Gary Taubes Berkeley lecture


In late November of this year Gary Taubes gave a number of talks to members of various departments at the University of California at Berkeley. One of these talks – The Quality of Calories: What Makes Us Fat and Why Nobody Seems to Care – was recorded and can be viewed by clicking here. You need Real Player to watch the video. If you don’t have it, simply Google real player or real player mac and you will find a free download of the program.

Gary’s talk expands on one of the theses in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories: the idea that obesity isn’t caused by gluttony and sloth, but by excess carbohydrate intake instead. If you haven’t read the book or if you have and you want the weight-loss section explained in greater depth, this video is for you. He’s a little more open than he was in the book about naming names and pointing the finger at people who for whatever reason can’t see the forest for the trees. The video is long – almost two hours – but well, well worth watching.

I’m going to be seeing Gary in about a week. We’ll have one of our many hour visits at a coffee house in downtown Manhattan. If anyone has a question for Gary, put in in a comment, and I’ll ask him as many as I can while I’m overdosing on caffeine.

So take a break from your Christmas shopping this weekend, kick back and watch this video. You’ll be glad you did.

Hat tip to blog reader Art D for giving me the heads up on this one.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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64 thoughts on “Gary Taubes Berkeley lecture

  1. Your comment section is full of little gems like the link to this video and the link to the DGG catalog of classical music downloads. People who don’t read the comments are missing a lot. I watched Taubes lecture yesterday and found it very interesting even though weight gain is my problem, not weight loss.

    Thanks for the free book, too. I have told all my friends and family about your offer. There are a lot of low carb books out there now, but PPLP is the best because, among other things, it tells you how to manage the transition to low carb eating.

    And finally, thanks for disabling that annoying video! ;o)

    If you think that video was annoying you, imagine what it was doing to me.



  2. Oh boy! I’m such a huge Gary Taubes fan now, I comb the news looking for stuff. This is great. I had been hoping for an opportunity to ask questions.

    Over at the low carb forum where I frequent we had a couple of things that puzzled us from his book.

    The one I recall was:
    On page 26 he talks about how much atherosclerosis the Masai have but they didn’t suffer heart attacks or heart disease. Is there an explanation of this? Some of us assumed that atherosclerosis is heart disease.

    Most people do think that atherosclerosis is heart disease, but as with the lipid hypothesis, not everyone agrees. Many people feel that the atherosclerosis is natures way of patching damage to the coronary arteries, and if the patch is good, then the atherosclerosis is a benefit and not a detriment. Uffe Ravnskov has written a bit about this.



  3. I think Taubes weakens his book and also his talks by ending each with proposing costly new long term trials. It seems to me there is plenty of evidence already available to prove his points. Talking about long term studies just lets the establishment off the hook, and leads to more disease and misery.

    Clair Nielson

    The studies he mentions in the video would cost in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, which is a drop in the bucket when you’re talking about medical study funding. And you’ve got to remember that Gary is a science journalist, not a diet doctor or researcher. He isn’t selling a diet program – he’s basically offering up the fruits of his years of research showing that the hypothesis everyone has been on board with is flawed. He’s merely making the case for a new hypothesis and showing the evidence that he thinks warrants it.



  4. Thanks for the hat tip.

    Just my turn to give a little back to your superb blog.

    Hey Art–

    I would have come across the video sooner or later, but thanks to you it was sooner. Funny think is that I told Gary about it, and he didn’t even know it was available.

    Thanks again.


  5. Yikes, two hours on RealPlayer? I hope it becomes available on iTunes or something.

    It worked great for me on Real Player. The resolution of the video is such that I was able to play in on almost my entire screen and still have it look good.



  6. Wonderful video. I listened and cruised eBay costume jewelry for two hours. I consider that time well spent.

    Costco has added organic ground beef. Being Costco, you have to buy three pounds ($4 a pound) but it’s really good stuff with nice quality fat.

    After 60 years as a vegetarian, you know what my greatest new pleasure is? Baby back pork ribs. Gives a new meaning to life.

    Mmm Mmm Baby back ribs. That’s what MD is cooking for dinner tonight. If I remember I’ll take a photo and post with the next blog post.



  7. Loved the book and loved the video. Thanks.

    Questions for Mr. Taubs: Can a person assume if their glucose goes up, their insulin also goes up?

    Can a woman assume if her estrogen goes down, their insulin goes up at a faster rate to carbs?

    Should a person use a glucometer to test their response to carbs for a better understanding of what their body is REALLY doing in response to carbs, even if they are not (yet) diabetic?

    A formerly thin woman, calorically frustrated, now prediabetic, wants to know.

    Hi Karen–

    I’ll ask Gary for you, but I know the answers.

    As long as your not a type I diabetic your insulin should go up as your glucose goes up. There is a little lag time, but not much.

    You’ll have to restate your second question. I don’t really understand what you’re asking.

    Yes, if you use a glucometer – even though you’re not diabetic – you can get a much better idea as to how your body is responding to carbs.



  8. I loved the video. I have been a longtime fan of low-carb, although I find it hard to turn my back on all the wonderful fruits throughout the year.

    I have a question which has not been easily answered in any of the books or blogs I have read:

    If dietary carbohydrates are kept low (<60 gms/day) and dietary fat is raised to make up for the caloric deficit, what happens to the fatty acids/triglycerides in the bloodstream in the absence of alpha-glycerol phosphate/insulin to drive them into the cells? Are they excreted? Do they pile up in the blood and wait for you to burn them as fuel?

    To take it to the logical extreme: if I eat a stick of butter, one assumes that all of it will be digested and brought into the bloodstream. Normally, it would be assembled into triglycerides, dumped into the bloodstream, and shunted into the adipose tissue by insulin, since a person would probably experience difficulty metabolizing 800 calories in a short span of time.

    But without the insulin, what happens to the fatty acids in the bloodstream? We know that a person in ketosis will excrete the excess as ketones, so for them it won’t pose a problem. But what about those who keep carbs low but not low enough to enter ketosis?

