I’ve had a bit to say about Gary Taubes in the last few weeks. Taubes is the journalist-turned-low-carb salesman whose idea of the scientific method is to only cite studies that seemingly support his thesis and blatantly ignore those that completely refute it.
Another notorious Taubes tactic, one in which he used to burst into the public consciousness back in 2002 in a duplicitous New York Times article, is to interview scientists and either quote them out of context or, if they fail to furnish a misquotable quote, simply ignore everything they told you.
Gary has become a very wealthy man as a result of this dubious carry on.
But as if all the money he made from pimping hogwash in his carb-bashing books wasn’t enough, Taubes then went about setting up a ‘non-profit’ organization called the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI).
When Taubes and his buddy Peter Attia launched this so-called ‘non-profit’ initiative back in 2012, they droned on and on about the “days, nights and weeks” they selflessly slaved in order to get it up and running. They waxed lyrical about their grandiose plans to once and for all conquer the diseases of diabetes and obesity.
When a Disease is Not a Disease
For the record, obesity is not a disease. It might not be a very nice state to be in, but it is not a disease. Gonorrhea is a disease. Cancer is a disease. Meningitis is a disease.
Obesity is no more a disease than being muscular is. They are both terms that describe a type of body composition that deviates from the norm. Well, at least the norm in places where most people don’t eat ungodly amounts of cheap, calorie-rich crap and then wonder why they are so fat. Yes, obesity predisposes one to genuine health conditions more than what being buffed does, but a particular type of body composition is not in and of itself a “disease”.
You can’t catch obesity from the person sitting next to you on the bus. People do not die of “obesity”. Instead, they die from things like heart disease and cancer. Yes, obesity might increase the risk of getting such conditions, just like driving a car increases your risk of dying in a car accident. But driving a car is not a disease. Nor is sky-diving, boxing, skiing, tightrope walking, or crossing a busy road – all of which increase the risk of injury and death.
We’ll touch upon this again a little later, but for now I just want to point out that when the establishment declares non-diseases to be diseases, it opens up a whole new market for the numerous parasites that infest the health arena. Particularly notable among these are drug companies, government agencies, and ‘non-profit’ private health organizations. Others who get to benefit from the arbitrary creation of new diseases are the pathology labs who perform a plethora of unnecessary new tests and the doctors who diagnose and prescribe unnecessary treatments.
And then there are the researchers.
Oh yes. That humungous army of overqualified but commonsense-starved ‘scientists’ that immediately start sending in a flurry of government grant forms so they can begin researching this new disease-that-never-was.
The end result is that not only have the classifying powers-that-be arbitrarily created a new disease, they have also created a lucrative new industry.
And so in the case of obesity, we now have researchers feeding off literally billions of mostly taxpayer dollars to study every last esoteric aspect of what is not a disease but simply a state of excess adiposity caused by a CALORIC SURPLUS.
How does one come to be in a state of caloric surplus? By a combination of one or both of the following:
-EATING EXCESSIVE CALORIES;
-PERFORMING SO LITTLE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY THAT WHAT WOULD NORMALLY BE A REASONABLE, NON-EXCESSIVE CALORIC INTAKE BECOMES EXCESSIVE.
The solution to this is pretty damn simple, and lots of people have been able to successfully implement it without the use of drugs, doctors, bureaucrats, surgery and other assorted tomfoolery. Namely, EAT LESS AND/OR EXERCISE MORE.
But of course, for many people this is a most unattractive solution. It requires self-responsibility, restraint and discipline, characteristics modern human beings tend to lack. And despise.
It also presents little money-making opportunity for grant-seeking researchers, drug companies, health bureaucrats, and the authors of all those bullshit diet books who want you to believe their special brand of pseudoscientific gimmick is the sure-fire ‘secret’ to fat loss.
And so we end up with people like Gary Taubes and Peter Attia who set up obesity-investigating outfits like NuSI and portray themselves as wonderfully altruistic philanthropists engaged in an eminently noble, selfless quest to improve the lot of humankind.
