just a quiet note to say "keep up the good work".
I've been researching and testing some ideas revolving around the Paleo-diet and posting over at Marks Daily Apple forums. However, I wasn't about to jump on any bandwagon without good reason. I've been polite and nice to them as possible, and only expressed a skepticism about some pretty outrageous claims regarding their Messiah, Gary Taubes, low-carbs and calories. The result is the defensive, aggressive, fingers-in-ears hysteria that would make a fundamentalist creationist proud. Unbelievable.
I came across your site which seems to be much more based in good, skeptical, rational inquiry then "what I really, really want to be true".
I'm still intrigued by the Paleolithic dieting rationale, but somehow I don't think our Paleo ancestors were eating fatty bacon fried in butter and living in a never-ending cycle of fat-loss.
thanks for the email.
I stopped visiting diet- and health-related forums eons ago, due to experiences similar to those you've recounted. Rather than act as forums for the [critical] discussion and dissection of ideas and the dissemination of knowledge, they seem to serve more as online churches for the various dietary/training/health sects. People spread unscientific hogwash, but meet with little opposition so long as what they propagate conforms with the beliefs of the flock. Meanwhile, those who dissent meet with swift and hysterical opposition.
Quite a load of childish bollocks really.
The Paleolithic principle has much to offer, it's just a shame that so many of its practitioners act in such an irrational manner. Ditto with low-carbers; for sedentary folks, I advise a daily carbohydrate intake range of 75-225 grams daily, the lower end of which technically qualifies as low-carbohydrate. However, I personally refuse to label any of my dietary prescriptions as "low-carbohydrate" thanks to the appalling and utterly unscientific carry-on of the online low-carb "community" and its so-called leaders.
Vic writes back:
The common denominator with all these fad-type-diets that are quickly adopted as religious doctrine by their devotees is that the all offer a couple of simple selling points:
1. it's not your fault;
2. no hard-work/willpower required.
Want to sell a best-selling diet book? That's your ticket.
What do you think of this Taubes bloke? I've listened to a few of his online lectures and the guys seems like a complete quack.
Keep exposing the bulls**t!
What do I think of Taubes?
I think a lot of what he writes nowadays is complete and utter nonsense. And that's putting it nicely.
It wasn't always that way. He wrote a terrific article in 2001 that appeared in Science magazine titled "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat". The story was a revealing expose of the behind the scenes political manoeuvring that was instrumental in winning acceptance for the nonsensical low-fat/anti-cholesterol paradigm. In writing the article, Taubes relied on his true talent - investigative journalism. To the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever questioned the veracity of the claims or quoted comments in the Science article, and I had no qualms about citing it in my book The Great Cholesterol Con.
Things then went pear-shaped in a big way. Like millions of others, Taubes picked up a copy of Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution and was thoroughly swayed by the late doctor's infomercial-like claims for low-carb nutrition. Taubes himself admits that reading DANDR was a "revelation" for him.
I don't know about you, but when someone experiences a "revelation", not from meticulously scouring through the research, but from reading a popular diet book filled with easily-debunked fallacies and contradictions, then I think there's something seriously wrong with their analytical circuitry.
Taubes' first major literary foray after his born-again-style conversion to Atkins was a 2002 New York Times article titled "What if it's all been a big FAT Lie?". The article caused a sensation and reportedly helped Taubes stitch up a $700,000 advance for what was to become Good Calories, Bad Calories. Never mind that the article also met with heavy criticism and left several of the researchers quoted in the article furious, stating that Taubes had blatantly quoted them out of context in order to support his thesis.
Things really accelerated downhill with the release of Good Calories, Bad Calories. With GCBC, Taubes completed his attempted leap from investigative journalist to nutritional researcher, and I must say the transition was a complete failure (at least in terms of scientific accuracy; if making truckloads of money was the intended purpose, then it was a whopping success).
