April 30, 1956 |
Rochester, New York
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. His book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It was released in December 2010. His main hypothesis is that carbohydrates stimulate the secretion of insulin, which causes the body to store fat.
Born in Rochester, New York, Taubes studied applied physics at Harvard University (BS, 1977) 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. 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.
Taubes' books have all dealt with scientific controversies.
In Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion, he chronicles the short-lived media frenzy surrounding the Pons–Fleischmann cold fusion experiments of 1989. He opines in the book that heat generation in the experiments of Drs. Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons was due entirely to difference in ionic conductivity of deuterated salts solutions compared to normal aqueous solutions.
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. 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." The Center for Science in the Public Interest published a rebuttal to the Times article in its November 2002 newsletter. According to Taubes: "[T]he CSPI is an advocacy group that has been pushing low-fat diets since the 1970s."
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 examines how a hypothesis — that dietary fat is the cause of obesity and heart disease — became dogma, and claims 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 to support what Taubes calls "the alternative hypothesis."
Taubes's hypothesis is that the medical community and the U.S. federal government 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, "Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization."
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.
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." 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'..."
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".
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. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy.
- Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion. Random House. 1993. ISBN 978-0-394-58456-0.
- Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. Knopf. 2007. ISBN 978-1-4000-4078-0. (Also published as The Diet Delusion ISBN 978-0-09-189141-1)
- Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. 2010.
- "Jimmy Moore: Interview with Gary Taubes". Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- Taubes, Gary (June 30, 2012). "What Really Makes Us Fat". The New York Times.
- "Gary Taubes, Co-founder".
- Squires, Sally. (August 27, 2002). "The Skinny on Author Gary Taubes". Washington Post.
- "Taubes Receives NAS Award in Mathematics" (PDF). American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
- 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
- Atkins Facts: The Diet Fad of the 21st Century
- 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).
- Liebman, Bonnie. (November 2002). "The Truth About the Atkins Diet". CSPI Nutrition Action Health Letter.
- Taubes, Gary. (March 2003). An exercise in vitriol rather than sound journalism. Reason Online.
- Taubes, Gary (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calorie: Google Book Preview, Notes; pages 469 ff. Knopf. p. 609. ISBN 978-1-4000-3346-1.
- Tierney, John. (July 21, 2008). "Good News on Saturated Fat". New York Times.
- Taubes, Gary (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories: Google Book Preview, Page 454. Knopf. p. 609. ISBN 978-1-4000-3346-1.
- Are Fatty Foods Good For You?. (October 19, 2007). Larry King Live. CNN.
- Bray, G.A. (February 2008). "Viewpoint – Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes; New York: AA Knopf" (PDF). Obesity Reviews. The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Retrieved June 9, 2010.
- Taubes, Gary. "Letter to Editor – Response to Dr George Bray's Review of Good Calories, Bad Calories" (PDF). Obesity Reviews. The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Retrieved June 9, 2010.
- Tierney, John. (October 9, 2007). "Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus". The New York Times.
- Taubes, Gary. (April 13, 2011). Is Sugar Toxic?. The New York Times.