As I wrote last week, there was one itty bitty little fact Taubes and Attia left out of their self-aggrandizing narrative:
NuSI was not a charitable endeavour on their part, but a tax-exempt vehicle that would provide them with yet another lucrative income stream. A stream that by the end of 2015, provided the both of them with over $2.1 million of additional income.
I also wrote last week how - after 3.5 years, after having chewed through millions of dollars obtained from other people (i.e. gullible donors and taxpayers), and after having substantially fattened the bank accounts of its low-carb-pimping founders – all NuSI has to show for itself to date is a single ward study that simply confirmed what ward studies have already found since 1935:
Namely, that isocaloric low-carb diets confer absolutely no fat-derived weight loss advantage whatsoever. You may lose more water and you may lose more precious muscle by following one of these diets, but they will furnish you with no greater fat loss than what you’d get on an isocaloric moderate- or high-carb diet.
And at least on the latter two diets, you can eat some cannoli, for chrissakes.
During the initial live broadcast of Yoni Freedhoff’s interview with the ward study’s lead researcher Dr Kevin Hall, one astute viewer commented the results would do little to change the “zealots” minds. After my initial article about the study, a number of friends and readers contacted me to express similar sentiments.
And so it has come to pass. All over the Internet, a motley assortment of low-carb shills are doing all they can to discredit the study – and Dr. Kevin Hall.
If we’re to believe the low-carb shills (who, quite frankly, have never been renowned for their intelligence, rationality, honesty and impartiality), Dr. Hall is a horribly prejudiced man unworthy of the title “researcher”, a man suffering “confirmation bias”, one who was heinously fulfilling an evil preconceived agenda to discredit low-carb diets.
Give me a break, for fuck’s sake.
First of all, Dr. Kevin Hall was part of the highly-hyped research ensemble hand-picked by the NuSI board itself. That board, needless to say, featured the very pro-low-carb Gary Taubes and Peter Attia. His name was on the NuSI website for years, right from the start, so if he was such an out-an-out shyster with a history of hating low-carb, why didn’t the Church of Low-Carb place a formal objection much sooner? Why did they wait until after the study’s results were presented?
Here's an excerpt from a 2013 NuSI press release, gushing about Dr. Hall:
"Kevin Hall, Ph.D. National Institutes of Health, NIDDK Kevin Hall is a Senior Investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he studies macronutrient metabolism and body-weight regulation. Dr. Hall was the recipient of the 2009 Arthur C. Guyton Award for Excellence in integrative physiology from the American Physiological Society and the 2012 Lilly Scientific Achievement Award from the Obesity Society. Dr. Hall received his Ph.D. in biophysics from McGill University in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, he led the development of a computational model of human type 2 diabetes at Entelos Inc.; the model has been used by major pharmaceutical companies to assist in the research and development of new drugs. His NIH laboratory conducts experiments in both humans and rodents and develops mathematical models and computer simulations to predict and interpret the experimental data. "
You can’t change the goal posts after failing to score, folks. If Kevin Hall was THE SHIT™ before, you can’t conveniently turn around and whine that he’s just plain shit after his study returns a result that was not to your liking. And in the unlikely event your unfounded allegations of rampant bias were in fact correct, then the question you really need to be asking is why did the inept NuSI, featuring your two grossly overpaid heroes Taubes and Attia, pour millions of dollars into a study headed by such a biased researcher? Where was their due diligence?
And what about the other researchers? How did Hall allegedly convince them into going along with the Great Anti-Keto Swindle of 2016? Are you accusing them of being biased too?
Where’s your PROOF of all this?
You don’t have any, do you?
You’re just making this shit up, launching an unwarranted stream of venom at Dr. Kevin Hall because he had the temerity to report what his study actually found, which is what ward studies have been finding for the last eight decades:
Your low-carb fat loss beliefs are bullshit.
