Gary Taubes on How Big Government Made Us Fat

The attack on fatty foods, in favor of carbohydrates, contributed to rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

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Science writer Gary Taubes has a knack for subverting the conventional wisdom. Sixteen years ago, he published a groundbreaking feature in the The New York Times Magazine, arguing that decades of government-approved nutritional advice attacking fatty foods and praising carbohydrates was flat-out wrong, ideologically motivated, and contributed to rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

He was widely attacked—including in the pages of Reason. His 2007 book Good Calories/Bad Calories followed up on that story, as did Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, which appeared in 2011. Today, his thesis is gaining traction among heath and nutrition researchers, and has been highlighted once again in The New York Times and Time magazine.

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Taubes in his kitchen in Oakland, California, to talk about his latest book on nutrition, The Case Against Sugar, which recently came out in paperback.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Camera by Paul Detrick, Justin Monticello, and Weissmueller. Additional graphics by Brett Raney.

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Photo Credits: Timkiv Vitaly/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Nick Gillespie: The Case Against Sugar is framed as a kind of prosecutorial case. Can you lay out the opening arguments that you make against sugar for us?

Gary Taubes: We have obesity and diabetes epidemics everywhere in the world. Worldwide, they manifest whenever a population shifts from whatever their traditional diet is to westernized urban diet and so you could think of the western diet and lifestyle as the vector that carries obesity and diabetes into these populations. Then the question is, what is it in that diet?

Gillespie: Describe the western diet? Does that mean processed foods?

Taubes: Well, so that's a question. Processed foods, sedentary living-

Gillespie: Totino's pizza rolls, microwaved food?

Taubes: Pizza rolls, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald's, Coca-Cola-

Gillespie: So the whole reason that we live, the things we wait for, are the things that are killing us?

Taubes: It's a simplistic way to think about it, probably wrong, the things many of us live for and many of us wait for. Anyway, so this is the issue. Something in our diet and lifestyle cause obesity and diabetes.

We see these chronic diseases appearing in populations when they make this nutritional shift, so the question is what is it? The argument I make in this book is that sugar is the prime suspect, always been the prime suspect, cause you can track these epidemics back in time.

Gillespie: Now, you say it's always been a prime suspect but really at least in the past 40 or 50 years, we've been told and this is a lot of your work, what we've been told is don't worry about sugar, worry about fat, worry about meat and that beautiful arc of fat around the edge that you might gristle up a little bit?

Taubes: That's key to the story, and that's how I entered into it as an investigative journalist is we had this belief system that began as a hypothesis in the 1950s and started to be tested in the 1960s and was never confirmed, which is that dietary fat causes heart disease. So by the 1980s, a healthy diet was being defined as a low-fat, low-salt diet.

Gillespie: And this explains Snackwell cookies and things like that.

Taubes: One of the things that happened in the 80s when we embraced this low fat healthy diet synchronicity is the government, the CDC, started telling industry to produce low fat foods. So, we could take foods like the iconic example is yogurt, a high fat food by definition. You remove some of the fat and now you have this kind of insipid watered-down, tasteless thing and to make it taste good, you put back fruit and sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and now you've got a heart healthy diet food that they sell in these little packets and we see them everywhere.

Gillespie: Did the shift from a higher fat, or a more balanced diet actually, to a low fat, low salt, sugar, did it achieve the goals that were predicted for it?

Taubes: You could look at heart disease mortality and it's come down. The nutrition community said, "Well, look, people aren't dying from heart disease as much, therefore, our advice is right." And then people like me say, "Yeah, but, we're not interested in mortality, cause we're also selling billions of dollars in statins every year and billions of dollars in blood pressure drugs. We're doing hundreds of thousands of heart surgeries a year, putting in stents, doing bypasses. If mortality wasn't coming down, we'd have a real problem. Question is what's happening to incidents. Are we seeing less heart disease because we're preventing it with changes in diet? And there's no evidence."

