Gary Taubes' Latest Publicity Stunt

A few days ago, the New York Times Magazine published an article by Tara Parker-Pope entitled The Fat Trap.  This has apparently caused the ego supremous nerve in the whydablitome region of Gary Taubes' cortex to fire uncontrollably.  The result?  Well, a petition, cloaked as a "Letter to the Editor" of the NYT.

When I first heard about this I was astounded.  Huh?  Here you have Gary Taubes ... THE Gary Taubes! ... Award winning science journalist who penned the classic "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie" in the very same publication, author of the NYT Bestseller Good Calories Bad Calories  ... Yes, THAT Gary Taubes.  The same man who had the lay-friendly version of GCBC published not much more than a year ago, Why We Get Fat.  Yes, the very same Gary Taubes who was on the nationally syndicated TV show of one Dr. Oz ... not to mention countless radio and print interviews in the mainstream press in a publicity flurry surrounding the book.  That journalistic exposure is not even including the three interviews with Jimmy Moore and several other low carb "luminaries" and even a few lesser knowns.  

Exposure to his "challenging of conventional wisdom" is something Taubes does not lack.  And this pity party is getting rather sickening to me.  Think about this folks, who gets over three-quarters of a million dollars to write a book like GCBC?  Perhaps Knopf hoped all of Taubes' bluster and flare (in writing at least) would make more of an ultimate impact and generate more revenues.  Who knows. Was there any advance for WWGF, or was it damage control of sorts?  Again, who knows.

Speaking of book advances, however, in About That Book Advance ... , written in 2009, an average of only $30K is cited.  So our poor beleaguered science journalist received well over 10 times that.  Such a bummer and the establishment keeping the little man down going on, eh?  Folks, that book was nowhere near the equivalent of three PhD theses, let alone one.  That Taubes used some of that advance to hire underlings to do his footwork for him is to his own discredit, IMO.  It took him five years to write that book.  Even given a generous 6 weeks per year vacation, that works out to 46 weeks x 40 hr/wk x 5 yrs, or over 9000 hours of work for the book!!  I guess that the advance works out to little over $8/hour wage is Taubes' problem for taking so long to write his book.  Must be part of the cause of that lesion in his whydablitome.   Is anyone else feeling sorry for Gary just yet?  

Hee hee ... before we leave the book advance topic, however, I'll leave you with the opening quote from the cite:
“In the old days,” the novelist Henry Bech, John Updike’s fictional alter ego, once said, “a respectable author never asked for an advance; that was strictly for the no-talents starving down in the Village.”
I'll leave that out there without further comment ;-)

The more I think on this, the more I understand how some totally obscure (we're talking virtual blogging to oneself land here at the time), anonymous, bunny-eared blogger managed to produce ego supremousitis nervosa myalgia hyperplasticitity leveetimus leptimus hyperinsulinitis resistancia carbomonius ohcansomebodypleasestophernowwwwww by proxy (via one Frederick Hahn, and signator of said petition in case anyone's wondering) with an off-hand closing salvo to a post perhaps 300 people had ever read at the time.  I hit that nerve big time.  Because, it was true folks.    (Glyceroneogenesis v. Taubes)

That Gary Taubes is playing some sort of victim at this point, that being a correspondent for Science, published in the NYT, and having not one, but two books he's profited handsomely from somehow isn't enough to get his message heard speaks volumes.  If this were the 80's perhaps, he might have a point.  Back then, the NYT was one of *the* media outlets.  And still, Gary considers it influential enough that he wants to mount a petition against one of its reporters because he disagrees with her analysis.  We'll get back to that in a moment.  But folks this is 2012, and that means it's been almost a decade since his own NYT article.  It's been countless interviews and articles and lectures (also seen on YouTube) and two books and just so much exposure it's not even funny.  And yet nobody's listening.  It could be that there's some BigXYZ conspiracy afoot and whatnot.  Yep, he did do a Mercola interview....   But in this age of the internet, you have to wonder why not one single obesity researcher has come out and endorsed his position openly throughout the intervening decade.  Can they ALL be wrong?  And only Gary Taubes right?  HIGHLY doubtful.  I would sooner put a year's earnings down and let it ride on multiple spins on a roulette table than bet on Taubes being right.

Gary's had his dayS in the sun here.  If he's come up short it is because his message does not resonate past the whole "challenging conventional wisdom" schtick.  At some point, just being against something is not enough, and worse, Taubes never did have the clout (though he had the hubris) to claim his was some sort of null hypothesis.  But even if we accept that his carbs make us fat hypothesis as the null -- that which requires extraordinary evidence to reject as Taubes puts it -- I would say that evidence has more than piled up by this point in time.  To channel Count Adhemar in a Knight's Tale:  TWICHOO been weighed, it has been measured, and it has been found (woefully) wanting.

