Why We Get Fat

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The obesity epidemic is the number one public health problem. Gary Taubes, a writer for Science magazine, investigated the science of obesity and discovered that the evidence does not support the current paradigm. The reigning belief is that obesity is too much food and too little exercise. Wrong. And, the basic knowledge was there before WWII and into the post war era, but was lost in the war. The low-fat, heart healthy view became dominant even though repeated clinical trials failed to support it. 

Obesity is neither gluttony nor sloth nor a psychiatric problem (the most recent additional paradigm). It is a disorder of fat metabolism driven by excess carbohydrates that drive insulin up. Insulin then drives fat storage in fat cells and blocks release of fat from fat cells for fuel. We do not get fat because we overeat. We overeat because we are getting fat. The high insulin partitions fatty acids into the cells, keeping them from being used as energy, and we stay hungry for fuel. Vicious cycle. All this is supported by mountains of evidence. 


Published on Apr 3, 2012

The University of Texas at San Antonio was proud to present author Gary Taubes at the 2012 Provost’s Distinguished Lecture on February 8, 2012.

Mr. Taubes is a best-selling author known for tackling scientific controversies. His latest book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Knopf 2010) explores the “bad nutritional science” of the last century. Taubes writes regularly for Science and Discover magazines.

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Written By: Gary Taubes
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43 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know enough about nutrition to support or dismiss this guy, but man does he make my spidey sense tingle. What do other people think about this? It sounds like the information has been around long enough for the scientific community to rally around this new paradigm (if it’s true), but they haven’t. And that reeks of a conspiracy theory excuse.

    • In reply to #1 by happinessiseasy:

      I don’t know enough about nutrition to support or dismiss this guy, but man does he make my spidey sense tingle. What do other people think about this? It sounds like the information has been around long enough for the scientific community to rally around this new paradigm (if it’s true), but they h…

  2. I’ve not yet had a chance to watch the video, but I share the scepticism of happinessiseasy. However convincing his words may sound, the only way for people’s weight to not be due to their eating & exercise is if some people are more efficient at using energy than others are. Perhaps they are (after all, we all know that one lucky SOB who can eat all they want yet stay thin); however, the insulin explanation given doesn’t provide a thermodynamic basis for such a difference. I’ll try to look into it properly tomorrow morning.

    • In reply to #2 by Jos Gibbons:

      I’ve not yet had a chance to watch the video, but I share the scepticism of happinessiseasy. However convincing his words may sound, the only way for people’s weight to not be due to their eating & exercise is if some people are more efficient at using energy than others are. Perhaps they are (after all, we all know that one lucky SOB who can eat all they want yet stay thin); however, the insulin explanation given doesn’t provide a thermodynamic basis for such a difference. I’ll try to look into it properly tomorrow morning.

      The reason thermodynamics doesn’t apply is because the human body doesn’t efficiently use EVERY SINGLE calorie it takes in. The guy who can eat cake and drink beer all day and stay thin does this not because his body can BURN the energy with a higher metabolism — it is because his body WASTES a great deal of those calories. His insulin response to the food is low and doesn’t store the excess energy as fat. It simply goes down the toilet.

      Does this help?

      What this guy is saying is dead on. We are so ingrained in the “metabolism” explanation that we fail to see the examples of how this makes no sense all around us. I’ve seen patients who weigh 400 even 500 pounds. They simply can’t eat enough in a day to be this fat — especially the ones in their 20s. They do overeat of course, because their body is starving even while they’re getting huge. They’re just super efficient at storing every calorie that comes their way. And, water is a big part of the fat molecule. So, when people tell you that all you did was “lose water” on the Atkins diet, tell them “good.” It is the first step to losing weight and bulk and it is a good thing and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

      Also, drinking 8 glasses of water a day every day is bunk, too. But, that is another can of worms that needs to be opened — but another time.

      • In reply to #29 by MAJORPAIN:

        The reason thermodynamics doesn’t apply is because the human body doesn’t efficiently use EVERY SINGLE calorie it takes in.

        I did mention there has to be an efficiency difference, if only you’d not been selective in what parts of me you quoted. My point is Taubes should admit that his insulin explanation doesn’t contradict the energy analysis. He sometimes admits that, but a lot of the time he doesn’t. For example, i had to watch the video for about 40 minutes to hear him even admit that, technically, the energy analysis is correct about who shall gain weight.

        What this guy is saying is dead on… different.

        None of your examples validate his hypothesis that high-carb diets cause insulin spikes which trap fatty acids. His hypothesis is not, repeat not, about our genetic differences. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made a great case for his hypothesis either, at least not in that video.