The other thing you shouldn’t do – but you all are doing it regardless – is ignore the results of those dozens of already published ward studies that, as noted, found just what Dr Hall found – that isocaloric diets do bugger all to speed up fat loss. Even if Dr Hall one day turns out to be the most-biased, keto-hating mofo on the planet, his study still returned a result perfectly in accord with that returned by dozens of other ward studies going back as far as 1935!
A Well-Meaning Reader, the LA Times, and My Epiphany
Several days ago, a reader sent me an email saying that the LA Times had just run an Op-Ed by none other than Gary Taubes. Here’s the link:
Just when I thought the duplicitous Taubes could not possibly sink any lower … he has. And spectacularly.
The impact of reading that article was like, to quote Guido Hatzis, copping “a shpinning roundhouse kick to da head, mate.”
I’ll talk more in Part 2 about my epiphany, but suffice for now to point out that, once again, Taubes proves beyond all doubt he is an utterly shameless Grandmaster of bullshit and evasion.
To recap: Over the last few weeks, we have had the following developments:
-The first study instigated by NuSI (the so-called ‘non-profit’ organization founded by Taubes and his mate Peter Attia) simply confirmed what other ward studies have already shown: There is no such thing as a low-carb “metabolic advantage”, unless you think losing more precious muscle is somehow advantageous.
-NuSI’s tax exempt forms show that in the years 2012-2015, NuSI president Attia and director Taubes – who have repeatedly portrayed themselves as selfless altruists concerned only with conquering obesity and diabetes – awarded themselves some very obese salaries: A juicy $1,704,056 and $448,415, respectively.
But nowhere is this mentioned in the LA Times article.
Despite the flare-up of heated Internet discussion about the failure of the NuSI ward trial to support low-carb’s most cherished and lucrative tenet, Taubes simply acts as if the study never happened.
Taubes also completely side-steps the revelations that NuSI, technically a ‘non-profit organization’, is in reality a vehicle which has delivered him and Attia a cool $1.8 million in income. Instead, he again brags “I co-founded a non-profit”, and the LA Times author by-line uncritically repeats the endearing bromide that Taubes “is a co-founder of the nonprofit Nutrition Science Initiative.”
Non-profit my ass: Taubes has profited very bloody handsomely by pretending to be an altruist.
Instead of manning up to the unpleasant revelations above, Taubes makes like they never even occurred and instead starts wanking on about a recent study involving contestants from the TV reality show The Biggest Loser. For those of you lucky enough to have never seen this show, it’s where a bunch of really obese people get screamed at by tattooed personal trainers with names like “Commando” for the voyeuristic amusement of the viewing public. I watched one episode of the US version many years ago, and that was enough for me. I didn’t like the gratuitous nature of the show, the way that obese contestants were being turned into some kind of freakshow spectacle for the purpose of TV ratings, although it could be countered these people knew full well what they were getting into and did so of their own volition. And hey, if they lost weight and improved their health, then who cares, right?
What I couldn’t even begin to dismiss, however, was the unswerving emphasis on total weight loss and the complete disregard for exactly where that weight loss was coming from. Were the contestants losing primarily fat, as they should be on an intelligently structured fat loss program, or were they losing disproportionate amounts of muscle in an indiscriminate race to show the biggest overall drop in weight?
Who knows? I didn’t see anything that looked remotely like a DEXA machine or even a skinfold caliper during the episode I watched, nor on the numerous TV snippets and trailers I’ve unavoidably encountered since.
Anyways … this recent study found what numerous studies have already found before. That obese people do not have “slow metabolisms”: To the contrary, they often have elevated energy expenditures due to the caloric needs of their higher body mass (both fat and muscle are calorie-consuming entities) and the extra effort required to cart all that extra mass around.
Countless previous studies have also shown that when obese people lose weight and get down to a ‘normal’ bodyweight, they often display a lower resting metabolic rate than what would normally be expected based on their new bodyweight and body composition. Given the indiscriminate, gung-ho nature of the weight loss process that predominates on The Biggest Loser, we wouldn’t expect to see anything different among the ‘successful’ contestants.
And, sure enough, that’s exactly what the researchers found. But Taubes – along with an army of reality-evading low-carb bloggers – are now wanking on about this finding as if it were some startling new revelation!