The Atkins diet and a zillion versions of the same have been around for 40 years now.  And yet folks who lose large amounts of weight are just as likely to put it all back on and then some as everyone else.   This notion that the medical establishment that treats obesity won't use low carb is absurd.  If people are desperate to inject themselves with HCG and eat 500 cal/day to lose weight, surely they will at least try low carb.  And if it's some magic cure the centers using such approaches would have waiting lists miles long.   Heck, what's the success/recidivism rate for Dr. Nagler -- Gary Taubes' Diet Doctor?  I am personally aware of one of the "success stories" in The New Atkins not being such a success because this person emailed me about her regain and inability to keep the weight off.  Yet people who read that book will only hear her singing the glories of how Atkins fixed her.  Sound familiar?  On the back jacket of Jimmy Moore's first book -- you know, the one with "sensationally skinny" in the subtitle, Jackie Eberstein (Director of nutrition information for Atkins Health & Medical Information Services, and signator of said petition) writes:  
"After years of yo-yo dieting, Jimmy Moore found his solution.  He gave up 'dieting' and embraced the idea of a lifestyle change to manage his weight and health.  He chose an eating plan that controls hunger and cravings while allowing him to consume satisfying foods.  Not only did he discover an easier way to lose weight and keep it off, he found a renewed sense of well being, the energy and motivation to exercise, and improved his overall health.  Bravo, Jimmy"
This would poke a finger in the eye of conventional wisdom, were it not for the fact that, although staying low carb consistently, Jimmy has lost and regained at least his 410 pound self worth of weight over the past several years. He has used some rather extreme approaches that would be roundly scoffed at were they recommended by a purveyor of conventional wisdom. Who could forget his 2010 EggFast: Severe Hyperinsulinemia Has Mandated I Go On A High-Fat, Low-Carb 'Eggfest'. Eberstein is well aware of the limits of Atkins in controlling weight at appropriate levels.  

Ultimately Parker-Pope's article was about the difficulties of maintaining weight losses.  On that count, Atkins is as monumental a fail as any other diet, or the obesity epidemic would have been abolished shortly after the turn of this century when you couldn't walk down the street without bumping into at least one person who was doing Atkins.

To start the petition out, however, Taubes likes to point out that Parker-Pope is 60 lbs overweight despite her efforts.  Ummm helloooooooo Gary?  Do we know anyone else who is more than 60 lbs overweight despite his efforts eating consistently low carb at that?  I've seen lots of sneers at Tara's weight and I always wonder how the overweight low carbers can read them without being insulted themselves.  I see that Gary has backed out of his promotional commitment to appear on this year's LC cruise, or perhaps he could have insulted all these people to their faces.  (Yes, that's right folks, no Gary Taubes, but you'll get the L.Ron and Leptin Man so please don't ask for your money back!)   Yo-yo dieting and struggles to lose and maintain weight are simply not just for the calorie counters.  TWICHOOB's are fighting the same battles daily over on Jimmy's discussion board and others like it around the web.  It's funny how someone goes from a success story to being a fatso in the eyes of low carbers depending on their chosen way of eating, or in my case, based on their refusal to buy into pseudoscience.

Taubes seems bothered with Tara's discussion of genetics.  Surely our DNA hasn't changed in such a short time.   But Parker-Pope acknowledges the limitations of blaming genes:
While knowing my genetic risk might satisfy my curiosity, I also know that heredity, at best, would explain only part of why I became overweight. I’m much more interested in figuring out what I can do about it now.
Of course so wrapped up in his alternate hypothesis, he insists:
The salient question is not so much why losing weight and keeping it off is so difficult – something that’s always been obvious, even if the underlying science was not well understood – but why are so many people fatter now than ever before?
No ... that wasn't the point of Tara Parker-Pope's article.  Can't you read?  If her article was about childhood obesity and preventing obesity, then perhaps a letter to the editor stating his opinions would be warranted.  He's not addressing her article ultimately, he's using this as some means to drum up publicity for his dying dogma.  Now after expressing her ultimate interest in figuring out what to do about her weight, Tara cites the National Weight Control Registry.   
There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight — some did it on Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig, some by cutting carbs on the Atkins diet and a very small number lost weight through surgery. But their eating and exercise habits appear to reflect what researchers find in the lab: to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally.
Did she mention Atkins?  The reality for most is that weight reduction lowers basal metabolism below what it would have been for the same person at a given weight were they never to have gotten overweight.  [EDIT 5/1/2017  Despite some recent studies seeming to support this, there are more well implemented (compliance/accountability) studies showing otherwise.  If there is any effect, it is likely nominal and unlikely to be a barrier to loss an maintenance.  /EDIT]  It is also a reality that, no matter what Gary "exercise just makes you hungry" Taubes tells you, it is integral to maintenance for most people.  More power to those who can eat thousands of calories and sit around all day and maintain a low bodyweight.  These people are outliers, be they low carbers or otherwise.  
The article implies that merely making too much food available and not being sufficiently physically active is sufficient to raise the amount of fat a body will defend. And it implies that this is the salient change in the state of the nation that has driven the obesity epidemic – we eat more than we did 50 years ago and we’re less active.
That's funny, Fat Head says the very same thing (in the movie that is, not now), as did Gary himself back in his own NYT article. You see we do eat more, and we are likely less active. Eating carbohydrates is not the salient change Gary, and neither is eating low fat. Fat as a percent declined a teensy bit -- from the very high 30's to the mid-high 30's depending on the source -- but it's not low fat, fat consumption actually increased in absolute amounts in tiny numbers, just carbs -- mostly sugary drinks -- increased more. For all the blame on carbs, I don't think I've seen a study where they monitor intake for a period before the intervention where the habitual SAD exceeds 50% carb or dips below 35% fat on average. 