        Incidentally, an aside to anyone who might know: the video spoke of using insulin to cause local fat accumulation; does anyone know of empirical use of glucagon to cause local fat depletion? (Glucagon is, after all, basically the opposite of insulin in terms of biochemical functions.)

        Also, drinking 8 glasses of water…

        I know. Bring it up outside of “replies” to me.

        • In reply to #30 by Jos Gibbons:

          None of your examples validate his hypothesis that high-carb diets cause insulin spikes which trap fatty acids. His hypothesis is not, repeat not, about our genetic differences. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made a great case for his hypothesis either, at least not in that video.

          Incidentally, an aside to anyone who might know: the video spoke of using insulin to cause local fat accumulation; does anyone know of empirical use of glucagon to cause local fat depletion? (Glucagon is, after all, basically the opposite of insulin in terms of biochemical functions.)

          Insulin spikes from carbohydrate food causing overweight is one of the common mistaken assumptions about eating and obesity: i.e. that there are insulin spikes that drive fat accumulation in adipose tissue. Insulin has multiple and very wide ranging effects, along with many other hormones involved with eating and energy metabolism.

          Much of the subtle detail about what goes on in human physiology is yet to be established. Most of what is ‘known’ is a consequence of what aspects are easiest to measure and that scientific research hasn’t actually been going on for very long. Things will be very different in 1000 years time. So it’s a mistake to assume that all that can be seen with current instruments is all there is.

          Often what’s most significant is the ratio among different hormones, not the absolute concentration or the absence of particular hormones. An incredibly complex system of inter-related hormones are the driving signals for various processes, including gene expression and suppression that becomes self-modifying via feedback paths which affects secretion and sensitivity to the various hormones and creates the directly functional enzymes that are relevant to the energy circumstances of the organisms different tissues.

          Insulin doesn’t need to be spiked to enable fat to accumulate in adipose storage. Though it can have that affect. And short term spikes might not even be a problem compared to the long term duration of slightly elevated insulin levels only a little above a minimal critical threshold. Chronically slightly elevated insulin may be a much more severe problem in some people. Kind of pre-pre-diabetes, leading to increasing insulin resistance – a bit like how people become accustomed to narcotic drugs to the point where they no longer have an effect, but they then experience even worse withdrawal problems when the drug is no longer continually present. It might be a bit like blood pressure: very high blood pressure and intense stresses on arteries is normal during high intensity exercise. But it’s the chronically enduring mildly elevated blood pressure that’s more of a problem for disease.

          Even extreme insulin resistance is completely normal in some situations. Temporarily at least – given that humans (and most animals) evolved the extremely useful ability to very rapidly accumulate fat in specific circumstances. We are alive today because our distant ancestors could get fat extremely quickly and easily when conditions were favourable – which they are very much ‘favourable’ today. Especially around xmas time.

          What isn’t normal is chronic insulin resistance. And even that can be a very complex situation because insulin is a multi-purpose signal and so insulin resistance will vary among different tissues and processes. The insulin signalling that might be impeded by insulin resistance will have different impacts on different processes.

          What isn’t in doubt is that eating carbohydrates, particular grains, is a problem for modern humans – but only once someone has become insulin resistant in a particular way. (Which seems to be a consequence of years of sugar overload, mainly from confectionary and soft drinks/fruit juice/cordial that alters gene expression.) So you can end up with different people having different effects from high carbohydrate diets. It depends on the individual, their nutritional and exercise history and age, their hormonal balance and lifestyle, and the kind and amount of carbohydrates they eat. Eating protein isn’t always a solution for overweight and inactive people because most of the protein gets converted to glucose, essentially no different to eating carbohydrates.

          Even if there are no significant medical concerns carbohydrates can be a problem for anyone who is becoming insulin resistant. Indicated by an expanding waistline as growth hormone secretion diminishes with age. This is why the diet doctors like Atkins were recommending high fat diets to overweight people – which is where much of the controversy originated. (Fat is the only energy food that doesn’t elevate insulin.) Being counter-intuitive in that one eats more fat in order to lose body fat – like fighting fire with fire. Add that to Taubes arguing that conventional nutrition wisdom must obviously be wrong – otherwise there wouldn’t be an NCD epidemic – and you have the reason why Taubes’ view are controversial.

