Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gary Taubes: Why we get fat

In this YouTube video, Gary Taubes of the "Why we get fat" fame, delivers a hour and half long lecture on Google's campus. Somewhere in the first five minutes, Gary Taubes says that this talk is a Cliff Notes version of the book (which apparently is a Cliff Notes version of his more fully fleshed book "Good Calories, Bad Calories").

As if all this was not enough, here's a Cliff Notes version of the talk:

Taubes compiles historical data, and argues that casting fat/weight reduction into a "Eat less, Exercise more" regimen, misses the point. I like the example, where he says that, that is exactly what you would do, if you had to work up an appetite. The primary claims of Taubes' critics seems to be that (i) he edits conversations with experts (many of his interviewees seem to have "recanted"), and (ii) he commits a crime of omission by not engaging the large body of research which contradicts his claims.

Essentially he upsets the implied causal connection between weight loss and negative energy balance, as implied by "accumulation = input - output", by suggesting that the "=" does not tell us what causes what.

The culprit is apparently insulin, which is released when carbohydrates are consumed. Insulin encourages fat cells to store fat. Mice that are injected with insulin, and then underfed, tend to become obese. The message is therefore to avoid carbohydrates, and actually consume fat (like Atkins diet).

It is a compelling point of view, but apparently still quite controversial. Here is a story countering Taubes' initial article in NYT. Here is Taubes' response. Here is the response to the response.

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