Taubes goes on to lament that the obesity-is-a-disease-of-fat-accumulation, that fat accumulation drives overeating, not the other way around, is not accepted. Dang that World War II!   Oh wait ... that doesn't explain why we get fat then, because that would be genetics governed by the brain per Julius Bauer, but I digress ...  Ah, and he goes on to lament that Parker-Pope never mentions insulin in all the hormones.  Insulin does not regulate fat mass, it regulates circulating levels of metabolites.  That it acts on adipocytes to do that does not make insulin in control over everything.  I've asked before and I'll ask again, how can any discussion of fat tissue metabolism not include those hormones secreted by the fat cells themselves?  Leptin being the major one, but ASP playing a critical role in fat accumulation in adipocytes.  (See my ongoing series on fat tissue regulation:  Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII as of this posting)    Taubes presents insulin's role as non-controversial.  I agree.  It is not controversial in terms of what it does.  What is controversial is Taubes' interpretation of the causes of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.  
Since this regulatory role of insulin in fat metabolism was established in the 1960s, a viable alternative explanation for the cause of obesity has been that it is caused by a dysregulation of insulin signaling. By this logic, the way to treat obesity is not by eating less and exercising more, as Ms. Parker-Pope implies, but by reducing insulin levels, perhaps as low as possible. That is accomplished most efficiently by severely restricting the carbohydrate content of the diet and removing, in particular, refined grains and sugars that have the greatest effect in stimulating insulin secretion.
If this is true, why aren't all your buddies on the insulin-lowering drug diazoxide?  But speaking of insulin, and Gary's lament that Tara didn't address it in all her 5000 words,  Paul Jaminet had a great catch in his blog post.  The NEJM study that Parker-Pope cites did look at insulin. It was reduced with weight loss and remained lower after a year despite regain of roughly one third of lost weight.  I'm not sure how many studies we have to show Taubes to convince him that his alternate hypothesis is bunk.  It is not controversial basic physiology/endocrinology that basal insulin levels and hyperinsulinemia are not the result of carbohydrate in the diet per se.  In too many studies to cite here, insulin levels go down with weight loss, no matter the means of accomplishing that weight loss.   Gary can confusulate as much as he wants on this, but very high carb diets have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity which reduces basal insulin levels, a sampling of which can be found in this blog post.  Honestly, I don't know how many well designed studies from metabolic ward and beyond we need to show people that insulin is not the cause of the obesity epidemic.  Neither is fat consumption, per se.  It's ALL about the calories in the end.  Which is not to say that everyone gains or loses or maintains the same weight and fat mass for a given intake, because those who understand CICO don't believe the strawman argument that the various factors that determine CI and CO are independent or entirely under our control.

And yet many who signed the petition and commented about it around the net took aim at the 195 lb woman who had maintained her losses who diligently monitors her intake.  Indeed for many of us, there's a quality of life issue at some point.  I'll probably badly mis-paraphrase Yoni Freedhoff here, but I'm trying to get this one finished and published.  He often talks about success or reasonable weight loss or the means being that which one can adhere to consistently while still being happy.   For many of us, especially women of a certain age who have beaten our metabolisms into the basement with yo-yo dieting and whatnot, the intake required to get to and maintain greater weight losses may not be consistent with an enjoyable quality of life.   A few more quotes:
This is accompanied by another well-accepted effect of carbohydrate-restriction – intrusive and obsessive thoughts of food seem to disappear on these diets. In fact, the American Medical Association has described the absence of hunger (technically “anorexia”) as a well-known side effect of diets that severely restrict carbohydrate content but otherwise allow dieters to eat as many calories (from fat and protein) as they want.
Yeah, because there are no mentions of food obsessions by all the rail skinny low carbers buying up low carb and paleo cookbooks and chatting up recipes on Jimmy's latest podcasts.  Unh huh.  
This implies that if researchers like those Ms. Parker-Pope quotes in her article had studied the metabolic and hormonal adaptations to weight loss on carbohydrate-restricted diets, rather than on calorie-restricted diets, they would have come to entirely different conclusions about the intractability of obesity, about the supposedly superhuman effort required to maintain weight loss, and about the metabolic and hormonal alterations that accompany this process.  
This paragraph has lots of comments about how Parker-Pope presents a defeatist position on weight loss.  They worry that she'll apparently dissuade folks from even trying what with that superhuman effort required.  Again, however, Tara has been able to lose weight, as have countless low carbers both on low carb and on probably just about every other diet plan, and countless others who have never tried Atkins.  But is Taubes' message any more encouraging for those that struggle?  I would say not.  Because when he did an interview with Fat Head, it set off this thread of despair over at the ALC forums.  Here's what was so disturbing:
Fat Head: You wrote something in Why We Get Fat that I think every frustrated dieter needs to hear: the proper diet will help us become as lean as we can be, but not necessarily as lean as we’d like to be. Once we become fat, is there a limit to how much fat we can lose without starving away our lean tissue? If so, what’s the barrier to mobilizing and burning those last 10 or 20 pounds of excess fat?
Gary Taubes: Simple answer, I don’t know. But it’s obvious that not every woman can have the body of an Angelina Jolie, regardless of how few carbs they eat. And not every man can have the body or the body-fat percentage of, I don’t know, a Matthew McConaughey, one of these actors who’s always taking his shirt off in movies.
That’s for starters. Some of us are wired to have more body fat than others from the get-go. Then I think when we grow up in a carb-rich environment, some degree of chronic damage is done to the way we partition fuel. Maybe our muscle tissue never quite loses its insulin resistance, or our fat tissue remains more insulin sensitive than it would be had we never seen carbs. Maybe our pancreas secretes a little too much insulin.
It’s hard to tell, but the way I describe it is this: if I grew up in a hunter-gatherer environment — and my mother did as well, because there are effects that are passed from mother to child through the uterus — I’d probably weigh around 175 pounds, even as an adult. Had I stopped eating carbs in my late teens, I might naturally weigh about 190 or 200, which was my football weight in high school. The fact that I not only kept eating carbohydrates into my forties but gorged on them during the low-fat, you-can’t-get-fat-if-a-food-doesn’t-have-fat-in-it years of the late 1980s and early 1990s means the best I can do now, even eating virtually no carbs at all, is about 220. And there’s nothing I can do to go lower, short of starving myself. Semi-starving myself doesn’t work. I tried that long ago.
Fat Head: So what’s the message for those people? Lose what you can and focus on being healthy, as opposed to obsessing with squeezing into a size-8 dress?  
Gary Taubes: Precisely.
Gary's fatalistic approach in WWGF, that some of us can never eat a few grams of carbs and if we go zero carb and we're still fat, that's the best we can do and we might as well resign ourselves to being healthy obese people is probably the biggest catalyst behind this whole wave of "deranged" and "damaged metabolism" theories.  And yet the woman in the article is doing just that and yet she's being mocked in various corners of the net.  The thing is from Dana Carpender to Jimmy Moore to Fat Head and others, long term low carbing seems to be leading to prediabetes-worthy glucose responses.  It sure ain't from carbs in their diets, and I could flesh out that list.  Some of the docs signed on are sporting double chins and are still overweight.  Look in the mirror before you point fingers at those who aren't getting optimal results by other means.  LC ain't that panacea.

