Fresco of the Seckau Apocalypse by Herbert Boeckl

Seeking Truth, Finding Problems, Rethinking Dietary Health

Gary Taubes has a new book – Rethinking Diabetes: What Science Reveals About Diet, Insulin, and Successful Treatments. The problem of this book is right there in the title. It all but promises the truth about dietary health.

Definitive Truth?

The problem, of course, is that the science of dietary health is not so good at delivering definitive truth. Discussing his book with the Guardian, Taubes explains it rather well:

“The science has been pretty awful. So many of the conceptions that have evolved around eating behaviour and nutrition are based on assumptions that may be wrong. The problem is that people don’t change their advice, because the longer they give it, the more invested they are that it had better have been right. I write from this perspective – of the history – so folks can see the damage that is done by allowing assumptions to be embraced as facts without definitive evidence.”

The truth is that dietary health is complicated. So try as we might to find it, a unitary truth remains elusive.

Committed to Restricting Carbs

Though he is quite clear about the error of embracing dietary assumptions as if they are facts, Taubes has clearly embraced a belief system that blames an excess of carbohydrates in our diet for many health problems. Relying on drugs, rather than diet, is a mistake, he says. In great detail, he describes the historical problems of “ever more liberal carbohydrate diets and ever higher insulin doses to cover them…Patients, in turn, were allowed to eat anything, which physicians assumed they would do anyway.”

He is skeptical about GLP-1 medicines. Surely, he suggests, unpleasant surprises will come. His low-carb diet is working quite well for him. The problem, though, is that the diet pattern which works for him enjoyed quite a moment of popularity and yet, it did not solve the problems we face in metabolic health. Diabetes and obesity have continued to rise and many people have found that a low-carbohydrate diet is not sustainable for them.

It falls short as a simple solution for one and all.

Ever More Questions

Seeking the truth is a noble pursuit, so long as the seekers know that it will not end with a single revelation. Good research, especially in nutrition, yields as many questions as answers.

Click here, here, here, and here for more about Taubes and his new book.

Fresco of the Seckau Apocalypse by Herbert Boeckl; photograph by Uoaei1, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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January 15, 2024

4 Responses to “Seeking Truth, Finding Problems, Rethinking Dietary Health”

  1. January 15, 2024 at 7:25 am, Michael Jones said:

    As I repeatedly remind my patients, this issue with dietary lifestyle, medical intervention, and health has proven itself to necessarily be a “both/and” issue, rather than an “either/or”. I find that there is significant merit to the idea that relying on medications alone is not going to significantly improve someone’s health for the long-term if the food they are eating is destructive. However, properly used medication, can and should be used as a person learns to Improve how they “fuel” themselves.

  2. January 15, 2024 at 10:45 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup! Good research yields more questions than answers.


  3. January 16, 2024 at 8:39 am, David Brown said:

    “Good research, especially in nutrition, yields as many questions as answers.” Does that even make mean anything?

    In my view, the chief goal of research ought to be to yield information that helps us understand how the real world works.

    Clearly, GLP-1 medicines and the ketogenic diets are treatments that yield favorable results. Both approaches have this in common. They allow people to lose weight and keep it off without experiencing discomfort. Also in common is the fact that they do not pinpoint the dietary factors responsible for the global increase in obesity and diabetes.

    It may turn out that Researchers at Purdue University are homing in on the problem.