Gillespie: You know, you describe an early battle over many of these questions between academic nutritionists who overwhelming took the energy balance approach to nutrition: you lose weight of you burn more calories than you take in versus what they characterize as quack doctors who writing diet fad books that you can eat all the fat you wan. And yet you say the quacks were actually closer to being right.

Taubes: So you have an academic research community that dominated post-World War II in the U.S. by nutritionists, who are studying animals for the most part. 1959, '60, Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson invent the technology that allows hormones to be measured accurately and the school of endocrinology explodes. The science of endocrinology finally has the tools they need to understand things like hormonal regulation of fat accumulation. Yalow and Berson say, look, insulin drives fat accumulation, so maybe this link between type two diabetes and obesity, maybe the type two diabetics are obese because of the insulin. And nobody cares, except the doctors.

The doctors are like all of us. They're getting fat, right? What do you do if you're getting fat? Well, you try what everyone tells you to do, which is eat less and exercise more and if that doesn't work, which it doesn't, then, if you're smart, you look for other methods. Some of them read the diet book literature and try various diets. Some of them actually read the same medical literature I did, so Atkins famously read the same studies I read 40 years later. Maybe if I get rid of the carbohydrates and replace it with fat, because fats are the one macro-nutrient that doesn't stimulate insulin secretion, maybe I'll lose weight.

If you try it and it works-

Gillespie: So it is a place where kind of people outside of the official research community were desperate to get skinny or have their patients get skinny so they tried a bunch of different things?

Taubes: They try a bunch of different things. When you find one that works, after a lifetime of failing … Obesity is one of these subjects where it helps to have a weight problem. If you don't understand what it's like to get fatter and fatter, year in and year out, regardless of what you do, or to be 50 pounds fatter than your schoolmates in high school regardless of what you do, you just don't understand obesity.

Gillespie: You're a trim guy. Were you a fat load at some point?

Taubes: Nah, I was chubby when I was a kid. It was one of the interesting things, cause my brother who is a mathematician was … you could see every vein on his body, and I was a chubby. He was taller and thin. He couldn't gain weight if he wanted to, and I was just a chubby kid. Puberty helped and then I became an athlete and that helped. But my brother at his peak was 6'5″ and weighed about 195 was a rower. Remember Freud said anatomy is destiny. So he rowed crew. I was 6'2″ and could get up to 240, and I played football. We both ate as much as we could. That's what we did. We were kids. He was tall and thin. I was short and thick. Not … shorter and thick. That's just how we were built. I often wonder it's like why would you possibly think that I was thicker than him because I ate more or exercised less. I was just thicker than him. That was my body.

Gillespie: In the book, you document a long history of public nutrition advice being intertwined with politics in this country. So let's talk about the sugar lobby. How did king sugar get its crown in the American economy and kind of in the American diet?

Taubes: Well, sugar used to be very expensive and hard to get. It's hard to grow. It only grows in specific and tropical regions. You can't just transport the sugar cane around the world and then refine the sugar out of it afterwards. You've got to get the sugar out quickly on refining. It's a horrible job.

Gillespie: It was done by slaves.

Taubes: It was done by slaves. The sugar industry is at the heart of the slave trade. The industrial revolution comes along. Now beginning in the late 18th Century and suddenly sugar gets cheaper and cheaper to refine. 1840s the candy industry, the chocolate industry and the ice cream industry all start up. In the 1870s, 1880s, you get the soft drink industry with Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola and Dr. Pepper and suddenly not only are you creating entirely new ways to consume sugar and new vehicles to do it, and you can consume it all day long, you are targeting children and women as the consumers of sugar, children specifically. The soft drink industry in particular just explodes.

By 1900, we're consuming about 90 pounds per capita, which is almost a 20-fold increase in a century. Every industry, it's like an arms race, every industry, the nutritionist say, no, no, no, no, no, and the marketers say "If we don't do it also, we're out of business." They fall one after another. By the 1960s, you've got cereals that are 40, 50 percent sugar-

Gillespie: And that are advertising as such. Right? This is like Sugar Smacks. It was originally Sugar Frosted Flakes.

