Few people put in the amount of research journalist Gary Taubes does when he's writing a book. In his new book, The Case for Keto, Gary really dives deep into the nutrition science to walk us point-by-point through determining if the ketogenic diet is the right way to eat.
Let's Say Hello
[00:01:48.020] – Allan Raz, how are things going?
[00:01:50.540] – Rachel Good, how are you today, Allan?
[00:01:52.340] – Allan I'm doing okay. Working on getting the gym open. We got some space next door, so we've been able to spread the equipment out a little bit more, which should help when we go to the health department. And my goal is before the end of this month to have the gym open and now it's just some final cleanups and put together and things like that to get it all ready. And then I've got a crew scheduled to come in and help me do some deep cleaning. So we're going to get everything set up. And I had to pull everything apart and clean it all up and then put it all back in.
[00:02:24.830] – Rachel Wow.
[00:02:25.940] Yeah, it's a lot of work. I've done it a few times myself over the years. And one of the things that I've come to understand is that you can't go 11 months without significant training. You know, I'm doing some training, but it's not like I was before. My strength has dropped. I'm not as strong. So I actually had to hire some people to help me move a piece of equipment today.
[00:02:49.940] – Rachel Oh, boy.
[00:02:52.160] – Allan I moved it all over the gym before, but it is really, really heavy. It probably weighs about 400 pounds. So it's not a light piece of equipment. But I used to be able to just drag it all over the gym. Not a problem that wasn't happening for me today. I gave it a tug. It moved about four inches. And I'm like, okay, I really have to move this about 20 feet. So, little four inch increments. That was a lot of polling. So I went out and I asked a couple of local guys that work at the water taxi across the street, and I said, you guys wanna help me out? And I said, I think I will need about two of you. And two of them came in. One of them came in and he's like, he was going to get underneath and lift it up. And I'm like, it's kind of heavy. He says “I'm really strong.” I said, “I am, too.”
[00:03:33.470] – Allan And he went to make the tug and it didn't move at all. And his friends laughed at him. And then they went and got another guy in there to help us as three guys and myself. We got it. We got it moved.
[00:03:41.930] – Rachel Oh, how wonderful. Gosh, how crazy!
[00:03:47.420] – Allan It is. But it was fun. It was fun. And I'm getting things in. It's lining up. And so I'm hopeful we can get the health department here in Bocas to see it as a good place for people to be and exercise. We'll have a clean up plan, have everything going. So a lot of moving and shaking there. And then, of course, started kind of launching a twelve-week program for my for my online trainee's and, you know, for people over 40.
[00:04:13.070] – Allan And it's. Yeah. That's going really well. I'm super excited about the folks that are coming in. They're energized. You know, our private Facebook group is there where we're checking and everybody's everybody's getting really excited and doing some things here. So, you know, and even just the first couple check ins of folks coming through, I'm like, wow, you guys are just you're just flooringme. I've got some awesome people in there and it just everyday seems to be getting better and better.
[00:04:39.410] – Rachel Isn't that exciting? I love to see when people get excited about trying something new, a new training program or something and really taking the reins on what they want out of their health and fitness. I love that.
[00:04:51.950] – Allan Yeah, well, of course. Me too. That's why I'm doing this.
[00:04:54.800] – Rachel For sure.
[00:04:56.070] – Allan So what have you been up to?
[00:04:58.130] – Rachel Actually, something similar myself. I love resolutions. I love making plans at the beginning of the year. I, I love the idea of settling in on a goal and I have some big running goals for myself this year. But in order to reach those goals, I know I need to branch out and do some other things besides running. So I've been putting together a body weight routine that I call the runner's workout. I'm putting the final touches on it and I hope to have it ready to share pretty soon.
[00:05:30.170] – Rachel Cool. I'm looking forward to seeing that's going to be really good. That's really good. All right. So today our guest is Gary Taubes. And Gary, Gary is one of my favorite people because he thinks like a journalist, but he also understands health really, really well. And so he gets into these concepts of keto. So the book is called The Case for Keto. And I've had him on before The Case Against Sugar. And he sold me on that one for sure, because now, you know, I'm as against sugar as ever.
[00:06:06.200] – Allan But his book The Case for Keto is really, really good. I was really excited to have him on the podcast again. So I guess let's go ahead and have that conversation with Gary.
[00:06:36.920] – Allan Gary, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
[00:06:39.860] – Gary Thank you for having me.
[00:06:42.080] – Allan This is the second time you've been on the show. We had you on for The Case Against Sugar, which was episode 224, that was 245 episodes ago, and I still recommend people go read the book The Case Against Sugar. It's as relevant, if not more relevant today than it was then in 2017. And the book we're going to talk about today is called The Case for Keto: Rethinking Weight Control and the Science of Low-Carb High-Fat Eating.
[00:07:11.570] – Allan And the thing I like, Gary, about the way that you approach these topics is that you put together a case which is what you're doing, and you're thinking in terms of how do I build up a body of evidence that really proves this. And it's not just you're going to go across and say, well, everybody knows and then stop and just use that as your anchor. You have no anchors. But the fact that you've done more research then probably anyone else in the field of nutrition, which is actually kind of sad considering you're a journalist and not a scientist, but you've done you've done more work in the nutrition field to understand why we think the way we do, why we do the things we do and why things work the way they do inside our bodies than maybe any any other human being on Earth. And it's just fascinating to read your stuff.
[00:08:07.470] – Gary Thank you. You know, it's funny, as a journalist, you just keep asking questions until, well, I would like to say until there are no questions to be asked, but basically eventually you will reach a point of diminishing returns where your mathematicians are saying you're asymptotically approaching the endpoint. And yeah, I when I started this 20, almost 25 years ago, I had no biases. I was believe what we all believed about a low fat diet and then red meat being deadly.
[00:08:49.180] – Gary And and then I but I was an investigative journalist with a science background. So I stumbled into this field. I wanted to know what the truth was. I just kept asking questions. I also hate writing. So research is a great procrastination tool as long as you keep doing research, you don't actually have to sit down and do the hard work of synthesizing it, making it reasonable.
