Gary Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, contributed to the Atkins Diet craze with his New York Times article several years ago, "What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?." He then spent the past several years expanding on that article, and the result
Trudy, take a look at Plant Positive on youtube. There are videos there that go into careful and excruciating detail of the many problems of Gary Taubes; for example, how he cherry picks references, many of them outdated and of low quality, to try to prove his point. Some are merely decades old newspaper articles that Taubes used when he could have instead relied on peer-reviewed scientific studies. The overweight women in Trinidad is a good example. The women underestimated their calorie intake which made it appear that they became obese without extra calories. The most controlled feeding studies that Taubes could have cited but didn't show that a calorie surplus is needed to gain weight. Taubes prefers the sketchy, loose Trinidad study because it supports his insinuation that calories don't really matter. On the surface to the lay reader, Taubes can sound very convincing but a detailed examination shows that his arguments aren't supported by the facts.
Citations? So far the only criticisms I've seen of his work were loaded with personal attacks such as yours.
Fantastic. I read Taube's book twice and have looked up several of the studies for verification. I have a degree in Food Science and am now a dietetic intern. Until I complete my internship and get my Registered Dietitian license I'm in a bind to keep my opinions to myself.
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Taubes ignores something as important as leptin, which had been known about for 10 years when Taubes was writing GCBC. Yet Taubes has the time to mention Ancel Keys over 250 times in the book and in a negative way each time, many times outright lying about Keys. Taubes references the least rigorous studies to try to prove his claim that people get fat without a calorie surplus, such as the self-report calorie intake of obese Trinidad women in the 1960's. He doesn't even mention the technique of using doubly labeled water to keep track of people's calories, which in the 1980's and later consistently show many people underestimating their consumed calories. He deliberately ignores it because it proves wrong his contentions that calories don't really matter. GCBC has a lot of sloppy journalism similar to these two examples and relies on many least-rigorous studies. At the same time, Taubes demands the utmost rigorous studies from other people to prove his claims wrong. It's an asymmetric tactic that he uses. It's unfortunate that some people have made him a messiah and believe his mantra at face-value and don't think critically about his claims. People assume that because he likes to make controversial claims, as many lay journalists do to make a living, that he has some special knowledge that no one else has.
There is a God...
The "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie" theory would be all fine and good were I a bunsen-burner, calorimeter or other such device. As I am not, the theory is insufficient.
Furthermore, given a choice between the nutrition-experts and the biochemists, I'll take the latter, thanks.
I'm obviously a bit late to this discussion. I just finished reading GCBC, and IMHO it is the best investigative journalism I have ever read. After reading some of the comments dismissing essentially the highlights of the blog's review, and possibly some of the interviews, I am wondering if some of those that did not actually read the book have taken the time to do so. I find it particularly interesting that the same dismissive attitude evident in some of the above comments is the exact same reason current nutritional guidelines have evolved as they have. Katherine thanks for your comments. You really hit the nail on the head:-)
I have been twenty pounds or so overweight for 10+ years. I consumed large amounts of carbohydrates in the form of sugars and processed grains. Five weeks ago I removed all processed carbs from my diet and total carbs now make up about 20% of my daily caloric intake. I have lost 21 pounds in this short time, never feel hungry and have more energy than I've had in years. You guys can continue arguing but I'm living proof of Taube's arguments. I will never go back to eating carbohydrates.
"the Okinawan diet is naturally lowfat"
Not true. Free of the longtime Buddhist influence on the Japanese "mainland" (Honshu etc.), the Okinawan islands have a diet much like that of the Phillipines, i.e. plenty of animal protein in the form of pig and goat (and they famously use EVERY part of the animal as well). That said, they also consume plenty of seafood and claim that the bitter melon is an important part of longevity.
So given that Okinawans eat more animal meat and bitter melon than the average Japanese, maybe that's what Americans should be eating too. ;-)
Oh wait. The second longest average lifespans (by nationality) belong to the Swiss, who famously eat a lot of cheese and chocolate. Or we can look at isolated communities in the Caucasus and Bulgaria, where the centenarians swear by the benefits of fresh yogurt.
It's all so confusing!! Well, one thing we know for sure -- a diet high in saturated fat (percentage-wise) is not necessarily associated with early vascular issues, unless of course you refer to the chemically-laced, factory-farm-derived products that we find in the average supermarket here in the US.
I haven't read Taubes' book yet. I found this site from googling to view various reviews before purchasing the book.
Reading these differing comments has made the book a must-read for me now, so thanks one and all for that!
I didn't see the metabolic advantage of very low-carb diets mentioned in relation to the amount of calories consumed across the 3 groups: low carb/low calorie, low fat/Mediterranean. Very low carb forces the body to burn fat for fuel. If I'm not mistaken, in order to burn fat while the intake of carbs is high, you would have to first deplete the 13-hour glycogen store in the liver before your body would begin burning fat. With low carb, the body is primarily burning fat for fuel all the time -- even when sleeping. The limited amount of carbs fuels certain portions of the brain, but the rest of the body does quite well making the switch from burning carbs to burning fat, both dietary and stored in fat cells. Atkins isn't a high protein diet. It's a high fat diet.
Yes, low calorie diets work - but few can stay on them because you will be constantly hungry. The low carb diets - particularly avoiding any high glycemic foods - allows one to not be hungry all the time which helps people actually stick to the diet.
I tried low-fat and low-carb and was hungry to the point that I purposely went to bed hungry because it was easier to tolerate while asleep. I still failed to lose any weight.
After reading Taubes book (and noticing the finger-prints of the carbohydrate lobby on defunding key research) I started a low-carb diet and lost and now maintain a healthy weight (with ease). I don't feel chronically hungry, fatigued and grouchy like I did on a low-cal diet. A low-carb diet has much more vegetables in it than the typical US diet.
Early man did not eat high glycemic food on a regular basis - he ate lots of meat as the size and type of his bones show.
If you haven't actually read Taube's book, please refrain from making statements about what is in the book as many of the above posts are dis-informative and misleading.
Englishman Berners-Lee invented the web, not the internet. The internet was already an important vehicle for free speech when Berners-Lee started asking for volunteers to run his web-server and web-client software. For the internet, thank the U.S. Department of Defense for the funding and the managerial vision and eight or so computer scientists and grad students for insights and decisions that caused it to turn out so well.
I've experimented with food intake and exercise. Stopped daily exercise and watching what, how much, and when I ate. Didn't change what I ate, though. I tended to eat a bit more I guess. Had another serving here and there. The portions may have become 1.2-1.5x. Did this for 6 months. Good news: I got visibly fat, as I suspected. Gained about 25 pounds. Returned to the regimen. Got thin, but it took me 8 months.
@Troy: eat a balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fats...
Nope. That's the establishment talking, not Taubes.
eat a balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fats (and not excessive amounts of any of them). excercise often. use common sense.
and you too can be fit and healthy.