Taubes: Tastes like a milk shake. You've got all of the smartest minds on Madison Avenue in the PR industry creating not just cartoon characters to sell but entire Saturday morning cartoons, the ones we grew up on, like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle. It was a vehicle to sell cereal.

Gillespie: Gosh, I didn't realize. So in the Hague trial of cartoon characters against humanity, Rocky and Bullwinkle are as bad as Boris and Natasha then?

Taubes: Yes, you could look at it that way. Horrible thing. Fruit juices come in in the 1930s. Okay, Sunkist, the coalition of California orange growers, they have to do something with their oranges cause they all come into season at once. You can't sell enough and you can't move enough so you turn them into juice. You sell them as juice and you advertise them as healthy because of the vitamin C. We're coming off this age of the new nutrition, which was all about vitamins and vitamin deficiency diseases.

You go back to what we evolved to eat and the sugar in those apples, and kids are now getting that within 20 minutes of waking up in the morning and they aren't going more than an hour and half, two hours over the course of the day without. Over the course of a day, they're consuming almost a year's worth of what they evolved to eat.

Gillespie: At various points, the USDA or other government agencies that kind of gave dietary recommendations wouldn't even think to say, "Well, glasses of apple juice or orange juice are sugar."

Taubes: To this day, when you are told to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, it's because they're vitamin rich. The conventional thinking, orange juice is healthy cause it's full of vitamins, and in the alternative thinking, the world I live in now, it's unhealthy because it's basically sugar water. You could take Coca-Cola, add the vitamin C tablet, and you got the same thing.

Gillespie: Talk about why the government would kind of push that or have that blind spot and the role of the sugar industry bringing that pressure to bear.

Taubes: The sugar industry, always a very powerful lobby, cause sugar was a very vital product import. The food industry was dependent on it, so the sugar lobby was always considered incredibly powerful. Beginning of the 1920s, the industry creates the sugar association basically to help advertise sugar consumption. Post-World War II, the diet, artificial sweetener industry begins to come of age. Saccharine had been around since the 1890s and cyclamates since the 1930s, and they're used in products that are sold for diabetics.

People started thinking, 'Hey, I'm getting fatter, I could drink these sugar-free, calorie-free drinks as well.' The industry starts producing and the newspapers now have something to measure, which is the amount of diet sodas being produced, so they can write about the diet craze. And the sugar industry has a problem because people are saying sugar is fattening. So the sugar association starts saying a calorie is a calorie. That's the general … that's the bedrock belief of the nutritional obesity community, so they start advertising widely and started PR campaigns to combat this argument that sugar is fattening. They do it by basically just taking what the nutritionists are giving them. The nutritionists are giving them bad science. The obesity researchers are giving them bad science, and all serves to exonerate sugar.

Gillespie: Is the sugar lobby actually paying for studies or are they paying nutritionists for-

Taubes: They are paying for research. They began paying for research in World War II, but that, again, was common practice. The sugar industry kind of pioneered it. I don't think they did it for public relations reasons. They wanted to find other uses for sugar, so they funded some of the best sugar biochemists in the world, and they wrote about it. Science magazine would annually run articles about the sugar industry, who they were funding, and why they were funding it, because it was a good thing. It helped cement some allies later. Because if somebody's been paying your bills for 20 years, you tend to be fond of them. That's where the conflict of interest come in.

Then in the 1960s with this idea that dietary fat was a problem, dietary fat caused heart disease, some of the people pushing that happened to be long time recipients of sugar industry largess. Now they could pay those people to write articles saying dietary fat is a problem, not sugar. This was conventional thinking. The only people who were claiming sugar was the problem were these sort of fringe British nutritionists who were perceived as quacks.

Gillespie: So what about the attack on artificial sweeteners, so saccharine, certainly cyclamates was banned in the late 60s, early 70s?

Taubes: '69, yeah.