    Hi Dave–

    The short answer is that the body wastes these calories. The body as a way of uncoupling oxidation from phosphorylation, which is what happens in the situation you described. Oxidation means the burning of food for energy. Phosphorylation means the creation of ATP, the energy currency of life. Normally, fat, protein and carbohydrate are oxidized and release high energy electrons. The energy from these electrons drives the production of ATP. But when insulin is low and fat intake is high, the body can uncouple these two processes so that the food continues to be burned but no ATP is created. I should do a longer post on this subject because it’s easier to see when it’s laid out graphically.



  9. Darn, wish I had known he was going to be there. I graduated from Cal a year and half ago and live less than a half hour away. Would have loved to go see him speak. Oh well, will definitely watch the video when I find some spare time. Thanks, and Go Bears!

  10. Is there any other way to see this video? I don’t have Real Media on my computer and my husband refuses to install anything with that amount of spy-ware in it. Does anyone have a tip on how to watch this video without it?

    That’s why you should have a Mac. They don’t get spy-ware. You can always download Real Player, watch the video, then delete Real Player.

    Let me know what happens.



  11. Now that you’ve made public when you and Taubes will be in a Manhattan coffee, BEWARE. I think the AHA will have undercover agents in all of them just waiting to destroy both of you by taking undercover photos of you adding real sugar or caramel syrup to your coffees (or Americano in your case).

    I’ve read your book and Taubes. I regularly follow your blog. I believe the science beyond any reasonable doubt. But my question for both of you is this: What tips do you have to get your readers to maintain the day-to-day discipline to eat low carb? So many times I follow low-carb eating for a while, and I really enjoy it, but then totally fall of the wagon (or cow) when I “cheat” by having something like a serving of mashed potatoes. One bowl becomes two, the next day I have something else that’s high carb, and within a few weeks I have less discipline and self-control than a crack whore.

    Please help! I have no doubt that your patients lose weight. But what percentage are able to maintain the lifestyle long-term? What do the long-term success stories have in common?

    Hi Brian–

    Gary and I will always set with our backs against the wall. And I don’t have to worry about getting caught putting real sugar or caramel syrup (God forbid) or anything else into my Americanos. I drink them black as God intended. Gary usually drinks decaf cappuccinos, but typically only one.

    The answer to your question is commitment and discipline. I follow a low-carb diet most of the time and have for 20 years. But I still get tempted every day. I just refuse to give in (most of the time), and when I do, I get right back on my basic program. I think many people hang in there with a dietary regimen for a while, then have a blow up meal or day or weekend. They then say, Oh well, I’ve blown my diet. And then it’s right back to face down in the pasta. I look upon it as a lifestyle, not a diet. When I blow it – and I do occasionally – I just jump up and get right back on the horse and keep on going.

    Hope this helps.



  12. Thank you for the video :)

    Some questions I have for Gary Taubes:

    1) I agree with the carbohydrate hypothesis. However, I was wondering what is your opinion on the role of calories in obesity? Do you believe a low calorie diet will reduce weight as effectively as a high calorie diet, assuming carbohydrate is sufficiently low?

    2) Do you believe a low carbohydrate diet will cure obesity already manifest? What is your opinion about those obese people who fail to reduce weight sufficiently, even at a very low, ketogenic carb intake (and are only successful when they reduce calories)? From my experience, this is more common than uncommon.

    3) What is your opinion of other hormones that play a role in body fat regulation, such as leptin; are these part of the obesity puzzle, perhaps an explanation as why a low carb diet cannot reverse obesity?

    As someone who has lost 160 lbs (my BMI is now 19.3 from 46) I have come to believe through research that carbohydrate driven insulin explains how we get fat; however leptin explains why we cannot always become thin again even if we remove the carbohydrate that drove our fat stores up so high. It is more common than not for an obese person to remain some degree of overweight even if they eat hardly any carbs at all. Of all of the people I’ve met on weight control support groups, next to none are maintaining a thin-normal weight without a semistarvation diet (restricting calorie intake below what they might otherwise eat). This is true regardless of carb intake (which is invariably very low, myself I eat <60 carb).

    I’m just wondering if Gary Taubes has any knowledge of this phenomena (the failure of low carb diets to reverse obesity already manifest). If so, why does he think it is so, if insulin is the only relevant hormone that controls our level of fat?
    His book seems to sufficiently address how obesity develops, and is a reasonable solution to prevent obesity in a susceptible person (say the child of a parent who already has obesity)… but a low carb diet, in practice, falls short of a solution for severe obesity in most people. Why is that?
    Carb addiction can’t explain it, because not all of us stop our diets and eat carbs (and, just as over eating results from the metabolic processes of obesity, binging on carbs after weight loss might actually be a result of the hormonal changes after depleting your body fat, rather than a cause of weight regain/weight loss failure).

    Hi ItsTheWooo–

    I didn’t get a chance to put your specific questions to Gary, but I know from many conversations with him pretty much what he thinks on the subject.

    There is definitely a role for calories in obesity. There must be a caloric deficit for weight loss to occur. The low-carb diet allows weight to be lost my many overweight people on a few more calories than would a low-fat diet. But there still has to be a caloric deficit. Keeping insulin low prevents fat from being stored in the fat cells and enables the fat cells to release fat easily, but unless there is a need for this stored fat to provide energy, it won’t be released. If an overweight person consumes enough energy in the form of fat and protein despite keeping carbs low (or even absent) to provide for all of the body’s energy needs, then the fat cells have no reason to give up their fat stores and, consequently, won’t reduce their size.

    This subject deserves an entire post so that those readers who don’t read the comments will get the info. I’ll write such a post in the next few weeks. Thanks for teeing the subject up for me.



  13. Doc-
    One question comes to mind. How similar is ketosis to fasting and calorie restriction? In both intermittent fasting and CR we see increased levels of ketones…is this correlative or causative to the health benefits we see? Is there a spectrum here? Ketosis improves health but do we need ketosis + IF or CR to see further improvements in health and longevity?