Note what Taubes and his sycophantic cronies are doing here, folks:
They’re creating a red herring.
Gary Taubes has made a lot of money over the years by blaming carbohydrates for the obesity epidemic, and by claiming that isocaloric low-carb diets cause less weight gain and more fat loss. This is also a major tenet of the low-carb movement, and has proved to be a lucrative meal ticket for many low-carb authors.
But it’s complete bullshit, as even the NuSI-instigated ward study showed.
But like certain of his gushing Internet admirers, Taubes simply can’t bring himself to acknowledge this scientific slap in the face. Instead, they’re now shifting their “Everything we thought we knew about obesity is wrong!” schtick to the observations of the Biggest Loser study. Never mind these observations have already been seen in other studies for decades, and never mind that they do absolutely NOTHING to change the indisputable fact that:
LOW-CARB DIETS OFFER NO METABOLIC ADVANTAGE, WHATEVER THE HECK YOUR RMR IS, and that:
WHATEVER THE HECK YOUR RMR IS, THE ULTIMATE ARBITER OF WHETHER OR NOT YOU GAIN OR LOSE WEIGHT IS CALORIES IN VERSUS CALORIES OUT.
If someone with a turbo-like metabolism eats in excess of their calorie needs, THEY GAIN WEIGHT. If someone with a ‘slow’ metabolism eats in excess of their calorie needs, THEY GAIN WEIGHT. The thresholds are different, but the same key requirement is there:
A caloric surplus.
This is not some new, ground-shaking revelation: It’s common-bloody-sense!
Yes, I know, I know … few people seem to be endowed with this trait nowadays.
Is it fair that some people have faster metabolisms than others? Maybe, or maybe not (some scientists have posited that in prehistoric periods of food scarcity, a slow metabolism may have conferred a survival advantage). But if it's not fair, then it’s also not fair that some people are born taller than others, with richer parents, with higher cheek bones, broader shoulders, or more favourable hip:waist ratios. And if that‘s the case, I guess it’s also not fair that some men have bigger doodads than others, or higher testosterone levels, or that some women are born more attractive, or with bigger ‘assets', than others.
So you (think you) have a slow metabolism?
Boohoo. Spare a thought for all those people out there who really were born not only with a slow metabolism, but short height, impoverished parents, sunken cheek bones, narrow shoulders, wide hips, little dicks, and low testosterone levels!
You think you’ve got it tough? Buy a bike, do some weights, and quit your bloody whining, for chrissakes.
You Want Unfair? THIS Is Unfair.
Up until May 2 of this year, I had a cousin called Samantha, affectionately known to all her friends and family as “Sammy”.
On May 2, Sammy passed away. She was all of 43 years old.
Sammy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her mid-20s. Eventually, her condition deteriorated to the point where she was confined to a wheelchair. When you look at pictures of the beautiful, vibrant Sammy in her early 20s, and then photos taken in her last few years of life, the difference is absolutely heart-breaking.
Despite her plight, and her worsening condition, Sammy always had a smile on her face whenever you went to see her. She honestly believed that one day medicine would find a cure for MS, and that the she’d finally be free of that bloody wheelchair, and that she could go back to living a normal life.
Needless to say, that wasn’t the way things panned out.
Ten days ago, I went to see Sammy off at her funeral. Both lifelong friends and carers who’d come into her life after she became ill took the stand and shared stories of Sammy’s beautiful nature, giant heart, sense of adventure, and her eminently endearing personality. By the time Judy Collins' beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace began resonating through the funeral hall, there was barely a dry eye left in the place. When you became friends with Sammy, you became friends for life.
Unfortunately, that life was cut drastically short, through no fault of Sammy’s.
As anyone who knows anything about MS can tell you, MS sufferers don’t knowingly do anything to ‘get’ the disease. And unlike obesity, multiple sclerosis is a disease; you don’t get MS from eating too much or sitting on the couch watching pap like The Biggest Loser instead of getting out and actually doing some exercise yourself.