[00:09:12.730] – Allan Well, you did. And thank you for that, because you went through an entire history. And that's another thing. I mean, as we're talking about why we are where we are. We have to kind of understand some of the history, it's not if we try to put that anchor point in, this is the ultimate truth and we don't go back and at least understand where that truth came from and question that truth, which you as a journalist do, then there's a lot of things that can go wrong.
[00:09:48.320] – Allan In a way, I kind of think about this is in terms of geometry. You know, you work as a kid, you work in the geometry problem and they make you show you work. And so you sit down, you prove that first thing and then therefore you can prove the second thing and therefore you can prove the third thing. And you have to do all three of those in that order or it doesn't work. And a lot of the science we have right now skipped through the first two proofs and now we're at the third proof.
[00:10:16.010] – Allan This book doesn't do that. Why are we where we are? And what happened? What went wrong?
[00:10:22.460] – Gary So this is what's happened to me. So my obsession has always been good science and bad science, more so than nutrition. It's just, the themes and bad science play out so well in nutrition and so continuously and obesity and diabetes research also. But one of the things that fascinated me is I grew up in the physics world and in physics. You learn the science, the history attached. Right. In part because as the history as you move forward in time, the science gets more complicated to start with, like Newton's laws. And you learn about Newton and you learn about the laws. And every law has a name attached to it. Every discovery has someone's name attached or whether it's, the variables, the units being teslas and gauses and ohms are people's names to learn who did the work, what they did, what they saw, what the alternative hypotheses were. You get to Einstein's theory of relativity. It's only when you get to quantum physics in the twentieth century that we tend to start using the name, leaving the names behind.
[00:11:28.250] – Gary But any student of physics knows who did the work and what they did and what experiments were done to test it and what those experiments on. And I don't know, in medicine, you don't do that. The textbooks don't talk about the history. There's too much to learn. There's too much you have to digest in order to the theory goes to diagnose and treat patients. So maybe the ideas don't have time to learn it.
[00:11:52.830] – Gary So as a journalist, when I got into this, I wanted to learn the evidence-based first behind the idea that salt causes high blood pressure. And that led me to the evidence behind dietary fat and heart disease, and that led me to the obesity story. So as a journalist, you start going back in time because we've accepted certain facts, dogma or consensus. So you go back in time to find out when they were still up for grabs, when there was still a controversy and no consensus formed over what we believe and see what the evidence was and what forged the controversy? Was it compelling evidence or was it political or sociological forces? And in nutrition, obesity was always the latter.
[00:12:44.460] – Gary Go all the way back to the early 20th century for obesity and again, when we think of the obesity research community today, we think of hundreds, thousands of research around the world studying animals. Back then, obesity research constituted oh, I don't know, a dozen positions around the world, the German and Austrian clinicians with their schools of thinking and they had institutes with research physician, researcher in them. And these dozen people would write articles about obesity every few years.And in those articles, they might speculate as to what the cause was.
[00:13:21.910] – Gary And there were two ideas of what the cause of obesity was. One is people eat too much: The gluttony idea. Sloth wasn't that much of an explanation back then, but you had Falstaff. A big, heavy set guy with a zest for living, sitting in a bar and he's got a leg of lamb with one hand and the tankard of ale in the other. And the reason he's fat is good. He's a glutton. And that was sort of the general thinking.
[00:13:49.950] – Gary And then the other hypothesis was that obesity is a hormonal disorder that some people just put on weight no matter how little they eat. Okay? So some of us are predisposed to get fat, others aren't. The Germans and Austrians tend to embrace this hormonal predisposition idea, even though they didn't know how hormones regulated fat accumulation.
[00:14:13.110] – Gary And in 1930, an American researcher named Lewis Newberg comes along the University of Michigan and he claims for the first time ever to have actually tested these two hypotheses experimentally. No one has ever done that before. And he claimed that the overrating hypothesis won, based on basically what he did, is he put some lean people on a semi-starvation diet and some obese people on a semi-starvation diet. And he said they kind of lost weight equally. It didn't matter whether they were obese. Therefore, the obese people didn't have some hormonal predisposition to make them trap fat. And nobody had ever done this so Newberg and the United States particularly has kind of embraced as getting it right.
[00:14:59.860] – Gary And it fit preconceptions, right? Because lean physicians, because if you're lean it's easy to think fat people get fat because they too much. The Europeans, the Germans and Austrians kind of made fun of this energy balance idea, didn't explain anything. So if you want to explain like for instance, whether or not someone's obese or not, but why men and women fat differently, men put on fat above the waist, women tend to put on fat below the waist. So clearly hormones are involved, like why are there certain areas in our bodies we accumulate fat and other areas we don't? Why? There are things like lipomas, fatty tumors. All of these are independent of energy balance.
[00:15:44.500] – Gary And you want a theory of obesity should be a theory of fat accumulation. So all of that is argued out in a few papers that go back and forth, the Austrian clinical investigator named Julius Bauer, the one of the leading figures in the field of endocrinology, says the energy balance thing is nonsense. The overeating hypothesis doesn't tell you anything. Newberg responds that the hormonal hypothesis doesn't tell you anything. World War II comes along. The European, German, Austrian schools evaporate. And post-World War Two, Newberg's overeating energy balance hypothesis is just embrace this fact.
[00:16:31.430] – Gary Clearly fat people overeat and then for whatever reason, people start invoking the laws of thermodynamics as somehow relevant to this. And by the 1960s, you've got obesity research dominated by psychologists and psychiatrists who are trying to get fat people eat less.
[00:16:53.640] – Gary And at the same time, you've got beginning in the 1930s, through the mid 1960s, a series of metabolism researchers, physiologists, PHds mostly rather than MDs to actually work out in the lab what regulates fat accumulation and the role different hormones play in regulating fat accumulation. And by the mid 1960s, it's clear that insulin dominates fat storage. The hormone insulin, it orchestrates partitioning in the body. When we burn fuels versus when we store them, use them for repair and regeneration. But it's the hormone that puts fat tissue and keeps it there. And so by the mid 1960s, you should have a hypothesis that obesity is a hormonal regulatory disorder, just like the Germans and Austrians had always said, where insulin dominates the length of diet.