Gillespie: Saccharine was almost banned, or it was for a bit. But it carries warnings on it. Where did the interest in saying these were carcinogenic or these were problematic-

Taubes: Oh, they came from the sugar industry. So the saccharine and cyclamates were direct competitors. Interestingly, the beverage—and here's where the beverage industry and the sugar industry split—the beverage industry was happy to sell artificially sweetened and artificial sweeteners are cheaper. So the beverage industry starts, Coke and Pepsi, they all put out Tab and Diet Rite, they were low calorie-

Gillespie: Fresca. Now, I'm trying to think of all the horrible acid tasting pre-Diet Coke diet sodas.

Taubes: Yeah, but they were happy. But the sugar industry saw it as a direct threat to their viability and it was. There's a quote in The New York Times that I quote in my book, a sugar industry executive saying if he's copping to spending a half million dollars on research trying to find anything that artificial sweetener does that's damaging, they would give female rats the equivalent of 60 cans a day of soda and then hope that they would produce rats with birth defects so they could say it was as bad as thalidomide. I mean they were looking for anything. This executive in The New York Times is quoted as saying "If someone could undersell you one cent to a dime, wouldn't you throw a brick bat at them if you could?"

Gillespie: So if our government and other public health institutions, universities, what not, if they're consistently offering bad nutritional advice, and bad dietary guidelines, what do you do about that? What is the response?

Taubes: That's the problem, isn't it?

Gillespie: Is there a solution here or do we just kind of say screw it and you know?

Taubes: In the science in which I was raised, so physics and the people who taught me science when I wrote my first two books in physics and chemistry, the hard sciences, the last thing you want to do is get an assumption accepted into the theory of how things work without rigorously testing it, because then people will build on it from there and it will grow and infect the whole thought construction. You end up with, I'm going to beat this metaphor to death, sort of a house of cards. And there will be no way to go back on it. Those are sciences that have no influence on every day life. So in a field like nutrition and obesity research, you've now got these enormous institutional dogmas built in that I and others are arguing are simply wrong. Who do you trust and how do you get the institutions to change their belief systems?

Right now I'm co-authoring an article … the British Medical Journal is running a series on nutrition policy and their way of dealing with it is by assigning writers from these different belief systems, so I'm a co-author on an article on dietary fat along with the former head of the Harvard nutrition department who thinks I'm the worst journalist he's ever met and who does a form of science that I consider a pseudo-science.

Gillespie: But that is kind of the enlightenment model of science, right, that you have competing truth claims and you kind of put them in a cockfighting ring-

Taubes: What's the cockfighting ring? That's the key. The cockfighting ring is experimental tests. It is a hypothesis and tests. You have a hypothesis, you do an experiment, you intervene, limiting the number of variables you change. The problem with these sciences, which is you can't really test these hypotheses. They're too hard to do. I mean you could if you had enough societal motivation. If you're willing to spend 10 billion dollars, the way we do to try and find out if the Higgs boson exists in high energy physics. You get everyone to work together. You identify the key questions and you spend whatever money is necessary to do it.

Gillespie: Do you think food producers, obviously they have institutional legacies that they want to protect, but they also … groups like, I don't know, General Mills or Proctor and Gamble, or what not, private industry spends billions of dollars a year on research. Are they capable of doing disinterested research?

Taubes: Well, the assumption is no. Now days there's a whole journalistic industry of identifying conflicts of interest when researchers do take money from industry. There are models which work better, where you just have the industry donate basically money for research to clearing houses or the government, which then identifies what things have to be studied. But if I'm right the argument I'm making is you have entire multiple generations of nutrition and obesity research who really fundamentally don't know how to do science. They don't know how to think critically, how to keep multiple hypotheses in their head at one time, what it means to rigorously test hypotheses. So even if you had them do the studies, they would probably do a bad job.

Gillespie: At various points you compare sugar to a drug. To go into kind of a different register of government malfeasance, the government has arbitrarily declared certain drugs good and certain drugs illicit. The war on drugs has been a failure. The war on tobacco I guess has been successful in terms of helping to drive down the amount of people who smoke. Are you proposing anything along the lines of a war on sugar?