          The biggest often-overlooked factor in all this is how extremely destructive glucose and fructose molecules are to structural and functional proteins in the body. So an important mitigating process is to extract glucose from the blood as fast as possible, and to ensure blood glucose levels are optimally minimal. This minimises glycation damage and enables fertility and a long and healthy life. People get fat not just as an ancestral genetic response to the risk of starvation or via dysfunctional hormonal balances from modern diets, but also to offset chronic harmful exposure to the toxic effects of glucose exposure.

          This means that being fat is a good thing. Those processes are protecting from direct harm and serious risk. So just eliminating the fat is not a solution to the fundamental underlying problem.

          • In reply to #37 by Pete H:

            This means that being fat is a good thing. Those processes are protecting from direct harm and serious risk. So just eliminating the fat is not a solution to the fundamental underlying problem.

            I’m not going to go into the rest of that, as I haven’t had my coffee yet (I slept in, so sue me), but being fat is decidedly not a good thing. Regardless of what effects it may have on blood glucose levels, it comes with its own set of negative health consequences, many of which can be extremely serious.

      • In reply to #29 by MAJORPAIN:

        In reply to #2 by Jos Gibbons:

        Also, drinking 8 glasses of water a day every day is bunk, too. But, that is another can of worms that needs to be opened — but another time.

        No! Tell us now why drinking water is bunk. 8 glasses is not what I have read. Something like 2 litres is recommended. Surely drinking some plain water per day must be a good thing?

  3. Gary Taubes wrote an article about the work of Robert Lustig that I have clipped to my fridge. It is titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” I’m not sure it’s all scientific but I keep it there in hopes that it will deter me from my sugar tooth. I have dropped into sites and asked if he/Lustig are legitimate and I just don’t know. I haven’t gotten responses. There are several utube videos talking about metabolism of sugar, problems with high fructose sugar, etc. Sugar is outright claimed “It’s a poison by itself.” “If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles – heart disease, hypertension andmany common cancers among them.”

    I really really want someone to verify the claims being made here!

    I know for myself personally, a sure fire way of dropping weight is to cut the carbs. I’ve been looking into a modified Atkins’ diet and it seems to follow the view stated above. In this diet, carbs are nearly eliminated the first two weeks, so that the body begins burning fat for fuel instead of the carbs we ingest. What I find interesting is that fat is not demonized as in other diets – and you would think this would lead to horrible HDL and LDL levels in the blood, but supposedly not.

    I also recall listening to an episode of the SGU in which it was reported that a man went on a Twinkie diet to prove a point. He stressed it was not scientific, but the man lost weight, improved his cholesterol levels, etc. simply by sticking to caloric intake.

    So what’s the answer? Limit carbs? Watch calories? Increase protein and fat and decrease sugar? I wish I could find out because there certainly are several diet companies that have profited from me.

    • In reply to #3 by QuestioningKat:

      I know for myself personally, a sure fire way of dropping weight is to cut the carbs. I’ve been looking into a modified Atkins’ diet and it seems to follow the view stated above. In this diet, carbs are nearly eliminated the first two weeks, so that the body begins burning fat for fuel instead of the carbs we ingest. What I find interesting is that fat is not demonized as in other diets – and you would think this would lead to horrible HDL and LDL levels in the blood, but supposedly not.

      I’m willing to give this a go. I’m relatively healthy, but quite sedentary and getting podgy, and I like my carbs and sugar a bit too much for my age.

      All right then, research time for the new me!

    • Kat,

      If you go Atkins (or any high protein, low carb diet), please monitor yourself responsibly. One of the metabolic issues that arises when you are doing the zero carbs type of diet involves your kidneys working extra extra hard. You go into what is called ketosis which in of itself is not bad. You will notice your breath will take on a certain smell (it is acetone) (others will probably notice first…HAHAHA)…

      Anyway, when your body runs on fat and proteins, specific waste products build up in quantity (that usually are present but in low amounts). These waste products can tax your kidneys and cause some issues. Many people I know who have done this diet have done so under the guidance of a physician and said physician performs renal blood tests before, during, and after the diet.

      Good luck and stay healthy!!!

      In reply to #3 by QuestioningKat:

      Gary Taubes wrote an article about the work of Robert Lustig that I have clipped to my fridge. It is titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” I’m not sure it’s all scientific but I keep it there in hopes that it will deter me from my sugar tooth. I have dropped into sites and asked if he/Lustig are legitimate and I just don’t know. I haven’t gotten responses. There are several utube videos talking about metabolism of sugar, problems with high fructose sugar, etc. Sugar is outright claimed “It’s a poison by itself.” “If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles – heart disease, hypertension andmany common cancers among them.”

      I really really want someone to verify the claims being made here!

