Let's take a trip in the way back machine, shall we?

It's been exactly one year since this Gary Taubes interview with Jimmy Moore aired.  In one of Gary's emails to me he stated that this was taped on June 14, 2010, two weeks after your's truly published "Da Bomb":  Glyceroneogenesis v. Taubes.  I'm not aware of what other bloggers were talking about this specific issue at the time.  I'm going to ask you to give me about 10 minutes of your time to listen to what Gary was saying then about errors in GCBC.  It is important, I think, to listen to his "voicey language" as I call it.  The hesitation, high pitch at some points, throat clearing, etc.  Because there can be no doubt that the question was set up between Jimmy & Gary to give him a platform to set the record straight.  He was prepared for this ... he was not put on the hot seat in any way, and Jimmy would certainly not be trying to trip the guy up.   

FF to about the 38:30 mark

Here we are in 2011 and he's yet to set that record straight in print.  We also now know, that the 1973 endocrinology text he cites in GCBC,  Regulation in Metabolism by Newsholme and Start, did get it right all along.  If you haven't read that post here yet, I think that more than any other post on this blog concerning Taubes' and his fantastical theories, it is the must read.   

I'm happy that we've at least moved past the notion of not being able to store fat in the absence of dietary carbohydrate, but if recent discussions on the internet are any indication, there is much work yet to be done in getting this TWICHOO put rightfully back onto the scientific trash heap of failed hypotheses.  That there are folks out there now wondering if a PhD from the Endocrinology and Metabolism Department at UW has gone insane or something, as they continue on in defense of a hypothesis that should simply not have reached the formulation stage, is rather disconcerting.  But such is the state of science in the age of the internet I suppose.  That at least one of these people was a research scientist herself is doubly disturbing.

Weight loss on low carb diets is not proof of TWICHOO which is supposed to explain not only how/why people become obese, but also why they're doing so in larger proportions in industrialized countries since the 80's.  As my semester gets into swing, I can't help but think of what all has changed in our society since the early 80's when I went off to college.  To use a computer back then I had to trek across campus and perhaps even stand in line to get time on a terminal.  Yes, back in the dark ages of mainframes and before a PC costing $5K had 8K RAM and ran off 2 floppy disks!  And there were many trips from the terminal to the central printer room to pick up outputs.  Now most of my students have wireless laptops through which they can access just about anything anywhere on campus and printers in their rooms.  My freshman dorm did not have phones in every room and it was pricey to get service.  Long distance call?  Payphone downstairs.  Now everyone has a cell phone, and most have internet access with those too.   There were no roads going to some of our buildings, not that we could access anyway.  Everybody didn't have cars.  I could go on but I'm feeling rather old reminiscing here already.   But oh!  The Japanese were eating white rice.  Lots of white rice being heated up in the microwave in the little snack area/lounge in the library at Rensselaer.  Lots.

Bottom line, the obesity epidemic is perfectly well explained by changes in our culture and the inescapable fact that we eat more (calories) and move less during the course of our daily lives.  I don't believe any particular macro, or single food or food agent or deficiency or infection or gut flora or whatever will ever explain this epidemic, because we're talking sentient socialized humans.

Jillian Michaels was on Fox & Friends this morning and she answered a viewer question (I'll paraphrase):  This lady had changed her diet to a healthier one, walks 3X/week and lost about 20 lbs, but she's unable to lose more.  Jillian responded that she'd bet 100 to 1 the lady was not counting calories and she said she needs to work out more and she'll see the pounds start to drop again.  I could hear Taubes and Fat Head mocking her all the way to the bank.  How sad, really.  


Margaret said…
I highly recommend reading David Kessler's "The end of overeating" - someone mentioned it after Stephen Guyenet talked about food reward at AHS, and I checked it out of my local library. It's a great analysis of the hyperpalatability theory of why we overeat and it makes perfect sense.
Duffy Pratt said…
There are a few lifestyle/food based differences as well. Gas stations sold gas, and did not have convenience stores. Thus, people were less likely to stop in for a soda and a bag of chips or a snack cake when filling their tanks. There were no Starbucks, and no drive through Starbucks. A cup of coffee was typically just that, and not a milkshake with a fancy name. A bag of popcorn at the movies was about 1/5th the size of what it is now. Diet drinks tasted awful, and hadn't overtaken the market. Microwaves were new, and there was a relatively small industry of quick, pre-packaged meals, instead of the rows that you now see in the freezer section of supermarkets.