[00:17:50.040] – Gary And so all of this was just ignored, just ignored, because the obesity community has decided that fat people eat too much. Even when you look at the research in the field, they're not trying to explain fat accumulation. If you look at, for instance, the discovery of leptin, which is seen as a satiety hormone. The researchers are trying to explain appetite and hunger and why fat people might eat too much rather than why fat people might accumulate too much fat, which is an entirely different question.
[00:18:26.130] – Gary So the latter is answered pretty much by elevated insulin and keep it elevated as it is in insulin resistance, and you're going to accumulate too much fat. But that's not even what we've been studying. And then the dietary implications, of course, are a disaster for 80 years, 90 years. Physicians tell their patients to eat less and exercise more because they think they're eating too much. And that's why they're getting fat.
[00:18:56.850] – Allan When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be an NFL football player and offensive lineman, thought I was going to be this big, huge dude. I stopped growing in the 10th grade and couldn't put on any weight. I could eat and eat and eat and eat and in fact, really strongly believe that it was those eating habits that I developed when I was a teenager that set me up for having metabolic problems later because it was the type of food I was drinking a lot of milk, like a gallon of milk a day. I was eating loaves of bread because those were the things that put some weight on me. And so when I was younger, I was one of those folks that you would call just naturally lean. He can eat anything and everything and stay naturally.
[00:19:45.480] That changed drastically after I turned 30, which again, is about the same time that certain hormones like testosterone. I was obviously I was working in corporate so my cortisol levels. I wasn't the carefree teenager anymore. My cortisol levels were obviously a lot higher. So I moved into that category in the book that you call fat and easily. And I think people who see this and they know this intrinsically. I'll have male clients and female clients and the male clients, if they really start working on the right things and do the things that are improving their overall health, they bounce back and they start losing weight a lot faster than females do. So a woman moves into menopause. And because her hormones change the structure of how and where she stores fat changes. So to sit there and completely poo poo hormones as having any involvement in this. I don't quite get it.
[00:20:49.010] – Gary And this is what's so fascinating. On one hand, I mean, it's an interesting dynamic where. So Newberg did this. Because he had to answer questions after he said, as always, eating too much obesity always caused by eating too much. And so people said, what about menopause? You know, if you look at and I did and even into the literature on animal literature in the 1920s, you can find and endocrinologies saying, well, you know, animals get when you remove the ovaries and a female animal, that animal got fatter. And so clearly what we're doing is removing it's not secreting estrogen anymore and estrogen inhibiting fat accumulation.
[00:21:26.100] – Gary And I think it was in the case against sugar. I had a reference from 1927 making that point. And I mean endocrinology as the term has barely even been coined by that time. They're still calling glands ductless glands and the researchers studying animals know that female animals will get fat or if you remove their ovaries. But still what's happening in humans in Newberg's says, well it's got nothing to do with hormones, even in women going through menopause.
[00:21:56.790] – Gary They're saying what happens is they their kids are grown, they're out there, they're bored with their husbands. I'm an incredibly sexist discussions going on and they don't really care how they look anymore. And they're playing bridge with their lady friends all day long and eating bonbons. So it's still overeating. And they said, well, what about children of obese parents? Because he, you know, Julius Bauer had done some of the first research showing that, you know, we had 500 obese patients and 400 of them had at least one obese parent. I forget the exact number. So clearly it's genetic. And why wouldn't you expect it to be genetics? No, it's not genetic. And, you know, children with obesity learn to overeat from their parents with obesity. The groaning board, they called it, they just put too much food out on the table and they don't learn to control their appetites.
[00:22:50.010] – Gary So they had an argument that everything. Nothing could be hormonal, and when Bauer attacks Newberg and you see this today with bloggers and everywhere and politicians, rather than ease off the argument a little, Newberg hardened it. Nothing can be hormonal because of anything, could be hormonal. Perhaps it could all be hormonal.
[00:23:17.630] – Gary And then the idea of hormones were easily accepted as an excuse when that's what fat people was trying to understand. The AtMe movement or even the Black Lives Matter movement, because as a older white male, I'm being told that I can fundamentally cannot understand their perspective. And they're right. Okay, they're just right. I can't. And then it struck me that what we've got is lean people who are giving us diet advice, right?
[00:23:47.140] – Gary The idea is if it's eating too much, the difference between if you take two 18-year-olds, say. A good example, my brother and I, when we graduated from high school, he was two years older. But his senior year, he played football. He was six feet tall and 190 pounds, six foot five and 190. And I was six foot two and 190 or 195. We both played football. We were both pretty good. He never got over 195 pounds and I went up to 240.
[00:24:17.450] – Gary He couldn't. And he had more than I did. We would both accept that the difference was the idea the reason I went to 240 is I ate too much. And the reason he never went over 195 is he didn't, even though he ate far more than I did. So you've got these lean people giving this advice and they don't know what it means. They don't understand what it's like to slowly get fatter year in and year out no matter what you do. Right?
[00:24:48.680] – Gary So we've all been through this. You restrict what you eat, you give up sweets, you do your calorie counting and no matter what you do and this is why I use that phrase fat and easily. It's like 1950s diet book terminology, but some of us fatten easily. And if you're not one of us, you can't understand what that's like. And you can't just say, well, you got to eat less, dude, or get out and run around the track, because that doesn't stop our bodies from wanting to fatten easily.
[00:25:21.610] – Gary And we have to understand why our bodies are doing that. You're lucky your body doesn't do that. Just like somebody who wants to play basketball is lucky if they grow to six foot eight rather than six feet tall. And we know that's hormonal.
[00:25:35.960] – Allan Yeah.
[00:25:36.380] – Gary Right?
[00:25:38.480] – Allan Because they too much.
[00:25:39.890] – Gary Not because they eat more than the six foot guy. And it's funny. That's what the first guy, a German, Gustaf von Burgmann, who sort of wrote up this hormonal idea and made fun of this eating balance/energy balance idea said you know, a growing child is hungry all the time. That's not why it's growing. And you would never tell the child, look, if you would just eat less, you won't get so tall because we know they're not related.
