Jun 232010
 

In my last post on Gary Taubes and his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, I stated that I would do a chapter-by-chapter critique of the book, starting with Chapter 14, “The Mythology of Obesity”.  In this chapter, Taubes begins to create a mystery that doesn’t actually exist.  He does this through a combination of logical fallacies, selective quotation of out-dated scientific data, and leaving out existing data that conflicts with his statements.

Taubes opens the chapter with this sentence: 

“Critical to the success of any scientific enterprise is the ability to make accurate and unbiased observations.”

He then goes on to say:

“…if the initial observations are incorrect or incomplete, then we will distort what it is we’re trying to explain.”

Taubes is correct in these statements.  Unfortunately he doesn’t follow his own advice.  He notes the hypothesis that obesity is due to excess calorie consumption and/or inadequate physical activity, and then says that this hypothesis fails to explain the evidence and observations. 

However, what Taubes fails to realize is that it only fails to explain the evidence and observations when you leave out important information regarding that evidence or those observations.

Taubes’s First Big Boo Boo

Taubes makes his first big mistake on the very first page of this chapter.  He writes:

Lean people will often insist that the secret to their success is eating in moderation, but many fat people insist that they eat no more than the lean – surprising as it seems, the evidence backs this up – and yet are fat nonetheless.  As the National Academy of Sciences report Diet and Health phrased it, “Most studies comparing normal and overweight people suggest that those who are overweight eat fewer calories than those of normal weight.”  Researchers and public-health officials nonetheless insist that obesity is caused by overeating, without attempting to explain how these two notions can be reconciled.

The last statement in that paragraph is blatantly false.  These two notions have been reconciled over and over again in numerous studies.  It is well established that overweight people underreport their food intake on average.  In fact, there is a huge volume of literature of on this…so huge that it is surprising that Taubes missed it all.  The underreporting is quite severe.  One study comparing obese twins to their non-obese twin counterparts indicated underreporting of 764 calories per day.  Another study indicated obese subjects to be underreporting their calorie intake by over a thousand calories per day.  This is just a fraction of the data that is out there.  Yet, Taubes selectively quotes out-dated research that relied on self-report of food intake.  Taubes’s reliance on out-dated and low quality data will be a consistent theme through the remainder of his book.

The phenomena of underreporting is verified when you supply overweight people with the amount of calories they claim to be eating.  In one study, women who claimed to be eating 1200 calories per day were supplied with that actual amount of food intake.  What happened?  They lost 1.7 pounds per week.  George Bray reported on a similar clinical experience.

My own clinical experience also verifies this.  For example, we had one individual who was not losing weight.  She swore to the dietitian that she was following the program.  One day, her husband came into the dietitian session with her.  He ratted her out and said she was eating 8 tablespoons of peanut butter per day and wasn’t recording it in her food log.  That’s over 800 calories per day of food intake that she wasn’t reporting.  It is no wonder why she was not losing weight.  This is not to say that everyone who underreports food intake is blatantly lying about it.  Many people simply do a poor job of estimating their food intake.  But the fact is, people underreport their food intake.

Taubes, through selective cherry-picking, tries to create a mystery where there is no mystery.  He calls the idea of energy imbalance a “hypothesis”, yet fails to consider not only the data mentioned above, but all of the controlled studies that demonstrate experimental overfeeding to create weight gain.  Researchers insist that overeating causes obesity because that’s exactly what the data shows, despite Taubes’s attempts to spin it otherwise.

The “Carbohydrate or Calorie” False Dichotomy

Taubes moves on to discuss data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) survey.  From 1971 to 2000, this data showed an increase in calorie and carbohydrate intake (as a percentage of calories) in the U.S. population, while fat intake decreased.  Taubes then states:

This increase in energy intake…was “attributable primarily to an increase in carbohydrate intake.”…The NHANES data suggest that either calorie or carbohydrates could account for the increase in weight…

Taubes creates a false dichotomy here by asserting that either the increased calorie intake, or the increased carbohydrate intake, was responsible for the weight gain.  However, it’s not “either/or” because the two are not independent of each other.  The increased carbohydrate intake IS the increased calorie intake, so you cannot separate the two.  Taubes creates a dichotomy where none exists.

Anecdotes and Newspaper Articles are Not Scientific Evidence

Taubes goes on to discuss physical activity.  He talks about the “exercise explosion” of the 1970′s and 80′s, implying that Americans were more active than ever.  However, what does he cite to support this?  Some anecdotes and newspaper articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post.  He also cites statistics on the revenues of health clubs.

It is absurd to imply that physical activity is high based on some newspaper articles and gym revenues.  For example, many people join gyms but don’t go, or go infrequently.  And no matter how many Americans were supposedly partaking in the “fitness revolution”, it is not statistical evidence of how truly active Americans were.   Also, formal exercise only represents a small portion of total daily energy expenditure.  When it comes to physical activity, we are concerned with all physical activity throughout the day, not just formal exercise.  Gym memberships and the “fitness revolution” are not indicative of 24-hour energy expenditure.

If you look at the science rather than anecdote, you get a different picture.  While there isn’t good survey data regarding physical activity from the 1970′s and early 1980′s, the CDC does have data on leisure-time physical activity trends from 1988 to 2008:

Now, this is just leisure time physical activity, and not 24-hour activity.  However, you can see that the trend was mostly flat, with a slight downtrend in this decade.  This data indicates that 1/3 of Americans participate in no leisure time physical activity at all.  Taubes’s numbers on gym memberships are meaningless, and his claims of a “fitness revolution” do not hold when you look at the data.

There is also data out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area between 1980 and 2000.  The percentage of individuals engaging in physical activity for 30 or more minutes, at least 5 times per week, was only 8-12%.  Only 1% participated in 60 minutes daily.  While this is not national data, the results were similar to what has been observed on a national level, and contradict Taubes’s implication of an “exercise or sports epidemic” in America.

There is also data estimating the cost of mechanization (dishwashers, elevators, cars, etc.) to our daily energy expenditure.  It is estimated that we expend an average of 111 calories per day less, which, if not compensated by lower food intake, would result in substantial weight gain over many years.

In the usual fashion, Taubes creates a physical activity paradox where none exists.

The Poverty/Obesity Relationship:  Not A Contradiction After All

Taubes moves on to address another apparent contradiction…that obesity rates tend to be higher among the poorest members of society.  Taubes considers this a contradiction for two reasons.  First, he presumes that the poorest members of society are also the hardest-working, have less access to labor-saving devices, and thus are the most physically active.  Second, he presumes that they are undernourished and do not eat very much.

Of course, these are both assumptions.  Interestingly, Taubes criticizes advocates of the thrifty-gene hypothesis for making assumptions.  Perhaps Taubes should take a look at his own assumptions.

When you actually investigate the scientific data, you will find that Taubes’s assumptions do not hold.  First, let’s look at the presumption of low calorie intake.  There is a wealth of data that shows that the calorie intake of people living in poverty is not low.  In fact, people in poverty are more likely to consume energy-dense foods, because energy-dense foods are much lower in price.  There is an inverse relationship between the energy density of foods and price.  Here is a chart showing food prices from Seattle supermarkets in 2006:

 

You can see that the least expensive foods are both the fats and the refined carbohydrate foods, so one cannot simply point a finger at carbohydrates here.  In fact, there is a several thousand percent difference between the cost of vegetable oils and sugars compared to fresh produce.  It is very easy to overconsume calories when eating energy dense foods.  In fact, the energy density of foods plays a role in regulation of food intake, and high energy-density foods lead to passive overconsumption (meaning you consume more calories without noticing it, or without adequate feelings of fullness).  For a given volume of food, the greater the energy density of your diet, the more calories you will eat.  Thus, you can actually spend less and eat more.

People in poverty are more likely to underreport their food intake.  They are also  more likely to skip breakfast, which can result in appetite dysregulation and greater daily energy intakes (interestingly, adolescent breakfast skippers also have lower carbohydrate intakes).  Also, low-income urban neighborhoods have a high density of small food stores, which carry mostly energy-dense foods.

Let’s also look at the presumption of high activity.  This does not hold when one looks at the data.  According to NHANES, leisure time physical inactivity is higher in people below the poverty line compared to people above the line.  This is particularly true among women, where obesity rates also tend to be higher.

On top of all that, Taubes fails to consider that obesity rates for higher socioeconomic classes increased at a higher rate than lower socioeconomic classes from 1976 to 2008.

The bottom line is that poverty does not mean chronic energy deficiency or high physical activity.  In fact, impoverished populations with true chronic energy deficiency have almost no obesity.

Pima Problems

Taubes continues to get it wrong when he moves to discuss the Pima Indians, again relying on old data from the 1800′s and eary 1900′s, including journals and anecdotes rather than rigorous scientific research.  He discusses how the Pimas went from food abundance to poverty when placed on reservations, along with a corresponding rise in obesity.  He implies that it could not have been due to an increase in energy intake or a decrease in physical activity.  His support for that?  Anecdotes from anthropologists.  Taubes relies heavily on anecdotes from anthropologists Frank Russell and Ales Hrdlicka.  Taubes comments how obesity was most prevalent among the Pima women, who also (supposedly) “worked considerably harder than the men”, and mentions how Russell was not particularly confident that the Pima were no longer active (I’m not sure how Taubes can infer Russell’s level of confidence from written words).    He mentions the low fat intake of the Pima (24% of calories, according to data from the physician Frank Hesse), and the high intakes of refined flour, sugar, and canned fruits.  The implication, of course, is that it’s the carbohydrates causing the obesity, not elevated energy intake and/or reduced energy expenditure.

When one looks at more modern, higher quality scientific data, we get a different story.  There is a group of Pima Indians living in a remote region of the Sierra Madre Mountains in an area only recently accessible by road.  These Pima have experienced little change in environmental conditions, and continue to lead the traditional lifestyle of the Pimas of the 1800′s.  A number of studies have compared these Pima Indians to the U.S. Pima Indians living on reservations.  Rates of obesity are dramatically lower among the Mexican Pimas compared to the U.S. Pimas, while physical activity levels are 2.5-7 times higher.  Direct measurements of energy expenditure using doubly-labeled water have shown the energy expenditure of the Mexican Pimas to be 600 calories per day higher than U.S. Pimas.  The Mexican Pima Indians have a diet of over 60% carbohydrate, and around 26% fat.  Estimates of the traditional Pima diet before the influx of the white man place the carbohydrate intake even higher at 70-80% carbohydrate.  So much for carbohydrate causing obesity!

Chapter 14:  Nothing But Mythology

The bottom line is that the vast majority of the information in chapter 14 is misleading and based on very selective reporting of mostly old, low quality data.  Unfortunately this journalistic style of Taubes continues through the rest of the book.  Supposedly Taubes did 6 years of research for this book, yet it took me only a few days of PubMed searches to find better research.  Chapter 14 is more an exercise in confirmation bias than true scientific inquiry.

I will discuss Chapter 15, “Hunger”, in a future blog post.

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  368 Responses to “Good Calories, Bad Calories: The Mythology of Obesity, or The Mythology of Gary Taubes?”

  1. Just did a quick reread of Chapter 15.

    Hmm, the first half seems to rely completely on a couple extreme cases which actually hurt his point, because the men consume a bunch of carbs and still lose fat, even though they experience side effects from the severe prolonged calorie restriction. It seems that if Taubes’ “carbs = insulin = fat” hypothesis were true, as he purports with the Zucker rat example, these men would have simply slowed down their metabolism and maintained fat. But it sounds like they did lose fat. The fact that they overate when the experiment was done doesn’t mitigate that fact.

    From what I can tell the exercise section makes a good critique of Mayer’s study, except the underreporting issue could be present. However, Taubes doesn’t seem to offer anything that supports his thesis of “exercise doesn’t help lose weight” beyond a bunch of cherry-picked quotes and commonsensical sayings like “working up an appetite”. I look forward to your critique James.

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  2. By the way, I’m curious on what your take is on the argument, which I think Taubes and others present, that questions how people manage to maintain roughly the same weight consistently, even though this would supposedly require a highly accurate and consistent consumption of calories from week to week. Is it that the caloric expenditure tends to adjust based on the weight? Or that you don’t believe people actually are consistent in weight? Or just habitual eating practices? Thanks.

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    • Not James here, but thought I would add a comment on this one:

      This argument by Taubes is a distraction. And he uses the flip side to say that one can become “obese” in a decade by just overeating like 10 cals/day. Ummm…. gaining 10 lbs in 10 years does not make one obese, but … Yet he presumes that if someone makes a consistent 100 calorie change in their energy balance the body will totally adjust to that so it won’t make a difference.

      If we think of our fat stores like a bank, nobody maintains the same balance in that bank day-to-day. Balance goes up when the paycheck is deposited, down when the mortgage/rent gets paid. It is doubtful that those w/o weight issues maintain exactly the same weight. It’s the average intake and the average balance that matter. Trim people either mindfully or spontaneously reduce intake at the next meal or next day when they have overindulged the previous one. Most of my female friends, even the thin ones, began “watching what they eat” at some point when a few pounds crept on. I suspect most of the guys do too, they just talk about it less.

