Last week I wrote about the recently-announced results of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI) ward study, which tested the highly-hyped "metabolic advantage" theory. According to this theory, which much of the low-carb world has already accepted as a gospel-like tenet, low-carb diets cause greater fat loss than isocaloric higher-carb diets.
The purported mechanisms for this alleged metabolic advantage include increased fat-burning as a result of lower insulin levels, and higher resting metabolism and dietary-induced thermogenesis as a result of ... who knows what.
There's just one wee problem with the metabolic advantage theory:
It's complete nonsense.
Tightly controlled studies repeatedly show carbohydrate is in fact more thermogenic than fat.
And the brouha over insulin? Apart from very short-term experiments conducted under highly atypical laboratory scenarios (e.g. I.V. infusions of insulin), the utter irrelevance of which I have already explained on this website and in The Fat Loss Bible, there is absolutely no evidence carbohydrate-induced insulin release "suppresses fat-burning" and causes higher body fat gain than iscocaloric low-carb intakes.
To the contrary, your body simply strives to maintain a homeostatic equilibrium of baseline substrate use. In plain English: If you eat more carbs, your body will simply utilize more of those extra dietary carbs for energy. If you eat more fat, your body will adjust accordingly and utilize extra dietary fat.
And the fat sitting on your hips, thighs and butt? Whether or not you gain or lose fat from those areas depends on how many calories you ingest versus how many calories you expend. If you don't eat enough calories to meet your daily energy needs, your body starts breaking down body fat in order to make up for the caloric shortfall.
It never ceases to amaze me just how angry people get when I point out this simple truth.
Again, this isn't my personal opinion. It's what other researchers have found in tightly controlled metabolic ward studies going as far back as 1935. These studies show when you stick people in a metabolic ward, divide them into two groups, and randomize one group to follow a low-carb diet and another to follow an isocaloric high-carb diet, there is no difference in fat loss. The same thing happens when you perform these studies in crossover fashion and get the same folks to follow both diets in random order.
Needless to say, I had nothing to do with the design, conduct or publication of these studies - many of which were carried out before I was even born. I'm just relaying matter-of-factly what those studies found. If they had found isocaloric low-carb diets caused greater fat loss, then that's what I would've relayed to you. If they had found isocaloric higher-carb diets caused greater fat loss, then again, that is what I would've reported to you.
But the reality is these studies repeatedly found no difference in fat loss between isocaloric low- and high-carb diets - and that is exactly what I have been telling you people for the last eleven years.
If you don't like the message and seek to shoot the messenger, instead of carefully and impartially analyzing the content of the message he's delivering, then ... you're an idiot.
And as I found out beginning late 2005, when I first wrote on my old website about the primacy of calories, there's a staggering amount of idiots on the Interwebz.
When I posted this 100% scientifically valid factoid about carbs, calories and fat loss, the Cult of Low-Carb went completely bonkers. I was called all sorts of unbecoming names, accused of lying, and incessantly abused, spammed and trolled, both via email and on the Internet forum I was running at the time.
The ironic thing about all this is that my comments about calories were contained within an article I wrote defending low-carb diets! That's right: Back in 2005, I was still dumb enough to think there was some benefit to be had in following a low-carb diet, although I was slowly wising up to the bullshit being passed around as 'fact' within the anti-carb camp.
Perhaps the most revealing email of all came from some screwball who whined I was "not helping the low-carb cause".
Where, exactly, did I sign up to any 'cause'? Where, exactly, did I promise to stick my head up my ass and peddle outmoded bullshit, even after seeing the contradictory evidence with my own eyes?
