his in-person Bruiser Woods (Legally Blonde).
guess it depends on the venue
Enough small humor What does Gary's opinion of scientists have to do with his TWICHOO or even FR for that matter anyway? Answer: Nothing. But it makes for a good diversionary tactic. You see, in the lecture he links to in his article, we learn yet a bit more about Taubes and science. Seems he was not even a very good student when he was a physics major. This is not surprising to this blogger. I'm coming around more and more to the opinion that Taubes ultimately understands very little of what he writes about. It is what fuels his hubris because he really thinks he knows better due to his inability to understand why it is that he's so blatantly wrong.
What is inexcusable at this point Mr. Taubes, is your continual evasion of the valid questions that have been raised about your own hypotheses. YOU need to man-up and answer those questions. Good science begins with a hypothesis that explains observations. Not with a hypothesis that must be "complicated" -- to quote a certain Swedish diet doctor -- in order to explain mountains of inconvenient facts.
Because in reality, your hypothesis has actually undergone rank simplification over the years. Not because you suddenly discovered the fine art of brevity or needed to streamline it, but because so much of what you put forth in GCBC turned out, in the end, to have been not supported by the science. And most of the contradictory evidence post-dates WWII, but predates -- often by a decade or more -- publication of your "three PhD thesis equivalent" tome.
So it is with supreme irony that you mention Dr. Allan Sniderman because, once again, you inadvertently provide critics of your theories (that are now inextricable from criticisms of your professional competence and ultimately your credibility and conduct) additional insight into what you should have known all along. You know, when for years you were still ignoring that 2003 Reshef et.al. paper and glyceroneogenesis, a GCBC reference no less, while lecturing research scientists with your provably wrong version of fat tissue regulation. You see, Gary, you kept at it with the whole "G3P is rate limiting for deposition of fat in adipose tissue" schtick when you should have known it was wrong all along. And many times along the way, folks have mentioned ASP to you and you've been asked about it. You always brushed that stuff off. Now we know you even had a science-buddy in Allan Sniderman. I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude for your stubborn intransigence in addressing Reshef and the whole G3P issue. You see, had you just had the LC Kindergarten Cop post a comment here dismissing Reshef on the basis that "it's mostly rat studies", you could have saved yourself this whole waste of time of having to actually read some of those references in GCBC. And I would probably have never heard of Keith Frayn as I persisted in trying to get you to answer to the science.
Some readers may be wondering what tangent I'm off on now, so let's bring it in here and now. Keith Frayn is probably the most comprehensive research science expert in the field of adipose tissue metabolism. He is among the authors of articles concerning research on the etiology of insulin resistance, the triglyceride/fatty acid cycling and trafficking, and the role of acylation stimulating protein -- ASP -- in all of this. And when it comes to ASP, where did Frayn's trail lead? To Dr. Allan Sniderman -- articles such as the two cited below (note the dates).
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 1997. 56:703-712.
AD Sniderman (1), K Cianflone (1), L Summers (2), B Fielding (2) and K Frayn (2)
(1) McGill Unit for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, Royal Victoria Hospital, Quebec, CA
(2) Oxford Lipid Metabolism Group, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford UK
Related Blog Post: The ASP pathway and regulation of postprandial metabolism ~ Part I
Coordinated release of acylation stimulating protein (ASP) and triacylglycerol clearance by human adipose tissue in vivo in the postprandial periodJ. Lipid Res. 1998. 39:884–891.
J. Saleh (1), LKM Summers (2), K Cianflone (1), BA Fielding (2), AD Sniderman (1), and KN Frayn (2)
Related Blog Post: Fat Accumulation: Taubes v. Frayn ~ ASP in vivo in humans
Surely Gary Taubes has read these papers? If not before publication of GCBC, but in the intervening years whenever his professional interactions with Sniderman came about? Or how about when, as discussed in the Fat Accumulation blog post, Josef Brandeburg asked him about it?
