Gary Taubes

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Gary Taubes
Born (1956-04-30) April 30, 1956 (age 58)
Rochester, New York
Nationality American
Occupation Science writer

Gary Taubes is the American author of Nobel Dreams (1987), Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion (1993), and Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), titled The Diet Delusion (2008) in the UK and Australia.[1] His book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It was released in December 2010. In December 2010 Taubes launched a blog at GaryTaubes.com to promote the book's release and to respond to critics. His main hypothesis is based on: Carbohydrates generate insulin, which causes the body to store fat.[2]

Biography[edit]

Born in Rochester, New York, Taubes studied applied physics at Harvard University (BS, 1977)[3] and aerospace engineering at Stanford University (MS, 1978). After receiving a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in 1981, Taubes joined Discover magazine as a staff reporter in 1982.[4] Since then he has written numerous articles for Discover, Science and other magazines. Originally focusing on physics issues, his interests have more recently turned to medicine and nutrition. His brother, Clifford Henry Taubes, is the William Petschek Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University.[5]

Scientific controversies[edit]

Taubes's books have all dealt with scientific controversies. Nobel Dreams takes a critical look at the politics and experimental techniques behind the Nobel Prize-winning work of physicist Carlo Rubbia. Bad Science is a chronicle of the short-lived media frenzy surrounding the PonsFleischmann cold fusion experiments of 1989.

He stated in his magnum opus that heat generation in the cold fusion experiments of Martin Fleischman and Stanley Pons is due entirely to difference in ionic conductivity of deuterated salts solutions compared cu normal aqueous solutions.

He also formulated an allegation of fraud regarding the results from John Bockris's research group.[6]

Dietary science[edit]

Gary Taubes on Bookbits radio.

Taubes gained prominence in the low-carb diet debate following the publication of his 2002 New York Times Magazine piece "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?". The article, which questioned the efficacy and health benefits of low-fat diets, was seen as defending the Atkins diet against the medical establishment, and it became extremely controversial. Some scholars interviewed for this article complained that Mr. Taubes misinterpreted their words or treated them out of context.[7] Taubes himself stated: "[E]ven though I knew the article would be the most controversial article the Times Magazine ran all year, [the reaction] still shocked me."[8] The Center for Science in the Public Interest published a rebuttal to the Times article in its November 2002 newsletter.[9] According to Taubes: "[T]he CSPI is an advocacy group that has been pushing low-fat diets since the 1970s."[10]

In 2007, Taubes published his book Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease (published as The Diet Delusion in the UK). This book examined how a hypothesis became dogma and claimed to show how the scientific method was circumvented so a contestable hypothesis could remain unchallenged. The book uses data and studies compiled from more than a century of dietary research.[11][12]

Taubes's hypothesis is that the medical community and the federal government of the United States of America have relied upon misinterpreted scientific data on nutrition to build the prevailing paradigm about what constitutes healthful eating. Taubes makes the case that — contrary to the conventional wisdom — it is refined carbohydrates that are responsible for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and many other "maladies of civilization". In the Epilogue to Good Calories, Bad Calories on page 454, Taubes notes ten "inescapable" conclusions, the first of which is:[13]

Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization.

Reception[edit]

Taubes includes information and studies which indicate that physical exercise increases appetite to a degree that makes it an inefficient tool in weight loss. He tracks the origins of commonly accepted dietary advice and aims to show that information that is filtered to the public often contradicts scientific evidence. On October 19, 2007 Taubes appeared on Larry King Live to discuss his book. His book was praised as "raising interesting and valuable points" by Andrew Weil, a proponent of alternative medicine, while Mehmet Oz and trainer Jillian Michaels who appeared on the same program disagreed with Taubes on many questions.[14]

The reviews for Good Calories, Bad Calories have varied. George Bray of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana notes in his review that the book "...has much useful information and is well worth reading." but "Obese people clearly eat more than do lean ones."[15] Taubes, in a letter to the editor in the same journal, clarifies some of the comments made by Bray. Taubes notes, "The hypothesis favored by Bray and a half century of authorities on human obesity is that fat accumulation is fundamentally caused by positive energy balance." Taubes responds, "The alternative hypothesis begins with the fundamental observation that obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation and then asks the obvious question, what regulates fat accumulation. This was elucidated by 1965 and has never been controversial. 'Insulin is the principal regulator of fat metabolism'..."[16]

John Tierney in his 2007 The New York Times review of Taubes's book Good Calories, Bad Calories entitled "Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus", discusses information cascades and the role of Ancel Keys in widely held beliefs related to diet and fat. Tierney follows Taubes in noting that a 2001 Cochrane meta-analysis of low-fat diets found that they had "no significant effect on mortality".[17] Harriet A. Hall, however, takes Taubes to task for "selective quoting" of Cochrane in her negative review of his work.[18] Scott Gavura confirmed her view three years later, citing Yoni Freedhoff's The Diet Fix, "Calories do matter (Yes, Taubes is still wrong).".[19]

Awards[edit]

Taubes has won the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996-97.[8] He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy.[20]

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jimmy Moore: Interview with Gary Taubes". Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  2. ^ Taubes, Gary (June 30, 2012). "What Really Makes Us Fat". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ "Gary Taubes, Co-founder". 
  4. ^ Squires, Sally. (August 27, 2002). "The Skinny on Author Gary Taubes". Washington Post.
  5. ^ "Taubes Receives NAS Award in Mathematics". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  6. ^ Taubes, Gary (15 June 1990). "Cold fusion conundrum at Texas A&M". Science 248 (4961). pp. 1299–1304. Bibcode:1990Sci...248.1299T. doi:10.1126/science.248.4961.1299. PMID 17735269 
  7. ^ Atkins Facts: The Diet Fad of the 21st Century
  8. ^ a b Inside the Story - Gary Taubes: What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? (Interview with Martha Henry from the MIT Knight Fellowships program). (July 2003).
  9. ^ Liebman, Bonnie. (November 2002). "The Truth About the Atkins Diet". CSPI Nutrition Action Health Letter.
  10. ^ Taubes, Gary. (March 2003). An exercise in vitriol rather than sound journalism. Reason Online.
  11. ^ Taubes, Gary (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calorie: Google Book Preview, Notes; pages 469 ff. Knopf. p. 609. ISBN 978-1-4000-3346-1. 
  12. ^ Tierney, John. (July 21, 2008). "Good News on Saturated Fat". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Taubes, Gary (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories: Google Book Preview, Page 454. Knopf. p. 609. ISBN 978-1-4000-3346-1. 
  14. ^ Are Fatty Foods Good For You?. (October 19, 2007). Larry King Live. CNN.
  15. ^ Bray, G.A. (February 2008). "Viewpoint – Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes; New York: AA Knopf". Obesity Reviews. The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Retrieved June 9, 2010. 
  16. ^ Taubes, Gary. "Letter to Editor – Response to Dr George Bray's Review of Good Calories, Bad Calories". Obesity Reviews. The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Retrieved June 9, 2010. 
  17. ^ Tierney, John. (October 9, 2007). "Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ Hall, Harriet (January 18, 2011). "Why We Get Fat". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  19. ^ Gavura, Scott (February 27, 2014). "The Diet Fix". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  20. ^ Taubes, Gary. (April 13, 2011). Is Sugar Toxic?. The New York Times.

External links[edit]