      I’ve maintained my weight in a relatively narrow range for a long time now (15 months for the narrow, 2+ years for a slightly wider range but no backsliding) — my clothing fits about the same within about a 7 lb range (that’s +/- 3.5 lbs around what I believe to be my “true weight”, and it’s mostly water weight fluctuations). If I go to a party and eat a bit too many calories, I’m not hungry the next day and I don’t eat until I am. I stopped listening to the “don’t skip breakfast” or “don’t skip meals” or “never let yourself get too hungry” voices.

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      • Well, your insulin sensitivity has gotten better over the last 2 years. A major contributor to the weight loss. Overall, your carb intake must have gone down… He has major good points about insulin being a determining factor…

        I don’t however agree at all with Taubes about exercise… It does help you lean out, but it matters what kind of exercise. Strengthtraining beats cardio any day for similar reasons as low-carbs beat calorie restriction. You control insulin levels.

        That’s what it’s all about.

        You CAN essentially “overeat” on carbs and do some weight training and still lose weight, becauase of decreased sensitivity to the glucose coming in.

        High intensity interval training also beats “long cardio” for the same reasons. The TABATA PROTOCOL clearly shows that 4 minutes of exercise is more effective for “fat loss”, not weight loss or calorie burning, it clearly DOES NOT burn more calories than 60 minutes of jogging, yet help burn MORE FAT?

        Tell me how that works, unless you get reduced sensitivity to glucose from a hard bout of tabata intervals. (Lower/better control over insulin levels). Which again, kind of proves a point about insulin sensitivity/resitstance vs calories in calories out.

        Read up on interval training results vs longer cardio… Forget “calories” and look at the effects of insulin, glycogen depletion and oxygen debt instead.. The difference in calories burnt are staggeringly low… So that’s not the reason, I think, why it’s more effective.

        Also watch these 3 videos: http://journal.crossfit.com/2010/04/insulin-body-weight-and-energy-production.tpl

        This explains a lot about insulin. I know you may be skeptical about it now, but insulin does play a major role… Calories aren’t as important as we think… I’m not saying you can’t lose weight on “low-fat/cal restriction”, you can, but what kind of weight, and how is your health REALLY improving? Without a ton of insulin and glucose your body is better off…

        http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2008/01/13/5617/insulin-leptin-diabetes-and-aging-not-so-strange-bedfellows/

        Also leptin is a major factor, ghrelin and other hormones. It’s also about the increase/decrease of the efficiency of the crebs cycle and much more. Low-Carb, high protein will make you live longer and build a more estetically pleasing body than calorie restriction, but both work for “weight loss”… It’s just a matter of which you prefer… Being hungry, wanting snacks/sweets, gaining weight if falling off the bandwagon, needing TONS of excessive, wear and tear exercise to neutralize insulin levels, or almost never being hungry, eating TONS of food, don’t need to exercise a lot etc.. your choice.

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        • Your comments are so stupid they about don’t merit a response. HIIT is not magic and no amount of insulin is going to make extra energy appear. Body composition is primarily determined by a) adequate protein and b) resistance training. There is no magic to HIIT and its effects are only negligiblly different than regular cardio. How much fat loss per se is irrelevant when viewed in the wider context of days or weeks. No special “protocol” changes that.

          You also ignore that HIIT is inappropriate for beginners and the obese AND it demands a much lower frequency as it trashes the body and nervous system.

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      • Or the “clean up your plate” voice from your mother. There is lots of bad advice out there from both well-meaning people and those that are in it for financial gain. In nature, animals seem to get it right without the “help” of diet book peddlers like Taubes. “Eat when you’re hungy” is better advice and I’ve also found that if I overconsume a bit one day I eat less the next.

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        • Eat when you’re hungry very easily goes wrong if you’re eating the incorrect foods. Also animals very easily get fat when they’re no longer having to catch their own food and run from predators.

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    • Just to add to CarbSane’s comment, regulation of body weight is a combination of unconscious physiological regulation, and conscious/unconscious psychological regulation. Many people maintain their body weight through consciously and unconsciously adjusting their intake and expenditure. However, there are numerous factors (again, conscious and unconscious) that can interfere with this regulation. Certainly, there is evidence that refined carbohydrate can disturb some of this and increase the risk of positive energy balance over time, but it is only one factor among many, and there are plenty of people who do eat fair amounts of refined carbohydrate yet are able to maintain weight.

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  3. Your first link is to a study from December 2009. I think Taubes can be forgiven for missing this given that Good Calories, Bad Calories was published in 2007 and Taubes presumably doesn’t possess a time machine.

    Aside from this, I don’t see anything in the Taubes quote or the NAS report that he quotes from that claims that these statements are based on self-reported calorie intake versus more reliable methods. In fact, the sentence in the NAS report immediately before the sentence quoted by Taubes verifies that they were fully aware of the underreporting problem:

    “The precise measurement of food intake by humans is difficult, but it is clear from several studies that normal as well as overweight individuals tend to underreport their dietary intake.”

    The NAS report cites “Carefully controlled studies in animals”, not self-reported intake in humans, as its main source for the claim that “overeating is not a necessary requirement for the development of obesity”. The claim isn’t that overeating *can’t* cause obesity — this seems to be well established by studies — but rather that additional mechanisms are possible — something else that seems to be well established by studies. The Taubes book is about investigating these additional mechanisms as a more viable explanation of the obesity epidemic. It demonstrates to me that maybe you missed the point of the Taubes book when you cite studies that focus on calories in vs. calories out like the women on the 1200 calorie diet.

    The relevant page from the NAS report:
    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=1222&page=583

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    • David,

      Your first link is to a study from December 2009. I think Taubes can be forgiven for missing this given that Good Calories, Bad Calories was published in 2007 and Taubes presumably doesn’t possess a time machine.

      I only used that study as one example of the huge body of studies that demonstrate the phenomena of underreporting in obese people; I only referenced one due to space constraints. There are plenty of studies available prior to 2007. In fact, underreporting was established as far back as the 1990′s. Here are some examples:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9741036

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9620052

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10076581

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10617957

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11595643

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12638596

      I could give many more examples. The fact is, I find it very difficult to excuse Taubes for referencing a 1980 paper when there was obviously plenty of more recent and better data available to him.

      Aside from this, I don’t see anything in the Taubes quote or the NAS report that he quotes from that claims that these statements are based on self-reported calorie intake versus more reliable methods.

      The NAS report references chapter 6 which itself references self report data.

      In fact, the sentence in the NAS report immediately before the sentence quoted by Taubes verifies that they were fully aware of the underreporting problem:

      But Taubes himself ignores the comment from the NAS report about the underreporting problem. He completely fails to discuss this when he references the report. He only focuses on this statement from the NAS report:

      Most studies comparing normal and overweight people suggest that those who are overweight eat fewer calories than those of normal weight (see Chapter 6).

      Taubes took that quote out of context, and fails to mention the previous sentence about underreporting. This only proves my point of how Taubes selects only the pieces of information that support his beliefs. For more examples of Taubes leaving out conflicting data, check out this review of one of his lectures by CarbSane.

      The NAS report cites “Carefully controlled studies in animals”, not self-reported intake in humans, as its main source for the claim that “overeating is not a necessary requirement for the development of obesity”.

      Many of these “carefully controlled studies” did not actually measure energy balance. For example, they may have measured energy intake, but not energy expenditure, so it cannot be claimed from these studies that overeating is not a requirement. Overeating is consuming more energy than is being expended, by definition. If I only expended 1000 calories per day and ate 1500 per day, by definition I am overeating. Or if I eat 2000 calories per day and expend 2000 per day, but suddenly reduce my expenditure to 1500 calories per day, I am now overeating even though I have not changed my energy intake. The fact is that the concept of “overeating” is not independent of energy expenditure…the two are intertwined.

      The Taubes book is about investigating these additional mechanisms as a more viable explanation of the obesity epidemic.

      But Taubes’s “investigation” is flawed because he fails to consider, or report, all of the available data, which I find hypocritical when he accuses other scientists of doing the same thing. And another inconsistency in his position is that, while he acknowledges that the laws of thermodynamics cannot be violated, he then implies that they are somehow violated. Taubes might have a point if everyone was remaining the same body mass, yet gaining fat and losing lean mass at the same time. But that is not what is happening….overall weight and tissue mass is increasing (including lean mass). This means, by definition, that energy intake must exceed energy expenditure and that people that gain weight are in a positive energy balance. Then Taubes muddies the waters by insinuating that positive energy balance and “gluttony/sloth/laziness/lack of willpower” are equivalent, when they are not. By muddying the waters like this, he creates a picture that positive energy balance must not explain obesity because not all obese people are lazy/lack willpower/are gluttons/are sloths. Of course, this is a non-sequitur…you can be in a positive energy balance without necessarily being “lazy” or having no willpower. So then you start getting his readers thinking that energy balance is not important.

      The Taubes book is about investigating these additional mechanisms as a more viable explanation of the obesity epidemic

      Taubes does not set it up this way. He instead tries to show that the concept of positive energy balance is flawed (by constructing a strawman version of it), and then presents his alternative hypothesis (which itself is based on incomplete data; a more complete picture of the data shows his hypothesis to be wrong).

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      • The energy balance theory is true… but it doesn’t explain WHY… It’s just re-stating the facts, such as saying…

        If I fill this cup with water too long it will overspill… If the cup overspills I filled the water over the top… It doesn’t explain why I’d be so stupid to do it, even if I WILLINGLY try not to…

        What other force “makes me overfill the cup” even while I’m TRYING NOT TO FILL IT? What’s wrong? That’s the point………… Get it already!

        Thermodynamics is all true, but WHY; WHY; WHY,WHY would ANYONE willingly overeats!?!??!?! Nobody argues against it…

        But is it the thermodynamics CAUSE or EFFECT? Reverse your thinking about it…

        If you eat too much you’ll gain weight (add mass, whatever), but what kind of mass? Muslce,fat, water? And if it happens, we needed to add more mass… FOOD, of course. No arguments.

        However, the OPPOSITE is not ALWAYS true…

        Less calories doesn’t always mean weight loss… The calories vs energy expenditure are not independent variables. One affects the others through hormones saying, ok I’m eating too little, expend less energy. We lose our metabolism on low-calories to compensate for the loss of intake… However, if insulin (the fat building hormone) is lowered you release more fatty acids.

        That’s the freakin’ point. He is bad at explaining it, maybe I am too…. But see it better? It doesn’t prove SHIT to say thermodynamics play a role in weight gain, that’s obvious… But for sustained weight LOSS, not so much…

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        • Wrong, wrong, wrong.

          Less calories ALWAYS means weight loss. Your rant about people would overeat is irrelevant and NOT the issue here at all. The issue is what happens as a result of overeating.

          You can’t overeat and lose weight. Are you using your own definition here? Weights make no difference to overall weight gain unless you are discussing calorie expenditure.

          You can’t say, “yes thermodynamics is true but it doesn’t matter” if you want others to see you as a rational intelligent person. Insulin can affect partitioning of calories but it CANNOT, DOES NOT AND WILL NOT cause weight gain in a deficit.

          Let’s say a person weighs 200 lbs and has 100 lbs of LBM. And let’s say his BMR is 3000 calories per day. Now we put him in a 1000 calorie deficit per day and eating all carbs. His requirement is still 3000 calories. That extra 1000 has to come from somewhere. Since muscle gives about 600 calories per pound (let’s assume all LBM is muscle for the example) it would mean he would be 100% fat and 100 lbs lighter in 60 days. In other words he would have died long before this. And in your scary insulin scenario, because he is eating all carbs, he could/would actually gain fat.

          Since we know this never happens, your dogma is bunk. You can’t store what you don’t have, repeat after me, NO MATTER WHAT INSULIN IS DOING.

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          • Shandor, sending me to a Taubes-debunking page for a guy whose business model REQUIRES people to believe they can’t lose weight on their own without paying* for his assistance is a bit silly don’t you think?

            * I’m sure it’s WAY more reasonable than paying for say, a single copy of Taubes book – or just trying Robb Wolf’s plan (which you can get without even buying his book) on your own for a month. ;-)

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          • Shandor, sending me to a Taubes-debunking page for a guy whose business model REQUIRES people to believe they can’t lose weight on their own without paying* for his assistance is a bit silly don’t you think?

            * I’m sure it’s WAY more reasonable than paying for say, a single copy of Taubes book – or just trying Robb Wolf’s plan (which you can get without even buying his book) on your own for a month. ;-)

            Since when does my business model REQUIRE people to believe they can’t lose weight on their own? Where is your evidence for this? First, counseling is only a small part of my business, and I don’t even take any new clients anymore. Second, I’ve always wanted my clients to be able to do it on their own without my help. Coming it to me is THEIR choice if they feel they need help…not mine.