Look, this article, as with various studies in the formerly obese, is a bit depressing, but it is realistic. Here is what Tara wrote in her closing lines:
For me, understanding the science of weight loss has helped make sense of my own struggles to lose weight, as well as my mother’s endless cycle of dieting, weight gain and despair. I wish she were still here so I could persuade her to finally forgive herself for her dieting failures. While I do, ultimately, blame myself for allowing my weight to get out of control, it has been somewhat liberating to learn that there are factors other than my character at work when it comes to gaining and losing weight. And even though all the evidence suggests that it’s going to be very, very difficult for me to reduce my weight permanently, I’m surprisingly optimistic. I may not be ready to fight this battle this month or even this year. But at least I know what I’m up against.
I don't know about all of you, but I find this encouraging if anything.  It's a sentiment I've heard from many who have found their way here to the Asylum after stalling on LC and not being able to lose.  Once one accepts that calories ultimately count, it becomes easier to address the issue.  And I'm like Tara in that there are times in one's life when fighting that battle may just not be priority one.  Many have that a ha health scare moment, but despite all the stats, there are many many people who are overweight or obese by BMI standards or otherwise who are metabolically healthy despite the number on the scale or the label.   But I doubt folks like Tara will be suckered into dropping more $$ into the latest, greatest weight loss book looking for that new magical fix for their situation.   And that's a good thing ... that first step.  No gimmickry, no false promises of effortless weight loss if only you do X or Y or Z.  And those who have found success in this real world who do still LC, view it as a means to reduce appetite and cut calories without having to consciously do so.  But let's face it folks, it is the rare obese who will lose to goal and never regain without doing anything consciously to control intake or increase expenditure.  Because most people regain because they think there's a maintenance phase after the plateau.  Yeah ... keeping on doing what you are doing, or doing something else that has you in energy balance.  That you can increase calories or stop all that exercising you were doing and expect the pounds not to come back on is pie-in-the-sky.  You will likely have to be some sort of vigilant to maintain, homeostasis is probably a pipe dream for you.  As depressing as that sounds, I, and others, like Tara, find this strangely liberating and cause for optimism.  