[00:26:12.260] – Gary And yet they turn this into obesity. They're growing outward instead of upward. And suddenly you flip all the causality in telling them to eat less is somehow a solution. And it's just not.
[00:26:24.770] – Allan You said something in the book that just kind of resonated with me, probably something I should just actually just have posted somewhere for people to read whenever we're talking, particularly when they're dealing with hunger, is that you indicated in the book hunger is a response, not a cause.
[00:26:45.380] – Gary Right. If you look at any biological system other than obesity, hunger is a response to a calorie deficit. Basically, you burn more calories, you're growing. You're going to be hungry because your body needs is building is in positive energy balance. It's building bones and muscles and connective tissue. And it needs the energy to do that and it needs the resources to create that that new growth and the response is you're hungrier than you are if your body isn't growing.
[00:27:18.170] – Gary The examples I used and why we get fat. My second book was, you know, an elephant eats more than an armadillo because it's and it eats and several orders of magnitude more food because it's several orders of magnitude bigger. We never have a system where the amount consumed drives the growth of the system. It's always the growth process that determines the amount consumed. And what's fascinating is in nutrition. So remember, we've got these lean people. Newburg, by the way, was pencil thin. We've got them saying, look, fat people get fat because they eat too much, so they should eat less. And if they eat less, they'll lose the weight and everything will be fine, but we actually had an experiment to look at what happens when lean people eat less. And that was his famous experiment, Ancel Keyes, who in the early 1940s was a relatively young, ambitious nutrition researcher at the University of Minnesota.
[00:28:20.830] – Gary This was before his dietary fat work. And he did an experiment, a famous experiment on starvation. And he published two books, two volumes of the biology of human semi-starvation. And this was a it was a semi-starvation experiment. So we got thirty two or thirty four conscientious objectors. And the idea was to understand the physical and psychological consequences of semi-starvation because when we won the war in Europe, the assumption was we would be confronted with famine conditions and particularly Eastern Europe, and we would have to know how to treat these people. We'd have to understand medically what they're going through.
[00:29:08.200] – Gary So the diet that Keyes fed these conscientious objectors was similar to what they expected they would see in Eastern Europe. So it's tubulars like potatoes and turnips and little green vegetables and some very lean, small portions of meat. So it's a low-fat, low calories, about 1600 calories a day, even though it's referred to as a semi-starvation diet. That's what men are told to eat if they want to lose weight at the rate of a pound or two a week. So 1600 calories a day of a low fat, mostly plant diet, a very healthy diet by today's standards and the obvious consequence of this diet, not surprisingly, if you feed someone a semi-starvation diet, they get exceedingly hungry because they're only eating half the calories that they need.
[00:30:07.150] They thought about food constantly. They obsessed about food. They wrote about food in their diaries. Tf they had gum, they chew gum constantly. They dreamt about food at night. They weren't allowed out of the lab to walk around town without a buddy system because they couldn't be trusted not to cheat if they were allowed out of the confined area where the study was going on. Several of the subjects suffered what Keyes and his colleagues called, I think they call it semi-starvation neurosis or psychosis, they had mental breakdowns. One of them tried to mutilate himself, actually successfully cut off several fingers with an axe, claiming that an accident so he could get out of the study.
[00:30:57.540] – Gary The assumption is a lean person can tell a person who suffers from obesity to eat less and maybe 1600 calories a day, and that person won't be able to just lose weight, that's all. The fat tissue will get about the excess calories and they'll be fine. But the reality is, we know that if a lean person were to eat 1600 calories a day, they'd be starving and unable to sustain it.
[00:31:21.810] – Gary By the way, the other thing that happened at the end of this trial, they lost 15 pounds in the first three months and then weight loss slowed down and sort of ground to a halt. So eventually their weight loss was not all that meaningful. They didn't have a lot of extra fat to lose. Then they start refeeding them. Okay, so now you're feeding semi-starved individuals and they're voraciously hungry and they had to slow down the feeding so they wouldn't get sick, but they still could eat like 10000 calories a day and they ended up all putting on more fat than they lost, which Keyes and company called post-starvation obesity.
[00:32:05.100] – Gary The comment in the book, because we've all been there, right? We've all tried to starve ourselves, lose the weight, and then eventually you end up with binge behavior because you can't sustain it and you end up fatter than you started. All of this had been documented in lean people, and yet that's still the advice. And then lean people, conceivably the most famous nutrition experiment in history. And yet the lean people who tell us to eat less don't pay attention to that, because if they did, they would have to figure out something else to tell us.
[00:32:38.730] – Allan When I was in the army, in the infantry, and so we're training and the way they would work is they had these meals ready to eat, MREs. That they would give us. And each one was 1000 calories and we were allotted three of them in a day. So, you know, I'm a young, healthy male, too, you know, 20 years old, 21, 22, and they're giving me three thousand calories a day and I'm losing a pound a day, so if I went out for two weeks, I'd lose 14 pounds and I didn't really have that much extra body fat to lose at that point in time, because I was at the time, I was about 185 pounds, maybe one 195 relatively lean.
[00:33:22.830] – Allan But I would lose a pound a day if I was out and I was doing everything I could to find calories. So there were people who liked coffee at the time. I wasn't interested in coffee. I would trade my coffees for their cocoas. I would say, are you eating your creamer and your sugar? And if they weren't going to use their creamer and sugar, I would barter for that and I would take those to make little sugar cookies.
[00:33:47.880] – Allan And so I was learning all of these little tricks on how I could get more food. And in fact, we were going in an exercise and this other group came in and our job was just to disrupt them. And when they came in and drop their packs off, we ran them off with their packs. When we came back through, we realized they had food in their packs, so we stole all their food.
[00:34:11.070] – Gary This is a funny thing because you were lean, right? It's not funny. It's tragic because you were lean. Nobody judged you.
[00:34:19.170] – Allan Yeah.
