439 (Part 2): Gary Taubes Answers Listener Questions


Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It is our guest today on The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore!

Today is Part 2 of a special two-part episode featuring Jimmy interviewing Gary Taubes about his 2007 New York Times bestseller Good Calories, Bad Calories and his brand new consumer-friendly follow-up release entitled Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It. In this concluding half of the interview, Gary give his rapid-fire answers to a list of listener questions in a fantastic Q&A session (this is a perk of being a member of our Fan Club, by the way). ENJOY!

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Gary Taubes bio
Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It
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– RELATED PODCAST: Gary Taubes Update With Preview Of ‘Why We Get Fat’ (Episode 401)

26 Responses to 439 (Part 2): Gary Taubes Answers Listener Questions
  1. Lawrence Louis
    January 28, 2011 | 6:32 pm


    Thanks for Part II of your interview with Gary Taubes. I, and I am sure others, relished this part of the interview because it was less about Taubes taking a defensive posture against people like Carbsane, who unjustifiably make it their life’s mission to make a federal case against Taubes, based on scant evidence, and it was more about Taubes using his prodigious talent as an expositor of good science to inform us. I always appreciate Taubes’ tireless effort to educate an open minded listening audience about the various issues surrounding low carbohydrate diets. His generosity is to be admired, and he was right to graciously express his gratitude to you for making such information accessible to the lay public. I know every time I listen to your podcasts I come away feeling a whole lot more knowledgeable about nutrition.

    One thing that is quite evident from this interview is that, even with the vast amount of research and enormous stores of knowledge that Taubes has at his disposal, he freely admits that there is much more that needs to be learned. He underscores that the scientific testing that is necessary in the nutritional field, is so fraught with problems, given the number of confounding variables that such research entails, that one needs to take pretty much anything coming out of the nutritional research community with a grain of salt. Any conclusion drawn from such research is tentative at best. This fact alone should be humbling to people on any side of the nutritional debate – whether you are a low calorie and low fat advocate or whether you are a restricted carbohydrate proponent. The mark of a true intellectual is that he has the humility to know that he COULD be wrong, and Taubes definitely demonstrates this humility.

    It will be interesting what the next decade will yield from the scientific community, when it comes to the various disagreements within the nutrition field. Conflicts arising out of science, though sometimes cumbersome to deal with, are a necessary part of the process which increases our understanding. Mr. Taubes is definitely a integral part of disseminating that understanding, and so are you Jimmy. I am looking forward to hearing a lot more from both of you. Thanks again.


    • Jimmy Moore
      January 28, 2011 | 6:58 pm

      Thanks buddy! This is why I do my show and why I talk to so many people with different theories.

  2. FrankG
    January 29, 2011 | 7:43 am

    Many thanks Jimmy and Gary!
    Another excellent interview and such a pleasure to hear someone approaching science with a balanced eye and open mind — if I may paraphrase… “this is what I currently understand and this is what I do not yet understand… but that is a good question”.
    Especially noted the discussion on “set point” — yes this idea that there is some overall regulator (conductor?) in our brains that it managing the whole show needs to be thrown out… instead we are rather a collection of relatively simple local processes that give the appearance of working in concert. A common one I hear is that ONLY excess energy is stored as if there is an accountant somewhere inside us!
    Thanks again and please keep up the great work.

    • Jimmy Moore
      January 29, 2011 | 4:40 pm

      A lot of people characterize Gary as being too sure of himself and as a “messiah” in the low-carb community. But you’re right–he’s very willing to say when something is unclear or wrong and says as much.

      • FrankG
        January 29, 2011 | 4:53 pm

        For sure Jimmy… on that note I find it insulting and a low-blow when folks suggest that I look on Gary Taubes or Dr Richard Bernstein or whomever, as some kind of “Messiah” or “Guru”… as if I am incapable of independent, critical thinking and I slavishly follow the word of someone else!

        I admire and respect their work but one of the chief things I learned from GCBC was that: it does not pay to simply take the word of an “expert” at face value — no matter how well qualified they may be. “Appeals to Authority” no longer sway me.