But speaking of $, what is Gary up to with this petition?  Rewind to the beginning of this post when I reminded you of all of his clout in the journalistic and medical arena.  He has addressed likely thousands of doctors and researchers with his lectures over the past four years, written countless articles, been interviewed dozens upon dozens of times ... oh and there were the two books.  So why this plaintiff wail?
Until the medical researchers themselves and the journalists, like Ms. Parker-Pope, who cover the field, acknowledge that there is indeed an alternative explanation for why we get fat, and that it leads to a surprisingly effective means of treating and preventing the disease, we can expect to make little progress.
One can almost see Gary at his breakfast table with his bacon and eggs swimming in grease pounding the table wondering "why won't they listen to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE???"   Maybe, just maybe, they did Gary.  You were just unconvincing because your science is cherry picked and your hypothesis so easily debunked by common sense.  Obesity will no more be reversed by demonizing carbs than it was by demonizing fat.  I came across an interview with Gary gave to Seth Roberts (of Shangri La diet fame) shortly after GCBC came out in 2007.  In it is the key to why Gary is so forlorn and grasping at straws these days.  In the context of what he uncovered in his previous career as science journalist in something he at least had some formal education to cover, e.g. physics, he is asked about the state of obesity research:
But what they were getting wrong were subtle; yes, they’d believe incorrectly that they’d discovered elementary particles, but what they were doing was a real subtle game. What they were misinterpreting were extraordinarily subtle aspects of the data. This obesity screw-up is fundamental; it's like a grade school error in the interpretation of the laws of thermodynamics. And I made it as well, up until five years ago. I never thought differently. But what radicalized me is that they don’t care. If they successfully ward off my threat to their beliefs, then I’m in a very dangerous place. Then it’s, like I said, where I end up a bitter demented old man, one of those guys who’s muttering to himself all the time that they, the establishment, didn’t listen to him..
The year 2011 was not good for Gary Taubes.  WWGF barely broke into the top 10 of the NYT best seller list for books of it's type.  Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Body graced the top of the list for several weeks (and apparently spent most of 2011 on the list, 40 weeks, with "also ran" for several more weeks).  A Carb Lovers diet and Veganist diet books (not to mention others) spent several weeks in the top 10 around the time WWGF came out.  WWGF peaked with one week at No. 10, and three weeks at the "also ran" No. 11-12 slot.  Although he claimed that his Oz appearance had sparked interest and we were hearing from Jimmy about all the searching on Taubes, apparently nobody bought the book that said they would as it didn't see a resurgence.  For Taubes, WWGF would appear to be a failure.  The dumbed down version readers were supposedly clamoring for hasn't resonated with all those dumbos who stupidly listen to Jillian Michaels.   Blogger and doctor after blogger and doctor jumped the VLC ship.  In the end the  reported sea-change in favor of the "alternate hypothesis" and influence of the great Gary Taubes, have been massively exaggerated.  Perhaps the description of WWGF in the NYT Book Review as a nothing-new Cliff Notes version of GCBC didn't help sales much.  After all, there are even fawning websites devoted to explaining GCBC to us idjuts living on ELMM  Street.   

It seems to me that Gary Taubes is deep into that bitter old man terroir and grasping at straws for publicity.  Is there going to be a paperback? (Memory seems to say it was released in all formats already).  Why not pitch a response article to the NYT?  Or did he already and they rejected it??  Seems so very odd that he should resort to this petition.  And to all the signers, I would ask you to reconsider.  If you feel so strongly, then pen your own letters to the editor, it will have a greater impact if that's how you truly believe, to get 300+ letters than a bunch of signatures on an amateurish petition.  Because Tara Parker-Pope's article was good, and it speaks to those of us who struggle with obesity, former obesity, weight loss and maintenance.  This "gang bang" assault on her is distasteful at best, disgusting at worst.   After all, it was JUST an article in the NYT.  And Freddie, if you care so much for Tara's well being, you could offer gratis services at your gym and your brilliant nutritional counseling for her.  At least send her your book on how 15 minutes a week is all you need to transform your body from whatever to Mark Sisson in Pink.  

At the very least, call off the virtual hounds folks.  Tara Parker-Pope is not the problem, nor is her well-needed dose of realism.  


You did fine with the paraphrasing. Basic premise being, if you don't like the life you're living, you're not going to keep living that way.

Coincidentally, my post tomorrow is on Tara's article.
Anonymous said…
There is something that bothers me about the Proietto study discussed in the Parker-Pope article.

'Although some people dropped out of the study, most of the patients stuck with the extreme low-calorie diet, which consisted of special shakes called Optifast and two cups of low-starch vegetables, totaling just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks. Ten weeks in, the dieters lost an average of 30 pounds.'

This will do it: calorie reduction. The people who couldn't do it or decided they didn't want to, dropped out. The people who stayed were committed to the diet, short-term.

Yet, there was the problem of maintenance. Instead of keeping the habits (and lifestyle adjustments) of ten weeks, the participants were asked to 'switch gears.'

'...the 34 patients who remained stopped dieting and began working to maintain the new lower weight. Nutritionists counseled them in person and by phone, promoting regular exercise and urging them to eat more vegetables and less fat. But despite the effort, they slowly began to put on weight.'

What is so strange about them gaining weight back without the Optifast and the calorie limits they already knew? Now, they are no longer 'dieting' and the advice given if a participant faces an evening out with co-workers is: 'eat more vegetables, eat less fat, and exercise.' Huh? How much do you want to bet that the participants greatly modified their lifestyle (not going out, not drinking alcohol, etc.) during the diet but maintenance is a 'whole other thing.'

I can't read the study, but if maintenance did not mean use of food diaries and calorie counting, it's a no-brainer why they gained weight. All the hormones mentioned in the article (ghrelin, etc.) are still interesting, but I don't think that's what's pulling this train.
The Jaminets did a thoughtful evaluation of the Tara Parker-Pope article. Thank god for sites like yours & theirs. I'm sure you already saw the "star-studded" lineup for the LC Cruise: Drs Duvet & WheatBelly, L. Ron & a surprise guest-appearance by Atkins's widow who must have something to promote, I'm just not sure what. GT & Robb Wolf both bailed which I thought a smart career move.
Chris said…

This afternoon I tried to listen to the 20 stone Jimmy M interviewing Paul Jaminet. Paul is amazingly polite and courteous, but so often it was clear that Jimmy just did not get what was being said.
Wright Mind said…
Jimmy Moore sent me a personal e-mail requesting I sign Taubes' petition, presumably because I have a Ph.D. and it would look "credible." According to the e-mail Moore sent me, Taubes was trying to get "at least 300 signatures of medical doctors, researchers, and scientists to combat the nonsense in that column."

