Ancestral Health Symposium Controversies Podcast: From High Heels to Gary vs. Stephan #AHS11

“This is like being IN the Internet” – Stephan Guyenet

Stephan’s bit of off-cuff, characteristic insight rippled far beyond the presenter and volunteer party, before the actual event began, and has carried forth since. It may have been the base concept that ultimately described in the fewest number of words what this was really about.

Beyond the few personal acquaintances that exist among us all, this was a coming together of intelligence, insight, humor, enthusiasm, and “personality,” from a purely digital form, made flesh & blood. While Stephan’s Tron-esque quip may have not been intended to be profound, but merely an enthusiastic outburst, it carried weight.

What it shows is that we’re not just dicking around, here. This stuff we put up, in all its facets, really counts for something and that when the bubble is just about to burst, presenters and attendees fly across oceans to come together and make it just all that more real, to lay physical eyeball and hands, one upon another. We’re animals, and I hope we never lose sight of the extreme importance of human to human contact.

There’s no substitute, as good as Stephan’s blog is, or, as we’ll get to, as Good as Gary Taubes’ books and NYT articles are.


I previously did a podcast with Angelo Coppola, The Diet of No-Diet, that was not an interview, but a format I adore most. Simply, we pick some things to discuss, and go for it. Make no mistake: Angelo got picked up by the 5by5 Podcast Network that equals his podcasts being downloaded 100,000 times, because of his high production value in his shows. But it’s not just the production value in terms of his sound quality, music integration and so on. It is, I would argue, mostly because he is a superstar listener. I listened to my own past appearance and then this one and came away in wonder about how he intuitively guided me along to be the best I think I can be.

Fancy that. I don’t really prepare for these, other than to familiarize myself with the subject matter, but he seems to bring out what to my mind, is the best performance possible. He knows what he’s doing and you should listen, and if so inclined, support his work.

I should mention that Angelo and I have been talking about something new in terms of “round table discussion,” so stay tuned for that.


I’d characterize this podcast as having a couple of sections. The first is just my raw impression of the whole event — “gobsmacking” — to some of the controversies:

  • Women wearing high heals (the most serious controversy)
  • Why so many low carb presenters, like the low-carber Dr. Eades and Fat Head Tom Naughton?
  • What’s the real dispute between Drs. Richard Feinman and Robert Lustig?
  • Waht’s up with Boyd Eaton and his “Noble Savage” ideas?
  • Science journalist Gary Taubes vs. Dr. Stephan Guyenet, obesity researcher (the most gentle controversy)

We ended up spending a couple of minutes on the most serious controversy, as listed above, and about half of the 90 total minutes on the most gentile of the controversies.

Here’s how you get to listen to how it all went down.

Feel free to drop questions, discussion and fuck yooz into comments. I am going to do a science post for a change. Been a while. During my discussion with Angelo about Taubes and Guyenet, I tried to integrate their ideas, inclusive of Lustig and Paul Jaminet. So in a few day’s time, I’ll have up a post on that, so that piece of the important overall conversation can have a well deserved forum from a holistic, integrative perspective.

Now go listen. And here’s the show notes and links.

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  1. Angelo on August 15, 2011 at 14:13

    Thanks for the kind words, Richard — and thank you for sharing your AHS experience with all of us. Everything from the tweets, the pictures, the blog articles, and now the appearance on Latest in Paleo has allowed so many people who weren’t there to get a feel for not only the content, but the vibe.

    As always, it was a pleasure talking with you!

    Here are the show notes for anyone who wants links:

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 14:18

      Oh, let me add that show notes link to the post. Oversight of making you as important as possible to 5by5.

    • David Csonka on August 15, 2011 at 16:41

      Angelo, you’ve just got a great voice for podcasts.

      Oh, and nice In-n-out reference, heheh

      • Angelo on August 15, 2011 at 16:50

        Thanks, David! And, yep — the last time Richard was on (Episode 17), he and I talked a bit about In’n Out, hence the allusion. :)

  2. Angelo on August 15, 2011 at 15:28

    I can’t believe I forgot to bring this up during the interview — but did you attend Don Matesz presentation? I’m looking forward to watching this one. I know it didn’t really rise to the “controversial” level, or at least it hasn’t been talked about that way…

    Did you attend? What were your thoughts?

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 15:49

      I did not.the first day was rather inconvenient with the 2nd presentation room being about a 10 minute walk away. Knowing I’d be able to catch it later, I stayed put.

      I did talk with Don a good bit. As I’ve said in other comments on other posts, I tald him my beefs, we’re cool. So, there was no controversy here because I only heard that Don gave a good presentation .