I cannot describe the section of GCBC that deals with weight loss as anything other than a joke (and a poor one at that). I could fill a book detailing the endless list of fallacies contained in GCBC, but here's a brief sampling to mull over:
Taubes, like all low-carb promoters, makes a big bally-hoo about the alleged liploysis-inhibiting and fat-storing effects of insulin. Indeed, in experimental lab studies, IV infusion of insulin or exposure of fat and muscle cells to insulin in a petri dish can produce immediate-term reductions in lipolysis and increases in lipogenesis[1,2]. But it’s quite a leap to assert from these unnatural and very short-term scenarios that eating dietary carbohydrates will cause long-term suppression of fat burning and an increase in fat gain. When volunteers are fed high- and low-carb diets of equal caloric content, the subsequent differences in lipogenesis are so small as to be meaningless in terms of fat gain[3,4]. Rather than converting the extra carbohydrate to fat and stockpiling it in adipose cells, the body responds to increases in carbohydrate intake by increasing the amount of carbohydrate used as fuel.
Taubes makes the astounding claim in GCBC that carbohydrates are the only macronutrient capable of stimulating insulin release, despite the fact that dietary protein is a well-known trigger of insulin release. Widely-consumed protein foods can in fact cause greater insulin release than some commonly eaten carbohydrate-rich staples. Notably absent from Taubes' anti-insulin dissertations is the fact that 240-calorie servings of cheese, beef and fish elicit greater insulin release than isocaloric servings of pasta and porridge. Hmmm... if low-carbers really take all this anti-insulin hogwash seriously, and wish to avoid the horrible fat-producing effects of insulin, then they should ditch the steak, cheese and fish and replace them with isocaloric servings of pasta and rolled oats!
If insulin was the overriding determinant of fat gain and loss, we would logically expect to see consistent and stark differences in fat loss outcomes among dieters with normal and disordered insulin metabolism. But we don't[7,8].
If the insulin hypothesis held true, then given the widespread prevalence of overweight and the astronomical financial rewards awaiting innovators of effective fat loss drugs, one would expect to see drug companies feverishly researching and releasing insulin-lowering drugs to treat obesity. However, Big Pharma - hardly known for its shyness in pursuing profits – is not exactly tripping over itself to bring such drugs to market. Nor does it promote the use of already available insulin-reducing drugs for this purpose. The reason is simple; insulin is not the cause of obesity and insulin-blocking drugs will do little to promote fat loss. Investigators placed overweight and obese subjects on a calorie-restricted diet and randomly assigned them to take the insulin-lowering drug diazoxide or a placebo for eight weeks. While diazoxide did indeed lower insulin levels, no differences in weight loss, fat loss, resting energy expenditure or appetite were observed between the two groups.
If carbohydrates and not calories were the final arbiters of weight gain, then why do the white rice-devouring Japanese enjoy lower rates of obesity than most Western countries, despite consuming a higher percentage of their calories as carbohydrate? It certainly ain't the supercharged metabolism-boosting effect of soy sauce! No-one in the low-carb camp seems to want to address this uncomfortable contradiction to the anti-carb hypothesis. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
USDA data shows little difference in per capita carbohydrate consumption between 1909 and 2000; per capita daily energy intake in 2000, however, was higher by 400 calories. As a result, the proportion of daily calories derived from carbohydrate in the US has actually decreased - from fifty-seven percent in 1909 to 50 percent in 2000.
In 1910, over half the U.S. population lived in rural areas and farmers comprised 31% - almost a third - of the workforce. In 2000, 33.6% of the workforce worked in management, professional and related occupations, followed by 26.7% in sales and office occupations, 14.9 % in service occupations, 14.6% in production, transportation and material moving occupations, 9.4% in construction, extraction and maintenance occupations, and only 0.7% in farming, fishing and forestry occupations.
In other words, one hundred years ago the average worker was physically active; the average worker today spends most of his/her day seated or engaged in very light activity. Today, people eat more calories, move around less, or both, as compared to a century ago.