My Ph.D. is in marketing, a social science, not anywhere near nutrition, medicine, or any biological science. All they wanted, or so it seems to me, was the sheen of credibility. Of course, I did not sign, for that reason alone. Not to mention that I don't believe in Taubes' hypothesis.
Sue said…
Signatories - lots of MDs, Mark Sisson, Regina Wilshire and Gil (haven't seen anything from Regina in a while), Eric Westman, Cate Shanahan, Aaron Blaisdell, Barry Groves, Jimmy Moore, Dr John Briffa, Fred Hahn, Zoe Harcombe, Mary Vernon, Sally Fallon Morell (this was surprising), Dr Jonny Bowden, Petro Dobromylskyj (Peter of Hyperlipid), Richard Nikoley, Robb Wolf, Josef Brandenburg, Robert K Su, Stephen Phinney, Jeff Volek, Annika Dahlqvist.
Sanjeev said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sanjeev said…
Thanks Wright, for letting us know a piece of the canvassing effort.

At least now we know for sure[0] Gary's not a Budhist monk from Myanmar (or Vietnam)

The considered responses from the scientific community
1. we'll get back to you
2. <crickets chirping.wav>

Next up: Gary points a big gun at an adipose tumor in the shape of a cute dog.

"research my pet theory or I shoot this adipose tumor shaped like a cute dog"

"hurry up, it's starting to smell"

[0] oh right, as if I was the ONLY one who was wondering ... if he WAS, I would have asked "need a light Gary?"
Sanjeev said…
> bitter demented old man, one of those guys who’s muttering to himself
Evelyn or Anthony or James or Lyle ...
One of the usual suspects should change their legal name to "Scooby Doo" or "damn kids"

"I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for ..."
Anonymous said…
I was not asked by Taubes to sign the petition, as I suspect he well knows I would not have signed it.

I was asked by Jimmy, though, who seems to thoroughly have his fingers in his ears on the CIH.

How many docs and bloggers does Jimmy have to hear reject the CIH in person on his show before it sinks in?

I did not read Parker Pope's article and only just now read the petition.

Insulin is a regulator of fuel sources, not fat mass. And there is not a shred of evidence that carbohydrate per se causes hyperinsulinemia or directly causes IR anyway.

No one who has read the literature carefully at this point in time believes these things.

Why on earth would anyone who cares about their credibility sign on to that "petition"?

And what is the point of petitioning an article anyway? What a stupid stunt.
bentleyj74 said…
Did anyone other than me do a double take on KGHs last sentence? It's been a long day. :)

As for Gary [sigh] and his fathead monologue I just don't get it. I'm expecting the cast of SNL to pop out and sing lowered expectations.

Yes, there is such a thing as a gentic limitation. I will never be 5'9 and blonde but frankly Angelina Jolie and Matthew McConaughey are actors not pro athletes and are not at a fitness level that is unattainable to the average individual...

...but no, back to the basement Igor. Be glad you still have a pulse. I'm offended by this message, does it show?

Freedom might just be scarier for people whose habbits put them where they don't want to be than slavery whether real or perceived. It certainly scared the h*ll out of me when I faced it.

Just where in life though is it acceptable to encourage people to be complacent and give up trying for something they think is different and better?

You've got enough education. You've made enough money. You've seen enough places. You've read enough books. This circumstance you find uncomfortable enough for whatever reason to have spent both time and money trying to change... is all that's in the cards for you so just make peace with it, and don't forget to blame your mother.

Or your kids. Or your spouse. Never the only person who controls what and how much passes your lips though. No never that! That's going to cut and cut deep and it'll stir the pot and then you'll have to make choices and decisions and live with them.

The world is full of people who are above their "ideal" weight and absolutely don't care. They are not the people buying diet books.
Tonus said…
"Did anyone other than me do a double take on KGHs last sentence? It's been a long day. :)"

Some of us hear what we want to hear.

And yeah, I read it the same way. *whistles quietly to no one in particular*
Tonus said…
And the whole "LC will get you as fit as you are capable of becoming, and no further" really comes off as the 'catch' on a brilliant plan or reward. Ever notice that LC is never pitched as 'you'll lose only as much weight as your f-ed up metabolism will allow.' It's pitched as the way we were meant to eat and the solution to weight problems and ill health.

Only later, when the first 60 pounds have melted off ("I can eat as much as I want, and I'm never hungry!") but the next 60 refuse to budge and depression sets in, are they told that hey, you've reached your ideal weight! Sure, you're still fat and you feel like a failure, but check out that blood work! Why, your blood vessels are practically awash in large, fluffy LDL particles! Isn't that awesome?

(And then they're warned not to pay any mind to that Carbsane lady. She's a stupid stunt!)
CarbSane said…
Hey all! Entertaining responses as always :) Y'all crack me up :)

Maybe I'm tired, but I'm not getting that last line of KGH's. Thanks Wright Mind for letting us know how wide Jimmy cast the net. As of this comment they're closing in on 400 signatures. Does anyone wonder if Volek & Phinney aren't conjoined twins or something? I mean they signed one after the other ... sounds like someone phoned it in ;) I note Jimmy also signed the petition. Sigh.

Yoni, I look forward to your take on the TPP article.

I see Eades has weighed in with his own misinterpretation of her article. At least we know he realizes that LC is not a magic pill. If only that makes it into a book somewhere. That 6WC must be an eternal embarrassment to those two.

