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  #1  
Old 04-30-2011, 02:29 AM
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Default Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Old 04-30-2011, 08:37 AM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

Even though the calibrations at CERN, as Gary says, might not be done they are indeed finding stuff, even if they don't know exactly what they are seeing.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/gene..._are_just_that

I could summarize badly or just pass on a quote from slashdot

http://science.slashdot.org/comments...0&cid=35921214

Quote:
Someone left a copy of the note on the printer in my office building. (I work on CDF at Fermilab, but there are others in the building who work on ATLAS at CERN.) The gist of the article is that they found a bump in the diphoton mass spectrum at a mass of ~115 GeV. If the Higgs exists, it is expected to produce a bump in that spectrum, and 115 GeV is a very probable value for the mass of the Higgs. (Experiments at LEP ruled out masses up to 114 GeV, but a mass as low as possible above that fits best with other measurements.)

Now, the inconsistencies: The bump that they found is ~30 times as large as the Higgs mass peak is expected to be. However, due to field theory that I don't want to get into here, the Higgs peak in this spectrum could be larger than expected if there exist new, heavy particles that we haven't discovered yet. The latest published result from CDF sets a limit of about 30 times the expected rate at 115 GeV in the diphoton channel. (Yes, this means that, if you're optimistic enough, there's just enough wiggle room to fit a Higgs in there while accommodating both measurements.)

The internal note is very preliminary and uses a crude background estimate; I'll have to see a more thorough analysis before I make any judgment on it. We shouldn't have to wait very long; I expect that after this leak, they'll be working overtime to push out a full published result as soon as possible.
danke - not even wrong blog: http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=3643

I wonder if it will take years to really sort it all out, the nobel will take that long probably.
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Old 05-01-2011, 12:50 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I rely on Lubos Motl to evaluate these kinds of stories.

Here's a follow up. Don't skip the comments.
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Old 05-01-2011, 01:10 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat View Post
I rely on Lubos Motl to evaluate these kinds of stories.

Here's a follow up. Don't skip the comments.
You have referred to this guy as a credible source several times before on this site. Believe who you want to believe, but just for the record, I think it's worth linking to a few responses to and about him, on this site and elsewhere: e.g., e.g., e.g., e.g., e.g.).

I also wonder why anyone would bother reading past his own description of himself:

Quote:
The most important events in our and your superstringy Universe as seen from a conservative physicist's viewpoint
On any short list of fields where political viewpoint ought to be irrelevant, certainly physics belongs.

P.S. There are no comments under the post where you advised us not to skip the comments.
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Old 04-30-2011, 08:38 AM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

Awesome.
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:12 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by themightypuck View Post
Awesome.
I'd say more like ... interesting ideas from someone with an engaging manner. Remember that it's good to be skeptical of the skeptics, too.
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:51 AM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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I'd say more like ... interesting ideas from someone with an engaging manner. Remember that it's good to be skeptical of the skeptics, too.
I am sure he addresses this in the book but he does mention working out quite a bit.

A quick google search churned up this: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/...1871400/page1/

on page 2 of the article it discusses Taubes and a bit of Pollan.

The idea that low carb should be the default position seems interesting though. The point about less orthodoxy and better studies is of course a wonderful idea. Somebody once offered her grandmother's advice for eating, eat a colorful diet. That one sticks with me but so does mashed potatoes
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Old 05-01-2011, 03:03 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by thouartgob View Post
I am sure he addresses this in the book but he does mention working out quite a bit.
In Why We Get Fat and What to Do About I, Taubes agrees that exercise has many benefits, but losing weight isn't among them. I can't remember how many flights of stairs you need to run up to burn of the calories in a cookie, but a bunch.

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The idea that low carb should be the default position seems interesting though.
Yes.
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:42 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I'm quite skeptical but I also have to eat. Taubes makes an interesting point about what the null hypothesis should be.
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Old 05-02-2011, 12:55 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
I'd say more like ... interesting ideas from someone with an engaging manner. Remember that it's good to be skeptical of the skeptics, too.
Interesting, yeah, and I totally agree with this.
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:35 AM
BNH BNH is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I love you John, but I wish you had been more dogged in going after the main problem I see with Taubes' thesis. If low carb is the way to go, why is it that the vast majority of humans on the planet eating a high carb diet are not obese?