      I know for myself personally, a sure fire way of dropping weight is to cut the carbs. I’ve been looking into a modified Atkins’ diet and it seems to follow the view stated above. In this diet, carbs are nearly eliminated the first two weeks, so that the body begins burning fat for fuel instead of the carbs we ingest. What I find interesting is that fat is not demonized as in other diets – and you would think this would lead to horrible HDL and LDL levels in the blood, but supposedly not.

      I also recall listening to an episode of the SGU in which it was reported that a man went on a Twinkie diet to prove a point. He stressed it was not scientific, but the man lost weight, improved his cholesterol levels, etc. simply by sticking to caloric intake.

      So what’s the answer? Limit carbs? Watch calories? Increase protein and fat and decrease sugar? I wish I could find out because there certainly are several diet companies that have profited from me.

  4. Sounds like he is selling a book.

    Your body can’t store energy in fat cells if you don’t eat more than you need no matter how much insulin your body produces. And where do you think these “excess carbohydrates” come from? From the food you eat.

    All the evidence I’ve seen, from doctors not selling books, points to eating healthy and exercising as the best way to control weight and be healthy.

  5. As one who has had success with low carb diets, I can bear witness to his claims. Cut out those processed carbs and your appetite falls right in line to where it should be (it takes 1 to 3 days). Not that it is all easy: we are inundated with processed carbs, and advertisements for the same, from everywhere. And they are generally cheaper than high-protein foods. Avoiding processed carbs is difficult, and it is almost like a switch for some of us – the craving for them is either on or off – making balance difficult.

    This is a great line, “We do not get fat because we overeat. We overeat because we are getting fat.”

  6. “supported by mountains of evidence”

    Wow, well that settles it, I’m convinced!

    Wait, can you point me to these mountains? Oh I see, you want me to buy your book.

    I read that obesity has been linked with the onset of cheap food. As food became dramatically cheaper and more accessible in about the 50s (I forget the decade actually), the obesity level increased with it.

  7. Taubes discusses the Pima population, whose body mass has responded to changes to their diet in counter-intuitive ways (assuming he’s being honest). The problem for me is that, not only does he not show the Pima differ from Westerners due to the insulin mechanism he advocates, but he doesn’t discuss what genetic difference, if any, could be responsible. This is a common tactic by people defending heterodox ideas: they poke holes in a simplified version of the existing model he reduces a positive mass-consumption correlation to “those who eat the most are heaviest”, thereby ignoring all other variables we have studied), but they don’t explain why these holes in particular support their own model, which they just hope we’ll trust. Later in the talk, did Taubes explain why he believed in the mechanism that he did? No. I can’t personally explain all the “anomalous” data he presented; I’m a physicist, not a medic. But he could have at least made a case for obesity being due to insulin trapping fatty acids in a way that prevents our bodies from using them. While it’s true that insulin does inhibit the release of stored fatty acids when blood sugar is high, it encourages us to extract energy from carbohydrates instead, which would reduce our body mass more than if we had used fatty acids as an energy source. (Insulin also promotes fatty acid synthesis in the liver.)

    Another mistake Taubes makes, a common one that annoys me, is to argue that, because the ratio of calories stored in the fatty mass gained over a few decades to said period is only a few calories a day, the calorie-balancing idea is wrong. This is silly. The reason people don’t, say, overeat by 500 calories a day and thus gain a pound a week every week, thus weighing several hundred pounds in their middle ages, is because weight gain increases your energy use. It’s Kleiber’s law. Then he argues we shouldn’t have to calorie count because animals stay at a stable mass without doing it. Putting aside how stable is the body mass of a wild animal, the problem with this analogy is they don’t have unlimited food on tap, like us.

    Taubes compares two cow breeds, one of which is artificially selected to turn its calories into milk, the other into meat. He suggests genetic differences could similarly matter in humans’ partitioning of energy. Well, since we don’t get regularly milked, this won’t have a bearing on the calories stored in our bodies. The only possible source of a body mass disparity due to this is if, say, some of us store it mostly as fat while others store it mostly as carbs; did he show this? No. Then he critiques the calorie-balance idea for not explaining the distribution of calories in the body (e.g. males and females store fat in different places and, during puberty, males gain muscle whereas females gain fat, a fact which shouldn’t surprise him given that muscles are made of calories too), which means that he’s no longer focusing on whether calories are balanced the way we think they are. It’s like when a creationist says evolution can’t explain abiogenesis; so what?