    Hey Robb–

    I believe that ketones improve health. Richard Veech, who works at NIH and who is probably the world’s expert on ketones and ketosis, certainly believes they do. The heart, for example, increases its efficiency by 28 percent when provided ketones as fuel.

    I don’t know if anyone has specifically addressed the issue of whether or not ketones increase longevity, but my bet would be that they do.



  14. I’d like to suggest something. I would think that you and your wife and Gary Taubes probably feel a sense of duty to humankind to spread the word. I think what is needed is a DVD talk geared toward the layman. Talk about a blockbuster — you three could create one heckuva video! You’d have the perspective of men as well as a woman. You’d have not only MD’s but MD’s who treated thousands of patients. And you’d have the perspective of an award-winning science writer who spent five years digging for truth.

    Kudos to him for such a fine piece of work but I think Mr. Taubes will soon see that many people will find the book a bit hard to read. I did and I read prolifically.

    You and your wife could do a DVD alone, as well.

    By the way, I found the link to the video via your forum and watched it this morning before I saw your blog. The last 40 minutes was especially good.

    P.S. Some people hate Real Player for its intrusive reputation. You can download Media Player Classic and it will play .ram files. I think there is also another program that will, too.

    P.S.S. If you have time, ask him if how much he thinks heart disease is related to carb-heavy diets.

    I’ll ask him the question, but I know the answer: yes.

    As to the DVD…they are not inexpensive to make. It takes a lot of time, money and expertise to make a DVD of any length that’s not a real snoozer for most people to watch. Find me enough money and I can hire the expertise and have a heck of a DVD in short order.



  15. I have a question and I hope I’m not too late.

    The last question he took, I believe was about the effect of other hormones on fat storage, and I think Mr. Taubes said that estrogen was one of those.
    But then he also said that the nervous system could contribute to fat storage and I would like him to elaborate on that. (I already know that the sympathetic nervous system can trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which helps us store fat around our waists.)

    I wondered if there was more to the nervous system’s contribution than that.

    Yes, the nervous system is intimately involved in the fat storage process. It’s a more complex process than I can deal with in an answer to a comment. There is a new paper out that sheds some light on it that I plan on blogging on soon. Keep an eye out. I’ll ask Gary when I see him to see if he’s got any information that I don’t.



  16. Hey Mike,

    Very nice, and kudos to Berkeley for inviting him and also being at the forefront of making material like this and also interesting parts of their academic program available free online.

    I still think Gary is being overly and unnecessarily simplistic about exercise, weight loss/maintenance and hunger, and he will lose a fair percentage of his audience right there when what he is saying doesn’t accord with personal experience (which will trump any number of research papers) – particularly so when addressing young college/university students. Sure diet is the most important part, and if you don’t change that it makes exercising away a bad diet much, much harder … and really that is all he needs to say IMO. After all, for those that do feel excessively hungry after exercise are we really going to assume it is the exercise itself and not the sugar packed Gatorade that is a large part of the problem?

    I know you are going to be inundated with questions, so I guess mine would be the one I’ve asked before – does he see the merit in producing a hard hitting book (why not name names?) for a wider audience and/or some YouTube friendly material to the same end? Perhaps as a follow up you could ask what sort of feedback he has had from the GCBC target audience (doctors and medical researchers) and what success he feels he has had in opening the minds of that group.



    I’ll ask and pass his answers along.



  17. interesting blog i’m going to tune in often in the future (just found it!) new to protien power and am impressed with the complex scientific data presented in your book as well as, conversely, the simplicity of the protien power way of life. just wanted to comment on the heavy young man in the 1940’s. you mentioned that genetically he was somehow different from his family…yet in the first few minutes of the film, it states “his mother says his (large size) resulted from a “burst” gland in his neck”. could you comment on that? thank you

    Back then a lot of people thought obesity was a ‘glandular’ disorder. And the gland most often blamed was the thyroid gland, which is in the neck. I suspect the mother was told somewhere along the way by someone about as unsophisticated as she that the gland in his neck burst. Or who knows who told her what or what she heard.



  18. By the way, I have a question for GT:
    Was he an “Atkins Nut” before the research of this book or did he become one in the process? (The term “Atkins Nut” I think he used himself in some interview, so I don’t mean anything derogatory, just use it for lack of another expression)

    Gary became a low-carb nut (let’s put it that way) during his early research to see if there was anything to the idea of low-carb dieting. Then when he got deeply into his research he became ever more convinced.



  19. A question for Gary Taubes: I’ve read his book and was fascinated with his description of research showing that our fat deposits are not stationary but fluid, breaking down into fatty acids and reforming into fat deposits. This idea has opened a new vista for me. The role of insulin in trapping the fat into its deposits was also intriguing.
    Here is my question: If most of one’s fat deposits have melted away with a low-carb diet, could there be a lack of fatty acid backup and so a lack of energy unless one is eating regular meals? I’ve personally felt an occasional weakness if I go without food and it’s quite different from the hypoglycemia of my carb days. Due to a lack of fatty reserves? Intuitively, too, I know a number of obese people who have enormous energy and life force. Part of it may be carbs burning, but I think at a cellular level they may have such ample reserves (fatty acids) that they have energy to burn. Any thoughts?

    Hi Dave–

    I didn’t have a chance to ask Gary the question, but I’ve got my own ideas. An average weight person (one who is not obese) has enough fat reserves to walk several hundred miles without eating, so I don’t think a lack of fatty acids is bringing about the problem you describe. An impaired glucose metabolism, which is almost always present in obesity, takes a while to repair itself – even with the perfect diet. I suspect that with time you will see your problem improve markedly.

    Keep me posted.



  20. Thanks for the link to this video. I hope he convinced a few people at Cal.

    I have a question for Gary. During one of his interviews, I can’t remember which one, he was discussing weight loss and said something like “…unfortunately, if you have been overweight for a long time…”. He was interrupted at that point, and never completed the thought. I’m curious as to what the rest of that statement would have been, based on his research. If you do have the chance to ask him about this I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

    Will do. Hope he remembers.