            Also, what does this have to do with my article? My Taubes review stands alone on the evidence provided…not on how I may or may not treat my clients, or on my business model. If you have information to refute the evidence provided in this article, please provide it.

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        • What you all seem to overlook or just plain ignore in post after post is that calorie expenditure is not just equal to exercise! BMR is a large part of total energy expenditure and is not a constant. If someone starts with a BMR of 3000 calories and goes on a diet of 2000 calories, that does not mean that person is necessarily burning off 1000 calories a day! Your body COULD burn 1000 calories of fat or muscle each day to maintain the precious balance, your body COULD lower its energy expenditure to match the new intake, or most likely (yes, in my opinion) does some combination of both.

          Suppose your body responds by lowering your energy expenditure BELOW 2000 calories. You would then gain weight despite being on a calorie-restricted diet! The opposite could be true as well. What Taubes is trying to point out is that the way our bodies respond to changes in energy intake and expenditure is A, different in each person, and B, obviously regulated by some system.

          Furthermore, your body can lose fat while on a higher calorie diet without violating the Laws of Thermodynamics because you are all forgetting that energy is stored in molecules that can leave our system without being converted to energy, such as ketone bodies:

          (Mass containing stored electric potential energy) in = (some quantity of stored electric potential energy converted to kinetic energy) + (some quantity of mass without stored energy (remnants of combustion)) + (some quantity of mass with stored energy) out.

          You all seem to think that there is only one variable on each side of the equation. Energy is stored in the chemical bonds of molecules and that energy does not need to be released for these molecules to leave the body. For a very long time people believed that life itself violated the Laws of Thermodynamics by decreasing entropy. The simple and obvious observation that life gives off waste heat (i.e. increases entropy elsewhere) was simply ignored because people just believed what they wanted to.

          Taubes’ hypothesis in no way “violates the Laws of Thermodynamics”. He apparently has a better grasp of these laws than all of you. The take home message is that the scientific community is not being very scientific at all by concluding that correlation equals causality. Furthermore, the community’s blind faith in the calories-in-equals-calories-out hypothesis is putting all the eggs in one very precarious basket.

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  4. James,

    Thank you for investigating this popular book and providing your perspective. It is clear from your investigation that the conclusions reached by the author are flawed at best, and calls into question the validity of any of his assumptions. I do not think it is necessary for you to provide an extended critique on the book. Perhaps you could just expand slightly on your existing analysis, providing a summary of the poorly drawn conclusions as well as what you feel might be accurate conclusions, if they exist. Thanks again for your efforts. I look forward to your future dissection of other popular books and theories, perhaps “The China Study,” “Eat to Live,” or one of the Eades publications (although this has already been done, and you are probably weary of continuously having your threads hijacked in the case of a very vocal advocate of the latter…).

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    • I disagree. “The China Study”, for example, has been thoroughly dissected and critiqued at a few sources:

      http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/03/the-china-study-a-formal-analysis-and-response/
      http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/China-Study.html
      http://freetheanimal.com/2010/07/the-china-study-smackdown-roundup.html

      There is a strong following of people from the Paleo diet movement already at work on inspecting fact vs. fallacy in a vegan diet. There are many people arguing against taking vegetarian/vegan ideas too dogmatically.

      From what I can see, however, there are too few people taking a critical look at Good Calories, Bad Calories, and far too many people that have accepted it as dogma:

      http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/livin-la-vida-low-carb-show-episode-401-gary-taubes-update/9000
      http://www.fathead-movie.com/
      http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/low-carb-library/gary-taubes-new-book/

      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-book/references/suggested-reading/

      “This book is only two years old, but it is the definitive work on the history of nutritional science and nutrition public policy. Taubes is not a scientist, but rather a science writer and, as such, is able to objectively evaluate the “evidence” far better than most career researchers. It’s not an easy read, but if you can get through it, you will have a clear picture of just how misguided our diet advice has been – and you’ll become a confirmed low-carbber. If you don’t read it, have your doctor read it, and tell him that if he doesn’t, you’ll have to find one who will.”

      Furthermore, in my opinion, Taubes’ book is much bigger and more well-written than The China Study. It takes much more effort to be critical and look for the flaws. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think there are a lot of good things about the book, and steering people away from refined carbohydrates is great, but Taubes leaves the reader with many impressions that are not necessarily warranted. This generates even more confusion in an already controversial and confusing field.

      For any given book or piece of information, there’s a spectrum of people and how much of the information they believe in the book, how critical a look they’ve taken at it. I believe that with books like The China Study, there are enough people on the critical side being vocal, and enough solid critiques already done, that any more will not impact much.

      However, I see GCBC having enough followers who aren’t critical enough of it that a thorough critique which clearly lays out the shortcomings, which has not been done yet, would be of immense value in dispelling any false notions conveyed by the book. Reading this post, for example, made me take a much closer look at what Taubes was saying and realize from my own eyes that his case against calories in-calories out wasn’t so strong. I feel a simple summary wouldn’t do the book justice or have convinced me nearly as strongly as a chapter-by-chapter dissection.

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  5. Not sure what you are disagreeing with. I am familiar with every one of the China Study critiques you linked, and thought I suggested that James’ critique of it would probably be unnecessary given the wealth of them already available. I feel his critique of GCBC is enough for me to have serious doubts about the validity of the author’s conclusions. Besides, I have already received a pretty good primer into the style and theories of Gary Taubes with an article in Mother Earth News and video coverage of his “debate” (more like getting thrown to the wolves) between Drs. Oz and Ornish and Barbara Howard, which is available on YouTube. James had also had a considerable discussion on the former BSDetective site regarding Taubes and his theories. Regardless, a continued dissection would be interesting and there is certainly much more to critique. Thanks for the links at any rate.

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natural-Health/2008-10-01/Dietary-Fat-Health-Weight.aspx

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    • “Not sure what you are disagreeing with.”

      I am disagreeing with this statement from your original post:

      “I do not think it is necessary for you to provide an extended critique on the book. Perhaps you could just expand slightly on your existing analysis, providing a summary of the poorly drawn conclusions as well as what you feel might be accurate conclusions, if they exist.”

      I’m doing so for the reasons outlined in my first reply. Primarily, I feel that, despite James’ and others’ efforts thus far, there are not nearly as many critical eyes on GCBC as there should be. A thorough dissection would get a lot more people talking and thinking about it critically, e.g. as Denise Minger did with the China Study. Otherwise it sounds like we’re in agreement.

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  6. If you are so confident that Taubes’ theory is incorrect, you should do a study. Eat 1500 calories per day of nothing but refined flour and sugar and measure whether you gain or lose weight. If a calorie is a calorie, you should lose weight. Is it really that logical for you to think that the Pima woman were starving their children who were suffering from malnutrition by taking calories for themselves? Alternatively, if Pima woman were overeating, what would cause them to be so hungry that they would starve their own children? Regarding the Mexican Pima, have you found in your research a discussion of the quality of carbohydrates the Mexican Pima eat? A diet consisting of 75% flour and sugar is very different from a diet consisting of 75% of cassava. If you don’t agree, do a two week self study and see how you feel. If Taubes is wrong and a calorie is a calorie, something is still causing us to overeat. What’s that Lay’s potato chip slogan, ‘you can’t have just one’? Such a comment isn’t really applicable to eggs, cheese and bacon my friend.

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    • Of course it’s applicable! It’s very easy to overeat cheese and bacon. Eggs… yes, I could do it! lol.

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      • Agree Jordan!

        It is hard to overeat meat certainly. But it is very easy to overeat added fats like various dressings and butter, and surely cheese! Heavy whipping cream packs a whollop.

        @ Calorie Skeptic: I once lost weight on an ~2wk cookies (the real kind not some weight loss concoction) and milk diet. Does that count?

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        • Yep, you can defintely get in a calorie surplus by enjoying your fats (e.g. peanut butter, cream, bacon – all of these foods are highly palatable and VERY calorie-dense).

          Having said that, it does depend upon what your take is on “ad libitum” eating. For some, this simply means eating until satisfied…and for them, a low carb diet will probably work better than a high carb diet due to it’s better satiety values per calorie consumed.

          But this only addresses homeostatic hunger cues.

          For others (hedonic eaters), “ad libitum” eating means eating as much as they want, not for the purposes of satisfaction, but for the purposes of entertainment…and for those with a ‘high entertainment threshold’, this can mean a hell of a lot of calories, low carb or no low carb. For this group, macronutrient manipulation is largely irrelevant, since their eating behaviour is driven by mental/emotional rather than physical cues.

          Horses for courses!

          Cheers
          Harry

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          • Great comment Harry!

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          • Harry, in your view, which category were the Pima Indian woman? Were they hedonic eaters or were they just hungry because of the low satiety of their diet? They were starving their children because they couldn’t control their desire for pleasure they derived from flour and sugar? Is hedonic eating so on the rise that it accounts for the increase in obesity over the last twenty years? Are obese infants or toddlers hedonic eaters? I will admit at times I feel like a hedonic eater but it’s always in response to processed carbs and sugar, never to fat in isolation. Puritanism in this context explains very little. And regarding hunger and my original comment, when I eat the SAD, I’m always hungry. It’s not hard to imagine that the Pima might have felt the same. Since when is heavy cream so palatable? I wonder why they add sugar to peanut butter.

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        • @ Carbsane, I took a quick look at your blog. Why do you eat mainly low carb if a calorie is a calorie? I can only comment from my own experience, but I disagree with your comment. I never feel compelled to overeat salad dressings, butter, cheese and heavy cream. Yes, these are calorie dense foods but they are also very filling. Refined carbs are calorie dense but almost seem to melt in your mouth and are not filling in the slightest. As for your cookie experiment, I don’t know if it counts. I would imagine the Pima on the reservation weren’t so fortunate to have a daily supply of milk in the late 1800s. But more importantly than the short term weight loss, how did you feel on the cookie diet? Were you hungry? If you weren’t trying to lose weight would you have eaten more? I tried slimfast ten years ago and lost a few pounds but I was starving to such an extent that if the shakes were my sole source of calories and if I wasn’t trying to lose weight by torturing myself I would have consumed many more shakes. Do you not agree that the body responds differently when eating a diet consisting of mainly fat and protein versus a diet of flour and sugar?

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          • @Calorie Skeptic – Why does it have to be either/or. What really bothers me about the LC camp is this all or nothing mentality. So, a person can’t follow a LC eating style and count calories? Well, somebody needs to talk to all of the bodybuilders who follow cyclical keto diets pre-contest.

            What’s funny is that since Atkins, et. al, have stated this folks act as if it is a nutritional law, which of course it’s not. There are many more controlled studies (be it under metabolic ward conditions or using DLW) to show that calories do indeed count.

            Where are the same type of studies showing that calories “don’t” count? Also, using one group (i.e., the poor Pima Indians) isn’t sufficient evidence when I can cite many Asian groups who staple diet consist mainly of carbs, yet they have no issue with obesity — the rural Thai come to mind …

            I’m a reformed fat bastard (my affectionate term for my former morbidly obese self) and once I started to at least be “mindful” of my calories, I broke through a year long plateau. As James and others have said, if going LC works for you, then go for it, and IMO for most sedentary obese folks the satiating effects of an LC approach help a lot with consuming less calories.

            Also, if you followed Slim Fast and lost weight, how can you be a calorie skeptic? The issues of hunger and deprivation are different issues. Most folks who are fanatical about following a LC diet lost, and regained, weight following a different approach (LF, IF, Vegan, etc.) before they found the “wonders” of LC.

            So, the issue of a calorie counting is different from not being able to stick with a particular diet in the long run. These two issues are constantly confused in the debate of whether calories count or not.

            One last thing, which I think makes this whole debate a bit silly is that if you tell a person to eat less carbs, then they are, in essence, eating less calories!

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          • The issues of hunger and deprivation are different issues.Most folks who are fanatical about following a LC diet lost, and regained, weight following a different approach (LF, IF, Vegan, etc.) before they found the “wonders” of LC.So, the issue of a calorie counting is different from not being able to stick with a particular diet in the long run.These two issues are constantly confused in the debate of whether calories count or not.

            Totally agree here Muata! I hear quite often when someone loses on low fat the “let’s see if he/she keeps it off”. But the weight loss is evidence that the diet WAS effective. That all too often the person reverts to former habits and regains speaks to the person, not the method. And I say this as someone who has BTDT more times than I care to recollect. Low carb forums are full of people who have regained weight lost doing LC (I did twice) but that doesn’t mean LC is ineffective. Sadly, there are any number of LC’ers struggling with regain despite doing what they think is “all the right things” staying low carb. Those folks need to realize that EL, MM or ELMM are what is needed for weight loss and, more importantly, maintenance of those losses.

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          • @ Carbsane, I took a quick look at your blog.Why do you eat mainly low carb if a calorie is a calorie?