Taubes: No, government interference worries me. The same way I think it worries you guys. This whole story is about government interference that went awry. If they had stayed out of things in the '60s through the '80s, and never inflicted us with this, what I think are incorrect ideas—that a healthy diet is inherently low in fat, low in salt—the scientists might have had time to get the science right. We might have really understood what's happening.

The null hypothesis should be it's something simple. Sugar's not just at the scene of the crime when it happens in populations. It's at the scene of the crime in the human body, which is the liver. If that's true, and you get the message across that these are disorders that nobody wants—nobody wants them in their family, nobody wants their children to have them—I think there will be, if we truly understood the cause, if we got it right, if we knew how to fix it, if that message was consistent from diet doctor to diet doctor to insurance agents to hospitals to physicians—'There is a cause'—if we understand that, then I think there will be a societal move to fix it. But again, we have to get it right. We have to get the science right.

Gillespie: Well, we will leave it there. We have been talking with Taubes. He's a science writer, whose most recent book is The Case Against Sugar, out in paperback. Gary, thanks for talking to Reason.

Taubes: Thank you, Nick.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

103 responses to “Gary Taubes on How Big Government Made Us Fat

  1. This can’t have any basis in science. Not one mention of the BMI.

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  2. And it will be memory holed.

    1. Oh boy, you’re gonna have fun googling that.

    2. You know how the Internet is just a series of tubes? Well, some of those tubes are happy.

  3. So the government was completely wrong and made the world unhealthy?

    I, for one, am shocked!

  4. He was widely attacked?including in the pages of Reason.

    You know who else changed their opinion on contrarian ideas?

    1. Not anyone who’s a regular commenter on Hit’n’Run, that’s for sure.

      1. I used to think that, but not any more.

  5. Why not call US nutritional research crap and only pay attention to Irish, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese research?

    1. That reminds me. I’ve got to remember to pick up ingredients for a boiled dinner.

      1. 1 joint of beef (to include at least 40% cartilaginous gristle)
        3 quarts water
        2 tbsp coarse-ground mustard

        Add the beef and water to a stock pot and bring to a boil. Cook for at least 3 hours or until beef reaches desired flavorlessness. Serve with mustard. For dessert, cigarettes, and football on the telly.

        1. For dessert, cigarettes, and football on the telly.

          WTH kind of Irish household is this? Dessert is a fifth of Jameson and a lengthy and bloody domestic row.

          1. I think sarc has had enough of that sort of thing for a while.

    2. That would cause a trade deficit in research, putting US researchers out of business. Sad !

  6. I have tried many diets over the years and I have now been ‘Whole Foods Plant Based’ for the past year. I reached some personal conclusions.

    1. Eat real food. Processed foods should only be eaten on special occasions.
    2. Eat a lot of complex carbohydrates. Stay away from refined carbohydrates as much as possible.
    3. No added sugars. No soda. Sugar is the devil.
    4. Eat healthy fats. Nuts and seeds are the best.
    5. Eat fiber, fiber, and more fiber.
    6. Try to eat one large salad daily. Leafy greens are probably the best thing you can put in your body.

    Veganism is an insufferable cult. I use the term ‘Whole Foods Plant Based’ when describing my eating habits. It takes a lot of planning and self control to maintain this sort of lifestyle, but I feel like I have turned back the clock 10 years.

    1. I’m on the “Whole Foods” diet. That’s where you buy lunch at Whole Foods on Monday and then can’t afford to eat for the rest of the week.

      1. Adoubleplus joke. Love me some fancy foods, but I can only afford it twice a year.

    2. (I eat the same way.)

      It takes a lot of planning and self control to maintain this sort of lifestyle…

      It’s easier if you’re persuaded that your life depends on it?or at least, that’s my guess as to why it doesn’t seem so difficult for me. It’s also easier once you get used to it. I began 5+ years ago.

    3. I feel my best eating meat and leafy greens and avoiding bready carbohydrates and sugars. My wife feels best eating a ton of bread and avoiding meat; she’s also got the metabolism of a hummingbird and can eat sugar all day with no effect.

      She does most of the grocery shopping, so guess what.

