Taubes-Guyenet debate. My analysis (V)

(Versión en español: hacer click aquí)

My notes on the fifth and last segment of the debate and my comments below them:

  • [GT 2h6m] The purpose of NuSI was to stop using these garbage poorly-designed studies, and design studies that asked the right questions. The pilot study was not randomized, and, therefore, you can’t infer causality.
  • [GT 2h7m] Sugar may be the something that you need to add to other carbohydrates to make them fattening. If you want to test this hypothesis, you have to do the experiments right.
  • [GT 2h8m] There is a new version of the Ludwig’s study being done. Whatever that study finds, Kevin Hall will probably look at it and find a reason to question it. This is how science works. There is counterevidence to everything. If there wasn’t, a journalist would not be required.
  • [Joe Rogan 2h9m] Why are sugary carbohydrates the most fattening?
  • [GT 2h9m] Stephan would say that they trigger food reward, I would say that they create a hormonal milieu in the body that overresponds to insulin. If you have a look in a textbook for what causes fat storage, insulin is the hormone that primarily regulates fat storage in your fat cells. Fructose is mostly metabolized in the liver and it may cause insulin resistance and, if it does, you overrespond to insulin.
  • [SG 2h10m] Sugar is the factor that makes us want to eat foods. It causes dopamine release in the brain and this sets our motivational levels to do some behaviors. Drugs act via dopamine.
  • [Joe Rogan 2h10m] But you’re saying that the same amount of carbohydrates, sugary carbohydrates versus vegetable carbohydrates, sugary carbohydrates are going to be more fattening.
  • [SG 2h10m] No, no, I didn’t say it was independently of calories. It is entirely dependent on calories. We have RCTs demonstrating this.
  • [Joe Rogan 2h11m] These RCTs, are they short-term?
  • SG 2h11m] Depends on how you define short-term. They are not lasting years and years.
  • [Joe Rogan 2h11m] Isn’t the issue long-term chronic effects?
  • [SG 2h11m] Possibly, but if you believe insulin is the cause, the effect of insulin on fat cells happens almost immediately. I am not aware of any mechanism that takes more than a few hours to occur. You shouldn’t have to wait months and months for this to occur.
  • [GT 2h11m] That doesn’t make any sense at all to me. He is kind of making this up as he goes along.
  • [SG 2h11m] Oh, Jesus!
  • [SG 2h14m] Insulin has effects on enzimes that cause fat cells to take up more fat and release less fat. That’s what that textbook talks about. That does not imply that insulin causes fat accumulation from day to day.
  • [SG 2h14m] When you eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat, insulin goes up and your body restricts the fat from going out of fat cells, turns that down, not off, and then your body is burning carbs. If you eat a diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, you secrete less insulin, those effects don’t occur on your fat cells, and that allows your body to burn the fat that you just ate. But at the end of the day, the amount of fat that you have on your body is the amount that you ate minus the amount that you burned. If you eat a low fat diet, you are not eating much and you are not burning much, but you’re in the same place as if you’re eating a lot of fat and burning a lot of fat. We know that this is true because varying the amount of carbohydrates makes no difference on RCTs. That’s how we know that what I just said is correct.
  • [GT 2h16m] One of the problems with modern nutritional science is that you do crappy studies, generate garbage, and then put together a lot of garbage and say we can find the truth in there. The answer is do better studies.
  • [GT 2h16m] The difference between fat ingested and fat expended has to be 10 kcal/d. No study was ever done that measured people ingesting 1500 kcal/d and expending 1490 kcal/d. For example, in the Kevin Hall study they didn’t measure ketones lost or energy in feces.