  21. can you comment on the implications of this study – and ask Gary what he thinks of it:

    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 66, 1264-1276. 1997 An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods SH Holt, JC Miller and P Petocz

    Some anti low carb sites use this to criticize aspects of low carb nutrition… even suggesting that meat is more responsible for elevated insulin than carbs.

    This isn’t true in real world diet studies, i know, but i wonder if either of you have thought about this studies relevance?


    Insulin doesn’t operate in a vacuum. There are other hormones involved in the metabolic process. As we discussed in Protein Power, one of those hormones is glucagon, which acts in opposing fashion to insulin. It’s not really the absolute value of insulin that is important – it’s the insulin to glucagon ratio. And if you’re looking at only insulin as these researchers did, then you’re only seeing one half of the equation.

    Carbs make the insulin to glucagon ration go screaming up because carbs raise insulin levels but don’t have an effect on glucagon, other than maybe a suppressive effect. Protein makes both the insulin and the glucagon rise by about an equivalent amount so that the ratio stays about the same. If you only measures the insulin, it looks like the insulin has gone up as a result of protein intake. At its most basic, insulin makes blood sugar go down, and glucagon makes it go up. When you eat protein, the protein makes your insulin go up because insulin is required to drive most of the amino acids into the cells. If insulin went up without an accompanying rise in glucagon, your blood sugar would take a hit. But since the glucagon goes up as well, it replaces the blood sugar that has been reduced as a consequence of the insulin.

    Is it all as clear as mud now?



  22. Here’s my question for Gary Taubes. After reading his book twice, I know what he doesn’t eat. But what does he eat? More specifically, since he doesn’t eat many carbohydrates, how does he decide whether to eat mostly protein or mostly fat, or does he have some other way of thinking about it?

    Hi Peter–

    I’ve eaten with him many times, and I can tell you what he eats. He eats meat and eggs and a few green vegetables. When we met the other day he had a pate to start, which he ate with a fork (not smeared on the little toasted bread that came with it), and he followed that with a Cobb salad.



  23. Great video! The more than 2 hours goes by very quickly. Gary did and excellent job. I have a question for Gary. In the video he stated that this was his first lecture. Is he possibly planning more lectures or a lecture tour? If so will he be providing a schedule? I would love to see him lecture in person.



    I’ll find out if he’s planning a lecture tour or book tour and let everyone know if he is.



  24. Dear Dr. Eades: My cousin back East, age 65, just had a six-way bypass operation. He’s never had to worry about his health before and never took any precautions re his diet. He’s now looking for advice from me, a life-long health nut. Should I recommend the Atkins diet for him? I hesitate to say anything given his now delicate health. I’d love to send him some supps: coQ10, magnesium, etc. Please advise.

    No, no, no. You should recommend the Protein Power diet for him. Magnesium, CoQ10 and at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day would be good, too.



  25. I watched the video last night. Perhaps I am reading more into the picture than what was there but Taubes came across as somewhat frustrated, even exasperated. This seems to fit with the title of his presentation.

    Any reasonable person would expect that, when faced with an overwhelming body of evidence that the current opinions (I would not even term them ‘theories’) about the benefits of low fat, the benefits of carbohydrates, the concept of good carbs and the hazards of excessive fat and especially, saturated fat, are juts plain wrong and have no basis in sound science, that the disseminators of these unsubstantiated opinions would finally relent and admit that they were wrong and that the time has arrived for the truth, if for no other reason than to demonstrate respect for the principles of science. But this almost never happens. In Taubes’s case, signs are emerging that his new book, far from causing a fundamental correction in seriously flawed speculation, will only serve to harden the resolve of those who oppose his views and, in so doing demonstrate an unfettered contempt for science.

    In view of this we can expect to witness a renewed campaign of fear-mongering, misinformation and outright lies. Indeed, the low fat camp seems to have taken on religious overtones wherein its proponents believe they are on a divine mission to cure the world of the evils of excessive fat. In achieving their end they seem to believe that any means necessary to do so are justified. A few days ago a representative of the Canadian Heart & Stroke foundation appeared on the evening news to talk about the risks of the holiday season. I was in another room when it started. So I only heard the audio and did not see who the person was. But this person warned that “The evidence of the hazards of a high fat diet was now so overwhelming that the stress on the heart of even a single high fat meal was sufficient to cause a heart attack!”

    I was dumbstruck when I heard this. If this is even a small example of what is to come then Taubes can and should expect the equivalent of thermonuclear weapons to be used against him. All this for his efforts to make the truth known.

  26. Thanks for posting the link to the Webcast. I’m partway through it. It’s like the movie version of GCBC! Fantastic!

    I have a couple of questions I’d like to submit for your coffee with my hero.

    First, has he considered starting up a blog of his own? Or some Web presence that we could use to keep up with articles where he’s interviewed and stuff like that? Something like the Freakonomics guys did. Or like RIchard Dawkins’s site. Or like your site!

    Second, does he know about the whole Kimkins fiasco, and what is his take on it? I don’t mean about how Kimmer turned out to be an obese fraud; more about the phenomenon of the people becoming obese anorectics. My theory is this: people are so brainwashed by the doctrines of lowfat and calorie restriction, that a scheme like that actually seems reasonable. This is what people must be thinking: “Low-carb … OK, I heard that’s good. Low-fat … OK, we all know that’s good. Low-calorie … well, that makes sense, obviously. Not losing weight? Maybe I should go to 900 calories… 700 calories… 500 calories.”

    Many years ago I fasted (water only) for 21 days and not only did I not lose any weight to speak of, but I gained a lot more weight very quickly in the months after the fast. It was only tonight, watching the Taubes video, that I learned it was possible to literally starve to death while still obese!

    Hi Vesna–

    I’ve already asked him about the idea of starting a blog. He doesn’t plan on it because he thinks it will take up too much of his time. And, based on my experience, he is right.