[00:34:19.830] – Gary As though you are a glutton or a sloth or you lacked willpower or anything like that. You were just hungry and you were doing what you needed to do to get the food you wanted. But had you been overweight or obese and someone had seen you stealing that food, they blame your lack of willpower for being overweight or obese. I had a conversation with excuse me, the nutritionist at NYU recently through email has been arguing for decades that it's all about calories and she told me that her father had been obese and he definitely had a voracious appetite. And I said, but look I've eaten dinner with her over the years. I once took her out to a wonderful, amazing Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village to thank her for being a source for one of my very first article on dietary fat. And I said, you've seen me eat right. I am twice your size. I eat more than twice the amount of food you eat and I will leave the table hungry. But you don't judge it because I'm not obese, right?
[00:35:33.390] – Gary The reason they twice as much as you do is because I'm twice as big as you are. It's that simple. And if my body was trying to get bigger still by putting on fat, I'd be hungrier still. And she may have actually gotten that. Again, in this world, people very common phenomena, when you can when you try to get people to shift paradigms literally from this energy balance, thinking and gluttony and sloth to hormonal regulatory thinking and insulin and carbohydrates. You can get them to shift momentarily, but inevitably they snap back to the way they always believed.
[00:36:15.860] – Allan There's a little bit of data there and, when you're when you get into a study where they'll do a well, they'll do a low-carb versus a high-carb switch but typically when they do that, they're really not going low-carb. They're they're going more of a moderate-carb kind of thing. And what they typically will show is for the first six weeks or so, these individuals that are on a low-carb diet lose more weight, but then they'll say six months later everything's pretty much even.
[00:36:47.420] – Allan And I'm like, well, most of them weren't trained. That's how they were supposed to keep eating. So they went back to their old way of eating. And basically all you did was really. Yeah. Gave them a short term thing. And then you didn't pay attention to the fact that if they'd continue doing that thing for six months, it probably would have made quite a bit of difference.
[00:37:07.940] – Gary The nutrition community has all kinds of excuses for why they can do bad experiments. So when they do those experiments, they don't test, for instance, whether a ketogenic diet leads to more weight loss than a low-fat or mostly plant diet. When the diets are sustained, they test the intervention. So they say, well, we've told people eat a low-fat diet and we told people to eat the ketogenic diet. And we gave them, you know, Atkins' book and Ornish's book or something like that. And then, you know, we just had them come in. We wanted to they they won't write it up like this. So they'll assume that they'll write it up as other people stayed on the diets. And then if you criticize and say, well, clearly from the data that people and stay on the diet and they say, then we know the diet to unsustainable. I co-founded a not for profit to try and improve the quality of nutrition science. We did some interesting experiments, but we did not succeed at improving the quality of nutrition science.
[00:38:18.690] – Allan I guess the point I'm trying to get to is we're responsible for ourselves. And if we really want to get to the bottom of rather than most of us, I think we're listening to this and thinking we need to lose some weight. We probably fatten easily. We're probably not naturally lean. So we need to do something different than what is there, something different than what we've done? And if you've been concerned about the keto diet, just try and experiment.
[00:38:47.460] – Allan And the experiment is to work with your hormones, looking at your carbs and your protein and your fat. And so, Gary, if someone was going to sit down and say, okay, I'm going to do an experiment, the subject is one. So my N=q and I'm going to do this experiment, how should they structure their experiment?
[00:39:06.720] – Gary OK, so and this is why I wrote the book, by the way, among other things. So people know that they can do this. It's not going to kill them. Twenty years ago, you would have when I first did this as an experiment, I kept waiting for my heart attack. And then they have to understand how to do a right. Like any experiment, you have to get the methodology correct. So what we're doing with a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet. So remember, we broach this idea, the hormone insulin regulates fat accumulation. Insulin goes up, we store fat, insulin comes down, you start to mobilize and oxidize it. What's often not discussed is when insulin comes down, there's a threshold effect. So when I interviewed the researchers who studied fat metabolism, a phrase they often used was that fat cells are exquisitely sensitive to insulin. So if you're secreting even a little bit of insulin, your fat cells are detecting that. And that insulin is inhibiting what's called lipolisis, which is mobilization of fat from the fat cells.
[00:40:11.090] – Gary So when you want to do if you're overweight or obese, you want to get fat out of your fat cell. So the fat cells, lipolisize fat, it's stored so it can come out and then you want to burn it for fuel. And what to do that you have to minimize your insulin levels, probably.
[00:40:29.310] – Gary So ketogenic diet minimizes insulin. That's what it does. And it does that by replacing the carbohydrates, you consume all the carbohydrate rich foods. So everything other than green leafy vegetables and so on. It's a high-fat diet. So you're not eating grains, sweets, starches, legumes, because they're all carb, relatively carb rich. You're eating green leafy vegetables, eggs, meat, fish, fowl, butter. Animal sources of fat. In practice, it's actually very easy to do, it sounds complicated, but breakfast, if you eat breakfast and most of us in this world are many of us are now doing the intermittent fasting as well as our time-restricted eating. We just don't eat breakfast anymore. But if you do, instead of your usual carbs sources, toast, cereal, juice, skim milk, fruit, you're eating eggs and bacon.
[00:41:34.680] – Gary It's the hardest thing to get over is the belief that eggs and bacon are going to kill you or eggs and sausage or kippers and sour cream, trout, leftover food from dinner. And then your lunches. I don't know. I lived in New York when I first came to L.A. when I first did this as an experiment. And I was a writer and I was unmarrieds. You tend to eat out every meal and inexpensive restaurants. And so I'd go out and instead of getting half a roast chicken with French fries and broccoli, I would order that roast chicken, say, hold the fries, give me a double or broccoli or, you know, hold the fries or the baked potato, give me an extra order of salad. And so you end up eating more green leafy vegetables than you ever did. Some vitamin deficiencies are not an issue.
[00:42:28.450] – Gary Same for dinner. Dinner was instead of steak and potatoes and broccoli, it was steak and broccoli. You're just not eating the starches, the grains and the sugar, basically. and most people who do this and do it right. So the idea I remember is also so insulin dominates fat accumulation, carbohydrates dominate insulin regulation. So the simplest way to think of this is carbohydrates are fattening. That's what our parents generation grew up believing anyway. And so if carbohydrates are fattening and you don't eat them. Because at any time and what you eat them, they will work to make you fat or and if you try to prevent yourself from getting fat, it just make you hungry.