      I posted a comment on his blog entry about AHS that the podcast about controversies was up, and he didn’t get a mention. :)

  3. BabyGirl on August 15, 2011 at 14:09

    Women wear high heels because they like they way the heels make their butts look.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 14:16

      Well, Baby Girl, I can certainly get behind that. :)

    • Lindsay on August 15, 2011 at 14:22


    • Julie on August 15, 2011 at 15:01


    • rob on August 15, 2011 at 17:24

      I always have a hard time figuring out how to address the Baby Girl thing, sometimes you hear it in popular music (pretty often these days), sometimes you see it printed on the backside of a pair of shorts worn by a female, on a bumper sticker, etc.

      So am I supposed to address Baby Girls as if they were functional humans, or as if they were children, or what?

      I assume you are being satirical in your choice of names but these days it is hard to tell.

      • Josh on August 16, 2011 at 14:27

        From an evolutionary point of view, I think I once read a theory which suggested that the posture induced by heels draw attention to the criteria that a males consider in mate (chest / hip ratio’s and such) essentially making them appear more ideal. To me they just look like torture devices… I’m actually surprised that they aren’t routinely burned at feminist rallies the way bra’s are (do they still do that?)

      • bec on August 16, 2011 at 20:14

        Well, given that we never burnt bras in the first place (, probably not. But as someone with a missing bone in my foot and the worst plantar fasciitis in the world? Oh yes, I would burn them in a heart beat.

    • Sue on August 16, 2011 at 18:50

      I wear high heels for height and legs look slimmer and longer.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 16, 2011 at 18:58

        I was always amazed at how hot Filippina, Korean and even Hispanic chicks have shorter muscular legs.

        Most wear flat shoes.

        Ever consider attracting someone who gets a hardon because of who you are, and look like naturally?

      • Sue on August 16, 2011 at 20:54

        He does. Just like heels when I go out. Feel dressier in them. Most of the time as I go about my day it’s in flats.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 16, 2011 at 20:59

        Cool. sue has thickish skin. :)

      • Lena on August 17, 2011 at 06:21

        Maybe it depends on the particular country of origin, but most Hispanic women I know wear heels all the time. If I weren’t tall I’d be considered a weirdo for wearing flats for everything except special occasions. And when I do wear heels I go all out and make myself over 6 ft. tall, because, damn, I love how those shoes make me look.

      • Sonagi on August 19, 2011 at 19:19

        Most Korean women do NOT wear flat shoes,most certainly not in Korea and not in the DC area. Korean women in Korea almost never wear flats. They are very conscious of their leg length and thickness and dress to make their legs look longer and slimmer. Calf reduction surgery in which certain muscles are cut is not unheard of. Hispanic and Filipino women in my community wear shoes with raised heels just like white and black women. Regional difference, I guess.

        I wear flat or low-heeled shoes most of the time, including at work, but like to put on a pair of high heels when I dress up to go out. I wear them because I like the way I look, not to impress men.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 19, 2011 at 19:51

        Mourn the 80s then, when I lived and worked there and appreciated all of them for their most natural beauty.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 19, 2011 at 19:52

        And that included the stalkier legs of the Koreans.

      • Sonagi on August 19, 2011 at 20:06

        Hope you have a box of Kleenex handy to help you cope with the sad news that you’d have to search far and wide to find a natural beauty nowadays in Korea. Eyelid surgery has long been the norm, and rhinoplasty and jawbone-shaving to achieve that “v-line” lower face are becoming common. As you may know from having lived and worked there, photos are attached to job applications, and an attractive (by Korean standards) person of either sex has much better job prospects than an unattractive person, putting pressure on young people who would otherwise be comfortable with their natural looks.

      • Gina on August 23, 2011 at 00:20

        Wore heels for many years and now have bunions to worry about. I’ve found very cute flats and low platform shoes and sandals now. I liked towering over many men – being attractive is a power thing for women – walking into a room and turning heads, talking to men and realizing you have turned them into blithering, drooling messes – you get a high from it. Certainly doesn’t hurt in business either.

  4. Jared on August 15, 2011 at 14:32

    High heels are horrible for women’s feet, knees, and backs! The forward pelvic tilt and resulting swayback keep many a chiropractor and physical therapist frustrated because of the chronic muscle imbalance and resulting stubborn pain syndromes which truly never go away as long as the footwear isn’t addressed. But it does make the legs appear longer, which provides a slimming effect. Vanity trumps health any day of the week, unfortunately.

    Of course, paleo provides a much better slimming effect, IMHO.

    And Richard, you’re right on in regards to Angelo’s podcast. He is fantastic and he brings out the best in his guests, yourself included. I hope he makes you a monthly guest. Or maybe you could have a weekly segment. “Richard’s Rant” or something. I’m not blowing smoke up your tookus. It’s truly great stuff. You guys inspire us common folk :-) and provide much needed education, catharsis, and humor. Keep up the great work, you magnificent SOBs!!!