            I’m glad you asked this question because it gives me the opportunity to clarify a bit. A calorie is a calorie is a measure of the metabolizable energy content of food. It matters very little on any given day what form the energy comes from. This is not to be confused with saying 10 g sugar is equivalent to the body with 10 g whey powder or the caloric equivalent of butter in terms of the body’s response and processing of said calories. This is another strawman of the calories don’t count crowd. Nobody is arguing that refined carb is the nutritional equivalent of animal fat. But 4000 cals of either will likely make most people gain, while 1000 cals will make them lose.

            Why do I eat mostly low carb? I guess the simple answer is because I’m not good with regimented eating. I eat a higher protein lower fat version than most, and when I do it keeps my intake down.

            I can only comment from my own experience, but I disagree with your comment.I never feel compelled to overeat salad dressings, butter, cheese and heavy cream.Yes, these are calorie dense foods but they are also very filling.

            In my experience, nobody needs to be particularly compelled to overeat those foods on your list. Most salad dressings list 2T as a serving, few use that little. I love me some super hot chicken wings, but I gotta have good bleu cheese dressing to go with. Easily 1/2 a cup for 6 wings – which is why I don’t do wings very often! I use H&H in my coffee b/c it doesn’t make a difference to me, but it is easy to down a lot of HWC in coffee or LC desserts. Cheese? I can eat a block a day if I weren’t mindful of it.

            Refined carbs are calorie dense but almost seem to melt in your mouth and are not filling in the slightest.

            Most of those foods you are thinking of contain fat to make them calorie dense. White rice is a pretty refined food. It would be difficult for me to overeat plain white rice. Sugar is another story and our liquid calorie obsession as a society is probably at the root of obesity for a good percentage.

            As for your cookie experiment, I don’t know if it counts.I would imagine the Pima on the reservation weren’t so fortunate to have a daily supply of milk in the late 1800s.

            Not sure what Pima’s access to milk has to do with it. My point was eating cookies and milk insulin must have been coursing through my veins, and yet somehow my excess fat did not remain trapped in my fat cells.

            But more importantly than the short term weight loss, how did you feel on the cookie diet?Were you hungry?If you weren’t trying to lose weight would you have eaten more?

            I felt fine, I wasn’t hungry. It was a diet of necessity (to use up cookies), and I wouldn’t recommend it. Actually my goal was not to gain weight. I’m not sure about the eating more. If I weren’t trying to lose weight would I eat more of LC foods either? Yes, it’s easy to get carried away with cookies, ice cream, chips & dips (Speaking of which, plain chips don’t hold much appeal to me and I’m not likely to eat all that many, but in my day, add a tub of french onion dip …). I’m far less likely to get carried away on meatloaf or tuna if that’s what you’re asking.

            I tried slimfast ten years ago and lost a few pounds but I was starving to such an extent that if the shakes were my sole source of calories and if I wasn’t trying to lose weight by torturing myself I would have consumed many more shakes. Do you not agree that the body responds differently when eating a diet consisting of mainly fat and protein versus a diet of flour and sugar?

            Low carb shakes make me hungry too. I’ve not felt as hungry in a long time as I did when I tried the Eades 6WC (can’t recommend against this plan strongly enough). I think most diets rich in refined flour and sugar make you hungry because they are devoid of protein which is the macronutrient of satiety. I wish I had figured that out years ago because CRD’s for women at 15% protein are simply woefully lacking. See, for instance, High Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reduction in Appetite. That study wasn’t even supposed to be a weight loss study.

            I can’t for the life of me understand why so many low carbers are so reluctant to acknowledge that LC is just an “easier” way for many people to reduce consumption? Eating less while feeling more satisfied is such a bad thing??

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        • CarbSane, it also depends on what we mean by “overeat.” Overeat shouldn’t just mean eating 3000 or 4000 calories per day. If I burn 2000 calories per day, and I want to lose weight, eating 2000 calories should be considered “overeating” in that context, since that level of calorie intake will prevent weight loss. So an extra 300-500 calories of cheese or bacon- or any other food- can be the difference between weight loss/ weight maintenance/ weight gain (depending on one’s goal.)

          So it may be a somewhat interesting thought experiment to ask, “What if someone ate 1500 calories of sugar per day?” But in the real world it’s irrelevant because no one will eat that way. The real issue is that over-consumption of any food, especially those with high energy density, whether natural or processed, low carb or high carb, can have deleterious effects one one’s goal of weight loss or maintenance.

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          • @ Jordon D. My thought experiment is completely relevant. Remember the point of this discussion. We are discussing whether Taubes’ is correct in thinking that there is an alternative hypothesis to explain obesity. If, on a diet of 1500 calories of sugar and bread a day, you get fat than a calorie isn’t a calorie and something else must explain obesity instead of the standard dogma.

            @ Muata: That’s why it has to be either/or. Maybe from a practical perspective, you’ll lose more weight if you cut carbs and count calories but the point of this page is to discuss Taubes’ theory. Is it the carbs or the calories? If society is over consuming calories, what is causing us to overeat? Why don’t bodybuilders eat a low fat low calorie diet to cut before a competition?

            Oh and when you cut calories you also cut carbs so your point is just as meaningless.

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          • @Calorie Skeptic – Either/Or thinking is a logical fallacy. If, as you assert, one will lose more weight following LC and counting calories, what’s the problem with Carb Sane doing just that? Also, Taubes’s “hypothesis” is that calories don’t count, He has even gone as far as to say that if one limits or eliminates carbs from their diet, then they “can’t” gain weight …

            What causes folks to overeat is multifaceted, and I do think that carbs play a role, but not a major one because there are too many non-obese folks walking around who don’t follow a LC diet.

            That’s exactly what most bodybuilders follow pre-competition! To get as lean as these guys get, you have to watch your carbs (which will cause them to retain water) and your fat intake since you want to keep your body fat as low as possible. I think eating low calories is a no-brainer since gaining any weight would work against them. Remember, when they go out on stage, they are at their weakest (i.e., glycogen depleted, dehydrated, etc.).

            One can cut calories without cutting carbs; LF followers have been doing it for years. The point I was making is that by saying that to say that calories don’t count but carbs do is double-speak …

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          • If, on a diet of 1500 calories of sugar and bread a day, you get fat than a calorie isn’t a calorie and something else must explain obesity instead of the standard dogma.

            One wouldn’t gain weight on 1500 calories a day of any food, unless one is expending less than 1500 calories per day. There ya go. Simple. No alternative explanation required. It’s a very uninteresting and uninspired thought experiment.

            “Oh and when you cut calories you also cut carbs so your point is just as meaningless.”

            And when you cut carbs, you cut calories. Sometimes, hundreds and hundreds of calories. :-)

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          • @ Muata Again, you are equating ability with desire. Of course anyone could eat a ton of anything, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t find it difficult or that over time you would actually do it.

            You seem to agree that satiety matters. So if there is a difference in satiety with different foods than all calories are not equal and so one should be skeptical of the standard calorie dogma.

            By the way, did you lose weight eating 3-4 double cheeseburgers and 5 eggs with butter and cheese? For a while, I bet you did. How do you explain that?

            Has there ever been a diet study that has overfed people? I doubt it. Regarding your Slimfast comment, I’m not arguing plain vanilla starvation doesn’t cause weight loss. My point was maybe this is how the Pima felt and if they did overeat this could be the reason.

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          • @Calorie Skeptic – Yes, I did lose weight eating many bunless burgers when I first started Atkins as a 300+ pounder. And, I continued to lose weight until I was 60 pounds lighter, and that’s when I was in calorie balance. It’s simple how I lost the weight. I was eating less calories than I was before I started Atkins even though I didn’t count them. There’s no mystery here. In 2000, I lost 40 pounds taking prescription weight loss pills, eating LF, and didn’t count calories. I was able to do this because one of the pills I was taking was an appetite suppressant.

            Also, there have been overfeeding studies done. I’m sure that James can post a few links.

            If you agree that Slimfast, an advertised low calorie diet, does cause weight loss, then that flies in the face of calories not counting for weight loss, as Taubes asserts in his book, no?

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          • @ Muata Again, you are equating ability with desire.Of course anyone could eat a ton of anything, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t find it difficult or that over time you would actually do it.

            You seem to agree that satiety matters.So if there is a difference in satiety with different foods than all calories are not equal and so one should be skeptical of the standard calorie dogma.

            By the way, did you lose weight eating 3-4 double cheeseburgers and 5 eggs with butter and cheese?For a while, I bet you did.How do you explain that?

            Has there ever been a diet study that has overfed people?I doubt it.Regarding your Slimfast comment, I’m not arguing plain vanilla starvation doesn’t cause weight loss.My point was maybe this is how the Pima felt and if they did overeat this could be the reason.

            Yes, there have been studies where people were intentionally overfed….the results were that each person gained a different amount of weight with the same amount of calories! Why? Because we all have different “furnaces” that control our basal metabolic rate. Hardgainers (ectomorphs) will only gain a pound or two after a week of overeating, where endomorphs will gain twice that…..

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          • CarbSane, it also depends on what we mean by “overeat.”Overeat shouldn’t just mean eating 3000 or 4000 calories per day.If I burn 2000 calories per day, and I want to lose weight, eating 2000 calories should be considered “overeating” in that context, since that level of calorie intake will prevent weight loss.So an extra 300-500 calories of cheese or bacon- or any other food- can be the difference between weight loss/ weight maintenance/ weight gain (depending on one’s goal.)

            I agree. I think this is the problem with using the term. I’ve often had the word “gluttony” put in my mouth to describe overeating. To which I consistently describe how easy it is to “passively overeat” in today’s world. One meal out a week can put us in net caloric surplus. One extra cup of “fancy” coffee or an energy drink, etc. and we’re cooked.

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      • You could physically do it if you set your mind to the task but it would be difficult or at the very least more difficult than over consuming potato chips or french fries. I’m confused that you could compare the experience of eating cheese, bacon and eggs to eating potato chips or french fries. You’d have to accidentally consume an extra 7 eggs or 1/3 of a block of cheese or 12 slices of bacon every day to gain a pound a week, assuming a calorie is a calorie. That’d be really filling. Whereas it would be real easy to consume an extra bag of chips or a plate of fries. In my experience, potatoes cause a very different desire for more. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame understood this real well. Fat by itself doesn’t have the same effect.

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        • Of course you can overeat on meat, eggs, or any other type of “Atkins Induction” style diet. When I first started following Atkins back in 2003, I could easily eat 3-4 bunless double-cheeseburgers in one sitting without a problem. I would also eat a minimum of 5 eggs, cooked in butter, with cheese for breakfast without thinking twice about the portions because Atkins told me that “calories don’t count”.

          When you are obese, your stomach, as well as other organs, is much larger than it would be if you weren’t. So, even though protein does have a satiating effect, a 300+ lb man still has a pretty large stomach to fill whether it be with carbs, fats, or protein.

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          • I agree with Calorie Skeptic completely.

            So if a calorie is a calorie, then macronutrient content shouldn’t matter. So why does carbsane still specifically restrict carbohydrates? It is completely inconsistent with her own dietary hypothesis.

            If one calorie makes you satiated and one calorie makes you hungry then all calories are not equal. You even state yourself “protein has a satiating effect”

            There are clearly primitive societies that eat a high-carbohydrate diet and avoid obesity. They all, however, eat no sugar!! There is an abundance of evidence that fructose in high doses dysregulates appetite. There is even animal date that reproduces metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity when the animals are fed a calorie restricted, high fructose diet.

            For example,
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19696478

            If you look at the NHANES data, the biggest increase in calories in the past 50 years has been from carbohydrates, specifically fructose. Protein calories are relatively unchanged and fat calories have increased very slightly. 90% of the calorie increase has been from carbohydrates.

            When one interviews obese people (I am a physician), there are common patterns. People are addicted to sweets. They love there cakes, pies, sodas or breads. NOBODY is addicted to steak or eggs.

            Take a look at this. Look at France and Japan compared to the US.

            http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/foo_sof_dri_con-food-soft-drink-consumption

            Muata: When you tried Atkins in 2003, did you lose weight?

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          • I agree with Calorie Skeptic completely.So if a calorie is a calorie, then macronutrient content shouldn’t matter.So why does carbsane still specifically restrict carbohydrates?It is completely inconsistent with her own dietary hypothesis.

            How so? When I restrict carbs it helps me (some days rather drastically) restrict calories w/o trying. When I was initially losing around a pants size a month early on, I would say several days a week I ate well under 1000 cal/day. The thing about carb restriction that hasn’t been mentioned is that you not only cut the carb calories, you cut the fat calories that usually go with those carbs (pizza, burgers on buns, ice cream, cookies, chips, etc.)

            FWIW, I just did what I recalled of Atkins’ plan w/o re-reading his book (the original which is full of bogus nonsense truth be told). I was successful because I didn’t do an all or nothing approach or buy into the nonsense that if I had a couple of french fries I would undo some “magic” and set myself back days or weeks. That is a recipe for binge behavior and failure and I see it every day reading low carb forums and blogs. My first two stints, restricting carbs too obsessively caused me to ultimately fail. This time I had many planned carb cheats and have succeeded.