        I grew up in the UK watching the BBC in the early days and I think in those times one could trust an “expert in a white coat” — nowadays I want to see some evidence-based proof thank you very much 😉

        Thanks again

        • M.
          January 30, 2011 | 7:45 am

          In regards to the “guru” thing –

          The thing is, the (vast?) majority of the more scientifically oriented paleo-sphere bloggers, even big fans of Taubes, don’t buy his insulin theory. Not Guyenet, Dr. Harris, Masterjohn, Minger, Berkhan, Jaminet, Colpo, Knock, etc…

          Taubes theory is in disagreement with many prominent low carbers as well such as the Atkins program, Dr. Westman, and Dr. Eades. In this very interview, Taubes said that the carbs from green leafy vegetables are a problem for some people. In another interview he has said that the idea that nuts are problematic to diets due to caloric density was “nonsense” – Taubes said that his Insulin Theory demands that it be due to nuts’ vaunted insulinogenic properties. Atkins, Westman, and Eades have said the opposite.

          These may be minor details to a low carb dieter, but to the actual science and to the Carb/Insulin Theory it is significant. And that was what Taubes was supposed to bring to the low carb movement – scientific credibility. He is saying much more than a “low carb diet is the best way to lose weight”; Atkins, Eades, Westman, and others have already said that.

          Guru-ism might not be the reason one believes Taubes, but it is not an absurd argument to make that he has reached “guru” status when he is so praised for a scientific theory that is not tenable.

          In some respects, Taubes is the T. Colin Campbell of the low carb movement – a “guru” trying to bring scientific credibility, but one whose science is too flawed as is. And disturbingly, he has labeled his critics as “internet stalkers” the same way that Campbell has labeled his critics agents of the WAPF. CarbSane is an “internet stalker” the same way that Minger was “internet stalker” of Campbell.

          • FrankG
            January 30, 2011 | 8:21 am

            M. says >> “The thing is, the (vast?) majority of the more scientifically oriented paleo-sphere bloggers, even big fans of Taubes, don’t buy his insulin theory.”

            After I just said >> “Appeals to Authority” no longer sway me.

            I also read those sites and I don’t see any big disagreement with Gary Taubes?

            As a Diabetic I also have first hand experience of the direct and testable effects that insulin has on my hunger and excess fat mass storage.

            As for likening CarbSane to Denise Minger… as I’m sure you know CarbSane was recently on Jimmy’s podcast and given, I thought, a reasonable (under the circumstances) and open-minded reception by this community… including comments by myself that you can go read for yourself.. along with her vitriolic, hyperbolic and sarcastic responses.

            I even made the effort to visit and read around CarbSane’s blog site only to see much of the same kind of sarcastic and “I know better than everybody else” attitude.

            Science does not need sarcasm, vitriol, hyperbole, or ad hominem to get its point across — Denise Minger does not resort to any of the cheap tricks… instead she presents the raw data and rational alternative conclusion to draw from those data.

            In my view, there is no comparison in their approaches… so any valid science CarbSane is trying to present has been lost, to me at least, by her vitriol and condescending attitude.

          • M.
            January 30, 2011 | 11:17 am

            FrankG -> “After I just said >> “Appeals to Authority” no longer sway me.”

            I am not saying that you should listen to appeals to authority or that Taubes is your personal guru; I am saying that it is not an absurd argument to say that someone has reached guru-status when he is able garner such praise when many of his well respected peers believe that his key theory is wrong or doesn’t work in practice. There is nothing wrong with being a guru if you are right.

            FrankG->“I also read those sites and I don’t see any big disagreement with Gary Taubes?”

            This would seem to suggest guru-status as well (it could be argued) – the ability to brush under the rug significant differences that might undermine the guru.

            This is actually a key annoyance for me – I think that progressive paleo is heading in a particular direction, and here in 2011, Taubes’ Carb/Insulin theory and Why We Get Fat are just unnecessary baggage that becomes a distraction. Progressive Paleo/WAPF/Whole Foods should have no use for the fixation on macronutrients (especially the whole “be careful of the carbs in green leafy vegetables” stuff) and no use for scientific theories that don’t work.

            As far as Carbsane and Minger, Campbell’s supporters said that Minger was too girlish with too cutesy of phrasing and used too many adjectives. You can’t please everybody, especially when they are “on the other side”. Vegans think that Free the Animal blog is way over the top, but most paleo people find it entertaining.