  • [Joe Rogan 2h18m] [He reads the effects of insulin in fat cells from a textbook]
  • [GT 2h20m] Keith Frayn, the author of the textbook explained to me for 20 minutes how insulin traps, determines, fatty acid trafficking accross the fat cell membrane, but when we talked about obesity he said it is because people eat too much. I told him he switched mechanisms: one mechanism for fat cells, a different mechanism for why people get fat. He said: “I never thought of that”. I asked him to come up with a hypothesis for obesity from the fat cell perspective, and he said “I can’t put energy balance aside”.
  • [GT 2h23m] All these people, including Stephan, they are so locked into this thinking, they can’t get away from it. Even when he says he is using a lot of studies, I can guarantee that if we have a look at all these studies, they assumed energy balance was the cause and they started with the wrong hypothesis.
  • [SG 2h24m] Gary, I preordered your book. I was so persuaded 10 years ago that I ate a low-carb diet for 6 months. I was fully convinced by your perspective. The thing that caused me to go away from that perspective is when I started to actually investigate evidence on my own. And evidence didn’t line up with what you were saying in your book. Your arguments in GCBC rely on historical narrative and speculation. And others who have looked at the same historical events have come to different conclusions than you have. And that includes me.
  • [SG 2h26m] I am post-Taubes. [He laughs]
  • [GT 2h27m] There are different ways to look at the evidence. Maybe you eat less on a low-carb diet because your insulin is low.
  • [SG 2h27m] Can you give me evidence that that is the reason?
  • [GT 2h27m] No.
  • [SG 2h28m] When you feed people, whether it is overfeeding or underfeeding, the carb to fat ratio of the diet makes almost no difference.
  • [GT 2h29m] In overfeeding experiments, they could make people overeat 10000 kcal/d of carbohydrate calories, but they couldn’t make people overeat more than 1000 kcal of fat. Is it because the carbs are doing something in the brain or is it that the carbs are doing something in the body? There are always two ways to look at it.
  • [GT 2h31m] Even if I am wrong, I assume that telling people to eat less sugar is a good thing.
  • [SG 2h32m] Not entirely, because you are telling people that only carbohydrate matters…
  • [GT 2h32m] I am not.
  • [SG 2h32m] You are telling people that caloric intake, and dietary fat intake and physical activity do not influence body fatness and are not important.
  • [GT 2h32m] I refuse to believe that someone who is obese got that way because they are sedentary.
  • [SG 2h32m] There is harm in what you’re saying because you are saying that other important factors are irrelevant.
  • [GT 2h32m] No. No. No. What I am saying about calories is that it is the wrong way to think about it. They are a way to measure the amount of food. You could use grams.
  • [GT 2h33m] [He reads a text]
  • [GT 2h34m] One of my problems with the whole overeating hypothesis is that it’s tautological. You don’t know if someone is overeating unless they’re fat, right?
  • [SG 2h34m] Incorrect. You can measure his calorie intake and you can know. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • [GT 2h34m] How do you know if I overeat?
  • [SG 2h35m] It depends on how you define that. But looking at your body composition I can tell you whether you’re overeating relatively to a lean person.
  • [GT 2h35m] Because I have excess body fat.
  • [SG 2h35m] Correct.
  • [GT 2h35m] Without knowing if I have body fat you cannot know if I am overeating, right?
  • [SG 2h35m] Uhhhh
  • [GT 2h35m] Doesn’t it strike you as circular?
  • [SG 2h35m] Theres is nothing circular about it. If you take somebody and increase their food intake they gain body fat. There is nothing circular about it. And if you reduce their calorie intake, they lose body fat. It’s so simple and direct.