    I’ll ask him what he knows – if anything – about the Kimkins debacle. I doubt that he’s ever heard of it, but I’ll ask.



  27. Great video- I enjoyed the in depth explanations not possible in his short radio and television interviews.

    I do have a question about grain fed vs. grass fed animals. I’ve been reading about the benefits of “real food” and while it makes sense to me to eat a low carb, higher fat and protein diet, I worry about the poor quality of supermarket protein (grain fed, antibiotics, hormones). An Amazon reviewer wrote “One area that Taubes did not elaborate on is the effect of feeding refined carbohydrates to the animals we eat. Fatty acids (the `omega’ fatty acids) found in plants and animals, are converted to hormone-like substances, called eicosanoids or prostaglandins, by our body. These eicosanoids control many key metabolic functions including inflammation. It has been shown that inflammation is the root cause of most chronic degenerative diseases in humans. Eating animals that are fed grains rather than grass increases omega-6 fatty acid consumption and risk for chronic disease in humans. “. What do you, and what does Gary think about this?

    Hi Lauren–

    There is not always a direct correlation between the type of fat eaten and the kind of fat that ends up in the blood. For example, it has been shown that people following low-carb diets and eating a lot of saturated fat end up with less saturated fat in their blood than in the blood of those subjects following low-fat, high-carb diets and consuming much less saturated fat. It’s not always so much what kind of fats one eats as it is what the body does with them, which, in great measure, is a function of how much carb is in the diet.



  28. Dr. Mike –

    Thanks for the comments about discipline. Did you have an answer to the question about the percentage of your patients who lose weight who are able to maintain the weight loss long-term (e.g., 2 years+)?

    I don’t have any precise figures. Most patients would come visit us, lose their weight and go away. I had no way to keep track of all of them for the next however many years. Based on the ones I did keep track of, I would say that at least half of them kept their weight off for the next 2+ years. It’s a struggle to get people to realize that weight loss maintenance requires effort. Many people seem to feel that once they’ve lost their excess weight the diet is over and it’s back to eating whatever they want that got them fat in the first place.



  29. Hi Dr. Mike,

    Enjoyed the video very much…thanks for the link!

    I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I got my January issue of Ladies Home Journal to find an article by Gary Taubes in the Health Journal section! It was fairly lengthy and presented in what I thought was a wholly positive manner.

    I really feel the beginning of a paradigm shift…..I’m positive it will happen despite those committed to holding onto the old eat-low-fat/saturated-fat-is-bad-for-you dogma!

    I hadn’t seen that article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.



  30. Hi Dr. Eades,

    I’ve been trying to understand what happens to extra calories on lo-carb plans. It’s said that in ketosis, the body can’t store extra fuel, so it is jettisoned, on the breath, in the urine and feces. If this is so, would it not be a simple matter to measure the caloric content of the human waste? This seems to be the missing factor in all the discussion I see from the “E-in – E-out” crowd. They assume that if one doesn’t burn a calorie, it is stored, and they miss the possibility of just wasting it, i.e. use it or lose it.

    I read GCBC twice and did not see this mentioned. I’ve also tried to Google for discussions on this and came up empty. Do you have anything on this, and if not, maybe Gary has?

    Hi Gary–

    The normal fecal excretion of calories has more or less been calculated into the caloric content, i.e., the value for protein of 4 kcal/g already includes the amount lost to excretion. The excess energy from a higher-calorie low-carb diet gets dissipated in a number of ways. First, there are numerous futile cycles that kick in. A futile cycle is when substance A is converted to substance B, which is then converted back into substance A. All these reactions require energy, but no real work is being done. It’s the same as if you moved bricks from one pile and stacked them in another, then moved them back and stacked them in their original location. No work would have been done – all the bricks are right where they were when you started. But you would have expended a lot of energy. Futile cycling does the same in the body – nothing really happens but a lot of excess energy is dissipated.

    A second means of energy dissipation is the disconnection between oxidation and phosphorylation. Oxidation is the burning of food basically to access the energy within. This energy is used to make ATP, the energy currency of life, by phosphorylation. When oxidation and phosphorylation are uncoupled, the body still burns the foods and release the energy, but no ATP is made. So, in other words, energy is used, but no work is done.

    These are the two primary ways in which the body gets rid of excess calories without storing them as fat.



  31. Hi Dr. Mike. Fabulous video, again reinforcing the point that the connection between carbohydrates and bodyfat is grounded in fundamental biochemical mechanisms, rather than based on vague and misunderstood application of the “inviolable laws of thermodynamics”, bad statistics applied to crappy studies, etc. Love it, love it, love it.

    I have a question for Gary. In GCBC, he puts forth some evidence that the density of LDL is more important for determining athergenicity than the total concentration. Is there any evidence of a causal relationship, or is this still at the level of association? I personally suspect that changes in LDL density are a symptom of a deeper problem: chronic overconsumption of carbohydrates cause a variety of systemic problems due to overstimulation of the HPA axis (high blood pressure, inflammation, etc.) and glycation damage of the endothelium. In this scenario, I believe LDL density changes would be largely symptomatic (due to the liver’s processing of the excess carbs) rather than causal. I’d be interested in hearing Gary’s (and your) views as to the state of the research on this point.

    Second question, if I may: Gary has mentioned several times about the large volume of material edited from GCBC. Any chance this will see the light of day? I know it was done to broaden the audience, but I for one would love to be able dive into greater technical detail.

    Hi Dave–

    As far as I know the relationship between small, dense LDL and cardiovascular disease is at the association stage, not the causal stage. I could be wrong because I haven’t kept up with all the new literature, but based on what I have read, this seems to be the case. I think your explanation of it is as good as anyone’s.

    I’ve read all of the iterations of GCBC, and I can tell you that Gary and his editor did an outstanding job of paring away a lot of text without getting rid of anything important. If you watched the video you say Gary present one subject after another about primitive diets and obesity. The early manuscripts of the book were the same way – many discussions of different studies and researchers showing the same thing. The final edition had these summarized.