          • SLS
            January 31, 2011 | 10:29 am

            I think it’s too often misunderstood that the information Taubes presents is a product of investigative journalism to illuminate the alternative hypothesis as a serious possible approach, not necessarily advice or how to’s for dieting. This isn’t the Eades’ recommendations based on their practice and it’s not the NED developed from De Vany’s long-term lifestyle nor any other certified, clinical, expert or otherwise type of advice. This is a summary and synthesis of historical records and research. These books are like reading an incredibly long historical annotated bibliography with synthesis and conclusion. Or maybe you can liken them to meta-studies.

    • js290
      January 30, 2011 | 12:06 am

      An electrical engineering friend of mine were talking. I was pointing out that calories-in-calories-out isn’t applicable because the body is not a closed mechanical system. He pointed out it’s more like a distributed, adaptive system. Calorie counters need not worry, though. Energy will still be conserved in such a system. 😉

  3. JayCee
    January 29, 2011 | 4:27 pm

    Wow Jimmy

    What an interview (Part1 + Part2)

    Just a quick thank you from my side for doing it. I want to comment on so many things but need to listen to both Parts another 3 or 4 times before I even start, so Ill be back!

    Thank you for asking my question and Gary, thank you so much for your generous time! *8-)

  4. js290
    January 29, 2011 | 11:59 pm

    Regarding the question about exercise… Calorie counters waste their time doing aerobics/cardio trying to burn fat. Meaningful exercise has to be anaerobic. Anaerobic activity should involve the fast twitch muscle fibers and deplete them of glycogen. In other words, exercise should be about burning off stored sugar, not fat.

    The glycogen depleted muscles are now more sensitive to insulin. The body also adapts to the exercise stimulus by creating more muscles cells to store more glycogen, i.e. you’re going to get stronger which is healthy. The most efficient and safe way to do this is resistance training.

    For more detailed info, check out the book Body by Science.


  5. JayCee
    January 30, 2011 | 9:57 am

    Some side comments on the show:

    First of all, even if the energy in, energy out theory was true for weight loss (the opposite of what Gary and people like me believe in), and then the concept “calories” should not be used as the measurement of this energy inside the human body. For some people it’s a nitty-gritty concept and just a way of referring to energy, but for me it’s just wrong. Since a calorie is a supposed to be a constant way of measuring something (in a lab and closed container) where it was invented, people simply cannot talk about the “quality” of calories. We don’t talk about the “quality” of a Joule, Hour, Second or Mile? Yet now suddenly a calorie gets this ‘quality’ property. Nope, Calories are Calories and a poor lazy measurement of what is going on when food enters your mouth.

    The reason for my personal obsession with the whole alpha glycerol phosphate thing is that, when I (layman) originally read about it in GCBC, I understood the role of free fatty acids combining into triglycerides for the first time and how it happens with the presence of glucose + insulin etc. Suddenly low carb made sense to me on a more analytical level I could understand, because I have not seen any other great explanation like this before. Not that I say other cool biochemistry explanations don’t exist, but I have been quoting these paragraphs on AGP like crazy like a religious freak because it’s all that I know about :)

    Now this does not mean it makes Carbsane correct, it just means one of the hundreds possibly thousands of other examples was not mentioned in GCBC. My problem is, where can I now find a new cool example(s) of it explained in such great detail as Gary did in GCBC with AGP? Are they in the new book or is there maybe another book/url I can visit?

    SATIETY on Low Fat
    Hmm I am not so sure about this thing that people get a feeling of satiety on low fat high carb meals all of the time. Even if their body presents them with this 1000 cals (ughh that word again) from their own fat – if they are so lucky, my question remains – Is that 1000 calories (of real food) really enough for energy and satiety? On a low carb way of eating you get that 1000 PLUS whatever you eat (MORE real food) is already programmed (keto-adapted) to be utilized in the correct way. I think those on low fat diets may fool themselves in feeling full ,but 10 or 20 minutes later will have to deal with reality of blood sugar crashes, and new hunger. That is not the case with most low-carbers.

    This was one of the best interviews ever – ordered the book from overseas and cannot wait to get my hands on it!

    • Vesna
      February 2, 2011 | 8:46 am

      “SATIETY on Low Fat
      Hmm I am not so sure about this thing that people get a feeling of satiety on low fat high carb meals all of the time.”