    In his treatment of the first law of thermodynamics, he concedes whether or not incoming energy exceeds outgoing energy is crucial. If we effect a net energy loss and hence a net mass loss, how does his “fat gets trapped without being burned” hypothesis work? The answer is that, although our body as a whole will lose calories, the body cannibalises other tissues to make fat. He believes the body does that because of: (i) a 1968 study of mice in which one group lost mass in all tissues except fat (he doesn’t mention whether insulin was implicated in this); (ii) in 2001, a scientist injected insulin into two points on her body and caused fat to accumulate there (but would she have otherwise had less total body fat, and could Taubes use this to pass his earlier test of explaining differences between people in where fat is stored?); (iii) such cannibalism, if due to insulin, implies the dietary cause of obesity is carbohydrates, which was believed until c. 1965, so apparently old science trumps later science for Taubes. It’s important to ask why later science disagreed with old science; why was there a shift from blaming carbohydrates to blaming lipids or, for that matter, calories in general? Taubes tells us where the new advice occurred, but he doesn’t discuss the scientific case for or against it, either then or now. If anyone here can enlighten us, that’d be helpful.

  8. To be honest, there’s not a great deal of ‘new’ information in the book. A lot of it I already knew – and personally lost several pounds by cutting out bread, potatoes and beer for 2 weeks – Taubes just collates the data, and sources, very nicely. As a chemist, I can see there’s a couple of flaws in some of his arguments, e.g. on antioxidants, but he’s certainly right in the main points in that it is carbs, particularly processed ones such as starches and sugars that are the main factors in weight gain as opposed to calorie balancing.

    But think about it, many of us already knew this really. Who honestly, for instance, thinks that you could lose weight by only eating chips, as long as you limited the amount you took in? Most of us already accept that the key to a healthy lifestyle is a balanced diet. The ‘popular’ idea that losing weight is simply a matter of calories in/calories out balance is based on no good scientific principles and this is where, in the book, Taubes comes to the fore by thoroughly debunking this ‘easy sell’ notion.

    I’d recommend reading the book as opposed to simply watcing the video – I read a couple of summary articles before reading the book and thought they were lacking, but the book was much, much clearer. Even if not everything he says is 100% correct, I think he’s done a very good service of bringing these issues to the debating table.

    • “A lot of it I already knew – and personally lost several pounds by cutting out bread, potatoes and beer for 2 weeks”

      The world healthiest people who live in the Blue Zones, do not limit carbs in their diet. I’ve been to Icaria and there people don’t even think about reducing carbs. Mostly they eat fish, poultry, vegetables including many dishes made of potatoes. The calorie intake is moderate and people walk a lot daily routines. They do drink a lot of tea which probably leads to lower total of daily calories.

    • But think about it, many of us already knew this really. Who honestly, for instance, thinks that you could lose weight by only eating chips, as long as you limited the amount you took in?

      Anybody who knows anything about nutrition and thermodynamics? It’s true, and it’s really not debatable. You probably wouldn’t enjoy it, and eventually you’d want a multivitamin and a (very small) amount of protein to maintain essential amino acids, but it would work as long as you kept your calories in below your calories out.

      I think the elephant in the room here is psychology. Even though you can lose weight just by eating chips, the odds that you’d keep the diet up for very long are probably pretty low.

  9. I lived in China for a while and witnessed how much they eat carbs. The basic diet contains rice or noodles with sugary sauces. When I moved to Thailand the same diet continued. When I visited Japan, there it was again: rice, noodles and their speciality high-fiber ramen noodles. On top of that foundation one could eat some sweet teriyaki-sauce etc. However compared to Europe (and to Finland where I’m from) these Asian countries had a few great differences: the use of raw and semi-cooked vegetables, fish, and non-processed vegetable oils. The regular drinking of tea probably also cut some appetite and kept the fluids flowing. Eating a high-carb diet for a long time did not raise my cholesterol levels or weight. My European colleagues witnessed the same phenomenon. If Mr. Taubes is correct there are more than 2 billion Asians eating badly every day but there aren’t many obese people around because the basic diet. The obesity was introduced to many Asian countries by the (western-influenced) changing lifestyle which does not promote physical exercise. I include walking and bicycling to work or to school as exercise instead of driving. I think that 1) regular exercise, 2) the moderation of animal fat and the 3) limitation of total input of calories that keeps us healthy. These are just my own empirical observations and I recognize that they probably are not suitable examples for everyone.

