Monday, March 03, 2014

two contra Gary Taubes

I summarized Gary Taubes's Why We Get Fat here.

Two reviews and rebuttals to Taubes are here and here, and both focus on the same complaint I had: Taubes's dismissal of the calories-in/calories-out paradigm.

To me, the essential proof that c-in/c-out obtains is that it's possible to starve to death. Starvation can only happen if the body is consuming more calories than it's receiving.

Whether you agree with these rebuttals may depend on your view of the authors' arguments. In the comments, some Taubesian defenders reject the arguments for reasons that seem logically and evidentially legitimate, so I leave it up to you to decide for yourself. As with most dieting "wisdom," you need to figure your way through the mass of contradictory arguments.


1 comment:

Sperwer said...

I think there is a serious misapprehension of Taubes' point in play. Note the passage quoted by Harriet Hall before she rather condescendingly berates him for daring to question the laws of physics:

"[restricting carbohydrates]…leads to weight loss and particularly fat loss, independent of the calories we consume from dietary fat and protein. We know that the laws of physics have nothing to do with it."

For Hall, "this is simply not true" "because "the laws of physics are unavoidable". But Taubes is not denying the laws of physics. Rather he is denying that the simple-minded, mechanistic application of the laws of physics explains the empirical evidence. Because that evidence IS that restriction of carbohydrates, independent of calorie restriction, does result in fat loss. NB also that it is fat loss about which we are talking, not simply weight loss. (I know some very skinny people who have upwards of 40% body fat; they look like Gumby. Their diet consists almost entirely of carbohydrates and while they are cardio bunnies that just serves to keep them skinny NOT lean.) In my world, this comes under the heading "body recomposition". A shift to heavy reliance on protein and fats, coupled with resistance exercise, results in a loss of body fat (and the addition of lean muscle mass.) Some carbs are necessary to more efficiently fuel the transformation than would be possible by relying solely on proteins and fats, but the restriction of carbs ensures that there is no excess readily available to be converted into body fat (in accordance with our evolutionarily-patterned genetic mandate, while relatively intense resistance exercise promotes the conversion of proteins and fats into muscle and other non-fat uses and the reduction of existing adipose fat through burning as supplementary fuel.

Taubes isn't right about everything, and he can certainly be an arrogant prick, but he is light years ahead of people like Hall who prattle on about the laws of physics in the abstract rather than asking the rather obvious questions that the facts generate about just how such laws are applicable in the context of the biochemical complexity of human nutrition.