In his excellent book, Addiction Is a Choice, psychologist Dr. Jeffrey A. Schaler writes of cults:
"Cults serve diverse purposes for individuals. These purposes include providing a positive sense of community where values are focused, affirmed, and reinforced. The relationship among individuals in a cult is also hypnotic. Individuals who disagree with an ideology binding individuals together in a group are likely to be criticized, punished, and eventually excluded or shunned by the group. The first rule of the cult is 'Thou shalt not disagree'. Affiliation and membership in the cult rests on the establishment and maintenance of an ideological consensus. For the cult to maintain its singular identity, the rule must be obeyed. Break the rule and you break the spell. In order for a singular group identity to persist, individual identities must be contained."
Based on the behaviour of their adherents, I have no hesitation in regarding low-carb and veganism as cults. Yes, I understand that not all of you who follow these dietary paradigms carry on like a bunch of religious nutters - but a startling number do. And there's no denying that both these dietary sects are bound by a set of overriding tenets, many of which have no basis in sound science but are nevertheless implicitly held as inviolable. These beliefs, espoused by leaders and accepted by followers, are held as precious, for they are a big part of what gives these groups their unique sense of identity.
Many cults and religions curry a feeling of superiority among their followers by claiming they are "the chosen ones".
And we see a similar phenomenon with low-carbers and vegans, who earnestly believe they are privy to information that the rest of the world is too stupid, corrupt or brainwashed to accept. Needless to say, the sheer irony of their own major league sucker status never seems to occur to them.
Being a Cult Leader: Nice Work if You Can Get it.
As with any other organization - be it governments, gangs, corporations - the people who really make out like bandits from cult activities are the leaders, a.k.a 'gurus'. When you convince a gullible group - be it most of society or just a few hundred people - that they should follow your bullshit edicts, you stand to gain power and perks.
And money. Lots and lots of money.
Robert Atkins was once a failed cardiologist who was slowly going broke. And getting fat. After trying a low-carb diet and losing weight, Atkins became a convert to the One True Way of Low-Carb. And one day, in a life-altering vision from the Gods of Keto, the faithful new convert received the following message:
"Screw that cardiology bullshit, Robbo ... it's a saturated market, for chrissakes. The real money is in fat loss, son! Open a weight loss clinic, and they will come! First it will be pampered rich housewives, then models, then eventually Joe and Jane Public. Today the Hamptons, tomorrow the world!"
Robert was mesmerized by what he was hearing! And so the Gods of Keto continued:
"Listen Robbo, I know it sounds too good to be true, but trust us, this shit is real. As the old saying goes, no-one ever went broke under-estimating the intelligence of the American public. And don't worry, they're no sharper in Australia or the UK. Shit, even the Swedes will lap up this low-carb thing, so what the hell are you waiting for?"
Robert was almost levitating with bliss. But the Gods of Keto weren't finished:
"Robbo...you have no idea of the money you'll make. You'll be swimming in the stuff, damnit! And remember what we said about rich housewives and models? When you become a guru, Robbo, people look up to you and idolize you. You know what happens when bored housewives and models look up to you, Robbo? Do we really need to spell this shit out for you?"
And so it came to pass. Dr. Robert Atkins promptly ditched the cardiology gig, and proceeded to become the most famous diet guru of all time, despite the fact that he himself remained overweight right up until the day he relocated to that big pork rind factory in the sky.
Wanted: Low-Carb Cult Guru (Full-Time Position, Apply Within)
After their almighty guru died, the Church of Low-Carb drifted aimlessly. Low-carb book sales started to wane, low-carb soy pasta flopped and was withdrawn from the market (and good riddance. I mean, WTF?), low-carb food companies went broke, and rumour has it that the CEO of Ketostix even had to cancel his order on a new Ferrari.
By late 2004, it was Situation Critical. Even Atkins Nutritionals went bust, and major media outlets were pretty much declaring the low-carb fad over.
The Church was in disarray.
But then, like a shining ray of radioactive bullshit, a new idol stepped in to take Atkins' place.
He was paunchy, he was roundly criticized after misquoting and misrepresenting researchers, and he cherry-picked harder than a backpacker in the Dandenong Ranges.