    • In reply to #13 by fenlanren:

      I lived in China for a while and witnessed how much they eat carbs. The basic diet contains rice or noodles with sugary sauces. When I moved to Thailand the same diet continued. When I visited Japan, there it was again: rice, noodles and their speciality high-fiber ramen noodles. On top of that foundation one could eat some sweet teriyaki-sauce etc. However compared to Europe (and to Finland where I’m from) these Asian countries had a few great differences: the use of raw and semi-cooked vegetables, fish, and non-processed vegetable oils. The regular drinking of tea probably also cut some appetite and kept the fluids flowing. Eating a high-carb diet for a long time did not raise my cholesterol levels or weight. My European colleagues witnessed the same phenomenon. If Mr. Taubes is correct there are more than 2 billion Asians eating badly every day but there aren’t many obese people around because the basic diet. The obesity was introduced to many Asian countries by the (western-influenced) changing lifestyle which does not promote physical exercise. I include walking and bicycling to work or to school as exercise instead of driving. I think that 1) regular exercise, 2) the moderation of animal fat and the 3) limitation of total input of calories that keeps us healthy. These are just my own empirical observations and I recognize that they probably are not suitable examples for everyone.

      I had lunch with a group of workshop participants and noticed what one morbidly obese person was eating at the all-you-can-eat restaurant. She had three plates full of food while I had trouble finishing my one full plate. In this case, and many others, some people really do eat way too much. My guess is that the Chinese are not overdoing their consumption of rice, noodles and other meals which probably are not as heavily processed.

      I wonder if there is a balance – You can eat a diet heavy on carbs providing you don’t go over a certain caloric amount. (like the Twinkies story) Or perhaps lowering the carbs then triggers the body to burn stored fat as fuel. Etc. Maybe there isn’t one answer for the sugar (carbs) vs. fat issue. (I have also lost weight on a high carb diet, by restricting calories.)

      I think there is some truth to having our metabolism stressed or compromised. I could follow a diet perfectly at a certain restriction of calories and have one scoop of ice cream and wreck my weight loss for the week. If I did this at the start of a diet, I would still lose several pounds of weight. After the first few weeks, your body loses less weight by compensating for the weight loss. Very few diets address this issue. It means that something else is going on that has not been worked into the diet program.

      I can attest to the effectiveness of a low carb diet which then slowly adds in carbs while then balancing my caloric intake. I found that also need to take breaks at certain points in time in order to increase my caloric intake and allow my metabolism to recover. The best diet I have heard about so far requires two weeks on a low carb diet, then two weeks increasing calories (about 500 to 1700 for women only) and then maintaining your weight by eating what you would do to maintain your weight loss after the diet for a month – thereby the emphasis is learning to maintain and eat healthy. If at any time you gain weight over the month, go to low carb for a day until you lose the pound and continue with maintenance. Then you start all over again. The problem is that it’s hard to switch from the first low carb to the increase of calories. Also you need to be patient – weight loss is slow. It was too complex. I’ve done the two weeks on, four weeks off with relatively good success, but I do like food and tastey treats.

  10. My favourite topic. I’ve made quite an effort to look into this stuff.

    Here’s a guy who’s quite eloquent about it all:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkW7MlrUU0M&list=UUCUf8vwRTFDnHgEi0uv4hzA&index=58

    Taubes is a journalist, so most of his stuff is oversimplified (otherwise no one would read or listen to it), but he knows most of the key researchers. It’s way more complicated than just carbs, glucose, and insulin hormone levels. There’s plenty of controversy and Taubes is often misrepresented (and vice versa presumably). His position is not that overweight isn’t a consequence of overeating and inactivity but that there needs to be a real scientific explanation of overeating and inactivity. Inactivity and overeating seems to be a plausible explanation but it’s a circular argument.

    Prescribing less food and more exercise isn’t a solution to overweight because whatever is driving appetite and energy levels isn’t being addressed. And it’s not willpower or strength of character – which is closely related to energy levels anyway. Just eating healthy and exercising cannot be the answer otherwise more people would just do this. Why they don’t needs to be very well understood. (Which I think is now well understood, but not by most people and this probably won’t change for a very long time.)

    The explanation involves complex details of physiology. Prevailing solutions to the NCD epidemic obviously aren’t adequate and are targeting the wrong end of the problem. i.e. trying to convince people to eat less and exercise more – while at the same time the world’s most effective psychologists , food technologists, entertainment and media networks, and equipment and machinery manufacturers are working even harder to ensure that people eat much more and exercise much less.

    There’s not much of a conspiracy theory involved. It’s just that the money in the research industry is mainly associated with a necessary preference for ROI involving treatment innovations. Discovering that there is no profitable treatment, other than to cease causing the problem, isn’t very financially motivating. Plus there’s a massive government and industry vested interest in being consistent with the heart healthy diet approach that was unsuccessfully adopted some time ago.