And, unlike the non-disease of obesity, once you do have MS you can’t simply get rid of it by reigning in your caloric intake and/or exercising.
As of May 18, 2016, there is no established cure for multiple sclerosis.
There is, however, a cure for obesity. It’s called ESTABLISHING A CALORIC DEFICIT.
Sammy would have given anything to swap out her real disease of MS for a condition that could be solved by simply creating a calorie deficit.
If you are overweight or obese, then you should thank your lucky stars you have such an easily-reversible condition.
But nope, many of you refuse to do that. Instead you virulently attack people like me who point out this simple ‘cure’. Not because we’re lying - but because you are a childish bunch of reality evaders that simply don’t want to hear the truth. You’re no better than a child that throws a tantrum when his parents tell him he can’t have a snack, because dinner will be served soon.
Actually, you’re far, far worse than any such child, because the child is still in his formative years of life and there's every possibility he will eventually shed his petulant behaviour. But you overweight jokers in your 20’s, 30s, 40s and beyond who still wail at anyone who points out the reality of CICO?
What’s your excuse?
On behalf of everyone who’s ever suffered and died from a real disease they contracted through no fault of their own:
Grow the fuck up.
Back to the Ward … Or Not?
After banging on about the Biggest Loser study, Taubes then has a crack at the National Institutes of Health, for not funding the types of weight loss research he thinks they should.
Never mind that, along with gullible donors, it was the NIH that funded NuSI’s ward study! And a number of the researchers themselves were from the NIH!
You’re an idiot, Gary.
While completely ignoring the ward trial, Taubes’ LA Times article does mention a NuSI-sponsored study comparing high- and low-carb diets being conducted at the Boston Children’s Hospital. According to Taubes, this study will be truly isocaloric – “no cheating” is his exact words – and Taubes seem be confident what the study will find:
“The diet with the least carbohydrates will result in the least weight gain, the least hunger, the least metabolic compensation.”
So confident is Taubes of this outcome, he promptly goes into Vegas mode and suggests a little betting action:
“But perhaps we could ratchet up the stakes a bit for the Boston study if we asked America's obesity experts to publicly predict what will happen. We could establish a website and a betting line in Las Vegas. Which obesity hypothesis will win? Carbohydrates, hormones and metabolism? Or energy balance and a calorie is a calorie? Real money should be wagered. The amount the experts are willing to bet will inform us of the strength of their convictions.”
Gary … you’re on! My convictions are stronger than Andy Bolton’s deadlift, so I’ll take you up on your wager. Except it won't involve Las Vegas, as I have no desire to support the dodgey casino industry. Instead, I’ll wager you an apartment in Barcelona that under truly isocaloric conditions, a high-carb diet will show no greater FAT-DERIVED (I note you left out those two key words in your above challenge) weight-gain than a low-carb one.
This apartment must be worth at least €500,000, and must have enough room for me, my bikes, and his Royal Highness Ramone, also known as “The Chosen One”, “El Perro Guapo” and “No, Ramone, no!”. This apartment must be situated within walking distance of Paseig de Gracia and Rambla de Catalunya, my two favourite Barcelona streets with great amenities and what must be the highest hotties-per-square-metre-of-pavement ratio in the world.
I know I will win this wager, because ward studies dating all the way back to 1935 have shown no difference in fat-derived weight loss or gain between truly isocaloric low-carb and high-carb diets. Heck, even the ward study instigated by your own NuSI cash cow failed to find any difference (actually, it found less fat loss on the low-carb diet!)
Which makes me wonder … why are you seemingly so keen to make such a wager, given that is an almost certain losing bet?