All of which made him an absolutely perfect fit for 'guru' status in the Cult of Low-Carb.
His name, ladies and gentlemen, was ...
... Gary Taubes.
They Call Me Gary, the
Paunchy Chosen One
After his infomercial-like New York Times article of 2002, "What if it's all been a big FAT Lie?", journalist Gary Taubes was attacked for deliberately leaving out information that contradicted his thesis, and for misquoting and misrepresenting the researchers he featured in his article. Most of them, who thought Dr. Atkins was a pseudoscientific charlatan, were livid at the way Taubes quoted them out of context and twisted their comments to make it look as if they were now supporters of a bloke who at one stage managed to convince millions of non-diabetic people to piss on Ketostix every morning.
But it didn't matter. The Force of Bullshit was with Gary. And the Force was strong.
So strong that, after his duplicitous NYT article of 2002, publisher Alfred Knopf rushed to sign Gary to a book deal, paying him a whopping US $700,000 just for the advance.
His book was published. The public loved it. They loved him. They threw their money at him. They even started Gary Taubes fan clubs on Facebook.
They asked him to impart more of his supreme, cherry-picked wisdom. He happily obliged by writing another book. It pretty much repeated the same rot in his first book, but the people were thrilled nonetheless. They threw even more money at him.
Instead of issuing a retraction and apology for the 2002 article it published, the New York Times invited Gary back to write yet another article, this time on sugar.
Gary, it seemed, could do no wrong.
But not all were convinced.
A growing band of impious heathen refused to bow to Gary. And they refused to accept his pseudoscientific gospel.
"A willful fraud," declared Evelyn Kocur, who also took to referring to the newly-crowned deity as "Taube$".
"Show us your abs, Gary!", asked Alan Aragon. "Or are you too embarrassed, dude?"
"The only thing worse than Gary Taubes," said Anthony Colpo, "is all the dipshits who take him seriously."
The last of these heathen proved to be especially bothersome. Despite living in a crappy country far, far away, known to Americans as Osstrayleeyaah, the advent of the Internet meant he was able to share his irreverent writings with people from all around the world. And among the sacrilege he shared was the observation that in tightly-controlled ward studies dating all the way back to 1935, low-carb diets offered absolutely no fat loss advantage at all.
What an impiously impertinent young man! (Anthony Colpo actually wasn't that young ... he just looked a lot healthier and fitter than the low-carb gurus).
The faithful flocked to defend their almighty guru.
"Anthony Colpo doesn't know what it's like to be fat", complained one comedian-turned low-carb promoter (i.e. still a comedian). That's true Tom, because unlike yourself, I've always been physically active, instead of sitting on my culo spouting a bunch of untenable bullpucky about carbs and insulin. But despite not having been overweight myself, I've still directly and indirectly helped literally thousands of people lose weight. And when I say lose weight, I mean they've shed enough fat to become truly lean - not drop a couple kilos of water, yell "Woohoo!" and still remain at 33% bodyfat...
"Anthony Colpo is irrelevant!" pronounced Jimmy Moore, all the while sending emails pestering the same Anthony Colpo to come on his crappy low-carb podcast. No Jimmy, when it comes to fat loss, the opinion of an out-an-out fat loss failure like yourself who flatly refuses to accept reality is irrelevant ...
"I got seriously fucked up from following the vitamin-D-depleting dietary advice of people like Anthony Colpo!", claimed a very angry Taubes-worshipping woman by the name of "ItsTheWoo". When I pointed out to Miss TheWoo that she knew as well as I did she had never followed my dietary advice, and that it was especially dipshitted to claim she became vitamin D-deficient by following the advice of someone who has long recommended vitamin D supplementation, the best response she could muster was a feeble "You're a douche" on Facebook.
The almighty Taubes, however, did his best to ignore this devilish soul who hailed from that God-forsaken land mass down under.
