Quotable Quotes: Taubes the Radical!

Due to a recent article in Wired, I think this (6/30/14) post could use a hearty bump.  These words were uttered just over a decade ago by Gary Taubes. 


Seth Roberts:  But you'd seen Nobel-Prize-winning physicists get it very wrong.

Gary Taubes:  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…

I don't mean to wish ill on a person, but if he doesn't end up a muttering demented old man, it means that fantasy wins out over fact, and sensationalism over science.  


MacSmiley said…
It goes without saying, to become a demented old man, one first must attain old-manhood, right?
Wuchtamsel said…
Wuchtamsel said…
If you think Taubes is bad be happy not to live in Germany. We have Udo Pollmer for this nutritional "Science is wrong all the way!"-stuff... :-/
At least his looks give some subliminal indication of the quality of his advice. Nevertheless this ***** guy is omnipresent on TV and presented as an "expert".

Sanjeev Sharma said…
what stands out to me is that he's NEVER wrong; not "if I'm shown to be incorrect[0]" but rather

> If they successfully ward off my threat to their beliefs

[0] many of his supporting pet theories already have been 100% debunked
thoroughlyconfused said…
Is it possible that history will be kinder to Gary Taubes than you think? Does he not deserve some credit for popularizing the idea that metabolic syndrome, rather than saturated fat, is likely to be the cause of many of our chronic diseases? Has this not had a positive effect on the research focus? Or do you believe saturated fat should still be the main focus?
carbsane said…
He popularized the idea that metabolic syndrome is the cause of chronic disease? WHUT?? No he didn't. Do you really think research focus has been impacted one iota by Gary Taubes? I don't. Even NuSI will be repeating the same tired experiments to prove what?

Who ever claimed saturated fat was the main focus of all chronic diseases anyway? False dichtomy alert.
carbsane said…
It is an interesting trait of his, that nuance. Reminds me of the "when you understand that" nonsense, when what he really means is "if you accept my fairy tale as fact".
carbsane said…
Luckily he doesn't have a wife with Stockholm Syndrome and she and their kids continue to eat a "normal" diet.
carbsane said…
The closest GT ever got to debating was on a podcast a few years ago when James Krieger had to back out due to illness. In our email exchanges he specifically and repeatedly ignored questions on the science and preferred to attack me personally.

If LC diets were the solution, then at least those who adamantly support them and follow them would all be svelte ambassadors for the truth. It's just not so.
billy the k said…
Agreed--with the exception that Mr Weil would likely be holding up a nice hunk of tofu. Mind you, chocolate was OK, unless it was milk chocolate (which looks to be what the gentleman above is about to enjoy) because it contains butterfat--"which moves cholesterol in the wrong direction." "Adult women should eat about 225 to 270g of carbs a day, while men should eat about 288 to 345g/d.  Along with "about 67g/d of fat."  [Weil: Eating Well For Optimum Health (2000); p. 102,& 262]
(I could be wrong, but such an intake may have something to do with maintaining that presence of substantiality...)
MacSmiley said…
You mean Reaven approved of mostly plant sources of fat?
MacSmiley said…
Dark Chocolate and Artery Function


There's more involved in the benefit of darker chocolate than the butterfat in the milk. It has to do with better absorption of the beneficial compounds from dark chocolate, or better yet, cocoa powder, than milk chocolate.
StellaBarbone said…
Yep, that's pretty much what I used to tell people, but that's a long way from GT's belief that you can eat all the saturated fat you want and that fruit and vegetables should be minimized. Also, most metabolic syndrome people just seem to have stronger food drive. They aren't "hungry", they just have a heightened awareness of and interest in food. I have stick-thin sisters-in-law. They eat a horrible diet of simple carbs, fast food and a little overcooked beef -- when they remember to eat. OTOH, all of my patients who were professional chefs were metabolic syndrome or T2D. Telling a T2D to eat all the fat he wants is a lot like telling an alcoholic that wine is good for the heart.

The New Atkins diet is much better than the original version, but it's still hard to sustain and in longer term follow up it does no better than any other diet for weight maintenance.

The idea that RDs tell diabetics to eat Twinkies and Frosted
Flakes because they are "high in carbohydrates" or "fat free" is just slander.
billy the k said…
Yeah.  Like Ancel Keys, Reaven was not really a low-fat advocate but rather a low-sat fat advocate.  Sat-fat was of course "bad"; mono and polys were "good."  Fish fat was therefore good, despite being a non-plant source.  Margarine was better than butter, except that the firmer ones were about as bad as butter (hydrogenation).  Better yet, he thought, were the liquid margarines that come in squeeze bottles. [ugh].
And with this same good-bad-fat filter, Reaven followed Keys in recommending the common low-sat fat-full-of-Omega-6 plant oils:
corn, safflower, peanut, soybean, sunflower.
Unlike Keys, Reaven did regard olive oil as particularly healthful; Keys regarded olive oil as being "in an intermediate position", along with peanut oil--that is to say, not among the "fats to be favored" [i.e., cottonseed, corn, sunflower, safflower and sesame oil], but better than "the fats to be used with discretion" [i.e., the animal fats of course,  but also the plant fats of coconut oil and cocoa-fat].
(if I'm not mistaken, I believe I read that Ancel made his salad 
dressings with corn oil.  Also used in his cookie recipes).