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          • I agree with Calorie Skeptic completely.

            So if a calorie is a calorie, then macronutrient content shouldn’t matter. So why does carbsane still specifically restrict carbohydrates? It is completely inconsistent with her own dietary hypothesis.

            If one calorie makes you satiated and one calorie makes you hungry then all calories are not equal. You even state yourself “protein has a satiating effect”

            There are clearly primitive societies that eat a high-carbohydrate diet and avoid obesity. They all, however, eat no sugar!! There is an abundance of evidence that fructose in high doses dysregulates appetite. There is even animal date that reproduces metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity when the animals are fed a calorie restricted, high fructose diet.

            For example,
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19696478

            If you look at the NHANES data, the biggest increase in calories in the past 50 years has been from carbohydrates, specifically fructose. Protein calories are relatively unchanged and fat calories have increased very slightly. 90% of the calorie increase has been from carbohydrates.

            When one interviews obese people (I am a physician), there are common patterns. People are addicted to sweets. They love there cakes, pies, sodas or breads. NOBODY is addicted to steak or eggs.

            Take a look at this. Look at France and Japan compared to the US.

            http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/foo_sof_dri_con-food-soft-drink-consumption

            Muata: When you tried Atkins in 2003, did you lose weight? JII(Quote)

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          • “So if a calorie is a calorie, then macronutrient content shouldn’t matter. So why does carbsane still specifically restrict carbohydrates? It is completely inconsistent with her own dietary hypothesis.”

            I think the argument being put forth is not that a calorie is a calorie in all aspects, but that a calorie is a calorie (for the most part) for the aspect of fat gain/loss.

            However, if this is true, it does not mean there are no reasons to go low carbohydrate. I feel great and more sated with most low carb foods. Many refined carbs leave me tired and irritable and give me mild headaches. These are all separate issues from the issue of fat gain/loss.

            Saying “a calorie is a calorie” (for fat gain/loss) does not equal “don’t do low carb”. There is no inconsistency about doing low carb and also believing a calorie is a calorie.

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        • Calorie Skeptic, you’re making the mistake of extrapolating your own experience and preferences to everybody else. You don’t know me, dude! lol. I don’t find bacon satisfying at all. Bacon is so scrawny, it doesn’t take very long to eat, and doesn’t take up much space in the stomach. I could eat several strips in the blink of an eye, and not feel satiated. Cheese, no problem! Sausage, steak, pork chops, ribs, I could eat several hundred calories of any of those foods with ease. And those several hundred calories could be the difference between weight loss or maintenance or gain (read my comment to CarbSane.)

          And yes, I do eat peanut butter without added sugar, and I love it! Peanut butter may be the best example of how easy it is to overeat any food, regardless of whether it’s natural/ processed/ low carb/ high carb. Five or six heaping spoonfuls of PB and I’m up several hundred calories, without or without sugar! :-) Same thing with sunflower seed spread. I tried it for the first time a few months ago, and I ate most of the jar in a couple of days!

          When you say that “potatoes cause a very different desire for more,” be sure to specify that you’re only talking about chips and fries. I eat three or four baked potatoes a week, and I never have a problem eating more than one at a time. But that’s a natural food item, so I’m sure we can agree on that. :-) And I don’t even need any butter, I eat it plain and still don’t need more than one.

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          • Jordan,

            Lets set up a food eating contest.

            All you can eat.

            Bacon vs pizza

            Pork chops vs french fries

            Steak vs ice cream

            Eggs vs cereal

            Lets see who wins.

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          • Lets see who wins.

            Who cares? Several hundred calories of any food can put me over my allotment for the day, and interfere with my goal of weight loss or maintenance. They’re all easy to overeat. You’re being ideological rather than practical.

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          • Again I’ll say this: you could physically overeat bacon etc. if you for some strange reason made it a goal but you actually don’t do it because you are never in a situation that it is possible nor desirable. Unless you are at a breakfast buffet, when can you consume 10 slices of bacon? At the diner, do you order three servings and pay $20 for breakfast? I find it extremely difficult to imagine the obesity epidemic is caused by overconsumption of eggs, bacon and cheese and that my personal experience is so different from the rest of the population. And I find it hard to believe that you could consume half a jar of sunflower seed spread without feeling so full that you consume less food later in the day. Do you not agree that the quality of the calories matter?

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          • Again I’ll say this: you could physically overeat bacon etc. if you for some strange reason made it a goal but you actually don’t do it because you are never in a situation that it is possible nor desirable.

            When other people state that they can eat a lot of a certain food, why not just believe them? It’s possible they are simply telling the truth. You seem to have no problem believing people when they say they can eat a lot of high carb foods. You appear to be biased in thinking that everyone reacts to food like you do. I personally can easily eat a lot of bacon. It takes no special effort or planning on my part. If I desire to eat a lot of bacon, I can simply take it out of the fridge and cook it on the stove or in the oven. No big deal at all and not any more difficult than preparing a big bowl of pasta or popping a large,frozen pizza in the oven.

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          • I find it extremely difficult to imagine the obesity epidemic is caused by overconsumption of eggs, bacon and cheese and that my personal experience is so different from the rest of the population.

            Obesity is caused by overeating, period. Of course, a lot of it is caused by eating high calorie processed foods. That’s mostly because those foods taste so damn good! We’ve engineered our food to taste too good for our own good.

            I think it’s more an issue of high energy density + flavor + cost/ access than insulin per se. It’s high in calories, it’s really tasty, and it’s readily available. That’s a recipe for disaster.

            The bottom line is that anyone who’s trying to lose weight needs to create a deficit, and several hundred calories of any food can impede their progress. That’s the real issue, IMO.

            “And I find it hard to believe that you could consume half a jar of sunflower seed spread without feeling so full that you consume less food later in the day.”

            Oh, you better believe it! It was sooooo easy. It wasn’t filling at all. No, I didn’t consume less food later, not a chance.

            As LynMarie stated, not everybody is exactly the same as you. I have no problem believing that someone can overeat chips and soda. No doubt about it! I can over-consume sugary foods, I can over-consume salty foods, I can over-consume whole foods, it doesn’t matter! Why is that so hard to understand?

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          • I agree with Calorie Skeptic completely.

            So if a calorie is a calorie, then macronutrient content shouldn’t matter. So why does carbsane still specifically restrict carbohydrates? It is completely inconsistent with her own dietary hypothesis.

            If one calorie makes you satiated and one calorie makes you hungry then all calories are not equal. You even state yourself “protein has a satiating effect”

            There are clearly primitive societies that eat a high-carbohydrate diet and avoid obesity. They all, however, eat no sugar!! There is an abundance of evidence that fructose in high doses dysregulates appetite. There is even animal date that reproduces metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity when the animals are fed a calorie restricted, high fructose diet.

            For example,
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19696478

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          • If you look at the NHANES data, the biggest increase in calories in the past 50 years has been from carbohydrates, specifically fructose. Protein calories are relatively unchanged and fat calories have increased very slightly. 90% of the calorie increase has been from carbohydrates.

            When one interviews obese people (I am a physician), there are common patterns. People are addicted to sweets. They love there cakes, pies, sodas or breads. NOBODY is addicted to steak or eggs.

            Take a look at this. Look at France and Japan compared to the US.

            http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/foo_sof_dri_con-food-soft-drink-consumption

            Muata: When you tried Atkins in 2003, did you lose weight? JII(Quote) JII(Quote)

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          • Muata: When you tried Atkins in 2003, did you lose weight?

            I sure did! I actually dropped 60 lbs in @ 6 months, but I hit a major plateau when I weighed 245 and keeping my carbs low didn’t help. I simply was eating enough food to keep my body at that weight. It wasn’t until I gave up the “calories don’t count” dogma that I started to lose weight again. Oh, and I continued to follow a low to moderate LC diet, as I do now …

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          • If you look at the NHANES data, the biggest increase in calories in the past 50 years has been from carbohydrates, specifically fructose.

            Yes. Cut the EXCESS carbs. But see? We eat more CALORIES … hence get obese. Many people would probably spontaneously lose weight just cutting out their liquid calories.

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          • You might be able to overeat bacon if you wanted to, but the NHANES data proves that is not whats happening in the US. Since 1960, fat calories are relatively unchanged and carbohydrates have increase significantly.

            What is the cause of the obesity epidemic?
            Worldwide lack of will power.
            Worldwide gluttony.
            Worldwide laziness.

            If it is all gluttony and sloth, why only on carbohydrates?

            Here is meat consumption in the US.

            http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/baseline/gallery/gallery2010/meatcon.gif

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          • If it is all gluttony and sloth, why only on carbohydrates?

            Because they taste really, really good!

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          • Muata,

            So you lost 60lbs by eating 5eggs and 3 to 4 burgers. Doesn’t that prove the point. I don’t think anyone is saying calories are irrelevant (people lose weight when they are starved to death). I don’t want to speak for the entire low-carb community, but I think it is safe to say that most low-carb proponents believe that all calories are not equal. A diet high in fat produces better satiety and naturally lowers calorie intake without having to fight through hunger. On the other hand, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates will leave you constantly hungry and will naturally increase your calorie intake. This is consistent with what has happened to the American diet since 1960, it explains the obesity epidemic, it explains childhood and infant obesity, and it explains the success of low-carb diets in multiple clinical trials.

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          • @Jll

            It proves the point that when one eats less calories than their body needs, s/he loses weight.

            I understand that you don’t speak for the entire LC community, but the majority of them would disagree with you about calories since Taubes GCBC aserts that calories are irrelevant, and so did Atkins.

            I continue to follow a low to moderate LC diet to maintain my fat loss, but that’s because it works for me. I think that a sane LC approach to fat loss is a good one for most sedentary obese folks, but to blame one macronutrient for obesity is just short-sighted and no different than the demonization of saturated fat in the 70s and 80s.

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          • If I may, I’d like to try to generate a synthesis out of this to-and-fro on whether “a calorie is a calorie” in terms of weight loss (where both sides of the argument are supported by powerful intuitions).

            The problem here (please forgive this philosopher his habits) is the conflation of definitional categories (i.e. domains); in short, one group is conversing in terms of bio-physics (the calorie IS a calorie group), while the other is conversing in the fields of socio-biology and psychology (the calorie IS NOT a calorie group). Unsurprisingly, the result is that people are talking ‘apples and oranges’ and essentially arguing at cross-purposes.

            So, let’s just put it on record so we’re all clear:

            In bio-physical terms, a calorie is a calorie. Metabolic ward studies show that, regardless of macronutrient composition, isocaloric diets in negative caloric balance will result in equal magnitudes of weight loss. In short, you will lose weight as a direct function of how many calories you are in deficit…the food you ate or didn’t eat to establish that deficit is not relevant.

            However, in socio-cultural and psychological terms, a calorie is not a calorie. Different macronutrients (and foods that are predominantly composed of one macronutrient) are more palatable than others, and are more heavily marketed amd promoted in our ‘food as entertainment’ culture (e.g. junk food snacks and treats, fast foods, gourmet foods etc.). So, in socio-cultural terms, high-sugar, high-fat and high-salt calories are obesogenic agents; low-sugar, high-fibre, high-protein calories are not. Ergo, a calorie is not a calorie in socio-cultural terms.

            In psychological terms, we know that protein elicits more of a satiety response than carbs and fats, and is generally less palatable in large quantities. We also know that many people report ‘sugar addiction’ symptoms (whether this is bio-chemical or purely psychologcal is moot) that are not reflected in other macro-nutrients. So, a calorie is not a calorie is psychological terms.

            So, in summation a calorie both is and is not a calorie, depending on the domain in which we’re conversing.

            And here’s the synthesis I offered at the outset: to optimise one’s chance of succesfull weight management, it is important to both abide by the bio-physical reality of calorie balance while also managing macronutrients so as to make this task more achievable.

            Calorie balance is the physical task, and intelligent macronutrient intake is a good way of achieving that task within our socio-cultural and psychological realities.

            Thanks for your patience (for those who got to the end).

            Cheers
            Harry

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          • Well said, Harry! Makes a lot of sense.

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          • A diet high in fat produces better satiety and naturally lowers calorie intake without having to fight through hunger.On the other hand, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates will leave you constantly hungry and will naturally increase your calorie intake.

            Why paint everyone with the same brush? Not everybody needs to eat low carb to lose weight. I lost 63 pounds eating my favorite foods, just less of them. That included modest portions of desserts. It’s possible. You can do whatever you want, but not everybody is the same, and not everybody has to follow the same path.

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          • Jordan D.,

            Clearly, there are lots of ways to lose weight.  Calorie restriction is clearly one of the possibilities. (People clearly lose weight when they are starved)

            However, the question we are trying to address is Gary Taubes’ theory accurate.

            Is it the carbohydrates in the diet that has caused the obesity epidemic?