[00:43:21.640] – Gary So you abstain from carbs. You replace it with fatty sources of food. You don't worry about the fat content as long as it's coming from sort of naturally occurring foods and people get healthier, they just they do. In the book, I describe this sort of cognitive dissonance between two conflicting definitions of a healthy diet. One is what we're told to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meat in moderation.
[00:43:57.610] – Gary And the other is what actually makes people like you and me healthier, which is green, leafy vegetables and meat, fish and pound dairy and eggs.
[00:44:09.370] – Allan Yeah, it was interesting because someone posted on my Facebook group. They were looking they were struggling with keto. They had some struggles with keto diet and they wanted a balanced diet. And then, of course, there was another person that responded. Isn't that an oxymoron? And I had to respond and say, absolutely not. I mean, I probably eat. I would say ounce for ounce more vegetables because they're leafy green than I do eat meat when it's all said and done.
[00:44:40.390] – Allan And yeah, there's some fat in there to make it actually taste delicious. But, you know, is just because everybody wants to nitpick and, you know, they're like, oh, it's the bacon diet. I'm like, well, they have a little bit of bacon. It's condiment. It's it's an aside, you know, it's like that's not their main protein. We're not all sitting around running around eating pounds and pounds of bacon. Now, yes, there are some people that are doing that, but in a general sense, you can have a balanced, fully nutritious diet. You have to have the understandings of what your body needs with regards to vitamins, minerals and particularly electrolytes. If we're going to go into ketosis because we're going to flush some water and just understanding those basic things is just a function of knowing how your body responds to food and eating appropriately.
[00:45:30.880] – Gary And that's it. It's unlearning a lot of the simplistic crap we were taught. And then basing thinking about your diet in terms of human physiology instead of some, you know, like we're thermodynamic experiments. My favorite part, so part of what I did in this book, I interviewed over 120 odd physicians who had converted to this way of thinking. I estimate there are tens of thousands now worldwide at least to do this, but who now eat this way themselves and prescribe it to their patients. And by interviewing all these physicians, I could understand the challenges to them and to their patients and how they overcame those challenges. And at the end of the book, I give advice based on and ways to both think about this and do this, so that the eating a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic regime is something they can do for a lifetime.
[00:46:31.800] – Gary But my I think my favorite chapter is. I start with the quote from a woman named Doctor named Carrie Doulos, who's a spine surgeon in Ohio. And Carrie comes from a family with a history of obesity and says without understanding her diet, she'd be 300 pounds. She's also a type one, has type one diabetes now, and she's a vegan. And she used to be a ketogenic diet. And she does so because she can tolerate animal products. So she would have she always had some ethical issues with them and she grew up ethically opposed to eating them. But she would do it if her body tolerated.
[00:47:13.260] – Gary It just doesn't seem to do it. And she said it's it's not a religion. It's just about the way I feel, about how I feel. And to me, ultimately, that's kind of what we're doing here. And I play Carrie Doulos off against Georgia Edes, who's a psychologist, psychiatrist in western Massachusetts whose body doesn't seem to tolerate plant foods. And so Georgia is now a carnivore. All she eats exclusively is meat. And that's what makes her feel healthy and able to achieve a healthy weight. And as long as you know that you don't have any vitamin and mineral deficiencies and that you know your lipids are not insane, whatever that means is.
[00:47:58.220] – Gary Of self-experiments until you found dumping crap food on us. And so we didn't really have to think about what we ate anymore. So you could give your kids sugary crap for breakfast and they'll eat it because it's full of sugar. And then you can give them take them to McDonald's or fast food restaurants and buy them a Coca-Cola and get them crap for lunch. And they'll eat that because the food industry did such a good job of making it palatable and the same for dinner and nobody had to think about it anymore. But there are people who think about it all the time or that the vegetarians and vegans have to think deeply about what they're eating and daily about making a healthy diet.
[00:48:38.210] – Gary And anyone who is a foodie does it naturally and there's nothing more important to us. That's the fascinating thing. It's at least tied for being the single most important thing we can do in our lives, which is eat healthy. And it just requires some thought and practice to do it right? Nobody gets good at anything with that practice. The longer you do it, the easier it becomes. And meanwhile, we've been getting these messages from the nutrition community, don't even think about doing it. If you abstain from a if you don't eat the entire food group, that's an eating disorder. If it's unsustainable, don't try it anyway. Nobody can eat this way.
[00:49:20.600] Even though it'll make you healthier, we're not going to tell you to do it because we don't believe you'll sustain it. I mean, sort of insane logic from the nutrition community. Whereas what they should be saying is being healthy takes work, you know, and so eat a diet that's designed physiologically to make you healthy, which this is, and then work at it so it gets easier. And now, of course, the food industry has settled. And so there are sort of you know, you can go on Amazon and buy a gazillion, you know, keto-friendly snacks and drink and God knows what they're doing for us.
[00:49:59.270] – Gary But there they are. I was confronted yesterday with keto macaroons, I was always a big macaroon fan, I said I'm staring at the Amazon and blowing up the nutrition profile so I could see it going, wait a minute, wait a minute. They say it's keto-friendly. It's still like 14 grams of carbs.
[00:50:21.330] – Allan You could probably tolerate two, maybe three of those.
[00:50:27.660] – Gary You know, I mean, I could probably be very happy eating them, but I'm also very happy without eating them.
[00:50:32.740] – Allan Yeah. Yeah.
[00:50:34.050] – Gary And so ultimately, I passed.
[00:50:37.200] – Allan Good for you, Gary. I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
[00:50:47.340] – Gary OK, well, I'm a big fan of telling people what not to eat, okay? I know other people don't like negative messages, but don't eat sugar, starches, and grains.
[00:50:58.860] – Gary Wear a mask.