[Reaven. Syndrome X; the Silent Killer (2000); pp 80-83]
[Ancel Keys. Eat Well and Stay Well. Rev ed. (1963); p.56]
StellaBarbone said…
Wikipedia says that "syndrome X" was first hypothesized in 1947 (GT was born in 1956), became more widely discussed in the 1950s and got the name "syndrome X" in 1988 when GT was writing about physics. Science learns and advances. Sometimes hypotheses fail. Quackery, even from the infallible Taubes, does neither. Sure, some people believe that eggs are bad, but they also believe that avocados are full of cholesterol or that gluten causes any number of harms or that vaccines cause autism, etc. There is all kinds of kookie stuff out there and GT is quite guilty of promoting his own flavor of kookie.

I have never cooked with anything other than olive oil or butter despite my pro-science leanings. I was unaware that safflower oil was desirable (my nutritional guru, Julia C. didn't use it.) Tasteless vegetable oil is for oiling baking pans and seasoning cast iron. However, the primal/paleo/Taubesian panic over omega-6s makes as much sense as earlier fears about eggs or their fears about the effects of microwaves on food.
billy the k said…
Like Carbsane, I cannot accept GT's bedrock belief in the overwhelming power of insulin--above all else--to turn a carb eater into a "Fat Louisa"
("people don't get fat because they overeat, they overeat because they got fat." Oh really? and how did that happen? "...protein and fat don't make us fat, ONLY the carbs do..." (my emphasis) [Taubes. Why We Get Fat; p.211]

Or this: "...if you replace the carbs in your diet with an equal quantity of lard...it will make you healthier ." [p.189-190]  Lard IS a good fat-(especially ideal @ 50:50 with butter in pie crusts!), but I can't see how we can avoid regarding this claim as other than being prima facie preposterous.

As the great E.V. McCollum wrote (back in the 1920's), people forget that every morsel they swallow [protein-carb-or-fat] is something the body has to deal with, has to put somewhere, has to do something with.
Carbsane used the term "overconsumption"; I like the term "nutrient overload."  Powerful confirmation that overconsumption/nutrient overload--and NOT carbohydrate per se--is the culprit behind metabolic syndrome/Syndrome X has come from the remarkable reversals of pathological metabolic states achieved by intermittent fasting interventions.
billy the k said…
And remember what Julia C said: "I think I would not care to live in a world without butter..."
StellaBarbone said…
That pathological metabolic state will reverse itself no matter what weight loss regime is used. A vegan diet will work and the all-bacon version of the Atkins diet (/hyperbole) will work. Lipids improve and blood sugar improves with any weight loss. I've seen it happen again and again. I've even seen lipids and blood sugar improve rapidly due to the nausea induced by chemotherapy. The problem is still maintenance of the new lifestyle.

That maintenance problem, though, is not due to macronutrient selection. It's because we are immersed in an easy food culture. We're targeted by clever advertisers, we're now in the habit of eating almost continuously, prepared food is available readily, cheaply and in absurd portions. In her day Julia C. appeared for an hour once per week on a fuzzy UHF channel, now you can stimulate your appetite 24/7 in high-def.
billy the k said…
Avoiding weight gain is of course of great importance in avoiding the pathologies of metabolic syndrome, but what intrigues me about the intermittent fasting experiments is that they appear to show that metabolic cycles of nutrient availability are an overlooked but important element in the weight gain in the first place:

see: Megumi Hatori, et al. Time -Restricted Feeding Without Reducing Calorie Intake Prevents Metabolic Diseases in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet.
Cell Metabolism (2012) May 17


"To test whether obesity and metabolic diseases result from High-fat diets (HFD) or disruption of metabolic cycles, we subjected mice to either ad lib or time-restricted feeding (tRF) of a HFD for 8hours/day.  Mice under tRF consume EQUIVALENT CALORIES from HFD as those with ad lib access, yet are protected against obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hepatic steatosis, inflammation and have improved motor coordination."

And this: "Most remarkably, despite equivalent energy intake from the SAME nutrient source, the high-fat time-restricted diet mice were protected against excess body weight gain that affected the ad-lib diet mice, suggesting that the temporal feeding pattern reprograms the molecular mechanisms of energy metabolism and body weight regulation."

So while calories-in-calories-out (CICO) remains the main story, apparently it is not the whole story.
MacSmiley said…
Perhaps not, but black is slimming. ;-P

thoroughlyconfused said…
I didn't say Taubes invented the theory, but popularized it among a lay audience (although the average american ). Avoiding egg yolks was not 'kookie' in the 80s and 90s and still isn't for the most part today. Recently I was at a fast food restaurant (don't remember which one, it wasn't a large chain) at a train station looking for breakfast and egg whites were the only option. It was standard medical advice for a very long time. The average MD seems to still recommend limiting egg yolks / dietary cholesterol. Metabolic Syndrome as a theory might have been widely discussed in 1950s, but it seems to have just recently begun to affect the practice of medicine (see recent cholesterol guidelines issued Nov 2013). From what I can tell most cardiologists today still believe that sat fat causes heart disease and still focus primarily on LDL-C. Very little consideration of a spectrum between pre-diabetes and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is not the model in their minds. This is just my impression of the sentiment based on how I hear family and friends speak.
thoroughlyconfused said…
Food culture is to blame? Terrible and inconsistent diet/health advice has had nothing to do with it? What came first? The focus on saturated fat hasn't had unintended consequences? Given current health advice, is it not reasonable for an educated person to eat a pound of pasta primavera at a restaurant, especially when the cost of wheat relative to incomes has been falling for decades? The person probably thinks to themselves, "well I might gain some weight but at least I won't get heart disease". When that's clearly not true. Most Americans in my experience have this mindset: as long as I avoid red meat, I'll be fine. IMO, people would be much better served if the focus of the medical community instead was on metabolic health as opposed to just demonizing red meat.