Flutterby™! : Gary Taubes on nutrition

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Gary Taubes on nutrition

2010-06-11 13:40:48.064569+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

When I was in my 20s, I was guiding or paddling whitewater every weekend. For a while that meant Saturday and Sunday, hitting the gravel at 7 or 8 and coming off the water as the sun went down, and though I was spending a lot of time at the office, in the evenings I'd watch TV and do light weight reps, or go rock climbing. Which basically meant I was working out twelve to fourteen hours each on Saturday or Sunday, add a couple of hours during the week and we're at 30 to 35 hours of exercise.

When Catherine and I started living together, I adjusted my eating habits to hers. She'd had weight problems, and had found her solution in long walks every evening and an extremely low fat diet. We moved to California, I spent long hours on my ass at Pixar, without much exercise, and gained a bunch of weight.

When we broke up, I increased the amount of fat in my diet. Somewhere in there I also started at an office in San Francisco that was 2 miles from the ferry. If something kept me there a minute or two after schedule, it was a mad dash to make the boat. And I made a conscious decision to replace many of my calories with water. I lost somewhere around 50 lbs. That's a lot of variables, but I always suspected that increasing the amount of fat in my diet helped.

I also recently ended up abandoning a Kaiser Permanente "how can you tune up your health" survey mid-way through when it asked how many saturated fats, lumping butter and margarine together, I consumed. Don't need more pseudo-science based suggestions. Anyway, with that, I present:

Gary Taubes talking about big fat lies. Via Brainwagon

[ related topics: Health Physiology ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-16 14:33:36.552509+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'm not sure what this adds to the discussion, but I recently got a Kaiser Permanente "get a personalized health assessment" email, and figured "what the hell". So I started filling out web forms, and got disgusted when their only grouping of fats was "saturated" and "unsaturated", and they tossed butter and margarine in the same pile. I quit right there, but they kept sending "you haven't finished the survey" mails (with no easy place for me to respond "yes, and here's why"), so I slogged through the rest of it, and it got worse. I couldn't see the underlying decision making logic, but I could see the questions, and was shocked at the notions of nutrition that showed through those were.

So I'm not sure I agree that the problem is simply information munged by the press and media, I had Kaiser blithely repeating stuff slapped out there by food lobbyists for political and economic gain.

Yes, I'm pretty sure Atkins isn't "the one true way". I'm reminded of my childhood, where Adele Davis's high protein lots of animal fats was all the rage, then she died of cancer and a whole bunch of people went "whoah", and then stampeded on to the next fad. I think Pollan's "Eat less, mostly vegetables, and only things your (great)grandmother would recognize as food" is probably the best high level view around.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-14 17:06:33.685599+00 by: ebradway

Simple solution by a science fiction writer:

Through genetic engineering and cloning, velociraptors were re-introduced with three significant variations from the original. Their skin was beefed up to resist all but the highest-caliber firearms and their taste in food was narrowed to human fat. The third variation was a compromise: the new velociraptors are only about 3 feet high and cannot run faster than 10 miles per hour.

There you go. Simple SciFi answer to the obesity problem. Loose weight or the armor-plated mini-raptors will dine on your chubby ass! The slower speed of the mini-raptors makes it possible to get into shape running for your life. Or maybe a large mosquito that sucks fat out through the skin - flying liposuction! That'd be cool!

There have been some interesting studies recently that have shown, at least for middle-aged women, that increasing exercise does not result in weight loss. Only reducing caloric intake helps. The real problem is gluttony. Call it a sin. Call it a health epidemic. Life has just gotten a little too easy. We need those mini-raptors!

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-11 18:06:04.639144+00 by: m

For a recent lecturer, Taube oddly concentrates almost exclusively on medical work that was done prior to the '70s. As in many fields of science, there has been an explosion of knowledge since that time. Taube points out a couple of steps in metabolic processes, but fails to bring them together to any cogent points. Taube seems to focus on loaded words to make points that would otherwise be bereft of meaning. For example, Taube repeatedly says that children undergoing growth spurts are "overeating." Yet it is obvious that children who are in such growth phases are not overeating if they are not becoming overweight. They are rather eating what they need.

Most medical information is passed through the press, which often misunderstands or sensationalizes information past all meaning. Science news is not scientific knowledge. Few scientists or physicians suggest radical diets for health individuals. The exceptions are almost always some weight loss Docs like Atkins.

Humans are omnivores. Their anatomy and physiology proves this. A rational diet, free from fad, composed of reasonable proportions of fats, proteins and carbohydrates should be the desired nutritional goal.

Obesity is not a disease per se, but rather a condition with complex variety of physiological, biochemical and psychological causes. It clearly does not have simple solutions developed by science writers.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-11 17:07:04.355874+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've been aware of the notion of a "malnourishment belly" for years and years, I remember the pictures of the starving kids in Ethiopia back in my teens, so this notion that the fat deposits, especially in different areas of the body, can come from different nutritional issues or excess of certain sorts of calories, makes a lot of sense.

Along with my own experience that it was easier to lose weight when I added a bunch of fat back in to my diet.

I'm also well aware of how faddish medical best practices can be. The current backpedaling and side-pedaling around cholesterol, combined with some of the stuff I found about fructose and low density lipoproteins, at least in hamsters, when I was doing some research on sports nutrition, shows just how much a misguided (or, as Taubes suggests, misled) set of advocacy organizations can negatively impact public health.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-11 15:03:07.354676+00 by: mvandewettering

The thing which I'm trying to wrap my head around is why so many Americans are becoming obese. The simple explanation is that Americans are as a whole becoming more sedentary, but I think that is too simple an explanation, and is presented without any kind of documentation or evidence.

There was a change in the 1980s, prior to this boom in obesity: Americans were warned (by nutrition "experts") that fats were bad for you. As a result, the basic foundations of our food changed. Manufacturers, in an attempt to make their food more enticing to the newly fat conscious consumers) decreased the fat content of food, while simultaneously increasing the amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates. Thus, by TRYING to follow the best nutritional advice of the day, we actually doomed ourselves to a world where HFCS and white flour rules.

The net result: a lot of rounder bodies.