"Fuck him", said the almighty Taubes, in a rare moment of profanity. "Let him tell that shit to the kangaroos and crocodiles. No-one else is listening."
But Anthony Colpo did not speak to the kangaroos, nor the crocodiles. He spoke to the Americans, the Britons, the Argentinians, Canadians, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Scandinavians, South Africans, Russians and the people of the Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati, among others. He opened his arms, poured out his heart, and spoke to ... the world.
And the world started to listen.
For the first time ever, people all over the world were learning about ward studies.
"Vord shtudy?! Vot is zis vord shtudy?!" they asked in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
"Studio reparto? Che cazzo è uno studio reparto?", inquired the ever-feisty Italians.
So Anthony explained it to them. Slowly. Patiently.
And some people started to get it. They started to realize the importance of ward studies, and how they showed the metabolic advantage to be a complete sham.
And so the legions of heathen grew. And so did their collective voice.
"Oi Gary!", it yelled, "why doth thou ignore the ward research? Thou doth got something to hide, mate?"
Once again, Gary turned his nose up and did his best to ignore the heathen. But the heathen would not be placated by silence. Their collective voice grew louder still.
"Alright, fuck it," said the almighty Gary, who was employing the use of unbecoming profanity with increasing frequency. "You bastards want a ward study, I'll give you a ward study!"
"No Gary, no!" warned Gary's royal aids. "You're falling into their trap!"
"Don't worry, my little helpers," said Gary, in an all-knowing tone of voice. "Even if this ward study confirms I've been spouting complete shit for the last ten years, I still come out in front!"
"How so?" asked Gary's puzzled helpers, in sing-song unison.
"A Tax-Exempt 'Non-Profit' Organization!", replied Gary. "I find a couple of well-meaning billionaires looking for a worthy cause to support, get them and the National Institutes of Health to fund the study, and pay me a handsome yearly salary for helping run the so-called non-profit organization. Who gives a shit what the ward study finds? I still end up richer, whatever the result!"
[LOUD, DEEP, SINISTER LAUGH]
"You're so smart, Gary!" said Gary's helpers, in sing-song unison.
The Financial Facts About the 'Non-Profit' NuSI
When Gary Taubes and Peter Attia announced the release of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI) in 2012, they emphasized the organization's non-profit status, and waxed lyrical about its lofty goals.
According to Taubes, NuSI was founded to address the issue of what he considered the current woeful inadequacy of nutrition research. This research he claimed, did not allow us to come to any firm conclusions regarding the cause of obesity, although he had no qualms about including this same research in his books in order to firmly blame carbs for causing obesity.
Hey, I never said diet gurus made sense.
According to Taubes, "NuSI was founded on the premise that the reason we are beset today by epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the reason physicians and researchers think these diseases are so recalcitrant to dietary therapies, is because of our flawed understanding of their causes. We believe that with a concerted effort and the best possible science, this problem can be fixed."
"[NuSI] we hope, [will] reduce the social and economic burden of obesity and its related diseases. NuSi’s co-founder, and my collaborator in this endeavor, is Peter Attia, who will serve as NuSI’s president."
"Peter and I started NuSI as a nights and weekends endeavor with the hope of raising the necessary money to keep the organization running ... For the past six months, we’ve been working days, nights, and weekends to make it happen. We’ve opened an office in San Diego (where Peter lives) and, as mentioned in my previous post, we’re hiring staff, a research associates and eventually a research director as well."
Working days, nights, and weekends. Wow. It all sounds so selfless and noble. It almost makes you want to dig deep into your pocket and give, give, give 'til it hurts. Which is pretty much what Taubes asked us to do:
"The support we’ve received for NuSI has already been remarkable ... We hope you’ll give your support to NuSi in anyway you can."
What Taubes didn't mention in his touching announcement is just what he and Attia would receive for all their selfless, altruistic toils. What they weren't so quick to point out is that this wonderfully noble endeavour would provide yet another highly lucrative income stream for the both of them.
