The Drivers of the Herd, Part 11
The NuSI Guys, Part 1 (Warning Signs)
Slide 3 Nutrition Science Initiative: Introduction and Overview. September 2012. Accessed Dec. 17, 2013 at http://www.givewell.org/files/conversations/NuSI%20overview.pdf
Gary Taubes has teamed up with a doctor named Peter Attia to form a new nonprofit call the Nutrition Science Initiative, or NuSI for short. You are looking at a screen capture taken from a promotional document they prepared for fundraising purposes.
Slide 4 This document is currently hosted by GiveWell.org.
Slide 5 http://www.givewell.org/
GiveWell’s purpose is to direct potential donors to worthy charities. In the next videos I will show you that NuSI is not a worthy charity. I think it would be a mistake to send them money.
Slide 6 http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/09/19/161444045/billionaires-fund-a-manhattan-project-for-nutrition-and-obesity
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has already made that mistake in a big way. The Arnolds sent Taubes and Attia a reported $40 million dollars. I find this to be astounding. There are so many obvious indicators that Taubes is a fraud. How could they not notice them? Ask yourself that as you watch the rest of this playlist. In this video, I’ve included some of the most obvious tip-offs that they and everyone else should have clued into to see that Taubes lacks legitimacy.
Slide 7 This is my copy of Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. I’m going to use it along with other writings from Taubes to support my assertion that he’s a fraud. I’ll also discuss with you the public statements of Peter Attia a bit later. You will see that NuSI is more interested in convincing us to adopt their dangerous low-carb views than in shining the light of good science on nutrition.
Slide 8 p.179. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
Taubes uses such transparently manipulative rhetorical devices, it’s a wonder to me that everyone doesn’t see through them. This example is typical. He wrote, “If carbohydrates make us fat, which they do, and fat or saturated fat causes heart disease, which the authorities tell us they do, then we have a paradox: now the diet that naturally makes us leaner is also the diet that gives us heart disease.” Can you sense you are being manipulated? Of course, he is trying to force us to presuppose his premise, but his premise is just nonsense he’s made up. I’ll show you extensive evidence that fats can make us fatter and that carbs can be a part of a diet that helps us lose weight. Right now we don’t need to get into that. The point here is that he has constructed a false dilemma and you should notice that pretty quickly if you’re thinking.
Slide 9 Taubes, Gary. "Which One Will Make You Fat?." Scientific American Magazine309.3 (2013): 60-65.
Here’s a similar example from a recent article of his. He says only two possibilities exist. Either we understand what causes obesity or we have it all wrong. Again, this should be taken by the reader as an obvious insult to her intelligence. Doesn’t knowledge in science progress gradually? Don’t we collectively learn more with each year in physics or chemistry, for example? Why would our understanding be “wrong” instead of simply incomplete? Once again, the point is that he is simply being manipulative. I could give you more examples like these but I trust you get the point.
Slide 10 p.187. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
Taubes also deals in obvious double standards. Here he says that cutting out fatty foods will make it more likely you’ll have a heart attack. Why? Because saturated fats raise your HDL. Taubes has made a living arguing that no good trials have demonstrated a benefit to lowering LDL cholesterol through diet, which is false, but here he is saying that raising your HDL by eating fatty foods will be protective even though there is no evidence whatsoever that supports this. No trial has ever even hinted at this.
Slide 11 http://www.plantpositive.com/17-thomas-dayspring-lipidologi/
I’ve made a video with a doctor friend of his explaining this to him. There is no evidence that HDL raising by any means, much less by eating fatty foods, will protect you. But there is a mountain of evidence that links saturated fat to heart disease. Taubes knows this.
Slide 12 p.187. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
That’s why he includes the phrase, “at least by this predictor of risk” at the end. He wants you to infer the lie without him needing to write the lie explicitly. He is misinterpreting a biomarker and he knows it, but he thinks you won’t catch him doing that.
Slide 13 p.131. Schafferer, Christian. Understanding Modern East Asian Politics. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2005. Google Books.
Anyone who remembers how Mencken described a demagogue should be able to recognize what’s happening here.
Slide 14 http://garytaubes.com/2012/03/science-pseudoscience-nutritional-epidemiology-and-meat/
Of course, Taubes’ claims about HDL come from epidemiology showing HDL to be protective in most populations, but when the epidemiology tells us something he doesn’t like, he says epidemiology is a pseudoscience.
Slide 15 http://garytaubes.com/2012/03/science-pseudoscience-nutritional-epidemiology-and-meat/
I thought he said that an association by itself contains no causal information. So where’s he getting his ideas about HDL?
Slide 16 http://garytaubes.com/2012/03/science-pseudoscience-nutritional-epidemiology-and-meat/
Again, the double standard should be readily apparent. Here he is saying that people who avoid red meat are more likely to be the same people who do their best to be healthy. He says that’s why epidemiology makes vegetarianism look good. Vegetarians are just more interested in being healthy than other people.
Slide 17 p.179. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
But we just saw that he said that carbs make you fat and saturated fat makes you lean. Is he saying vegetarians eat fewer carbs and more saturated fat, and that’s why they’re so healthy? Trust me, I could give you dozens of examples of ad hoc and illogical arguments like this. It’s as if he’s doing his best to tell us he’s conning us without saying it in so many words.