    Investing in a profitable medical cure for obesity might be similar to looking for a medical cure that eliminates road accidents without preventing the actual crashes and trauma. i.e. Who needs seat-belts, airbags, well designed vehicles and roads etc. when one can take a pill and come back to life and perfect health after a road accident? People would pay a lot for such a pill because they don’t feel they can do very much about all the other contributing variables. And they tend to believe authoritative experts who claim that some magic treatment is just around the corner, if only more funding could be provided.

    It’s similar to the situation in economics. The prevailing assumption of macro-economics is that governments must continually print money to cause economies to operate and to prevent recessions. That there are recessions should be at least some indication that there’s more to the story. Misconceptions that arose in this field contribute to perpetual pseudoscience and may have a similar cause as in nutrition science. Basically disruptions of WW1, Great Depression, and WW2 and the impact on centres of learning in Europe, especially Austria-Hungary. Closely followed by the rise of radio and TV in the USA and the total dominance of whoever first emerged from the vacuum to take global mindshare in previous decades.

    The evidence for Gary Taubes’ perspective extends beyond specific experimental work in nutrition and physiology. It is also consistent with a variety of otherwise curious situations in economics, human evolution, and the history of civilisation and politics. There’s probably many books that collectively cover the ground. Gary Taubes’ book is best for the overall historical context.

    Some other useful popular books are:

    ‘The End of Overeating’ David Kessler

    ‘The Paleo Solution’ Rob Wolf

    ‘Wheat Belly’ William Davis

    ‘Willpower’ Baumeister & Tierney

    ‘The Art and Science of Low Carb Performance’ Jeff Volek

    And if anyone’s interested in precisely how to go about gaining body weight and optimising health the best material I’ve come across are books by Greg Ellis. (Former body builder, physiologist, now in the holistic health business.)

    Others with a useful perspective on nutrition and health would be anything by Dean Ornish. Also there’s ‘Plant Positive’ on YouTube. These guys come from the opposite direction (veggie side of things) but more or less end up in the same place. They’re highly critical of some of Gary Taubes’ views, and lack of scientific rigour – but you’ll find they’re relatively minor quibbles. Ultimately about conclusions involving ethics and evolution of meat consumption in humans. The substance is pretty much the same. With both approaches the outcome is that people eat very much less carbohydrate foods, especially grain derived processed foods. And much more in the way of fats, vegetables, and nutritious low energy density food. This has a huge impact on appetite and energy and re-establishes normal synchronisation of energy needs, sleep patterns, lifestyle, emotional state, with appetite.

  11. Eat less? No, eat better. Fatty foods are not the devil, that mantle belongs to sugary foods. I’ve just lost 8 inches from around my waist in less than two months and funnily enough I’ve done that by eating more (calories and quantity) than what I was doing to get fat in the first place.

    It’s the same with exercise. More exercise? No, do the correct exercise.

    • In reply to #21 by crookedshoes:

      How about the soda industry? i mean how many adverts do I have to endure where the soda is equated to happiness? It is absolutely insidious…

      I think that the soda industry is included as part of the confectioney industry. Any thing sweet and sugary. Maple syrup started the whole thing going early in the 20th century which is when diabetes first reared its ugly head in a big way.

      • agreed.

        In reply to #22 by ConnedCatholic:

        In reply to #21 by crookedshoes:

        How about the soda industry? i mean how many adverts do I have to endure where the soda is equated to happiness? It is absolutely insidious…

        I think that the soda industry is included as part of the confectioney industry. Any thing sweet and sugary. Maple syrup started the whole thing going early in the 20th century which is when diabetes first reared its ugly head in a big way.

    • In reply to #21 by crookedshoes:

      How about the soda industry? i mean how many adverts do I have to endure where the soda is equated to happiness? It is absolutely insidious…

      Why limit this to just the soda industry? How healthy do people believe freshly squezed Orange juice to be, not knowing that a similar sized bottle of Orange juice contains just as much sugar as a can of your favorate soda?

      We wouldent advertise having a glass of Cola with your breakfast yet we are quite happy with the sugar hit of having a glass of Orange juice. Again, natural does not equate to healthy.