Here are some links you won't find on the NuSI website; they're NuSI's 990 (tax) forms for the years 2012-2015:
In 2012, Attia, listed as "President" of NuSI, received $272,500. Taubes, listed as "Director" received $85,000. Both claimed to have spent an average of 40 hours per week working for NuSI (see page 7).
In 2013, obviously highly impressed with themselves, they decided they deserved a pay rise. So they petitioned the President and the only full-time Director ... uh, that would be themselves ... for a pay rise.
Lo and behold, they got it! Yep, in 2013, Peter Attia, who now claimed to be working an average of 75 hours per week, received a hefty $342,500. Taubes, meanwhile was still clocking a claimed 40-hour week but now pulling in $110,000. A Stacy Spector, "VP of Strategy and External Relations" earned a nice $126,798 while a Lacy Stenson, "Director of Operations" took home $120,000.
In 2014, Attia was claiming an average 60 hours per week devoted to NuSI, and pulling in $361,302. Taubes made $129,690, Spector $245,844, and Stenson $144,920. New to the NuSI fold in 2014 were Mark Friedman ("VP of Research"), and Kira Baccari ("VP of Development") who were paid $212,840 and $264,799, respectively.
In the 2015 calendar year, Attia still claimed to be working a 60 hour week, but evidently concluded he was being woefully underpaid. And so he awarded himself a pay rise of 200%, bringing his NuSI haul for the 2015 year to a hefty $727,754!
Yep, it's easy to be generous with other people's money. Especially when you are the recipient.
Taubes, meanwhile, drew $123,725 from NuSI for an alleged 40 hour week.
Subsequent financials are not yet publicly available (according to this post at his website, Attia bailed from NuSI in December 2015 to concentrate on his medical practice).
What we do know so far is that, as of December 31, 2015, Attia and Taubes garnered from their 'non-profit' organization a total of $1,704,056 and $448,415, respectively. That's a combined total for the 'selfless' duo of $2,152,471.
That's a pretty handsome return, especially considering it came from being involved in a charity that has achieved pretty much nothing of any public health value.
The Health Charity Sham
I don't begrudge people for making money. Money might not buy happiness, but it sure makes life a lot more fun. Heck, overseas flights aren't free, nor are lightweight carbon-fibre bikes.
And I certainly don't begrudge people for making lots of money; more money means more options in life.
What I do detest are the exorbitant salaries paid to people who run these supposedly non-profit health organizations. You know, the ones devoted to finding a cure for this or that health condition, but after fifty years or more have little to show for their efforts. Certainly not a cure, just a bunch of conferences held in exotic locations, and millions upon millions paid to CEOs who lived the high life, while the poor plebs who donated to them continued to suffer cancer and heart disease just as frequently as ever.
This sham was elucidated beautifully in Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth, by Bennett and DiLorenzo. Before you give one single cent more to any health organization, I strongly suggest you read this book (they're selling copies as cheaply as 1 cent on Amazon). It may have been written back in 1994 but rest assured, nothing has changed - except that nowadays the CEOs of these non-profits get paid even more handsomely.
And I'll be perfectly frank: So far I see little in NuSI - nor its best-known staff member - that indicates it will achieve anything different. As of May 9, 2016, NuSI has already churned through millions of dollars and nicely fattened the bank accounts of its founders, yet the only research of note it has produced is a metabolic ward study that found an isocaloric ketogenic diet did not cause any greater fat loss. It did, however, accelerate the loss of precious lean tissue.
Which is what I've already been saying for the last 11 years.
About the only novel finding was that, unlike previous studies, fat loss wasn't just identical, but actually slowed during the ketogenic phase. I'll leave it to you folks to decide whether it was worth spending millions of dollars to find out ketogenic diets sucked even more than what I thought.