            Why are Americans all overeating?  Were people in 1960 more disciplined and had more will power than today? Were carbohydrates less “yummy” then?

            Why is obesity more common in the lower socioeconomic groups? Do they eat more refined carbohydrates?

            Why is there an epidemic of obese 6 month olds?  (Are they exercising too little??)

            Why have carbohydrate calories risen disproportionately?

            Are refined carbohydrates more likely to be responsible for hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease then saturated fat?

            I believe the evidence from multiple trials (see below) is overwhelming in the favor of Gary Taubes’ hypothesis. Why are all these trials consistent? Are there any trials that show a calorie-restricted diet loses more weight than a low-carbohydrate diet?

            http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/3/1/7

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12679447?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12761365?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15616799?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12761364?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12640371?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15148063?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

            and just in case you weren’t convinced. This explains the biochemistry of the “metabolic advantage” to a low-carbohydrate diet.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15588283?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn

              (Quote)

          • http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/3/1/7http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12679447?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctnhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12761365?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctnhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15616799?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctnhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12761364?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctnhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12640371?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctnhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15148063?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctnand just in case you weren’t convinced.This explains the biochemistry of the “metabolic advantage” to a low-carbohydrate diet.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15588283?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn  

            I haven’t had a chance to view all of these, but considering the source of most of them no doubt they are cherry picked. The so-called metabolic advantage has never been demonstrated in a properly controlled study, and has been calculated to be at most like 50 cal/day.

            Free living studies are poor evidence for testing thermodynamics. Basically they are useless. It is not realistic to expect “real time” daily food logging for the course of several weeks, months, or years, but this would be a minimum to be able to put much stock in any comparison of intake v. weight loss outcomes.

            Carbs are only “fattening” if consumed in the context of excess total caloric intake. Carb restriction does not produce weight loss unless it is accompanied by caloric restriction.

            LC tends to out perform LF and other CRD’s in the short term because spontaneous caloric restriction is often far more than what would be prescribed as “safe” (500-1000 cal for a 1-2lb/week loss) for any responsible CRD plan. It’s a big “duh” that restricting 1000 cal/day spontaneously on an “unrestricted” diet will produce greater losses than strictly following a prescribed 500 cal/day CRD.

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          • “has been calculated to be at most like 50cal/day”

            Lets assume that you are correct and its actually 50cal/day. How many pounds does that translate into over 20years?

            Lets take the average man who has a normal BMI when he leaves high school. He would store an extra 18250cal/year or 365000calories over 20 years? If everything else is kept equal, that would be responsible for 100lbs of weight gain by the time he is middle-aged. Over the course of an entire lifetime 50cal/day is the difference between normal body weight and massive obesity.

            Theoretically, the metabolic advantage could be extremely small and lead to the difference between 10% of the population being obese and 30%.

            This paper explains it quite well.

            http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/15

            In my mind, this is why calorie restriction makes no sense. The difference between morbid obesity and being lean is one bite of food daily.

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          • Lets take the average man who has a normal BMI when he leaves high school.He would store an extra 18250cal/year or 365000calories over 20 years?If everything else is kept equal, that would be responsible for 100lbs of weight gain by the time he is middle-aged.Over the course of an entire lifetime 50cal/day is the difference between normal body weight and massive obesity.

            I’m sorry, but this is breathtakingly silly, and demonstrates perfectly why you are suspicious of the energy balance equation…because you simply don’t understand it !

            The “small calorie surpluses can cumulatively lead to obesity” myth is based on a simply mathematical error; namely, neglecting to notice that each gram gained in body mass requires a consistent increase in daily calories to sustain it.

            So, for a person to go from lean to obese, they would have to either drastically increase their calories over a short period of time, and keep them high; OR, they would have to incrementally increase their daily calories in harmony with their increased body mass/increased maintenance calories. In the real world, people do both, depending on what their particular eating habits are.

            But here’s the take-home point; in either case, the total daily calories to sustain their obese weight is going to be hundreds, if not thousands more/day relative to what they were eating when lean!

            Whether they leaped up to that calorie intake, or gradually crept up to it is irrelevant; bottom line is that you need to take in many, many more calories to sustain a high body mass than to sustain a low body mass.

            If someone merely ate 10 calories/day above maintenance, nothing much would happen. They’d either up-regulate RMR and NEAT and not gain any weight, or they’d gain a tiny amount of weight, their maintenance calorie level would increase to reflect that gain, and then guess what…they’d be back at maintenance levels again!

            I hope this helps to clear things up a bit.

            Cheers
            Harry

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          • The point I was trying to make is that at any given calorie intake if a low-carb diet leads to 50 calories of “metabolic advantage.” This relative amount translates into a lot of weight over time. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, the metabolic advantage persists. Your appetite and metabolic rate will naturally adjust. You will always have a 50 calorie advantage over your high-carbohydrate friends.

            Lets assume that because of the higher protein and fat intake in a low-carb diet calorie intake falls by 100 calories due to faster satiety. Add that 100 calories to the “metabolic advantage” and it is much harder to progressively gain weight over long periods of time. I would say its almost impossible to become morbidly obese on a low-carb diet.

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          • The point I was trying to make is that at any given calorie intake if a low-carb diet leads to 50 calories of “metabolic advantage.”

            Actually it does not. There is a metabolic advantage to a high protein intake (80-100 calories per day), but not a low carbohydrate intake. I wrote about this here. In fact, research indicates a slight metabolic disadvantage to a low carbohydrate intake (although not statistically significant). This is not surprising, given that carbohydrate is second on the hierarchy of the three macronutrients in regards to the thermic effect of feeding (protein is first, and fat is last). Thus, replacing carbohydrate with fat will give you a slight metabolic disadvantage, not advantage.

            This relative amount translates into a lot of weight over time.

            Things do not work out so perfectly in the real world. Human energy expenditure is highly variable from day to day. Small changes in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) have, by far, the largest impact on daily energy expenditure. NEAT can account for up to 2000 calories per day of variation between different people. Any “metabolic advantage” to any type of diet is paltry compared to the impact that NEAT plays on energy expenditure. Any small metabolic advantage is easily compensated for by a decrease in NEAT or a slight change in caloric intake.

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          • The point I was trying to make is that at any given calorie intake if a low-carb diet leads to 50 calories of “metabolic advantage.” This relative amount translates into a lot of weight over time.

            Nope…you still don’t get it…sorry.

            For the sake of argument, let’s set aside James’ comments below regarding NEAT being up-regulated due to increased calories, and let’s assume that all 50 calories go directly to weight gain.

            Even so, the subject would gain only so much mass as is supported by the extra calories. Now, the rule of thumb is that you need to ingest about 15 cals/lb of body-mass daily to maintain that body mass (depending on levels of activity, of course).

            So, assuming a ‘metabolic advantage’ of 50 calories/day (and assuming that there would be no regulatory responses like increased NEAT or RMR), that would support a weight difference of about 3 lbs…total.

            Following that weight gain (or loss), those 50 cals are now in equilibrium with the new body weight and would no longer support a further gain or loss in weight.

            In order to then add (or lose) a further 3 lbs, you’d have to add (or subtract) another 50 cals/day into the diet.

            In short, small differences in daily calories cannot add up to large cumulative differences in weight…it’s simple physics.

            The 50 cals/day gets absorbed by the 3 lb gain (or loss) in bodyweight…and then you’re back to equilibrium.

            I can’t really make it any clearer than that.

            Cheers
            Harry

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          • Jii,

            Harry is spot on with his comment. To put what he is saying in further numbers…

            Let’s say someone is in energy balance, consuming 2000 calories per day and expending 2000 calories per day. This individual then switches to a diet that supposedly has a 50-calorie “metabolic advantage”, increasing energy expenditure to 2050 calories per day.

            This person is now in a 50 calorie per day energy deficit, and will start to lose weight (assuming all else remains equal). Let’s assume Harry’s approximation of 15 calories per pound required to maintain mass.

            Once this person has lost 3 pounds, his energy expenditure is now back down to around 2000 calories per day (because he has less mass to move around), despite the fact that the diet is exactly the same. The small “metabolic advantage” vanishes with the small weight loss.

            This is why anyone who argues for a particular dietary approach based on “metabolic advantage” is making much ado about nothing.

              (Quote)

          • The point I was trying to make is that at any given calorie intake if a low-carb diet leads to 50 calories of “metabolic advantage.” This relative amount translates into a lot of weight over time.It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, the metabolic advantage persists.Your appetite and metabolic rate will naturally adjust.You will always have a 50 calorie advantage over your high-carbohydrate friends.Lets assume that because of the higher protein and fat intake in a low-carb diet calorie intake falls by 100 calories due to faster satiety.Add that 100 calories to the “metabolic advantage” and it is much harder to progressively gain weight over long periods of time.I would say its almost impossible to become morbidly obese on a low-carb diet.  

            James has addressed the MA, I’ll address your change in message. This is where almost all discussions of this nature eventually turn. As in now it’s about not getting fat on LC. I would say it’s more difficult due to the protein content, but it is certainly possible. It would be difficult to get morbidly obese on a high protein high carb low fat diet too.

              (Quote)

          • Jordan D.,

            Clearly, there are lots of ways to lose weight.  Calorie restriction is clearly one of the possibilities. (People clearly lose weight when they are starved)

            However, the question we are trying to address is Gary Taubes’ theory accurate.

            Is it the carbohydrates in the diet that has caused the obesity epidemic?

            Why are Americans all overeating?  Were people in 1960 more disciplined and had more will power than today? Were carbohydrates less “yummy” then?

            Why is obesity more common in the lower socioeconomic groups? Do they eat more refined carbohydrates?

            Why is there an epidemic of obese 6 month olds?  (Are they exercising too little??)

            Why have carbohydrate calories risen disproportionately?

            Are refined carbohydrates more likely to be responsible for hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease then saturated fat?

            I believe the evidence from multiple trials (see below) is overwhelming in the favor of Gary Taubes’ hypothesis. Why are all these trials consistent? Are there any trials that show a calorie-restricted diet loses more weight than a low-carbohydrate diet?

              (Quote)

    • Great discussion, I appear to be quite late coming to it! I find discussion of the dietry habits of Pima indians rather strange from GT considering he is the first to claim proper rigorous research is the ideal to answer our questions on diets. It’s one of the few points I agree with him on so why does he resort to historical “faction” to support his theory?

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    • This part of Taubes book/lectures really bothers me – the Pima women were not taking food from their children to get obese! Obesity in the poor is primarily a result of two things: stress & thrifty gene. When you are a poor mother working hard everyday from dawn to dusk trying to feed your family you are stressed = cortisol = weight retention….the way nature adapted you to survive.

      Then, when you have more children as an obese, “thrifty” female, your offspring are born into what they perceive must be a famine situation….causing them to retain every possible calorie and have lower bmr = fat poor kids!

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  7. Your blog posts are exactly what my mind was yearning for after listening to the “Big Fat Lies” lecture by Gary Taubes (a lecture used to back up his book). Despite all of his research supported knowledge, I walked away unsatisfied and unconvinced. Taubes is well educated and trained in physics, aerospace engineering, and journalism, and I know I risk saying anything of disagreement with him because I am only a 3rd year undergrad in the process of getting my B.S. Despite the differences and my shortcomings in comparison to his education, I would like to disagree with him in most aspects. Your blog has allowed me to feel more comfortable in my doubt in his arguments.

    I do see some of his points valid, such as insulin in the blood stream causing fat storage and an increase in fat. Yet the idea that humans are eating more because they are gaining weight simply doesn’t sound right. The law of thermo plays a major role with the latter idea – trying to disprove that taking in more energy than is burnt is biting off more than you can chew. Their is a lot of solid proof for this physics law, with many years and advocates defending it. I understand the hike in blood sugar, then the later drop, but gaining weight before eating more just doesn’t seem to be in the right order. I would like to spend more time reading your blog and researching more about physiology and metabolism to align and piece together all my doubt cohesively.

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  8. Response to Jll’s comments above:

    Clearly, there are lots of ways to lose weight. Calorie restriction is clearly one of the possibilities. (People clearly lose weight when they are starved)

    However, the question we are trying to address is Gary Taubes’ theory accurate.

    Is it the carbohydrates in the diet that has caused the obesity epidemic?

    The problem with this is that Taubes and LC advocates continue to point to weight loss studies where they claim LC’ers eat more calories but lose more weight. Properly controlled studies where energy expenditure is controlled/monitored and body composition changes measured consistently demonstrate otherwise.

    Why are Americans all overeating? Were people in 1960 more disciplined and had more will power than today? Were carbohydrates less “yummy” then?