Yeah, euler, the "crash" diet aftermath studies bother me. One wonders if the metabolic changes are as dramatic (one way or the other) for the same weight loss achieved over a longer time by more moderate means. Still, that the changes induced by 10 weeks persist another 5X longer is interesting. OTOH, as was shown in some of those crash studies with diabetes, the lingering effects are not always bad.

Yeah, Kurt, that is one thing I don't get about Jimmy. He discusses this with a TON of people who have told him calories count. Eric Westman was very "sane" in his podcast back in 2010, it's disheartening to see him signing that petition. But not unexpected.

@Chris: As much as I like and respect Paul, his interview demonstrated that if there is going to be any sort of safe starch debate at AHS12 nothing productive will come of it. He's just too damned nice, plus I think he's hamstringed a bit with his "sweet spot" on carbs and insulin/glucose control. He'll get shouted down by Rosedale, and Kruse -- dunno what sort of debating skill Shanahan has. Aaron Blaisdell signed the petition. Sigh.
Dawn said…
Evelyn, the "misread" of Kurt's last line was to replace the "st" in the word "stunt" with a single letter that would--ahem--change the meaning somewhat. ;)

Considering that I found your blog specifically by Googling "dubunk Taubes" I'm finding these ongoing installments of the LC/Paleo soap opera ("As the Paleo World Turns," perhaps?) very entertaining.
Sue said…
Dawn I didn't get the Kurt last sentence either. Thanks for the explanation!
Is Paul going to be the only one debating FOR starch?
bentleyj74 said…
"Is Paul going to be the only one debating FOR starch?"

I hope that either this debate doesn't happen OR they get people like Anthony Colpo who really do have the same freedom to make use of hyperbole and sweeping generalizations to go for the jugular with regard to public spectacle rather than people whose career and credibility in the arenas that matter will prevent them from winning a debate of this sort.

Can you even imagine Staffan Lindeberg the soft spoken carefully measured feild researcher going toe to toe with Mike Eades? Yet, is there any doubt who the academic powerhouse is?

I would go to AHS just to pick his brain and if I could be a fly on the wall during a discussion between SG and SL I'd be in heaven, but neither of them is willing to play dirty pool in a verbal sparring match. To their credit obviously...but still.
Galina L. said…
I read the article. It sounds quite discouraging for people who want and try to loose weight. A nice and convenient explanation why the author of the article is still fat despite being an expert in health. It may be comforting to declare a weight-loss to be almost impossible for all, but rare heroic individuals. It is like watching a contortionist - since she/he is doing it, it is humanly possible, but can't be expected to be a norm for general population. Compare to the relentless straggle that people, described in the article, have, my LC life is much less complicated. Sure, in order to loose weight you have to eat less. However, as soon as you try "everything in moderation" plan, you have to devote your whole life to relentless self-control and calories-counting. Counting carbs requires less devotion. It doesn't make miracles and leaves room for self-delusions, but it is a valuable options for many, and was not given much thoughts in the article.

Gary's message is not perfect, because it gives people the idea that if you can't slim down by limiting carbs, than you just have no farther options of continuous weight loss. It is also discouraging. The truth is almost always more complicated and in the middle.
bentleyj74 said…
"Does anyone wonder if Volek & Phinney aren't conjoined twins or something?"

LOL! I was thinking they better always stand in proper order left to right or chaos would ensue. Phinney and Volek?!! Egad...set that to rights before the moon crashes into the ocean at least.
Anonymous said…
I also thought the article had a positive message. Those of us who have yo-yo dieted for years are not crazy, it is scary easy to regain. For most of us some vigilence will probably be a lifelong reality.

I did also wonder if some tweaks to their food choices might give the featured couple a little more breathing room, but I don't at all like some of the sneering comments I've seen about them elsewhere. They're doing their best, they were nice to share their experience.

And thanks, Evelyn, for defending the author, the pile-on is pretty distasteful.
Aravind said…
Hello Evelyn, Kurt,

I have thorougly read Stephan's posts on the repudiation of the CIH. I'm curious if there were any points of disagreement that you had with Stephan's posts or material additions to further the arguments he made? If you've already written about this and I missed it, I apologize.

I for one cannot subscribe to the CIH simply based on my own n=1. In 2011 I lost nearly 30 lbs (and I have been overweight my entire life) while maintaining a 50-60% carb intake without deliberate caloric reduction or exercise. Key changes -

1) No NADs - wheat, sugar, veggie oils, soy ala Archevore
2) Low Reward
3) Motiviation and accountability to maintain compliance

I don't claim to understand all the biochemistry, though I do understand a fair bit. Simply put, I don't see how CIH can explain my experience where my macronutrient ratios were at such a high level while unchanged from my SAD diet and yet I lost so much weight.

It only takes one black swan to end the discussion in my mind. Ok, I'm brown but close enough.

Note - It does seem plausible to me that someone once metabolically damaged may not be able to tolerate starch and low carb might be an effective, if not necessary, dietary protocol. However remediation and causation are two different animals to state the obvious (though based on comments I see on the Interwebz, I'm questioning how obvious it really is to the masses).

CarbSane said…
@Galina: Could you please contact me at carbsane at gmail dot com? I would like to continue some conversations with you as I believe you are sincere ... but I cannot do so publicly at this time.
M. said…
Emily Deans had a pretty good blogpost/rant about MDs and those signing the petition.