A closer look at the USDA food consumption data shows a decline in overall daily caloric intake throughout the 1900s, bottoming out in the 1950s and early 60s at 3,100 calories, before rising slightly then sharply turning upwards in the early 1980s. This trajectory corresponds with the much-publicized obesity “epidemic” that has occurred over the last three decades. Because much of this increased caloric intake was derived from carbohydrates, low-carb proponents repeatedly cite this as proof that carbohydrates are fattening. This simplistic and extremely selective interpretation of the data ignores the fact that overall caloric intake also rose during this period, and that carbohydrate intake in 2000 simply returned to a similar level that was seen a hundred years ago, when obesity was a rare affliction and the only ‘epidemics’ people had to worry about were those of an infectious nature.
Most importantly, Taubes - again in accordance with the rest of his low-carb cohorts - blatantly ignores the dozens of tightly controlled metabolic ward studies conducted since 1935 showing no difference in weight loss among low-carb and high-carb diets. This lack of difference has been recorded in trials where individuals were assigned to one of the two regimens, and in studies where the same subjects followed both diets in crossover fashion.
The metabolic advantage theory so enthusiastically promoted by Taubes, Atkins, Eades, Feinman, Groves, et al, has had over 70 years' opportunity to repeatedly prove itself in tightly controlled metabolic ward studies. The fact that it has dismally failed to do so has done little to stop these commentators from continuing to push this fallacious theory.
Needless to say, my advice would be to take anything that Taubes has to say on the matter of nutrition with a huge pinch of salt.
I'm hardly the only one to have pointed out the absurdities in Taubes' arguments; CarbSane is an especially tenacious and effective commentator who has much to say about Taubes' unscientific approach to nutrition:
Interestingly, Taubes' rebuttal of her criticisms has pretty much been limited to totally unfounded accusations she is "obsessed" and "stalking". Either Taubes has a wildly inflated estimate of his appeal to others that borders on delusional, or he is trying to divert attention from the fact that he cannot logically and factually dispute CarbSane's compelling and well-reasoned criticisms. Or maybe both.
I realize that you get many emails, so if you don’t have time to respond, I understand.
My wife heard a presentation from a friend who is distributing an Acai berry juice blend (the company is MonaVie). They are making fantastic claims about its effectiveness in terms of solving all kinds of ailments. I searched the Web but didn’t find a lot of studies that tested the effectiveness of Acai berries. The few I did find, said it had the same level of antioxidants as grape or pomegranate juice. This Acai craze sounds like a typical scam to me. What are your thoughts on the Acai berry?
it's a predictable pattern...every year there's a new "superfood" that hits the shelves, gets multi-level marketers even more annoyingly gonzo, and web forum dwellers babbling with excitement. Then eventually the excitement fades and makes way for the next miracle item.
Coconut oil, noni juice, mangosteen, wheat grass juice, pomegranate, goji berries, acai berries...zzz...zzz...zzz...
All these foods are perfectly viable additions to a healthy diet, and I use some of them myself (I enjoy a freshly brewed cup of goji tea, and pity the fool who tries to steal my pomegranates lol). But when people start making claims about miracle cures for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, occular disorders, arthritis, etc, etc, then it's time to turn your BS detector up to full pitch and ask for some hard evidence.
That's not to say some of these foods don't have potential health benefits, but those making extravagant health claims should present something more substantial than glossy brochures and exuberant sales pitches in support. Here's a study comparing acai, black or red raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, noni, or wolfberry on tumor incidence, multiplicity and size in rodents. All were equally effective, and I'm guessing if they compared other anti-cancer foods like garlic, cruciferous vegetables, etc, similar results would have been obtained:
My point is these highly-hyped superfoods may indeed have health benefits, but whether you need to spend $50-60 a bottle to get these benefits is highly questionable, given that many more common and cheaper foods also appear to be just as beneficial. Also, an early adopter premium seems to apply to these super-foods – when the initial hype dies down, many of them can be purchased at far cheaper prices than what they were fetching when still in their initial honeymoon hyperbole phase.