Despite its poor track record thus far, NuSI still has a page soliciting donations from you, the public. Check it out:
Yep, you can donate $21 to "acknowledge the more than 21 million adults in the U.S. living with type 2 diabetes" or, if you really have money to waste, $4,000 to "honor the 4,000 lives lost in the U.S. every day due to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and related diseases."
I've got a better idea. Seeing as I was telling the truth all along, and have little to show for it except a bunch of angry and undeserved vitriol from low-carb cultists, how about donating 500,000 Euros to GABToSI (the Get Anthony Back To Spain Initiative)?
Why €500,000? To acknowledge the more than 500,000 highly misguided assholes who sent me hate e-mail, spammed my forum, and wrote malicious crap about me all over the Internet. It's also the amount I need to spend on a property in Spain in order to attain a Spanish residency visa, but hey, don't you worry about that - it's the 500,000 assholes we're really honouring here, remember?
On that note, I'd like to close off with a heartfelt plea to the two billionaires, John and Laura Arnold, who handed over the $5,000,000 seed money that helped make NuSI a reality:
Hi John, Laura,
Anthony Colpo here, from Australia. You know, that place with the kangaroos, crocodiles, shit drivers, and a raging ice epidemic. You guys probably don't know me, I'm not real good at the whole PR thing. I mean, carefully reading through dozens of published scientific studies each week doesn't leave much time for pimping myself on the Internet.
But just because I'm not incessantly posting selfies of my abs, pecs and protein smoothies to my 250,000 Instagram followers, doesn't mean I don't have anything to say.
I have a lot to say, and unlike the rot that spouts from the mouth of that Taubes joker you gave five million greenbacks to, my utterances are actually backed by science. Stone-cold, peer-reviewed, published science.
Laura, John ... do you realize you've given millions to a bunch of jokers whose first 'landmark' study simply confirms what I've been saying for over 10 years now? Namely, that isocaloric low-carb diets don't do diddly to speed up fat loss?
It's true. Here ... in case Gary hasn't already sent you the link, here's the head researcher Kevin Hall explaining what happened:
Laura, John, you're obviously smart investors who know value when they see it. I mean, you were smart enough to ride the Enron train in its heyday, then jump off before it crashed in a massive bloody heap, right?
So here's what I propose. You want to improve public health and get the truth out about obesity and diabetes? Not only can I tell you the truth about fat loss and diabetes, but I can tell you what's wrong with the entire field of nutrition. It can pretty much be summed up in one word:
Look, I'm not one of these American-hating commies who loathes all things red, white and blue. After all, it was the USA that gave us The Ramones, Joan Jett, the Callaway Corvette, and Lucchese boots. All unquestionably, undeniably, certified Good Shit™
But the US gave us something else that wasn't so good:
The ability to concoct, and export globally, nutritional bullshit on a scale never seen before in history.
It's a long sordid saga, and I'll be happy to tell you the whole story - for a price. If you've ever wondered why countries like Japan, Italy, France and Spain spend little time worrying about diet, spend less on health care, yet suffer far lower rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, while sitting far higher up the longevity ladder, then I'll be happy to tell you. And if you've ever wondered how the hell an uncouth bastion of Anglo excess like Australia managed to secure a spot among the top 10 longest-lived nations, despite alarming levels of obesity, the world's highest rate of illicit drug use, and a throughly dysfunctional approach to alcohol consumption, I can tell you all about that too.
All I need for this information is €500,000. Hey, compared to what you forked over for that NuSI carry on, that's an absolute bargain.
Why do I need €500,000? It's a long story. It involves bikes, stunning brunettes, Alhambra and Anis del Mono. And a most handsome dog called Ramone. He likes the finer things in life, you know.
So when you're good and ready, and you want to really get to the bottom of what's wrong with modern-day health research and advice, you let me know.
Note: Article updated January 15, 2018 to include 2015 IRS 990 form.
For more information on Anthony's books, click here.
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