Guyenet’s beliefs are contrary to scientific evidence

We can no longer doubt that Guyenet defends that calories determine if we gain body fat or we don’t:

  • [Joe Rogan 2h10m] But you’re saying that the same amount of carbohydrates, sugary carbohydrates versus vegetable carbohydrates, sugary carbohydrates are going to be more fattening.
  • [SG 2h10m] No, no, I did not say it was independently of calories. It is entirely dependent on calories. We have RCTs demonstrating this.

And, as he says in that fragment and he repeats later, he does not say that it is because of the laws of thermodynamics: he says that scientific experiments are what supports his claims. This is very important:

[SG 2h14m] We know that this is true because varying the amount of carbohydrates makes no difference on RCTs. That’s how we know that what I just said is correct.

Why is this relevant? Because Guyenet is unable to defend his pseudoscience arguing that it derives from the First Law of Thermodynamics. He says that what proves that he is right in his beliefs is that experimental evidence proves him right. Or, in other words, the real value of his ideology is conditioned by the lucidity of his interpretations of scientific evidence. And the scientific evidence he provides is:

  1. Very short-term experiments for which Guyenet ignores their duration and also ignores that there are differences between diets. His conclusion that there are no differences is just a lie.
  2. Absolute lack of long-term controlled experiments.

I do not say that it is his fault not to provide long-term evidence, but that the fact that it is not his fault doesn’t make relevant the short-term evidence he provides. In addition to that, he makes a simplistic and biased interpretation of those studies.

Morover, Guyenet is ignoring the abundant scientific evidence that shows that body fat accumulation is not determined by calories. The scientific evidence that refutes his hypothesis is endless. Two years ago I created a list with all the blog entries that presented scientific experiments that demonstrated this. The list includes almost 100 articles: see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see, see. And it’s been more than two years since I created the list, so we can find much more scientific articles in this blog that show the same results.

Why can’t Guyenet see the scientific evidence that refutes his hypothesis and instead of that he holds on to short-term experiments that do not show what he says? Faith is not scientific evidence. Although the controlled experiments that can be carried out in humans are short-term, that does not make those studies relevant nor does it allow us to make what happens in the long term up. The fact that Kevin Hall deduces from those short-term studies that for any practical purpose the composition of the diet does not matter is simply bad science. My bolds:

In other words, for all practical purposes “a calorie is a calorie” when it comes to body fat and energy expenditure differences between controlled isocaloric diets varying in the ratio of carbohydrate to fat. Kevin Hall, PhD

The effects of insulin are immediate

Another facepalm moment thanks to Guyenet. But this is typical Guyenet. Are there no long-term changes in the action of insulin? Is there a physiological process called “insulin resistance” that can make the effects of insulin change in the long term? Is Guyenet really saying what he is saying?

Another example. As we have seen in this blog (see), in people who have lost weight, the effect of insulin on LPL can be clearly altered, and the same happens with lipolysis, something that may be explained by the size of the adipocytes (see)

The composition of the diet is not relevant

[SG 2h14m] When you eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat, insulin goes up and your body restricts the fat from going out of fat cells, turns that down, not off, and then your body is burning carbs. If you eat a diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, you secrete less insulin, those effects do not occur on your fat cells, and that allows your body to burn the fat that you just ate. But at the end of the day, the amount of fat that you have on your body is the amount that you have minus the amount that you burned. If you eat a low fat diet, you are not eating much and you are not burning much, but you’re in the same place as if you’re eating a lot of fat and burning a lot of fat. We know that this is true because varying the amount of carbohydrates makes no difference on RCT. That’s how we know that what I just said is correct.

When insulin is high it is not necessary to get fat from the adipose tissue because we already have dietary carbohydrates to burn. OK. When insulin levesl are low (a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates) Guyenet says that that does not happen, that is, low insulin does let the fat out of the fat tissue. But that is not really necessary because we already have dietary fat to burn, right? Does that really make sense in his narrative? I think he is right, but his message is inconsistent. You’d say he’s got into a muddle.

In any case, the interesting thing about this narrative is that, as he recognizes at the end of the quote above, it doesn’t have to be that way. He justifies his beliefs by saying that, in his opinion, this is what scientific experiments say.

That’s how we know that what I just said is correct.

Well, since well-controlled scientific experiments do not say that, neither those that exist, which are short-term, nor those that don’t exist, which would be long-term, the story that he is telling is worthless. What happened with the First Law of Thermodynamics as a justification for his pseudoscience?

The insulin hypothesis is not consistent with basic thermodynamics. Stephan Guyenet, PhD

Oh, yes, it is consistent. And Guyenet has not dared to say the opposite to Taubes.

Guyenet is in a post-Taubes phase

Guyenet claims that he has put behind him his belief in Taubes’ hypothesis. This is such a good argument because a long time ago Taubes also believed that Guyenet’s pseudoscience was correct. Taubes can also say that he is in a post-Guyenet phase. Why is Guyenet laughing?

We store the difference between what we eat and what we burn

[SG 2h14m] at the end of the day, the amount of fat that you have on your body is the amount that you ate minus the amount that you burned

Is there something wrong with Guyenet’s claim? In a summarized form, let’s say that expressing it like that is the first step for the deception to happen, which is to make people believe that the difference between our energy intake and our energy expenditure determines how much body fat we accumulate. Morover, notice that Guyenet’s expression only mentions two terms from the energy balance equation: by isolating those terms he is making them the relevant terms.

