GCBC Reference Check ~ Part IX of ? ~ Every Woman Knows Carbs Are Fattening

  Every woman knows that carbohydrate is fattening 

Most wouldn't even need to do a search on that phrase and Taubes to recall how frequently Gary Taubes mentions this quote.  Here is the highlight in Good Calories, Bad Calories.

{Kindle Location 7624}

Taubes repeated this quote in relatively recent editorials in the New York Times, and even the British Medical Journal.   Innumerable others have dragged it out in their own iterations of Taubes' so-called Alternate Hypothesis.   It was indeed a quote published in the British Journal of Nutrition.  So far so good.  What is not featured prominently, per usual for Mr. Taubes, is the nature of the source:  Observations on the respiratory quotients and weight gain of man after eating large quantities of carbohydrate.

When we talk about the fat stored in the adipose tissue or the fats in our food, we’re talking about triglycerides. ... Some of the triglycerides in our fat tissue come from fat in our diet. The rest come from carbohydrates, from a process known as de novo lipogenesis, which is Latin for “the new creation of fat,” a process that takes place both in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the fat tissue itself. The more carbohydrates flooding the circulation after a meal, the more will be converted to triglycerides and stored as fat for future use (perhaps 30 percent of the carbohydrates in any one meal).    {Kindle Location 7849}

You'll notice that the above bolded statement is unreferenced.  I also checked and there is no Taubesean "footnote" corresponding to that phrase either.  The assertion comes later in the same chapter led off by the Passmore & Swindells quote.    A reference, as it turns out, that directly refutes the assertion.  

As point of review, the respiratory quotient (RQ) is a ratio of CO2 exhaled per O2 consumed when oxidizing fuels.  Carbs have an RQ of 1.0, fats of 0.7.  In this study, the average resting RQ's averaged around 0.8-0.82.  In a series of experiments these were compared to RQ's measured after meals and mild activity.   Burning more carbohydrate would increase the RQ, while an RQ over 1.0 is reflective of fat synthesis, often referred to as "laying down fat", aka the lipogenesis Taubes discussed later in the chapter.  From the study:
  1. In three series of experiments healthy human subjects were fed on diets rich in carbohydrates and containing calories in excess of their requirements. The respiratory exchanges were measured at intervals for periods of up to 24 h.
  2. The values for the RQ rose after each meal, but not as much as would be expected if the excess carbohydrate was being converted into fat. The RQ was seldom significantly above 1.0.
  3. It is suggested that the immediate disposal of an excess of dietary carbohydrate is storage as glycogen, mostly in muscle. There is probably a delay before conversion into fat. 
As to the ambiguity in point 3, remember the date of this study:  1963.  IF Taubes had read the study, come to that final point and found support for his hypotheses, it would have been incumbent upon him to, as he claims, "follow the evidence forward".   One would think Taubes read a study regarding carbohydrate and weight gain, no?   Ample evidence refutes the role of de novo lipogenesis as quantitatively significant in humans.  Furthermore, not only were the meals very high in carbohydrate (70% total energy), but also involved intake in energy surplus.   This is the case for most, if not every study that I am aware of, where de novo lipogenesis is significantly increased, even if not to absolute levels that are quantitatively significant compared with total fat intake, etc.

The full opening quote:
Every woman knows that carbohydrate is fattening: this is a piece of common knowledge, which few nutritionists would dispute. 
Such hardly rises to the level of scientific evidence.  Failure to read the study and recognize that it counters one's case on the science, is hardly indicative of scientific rigor either.


charles grashow said…

The science of obesity: what do we really know about what makes us fat? An essay by Gary Taubes

The history of obesity research is a history of two competing hypotheses. Gary Taubes argues that the wrong hypothesis won out and that it is this hypothesis, along with substandard science, that has exacerbated the obesity crisis and the related chronic diseases. If we are to make any progress, he says, we have to look again at what really makes us fat.

Gary Taubes on Why We Get (Transcript)

Gary Taubes is the author of many best selling books, including Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. Following lecture is based on the latter. Here is the full transcript of the talk….


Why We Get Fat
Adiposity 101 and the Alternative Hypothesis of Obesity
Gary Taubes
Rosie May said…
I would like to add a single word to that Taubes quote that would go someway to rendering it null and void. "Every vegan woman knows that carbohydrate is fattening: this is a piece of common knowledge, which few nutritionists would dispute" Unless you're one of the tiny percentage of vegan women eating the plant based eco-Atkins diet or on high fat raw you're going to be eating loads of carbs, so that Taubes quote goes straight into the dustbin of history where it belongs considering vegan women are not noted for their obesity levels.
Catweazle said…
Energy balance measurement: when something is not better than nothing!
MacSmiley said…
Unless you're Dr. Mark Hyman indoctrinating former US Presidents and ambitious First Ladies.
Rosie May said…
It will be interesting to see if his stents start clogging up again and he has to go jogging back to Ornish with his tail between his legs.
Back to that Taubes quote though, I thought he was pals with Nassim Taleb or they are at least mutual admirers of each other's work so he should think about Taleb's swan theory before making sweeping statements like "Every woman knows that carbohydrate is fattening". A lovely little black swan might come along with a sign tied round it's neck saying "Representing all slim women on a low fat whole food high carb plant based diet"
carbsane said…
Yes, Taleb and Taubes are pals. Taleb was an original advisor of NuSI but didn't stay long. I wonder why. There was public acknowledgement of drinking together last summer and some joking references, so they are on good terms ;-)
Rosie May said…
Considering Taleb was supposed to be one of the few economists to have predicted the last financial crash, it's interesting that he's jumped ship on NuSi.
Erik Arnesen said…
Not related to this post, but have you looked into this? "Tissue-Specific Responses of Lipoprotein Lipase to Dietary Macronutrient Composition as a Predictor of Weight Gain Over 4 Years" (Obesity, 2012) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2011.372/full

"In this study, we evaluated how the short-term effect of dietary macronutrient composition on ATLPL and SMLPL, and the responsiveness of the enzyme to a 2-week isocaloric high-carbohydrate (HC) and high-fat (HF) diet and meals, predicted the long-term (over 4 years) change in body weight and composition in free-living adults. The relationship between dietary induced changes in tissue-specific LPL, and energy balance and carbohydrate balance was also examined."

Could it be blogging material?
carbsane said…
Hmm ... voting up not working at the moment ...
In any case, I think this is an important paper. I would "vote" for calories to not even be addressed unless some reasonable effort has been put forth to validate the information. If it is impossible in a free living situation, so be it. Reporting intakes that cannot possibly be consistent with results is counterproductive. Most of the analysis is (or should be) hopelessly littered with caveats and possible alternate explanations for what is likely explained by "intake differed from reported composition/amount".
carbsane said…
Are you reading my mind? Actually this post came out of re-examining some of the claims made by Taubes in GCBC and this has taken me down yet another research rabbit hole ;-) That is related to, if not exactly, this article.

I have a goal of more focused blogging for 2015, but I'm not off to a great start! Too much real life getting in the way.
2lbs of Starch said…
There's a similar saying in Chinese, that my Mom would tell me when I was going up. It doesn't exactly translate to "we're getting fat eating rice". It's was more like "Wow, look at the way these Americans eat".
2lbs of Starch said…
Someone tried to make me read Taleb's "The Black Swan". I looks like another "all the experts don't understand what's really going on" book. Or, "all the experts are wrong, and I'm the only one (again) who's right". That's what Occam's Razor tells Gary Taubes.
2lbs of Starch said…
Lots of girls on the Starch Solution, eating massive carbs, and losing weight. I watch these channels: