Salvaging the Hypothesis
You can't salvage a CIH with fructose and "refined carbohydrates" that has insulin as a mediator because there is no such theory that makes physiologic sense, and this would be obvious the moment such a theory is articulated ~ Kurt G. Harris MD, 11/18/11
If 2011 will be remembered in low carb circles for anything, it will be for both the lack of anticipated rise and precipitous fall of what I call here at the Asylum TWICHOO. With the December 2010 publication of Why We Get Fat, no doubt many low carbers began 2011 with a feeling of supreme optimism. What with all the "Gary you're my hero" comments on his blog, and lots of exposure of the lay friendly book, even in the mainstream media, surely 2011 would be the year when "they" would finally get it. The momentum of 2010 would be carried forward and by the end of the year low carbers envisioned an even more energized following with an expanding sphere of influence. Oprah would finally get thin and stay that way going on Gary Taubes' diet and all would be right with the world. Insulin had finally been implicated as the evil hormone everyone knew it was all along, and our grandmas would be vindicated for knowing all along that carbs were fattening. The "late great" Robert Atkins' name would finally be cleared and his diet vindicated. In Berkley, CA, a carving of the Mt. Fatless monument would begin: Bauer, Yalow, Atkins & Taubes.
I think most were feeling pretty good early on in the year with Jimmy Moore leading the way putting the best positive spin on the failings that began the year. If you only relied on interviews and the like, and Jimmy's spin, you might have thought WWGF was a resounding success. But it turns out, it was rather a flop. Now it would be unfair to call any book that cracks the NYT Best Seller list a "flop", but based on ranks 1/30/11, WWGF topped off it's appearances with a single week at #10. This had been preceded by two weeks of "also ran" appearances at #12 & #11, and I believe onep more subsequent week at #11 or so. Then ........... Despite all the claims on blogs and podcasts and such, Taubes' whirlwind publicity tour -- including lots of exposure on mainstream radio and TV -- fell flat. The reports by fans on his blog who supposedly purchased dozens of books for family and friends must have been exaggerated, or perhaps it is the size of the fan base itself that is exaggerated by the hyping of Taubes in LC circles. Still, low carb enthusiasts seemed rather oblivious to this truth. I remember hearing podcasts and such and getting the impression at the time that the book was selling well ... the message was finally getting out. I also remember wondering why any GCBC fan would buy WWGF given that it really contained nothing new under the sun ... perhaps that's why sales ultimately did lag.
As the year progressed there were many popular bloggers who one by one either flat out changed their position on TWICHOO or articulated more ambivalent sentiments like "he may not be entirely correct, but he had some good things to say" or that he was right about cholesterol and saturated fat, so let's not be too eager to throw him overboard entirely. Andreas Eenfeldt took delusion to new heights by implying that somehow Taubes' hypothesis was really the working hypothesis, and therefore we shouldn't throw it away until we had something in place to replace it. Of course the events leading up to and culminating in the month following the Ancestral Health Symposium were an unmistakable turn for the worse for the low carb community and all who had hitched their wagons to TWICHOO. No longer could the writings of yours truly be ignored when "insiders" began to publicly acknowledge their validity and speak out with denunciations of their own. What to do ... what to do ...
Well, for Taubes, he turned to the Diversionary Tactics chapter of his pre-WWII Debating 101 text. Frame the debate as TWICHOO v. Food Reward and hope nobody notices as the evidence erodes the remaining underpinnings of his dying hypothesis. His biggest fan and promoter borrowed that chapter by going paleo and launching an attack on safe starches. This was somewhat successful as the larger paleo-LC community seemed to take sides pitting the hypotheses as opposing ones, as such, talk of the great demise war somewhat crowded out in the rift.
But if Gary Taubes' coming out of seclusion to publish five lengthy blog posts addressing FRH alone (not to mention the others) indicated anything, it was that this man would not be going quietly into the night with his TWICHOO. No, no, no!!! He will not become that demented old man muttering to himself because nobody would listen to him!! And so, the publicity stunt was launched.
Good thing for Gary Taubes that Tara Parker-Pope wrote her Fat Trap article, because one gets the feeling that this page from his pre-WWII manual entitled How to Get Them to Listen One More Time had been torn out of the book and stuck with a magnet to his meat locker until the opportunity presented itself to put the plan into action. And what could be better than an overweight health writer lamenting the difficulties of weight loss in none other than the NYT itself, arguably the publication that launched his career as an obesity "expert". Taubes sprung into action, the plea for assistance was dispatched to the Spartanburg headquarters of "the movement". Jimmy Moore sounded the call to arms so Gary's virtual fingerprints would be missing from all but writing the petition itself. There would be plausible deniability of the self-promotion, and unknowing readers of the petition would think the signatures were gathered in true grass-roots fashion -- or at least the modern social media version a la the Joe Namath/Faberge shampoo commercials. In other words, it would appear that Gary Taubes wasn't a lone voice anymore -- lookie at all these people who agree with me!
When several alerts of this stunt landed in my Inbox, the first thought that came to mind is "what is he up to?" along with the other question of "why now?" I discussed some of the unsettling things about this petition in that other blog post, and I won't rehash all of them here, but one thing is worthy of mentioning again. That is, I imagine that if Gary wanted to get the message out, yet again, he certainly has the connections and professional reputation to pitch a new article to the NYT. Surely he could put a different enough spin on things to get published. So I get the feeling that this was done at some point and it was rejected, or perhaps he burnt too many bridges tangling with Gina Kolata so he didn't bother to try. Either way, a simple letter to the editor signed by himself and perhaps a few others would have sounded like sour grapes whining. But a petition signed by *doctors* ... now THAT would lend credence to his hypothesis!
In addition to decimating his hypothesis, the sixteen words heard round the LC world damaged Gary's ego far more, and the dented ego still hurts. Lots of important people still agree with me, me, meeeee! But still, why now? Surely there have been opportunities for such a stunt this past fall while his hypothesis languished. The resolve of Taubesians was strongest in the immediate aftermath ... so why wait? And then I checked in at Jimmy's discussion board where member Ted Hutchinson can always be counted on to keep the dwindling readership up to date on Gary's every move, public appearance, lecture, interview, etc. He didn't disappoint linking to this recent radio interview by Gary. (This link goes to the MP3 itself so you can FF if you want, the whole thing is only around 16 minutes long).
Note the cover of the book. I've tried to find a better resolution image to see what quote is attributed to the New York Times at the bottom. While not appearing to be a new edition, we see the "National Bestseller" emblazoned above the title (I guess one week at #10 doesn't let you claim NYT Bestseller) and this is an obviously updated version with a new FAQ afterword. Ahhhhhh ... Gary is back out on the interview circuit because .... there's a new push to see if they can't sell a few more of these damned books!
If you FF to about the 6:30 min mark of the interview, we see the point of the petition. The interviewer characterizes Taubes as a lone voice in the wilderness. Ahhhh ... but no more! Taubes makes sure to point out that he's not the lone voice anymore! He wrote a petition letter to the editor to the NYT that was signed by some 300 doctors and PhD's. It's a bit premature, but I suppose it won't matter to Gary whether or not the NYT actually publishes that letter. He's got a bunch of like minds signed on to the cause. Let's put that in perspective as well. I could not find the number of doctors in the US, but I did find where we're facing a shortfall in excess of 150,000 in the coming decade ... suddenly 300 or 400 doesn't sound as impressive, eh? But what better to be able to hype another wave of hypothesis pushing? Oh the irony that folks are complaining about the NYT's refusal to acknowledge the role of insulin because Taubes wasn't referenced in an article on obesity ... all the while this man uses the name of the very same publication to sell his updated book.
In 2011, having run out of options in the decimal places for the various incarnations of Alternate Hypothesis 1.0, Taubes began the unveiling of Alternate Hypothesis 2.0. This one would focus on the role of sugar in all of this. It seems that Gary has settled into his answer for why the Japanese don't get fat eating all that rice. He tried floating the laughable brown rice/glycemic index theory (I think that was AH v. 1.96) but nobody was buying that the Japanese ate brown rice. The sugar angle, especially since he's working on a book on the topic, seemed more plausible. After all, just about everyone eats less sugar than we do in the US, so clever wording would render statements about Japanese sugar consumption technically correct. Tis true they eat less sugar than we do, but it's a stretch to claim they consume virtually no sugar (still, he qualifies that in comparison to us so one could stretch it a bit to accept that).
But Alternate Hypothesis 1.0 is very clear. Carbs make us fat because carbs stimulate insulin which promotes fat accumulation. Period. He's said much the same thing in varying ways for years, along with all carbs basically being as bad as sugar because they turn to glucose in the body. Ahhh, but Spartanburg, we have a problem. You see, sugar itself, is only half as bad according to TWICHOO because each gram of sucrose only contains approximately one gram of glucose. And as I've pointed out too many times to list, fructose does not elicit an insulin response. And so now I ask you to listen:
Around 3:10: Carbohydrates that we eat .... refined carbohydrates, grains .. like flour ...foods my mother's generation thought were fattening and the sugars in particular drive up your insulin levels and insulin just drives fat accumulation and when you do that you get fatter and you can starve yourself all you want the only real cure is not to eat those carbohydrate rich foods not to eat the sugars and refined carbs.