    First off, we’re not ALL overeating. But in the 60′s we had all sorts of yummy carbs and we didn’t go haywire on them. As a society we’ve trended towards convenience. In looking for value we tend towards the “value” of larger portions. Many of the obese didn’t get that way shoveling food in their pie holes to seeming excess, they probably ate what seemed like a reasonable meal with a lot of added fat, sugar and salt. My favorite example of this is the calorie content of a regular side of mashed potatoes at TGIFriday’s: almost 600 calories! Make them loaded and you’re up over 900. For a SIDE ORDER! Were you to prepare mashed potatoes at home, it is doubtful you would add as much. I do think when we cut the fat in our diets to ridiculous levels we may overconsume carbs to compensate, but we’re eating more fat on an absolute basis now too.

    Why is obesity more common in the lower socioeconomic groups? Do they eat more refined carbohydrates?

    Go to a store in a poor neighborhood and see what kind of crap is purchased with those EBT cards. Yes, they eat more nutritionally devoid calorie dense crap, crap and more crap.

    Why is there an epidemic of obese 6 month olds? (Are they exercising too little??)

    I’ve come across at least one study that demonstrated the infants of obese parents would drink more formula than those of non-obese. There’s some evidence that this is therefore a generational thing where the fetus is exposed to the metabolic derangement of the mom.

    Why have carbohydrate calories risen disproportionately?

    Coke. Red Bull. Pepsi. Gatorade. Juice boxes.

    Are refined carbohydrates more likely to be responsible for hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease then saturated fat?

    The jury’s still out. If refined carbs is sodas, cookies, cakes, greasy carby fast foods, etc. Might it just be the combo of both? Just a thought. Taubes concludes about the refined carb, but his “preaching” is taken as gospel to demonize all carbs.

    I believe the evidence from multiple trials (see below) is overwhelming in the favor of Gary Taubes’ hypothesis. Why are all these trials consistent? Are there any trials that show a calorie-restricted diet loses more weight than a low-carbohydrate diet?

    Don’t see any trials. The evidence of properly controlled studies is overwhelmingly in favor of energy balance theory. Restrict calories in consistently = weight loss. Overfeed = weight gain. Increase activity consistently w/o changing intake = weight loss.

    Taubes’ latest snow job references the Shai study. As I’ve shown, this study doesn’t show greater weight loss eating more calories with low carb. If anything (and I don’t put much into “free living” self-reported intake studies, but this was a study HE chose to highlight the supposed superiority of LC) the group that restricted calories AND carbs the least (Mediterranean) lost the same amount of weight as the LC’ers, and they did it in a better manner. If you look at the weight loss trajectories, we’re to believe that the LC group gained back significant early losses (Taubes laughably calls that “stabilizing”, I would call the Med’n group’s weight loss trajectory “stabilizing”) maintaining significant caloric and carbohydrate restriction.

    In controlled studies, weight loss is correlated with caloric deficit. You see greater losses in the short term for LC because spontaneous caloric restriction is often profound and exceeds what any responsible CRD plan would advocate. Usually a 1000 cal deficit or a 25% restriction is what CRD’s are planned upon. I know in my case, early on when I was in the high 200′s or perhaps 300 lbs, I had many LC days eating well under 1000 cals/day. Is it any wonder I lost a pants size a month doing that? Muata lost early on eating a lot for the same reason. He was a big guy to start and 5 eggs and even 4 double bunless burgers probably clocks in at 2000-2500 cal. Jimmy Moore somewhere posted a “before” menu of what he ate prior to Atkins. If memory serves it probably flirted with 5000 cal/day to maintain his 410lb body. Is it any wonder that the first 50 lbs or so came off so quickly?

    There is no evidence that carbs cause overeating of more carbs or there would have been no “sprightly” Pima. There’s no evidence that obesity drives consumption and not the other way around. Obesity used to be a “disease” of the wealthy: those who could have others do for them and who could afford plentiful rich foods and overindulged on them.

    Americans are eating more calories today than we did 30-40 years ago. Hence we’re fatter. It’s not rocket science and needs no alternate hypothesis.

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    • I completely disagree with your interpretation of the Shai study. The calorie deficit was equal between low fat and low carb, but low carb lost significantly more weight.

      To quote the study authors “Daily energy intake, as assessed by the food-frequency questionnaire, decreased significantly at 6, 12, and 24 months in all diet groups as compared with baseline (P<0.001); there were no significant differences among the groups in the amount of decrease."

      The more interesting question is why did the low-fat group only lose 2kg of weight in 24months despite 500cals of calorie deficit. The women in the low-fat group lost 0.1kg in 24months!!!!

      If you cant produce more than 0.1kg weight loss in a study setting, with 2 of your 3 meals being provided for you, that is a dismal failure. Imagine what the "real world" weigh loss would have been.

      Telling people to just restrict their calories and exercise more clearly doesn't work. The last 50 years of dietary advice proves that quite well.

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      • Telling people to just restrict their calories and exercise more clearly doesn’t work.The last 50 years of dietary advice proves that quite well.

        First of all, don’t lump us in with “the last 50 years of dietary advice.” That’s not fair. Much of that advice revolves around reducing fat intake- which is besides the point- and increasing exercise- which is secondary. The real issue is creating a calorie deficit. Calories are calories, including the calories from low-fat foods. And trying to exercise one’s way out of a calorie surplus is generally a bad idea. What takes hours to burn off in the gym can be undone in thirty minutes in the kitchen, easy.

        So to get back to the main point, just because people don’t want to create a calorie deficit doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. Gluttony is a lifestyle, and believe it or not, that lifestyle has its benefits. Eating what you want, when you want, however much you want, is very pleasurable and entertaining in its own way! It really is. Of course, there are many drawbacks, in terms of health, appearance, feeling bad about yourself, etc. But there is a very real reason why people eat too much: it’s enjoyable! (Until the side effects kick you in the ass, of course.)

        It was hard for me to start my diet. I put it off for years. Deep down, I didn’t really want to give up my lifestyle. Finally, I got fed up with feeling bad about myself, and took the plunge. But it took a long time. I enjoyed gluttony. So do millions (billions?) of other people.

        It just so happens that foods with added sugar and/or fat and/ or salt taste really, really good. That’s why people put barbecue sauce on meat, and fry potatoes in oil and breading, instead of just eating them plain. That’s why we drink 64 oz. Big Gulps instead of water. Heck, we even fry Twinkies, which is already nothing but fat and sugar! lol. Fat and sugar make food taste good.

        Of course, those foods also provide an exorbitant amount lot of calories. That’s the double whammy. And if that isn’t bad enough, we add to that double whammy two more things: ginormous portions and easy access! There’s that recipe for disaster again.

        As CarbSane stated, there’s no need for an alternative hypothesis.

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        • Great post Jordan D.

          You note a very important point that many people miss; namely, all eating behaviours, whether ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ all come with a price and with a benefit.

          Those who eat ad libitum (to excess) enjoy the benefits you mentioned, and also suffer the consequences.

          However, the point that many miss is that those who restrict their eating, while enjoying the obvious aesthetic, psychological and socio-cultural benefits, also pay the price of foregone pleasures on a day to day basis.

          Every choice has its price…even the best choice!

          Such is life.

          Cheers
          Harry

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          • Thanks, Harry.

            I think the issue is more about behavior and psychology than physiology. The physiological changes are just a by product of the behaviors.

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        • That’s why people put barbecue sauce on meat, and fry potatoes in oil and breading, instead of just eating them plain.

          Correction: fry potatoes or fry chicken in oil and breading.

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          • Jordan D,

            Were these psychological benefits not present in 1960?

            Are the French or Japanese immune to these issues?

            The reward centers of the brain have not changed in the last 50 years.

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          • Jii,

            Our behaviors have changed. That’s the key. Maybe psychology isn’t the right word, but it may very well be that we cannot mentally cope with how our “reward centers,” as you put it, are influenced by these highly palatable foods. Perhaps these newfangled foods simply taste too good for own good! Regardless, the main issue is that our behaviors have changed. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

            No, the French and Japanese are not immune… if they’ve lived in America for a while! lol. Australia isn’t doing too well either, from what I’ve read.

            I don’t know how food tasted back then, but I do know that the obesity problem is due to a combination of highly palatable high calorie foods/ excessive portions/ availability. No, our reward centers haven’t changed, but the above combination has certainly changed.

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      • You seem to share Taubes’ blind spots in your field of vision. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Shai tells us much of anything about calorie or carbohydrate theory. Only studies that carefully control intake, monitor expenditure and measure body composition (and I would add control for protein intake) are useful in doing so. As thorough as the reporting and measuring seems to have been in this study. If you look at the intake table, the mention of similar intakes doesn’t make sense. The reported intakes were quite different, both in magnitude and variability.

        Clearly there is a lot of error in the reported intakes because we are to believe that the LC group maintained a significant caloric and carb restriction (even slightly restricted more in the second six months), yet gained weight. Looking at JUST the LC group taking the reported intake at face value would support neither hypothesis (yet Taubes claims it supports his LOL).

        If you look at the table, there is quite a difference between the reported caloric restriction between MDTN and either LC or LF. AND this group restricted carbs the least. So comparing LC & MDTN again argues against both theories but moreso against the carb theory because the group restricting carbs the least lost just as much as the group restricting carbs the most.

        I would also point out that adherence rates were: ” 90.4% in the low-fat group, 85.3% in the Mediterranean-diet group, and 78.0% in the low-carbohydrate group “. More than 10% more of the LC group vs. the LF group dropped out. This alone can account for the differences seen.

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        • YouTube: Sugar: The Bitter Truth… Fructose consumption has increased, it’s highly lipogenic, doesn’t effect insulin a lot and is treated by the body as alcohol… Alcohol is fermented sugar… Sugar belly vs Beer belly… I think both are equally bad?

          Comments/thoughts on fructose being the killer, as in SUGAR and High Fructose Corn Syrup?

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    • Does the high-carbohydrate diet of the Okinawans cause them to overeat carbohydrate foods? Of course it doesn’t. In fact, they tend to practice mild calorie restriction. I know in my case when I have a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal (1 cup cooked, with raisins or blueberries and cinnamon) I won’t feel like eating again for at least 5 hours.

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  9. An important point that seems to be ignored, and what Taubes uses the “old” research to focus on is the clearly established role of insulin in fat storage and its inhibition of the release of fat as free fatty acids from fat cells so that it can be burned. Carbohydrates are an essential part of this process, both provoking the spike in insulin levels as well as providing the glycerol molecule necessary to store free fatty acids as triglycerides in fat cells.

    Carbohydrates = insulin = fat storage. carbohydrates = glycerol = storage of free fatty acids as triglycerides in fat cells. carbohydrates = insulin = no release of free fatty acids from fat cells to be be burned. This was established long ago and that’s what Taubes books focuses on.

    To oversimplify, no carbs = no insulin = no fat being stored and fat releasing from fat cells to be burned . carbs = insulin = fat being stored = no fat being released to be burned.

    To quote from Clinical Biochemistry, Gaw et al. “Insulin signals a state of energy abundance, activates glucose uptake, metabolism and storage as glycogen in muscle and fat tissue… . At the same time, insulin restrains processes that release stored energy; lipolysis and ketogenesis, glycogenolysis, proteolysis and

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    • An important point that seems to be ignored, and what Taubes uses the “old” research to focus on is the clearly established role of insulin in fat storage and its inhibition of the release of fat as free fatty acids from fat cells so that it can be burned.Carbohydrates are an essential part of this process, both provoking the spike in insulin levels as well as providing the glycerol molecule necessary to store free fatty acids as triglycerides in fat cells.Carbohydrates = insulin = fat storage. carbohydrates = glycerol = storage of free fatty acids as triglycerides in fat cells. carbohydrates = insulin = no release of free fatty acids from fat cells to be be burned. This was established long ago and that’s what Taubes books focuses on.

      The problem with this is that this was NOT clearly established at the time and/or errors in this theory have been elucidated through more modern means of testing. Taubes all but ignores anything more recent than the 80′s, and most of it is from the 60′s when sophisticated means of measuring various metabolite levels, enzyme activities, etc. simply didn’t exist.

      One needs to look at ASP and the role of glyceroneogenesis in the regulation of the fatty acid/triglyceride cycle. Taubes now admits he got that part wrong, but he should have known that all along. See specifically Glyceroneogenesis v. Taubes.

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    • An important point that seems to be ignored, and what Taubes uses the “old” research to focus on is the clearly established role of insulin in fat storage and its inhibition of the release of fat as free fatty acids from fat cells so that it can be burned.

      I think the point you’re getting at (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that Taubes uses “old” research to show where further research *should* have been directed at the time but wasn’t because of the biases of a few influential people. In other words, he’s building a case against the nutritional powers-that-be of that era. That’s fine as far as I’m concerned, and rather intriguing. Problems come about however when people stop viewing GCBC as an historical account/cautionary tale and start viewing it as a laymen’s state-of-the-art physiology text. There are several internet gurus and their followers out there, with no formal education in biochemistry or physiology, who truly believe they have a comprehensive understanding of insulin, body fat metabolism, etc. simply because they read GCBC. I watch a lot of crime dramas on tv, but I know that doesn’t make me a criminal law expert who can defend someone in court. The whole thing is very strange…

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  10. Wow, I can’t believe that this thread is still alive. Here’s the problem: facts won’t change beliefs. People come in here pre-equipped with some dogmas from some diet religion. Carb restriction up to the point of ketogenic level creates an appetite-suppressing effect to some individuals, not all. These are the people who tend to have poor insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance.