[00:51:01.410] – Gary And, you know, I don't know if I got a third. I'm a writer. We're tortured. Right. So telling people how to be happy, I feel like I'm not sure I'm certified to do that. But, get outside.
[00:51:17.340] – Gary And one of the things that we used to be so part of the logic of the nutrition world is do you tell people to exercise? Because if you exercise, maybe they'll burn off calories. And I think of this as like a greyhound, the greyhounds of the world figuring if they can just get the bastard hounds to run around the track enough, they could turn the basset hounds into greyhounds. And what they end up doing is torturing the basset hound. And you end up with emaciated, starving, exhausted basset hounds.
[00:51:43.980] – Gary But if you can make those basset hounds healthy with the right diet, if that diet sort of reregulates their fat metabolism such that they're mobilizing fat from their fat tissue and burning it rather than storing it to excess, they'll have energy. And if they have energy, they want to exercise and they want to burn that energy off, which lean people do naturally. And then they'll want to go for walks and go for hikes and go to the gym and all those great things and get outside because of the energy to do it.
[00:52:15.850] – Gary And so you don't exercise or get physically active to lose weight, if you fix your fat accumulation problem, you will want to be physically active. So do the former and then enjoy the latter.
[00:52:32.350] – Allan Excellent. Gary, if someone wanted to learn more about you and or the book The Case for Keto, where would you like for me to send them?
[00:52:41.080] – Gary OK, my website is garytaubes.com. I don't keep up with blogging, but it's there. Twitter is @garytaubes. The book is available. If you have an independent bookstore in your neighborhood that's still open, please buy it there. If not, Amazon will deliver.
[00:53:00.460] – Allan Absolutely. Well, Gary, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
[00:53:04.750] – Gary Allan, thank you for having me.
[00:53:11.150] – Allan Rachel, welcome back.
[00:53:13.010] – Rachel Hey, Allan, wow, that was a really fascinating interview. There's so much to talk about.
[00:53:17.990] – Allan Yeah, like I said, I really like Gary and I like his approach in his books predominantly because he doesn't take anything as fact. At first, you know, it's not like he's going to follow and say, okay here's here's our belief system. So I'm going to rest all of my argument on that thing. And a lot of people will do that. They'll say you don't need to do keto because it'll raise your cholesterol.
[00:53:41.630] – Allan Some people get on keto and it lowers their cholesterol. Keto definitely lowers the triglycerides. It does a lot of other things that are really, really good for you. But it's not for everybody as Gary mentioned in the podcast. But, you know, if you're thinking about going to your doctor and you're thinking about doing keto or you're doing keto and you go to your doctor, your doctor says, oh, my God, get off that, you're going to die.
[00:54:03.410] – Allan just realize that doctors are not infallible. And I don't mean for you to completely question your doctor, but realize at one point doctors were recommending cigarettes. You had advertisements, nine out of 10 doctors prefer a particular brand of cigarette.
[00:54:19.700] – Allan Now, they didn't know they were not told in medical school that the tobacco was bad for them. And in fact, the tobacco companies went out of their way to make sure that that information was not available to your doctor. So doctors were recommending cigarettes. Now they're recommending different things. But some of our doctors went to medical school 15, 20, 25, 30 years ago. And a lot of them are still relying on the same things they were taught then, or they're relying on the things that they get at their conferences.
[00:54:52.370] – Allan They have to do their continuing education. I don't know what they call it. You know, we call it CEUs use in a personal training space. We used to call it CPE when I was an accountant. But they have to get they have to go back and get education. Now, these educations are typically conferences and these conferences are typically sponsored and run by drug companies. So most of the science, most of the things they're hearing are not food can make you healthy. It's you need this medicine to be healthy and we don't have a deficiency of medicine. We have a problem with our food and Gary does an excellent job of kind of walking us through step by step, the Case for Keto. And so if your doctor is saying maybe you shouldn't be on that on that diet, highlight his objections, highlight them in your book, take the book to your doctor and have him read that section. You know, you need to do some stuff.
[00:55:49.620] – Allan I remember when I was going through my first divorce. It sounds terrible, doesn't it. I was going through the process of the settlement and everything that happens. And, you know, she was going to get half of my 401k. And so it happened at that point in time to be reading a lot of things about divorce and about, 401ks and all that other stuff. And it said, you need this document called a QDRO, it's qualified something, something, something. Basically, it's where you're redeeming your 401k, but you're not taking the cash. So you do the form. And that way for your taxes, you don't have to pay taxes on the money you withdrew. Otherwise you do. And then the story was about a doctor who took a million dollars out of his 401k and basically had to pay five hundred thousand dollars in taxes because he didn't do this one document. So I went to my attorney and I said, well, have you drawn up a QDRO?
[00:56:46.200] – Allan And he's like, What's that? So I showed him my research and I went to another law firm, a friend at another law firm, and requested a boilerplate for one and gave it to my attorney and he charged me my hourly rate for his time to read my research and do the form, which I thought was really, really not cool. But at least I saved myself a ton in taxes because I was aware of the situation. And I was a part of my own legal team.
[00:57:17.340] – Allan I didn't just depend on the opinions and requirements that are put forward by my attorney. I made sure I understood the process as well as I could. So that I could be a part of the team and you really kind of have to do the same thing with your medical, because doctors are not infallible. They're human beings just like us. They're very intelligent human beings and they're fairly diligent because they did go through medical school. But at the same time, they're not doing the research specific to you every single day. You have to do that research.
[00:57:51.340] – Rachel That's right. And you need to take your own reins of your own nutritional choices. And it's good to ask questions. It's good to question the doctor and help them or they can help you better once they know what you're trying to find out. But yeah nutritional guidance has changed so much. But the problem is that it hasn't been reflected in our country for anyway, in our guidelines, the food pyramid, as as we knew it growing up, was like that for probably 15 years and know that there were changes in the food pyramid. If it wasn't, last year was the year before, and it had been literally ten years in between. Any additional changes to what we know and it's only one dietary example to live by and it's not the right dietary example for everybody.
[00:58:42.610] – Allan Yeah, well, one of the things is realized, that's a very politicized environment, Nina Teicholz wrote, The Big Fat Surpise, I believe, is the book she wrote. And she's been an activist on this thing the whole time. And the reality of it is when they get the people together in the room, the scientists, they're supposed to go through these studies. They sit down and they look at all the studies and then they start throwing some of them out as irrelevant or not valid. And all of the high-fat, low-carb diets, every single one of them was excluded from the study. And so, she's part of an organization that's out there trying to fight this, but they're moving forward with nutrition guidance.
[00:59:27.700] – Allan And, basically probably for a generally healthy person that doesn't need that doesn't have metabolic problems, is not obese or overweight, those guidelines might work just fine. But for a lot of us that are I guess what I was with was is easily fat, I think was one of the terms I heard recently in an interview that that interview is coming up, guys, but easily fattened us easily fat and people. We can't eat that way. We can't feel that way. And unfortunately, that's not going to be a part of the guidelines. I was talking to a nutritionist out of Canada and she'll be on the show soon. And it was kind of the same thing. We were talking about the nutrition guidelines. She says, yeah, Canada has changed their guidelines. They don't have all of the grains and all that stuff anymore. They've lowered that down and they've got it a little bit more balance.
[01:00:16.450] – Allan And I said United States is still charging forward with 11 servings of grain. She's like she's like, that's insane. And like, it's politics. And so, again, your doctor doing the best he can with his standard of care and his education. So just recognize you have to be a part of these decisions. You know, if you know that you need to go in for surgery and they're going to put a magic marker mark on the leg they're supposed to operate on, you check that mark.
[01:00:46.700] – Rachel Yes.
[01:00:47.470] – Allan Don't just assume that they marked the right leg, you know, and when it was maybe it was supposed to be the left leg. Make sure that they marked the right leg. Make sure that the information your doctors giving you now, you do need your doctor to be involved. And here's one of the core reasons. If you're on metformin, some other blood sugar lowering medication or you're on insulin, your medication is very likely going to change if you change what you eat.
[01:01:14.860] – Rachel That's true.
[01:01:16.150] – Allan So a significant change in your diet is something you do need to talk to your doctor about. Like I said, he or she may object on the grounds that they don't believe that's a healthy, sustainable way of eating. But if you went in there and said, I'm going to go vegan or vegetarian. They'll be like okay, that's great. And it's like and keto.
[01:01:41.950] – Rachel Silence.
[01:01:42.230] – Allan Yeah, crickets, but it's possible. And we've had we've had them on, too. So, you know, I think I think the key of this is of this whole thing is if you really want some support, when you're talking to family members, you want some support when you're talking to doctors. The only thing that I wish Gary was a doctor, he's a journalist, but he did take the time to get to the root cause he did go take the time to put together the history, to put together the case. And so to me, this book is is like gold. If you're trying to explain to someone why you're doing what you're doing.
[01:02:20.590] – Rachel I think it's worth reading and experimenting. After listening to your podcast for a couple of years, you talked about keto for quite a bit, and I wasn't ready to accept that keto was a healthy diet to follow or lifestyle to follow. I had a hard time unlearning all of the things that I knew for a fact that that was bad for you. I mean, really, I had to really come off of all of those things that I had just tooken for a true science.
[01:02:50.410] – Rachel But so much has changed. And and but I knew that if I didn't do something different, that I wasn't going to get where I wanted to be. And so I just like Gary had mentioned, like, I just did an experiment and I I told Mike,my husband I said, okay,I'm going to try this and see how it works. If it doesn't work, I'll try something else. But two years, almost three years later, I'm still basically following the keto lifestyle because it is working for me. Everybody needs to try that. Something different.
[01:03:23.140] – Allan Yes. If what you're doing is not working, you've got to do something different if you expect a different outcome.
[01:03:29.630] – Rachel Yep. And I know some people can be vegan or vegetarian. I know, like Gary had mentioned, he's got a friend who is a vegan, keto, and another friend who's Carnivore. It really is such an individual thing. And I respect anybody who can be vegan just as much as I respect anybody that can be keto. The fact is, is that they found something that works with the way that their body works and that's exciting.
[01:03:55.720] So in the show notes, I'm going to make a point to I've had a carnivore on me, I've had a vegan keto on and I've had Dr. Will Cole on where he was pretty much somewhere in the lines between vegan and pescatarian. And so I'm going to link to those. So those are ways of eating that you're wanting to do. And then you're also want to consider trying keto or at least a low-carb version of those diets. I'll put the links in there for you to check those out, because there's a lot of good information in those episodes to just kind of give you an idea of what's possible.
[01:04:32.290] – Rachel Perfect, I think that be so helpful.
[01:04:35.230] – Allan All right, Rachel, I'll talk to you next week.
[01:04:37.840] – Rachel Great. Take care.
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In this book, Gary examines why sugar is perhaps the worst aspect of any western diet. He explains that this is a relatively new stance, as nutrition policies from the 1970s and onward instead targeted fat content. The popular implication was that sugar was largely benign.
Conventional thinking on sugar is that it’s empty calories. It was often said that people get fat because they consume more calories than they expend. In actuality, different foods cause different hormonal responses, which can impact the storing of fat. The unique metabolism of a glucose and fructose combination can cause an endocrine response and lead to health issues.
Gary also speaks about the link between cancer and sugar. Research has shown that insulin stimulates tumor growth and metastases. Elevated blood sugar and insulin levels will fuel tumor progression and metastases. Whatever causes this insulin resistance will exacerbate existing cancer, and could possibly promote it. The best response is to prevent insulin resistance by removing the sugars and white flours from one’s diet, thus minimizing the risk of cancer.
Alzheimer’s disease is also being linked to sugar. The primary argument states that whatever causes insulin resistance will increase the likelihood of manifesting dementia of any kind.
In the end, we must weigh the risk and decide for ourselves how much sugar we consume. We must balance the desire to enjoy our lives, while also living long, healthy lives. For many of us, it may be easier to avoid sugar than to try and consume it in moderation.
To connect with Gary Taubes or to learn more about The Case Against Sugar, visit www.garytaubes.com.