      1. Maybe your wife is into feederism with you?

      2. Man, I know some ladies who can put away starches and sugars. Contrarily, I can eat a 3lb steak with ease…

        1. Same here. I once slow-cooked a whole pork shoulder, ate most of it myself, and then rearranged the entire upstairs of the house. Give me a bagel, though, and i’m just gonna sit around feeling bloated for hours.

      3. Drop all of your insurance policies and see if that has an effect.

    4. I know some very picky vegans who are literally malnourished. Very few plant-based proteins are as well-rounded as meat, especially eggs, so you have to really pay attention to nutrition. It can absolutely be done, though, and your kidneys and bowels are probably pretty happy. Avoiding processed foods, refined / enriched carbs, and sugars are just good advice for everyone. Enriched flour was created because processed flours lack crucial B vitamins that are contained in the whole grains and people ended up with pellagra and shit. I’m sure the shelf-life of processed grains has saved millions of people, but given the choice we should avoid them.

      1. “Avoiding processed foods” can be a bit tricky when you really feel that aching desire, late at night, to wash your vegetables before eating them. Cooking, too. That’s of the Devil.

  7. So what’s the latest on diet soda? Because I feel like not drinking a tall glass of sugar is at least better on balance.

    1. Dude sugary soda is a complete waste of calories. I don’t understand how people drink that shit, I barely even drink juice. I know some peeps get headaches/GI problems from artificial sweeteners, but I don’t, so leave me alone.

      Diet soda has more caffeine, too.

      1. Diet soda causes people to say stupid things like ‘Dude’.

    2. The latest thinking seems to be that even diet soda is bad because the carbonation in the stomach disrupts the body’s ability to determine “fullness” and thereby regulate hunger sensations.

      1. I don’t know about diet soda, but I drink a lot of seltzer and I haven’t had an issue controlling my hunger. It actually helps keep me from wanting to snack during the day.

        1. Are you consuming the seltzer at mealtime?

          There are lots of these effect/no effect studies that usually have timing as a significant confounding variable.

          I could see how carbonation in a diet soda at meal time would fuck with your sense of fullness and leave you feeling empty empty at snack time while a seltzer to satiate your hunger for a snack would do the opposite.

      2. Well they’ll pry my fizzy water from my cold dead hands.

        1. Ice cold, non-Splenda Diet Coke, please.

      3. Artificial sweeteners also spike your insulin just like sugar and HFCS does. So you don’t get the calories, but you get the same “jeez I feel weak from hunger” sensation after drinking diet soda.

        I’m not into self-denial, however, so I don’t mind having a diet or even a sugared soda once in a while, like once every couple of weeks or so.

        There are certain things that just taste really good with regular Coke (especially Mexican Coke): good hot dogs/sausages, pizza, pastrami on rye. So I’m never giving up soda entirely. Sorry Gary Taubes!

        1. Mexican Coke uses real cane sugar.

          1. You could almost call it Cokecane

    3. Diet soda will fuck up your metabolism and give you the beetus, too. One theory is that drinking diet soda makes you feel like you’ve been “good,” so you reward yourself by overindulging in other foods. Another is that insulin spikes are triggered by the mere experience of sweetness in the taste buds, since human evolution hasn’t caught up to the idea of Splenda yet.

      1. I buy both theories. My dog ate a pack of Tident gum with xylitol in it, developed serious hypoglycemia, and nearly died. The pancreas of dogs and cats can’t differentiate between certain sugar alcohols and sugar, so it dumps insulin to break down the “glucose” from the gum. There actually isn’t any sugar, so it depletes their normal amounts. Pet owners ought to know about xylitol, although I think it’s seldom used these days.

        Clearly large amounts of insulin aren’t dumped when tasting fake sugar, but I think it could contribute to the phenomenon of reduced insulin sensitivity in some way.

        1. Oh yeah, they’re certainly not mutually exclusive theories.

      2. The artificial sweeteners actually do spike your insulin, so believable.

      3. Ant don’t eat what they gather. The ants grow fungus and eat that. Ants will collect Splenda and dump it in the fungus garden. Splenda kills the fungus and the ants have to move out and start over.