There's another comment I'd like to make regarding this whole super-food issue. A small percentage of users who commence use of these items will experience negative side effects, only to be told by other "experts" they are simply experiencing a "detox" reaction. If you experience side effects after the commencement of any food, "super-food", or supplement - stop! There could be numerous reasons aside from an alleged "detox reaction" explaining your symptoms, and web forum participants and multi-level marketing shills are not the appropriate people to diagnose the problem. You may be experiencing an allergic reaction, the supplement may contain contaminants, or due to differences in biochemical individuality or overall health/nutrition status the item may overwhelm your metabolic/digestive/immune capabilities despite being well tolerated by others. As an example, a number of adverse reactions involving liver and kidney issues in susceptible individuals after consumption of noni juice have been reported in the literature. This doesn't mean noni juice is "bad" and should be banned; there is not enough evidence yet to determine whether noni is any more dangerous than eggs, peanuts or strawberries, all of which are tolerated perfectly by millions but potentially deadly to others. It simply underscores my point that side effects to any food or supplement should not be flippantly dismissed as part of an alleged detoxification process.
The Fat Loss Bible for Everyone!
Having exchanged a few emails with you over the last couple of years, I decided to download The Fat Loss Bible, not that, I hasten to add, I actually need to lose weight being a near-46 year old tree surgeon here in sunny England who is in still in pretty good shape, more out of curiosity and to compare it with the few other 'diet' books I have read. I was really impressed. I think calling it the 'Fat Loss Bible' actually undersells what it is, which is a very considered, logical and positive explanation and practical guide for ordinary people to use to understand what food is and how to actually eat it properly for their well-being - not just as an aid to fat loss and exercise. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who just wants a better understanding of food and nutrition.
thanks for the feedback. The Fat Loss Bible has been so named because the main focus of the book is fat loss, but you are right - many of the principles in the book would prove beneficial to the majority of people, regardless of whether they are trying to lean out or not.
Whether someone's goal is to lose, maintain, or gain weight, I strongly believe it should take place within the context of healthy and intelligently applied nutrition. Thanks to the willingness of publishing houses to print any old nonsense so long as it has marketing appeal, and the eternal gullibility of the masses, there's way too much emphasis on gimmicky approaches that ultimately serve to keep people ignorant about what actually constitutes good nutrition.
Praise for the New Fat Loss Bible Carbohydrate Recommendations
I just wanted to drop you a message of thanks for releasing the updated FLB diet. Since June 2010 I have been following the TNT Diet, a plan that combines a low carbohydrate diet with a weight lifting based fitness program. I did well for a while, actually losing about 31 pounds. But, then I hit a plateau. I tried increasing my exercise by adding some HIIT workouts each week. It helped with weight loss a little, but then I started to get glycogen depletion symptoms.
Last Sunday, I switched to the FLB Diet. Since I had diabetes when I started this and the carb restriction normalized my blood sugar, I have been carefully and gradually raising my daily and after workout carb intake. Even thought the increases are only modest so far, the difference is striking. My mental and physical energy and my mood have improved dramatically. I am now confident that once I get my calorie budget dialed in I will be able to eliminate the rest of my unwanted fat!
thanks so much for taking the time to write with your feedback.
Although I ended up expanding every chapter and even adding new chapters, the real impetus for The Fat Loss Bible update was the new carbohydrate recommendations. I've had a lot of input with clients and readers who were low-carbing then felt a 1000% better when their carb intake was increased. Low-carb diets just aren't a good idea for highly active folks, no matter how clever they try to get with carb-cycling or supplement strategies.