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 14:56

      The whole podcast deal makes me a bit giddy, like a little girl. I love being invited on, and I love doing them. It’s so different from blogging — easier and way more fun.

      I’ll have another one up in a few weeks, and we’ve already agreed it will be raw. This will be an r-rated cast. You’ll get the word here first.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 14:57

        To clarify this will be a different one from This Week in Paleo.

  5. Tin Tin on August 15, 2011 at 15:02

    It’s hardly controversial, but where the fuck was Art Devany at the AHS?

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 15:44

      He, along w Taleb, was on the sched until the last update.

      I hate to say it, and I’ve looked on his blog for some mention (but not in the last few days so I’ll check again), but I can’t help but just conclude that Art is actively engaged in making himself irrelevant, and that’s a big loss.

      • Joe on August 16, 2011 at 07:38

        IMHO, going behind a paywall was Art’s disastrous mistake for two reasons:

        1) Reduced his audience by 99.9%

        2) Contrained his interactions with commenters to only those who were already followers, thus removing hybrid vigor. (In my view, disagreement/conflict is usually good for people, and certainly bloggers. I suspect Stephan Guyanet will look back on the moment with Taubes as one of the best things that ever happened to him.)

      • Tin Tin on August 17, 2011 at 17:23

        Joe, I agree with both points. A blog/website is most useful as a tool for promoting and advertising whatever else it is you do in life. For example, Amazon gives Art’s New Evolution Diet book a sales rank of 16,079. A few other recently released paleo books have sales rankings of 535, 349 and 802. The difference in sales performance could be for any number of reasons but the one that sticks out to me is the authors of the higher ranking publications all had free websites that built their profile before they released their book.

  6. Chris Tamme on August 16, 2011 at 08:21

    I only got halfway through the podcast but so far it has been great. First time I have listened to Angelo’s program and I am looking forward to checking out other podcasts. There was some excellent insight into the Paleo movement and I think there is a serious rift between low carbers and everyone else. It will be interesting to see where things go.

  7. michael on August 15, 2011 at 18:44


    Thanks for opening this up a bit. Can I ask you a question? When you were losing weight, were you following a low-carb diet, or were you just reducing your calories and exercising more? How honest were you being with us while you were losing your weight? I am a little confused by the changes going on in the so-called paleo/ancestral health “movement.’ I am still just trying to get healthy and lose weight, so I just want to know how to eat and what to eat. You lost nearly 70 pounds, and you have kept it off. So, please tell me how you are doing that without villifying or worshipping Taubes, Guyenet, without playing games. . People don’t like games being played. That’s why we don’t vote :-)
    I know you will give an honest and respectful answer to a question from someone who just wants to lose weight and get better.

    Thank you.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 20:46


      Frankly, the entire weight loss I never counted a single thing. But I fasted two days per week’ 24-30 hours each, and totally pigged some, but not all of the other days, including late night omelets, bacon feasts, nuts and yogurt & frozen berries. But not every non fasting day either.

      When. I hit the 175 mark things stopped and I have bounced between 175 and 185 since, back & forth. I did Leangains for year and put on some additional lean, so even though still in the same range, a bit leaner Fay wise.

      But now I’m going back to my old ways, to see what happens from here.

      • michael on August 16, 2011 at 05:45

        Thank you, Richard.

        I figured if I was going to get a no-bullshit answer from anyone, it would be you. I’ll keep plugging away at my own n=1 on my way to that 175 mark (currently down to 225 since an all-time high of 240 July 1st) without getting bogged down in the various internecine wars going on in the paleo/AH world.

  8. Matthew Miller on August 15, 2011 at 18:50

    I appreciate your comments, in this podcast and elsewhere, on government — that Neolithic Agent of Destruction. I look forward to this movement gaining more traction in other disciplines, where the paleo-evolutionary-ancestral approach can be applied to our social lives and how society ought to be organized (or whether it should be “organized” at all — probably not). Of course, this would be moving away from good hard science, and could end up degenerating into petty political divisions within the movement. And, while playing the “is it paleo?” game is pretty ridiculous, I think that talking politics most definitely is NOT paleo.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 15, 2011 at 20:51

      I think politics is a valid discussion topic. Small social groups have political elements, so it’s a real concern.

      What’s not paleo is any for of state or centralized control or voting as is carried out now.

      Voting would be fine if limited to groups of 30-60 people, and you could pack up and leave if the result went to far against your grian.

      • Matthew Miller on August 15, 2011 at 21:11

        I think we agree. Using our ancestral past to inform our social organizations and collective decision-making could be useful. I was using “politics” above more narrowly to refer to the day-to-day nonsense that goes on in D.C.