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  11. You indicated that there is literature indicating that self-reported data on eating is unreliable. Is there similar data on exercise levels? I couldn’t find a methodology page, but it looks like that federal report on exercise levels is compiled entirely from self-reported data.

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  12. Anytime, when an author quotes his mom, expert opinion, and talks about biological plausibility and observational studies, while ignoring reviews on RCT, he doesn’t have any clue about an evidence based approach. He is starting from the bottom ladder of levels of evidence in evidence- based approach than starting from the top.

    What are the other sites you often read, James?

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    • Anoop,

      Some sites I read are:

      http://www.alanaragonblog.com
      http://www.bodyrecomposition.com
      carbsanity.blogspot.com
      http://www.leangains.com
      http://www.maxcondition.com

      For more sites I like to read, see this post here:

      http://weightology.net/?p=336

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      • Hi James, the thing is with Traub’s statement about “fat people not eating any more than thin people” doesn’t make sense to me. Also, I haven’t heard anyone mention the body types “Ectomorph, Mesomorph, Endomorph”. Surely, even if the fat subject was an endomorph, and he ate no more than an ectomorph, this alone couldn’t make him Obese. After all, there is the difference between just being a bit of an endomorph and actually being Obese.

        However, the mind might have an influence. I would like to ask what you think of the power of the mind, and how much the power of belief can sway someone towards or away from obesity. I know that this is going into the rather unknown area of metaphysics. There is a guy called Gay Hendricks PhD, and a molecular biologist called Bruce Lipton PhD who I know have stated that belief alone can effect things like physical health. Something to do with how consciousness effects the hypothalamus of the brain.

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  13. Merry Christmas!

    You have misinterpreted the first graph(% leisure time physical activity by year).It doesn’t state that 1/3 of americans spend zero time at all dong physical activity at all. Only that an average american spends less than 30% of his leisure time being physically active.

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  14. Some interesting comments and arguments here. The problem as always: it’s ALL CONJECTURE (even Mr. Taube’s theories) unless you have real world proof.

    Have a great theory about weight loss? I don’t care what it is — low carb, high carb, no sugar, high fat, low calories, exercise — whatever.

    Go out and find 100 fat people. No — FAT WOMEN. That should present no problem in a nation with 66% of us overweight or obese. And those women should be AT least 30 yrs old, and have had at least one biological child (pregnancy, affecting weight and hormones) and some of them should be perimenopausal or menopausal.

    Put them in a lab type setting (no ability to buy or eat food from outside) for 3 months, feed them whatever you think the “miracle answer to obesity” is and then chart the results. If you are CORRECT, then the vast majority of the subjects will have lost significant weight. (Good luck with them keeping it off, but that’s ANOTHER research project.)

    OOPS! some folks (NIH) have already tried that — with Atkins, with Weight Watchers (old Point system), with L.E.A.R.N. and so forth. Results? Small weight losses which are not sustained; obesity returns, only with a few extra pounds to punish the dieter for even trying.

    The reality is that some of us are fat and some of us are average, and some of us are naturally thin. (If it is possible to be naturally skinny, then it is surely possible to be naturally fat.) There is probably nothing that can be done about this.

    In the meantime, it behooves us to treat all human beings as lovable, worthy, and deserving of kindness and respect.

    I also often wonder if the REAL REASON we are heavier than 50 years ago is not any special food or food group (or that we are more “hedonistic” or more gluttonous) but that we have tortured ourselves into dieting, and restricting food — far more so than other population in history — and DIETS almost always result in PEOPLE BEING MORE FAT. The lesson of this is not diet more — it is LEAVE YOURSELF ALONE.

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    • I certainly agree with the last part of your comment Laurel. No doubt many, if not a proveable majority if some mass survey were to be done, of overweight/obese adults got that way trying to diet and riding the weight rollercoaster. I’m quite sure it was the cause of mine! As James has written about, dieting does two things: it lowers metabolism, and it makes the body more efficient at using energy to fuel activity, IOW you burn less doing the same activity as before, and not just because you weigh less, but less than you would have had you not gained/lost weight. Rinse/repeat, over and over, and it’s no surprise some of us have “damaged” metabolisms. Add in the menopause for us women, and normal effects of aging for both genders, and it is quite complex.

      I do think (anecdotal n=1=self evidence) that it appears we can somewhat heal/fix that broken metabolism. A year and a half ago I weighed about 10 lbs more than I do now after substantial (since I never weighed I know not the exact amount but at least 70 lbs at that point, likely more) losses. I was eating, at ~200 lbs (the fact that I don’t look it is irrelevant to the fact that I weigh this much), around 1500 cal/day to maintain and would lose a little only if I cut to 1300 max/day. Once I started weighing I got frustrated because it seemed after some brief success with IF, I stalled yet again and would gain a pound or two eating like 1500 cal/day. This put a fear in me because I promised myself this time that regain was NOT an option. Well … FF to this past summer, a little over a year later and officially menopausal, and I am maintaining nicely, even losing a teensy bit more w/o Herculean efforts. Seems that slowly but surely my body has adjusted to my new, stable size, and allows for a bit more leeway.

      In this regard, patience is a virtue. At least in my case, I can report that if you can do what you need to to keep weight off in the long run, it at least CAN get easier as time goes by.

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  15. @ Laurel – You make some good points, especially your last one about why we’re fatter now than 50 years ago. Actually, I do think it has something to do with the “extreme” diet mentality that has been fostered in this country over the last couple of decades.

    However, contrary to what FA proponents, or those marketing weight loss surgery, say, diets (i.e., eating less than one’s body needs) work and have always worked for folks to lose weight. There have been enough controlled experiments to validate the calorie balance theory. Keeping it off, as you noted, is a different discussion.

    I do believe that some of us are genetically predisposed to store excess calories as fat than others, but this only happens when one eats substantially more than their body needs consistently. However, I think we give too much attention to genes as an excuse for obesity.

    In the athletic world, you see similar genetic expressions. Every athlete, whether amateur or professional, you see playing a sport is not genetically gifted to be lean (depending on the sport). Of course, there are a good number of them that are, but there are also many that have to “diet” or be more mindful of what they eat than their teammate(s).

    Yo-yo dieting or looking for quick/extreme fixes has to play a role in why we’re so fat as a nation. I, like so many others, have lost 20lbs following extreme calorie deprivation and/or excessive cardio only to re-gain a total of 30lbs when I couldn’t sustain my routine, or I hurt myself in the gym. Experiencing this vicious cycle more than once made it easy for me to eventually reach 300+ pounds back in 2003.

    Although anecdotal, I’m guessing that a lot of obese Americans have yo-yo dieted (i.e., lose to only regain more than initially lost) in a similar manner more times than they are willing to admit.

    Imagine, every failed extreme dieting attempt leads to an increase in weight, even if it’s only a couple of pounds more than when the dieter started….

    I was going to say what a Sisyphean task, but at least Sisyphus had to roll the same size stone up the hill ;)

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  16. man you guys are still counting calories? nobody is overeating because oops i didn’t know this pizza was 2000 calories. they overeat because of the hormonal state or the hunger state the body put them in. if you’ve never experienced severe overeating and obesity yourself, then you don’t know an ounce of what its like. it’s like someone trying to discredit what a schizophrenic went through but is healthy themselves.

    maybe not all of Taubes’ assertions are right or backed up by research. but the important point is that those who are obese (who ate the same American diet as lean ppl but somehow consistently overeat) can take a page from the low-carb mentality. change the way you eat even if your NUMBER CRUNCHING hasn’t supported it yet. what do we have to lose? cuz conventional dieting via whole grains/fruits/veg and biggest loser style exercise sure ain’t doing shit!

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  17. oncologists happen to use Metabolic Typing and individualized diets (for some, this meant high protein/fat diets) all the time in treating aggressive cancer patients. i scratch my head as the rest of the fitness/health world is busy analyzing calorie is a calorie arguments when it’s really all about how the body responds to a particular calorie.

    we all know the body can make thousands of minute changes in blood pressure, pH, osmolality and volume regulation in a day. what makes you think it can’t regulate something much broader such as appetite? counting calories is retarded, no animals nor pre-modern man ever did that and they were strong. the only condition is you eat foods you evolved genetically to eat. that means certainly no refined foods since that is not natural, and it means certain macronutrient ratios…maybe even certain foods but we’ve far from ascertaining what that may be. I believe individualized diets is the future of health. those who stand by it are open-minded (many physicians can’t preach it but apply it themselves, I’ve asked several before). those who are stubborn, in a few decades your calorie counting will be obsolete and you’ll be left in the dust. don’t be like guys like Lyle, still figuring if the thermic effect of protein is what makes the Atkins diet possibly work, etc.

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  18. So on the one hand you accuse Taubes of cherry picking. On the other hand, you blatantly cherrypick the issue of under reporting, which as Taubes non-controversial source clearly states applies to both overweight and lean people alike.

    What are you going to do next? Tell us that black people kill people but neglect to tell us that other races do as well?

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  19. I believe that avoiding processed foods is the first step to be able to lose weight. They can taste fine, but packaged foods have very little vitamins and minerals, making you take in more in order to have enough electricity to get with the day. If you’re constantly feeding on these foods, switching to cereals and other complex carbohydrates will help you to have more electricity while eating less. Good blog post.

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  20. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Calories aren’t irrelevant, but their journey through all the bodies of the world ain’t as simple as calories in, calories out. I am amazed that anyone could be satisfied with the explanations of conventional wisdom has had to offer so far… On the other hand, I experienced going from slim to skinny eating thousands of calories while drastically cutting down on cardio.

    There is no way Taubes knows everything, but he has offered the most satisfactory explanation for what I’ve been through.

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  21. The main thing I get from reading this blog article and related commentary is this:

    Everyone of us filters what we read to support our preexisting conclusions.

    When I go through the article and the comments, it makes me wonder how many of you
    read every word of the book.

    Not skim or speed read. Reread paragraphs and thoroughly apply it as an experiment of one.

    Just because it works or didn’t work for you doesn’t invalidate it for others.

    These studies should focus on multiple studies (100 or more people) of 1 person at a time instead of groups.

    Reporting body weight / composition statistics for a group is very different than for multiple studies of different diets / calorie levels fed to one person (but multiple individuals).

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  22. james krieger is a dumbass

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  23. Thank you so much for ripping Gary Taubes a new one.He kept implying throughout “why we get fat” that calories didn’t matter but even most prominent low carbers like Dr eades and Dr atkins admitted you should not overeat.There’s even pictures of him online giving talks on how calorie restricted diets are ineffective when he is clearly sporting a gut himself even though he has a tall frame http://photobucket.com/images/on+gary+taubes/ .Yes low carb can be helpful for people who are obese but it is by no means a magic bullet.

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  24. It’s always refreshing to read your piece on the Great One from time to time.

    Lately he’s thinking himself to be Copernicus, at the vanguard of a scientific revolution.

    On this basis I refuse to open one of his books. I’m glad you’ve done the dirty work for us.

    I can’t understand his influence on the paleo community. He’s anti-activity, yet paleo implies hunt-and-gather. He’s anti-fructose, so is against the carbs which would have been most accessible to paleos. But dare criticize his shallow ineptness and self-serving “bleeds it leads” pop science on a paleo board and you’ll be skinned alive. The man walks on water.

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  25. Hi! I like your article and I would like very much to read some more information on this issue. Will you post some more?

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  26. I’ve read alot of both sides, and I still think Taubes’ theory makes more sense than anybody else’s from my real world observations. It just doesn’t make any sense to me that the body allows *certain* people to just over-consume calories with no attempt to compensate. I have met plenty of skinny people who can eat whatever the heck they want, but they ALWAYS compensate by not getting very hungry the next day. Naturally skinny people just aren’t hungry all the time and there must be a good reason for why their body regulates perfectly fine even with all the junk food available. They don’t have to exercise either and they stay skinny.

    Why do these people not get hungry after hitting a caloric surplus, but fat people are always hungry no matter how much they eat? I wasn’t fat, but had about 20 stubborn extra pounds to lose. I was always hungry even while eating 3500+ calories on a high-carb diet, but now I will eat ~2700 calories on a low-carb diet and feel satisfied.

    Its not the short term over-eating that bothers me, its the fact that the body refuses to compensate and properly regulate appetite. I know there’s leptin, and I believe in leptin deficiency causing people who have lost weight to regain it, but I think leptin resistance is a bunch of BS. And its all caused by metabolic disfunction that is rooted back to insulin.

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  27. I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays.

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  28. Hello, just wanted to say, I loved this post.
    It was helpful. Keep oon posting!

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