      • In reply to #32 by veggiemanuk:

        In reply to #21 by crookedshoes:How about the soda industry? i mean how many adverts do I have to endure where the soda is equated to happiness? It is absolutely insidious…Why limit this to just the soda industry? How healthy do people believe freshly squezed Orange juice to be, not knowing that a similar sized bottle of Orange juice contains just as much sugar as a can of your favorate soda?We wouldent advertise having a glass of Cola with your breakfast yet we are quite happy with the sugar hit of having a glass of Orange juice. Again, natural does not equate to healthy.

        The Same can be said about food also, take a low fat spaghetti bolognese, tomato soup and an average burger, which do you suppose has the least sugar content or the most and which one is inbetween?

      • In reply to #32 by veggiemanuk:

        In reply to #21 by crookedshoes:

        How about the soda industry? i mean how many adverts do I have to endure where the soda is equated to happiness? It is absolutely insidious…

        Why limit this to just the soda industry? How healthy do people believe freshly squezed Orange juice to be, not knowing that a similar sized bottle of Orange juice contains just as much sugar as a can of your favorate soda?

        We wouldent advertise having a glass of Cola with your breakfast yet we are quite happy with the sugar hit of having a glass of Orange juice. Again, natural does not equate to healthy.

        The thing about a glass of orange juice is that is delivers a sudden surge of concentrated glucose that the pancreas has to process. This puts strain on the organ and could in the long term cause it to fail.

        Natural/unnatural has not been part of this thread but you could think of squeezing oranges into juice as being unnatural. Three oranges just eaten are an healthier option as that raises blood sugar level much more slowly and less dramatically.

        • In reply to #34 by ConnedCatholic:

          Natural/unnatural has not been part of this thread but you could think of squeezing oranges into juice as being unnatural. Three oranges just eaten are an healthier option as that raises blood sugar level much more slowly and less dramatically.

          Natural as in natural foods etc, not processes. regardless though, it is about peoples perception here, the vast majority of people if asked would class freshly squeezed orange juice far above Cola on a list of healthy foodsdrinks and most of that perception is based on the natural label placed on orange juice.

          For years now, the typical image of a breakfast table has some form of fresh fruit juice on it. It is lapped up by the vast majority as being a healthy start to the day, yet if you replace that fruit juice with Cola, peoples perceptions automatically change to unhealthy.

          The same goes with the three foods I mentioned also, out of the 3, the Burger has the least sugar content, the Tomato soup second and the Low fat spaghetti bolognese has the highest sugar content (foods with reduced fat tend not to taste, so sugar is added), yet how many people know this?

  12. I’m just happy to see someone saying ‘vicious cycle’ instead of ‘vicious circle’.

    C’mon people, there’s nothing vicious about a circle: it just sits there.

    (apologies to the content police)

  13. Oh that book I mentioned in comment 20 is “Challenging Beliefs” not New Challenges.

    A quote therefrom: “Sugar, not fat,is the single most toxic ingredient of the modern diet. It is also the most ubiquitous foodstuff on the planet.”

  14. A little more than a year ago I switched to the Mcdougall diet, I eat mostly carbs and lost over 60 lbs. in the last year.(military weight) My wife started later and and is down to high school wieght.(110-115) We feel great…

  15. Surely our genes play a significant role in all this? The fact that we know next to nothing about them is the problem. It’s like trying to debug a computer program without looking at the code. At the very best, we have only half the story when it comes to obesity (the nurture part). We should stop blaming people for simply not having enough “will power” (whatever that is).

  16. This article mad sense to me as I currently reading RD’s Selfish Gene. “We are gigantic colonies of symbiotic genes.” And our bodies, especially the gut are also inhabited by many microbes in a symbiotic way.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/27/us-obesity-surgery-bacteria-idUSBRE92Q0ZQ20130327

    It could also validate what many overweight people have long suspected: if their slim friends eat two slices of bacon-cheeseburger pizza the 600 calories go through them like celery, but if the overweight person indulges then every calorie seems to turn into more fat. People absorb different quantities of calories from the exact same food, thanks to their gut microbiota.

    Makes sense to m.

  17. Taubes is just practicing bad science, plain and simple. Protein causes insulin secretion, possibly with equal or greater potency than carbohydrate. There are many reasons that the American diet is terrible: Carbs being somehow inherently abhorrent is not among them.

  18. We never hear about how many calories we expel in our ‘poop’. Our wee & our poop & I suppose even our sweat, never seem to be called into account when it comes to nutritional intake v expenditure. Who ever said that ALL calories ingested must be either burned as energy or stored as fat? We have a 3rd possible outlet group as mentioned, that of poop, wee & perspiration. Perhaps we ought include ‘breath’ as well? Let us account for these in all dietary discussions.

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