“Oh, That’s Why I am Fat”

November 16, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Posted in Awards and Recognition, NAHSL Annual Meeting 2012, Professional Development | 1 Comment

Note: Lynn Sabol attended NAHSL 2012 partially funded by a
NAHSL Professional Development Award. This is an overview of the presentation from Gary Taubes and post 1 of 2 great posts – Thanks, Lynn!

Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat:  And What To Do About It was the first speaker at the NAHSL Conference at Woodstock, Vermont.  He is an investigative science journalist and has also written other books on obesity.  His research is in the scientific investigative realm.   His talk centered on the obesity epidemic in the country and the connection to chronic diseases, how the same thing that makes you fat causes disease.  He challenged the leading hypothesis on obesity which is the energy balancing theory of calories consumed  calories used and offered an alternative theory for today’s obesity epidemic.  While it is true we all have been indoctrinated with the idea of too much food and too little exercise leads to overweight, his research focuses on a different explanation, the alternative theory of genetic and hormonal effects on weight.

Mr. Taubes questioned the energy balance equation and provided examples that challenged it.   He provided evidence of studies where poor people are inordinately fat while their children were malnourished.  Hard working poor people would be physically active but still overweight.  He found that the energy balance idea did not hold up in those cases, eating less did not work, exercising more did not work.

So what was going on?  He searched the literature and found that a hypothesis was developed in early 20th century Germany.   It was observed that genes portioned fuel and determined where fuel went.   Men got fat above the waist and women below the waist.  But because of prejudice against the German findings, the hypothesis was ignored for over 50 years even although scholarly research was still being done on it.

Mr. Taubes went on to talk about obesity being a disorder of excess fat accumulation.  We over eat because our fat tissue is accumulating excess fat.  The side effect of accumulating fat is hunger.    A major culprit is the notorious fat cell.  Fat accumulating in the fat tissue, gets stored as triglycerides which become fatty acids and then go into the fat cell.  And the fat cell gets fatter, along with us.  The regulator in all this is insulin.  Insulin is the principal regulator of fat metabolism according to a study by Berson, 1965.  Insulin, being a fat stimulating hormone, suppresses fat getting out of the fat cell.  And hold on to your diet books, carbohydrates drive insulin, which in turn drive fat.  So people get fat by eating carbohydrates (carbohydrates = insulin = fat).  So the villains are the fat cell, carbohydrates and insulin.  The energy balance theory says we become fat because we eat too much food and expend too little energy.  The new hypothesis says it is what type of food we eat.  Foods high in carbohydrates and sugars trigger metabolic syndrome that hinges on insulin.  Foods low in carbohydrates, protein and vegetables, do not trigger insulin spikes.

So the Doctor Atkins books were basically right after all, along with similar books such as Wheat Belly, Paleo Diet and the Dean Ornish plan which all center on low or no carbohydrates.   Mr. Taubes ended his talk circling back to what caused the poorer mothers’ obesity at the beginning of the talk.  The poor mothers were indeed found to have a diet of cheap high carb starchy foods instead of a diet of the more expensive protein food sources. 

I enjoyed listening to Mr. Taubes and his findings on the hormonal link to obesity.   I can testify that the ideas do work having used a similar program to recently lose a dress size thus proving with the right information you can make those fat cells behave after all.

Read more at:

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health  

Diet Delusion 

GaryTaubes.com

Lynn Sabol, MLS
Waterbury Hospital
Health Center Library

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  1. As an educated, practicing clinical exercise physiologist, a side job I do outside of my role as a research librarian, I take issue with a good bit of what Taubes espouses in his work. While his books are thoroughly researched (I read both “Why We Get Fat” and “Good Calories” before attending NAHSL), one can argue that he performs his research in a manner that we, as medical librarians, often caution our patrons about, i.e. he has a theory and then sets out to find the evidence to prove it, rather than the other way around.

    It is true that there is a hormonal connection to weight gain. It is NOT true, i.e. not supported by research to-date, that diets consisting of more fat, more protein, or more carbohydrate, in various percentages, differ significantly in terms of weight loss. The low-carb vs. high-carb vs. high-fat argument has raged for some time, but studies have yet to show that one works any better than the other. What has been proven, time and time again, is that people lose weight when they do two things; (1) track their food intake and (2) increase their levels of physical activity.

    Further, and BY FAR most importantly, is that a wealth of evidence exists showing that those people who are successful at not only losing weight but MAINTAINING weight loss, eat less (it makes no difference what they eat in terms of carbs, proteins or fat make-up) and exercise. They live active lives.

    I appreciated Taubes talk and enjoyed hearing him, but the fact that he omits this vitally important body of evidence in his quest to debunk the energy balance theory is, to me, a serious flaw. Combined with his dismissal of a whole host of environmental factors that have profoundly affected our levels of caloric consumption and physical activity over the past 25 years, I professionally suggest that one take in what Taubes espouses, what he writes, and what he shared with us at NAHSL using the very tool that Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin shared with us in the plenary session that immediately followed Taubes, i.e. critical assessment of popular health information.

    Sally Gore, MS, MS LIS


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