  32. Hello, Dr. Eades,

    I would love to hear your and/or Taubes’ take on antioxidants on a LC diet. I don’t mean antioxidant supplements, but the phytonutrients, phenols et al. in vegetables, berries, tea etc. The theory that they are good for you is widely accepted – but has it been proven, or just “proven”?

    If they are good for you, is it a straightforward matter, or something like an hormesis-type effect, like exercise or ice swimming?

    Some studies suggest plant phenols (in tea eg.) can raise your insulin. Would this be an issue?

    After reading GCBG I’m sceptical of all those things Everybody Knows. And everybody knows how good vegetables are for you…

    So in effect, I’m asking whether should I allocate my few euros on higher quality meat instead of a cartfull of greens? After all, my reading of Taubes’ book does sort of make me lean towards a more Stefanssonesque diet.

    Thanks a lot!

    My take on your question (and I’m sure Gary would agree) is that good quality meat provides plenty of the raw materials necessary to make your own endogenous antioxidants. Meat is loaded with sulfur-containing amino acids, which are the backbone of the antioxidants your body makes. Most of the free radicals generated in the body are released inside the mitochondria. The antioxidants that you take as supplements or eat as fruits and vegetables (with a few notable exceptions) don’t really penetrate into the mitochondria where they can deal with a free-radical excess. But the sulfur-containing amino acids in meat (there are almost none of these amino acids in foods of plant origin) provide the substrate to enhance the production of antioxidants inside the mitochondria.



  33. I keep seeing this exercise propaganda over and over again, and find that young people have really been brain-washed into thinking that’s all that matters. Sure exercise is important and healthy (no one is disputing that), but what you eat is infinitely more important because if you don’t eat properly, all the exercise in the world won’t help you. I lost 30 pounds eating whole, low carb foods without any exercise whatsoever because I was sick (post stroke), asthmatic and arthritic. I was very active in my youth, but my diet did me in as I got older. When I see bloggers putting down obese people saying that they eat too much and exercise too little, I figure the bloggers are all still relatively young and don’t know what the heck they are talking about. Anyway, we’ve all been down this road before.

    Thanks for the link to Gary’s talk. His book was fascinating and I don’t even have a college degree. Don’t know how intelligent people could find his book boring.

    I’m with you on all counts.



  34. Those who don’t want Realplayer on their machines (and I am one of them!) can use RealAlternative. It is an independently developed client which will allow you to view RealMedia videos without any spyware or other problems.

    Hey Dave–

    Thanks for the info and the link. Does anyone know whether Real Player drags spyware into a Mac? And is there a RealAlternative version for the Mac.



  35. Dr. Mike,

    What’s your opinion on Cyclical Ketogenic Diets (CKD) type diets?

    This is for both you and Gary.


    Hi Dan–

    I think there is some validity to CKD. I don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with them, so I’m really not in a position to give a learned comment.



  36. Hi Dr. Eades.

    My undestanding of spoken English is not so good, I fully listened to the Gary’s video, but I probably didn’t understand it completely.

    I’ve already ordered his book on Amazon and I’m waiting for it.

    In the meantime I’ve two questions for you and Gary:

    1) – Why are there people who don’t make themselves fat (and have good blood analysis), even if they eat TONS OF CARBS?
    Can one say that low-carb diet is right for some and NOT right for others?
    Or that there is a different tolerance?

    2) – One of the most common replies when I talk about low-carb diet is: “You’re talking about our ancestors, but how long do they live? What was their life expectancy?”. They probably mean our life expectancy may have become longer also thanking to carbs in our diet…

    Thanks a lot and sorry for my English.


    Hey Marco–

    No problem with the English. It’s much better than my Italian.

    There is no doubt that some people can do well on a lot of carbs. But that doesn’t mean that all people can. Nor does it mean that all people should. And those who do great on a high-carb diet might even do better on a low-carb diet. They don’t know unless they try.

    As to the longevity issue – the anthropological data is pretty clear. When we as humans switched from primarily high-protein, low-carb diets to low-protein, high-carb diets (when we became farmers instead of hunters), health and longevity took a turn for the worse. Why should it be any different now?



  37. Thanks for the tips on players. I use VLC now and have seen the video! Great!

    I can report from Sweden that there has been no acknowledgment for Taubes book at all here. No reviews, not much linked on the internet in Swedish, etc.

    How is it in the English speaking world? Has he had much feedback from people who claim to know anything? Has anyone refuted what he writes? There are people mentioned in the book, some that appear to be a card short of a full deck honestly, knowing how carbs/insulin/fat tissue works but still boasting that obesity is caused by lazy people riding escalators. (Cahill) Has Cahill said anything? I remember the refute of What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? and all the big names screaming “I didn’t say THAT!”
    How did it go this time?

    Hi Theresa–

    The book has been selling well, and Gary has had some success dealing with the academic community. He did the lecture at Berkeley (that you watched) and the same lecture at the National Institute of Health a few days ago. He is slowly changing some minds, but most of the people he pilloried in the book have been quiet.



  38. Follow up on the alpha-glycerol phosphate thread: I presume that a little alpha-glycerol phosphate is produced even at normal blood glucose and insulin levels. I would venture a guess that the combination of normal blood glucose and post-prandial insulin levels is such that you store just enough fat to get you through to the next meal, the rest being “wasted” via the decoupling process described above. Is that the case?

    Could you could recommend a good book where I can find answer to such questions? Thanks.

    Hey Dave–

    You’re right about the normal blood glucose and the alpha-GP. I can’t think of a specific book that addresses this issue other than a basic medical biochemistry or physiology text. When I get back from Dallas I’ll take a look through my dozens of such books to see if there is anything specific about this subject. I’m assuming you have read Gary’s book, which discusses alpha-GP. I don’t have it with me here, but you might want to take a look at some of the references he lists and check out those papers. Let me know if you have trouble getting them. I probably have them and can send them.



