Sunday, January 17, 2010

More on Bias & Food Science

After reading a bit more about the endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, I found Gary Taubes (who is apparently more reknowned). Taubes is a science journalist who wrote Good Calories, Bad Calories (Amazon), a follow up to New York Times' most controversial piece in 2002 (which is saying a lot for the New York Times) asking if "What if it's all been a Big Fat Lie?" (NYT).

Arguing virtually the same things as Lustig, Taubes points to study after study showing why what we thought we knew about obesity and nutrition has been wrong. The basic premise is this: Atkins was right all along. We get fat because of the way our bodies process carbohydrates. Cut out the processed carbs and simple sugars (especially the fructose as Lustig will tell you), and we can dramatically reduce obesity. By focusing on low glycemic index foods, you prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease - a few tables here of what foods fall into which categories (PDF, UCLA).

What made this particularly post worthy (which, let's face it, is a pretty low threshold here) was one of Taubes' closing paragraphs in his book (Overcoming Bias):

The institutionalized vigilance, “this unending exchange of critical judgment,” is nowhere to be found in the study of nutrition, chronic disease, and obesity, and it hasn’t been for decades. For this reason, it is difficult to use the term “scientists” to describe those individuals who work in these disciplines, and, indeed, I have actively avoided doing so in this book. It’s simply debatable, at best, whether what these individuals have practiced for the past fifty years, and whether the culture they have created, as a result, can reasonably be described as science.
This doesn't seem to be a problem confined to nutrition. The Sunday Times (UK) reported yesterday that an oversight caused the disproved alarmist claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 to be included in the latest official IPCC report on global warming. With the embarrassing disclosures in the Climategate emails, one wonders what other 'oversights' will ultimately be uncovered.

For more on Gary Taubes' work, have a look at one of his lectures here (though as forewarning, it's 70 minutes long):

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