Also, this idea of becoming a study of one and trying his diet out on myself doesn't seem very scientific. If weight loss is my goal, I might try smoking (or nicotine gum?) as a study of one to see if that might result in weight loss. But of course I'd have to ignore the long-term consequences. Same holds true with eating a high-fat high-meat diet.
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:53 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by BNH View Post
I love you John, but I wish you had been more dogged in going after the main problem I see with Taubes' thesis. If low carb is the way to go, why is it that the vast majority of humans on the planet eating a high carb diet are not obese?
Gary's sugar article (sidebar link repeated) should answer that for you. It's worth reading for a lot of reasons -- good piece.

The short answer is that (the current belief is) the populations eating high-carb diets are getting most of their carbs from starches, and these are metabolized differently from the way refined sugars are.
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:34 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

Taubes does address this somewhat as his book is about why we get fat, not why we don't get fat. He notes that just because 80 percent of smokers don't get lung cancer you can still say that smoking causes cancer.
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Old 05-01-2011, 08:18 AM
willmybasilgrow willmybasilgrow is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

Taubes might say (as he did in this dialogue about Asians) that the vast majority eating carbs in the world are not obese because they are not consuming the same amount of sugar that Americans are.
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Old 05-02-2011, 01:02 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by BNH View Post
I love you John, but I wish you had been more dogged in going after the main problem I see with Taubes' thesis. If low carb is the way to go, why is it that the vast majority of humans on the planet eating a high carb diet are not obese?

Also, this idea of becoming a study of one and trying his diet out on myself doesn't seem very scientific. If weight loss is my goal, I might try smoking (or nicotine gum?) as a study of one to see if that might result in weight loss. But of course I'd have to ignore the long-term consequences. Same holds true with eating a high-fat high-meat diet.
Yeah, good points, and ones that crossed my mind when listening. I've been kind of wanting a battle between opposing food theorist types, and Taubes plus an intelligent and skeptical inquisitor seemed a good alternative (probably a better one, since I trust John more than any of the theorists, since I think all of the -- including Taubes -- are blinded in their love for their theories). But whether out of friendship or the ground rules of the interview or a misguided view of politeness or what, John didn't really come at the interview with the type of skepticism I'd like.

And I don't say this because I have anything against Taubes' major claims (well, I admit I'm an Atkins skeptic, sure, but not to the point of not having an open mind). I say this because I think the way nutrition ideas get talked about no one faces the obvious questions/objections that come to mind, and sadly that was the case for this one too.
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Old 05-02-2011, 01:09 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by BNH View Post
I love you John, but I wish you had been more dogged in going after the main problem I see with Taubes' thesis. If low carb is the way to go, why is it that the vast majority of humans on the planet eating a high carb diet are not obese?
Isn't it because of the activity level of most of the people who are on high carb diets vs. our sedentary one? (and I don't mean whether one has an hour or even two of exercise, but because of a different structure of life in which the main activity during the day is physical)

Last edited by miceelf; 05-02-2011 at 01:12 PM..
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Old 05-02-2011, 03:14 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I don't have a big problem with Taubes major thesis: carbs make you fat. He isn't saying carbs necessarily make you fat, he is saying that if you are fat, it was the carbs that did it. I do have a problem with Taubes statements that exercise doesn't work. It boils down to null hypos and while I can accept his null hypo wrt carbs I can't really accept his null hypo wrt exercise.
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Old 05-02-2011, 03:47 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by themightypuck View Post
I don't have a big problem with Taubes major thesis: carbs make you fat. He isn't saying carbs necessarily make you fat, he is saying that if you are fat, it was the carbs that did it.
But what does that even mean? It's possible to overeat even if you don't overdo the carbs, and despite Taubes' "calories don't matter" thing, I think that if you are prone to gain weight and overeat, you will gain weight, whatever the combination of macronutrients. But it sounds like you would say that even if I get fat eating more fats and protein, it would still be the carbs which make me fat. That seems circular.

Quote:
I do have a problem with Taubes statements that exercise doesn't work. It boils down to null hypos and while I can accept his null hypo wrt carbs I can't really accept his null hypo wrt exercise.
Not sure what the null hypo is here.

IMO, this part is easier to buy, simply because if you don't change your diet and just exercise more, it's good for you in lots of ways, but you are unlikely to lose much weight. (Obviously, there are exceptions, but it's also common for people training for a marathon to just eat more without thinking of it to compensate for exercising more and thus not lose weight at all.)
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Old 05-02-2011, 05:18 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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But what does that even mean? It's possible to overeat even if you don't overdo the carbs, and despite Taubes' "calories don't matter" thing, I think that if you are prone to gain weight and overeat, you will gain weight, whatever the combination of macronutrients. But it sounds like you would say that even if I get fat eating more fats and protein, it would still be the carbs which make me fat. That seems circular.
I haven't read any of Taubes books so I'm just basing this on my understanding of the dvlog and the NYT article and a Youtube video of Taubes lecturing at some conference somewhere. My sense is that Taubes is saying exactly that you won't get fat eating more fat and protein. You might stay fat eating just fat and protein but you won't get fat that way.

As for my fast and loose use of the term "null hypo" I plead guilty. I guess what I mean is that I find it easy to accept that the burden should be on the low fat people and harder to accept that the burden should be on the exercise crowd. My suspicion is that our evolutionary environment was high in exercise and relatively low in carbs and so lacking any evidence it seems fair to me that that is a good place to start (since you have to start somewhere).
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Old 05-02-2011, 05:40 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by themightypuck View Post
I haven't read any of Taubes books so I'm just basing this on my understanding of the dvlog and the NYT article and a Youtube video of Taubes lecturing at some conference somewhere. My sense is that Taubes is saying exactly that you won't get fat eating more fat and protein. You might stay fat eating just fat and protein but you won't get fat that way.
Well, no one eats just fat and protein, and if you pay enough attention to your eating to get your carbs down really low, it's likely (one of my problems with the whole thesis) that your calories are down too. So I guess I'm skeptical of the notion that it's only the carbs I'm eating that can make me fat. If I dine on pizza and only pizza, day after day, there are lots of carbs, but I see no reason to assume that the oil and cheese and the like aren't contributing to my likely weight gain.

It's this kind of "bacon can't make you fat!" or "the only problem with a bacon cheeseburger is the bun!" that I find unbelieveable about the Taubes/Atkins people. I think there are plenty of reasons why watching carbs can help someone lose weight and why carbs (especially carbs of the sort most common in the American diet) can have an effect beyond the calories alone (i.e., triggering overeating and blood sugar spikes and so on), without saying calories are irrelevant, which just seems implausible.

Quote:
I guess what I mean is that I find it easy to accept that the burden should be on the low fat people and harder to accept that the burden should be on the exercise crowd. My suspicion is that our evolutionary environment was high in exercise and relatively low in carbs and so lacking any evidence it seems fair to me that that is a good place to start (since you have to start somewhere).
I think if you go back to evolution, you have to keep in mind that an ability to gain weigh easily and resistence to losing weight would probably have been a good thing. But people ate lots of carbs (the staple of most cuisines in some way -- bread is the staff of life and all) for ages and ages without the kinds of problems we have, probably in large part because getting enough calories was the struggle. If you want cheap calories even now, carbs are the easy choice (and specifically the rice, grain, legume, starch carbs).

Last edited by stephanie; 05-02-2011 at 05:42 PM..
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Old 05-02-2011, 07:47 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I don't think Taubes is saying calories are irrelevant. He is saying looking at calories is ass backwards. He also admits that carbs don't necessarily make you fat (as I stated above). He sees fat as a pathology and offers the hypothesis that it is carbs that causes the pathology. Like smoking is to lung cancer so carbs are to obesity. Clearly this hypothesis is not proven but compare it to the other hypotheses (toxic fast food environment, sedentary lifestyles). It is not without its problems but it is the most compelling hypothesis I've heard so far. I don't see it as saying all carbs are bad but rather that fat is caused by too many carbs. He sees this as the traditional hypothesis with centuries of support (I suppose the book has sources) while the modern hypothesis that only calories matter has no scientific support and is really just a kneejerk way to escape the conundrum that if fat causes heart disease (something Taubes disputes) we need to eat high carb diets to be healthy. The narrower view (expressed in the NYT piece) that fructose is the problem is also very interesting. The problem is, what is the null hypothesis? We all need to eat.

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Old 05-03-2011, 01:37 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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I don't think Taubes is saying calories are irrelevant.
Well, I went ahead and downloaded Good Calories, Bad Calories, so I guess I'll find out. A quick skim of the relevant portions of the book seemed to suggest that he mostly was, which is what I find most problematic about his position, but I'll have to read more carefully to understand the argument.

He seemed to be claiming that people who gain weight don't eat more than those who don't, and that eating fewer calories doesn't work, but he didn't give convincing evidence that I saw (again, I may change my mind) for the former assertion. For the latter, he talked about the problems with semi-starvation diets, but that's easier to explain without asserting something as counter to the accepted wisdom as "calories are irrelevant."

He also seemed to be (1) arguing that fat doesn't make you fat, which I think is not the conventional wisdom at all (calories, not macronutrient, would be the conventional wisdom); and (2) arguing that refined carbs, largely white flour and sugar, are the problem, which seems to be to be the conventional wisdom. My problem with the disciples on the amazon review section and Atkins people isn't that sugar and white flour are too present in the American diet (obviously), but that carbs across the board are bad. Basically, that I'm eating badly because I like quinoa and brown rice and fruit, etc.

Quote:
He is saying looking at calories is ass backwards.
Like I said, I don't know what this means. Almost always people who need to lose weight eat more calories than they realize. In large part this is because they eat processed carbs that have lots of calories and little nutrient value, sure, and which may also provoke hunger. But if you reduce carbs, most people end up cutting calories, so to say it's not calories just seems wrong or at least not the whole story. This is relevant, because I'd say one reason reducing carbs is a good way to lose weight is because it's an easy way to eat fewer calories without missing them. But going fully low carb for many people does not work as a long-term diet, so that seems to counter the reasons why I think lowering carbs works, because calories do matter.

But like I said, I'm open-minded enough to read his book and think about it. (I do wish that John had raised more of the questions I'd like to ask Taubes.)

Quote:
He sees fat as a pathology and offers the hypothesis that it is carbs that causes the pathology. Like smoking is to lung cancer so carbs are to obesity.
But it's really hard to cut out carbs entirely, so you need some good evidence, and I have yet to see it. The book seems to mostly talk about traditional diets (which is problematic as evidence and as much social science as science) and, like I said, processed carbs. If you are maintaining that abundance and fast food and so on aren't an issue, but quinoa is, I think there needs to be more evidence. So far, I'm not convinced that eating lentils is something I should avoid the way I avoid smoking.

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It is not without its problems but it is the most compelling hypothesis I've heard so far. I don't see it as saying all carbs are bad but rather that fat is caused by too many carbs. He sees this as the traditional hypothesis with centuries of support (I suppose the book has sources) while the modern hypothesis that only calories matter has no scientific support and is really just a kneejerk way to escape the conundrum that if fat causes heart disease (something Taubes disputes) we need to eat high carb diets to be healthy.
I am interested to see how Taubes responds to the effects of low fat on certain heart disease patients, and would also like to see a debate between him and the guy who promotes the China study.

For the record, I think it's pretty well accepted that cholesterol is an issue only for certain people who are sensitive to dietary cholesterol, so he seems with that to be arguing against something that's more widely accepted than he seems to acknowledge. Also, it's interesting that his side (the anti-carb people) are quick to point out that the cholesterol concerns apply only to some, but anxious to act as if we are mostly all gluten intolerant. (Similarly, anti-fat or vegan types often act as if we are all latose intolerant, which is bizarre too.)
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Old 05-03-2011, 06:18 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I really should read the book as well. I'm very skeptical of the 30% fat diet promoted by the powers that be (because, of course, that diet doesn't work for me) and I've never read anything convincing by them as to why they promote this diet. I also agree with Taubes that calories in calories out is meaningless triviality. I doubt anyone is disputing the laws of physics. The question is why do fat people eat more and exercise less. Our moral guardians seem to think it is because people are weak, stupid, or lazy but that doesn't seem very scientific to me. In fact, it raises red flags. The health morality connection comes up again and again in history and I just don't buy it. I agree with you that carbohydrates are probably not as horrible as Taubes suggests, but when I look for support for the standard position all I get are appeals to authority and cherry picking. If anything is true it is that more study is needed. Absent such study I'm not sure why the 30% fat diet gets to be the default and indeed it looks like even the powers that be are slowly upping the fat.
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Old 05-03-2011, 09:53 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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I really should read the book as well. I'm very skeptical of the 30% fat diet promoted by the powers that be (because, of course, that diet doesn't work for me) and I've never read anything convincing by them as to why they promote this diet. I also agree with Taubes that calories in calories out is meaningless triviality. I doubt anyone is disputing the laws of physics.
Well, I listened to a YouTube of Taubes and Ornish, and it was much clearer than from my skimming of the book that he wasn't actually disputing the calories thing or claiming that you couldn't get fat eating basically any mix, so that has resolved one of my major skepticisms about him. I still find him somewhat uncritical of the points against his own position, but like I said I will read the book.

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The question is why do fat people eat more and exercise less. Our moral guardians seem to think it is because people are weak, stupid, or lazy but that doesn't seem very scientific to me.
Hmm, I don't think that's the "scientific" answer, although it's definitely part of our cultural hangups about diet, no question at all. What bugs me about Taubes on this is that he seems to suggest that there's some need for an answer here (one that ends up supporting some rather extreme claims, although I admit that may be his followers and not his fault), when it strikes me that the answer to this is not so difficult. Eating is pleasurable, and we have a lot of foods that have more calories than they are filling. Exercise, on the other hand, especially when one is not fit, is not appealing to many people (and plus you can exercise and still not lose weight, as we discussed). Also, the connection between what one eats and what's in it has been lost for many, because so many people don't cook or cook from pre-packaged stuff. (I'm not moralizing, but commenting on our culture.)

There are studies that show that people's weight tends to be influenced by their social circles (if you hang out with thin people you tend to lose weight and the reverse). That seems to me true, simply because if you eat and spend a lot of time with people, you tend to adjust habits accordingly, somewhat. (I have found this to be true in my own life at times, and I think it also reflects something going on in the US more broadly, as there's not a consistent way we eat that would serve the function of a more ritualized traditional diet. It's also consistent with some studies about culture and alcohol and how people who might become alcoholics in some cultures don't in others, because drinking is far more ritualized and controlled by social patterns.) All this also relates to portion size and the fact that the weight issue in the US has a class element (there's a lot more to this, but I don't find it plausible that it's because wealthier people have more meat, because that doesn't, IMO, reflect at all the reasons, not for women, at least).

In addition, I'm skeptical of the idea that the primary reason people overeat in US culture is personal hunger. I'm not convinced actual hunger plays all that much of a role, in that for many humans the hunger signals are screwed up or just overruled by other things. To a certain extent I buy into the Taubes idea (and others, this part seems less unconventional than he seems to think) that simple, refined carbs cause blood sugar to spike and crash and plays into a pattern of overeating. But I also think we don't get the signals we are full soon enough if we eat fast, and that a lot of people disinterpret other signals as hunger, and a lot eat mindlessly and not so much as a result of hunger at all, but being tired or for emotional satisfaction or just because it looks good. Probably lots of people don't, but of those who tend to become overweight, I'd bet plenty.

Personally, like I said, I'm not much convinced that there's some basis to any of the ideal percentages of macronutrients, and am open to more study. It's mostly just frustrating how certain people are about wildly conflicting information (not just the fat and heart disease thing, but also the China study scare about too much protein is what I'm thinking of here, along with the anti-carb extremism). Like Taubes himself, however, I'm probably too biased by what works for me, and I don't believe I'd eat less if I ate more fat. In fact, I was vegetarian during Lent, and had to struggle to eat as many calories as I normally do and prefer to, without being any more hungry at all, because vegetables and whole-grains are extremely filling, at least in my experience.

Ah, well, I find the theories interesting, and agree with you that more and better studies of some of this would be nice.

Last edited by stephanie; 05-03-2011 at 09:58 PM..
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Old 05-04-2011, 02:32 PM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

Well, I bought the book. Let's see if I can make myself read it (640pp--I got the older one since I hate paying more than 10 bucks for a Kindle book).
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Old 05-04-2011, 03:03 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by themightypuck View Post
Well, I bought the book. Let's see if I can make myself read it (640pp--I got the older one since I hate paying more than 10 bucks for a Kindle book).
Cool, let's both report back when we have (or if we do). I got the older one too, also on Kindle, mainly because it was supposed to be the overly-sourced one, and I wanted the sources.
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Old 05-14-2011, 03:57 AM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
Cool, let's both report back when we have (or if we do). I got the older one too, also on Kindle, mainly because it was supposed to be the overly-sourced one, and I wanted the sources.
I'm halfway through and so far I am very impressed. At this point it is pretty much a survey of the science and some 60 minutes style attacks on bad science.
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Old 05-03-2011, 02:35 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

If I recall, Taubes takes up the sedentary issue a little more in the Skepticality interview.

http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpo...63&postcount=5
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Old 04-30-2011, 12:02 PM
frontier_sally frontier_sally is offline
 
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Default From the 'Experiment of One' Files...

Gary's comment on orange juice in the morning reminded me of something from my (pre-RedBull) college days... When I needed to get through a 10 or 12 hour event, I'd mix orange juice and Coke, and it never failed to perk me up and keep me going. When consumed separately, neither had the same effect. But the combination was powerful enough that I kept going back to it.

Gary also mentioned something that sounded suspiciously like a 'diet' book that was going around some years ago: Eat Right 4 Your Type, which offered diet suggestions based on bloodtype. Any thoughts on that, Gary? (My 'experiment of one' file on that particular approach had mixed results.)
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Old 04-30-2011, 02:12 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday:Why we get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

As Jean Anthelme Brillat- Savarin (1755- 1826) said "Carnivorous animals never grow fat (consider wolves, jackals, birds of prey, crows, etc.). Herbivorous animals do not grow fat easily, at least until age has reduced them to a state of inactivity; but they fatten very quickly as soon as they begin to be fed on potatoes, grain, or any kind of flour. The second of the chief causes of obesity is the floury and starchy substances which man makes the prime ingredients of his daily nourishment. As we have said already, all animals that live on farinaceous food grow fat willy-nilly; and man is no exception to the universal law." The Physiology of Taste. Penguin Books.

So science is often wrong. But Brillat-Savarin also said: "A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye."

Why are so many Americans obese? Just compare the portions in American restaurants with the portions in French restaurants.
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Old 05-01-2011, 04:39 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday:Why we get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Why are so many Americans obese? Just compare the portions in American restaurants with the portions in French restaurants.
When I first heard the notion that calories are not the problem, it seemed like nonsense to me. It's clearly the case that if you take in more calories than you burn, you will get fat. Period. In his book, Taubes dances around this basic fact for quite a while, but then finally acknowledges that yes, of course, this is the case. But he argues that it doesn't really say anything about why we get fat.

The usual assumption is that we get fat because we eat too much and exercise too little. That is... our bodies push unused calories into fat cells. But after reading Taubes's book (based on very extensive empirical physiology research) I finally understand the flaw in that common way of thinking. When insulin (and other hormones) are out of balance because of eating a lot of simple carbs, especially sugar and fruit juice, etc, the calories are literally pulled into fat cells and out of the blood stream. When this happens, we feel hungry, even though we are at the same time storing excess calories as fat. In a sense our body is in starvation mode because it does not sense the presence of blood sugar (if I remember correctly) in the blood it needs to keep functioning.

This also results in the lack of available energy for physical activity. That is, we don't get fat because we don't exercise, but rather we don't exercise because we are getting fat: the energy that should be available for physical activity is being sucked into fat cells.

Last edited by sapeye; 05-01-2011 at 07:00 PM..
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Old 05-01-2011, 07:58 PM
willmybasilgrow willmybasilgrow is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday:Why we get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
When I first heard the notion that calories are not the problem, it seemed like nonsense to me. It's clearly the case that if you take in more calories than you burn, you will get fat. Period. In his book, Taubes dances around this basic fact for quite a while, but then finally acknowledges that yes, of course, this is the case. But he argues that it doesn't really say anything about why we get fat.

The usual assumption is that we get fat because we eat too much and exercise too little. That is... our bodies push unused calories into fat cells. But after reading Taubes's book (based on very extensive empirical physiology research) I finally understand the flaw in that common way of thinking. When insulin (and other hormones) are out of balance because of eating a lot of simple carbs, especially sugar and fruit juice, etc, the calories are literally pulled into fat cells and out of the blood stream. When this happens, we feel hungry, even though we are at the same time storing excess calories as fat. In a sense our body is in starvation mode because it does not sense the presence of blood sugar (if I remember correctly) in the blood it needs to keep functioning.

This also results in the lack of available energy for physical activity. That is, we don't get fat because we don't exercise, but rather we don't exercise because we are getting fat: the energy that should be available for physical activity is being sucked into fat cells.
Sounds like you captured it to me. Good job.
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Old 05-03-2011, 02:50 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday:Why we get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I'm interested in comparing Koreans and Americans, and their diets. What follows is anecdotal. Since I have lived in Korea since 1997 (2 years in the US Army, the rest in Busan), I have observed a veritable explosion of western foods available in Busan. It's a joke that Koreans consider coffeee its own food group, but coffee shops are ubiquitous. Can someone tell me if Americans nowadays buy four or five half-dozen boxes of Krispy Kreme's? My family used to buy a dozen donuts, but not a shopping bag of 20+ donuts, and hand them out as gifts. Soda, coffee, and juice drinks are more prevalent. Koreans have recreated pizza in their own imagination: sweet potato and corn, anyone? Outback, McDonald's, Burger King are status symbols for families and college students, and have locally-owned clones. (I'm sure everyone's heard of that Meat Monster burger in Japan, BTW). And, it also seems that younger-gen Koreans are taller and fatter than their parents. I've seen more than a few TV programs instructing parents about proper diet for fat kids - and the solution usually involves some sort of old-fashioned Korean food.

Is an American high-sugar, high-carbs diet ruining Korean kids' health?
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Old 05-03-2011, 11:05 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday:Why we get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Is an American high-sugar, high-carbs diet ruining Korean kids' health?
In a word, yes. It always astonishes me that American fast food, so rich in carbohydrates, sugars and fat, somehow wins over young people in countries which have superior, or at least healthier, culinary traditions. Perhaps it's the price. McDos, as they are called in France, are quite popular among young people and quite cheap in comparison to the typical restaurant or bistro.

All my life I have heard that carbohydrates in excess are fattening, and to be consumed in moderation. It seems to be folk wisdom in France. It is good to know that nutrition science is catching up with the folk.
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Old 04-30-2011, 02:14 PM
bkjazfan bkjazfan is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

I live in sunny California somewhat near the ocean. The number of overweight people I see on an everyday basis is unbelieveable. With all this information out there on exercising, how to eat right, and the rest of it, one would think people would wise up a bit. Not so.

I use to think it was an economic thing with the poor being overweight. A few years back I helped out a friend stave off an eviction from her rent controlled apartment due to hoarding. It gave me an opportunity to spend some time in the downtown Los Angeles court building (we won the case) which I hadn't done since my juvenile delinqent days 40 years ago. I noticed that at least one out of 10 young lawyers were obese. So much for the poverty theory.

With or with out Richard Simmons, Drs. Amen, Atkins, Oz and the rest of the diet gurus it looks like obesity in the U.S. is here to stay.

Last edited by bkjazfan; 04-30-2011 at 04:09 PM..
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:17 PM
Olavus Olavus is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

The city slickers need more dietary fiber.