We could also say that every day we store as body fat what is stored in our adipose tissue. There is no information in this claim, in exactly the same way as there is no information in Guyenet’s sentence, but at least we focus our attention on the main character involved in fat accumulation. I refer to this entry of the blog for detailed comments on where the problem with Guyenet’s sentence lies.

Taubes’ ideas harm

That’s what Guyenet says. Or perhaps the ideas that have harmed the health of the population in the last century are those defended by Guyenet. There is zero self-criticism in Guyenet. He never questions his pseudoscience. But when someone explains the errors that are the foundation of his beliefs, instead of recognizing the grave error that is his ideology, he says that the critic damages the health of the population. No, it is not the critic: it is Guyenet who harms.

The circular thinking of “overeating”

The final part of the debate is very interesting. “Good Calories Bad Calories”, the book by Taubes, was published in 2007, i.e. 11 years ago. Guyenet has had plenty of time to understand the tautology on which his pseudoscience is based.

I do not know what you’re talking about.

Moreover, Guyenet has changed his message from the one he had a few years ago (see). As we have seen, he doesn’t dare to justify his beliefs by mentioning the First Law of Thermodynamics. Has he rectified his error without understanding Taubes’ explanations about tautologies and circular thinking? Does he really not know what Taubes is talking about? I don’t believe him. I can’t believe him.

About circular arguments, Taubes is absolutely right, and his explanations are impeccable. As he also explained in this debate, in the energy balance pseudoscience overeating is another way of saying body fat accumulation. In that paradigm, if you are not accumulating body fat, you are not overeating. And if you accumulate body fat, then you are overeating. Guyenet even acknowledges that to know if you have overeaten he would check your fat mass. In the energetic paradigm, a tautology is incomprehensibly mistaken for an explanation. The circular thinking is evident.

And the final explanation from Guyenet is very enlightening: he says that if you increase your intake or you reduce it, that makes you gain or lose body fat. It is the single cause fallacy, as I have already commented in this analysis. And we must take into account under what conditions it has been verified what Guyenet says: in the short term and with huge variations in the caloric intake. Or, in other words, it has never been proven in the circumstances in which the energy balance pseudoscience proposes that fattening happens in real life, which are long-term and with a very small increase in the caloric intake. Nor, as Taubes correctly points out, have alternative options been considered in the long term. What Guyenet claims that is “simple and direct”, is an undoubtedly erroneous belief born from fallacies and paralogisms. And Taubes explains this perfectly.

NOTE: I insist that the terminology of the energy balance paradigm can be used only if that pseudoscience is first proved correct. Caloric excess, caloric deficit, overeating, etc. are terms that belong to this paradigm. Before using these terms, it must be justified that they can be used.

Go to the conclusions
Go to the fifth part
Go to the fourth part
Go to the third part
Go to the second part
Go to the first part

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4 respuestas a “Taubes-Guyenet debate. My analysis (V)

  1. just to make this explicit, I think it boils down to calories in calories out […] ultimately the amount of fat in your body is determined by the amount of calories entering and the amount of calories leaving (Stephan Guyenet, PhD)

    if you specifically look at the highest quality studies available, they consistently suggest that, as far as we know, the calorie value of food is the only food property that has ever been demonstrated convicingly to impact body fat mass. There is no other food property that has ever been demonstrated to impact body fat mass (Stephan Guyenet, PhD)

    Humans are the only species whose body fat mass is controlled by calories.

  2. The postprandial responsiveness of ATLPL was lower after the HF meal than after the HC meal. However, an independent examination of 8 normal-weight subjects who received HC and HF meals only (without prior diet preparation) showed no effect of the meal composition on the ATLPL postprandial response. Therefore, the difference seen in the postprandial ATLPL response to an HC compared with an HF meal in the present study was apparently dependent on the macronutrient composition of the preceding diet, rather than on the composition of the meal.

    Effect of dietary macronutrient composition on tissue-specific lipoprotein lipase activity and insulin action in normal-weight subjects

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