Slide 18 p.186. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
Sometimes you do have to know at least a little about a subject to see his tricks. For example, here he analogizes cholesterol-lowering statins with aspirin. Statins lower LDL cholesterol and they are protective against heart disease. But he says it is flawed logic to therefore conclude that statins protect us through cholesterol lowering. After all, aspirin makes headaches go away and it reduces heart attacks, but headaches and heart disease aren’t connected. I have a hard time even paraphrasing his argument because I don’t see how it’s an argument. He is saying statins have multiple effects. Therefore, their most obvious effect – cholesterol lowering – isn’t important. So what is it they do that is more important then? He doesn’t say. Anything he might say to back this up would sound contrived so he doesn’t even try to back up this statement. His point is devoid of knowledge about both statins and aspirin.
Slide 19 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/daily-aspirin-therapy/ART-20046797
We know how aspirin works to prevent heart attacks and we know how statins work to prevent heart attacks and there is no logical device he can create that eliminates that knowledge. Aspirin prevents clotting.
Slide 20 http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/20702slr036_lipitor_lbl.pdf
Statins interfere with the production of LDL cholesterol. Here you see how one drug maker explained what its drug does to the FDA. This is science. Taubes would rather you were ignorant of this. And yet he has started an organization that he says will do superior science. It would be funny if it didn’t threaten your health.
Slide 21 p.182. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
In my third video of this series, you saw how Taubes and Catalyst misrepresented the MRFIT trial. There is no need to go back over all that here. I just want to use that as an example of how dishonest he is. Once again, we have a case in which there is no need to know much about the nutrition or anything else to see what he’s up to. He wrote in his book that MRFIT didn’t prevent a single heart attack. He also quoted a headline from a newspaper which said of MRFIT, “Heart Attacks, a Test Collapses.” He wants us to think the trial was a total failure. Now you already know that the men in the usual care group began lowering their cholesterol when the trial began. The trial ended up having problems not only because of issues with a drug they used, but also because their control group took better care of themselves than expected.
Slide 22 Bishop, Jerry E. "Heart Attacks, A Test Collapses." The Wall Street Journal 6 Oct. 1982. ProQuest digital archive.
Here is an excerpt from that newspaper article he cited. It explains some of what went wrong. It didn’t have problems because the idea of diet-heart failed. But that’s what he wants you to think. He has no interest in informing you of the truth.
Slide 23 P182 UC San Francisco Legacy Tobacco Documents Library
As I said in my earlier video about this, MRFIT was significant in part because it was an effort to demonstrate the harms of smoking. That’s why you can find this article at the web address on your screen, along with many other documents about MRFIT. Read it for yourself.
Slide 24 Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial Research Group. "Mortality rates after 10.5 years for participants in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: findings related to a priori hypotheses of the trial." JAMA 263.13 (1990): 1795-801.
As for his claim that MRFIT did not prevent a single heart attack, he is once again giving you bad information. When the men were tracked down after 10 and a half years, it was found that MRFIT prevented at least 34 heart attacks. Taubes doesn’t say this because telling the truth would undermine his career plans.
Slide 25 p.199. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
In keeping with the theme of this video, here is another very obvious and blatant example of Taubes trying to keep you misguided and uninformed. He cites a 2007 report from the World Cancer Research Fund to try to bolster his case for his ridiculous diet advice. He says they made three recommendations.
Slide 26 p.199. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
The first was to be lean and avoid gaining fat mass. The second was to be physically active. And the third was to avoid energy dense foods and sugary drinks to avoid weight gain. Now, without knowing more, you should realize two things. First, none of that supports a low carb diet. He just pretends it does. Secondly, you should realize that fats are the most energy-dense foods, so the last piece of advice argues against a low-carb diet. Meats would probably be in that category. This should just be common sense. You shouldn’t need any more information to realize you are being manipulated. But in case you didn’t realize it, you will when I show you what that report said.
Slide 27 p.xvii. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007
You can see that he did get those three points right. The problem is that they didn’t only make three recommendations. Taubes didn’t tell us about recommendations 4 and 5.
Slide 28 p.xviii-xix.
And there they are. 4 says eat mostly foods of plant origin. 5 says limit the intake of red meat and avoid processed meat. Those weren’t ideas he could use to mislead you so he left them out. By the way, they made a few other recommendations, too. Look this up if you like.
Slide 29 p.117. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007
If you look at the text of the report, you’ll see that meat was indeed what they had in mind when they used the phrase “energy dense foods.” They also said that “the strongest evidence” shows that red meat consumption leads to colorectal cancer. Do you think they would endorse Taubes’ arguments?
Slide 30 p.227. Taubes, Gary. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.
That was just a short list of simple and clear cases of him falling far short of a reasonable standard of accuracy and honesty. At the end of his book he has a list of individuals who saw some of the crazy ideas and false claims that wound up in there. Bear that in mind as we continue to look closely at this book. If all these people read this book and missed every problem I will be presenting in these videos, that’s a rather sad commentary about them.
One topic about which Taubes’ thinking is especially muddled is the question of calories. Is obesity at some fundamental level a problem of excess calories or not? For some reason this question twists him up in knots. I’ll show you his odd responses to this simple idea in the next video.