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October 30, 2007

More Taubes

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The L.A Times interviews Gary ("Maybe It's All a Big Fat Lie") Taubes.

I'm in the middle of Taubes' new book about how the low-fat / high-carb doctrine became America's semi-official diet despite a near-total lack of supporting evidence, and I'm finding it very impressive -- one of the most methodical and devastating jobs of whistle-blowing that I've ever read.

Taubes does supply a lot more information than this lover of short books really needs to know. (In other words, Taubes' book is very long, and I gotta admit that I'm doing a fair amount of skimming.) But he also supplies a wide-ranging and toughminded look at the ways that science, politics, and journalism -- the "we know better than you do," Expertise class -- can wind up working against the public interest. Reminds me of the way that the modernist- government- NEA - academic, intellectual-arty class has blighted our cultural life, come to think of it, all the while telling us that they're doing it for our good. There's been a lot of that kind of thing around in recent decades, hasn't there?

Semi-related: The National Animal Interest Alliance takes a look at some of the ways that feel-good and do-good laws can make life worse. (Link thanks to Terrierman.) Wal-Mart is now the nation's #1 retailer of organic food.



posted by Michael at October 30, 2007


Have you caught this, Michael? A big EU study has concluded that the nutritional value of organic food is significantly higher than non-organic.

The findings come from Prof Carlo Leifert, whose Newcastle University study was funded by the EU and food companies. It found that organic fruit and vegetables contained up to 40 per cent more antioxidants, which could cut the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Prof Leifert said the health benefits were so striking that moving to organic food was the equivalent of eating an extra portion of fruit and vegetables every day.

The differences between organic & non-organic milk were even more dramatic . . . findings were based on fruits, vegetables, and cattle grown side-by-side on a farm in Northumberland.


(Thanks for the link the other day re: the Spitzer business btw!)

Posted by: Kirsten on October 30, 2007 7:37 PM

Reading "What if...?" was electrifying, so I take Taubes pretty seriously. On the other hand, the low carb stuff doesn't seem to work that well either. My own guess is it's calories in and out, more or less.

Oh, and I've been trying the Shangri-la thing, Michael. I've been doing it intermittently, but already my appetite is dropping. Not hugely, but noticeably. I wonder, though, if it's because the oil 'coats' my stomach, making hunger pangs less.

Dunno. I'll keep going though, because as you said, it's dang easy to do.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 30, 2007 10:29 PM

Hey, I've lost 12 lbs in the last 6 weeks on that diet (plus avoiding highly processed carbs). There's some sheer willpower involved, but Shangri-la theory appears to work for me.

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on October 31, 2007 9:53 AM

Kirsten -- I look forward to more bulletins from you about the fortunes of central-western NY State! Did you see this Marginal Revolution posting? About Buffalo, but commenters weigh in with a lot of thoughts and stories about Western NY generally (as well as NY government). Such a nice part of the world ... So badly-served ....

PatrickH -- Easy is good, god knows. Anything that doesn't make me feel like a monk, let alone a rat in somebody's lab experiment ... I was reading an older Gold Medal novel the other day and it was interesting. The main character was getting himself set for a martini lunch, and before going out swallowed some olive oil. I guess he was thinking he'd protect himself against the alcohol by "coating" his stomach. Maybe the habit has been around for a while.

IP -- 12 lbs? That's great, congrats. I've stalled at 6 lbs, but I'm figuring it's my body trying to out-stubborn me and by god I'm going to prevail. We'll see.

A question for both of you? One conseuqence of the Shangri-La oil routine for me has been that I've lost most of my interest in fruit. I used to be a big fruit eater -- maybe four pieces a day. Since I've been on the Shangri-La, I've found that I couldn't care less about fruit, so I'm eating maybe a piece every other day. Weird, especially given that I'd been a fruit-crazed person for more than 40 years. My interest in starches (pasta, potatoes and such) has also shrunk, if not to the same degree? Have either of you found similar effects?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 31, 2007 11:06 AM

I get my sugar blast from donuts, sometimes 12 a day. SL has simply obliterated that. Since my oil ingestions, I've never been able to force myself to eat more than 2 at one sitting, maybe 4 on my worst day. And it's getting to the point where I don't want any at all. I'm finding that my mind forces me to eat, even when my stomach isn't really that willing. Now I need to make the transition to where I listen to my stomach, not my mind, and maybe, at long last, the donuts can be history.

So yeah, I've found that SL really does whack my sugar cravings noticeably.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 31, 2007 11:30 AM

PatrickH, I am surprised to hear you say that the Low-Carb diets do not work. From everything that I have heard, they do work. Usually, the biggest complaint is that people want to eat Pizza, French Fries and Ice Cream. And, of course, that is a no-no.

I guess I will leave it at this. I have never known anyone to fail to lose SIGNIFICANT weight on a Low-Carb diet.

BTW, Michael, the References section of Taubes book is impressive, no? It almost seems like the references make up half the book. I had read in an interview that he was supposed to finish the book 2 years ago, but he felt that the research needed to be bullet-proof.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on October 31, 2007 11:43 AM

PatrickH -- That's a great description. I'm experiencing some of the same things -- it's like my head is more determined to chow through matter than my stomach is, which is awfully topsy-turvy. I'm trying to listen to my stomach more, and the oil seems to help with that. Weird, no? But nice. Sometimes my mind makes my hand reach out for more and then my actual lack of appetite pulls my hand right back. And there I am, thinking "What the heck just happened?"

Ian -- The research in the book is awe-inspiring. Drags it down as a reading experience, though there's always skimming-and-skipping. But I can understand it too. Taubes clearly felt he really needed to make the book completely bullet-proof. He's taking on a *lot* of conventional wisdom.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 31, 2007 2:17 PM

My interest in fruit is about the same - 2 or 3 pieces a day - but my interest in refined starches has dropped right off. The almond croissant that led me astray at the local cafe - she means nothing to me now. I was making some risotto last night as a side dish, and, funny enough, my aesthetic appreciation for the cooking process was unimpaired - "now, a little parsley... it's thickening up... the rice is nicely al dente" - but I had no desire to eat it (just a teaspoonful for the purpose of evaluation).

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on November 1, 2007 10:04 AM

BTW, I first heard of the S.L. Diet here - huge thanks.

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on November 1, 2007 10:22 AM

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