Friday, January 28, 2011

Micro Vs Macro

Last blog post of the day and I'm hoping to keep this one short...

So I've been reading some objections to Gary Taubes' books from someone calling herself CarbSane and at first I was curious, wondering if somewhere in what she was saying in between the ad hominem attacks. She spells his name Taube$ to try to highlight that he is saying what he is saying for the money because God forbid someone who puts in the amount of effort he has for the last decade or so should get some remuneration for the effort. Anyway, there's a lot of complicated bio-chemistry on her site that looks impressive and makes it seem like she knows what she is talking about, although I have no background in the material so I cannot judge.

Gary Taubes appeared on the Living La Vida Low Carb podcast yesterday and answered some of her criticisms and, while I won't go into what he said, after hearing CarbSane on the same podcast going off on a rant that was very hard to follow and seemed quite emotional at times, I tend to buy into what Taubes is saying. I think his great advantage in a debate (this one as well as the La, rry King show he was on years ago with Dr. Oz and Jillian Michaels) is that he seems to be very good and remaining unemotional and is very good at conveying his thoughts in an organized and clear manner. That doesn't make his arguments correct and CarbSane wrong, but it does make it very hard to judge the opposition if they can't make you understand what they are saying.

Anyway, that's not what this 'short' blog was supposed to be about. I wanted to talk about the fact that CarbSane's objections, while science based, seem to cover the micro aspects of things. Does this hormone or that enzyme control fat storage and release? While this is probably important in understanding the 'how' of the fact that low carb diets work, does it really matter? Study after study comparing weight loss approaches show the safety and efficacy of low carb dieting and even the effectiveness as compared to the more traditional approaches. The mechanism behind that, whether it is ASP or insulin that controls fat storage and to what degree is less important to someone who want to lose weight, lower blood pressure, blah blah blah. The 'how' the diet works may be interesting to give someone clues as to how to tweak things but with that clue, you would have to study the macro. In other words, if understanding the biochemical reactions clue you in that a tweak 'may' work to get better results, it has to be actually tested to make sure there isn't a compensating mechanism that would override the benefit of the tweak.

A good example of this is the low fat diet. It seemed to make sense that lowering fat intake would cause weight loss. Either from the logic that 'fat makes you fat' or that fat contains more calories so removing fat should lower calories more than lowering the other macronutrients. However, the conventional wisdom never really tested that theory and as a result, people at low fat cheeses in moderation, lots of whole grains, lots of 'low fat' products and did not see the results. What happened? Well, eating few calories can cause compensating mechanisms in the body to slow down metabolism to maintain body weight and keep the body at the same weight. So we blame the dieter for eating too much and the cycle continues.

Anyway, because the debate has been bugging me for a while I wanted to get that out. I could go on for longer but I think I'll stop here.

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