    4. And how does being a big fat ass help solve global warming?

      1. It helps block out the sun.

      2. If we bury them in a non-degradable casket, all the co2 they’ve sequestered will be out of the environment till the zombie apocalypse or whatever.

    5. Drink enough real coffee, no cream or sugar or anything, to get your heart started in the morning, then drink water.

      1. You mean, you wake up dead?

    6. Diet sodas are fine. The FUD on the internet is bullshit. Sucralose and aspartame are some of the most tested substances on the planet, and they don’t do anything to you. Drink up.

  8. There is but one God of Paleo, and Taubes is his prophet.

    1. Yeah, I can still remember preaching the good word as an undergrad.

    2. Back when i was still on Facebook, one of my friends got into paleo AND CrossFit at the same time. I had to unfollow him.

    3. Is that the diet where you hunt your food with stone-hewn weapons?

      1. Close.
        That is the diet where your food eats you.

        1. The two are not mutually exclusive

  9. How to get good coverage from Reason: rebrand your criticism of industry into a criticism of government.

    1. When it comes to agriculture in this country, that Venn diagram isn’t much more than a single circle.

    2. He criticizes the government and lobbying by Big Food throughout his books (written years ago). It has nothing with getting on Reason. Your accusation is ignorant and utter bullshit

  10. To determine whether to follow nutritional guidelines, read all of them back to the beginning of time, and figure out if all those changes are based on science or political donations. Then remember what your grandmother said.

    1. Fingers faster than brain: follow GOVERNMENT nutritional guidelines

  11. rising rates of obesity and diabetes

    As a libertarian, though, I haven’t yet seen a compelling case for why I should give a shit. Make people responsible for their own healthcare, and I no longer care how many Americans are digging their graves with their spoons.

    1. I’m pretty sure libertarians are allowed to care about people they don’t know, even if it’s not required.

      1. REAL libertarians don’t have feelings, Zeb. At least not for other people.

        1. REAL libertarians have to completely know other’s feelings, because otherwise you can’t effectively screw them over in the free marketplace.

      2. But let’s be honest, Zeb. You don’t care about people you don’t know. You just don’t like seeing fat people, so you are cool with schemes to tax and/or limit what they can choose to eat.

        It’s not about “caring.” It’s not about “health.” It’s about hatred and classism.

        You’re right, I don’t give a shit about people I don’t know. I don’t care whether they live or die. (Also true of most of the people I do know, TBH.) But if you want to throw down on virtue-signaling (and it seems you do), it’s arguable that people like me–who are fine with complete strangers choosing whatever it is they want to use or eat so long as it causes me no harm, and having whatever body sizes or illnesses that result–are the more caring, because we’re respectful of the rights of adults to choose their own destiny. If you love them, Zeb, set them free.

    2. You’re paying for it with your taxes, you should care.

      1. The government’s taxes aren’t yours. Forcing you to sign a confession (to “file”) in no way alters the fact.

  12. I cut refined sugar and grains from my diet, and I’ve lost 35 pounds in three months.

    1. I feel like I should cut down on sugar. But if I lost 35 pounds it would be really bad.

      1. You will replace the calories with good calories from protein and fat, you’ll be fine. Cut the sugar.

  13. It may be worth mentioning that a pair of seemingly quality studies recently showed little difference in weight loss or insulin resistance when comparing low fat vs low carb diets, and consumption of sugary drinks vs milk vs water vs non-calorie sweet drinks.

    This one on low-fat vs low-carb, sponsored by Gary Taubes-affiliated Nutritional Science Initiative

    This one on insulin resistance and sugary drinks

    1. Also, I struggle to understand the obsession with the lifestyle of our pre-historic ancestors. I’ll accept that for several hundred thousand years, human beings probably subsisted on high protein, high fat, low carb diets, and went through periods of feast and famine. But why should that make it *healthy*? Just because we evolved under those conditions doesn’t mean they are optimal for health, it just means our ancestors were the least bad of their peers at dying under those conditions.

