Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dr. Weil Weighs In On Gary Taubes' New Book

Gary Taubes wrote Good Calories, Bad Calories. Dr. Weil liked it.

CNN's Larry King Live presented an interview with Gary Taubes last Friday. Jimmy Moore posted Dr. Weil's portion of the interview on YouTube:

For this segment (about 7 minutes):
Guest Host: Joy Behar, co-host of the talk show "The View."
Guest: Gary Taubes
Guest: Mehmet Oz, MD
Guest: Andrew Weil, MD

CNN has a longer, 16-minute, excerpt on their site.

Below is the transcript of Weil's portion from the above video:

WEIL: I'm here to talk about Gary Taubes' book which I read in its entirety. And very carefully.

I think this is a very important book. I have been recommending it to my medical colleagues and students. He raises big questions and I think there are some very big ideas in this book.

One of them is that there is absolutely no scientific evidence for the belief that fat is the driver of obesity.

Secondly, the idea that it's carbohydrate that is central to this process and that obesity is mostly a hormonal disorder, genetically influenced, in which insulin is a central player.

That overeating and under-activity are not causes of obesity, but symptoms of that underlying disorder. That is, it's not that people eat too much and don't exercise because of some defect of will or some behavioral problem. It's that this is behavior that is controlled by a hormonal disturbance.

BEHAR: Really?

WEIL: Really. And I think he's done a meticulous job of showing that many of the assumptions that are held by the conventional medical community simply rest on nothing.

Now, I will also say I don't agree with all of his conclusions, but I think these are...

BEHAR: What don't you agree with?

WEIL: I don't agree that the way to process this is to eat a diet that's mostly meat and no carbohydrate. I think there are - it's very important for people to understand how carbohydrates affect them, and the differences in carbohydrate food. It's not a matter of simple versus complex. It's how carbohydrates are handled by the body, how they affect blood sugar. And not everybody is in this spectrum. There are some people who are not sensitive to carbohydrates and won't get fat no matter how much they eat.

But I think his basic ideas here are very important. And it's very important to get these out in the medical community because a lot of the ways we try to prevent and treat obesity are based on assumptions that have no scientific evidence.

TAUBES: His assessment of my book was exactly what I would want the medical research community to take out of it. All I say in the book about meat is -- and, again, everyone reacts to carbohydrates differently. You know, Atkins, who got crucified for writing his book 40 years ago, the one thing he said was give up carbs, get down to the weight you want and then find out what your body can tolerate.

BEHAR: Dr. Weil, what do you say to that? Somebody who says I can't live without carbs?

WEIL: Here's the problem. I think any time you tell people to follow a very restricted diet you set them up for failure because at some point you're going to get completely frustrated with that and you're going to go binge on the thing that you haven't been eating. So you've got to devise an eating plan that people can live with long-term that's going to satisfy them, and that also conforms to these principles that Gary Taubes has uncovered scientific evidence for.

I've tried to do that. In my book "Healthy Aging," I have what I call an anti-inflammatory diet, which is a modified Mediterranean diet which takes into account this information on carbohydrates and its effect of insulin on fat. And I think it's a way of eating that can be completely satisfying. It's not a diet, it's a way of eating.

BEHAR: What do you think about the Mediterranean diet, you guys?

OZ: I like the Mediterranean diet a lot. And I must say I actually eat a relatively low-carb diet.

BEHAR: Is that how you stay thin?

OZ: It is. I really think simple carbohydrates are a big problem.

WEIL: No, Mehmet stays thin because he is a thin person. He does not have the biochemical and hormonal disorder that Gary Taubes points out.

BEHAR: Yes, but what about childhood obesity. But not all those kids can be naturally fat! They're getting fatter!

WEIL: A lot of us have genes that predispose us to develop obesity if we are exposed to the kinds of foods that trigger these hormonal problems. And our diet is now flooded with those. It's all the sweetened drinks, high-fructose-corn-syrup, things made from flour of all kinds, from starch. All of that stuff which kids are eating in huge quantities are reacting with their genetics to produce this disorder.
CNN has the entire transcript here.

I enjoyed listening to Dr. Weil's, what I would call, more balanced perspective of Taubes' claims. I generally find Dr. Weil a reasoned and seasoned voice on nutritional matters. He has not, in the past, been a proponent of low-carb diets. (See below.) And I can see from the above interview that he maintains reservations about recommending "a diet that's mostly meat." But the message that carbohydrates, especially highly-refined starches and sugars, are playing a role in obesity seems to be gathering support from more in the medical community.
"Carbs are not bad, despite the claims of the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins and other proponents of low-carb diets. Rather, there are better and worse carbs."
- Dr. Weil, What Is The Glycemic Index?

"I'm also not a proponent of the Atkins diet, so I would suggest switching to another program that allows you to eat fresh fruits, a wider range of vegetables, and whole grains. This is a more realistic way to lose weight in the long-run since you're likely to get tired of low-carb living sooner or later and regain whatever weight you've lost."
- Dr. Weil, Do Low-Carb Diets Cause Bad Breath?

No comments: