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And some drama in the Paleo community

What a good time to do a book review of Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it”.  For those of you in the 4 Hour Body community that don’t keep up with the Paleo community I will explain.  There was recently a conference at UCLA the Ancestral Health Symposium.  This was were many of the big names in the Paleo scientific community got together and gave various talks on research that they do.  One of the talks was by Stephan Guyenet.  His ideas on obesity are mostly related to reward and lepin, which is a very brief description.  After his talk he had a question and answer session where Gary Taubes came to the podium and tried to debunk Guyenet’s whole hypothesis.  This would be all fine if he wasn’t such a dick about it.

Since then Guyenet has made a couple related posts and other people in Paleo land have as well.  This also reminded me to consider opposing views when reading thing like Tabues book.  After reading the book I thought I had it all figured out and was as arrogant in my knowledge as Tabues was.  Maybe it rubbed off on me.  Now I know better.

Review of the book

I do recommend reading the book.  If you read it after reading my post you will take it all with a grain of salt but that is good.  The book is basically a dumbed down summary of his first book “Good Calories Bad Calories”.  Where GCBC was written for doctors and the scientific community WWGF was written for laymen like me and you.

A good chunk of the book discuss the history of obesity research.  This data he discusses is very intriguing and the fact that the medical community suddenly started to dismiss is for the last 30-40 years is disappointing.  He discusses many examples of communities over the last 100 years or so that had a problem with obesity.  This was before there was fast food, before there was HFC, before there was trans fat, and before a lot of the things that we tend to blame obesity on these days.  These communities where active, malnourished, and fat.  WTF?  That throws a bit of a wrench into the whole caloric deficit camp eh?

Taubes uses a few examples to debunk calories in calories out.  He does not try to dispute the 1st law of thermodynamics but explains that people often misues it and do not understand the details of it.  Those of us on slow carb (and Paleo) know calories in calories out is not an absolute truth from experience.  Specific examples he gives of calories in calories out is a study done on exercise and weight using marathon runners stating that even they gain weight over a period of time no matter how much running was done.

Changes in running distance were inversely related to changes in men’s and women’s body mass indices (BMIs)

His next example is the 20 calories a day theory that adds 2 lbs per year.  Simple math, but 20 calories over our daily expenditure is minimal.  His argument for this point is a bit of a reach though and doesn’t take into account a million different variables.

He then begins to discuss his hypothesis that the energy we exert is dictated by our diet and body fat, not the other way around.  He uses some animal examples to try and make his point here, and while I do agree with his hypothesis, I think his argument is missing some vital details.

One thing that Taubes touches on briefly is what happens during pregnancy, and early childhood.  I think this may be a pretty big issue.  My parents were pretty lean when they had me, and I am sure a lot of you have pictures of you parents when they were younger and 30-50 lbs lighter too.  I was also a very active kid, I played every sport you could imagine and still play a couple to keep active and be social.  For those of you that have parents that where obese during pregnancy, and where not as active as kids there is probably a big difference between you and me in terms of fat loss.

There are many other details that he covers and logic that he uses to prove his point is speculative but does make sense.  There are many people opposed to what Taubes says for different reasons.  Some are from the low-fat/calories in calories out camp, others debate Taubes emphasis on carbohydrates and insulin (such as Guyenet).   I was recently reminded of the dumb ass that did the Twinkie diet and lost weight.  This is suppose to somehow prove that calories in calories out matter, although the calorie calculations do not add up.  Stephan Guyenet actually has a blog post discussing this.  The ironic thing is that the first 1/2 of the post describes things the same way Tabues does, right up until the word leptin.

So what or who do we believe, everyone seems to have different opinions and Guyenet actaullys says “The mechanism by which this occurs is not totally clear, but it has nothing to do with removing the supposed suppressive effect of insulin on fat release from fat cells.” I do know from personal experience going slow carb to Paleo to really low carb I cut quite a bit of fat each time I lowered my carb intake.  Something I also finding myself say regularly on forms etc is that calories in calories out matter, but there the current methods to calculate them are so inaccurate they are useless.  One last thing to remember from Robb Wolf’s book (The Paleo Solution) is that there is no such thing as a essential carbohydrate, we can easily break down fat or protein in to glucose for energy, so we are engineered to not eat need carbs.

Here are videos from the Ancestral Health Symposium.

Here is the video of Taubes and Guyenet.

Update: Here is a decent study on exercise and fat loss which I have talked about a couple times before.  Sample size was 1847 which is pretty good.

Conclusion: Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programs of 6-12 months induce a modest reduction in weight and waist circumference in overweight and obese populations. Our results show that isolated aerobic exercise is not an effective weight loss therapy in these patients. Isolated aerobic exercise provides modest benefits to blood pressure and lipid levels and may still be an effective weight loss therapy in conjunction with diets.


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