  39. I thought of some more questions, if I can still slip ’em in.

    1. I was surprised not to find any mention of Uffe Ravnskov’s book, The Cholesterol Myths, anywhere in Good Calories, Bad Calories. Is that only because it is not a primary source, but a compendium of health and historical information (much like Good Calories, Bad Calories is itself) related to cholestorol? Or is there some other reason?

    2. Does Gary ever read low-carb discussion sites, like or others? Does he wonder, or check out, what those in the LC community are saying about the book?

    Speaking of which, I have been surprised and dismayed how many (although certainly not all) of those very folks have dismissed GCBC for various reasons. In fact, I have observed an odd strain of hostility towards the book. Some believe it contains no information they haven’t already read a million times. (Which is impossible, unless they’ve also spent six years researching long-buried studies as Taubes did.) Some accuse him of “doublespeak” (but examples cannot be coaxed from them). Some say the book is dry and textbook-like. (Whatever.)

    However, the biggest unfavorable reaction, and the most heated arguments, center around what Taubes wrote about exercise. People get offended, angry, emotional. It probably goes without saying that these people write sentences beginning “Taubes says…” or “Taubes believes…” They evidently can’t parse the fact that Taubes is reporting what studies have and haven’t shown, rather than advocating a belief or theory of his own. Other (non-LC-oriented) articles I’ve seen also indicate how upsetting the exercise thing it for many people.

    That leads me to

    3. It seems to me that the thing in GCBC that gets people the angriest is the part about exercise. Has Gary also noticed this, and what are his thoughts? Or if not, then what does he find people get the most riled about?


    Hi Vesna–

    In the Acknowledgments Gary thanks Uffe Ravnskov for all his information. Gary mainly used primary sources, many of which Dr. Ravnskov directed him to. As far as I know, Gary doesn’t follow and of the low-carb sites. He reads my blog only if I send him a specific post. He tends to read the literature so that he can draw his own conclusions instead of having others tell him what their conclusions are.

    He was misunderstood about the exercise issue. And he isn’t the only one who thinks the way he does. There are a number of papers in the medical literature by respected scientists who have done hands-on research, and who feel that exercise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All Gary did was report that the scientific literature doesn’t show that the recommendation to get out and exercise more really helps with weight loss. Nor does it show that the reason we’re all fat is that we don’t move enough, which seems to be the knee-jerk response of many so-called experts. Gary is only reporting what’s in the literature. Why are people getting mad at the messenger?



  40. You said that Taubes recently gave the obesity lecture at the NIH. Can you give more details about the talk like when it was done and how was it received?

    Yep, I heard from him a few days ago. He said that the talk went well and that he spent about 30 minutes after talking to people at the NIH in charge of grant giving. He is working on funding for a couple of studies to confirm or refute his hypothesis, but so far, no takers.



  41. Great video, well worth the two hours.I have also read the book cover to cover twice now.

    A question I have – in the book Taubes mentions certain populations like the post-war Asians that manage to NOT gain weight on high carb diets…presumably due to calorie restriction. Yet, at the same time he makes the case that an obese person isn’t likely to reduce weight on a high carb restricted calorie diet, or the Amerind populations that become obese eating such diets, or animal experiments showing obese animals can actually starve, while remaining obese, on a restricted calorie diet. These observations are somewhat contrary and given his ideas on explaining things simply and through empirical observations I wonder how this issue is reconciled.

    I think these notions have to do more with the difference between gaining and losing weight. I’m not sure the Amerindian population on the reservations were on calorically restricted diets. But I don’t think the composition of their diets was such that they would provide for growth for children, resulting in a situation in which the adults were obese and the children starving.

    I’ll run this by Gary next time I talk to him to see what his take is.



  42. I suspect it will take a private foundation rather than from the NIH to fund the clinical trial that he described in his talk.

    I suspect you are right, but Gary did say there was some interest from the NIH.



  43. Seth Roberts, author of The Shangri-La Diet, interviewed Gary Taubes shortly after his UC Berkeley talk. He posted it in in three parts starting at and this interview gives us all more background on how Taubes latched onto this topic and what he traits considers as indicative of a good scientist and a bad scientist. You won’t be disappointed.

    Hey Richard–

    I read these interviews when Seth put them up but it never occurred to me to post them here. Thanks for they links. They are certainly all worth reading.



  44. Dr E, please tell Gary to have a website set up, where all the latest news and links about interviews with him, the lectures he gives and such, can be gathered. I’m sure his publisher courd arrange for it, and I’m sure the benefits will outgun the cost of maintaining it.

    Hi Theresa–

    I’ve had that conversation with him. He thinks it will take too much of his time and detract from time spent on other projects. He’s seen how much time I spend.



  45. HI Dr. Mike:

    I have a question. How long does a person need to fast before having a fasting insulin blood test? This is the only test I can get my insurance to pay for– they balked at the other tests described in Protein Power. No one seems to know how long the fast prior to the test should last. What did you used to recommend for your patients in the old days?

    thanks for your help. robyn cardy

    If you want to see what happens during the intermittent fast, you should get your insulin checked before you start. I always checked my own patients before they started the program and then again 6 weeks into it to see the changes.

  46. Dr. Mike:

    I did not make myself clear in the question I asked you about how long does one need to fast before a test for the amount of insulin in the blood after a fast. I apologize, and I also apologize for asking again, but I am going to have a measure of the insulin in my blood taken, and the individual doing the test does not have a good handle on how long I should fast before the blood draw. How long did you tell your patients to fast?