Dark, Dense Nordic Bread, Made for Butter or Cheese

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/di...3B06E8669CFD14
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:49 PM
ohreally ohreally is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

There's something surreal about "nutrition" talk. It often sounds like inmates discussing which corner of the prison cell is the most advantageous. Is it the "low-carb" corner where it's a little quieter or the "high-carb" spot where the sun sometimes shines? How about outside the prison? People are obese because they are imprisoned. So the question is why do they eat all the time rather than what do they eat too much of?

Funny that it's the countries with the deepest food traditions (China, France, India, Thailand, etc) that have the thin people while it's the land that treats eating as yet another bodily function that has an obesity crisis. Makes you wonder if stuffing oneself like a pig is not an addictive reaction to the emptiness of modern life and the attendant lack of self-respect, all aided by food conglomerates that want everyone to be obese and a perfectly alienating collective fixation on youth and thinness.

Last edited by ohreally; 04-30-2011 at 03:55 PM..
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:13 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Funny that it's the countries with the deepest food traditions (China, France, India, Thailand, etc) that have the thin people while it's the land that treats eating as yet another bodily function that has an obesity crisis. Makes you wonder if stuffing oneself like a pig is not an addictive reaction to the emptiness of modern life and the attendant lack of self-respect, all aided by food conglomerates that want everyone to be obese and a perfectly alienating collective fixation on youth and thinness.
I have always had the impression that excessive concern about nutrition, especially about getting "enough" nutrition has created (at least in part) the problem of excessive eating. But still, one thing is how the problem is created and another how to solve it. For younger generations we may need to rethink what all this eating is about. For those of us who have been caught with the bad habits, I'm all for low carb. Had you asked me about two to three weeks ago whether I would ever be on a low carb diet, I would have said "No way! I like carbs (breads/crackers) too much." But I tried for a couple of days to follow a moderately lower carb diet, and voilà, lost a couple of my unwanted and unplanned pounds. I'm even starting to crave salads now. Unbelievable!

I think that most of the informed opinion about nutrition and diets are converging towards lower carbs as the single most helpful change in your eating habits.

Just for the record, I haven't watched this diavlog yet, but I'm looking forward to it.
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Old 05-02-2011, 01:14 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

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Originally Posted by ohreally View Post
Funny that it's the countries with the deepest food traditions (China, France, India, Thailand, etc) that have the thin people while it's the land that treats eating as yet another bodily function that has an obesity crisis. Makes you wonder if stuffing oneself like a pig is not an addictive reaction to the emptiness of modern life and the attendant lack of self-respect, all aided by food conglomerates that want everyone to be obese and a perfectly alienating collective fixation on youth and thinness.
I think there's something to this. I also think (and it's a turnoff for me to the Taubes of the world, perhaps unfairly) there's a tendency to try and find a magic solution, an easy explanation. I think that's why the popularity of the "carbs are bad for you" or "fat makes you fat" things, vs. the more moderate, pragmatic, kind of thing you'd find in a real traditional way of eating. (There's also something in the weird mix of hedonism and puritanism in US culture that seems to play into this.)

I have personal views about how to eat that generally preference vegetables and fruits (ooops, I think fruit is bad in Taubes world) to other carbs and mainly preferences whole-grain and legume-based carbs over the rest of the rest. Generally, I think that if we didn't eat all the processed junk and cooked from whole foods, the American diet would be a lot better, without deciding to avoid macronutrients. And along those lines, I think it makes sense to say consider balance. But if you check the comments on Taubes' books (or Adkins sites and the like), you get lots of people demanding that everyone admit that all grains and legumes are toxic! No healthy diet can involve them! It reminds me of a birther convention.
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Old 04-30-2011, 07:15 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Why We Get Fat (John Horgan & Gary Taubes)

Can someone let Gary know that he's not going to make good friends within the medical community by calling physicians "plumbers"?

I mean, he's right about physicians not having any significant training about research. Some learn by joining research teams, some by getting PhDs. Some plainly don't learn it. So, yes, I'll agree with that part. But not plumbers, Gary! Say, clinicians, experts in the art of medicine, or something like that. Otherwise I'll start calling journalists parrots. They just repeat what others say. There!
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