In a post entitled WHAT IF LOW CARB IS WRONG? DOES ASP PROVE THAT INSULIN DOESN’T MATTER AND THAT ITS CALORIES THAT REALLY COUNT?, Josef Brandenburg (June 30, 2009) wonders over the significance of ASP and asks Taubes about it. Brandenburg cites the following articles as references for that post: Purification and Characterization of Acylation Stimulating Protein Katherine M. Cianflone, Allan D. Sniderman, Mark J. Walsh, Hai T. Vu, Jean GagnonS, and Miguel A. Rodriguez, 1989; and Metabolic response of Acylation Stimulating Protein to an oral fat load,K. Cianflone, H. Vu, M. Walsh, A. Baldo, and A. Sniderman, 1989.
Against the backdrop of his office/desk, with several presumably authoritative reference books the great Taubesini consults when doing his version of good research and hypothesis testing, Josef says: "I shared my research with Gary Taubes and he had this to say"
.... “One thing to keep in mind in all this is the need to explain the observations, not just work with possible mechanisms that can’t explain anything. So one of the observations is weight loss on a high fat diet — the Atkins diet.
“So if ASP was good at sequestering dietary fat away in the fat tissue without carbs being needed, why would people lose weight when they ate an Atkins diet? ....
There's a really "scientific" approach to the topic, eh? Rigorous hypothesis testing? Not! Keep in mind this was before some formerly anonymous bunny-eared blogger came along who just wouldn't let him drop this issue anymore. Mr. Taubes, there are observations made by even some of your most ardent defenders that yes, folks not only can, but they do, gain weight on VLC/VHF diets. Or how about the work of Dr. Jeff Volek? How is postprandial triglyceride clearance improved ... it can't all go into the muscles! How does it get into the adipose tissue in the absence of the carb-induced insulin spike?
In his current post, Taubes writes the following:
One of my supporters in mainstream medical research is Allan Sniderman, a professor of cardiology and medicine at McGill University in Montreal. Since the mid-1980s, Sniderman has been arguing that Apo-B (the protein component of low and very low density lipoproteins) is a far better predictor of heart disease, which it surely is, than the cholesterol that happens to be contained in these lipoproteins. He’s also a co-discoverer of the hormone ASP — acylation stimulating protein — which plays a role, however controversial, in fat storage. Sniderman read Good Calories, Bad Calories shortly after it was published in September 2007 and then invited me up to lecture at McGill.
[As an aside, thank you again Mr. Taubes for illuminating yet another oft-ignored body of research as regards Dr. Wheat Belly's version of low carb "science". Very interesting stuff there courtesy of some hapless group of research scientists, likely including a few gents (and surely some ladies too) toiling away trying to elucidate actual mechanisms rather than publishing fluff pseudoscience. I hope to get to blog on this fascinating new information soon.]
The truth of the matter is that ASP is not some poorly understood protein. It's role is NOT controversial. And now that Taubes is on the record acknowledging that ASP is a hormone, there's yet another little fib-b-poo he slipped into his interview (pt 2) with Jimmy Moore responding to yours truly and others (~9:50 mark). You see, as recently as January of this year, Gary was still insisting that "when you write about adipose tissue metabolism, the only thing people will write ... the only hormone they're usually talking about is insulin .. where they're talking the part where putting fat in the hormone [sic] ... nobody ... you know ... at least ... the books I have ... nobody talks about any other hormone" all because for reasons unknown, in the 2010 version of Frayn's Metabolic Regulation, ASP is not in the graphic. It is mentioned in the text, but who reads those sorts of things in science picture books. [Taubes also admits he never read the 1995 version of that book referenced in GCBC ~30:50 mark]
Whoa boy. It's been a long while since I listened to those January 2011 interviews. It was a busy and stressful time in my life and addressing those comments fell by the wayside. Still, I realize that at this point, in light of his recent behavior, I need to go back and discuss this man's supposed response to my criticisms. If for no other reason, but to remind people of -- or introduce them for the first time to -- the real mettle of this man in the face of criticism of any sort. It's long overdue. Because he's still at it with a new target in his sights.
I'm just hoping all his talk about rubbing back and forth is truly metaphorical in nature.
(oh no she di' int)
Of course every quack thinks he's right
~ Gary Taubes, referring to himself