    2. The thing that most of these studies fail on is that they tend to actively exclude diabetics from the start. People with insulin sensitivity (which increasingly is being shown to be genetically related not only weight related) and those who don’t are fundamentally different in how they respond to sugars. All most of this research can show is the effect on
      those with a normal insulin response.

      On the first study, they excluded diabetics. If you don’t have an insulin issue then eating Low-fat/High-carb works equally as well as High-fat/Low-carb. This is where the paleo/atkins people go wrong because, for the general populace, either method works. What nobody can do is eat High-Fat/High-Carb.

      On the second study, the results are somewhat useless. All it really proves is that what you drink isn’t a contributing factor when the study doesn’t control for diet. A lot of the negative or inconclusive studies for artificial sweeteners have that same basic issue. The most accurate study would be to test a High-fat/Low-carb diet where one group drank only water, tea, and coffee and the other drank diet soda.

      1. “Lets test a bunch of college students with the metabolism of a jack russell and see which diet works best for them” . Uh no, get a bunch of fat, pre diabetic 40 years olds and try some diets and see which one gets back the best health benefits. You probably won’t see that study though.

  14. Since diabetes is, I’m given to understand, the disease of your system to effectively regulate the amount of sugar in your body, the role of too much sugar in your diet seems to be obvious.

    Yet Big Sugar has long diverted culpability to too much fat, too much this, too much that, too much of anything except sugar.

    Is the world finally waking up to the impact of too much sugar as the primary if not the only cause of adult-onset diabetes?

    1. If only science were logic; but it isn’t.

      1. Correct. Hasn’t been since the first federal grant.

      2. “If only science were logic;”

        If only science were not political.

    2. There is no Big Sugar. There are Big Food Conglomerates that do this. There is a Big Difference. It’s up to the consumer to do their own research, but most people are mindless pringle munching couch potatoes.

  15. “Well, you try what everyone tells you to do, which is eat less and exercise more and if that doesn’t work, which it doesn’t, then, if you’re smart, you look for other methods.”

    Huh? Works for me. Eat less (junk food) and exercise more is exactly what one should do to reduce body mass. I have lost 20 lbs in the last 18 months doing just that.

    1. So, you haven’t been doing just that. You didn’t just eat less, you cut out the junk food. Then you threw in exercising more.

      You should have tried changing just one variable at a time. What do you think your results would have been if you had just quit eating junk food.

    2. It does work. It’s just that keto and low-carb eating work a lot better than other diets. It really reduces my appetite. If you can handle the food and keep discipline you can be like me and lose 80lbs and I’ve kept it off over 15 years. I added in more carbs but the lesson stuck. I eat a lot less carbs than I used to probably less than 50-60g a day.

  16. Sweden and South Africa are now Ketogenous countries and their food supply chain has changed.

    As for diet, the Indian diet is just as bad as the western diet if not worse, since we invented sugar processing after all, super high in carbs, very little animal fat since the switch to vegetable oil from ghee.

  17. I miss the days when Fumento called almost anyone who disagreed with him mentally ill. Give him credit for presaging what has become the national pastime.

  18. A guy sent some Cola to a lab to see what was in it.

    The report he got back said his horse had diabetes.

  19. Taubes is a hero of mine. He probably added 20 years to my life with his wisdom. This give me 20 more years to shitpost on reason and other online comment sites.

  20. Taubes does brilliant work.

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  22. The Glucose Trust, yeast and malt syrup and powder companies bought the votes that ratified the 18th Amendment. All waxed fat until Food Czar Herbert Hoover became president. Hoover used tax laws to seize assets and obtain indictments against large sugar and yeast companies and their executives. The flight of liquidity from where banks and brokerages agents could seize it collapsed the economy. Beer was relegalized, Germany was again defeated–but not before the Glucose Trust had regained some of its power. So this time, instead of bootleggers converting that sugar to alcohol, food companies inject that sugar, excuse me, HFCS, into foods? In OUR mixed economy?

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