    Also, I read a post above from somebody who wonders how people do the PPLP long term without falling prey to carb foods or meals. We have been on it four years now, and it seems to get easier with time. I don’t have the foods in the house, basically, and we never eat out. I cook three low carb meals per day, and snacks are nuts or cheese, and occasionally low carb ice cream. I mean occasionally, because that stuff is expensive, as is the low carb bread that I stopped buying. Carb foods make us so sick that on my birthday this past January, i made a tiny homemade birthday cake and we pitched most of it. When you really look at other people, even small children, and see the effects of carb eating, it turns you off to it even more. For awhile, bread and pie and so forth was so alluring, because I make all that stuff homemade and it IS tasty, but you get so weary of the resulting nausea, stomach pain and bloating and swollen hands and feet that you just get past most dietary vacations. Food in restaurants and carb loading in the grocery stores, as the economy worsens, seems to be getting worse, anyway. Just stay home and cook for yourself and the habit will come on its own. robyn cardy

    Sorry if I misunderstood. I had my patients fast for about 12 hours (overnight) before checking their fasting insulin levels.

  47. What DOES “re-esterified” mean>

    fatty acids are attached to a glycerol molecule to make a triglyceride, the storage form of fat. The bonds that attach the fatty acids to the glycerol are a type of bond called an ester bond. When these fats come off the glycerol molecule (i.e., the ester bonds are broken) the fats are de-esterified. When they come back together, they are re-esterified.

  48. Gary, i have to thank you for your work. If it wasn’t for you and your article ‘What If Its Big One Big Fat lie?’ I would never have been interested in seeing your online lecture that you did in the UK. And this clearly made me see why i lost so much weight on a LowCarb diet and why i put it on so quickly when i started missing my bread!
    Removal of carbs has changed my life (I still have days when i eat more though) – but i’ve changed so much in shape that friends who hadn’t seen me for a while didn’t recognize me – even my own sister didn’t and i was sitting next to our mum. Where’s Alan? He’s here!
    I can now buy clothes from the high st. and don’t have to worry about only buying from the big mans shop – where they are so expensive.
    What is it going to take for the medical establishment to except (even if they don’t admit it was their fault) that carbs are the cause. The science is there to back it there was none for the fat = fat theory and as Walter Willet says ‘the low Kcal/Low Fat hypothesis has effectively failed the test of time’ – and of public money as well; the studies have shown it just doesn’t work in comparison to a low carb diet.
    What do you think is going to be needed to prove that low-Carb is better than Low Kcal/Low Fat – they say it has to be overwhelming evidence but they never had any to begin with did they ? – It was just politics (good that its now come back to hit them in the face).

  49. This is an old post but i’m really hoping to get an answer. First off I wanna thanks Gary and you doc for your great work. You both have helped me open my eyes on many many very important things. But being a skeptic, and keeping reading eveyrthing I could on that subject, I came by a bunch of study that I’m sure you are aware of doc that constantly come to the same conclusion: low-carb diet doesnt make ppl loose weight any better than low-fat. There was at least 10 very good studies out there as the writting of GCBC with that conclusion. I’m just wondering how Gary could come to this conclusion and close his eyes on these studies. I’ll also appreciate to have your thoughts on these studies too, doc. I’d like to point them out but right now i’m not home and don’t remember their title by heart, but i’m sure anyway that you know which one i’m talking about.

    It’s obvious that low-carb diet are much more healthier, no doubt on this. But they don’t seem to offer any advantage as far as weight loss is concern. If anything, simply get more calories from protein will help, but it doesnt seem to be the carbs reduction per se that does the magic. Ultimatly, it’s calorie in calorie out.

    Also, i’m wondering why Gary never talked about acylation stimulating protein, which has a much profond effect on fat storage than insulin can have. I’d also be interess to have your thoughts on this hormone too, doc.

    Really hoping to get your thoughts on that!

  50. I am a Gout sufferer , What can i do to help myself?

    Regards David H

    You can follow a low-carb diet for long-term relief. You may need medication for the short term, however. You might be interested in this post on gout.

  51. What about Asian diets which consist of lots of rice or noodles and a little protein. Asians do not seem to be obese.

    Thank you for your comments.

    • Enter ‘taubes’ and ‘asian’ into the search function of this blog. A couple of years ago I devoted a post to Gary answering questions that my readers submitted. That was one of the questions. You can read his answer.

  52. Taubes’s mention of General Mill’s donations to Harvard opened my eyes to the huge influence corporations can have on top research institutions. This is an unavoidable consequence of the fact that scientific endeavors require huge amounts of time and money. I am also surprised about the scientific validity of the Atkins diet and the examples Taubes used to counter popular conceptions of obesity e.g. the Fat Louisa paradox and early twentieth century research on adiposity. It surprises me that these voices were overlooked and/or silenced and makes me question the true interests of the people who recommend health guidelines for this country. It also goes to show that the general public should take more responsibility to educate themselves about the science behind fad diets and popular ideas about health.

  53. I’ve been overweight for most of my life and have spent a lot of time feeling guilty and weak etc. I really appreciate that Taubes doesn’t approach fat people that way. It’s refreshing. I realize I could eat better, but truthfully, observationally, I’m not eating differently enough from my skinny friends to deserve to be 100lbs heavier than them.

    I’ve recently been following a Michael Pollanesque diet (food, not too much, mostly plants) and have lost about 20 lbs although I”m having trouble getting it lower. I also went through a period of extreme stress (qualifying exams for a phd) and lost another 5lbs, but I’ve gained about 10 lbs back since them (sigh). At the moment I’m living kind of a flexitarian life style in which I eat meat a couple times a week.. I do eat plenty of fats– olive oil, butter, 2% milk (all “traditional” foods) and I get protein often from plant sources.

    Ok, so I haven’t asked a question yet but I have one. What is the role of these plant based foods in a diet like the one you and Taubes would advocate? Do I have it right to think that non-starchy vegetables are perfectly fine (asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini etc.) but not potatoes and the like? What is the role of beans or lentils or other legumes or are they out? And if one wants to have whole grains like rice or millet, etc. can you counteract their effects by having fat and protein available?

    • Maggie,

      Your best bet is to get a copy of the New Atkins Diet and follow it.
      Most people who have been insulin resistant for a long time need to cut way back on carbs at first, then add them back in to see what they can tolerate. Most people find that you can’t “counteract” the effect of whole grains by adding more fat and protein; the combination of high fat and high carb is disasterous. But read the book.