Around 4:50: The worst is sugar if you never ate sugar at all you could probably eat these other foods ... the rice ... the pasta ... just like the SouthEast Asians can stay lean eating rice heavy diets they do it because they eat virtually no sugar compared to what we eat in the US
The first bolded statement is not true. Sucrose (or HFCS) elicits LESS of an insulin response because the fructose component does not stimulate insulin. Indeed our good friend Wheat Belly loves to point out that wheat products have higher GI's than many candy bars. The second statement is something relatively new from Taubes, though I have read it in print interviews before, so it is not a misstatement. No, it is the way in which Taubes hopes to salvage TWICHOO as Kurt Harris put it in the quote at the outset of this blog post. Put this way Taubes is actually dismissing his own hypothesis. If carbs are fattening because of insulin, and insulin is the fattening hormone, then how can the carb that does not elicit an insulin response, fructose, be the most fattening of all? How can you probably get away with all those starch induced insulin spikes and stay lean so long as you don't eat the non-insulin stimulating carb? This is an even more untenable position Mr. Taubes. You would do better to blindly forge forward claiming that insulin, and only insulin, regulates fat mass levels despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. At least then your TWICHOO would have a morsel of validity when one takes the myopic view of ignoring all the other hormones involved in fat storage, mobilization and oxidation. But this version 2.0 will not salvage your hypothesis. It can only serve to hasten its demise.
Oh ... and as to that petition. Has a single PhD working in the field signed on to your petition? You have their numbers, and that's one of the advantages of being who you are we're repeatedly told. You could call them up and ask them to sign. Have you? How about Alan Sniderman? Surely he would sign. Of course they could ALL still be wrong, and Gary is right in his misrepresentation of Bauer's Lipophilia Hypothesis. (BTW, that was always a hypothesis, and we have only Gary Taubes' word that it was even remotely accepted prior to WWII. Surely he could have provided us with a litany of citations by other venerable obesity researchers of the time to demonstrate this, right?)
Bottom line, although he used to acknowledge calories to some extent, Taubes has been in public denial that calories have anything to do with it now for some time. In the interview he repeats the whole don't eat the carbs and eat as much fat and protein as you like because those don't have anything to do with getting fat. Obesity is a horizontal growth hormonal disorder. HGHD.
There are other attempts afoot to rescue and put a new spin on this notion of HGHD. For example there's a fairly new website www.caloriegate.com launched in recent months by Adam Kosloff (Yale University educated blogger ... so?) . He recently penned the the following appeal to the LC masses: Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution Is Getting Routed. How Do We Fight Back? Kosloff is the same guy behind the original GCBC for Dummies website: www.why-low-carb-diets-work.com . Ironically, Kosloff may be partly responsible for the flagging sales of WWGF, after all, he already put GCBC into the lay-friendly format. Now he's peddling a new book -- Beyond Caloriegate -- (I've heard of cruisegate, but there's a caloriegate??) . For $15 (just $9.99 through Jimmy Moore promotional code) you, too, can learn the secret of the "black box" and what you should be counting. Kosloff hopes to eradicate obesity by 2022. Where Atkins and his heirs failed for four decades, Kosloff will martial the troops for success in only one more. The black box. I have better uses for $9.99, thanks. This would be merely amusing were it not for the ads on the page. Right now those include one for $480 No Surgery Gastric Bypass (basically fiber pills that blow up in your stomach) and not one, but two duplicate ads for Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame. I mean c'mon folks. If you feel as strongly as Adam supposedly does based on his appeal ... STOP TAKING A SINGLE CENT FROM ADS FOR PRODUCTS/SERVICES YOU NOT ONLY DON'T PROMOTE BUT REPEATEDLY DECRY AS FRAUDULENT. If true believers like Kosloff, and Carpender and Naughton can't pass up a few cents for the sake of the cause, what does that say? These people are promoting a specific diet while repeatedly telling their readers that CICO doesn't work but accepting ad revenues for products and programs that promote just that. Sigh.
I began this post with Kurt's comment because, in the end, that's it in a nutshell. TWICHOO cannot be salvaged on the carbon backbones of lowly fructose molecules. The physiology isn't there for the HGHD angle. Others, like Kosloff are trying a slightly different tack resurrecting this directionality nonsense and hoping to whip up a new grand chorus of why-ners. Fructose won't rescue you either.
The ultimate measure of the problem with TWICHOO is this: How much censorship is there on low carb blogs and boards? Answer: A lot. Freedom of the press is the first right to go when trying to institute and/or sustain a dictatorship or tyranny of a minority. Indoctrination and propaganda only succeed when alternative messages are effectively stifled. If the real scientific facts support the hypothesis, what's with all this censorship? Why the need to marginalize folks like me as lunatics when all you need is for people TO read my writings to see that I'm indeed crazy stupid. That's how the movement hopes to sway people to their side after all -- by pointing out perceived problems with the science, logic and motives of those promoting so-called conventional wisdom-based positions. Why not highlight what is wrong with what folks like me are saying , and how the science supports Taubes? These are rhetorical questions, of course. Their only hope is to continue with this facade of a burgeoning movement with it's groundbreaking message and hope it somehow takes hold before the whole house of cards it's built on collapses. Can this strategy work?