On top of our societal changes in both activity and eating, there is also the whole question of the effect of engineered foods. Growing up, lots of food was seasonal. We didn't get it all the time, but when it was available, it was really, really good. Now, I have access, for example, to peaches all year round. And they are always mediocre. There's no reason why I would ever now choose a peach over some chocolate. But if I could get a good, ripe Jersey peach or Georgia peach in season, I would take the peach almost every time.
CS, I think there's a middle ground re ELMM vs macros, NADs, etc as the root of the obesity epidemic. I know neither Stephan Guyenet nor Jack Kruse like the idea of "overriding" leptin signaling, but something is interfering with the body's normal mechanism for helping slow down appetite when fat stores pile up.

It's possible that's largely cultural ... we ourselves just learn how to eat perpetually despite lack of hunger. But I do think that NADs or environmental chemicals or even epigenetics are at work in helping to break that mechanism for some of us.
Diana said…

Another way of clarifying the obesity epidemic is to focus on the populations in the US* that aren't particularly ravaged by it. This seems to be two groups, mainly: persons of E. Asian origin, and upper middle class whites.

I have no statistics on the subject of E. Asians, but my lying eyes tell me that they are catching up to the rest of us - depending on their class - and most of them tend to be well-educated. So there is nothing special about them, ethnically. If they are normal weight, it's because they've stuck to the moderate eating habits of their parents.

It's the class divide of the white population that fascinates me so. You simply do not see a fat white person in the Upper East Side, or SoHo. These are places in NYC where rich white people live. Every statistic I read about the rest of the country follow suit. The fittest and thinnest state is Colorado. The fittest town in Colorado is Boulder.

Why? Is there something magic about their genes? Their epigenetic mechanism? No! The answer is simple: It's not socially acceptable to be fat in those places. So if you start gaining weight, you cut back food intake, ramp up energy expenditure. And you probably weren't fat to begin with.

*not that the epidemic is confined to the US, but you have to start somewhere.
Amy said…
I agree with Dianna. I would never under estimate the importance of social pressure. In certain groups: hippies of Boulder and the rich of NY, it's not okay to be fat. And it doesn't hurt that the rich can afford tummy tucks and stomach stapling. I'm meeting more and more women at the gym that are getting tummy tucks after losing weight or having a baby. And I'm seeing more and more breast implants.
Steve said…
I would be interested in seeing your arguments that obesity is caused (at least in part) by sedentary behavior, as you seem to imply in this post. I've never read a credible argument for that, but I'm open-minded.
Steve, daily work-related energy expenditure over the last half-century in the U.S. has decreased by over 100 calories. This may well explain the increase in body weights we’ve seen, according to a 2011 article in PLoS ONE.

-Steve P


Church, T., Thomas, D., Tudor-Locke, C., Katzmarzyk, P., Earnest, C., Rodarte, R., Martin, C., Blair, S., & Bouchard, C. (2011). Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity PLoS ONE, 6 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019657
CarbSane said…
Thanks Steve (P). The thing is NEAT expenditures can vary incredibly for standing vs. sitting. So exercising per se is not the thing as much as just activity.

Steve, I think sedentary behavior is not so much the initial cause, but it is something that snowballs with the obese spending less time standing vs. sitting compared to lean. Also, deliberate activity - aka exercise - has been shown to prevent weight gain and/or regain.
Steve said…
"Also, deliberate activity - aka exercise - has been shown to prevent weight gain and/or regain. "

Source? That sounds like something that would be very difficult to prove.
Sanjeev said…
I've read that in several papers unfortunately I'm not in the habit of saving that stuff for permanent use.

Try google ; here's the 1st one I came up with

Sanjeev said…
IMHO for current populations the exercise is needed to develop and strengthen executive function to enable better dietary adherence.

Actual calories burned during exercise is inconsequential, less than even the low carb metabolic advantage.
Sanjeev said…
> would be very difficult to prove

yes, the "proof" seems to be all epidemiology/observational probably there's no funding for a 20 year intervention study.
CarbSane said…
Steve there was a study out perhaps a year ago that followed folks over a decade. Those who walked a certain amount gained less weight than those who didn't on average. There can be no doubt that EVERYONE who loses weight sees a compensatory reduction in basal metabolic rate only exercise can mitigate that (outside exogenous hormone therapy and such). I'm overdue for parts II and III of the Formerly Obese Fuel Partitioning series. I'll cite specifics (most blogged on here)at that time. Stay tuned :-)
Steve said…

I'll settle for a rat study!

"Those who walked a certain amount gained less weight than those who didn't on average."

As Sanjeev says, that sounds very epidemiology/observational.
Steve said…
Oh, and I look forward to your future posts on it.
. said…
It's just my impression or there is a boiling frog on this blog in the last 12 months?
Anonymous said…
When I think of sedentary behavior and obesity, I think of 'Obesity Panacea.' I get the newsletter they send. If you look at one of the authors, there's this:

'Travis Saunders is a PhD student researching the relationship between sedentary time and chronic disease risk in children and youth.'
Diana said…
Regarding exercise, I found this:


"Dr. Rundle, who has written several papers on neighborhood environments and obesity, has found that even when adjusting for poverty and race, at least three factors are associated with lowering obesity: proximity to supermarkets and groceries where fresh produce is sold; proximity to parks; and access to public transportation, which reduces reliance on cars.

“There are ways urban planners can impact obesity, physical activity and diet,” Dr. Rundle said.

(Dr. Rundle found that the concentration of fast-food restaurants did not seem to have a particularly strong effect on obesity rates.)

Also from above article:

"the city’s health department reported that the prosperous swath of Manhattan from the Upper East Side down to Gramercy Park had the lowest obesity rate (less than 15 percent) in the city..."

That wouldn't explain why the East Side is skinnier than the West side: they are equidistant from Central Park. I think it's the social factor. To be fat on the Upper East Side is to be a disgrace.
Duffy Pratt said…
Actually, on the West Side, we had both Central Park and Riverstone Park. Maybe the choice leaves upper West Sider's in the position of Buridan's Ass?

I'd be interested in seeing the breakdown of obesity rates on the East Side between men and women. My guess is that a bit of a paunch is much more acceptable for a Master of the Universe than it would ever be for his trophy.
Diana said…
@Duffy - "Riverstone Park" - I think you mean Riverside.

Well, East siders have Schurz park, which is their version of Riverside, but Manhattan's biggest "gym" is Central Park.

Also, to confuse things further, skinny Gramercy has no really big parks in which to exercise. Alas, they are condemned to New York Sports Clubs, which are as ubiquitous in that area as SBUX.

Regarding the man/woman divide on the UES, I have often wondered about that. According to my lying eyes, the very thinnest people in NYC apart from the 90 dancers in the New York City Ballet, are UES women.

Nevertheless I think that fitness is a fetish among the Masters, whereas thinness is the ideal amongst their trophies. The trophiest trophy of 'em all, Nan Kempner, died of the effects of emphysema, being a heavy smoker most of her life.

Somewhere or other there is a WHO data map (2005), which shows that women in France have the same BMI as folks in the poorest African countries. Social pressures, anyone? I've seen it on blogs, but I can no longer find it on their website.
Duffy Pratt said…
I have no idea where I picked "Riverstone" from. And I lived for several years within a few blocks of both Riverside and Fort Tryon parks.

I hadn't heard before about the WHO data maps. The app is here:

Diana said…
@Duffy, for some reason that app isn't giving me exactly what I saw on that website. I have written to the owner of the 'site to ask him about that.

Hey, I have another thought about the whole notion of "food reward." It strikes me that the very word "reward" is highly subjective. Perhaps the modern American interpretation of "reward" is 1000 calories bigger than it was in (for example) 1931?

Just a suggestion.
bentleyj74 said…
I think that social pressure is a likely element but my historical experience suggests that it is moreso about the way of life/attitudes regarding pressure than the pressure itself.

I'm not suggesting that there are NOT women living on diet coke and cigarettes [and half lines of coke maybe as well] specifically for the purpose of being slim however I have had too consistant experience with upper class white women who experience little or no pressure at all because they are and have always been very lean. Not by genetic magic either but by looking out for number one and making their self care a priority. That sounds deceptively simple, it's not easy to endure the level of conflict involved in executing that priority set.

Personally, I did not endure it well at all and believe that it contributed mightily to a weight gain I would not have believed myself capable of. I only became "overweight" and have witnessed that level of weight gain rather mocked by those who have experienced true obesity but it was enough to impact all areas of my life and change my previously unsympathetic perceptions.
bentleyj74 said…
Erm...wanted to add lest it seem like an obvious and desireable goal that the lifestyle is pretty cutthroat and some of those throats do have hefty consequences as well.