I'm not that surprised about Aaron Blaisdell signing the petition - wasn't he the one who invited Tom Naughton and Jimmy Moore to speak at the first AHS?
Unknown said…
Hi, Evelyn. I'm here to do my penance. Yes, I read her article and then read Gary's petition and I managed to miss his declaration of insulin as the all-controlling factor in fat metabolism. Yes, Evelyn, I signed the petition but I now know I should check with you and Kurt first (only half-kidding there, I really wish I had.) I admit I didn't see it as a publicity stunt but as a plausible correction aimed at some of her statements. I also didn't pick up on any slam at her although I wasn't looking for one. I found Robb's fairly strong comment in his signature and had a "me too" reaction.

BTW, when I read your post above I had a great laugh at your comment about "some totally obscure (we're talking virtual blogging to oneself land here at the time)" since that's exactly what I'm doing these days.

Anyhow, I went back and read the article and petition again so I could reconsider as you suggested. I guess I still have more agreement with the petition than the article but I do appreciate your post and have no disagreement I can sense with you other than I'm relatively neutral re: GT and I suspect you are not fond of him. Best regards,
bentleyj74 said…

4)My environment serves my agenda in every respect I have control over.

Galina L. said…
@Eveline, I just sent you an e-mail from my gmail account to carbsane than @ than

Bill said…
Great post Evelyn.
“The NEJM study that Parker-Pope cites did look at insulin. It was reduced with weight loss and remained lower after a year despite regain of roughly one third of lost weight.”
I agree, but insulin rose in parallel to the body weight regain that occurred from week 10 to week 62 (and glucose levels were already back up to baseline levels). Not sure what this says about Taubes, but I don’t think it bodes well for the study participants.
CarbSane said…
Hi Bill, I couldn't find the actual insulin levels in the full text of the article nor was blood glucose measured. Are we talking about the same study here?

To Everyone: I just don't think a petition like this is the way to go about it. What is this Occupy ELMM Street or something? Taubes has had some pretty offensive things to say about Parker-Pope's colleague Gina Kolata as well. Eh ... basically about anyone who doesn't believe his garbage.

Oh if only Tara would go on a good low carb diet, she'd be thin and healthy instead of 60 lbs overweight. Yeah, tell that to Amy Dungan. Sheesh.
Anonymous said…
Wonderful post, Evelyn!

I'm new here but have been lurking for a few weeks. I'm a registered dietitian who blogs about LC primarily for diabetes but also for weight management at

Jimmy Moore also sent me an e-mail encouraging me to sign GT's petition, but I didn't. For one thing, I feel that petitioning against an article is kind of silly. And while I think carb restriction can help some people with weight loss, it's not because of the CIH Taubes is proposing. Eating fewer calories than you need results in weight loss, bottom line. If a person finds it easier to accomplish this on a low-carb plan, I think that's great, so long as the diet is otherwise nutritionally sound (i.e., fiber and all micronutrients well represented). Also, I rather liked most of Parker-Pope's article and felt it was spot-on regarding the difficulty of maintaining weight following successful loss.
PaleoJames said…
Just came across your site last week and have been enjoying your posts, thanks for your efforts! I will say, however, while I agree that low-carb by itself (ie paired with a high calorie intake) isn't the fail-safe Taubes claims it to be, I can attest to the validity of a low-carb, high-fat diet leading to increased satiety and, as a result, more effortless weight loss. A quick history: I started in November of 2010 at 272 lbs (6'2" male). My initial readings were GCBC and The Paleo Solution so, naturally, I adopted a low-carb Paleo lifestyle. I lost 19 lbs the first month. Then 12 more the next. Then another 12. I then steadily lost about 6-8 lbs per month until leveling at an energetic 185 for a total loss of 87 lbs. I hit that 87 lb mark about six months ago and, after further research, started reintroducing "safe starches" back into my diet. After this change I gained about 8 lbs back pretty quickly, presumably due to the fact that I was considerably more hungry between meals that included any sort of carb-load. After cutting out the sweet potatoes and white rice my weight steadily tracked back to the 185 mark. Point is, I now strongly believe that a high-fat, low-carb diet is ideal, at least for me, as it allows daily caloric intake to remain low because of satiety. Your thoughts???

CarbSane said…
Welcome James! Congratulations on your energetic success! Contrary to what some might think, if it's working for you and you are experiencing continued health, I see no rush to fix what's not broken. My gut feeling on the weight gains I hear from people who add "safe starches" a la PHD or going up the Atkins rungs, etc. is that a smooth ad libitum transition is probably not possible for a goodly number of folks. We can try to analyze why -- it could be food reward, adding back foods that are at least similar to former trigger foods, or that our bodies don't seem to sense total calories of mixed fat/carb very well, or something else. The big mistake folks seem to make is they add back starches/carbs but they don't compensate with reducing the fat. The notion that we got fat b/c we *replaced* fats with carbs is not born out by the facts. We as a society never reduced fats in absolute amounts, we just added in more carbs, much of which in liquid form. I believe in separating carbs and fats as a strategy, not because of any magical food mixing stuff, but simply because if one eats a low fat or low carb meal to satiety, it is hard to overeat.

It is interesting to me that it is mostly men who seem to steadily lose to goal with the LC approach. Not saying it doesn't happen with women, but more seem to stall out far north of ideal.
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