BTW, if you are diabetic, I'd strongly recommend the following:
1) get your iron levels checked, and tell your doctor to make sure that serum ferritin is included in the blood work;
2) get a hold of Exposing The Hidden Dangers of Iron, which I consider to be one of the best and most important health books ever written. If you decide to lower your iron levels, being an active person I would encourage you to go no lower than a serum ferritin of 35-40, rather than the 25 recommended in the book (which is based on research using sedentary folks).
Iron reduction can dramatically improve blood sugar control in diabetics and non-diabetics. It can also decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer and various other disorders including those of the pancreas and liver.
just want to say great job on the new Fat Loss Bible update. I know you long ago moved away from the low-carb paradigm and have been recommending higher carb intakes for some time, but it wasn’t until reading the update that I finally felt inspired to raise my carbohydrate intake. It’s only been a week but the results are already quite visible and I couldn’t be happier. More fullness in my muscles, far better pump when I’m training (after years of low-carb eating, I had almost forgotten what that fully pumped feeling felt like) and far better energy levels overall. The last half of my workouts doesn’t feel like the energy-sapping ordeal it was just a week ago.
Thanks for all your hard work, brilliant research and crystal clear writing style.
A lifelong fan,
thanks so much for the kind feedback. I’m hearing and receiving more and more feedback similar to the results you have experienced. I cannot emphasize enough: low-carb diets are a dumb idea for active people.
The upside is that mood and performance (and that gratifying “swole” feeling during a workout) improve pretty quickly as your glycogen-starved muscles eagerly soak up the extra carbs.
In the updated Fat Loss Bible there’s an entire chapter devoted to carbohydrate intake. It’s titled “Carbohydrate: Your Body’s Jet Fuel” and for good reason: carbohydrates truly are the highest octane macronutrient available to your body. It’s amazing how many people will spend big money tinkering around with all manner of ergogenic supplements (and drugs), yet neglect the cheapest, most widely studied and most essential ergogenic known to mankind: dietary carbohydrate.
Protein is a poor energy source, and fat simply cannot meet the fuel needs of glycolytic activities. Just like running your high-performance car on low-grade fuel, you may be able to convince yourself that you’re doing fine on a low-carb diet, but when you return to a higher-carb intake and watch your performance take off like a rocket, that’s when you realize what a self-defeating wank it’s all been.
I have been following your work for a number of years now, and have long appreciated the clarity and incisiveness of your reasoning, and the painstaking thoroughness of your research.
Anyway, I know you are a busy man, so just one question:
You recommend eating nuts; having written in some detail about the harmful effects of anti-nutrients in whole grains, do you take any steps to neutralise the enzyme inhibitors in nuts? (Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, for example, recommends soaking them in warm, salty water for at least 7 hours, and then drying them in a warm oven for 12 to 24 hours. Sadly, I have always found this too laborious a process, and hence have tended to avoid nuts altogether, which is a shame, as they are Nature's perfect snack food!)
Many thanks in advance - and keep up the good work!
studies have shown that soaking nuts for one to six hours greatly reduces anti-nutrient content, and roasting further reduces this content, which is no doubt the rationale behind Fallon's recommendations.
I used to routinely do this, but must confess that due to time constraints lately I've either been buying nuts roasted (cashews, pistacchios) or eating walnuts raw despite my intentions to soak and roast (personally I think they do taste nicer when roasted).
If you're in the same boat as me, I'd go for roasted varieties when you feel like eating some nuts. If someone eats a lot of seeds and tree nuts, I'd advise getting into the habit of soaking and roasting them. Brazil nuts, by the way, don't seem to respond to well to this process, they don't soak well, and they develop a funky smell and taste when roasted.
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10. United States Department of Agriculture. Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909-2000. Nov, 2004. Available online: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/foodsupply/FoodSupply1909-2000.pdf
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Anthony Colpo is an independent researcher, physical conditioning specialist, and author of the groundbreaking books The Fat Loss Bible and The Great Cholesterol Con. For more information, visit TheFatLossBible.net or TheGreatCholesterolCon.com
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