Hmmm. Let’s go to the NuSI website and pull up the details of the study:
“In this trial, 150 overweight and obese college students, faculty, and staff will be fed all their meals in a specially dedicated part of the University hall and monitored while they eat. They’ll first lose 10 to 12 percent of their weight on a diet that restricts all calories equally. They’ll then be randomly assigned to follow one of three diets – either a carbohydrate-restricted diet, high in fat; a fat-restricted diet, high in carbohydrate; or a low-glycemic index diet, in which the carbohydrates consumed are slowly digested and rich in fiber. The researchers will weigh the participants daily and adjust the caloric content of their assigned diets as necessary to try to maintain the participants at a stable weight. For the last two weeks of the study, participants will be allowed to eat as much as they want of their assigned diets to generate data on the hunger and satiety responses to these diets.”
You shifty bastard, Gary Taubes. You shifty, sneaky bastard.
This is not a ward study that ensures “no cheating” – and you know it.
Granted, feeding the participants 3 meals a day under observation in what we could classify a 'semi-ward' study is certainly a step up from the usual totally uncontrolled free-living slop you low-carbers have been citing as ‘proof’ of a metabolic advantage for the last umpteen years. But what happens when the participants go home at night, Gary? What happens on the weekends when they are not at the hospital? Can you really guarantee us “no cheating” during those times?
Of course not.
And even when they are at the university, can you control what the participants eat between the scheduled mealtimes? Are the researchers overseeing this study checking the participants’ bags and desk drawers for smuggled food?
Of course not.
That means the ultimate results of this study are anyone’s guess. Which means you can feel free to make bold and misleading challenges in a major media outlet like the LA Times, knowing full well that no sensible person is going to take up your challenge, because the study is not a true ward study that ensures isocaloric conditions.
Gary Taubes, you are a bad joke.
As are all the people who think it’s OK to spend 13.3 million dollars on a study involving a mere 150 people. That’s right, according to this press release, NuSI is generously ‘donating’ (i.e. redistributing other people’s money) $10,000,000 for the Boston study, an amount that will be supplemented by $3,300,000 in funding from the New Balance Foundation, an anonymous donor, the Robin Lloyd Corkin Charitable Foundation, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
In his desperate, ego-driven quest to find scientific support for his bullshit theories, Gary is happy to see millions of dollars of other people’s money poured down the drain on trials that add nothing new to our knowledge base. The NuSI ward study simply confirmed what we already know, and the Boston Children’s Hospital study is just going to add to the huge volume of already-published free-living studies showing mixed results.
Am I the only one sickened by the amount of money that Taubes and all those seeking to blame their adiposity on carbohydrates are happy to see pissed down the drain?
Over thirteen million dollars?
Imagine all the starving people you could feed with 13.3 million greenbacks!
Imagine all the people with real diseases, who can’t afford the necessary medical treatment and face certain debility or even death if they don’t get it, that we could be helping with that kind of money!
But instead, it’s going to be pissed up against the wall to fund another study involving 150 people living comfortably in the relatively affluent city of Boston, who eat too much and/or don’t exercise enough. Over thirteen million dollars will be spent on these otherwise healthy, well-fed and comfortable people to investigate the non-disease of obesity, because many overweight Westerners are simply too fucking petulant to admit their own dietary and lifestyle excesses caused their obesity. Instead, they’re happy to sit by and watch millions in taxpayer and misguidedly-donated money wasted so science can hopefully confirm that something, be it carbs, “epigenetics”, “gut bacteria” - anything but their own actions – caused their overweight.
To all those people:
You are a disgrace. Seriously.
What the hell are you people going to tell your grandchildren in twenty years’ time, when they visit and ask you about the Great Obesity Epidemic of 1980-2020?
“Oh, it was terrible sweetie, I hope YOU never have to live through anything like that! I mean, we had turkey thighs, beef ribs, bagels, pasta ... it was horrible, just horrible! You could even buy caramel sundaes for 99 cents! Those starving kids in Africa never knew how good they really had it!”
I mean, seriously?
You disgusting, spoilt, petulant, soft-cocks. Fuck you. Every last one of you. Right now, all around the world, through no fault of their own, people are starving or dying of diseases that they can’t do anything to reverse. Many of them are dying a slow agonizing death, they know it, and they can’t do a damn thing about it.
But YOU’RE the ones whose plight deserves $13,300,000 of funding?!?
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