      It’s not being sated — it’s being stuffed! I think people who have deprived themselves of adequate fat-w-protein don’t remember what being sated feels like. All they know is stuffed. Then they get hungry again, real fast.

  6. Nathan
    January 30, 2011 | 6:54 pm

    Taubes dedicates WWGT to N.N.T. I assume this is Nassim Taleb … anybody know why? I’ve seen plenty of each of their stuff on the internet and never seen either refer to the other … just curious what connection Taubes and Taleb have.

    • JayCee
      January 31, 2011 | 7:44 pm

      It’s probably Nobelprize Nominatedto Taubes! :) he so deserves it! :)

    • Bradley Curry
      April 4, 2011 | 10:14 pm

      I found your post because I was trying to figure this out also. Nassim Taleb DOES mention Gary Taubes in the 2nd edition of The Black Swan, and has an aphorism about the addictive quality of carbohydrates in The Bed of Procrustes.

      • Jimmy Moore
        April 5, 2011 | 10:44 am

        WELCOME Bradley! Great to have you in my listening audience. :)

  7. Patty
    February 1, 2011 | 7:49 pm

    Finally had the chance to listen to both parts this afternoon, and really enjoyed both. What a great rapport between the two of you! I was chuckling at you telling Gary how to cook eggs in coconut oil…as brilliant as he is, he really isn’t much of a cook, is he? :-)

    • Jimmy Moore
      February 2, 2011 | 8:38 am

      We’ve definitely developed a nice friendship the past few years and speak via e-mail at least once a week. I send him encouraging comments from readers and listeners whose lives have been changed after reading his books and seems to genuinely appreciate it. And, no, he’s definitely not a cook. LOL!

  8. Michael Scott
    February 4, 2011 | 8:17 pm

    Thanks again Jimmy! I never get enough of Gary Taubes. I listened to both episodes about ten times. I have found that, with Gary, you can always learn something new every time you listen to him.
    Great job Jimmy!

  9. Paul Eich
    February 11, 2011 | 10:17 pm

    Did Gary ask “why does a low calorie diet still cause hunger even though you’re burning about a pound or two of fat per week”? I thought in GCBC is tells the story – if it is low calorie but adequate in nutrition (which is to say protein and fat), it does not cause hunger, whereas low calorie low fat/protein does cause hunger. The answer to the question is that if you eat a protein/fat adequate 1200kcal diet, and have excess body fat to consume, the body is not deficient in anything it needs, therefore, there’s no hunger. That assumes that hunger is a signal which serves to motivate a hungry person to expend energy to obtain something the body needs/is deficient in. I don’t know this to be true, but this explanation matches the facts on this circumstance that I know. Gary and Jimmy, thanks for what you are doing and in particular for doing these two podcasts. Paul

  10. Paul
    February 12, 2011 | 6:09 am

    I thought Gary answered his own question – “why are people on a low carb, low calorie diet not hungry, whilst those who do low calorie low fat are hungry” – in his book. Low carb w spontaneous calorie reduction happens because the only nutrition missing from low carb low cal is energy, which the body supplies via “self feeding” of energy as liberated body fat. On the other hand, low cal low fat is deficient, especially at ~1200-1500kcal levels, in required nutrients, probably both protein and fat and fat soluble nutrients. The body responds to deficiency with its best tool – hunger – to try to get the organism to do something – eat – to eliminate the deficiency. Lots ‘o speculation there, not sure how this could be tested, but it explains the facts I know Gary’s question.

  11. Paul
    February 13, 2011 | 11:35 am

    I’ve read Gary’s book at least four times, and feel grateful to him for doing what he did. His book opens the road for any schmuck like me to instantly (well, 18 months of inspired study) be able to grasp the big issues in the science of diet, including the biggest issue of the science of diet – most of it is not very useful.

    It’s not just the kids that are being tortured by the nonsense that’s been put out as dietary advice – but I agree with Gary that it’s particularly hard to watch the impact on kids and not want to do something to help them!

  12. Paul
    February 13, 2011 | 12:04 pm

    Almost forgot – Jimmy, can you post a link to Gary’s article that you were discussing – the one which Westman also weighs in? Thanks!

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