        I recently came across an interesting article on the egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers at Psychology Today (link below). It looks like there are some other relevant articles in the author’s archive that I haven’t gotten a chance to look at. This is the sort of thing I’d like to see more of.

  9. Erika on August 15, 2011 at 21:44

    EXCELLENT interview, sir… ;)

  10. Todd on August 16, 2011 at 01:46

    “During my discussion with Angelo about Taubes and Guyenet, I tried to integrate their ideas, inclusive of Lustig and Paul Jaminet. So in a few day’s time, I’ll have up a post on that, so that piece of the important overall conversation can have a well deserved forum from a holistic, integrative perspective.”

    Interested to see what you come up with. The ego and sycophancy flying around the blogosphere on both sides of the aisle would be comical if it weren’t such a shame. Though it does illustrate a point you’re frequently trying to make, Richard: we’re animals. Specifically, we’re a pack-hunting/foraging omnivores, so group inclusion is important to us. It’s a little unfortunate that after a couple of days of warm fuzzies, the primary upshot from an occasion as important as the AHS is a bunch of peacocking (and yes, Stephan is guilty of it, too: check the chest-beating Appeal to Authority (scienticians agree with him!) in his latest piece) about this carbs/insulin business. I fear that there’s more to be learned about human social interactions than diet in this maelstrom.

  11. Todd on August 16, 2011 at 01:55

    Oh, I should add that before anyone says, “but he IS backed by the science”, that you’ll recall that is was “scientists” who got us into this mess in the first place. And the problem wasn’t just their science, but that their science gets affected by the fact that they’re human. They can easily fall prey to massive cognitive blindspots, to the lure of fame and money, and can be come personally identified with their theories which makes them slow to accept countervailing evidence or attempt synthesis of competing theories. I’m all for the science – I think it’s the best thing we have to go on – but let’s maintain a healthy critical distance.

    • Alex Thorn on August 16, 2011 at 14:01

      “…and can be come personally identified with their theories which makes them slow to accept countervailing evidence or attempt synthesis of competing theories.”

      Nail on head. I think there have been so many people involved in the low carb and/or paleo dietary movement (for want of a better all-inclusive term) of late, that (it seems to me) many felt they were not ‘standing out from the crowd’ and possibly not getting as much recognition as they may have wanted or felt they deserved (whether that be blog hits or book sales). So it seems they have adopted/incorporated ideas that are increasingly tangential and sometimes antagonistic to the original, basic premise in order to be ‘different’ or more ‘noticed’ or possibly to appeal to a wider audience (especially those who like high carb foods and don’t like the idea of having to reduce/eliminate them!).

      • Alex Thorn on August 16, 2011 at 14:03

        Reading that back, that may be the opposite to what you meant but how else would you explain Don Matesz’s U-turn? He has even started quoting studies in support of his new take that, a couple of years ago, he ripped to shreds!

  12. Sean on August 16, 2011 at 08:21

    Just listened to it Richard. Good stuff.

    Apparently I’m one of the few bloggers who’s not on board with the

    • Sean on August 16, 2011 at 08:34

      Meh, phone call distraction=click button malfunction.

      …not on board with the food reward hypothesis. But I totally agree it’s great to see things stirred up and glad to see Stephan pull off the gloves. I agree Angelo Colpo ;) is a great interviewer, he’s got that FM radio viiiiiiiiiibe. Tell him his brother is kind of a prick.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 16, 2011 at 08:38

        I surmised what you were getting at and just read your posts. I think there’s a lot more similarity in these ideas than is being given credit for, and so that will be my focus.

        And yea, Angelo really needs to reign in Anthony a bit. He’ll, I even called him Anthony at the end of our first podcast. :)

      • Sean on August 16, 2011 at 09:01

        I have to admit your casual explanation and loose endorsement in the podcast swayed me more than reading Stephan’s posts and hundreds (over 400 at this point) of comments. Not to mention Kurt Harris leaving the Fortress of Solitude to enthusiastically embrace FRH.

        I think it is something of a false dichotomy, FRH vs CH, and I think Taube’s last dig in the Q&A was a cheap shot. But I’m not ready to jump onto the FRH bandwagon just yet.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 16, 2011 at 09:29

        There was one point I misspoke towards the end, saying Stephan’s ideas falsify Gary’s. I didn’t mean that. What I mean is that HC HG diets falsify the notion that it’s just about carbohydrate. When Gary speaks of carbohydrate alone, too many confounders, such as gluten and lectin proteins, toxins, malnutrition, and excess linoleic acid. He would do better on my view only talking about processed cards, that incidentally have other nasties that could be strong contributing factors, both in terms of hormonal disregulation, as well as palatability gone wild.

      • Sean on August 16, 2011 at 10:37

        “In my book, that’s falsification of the hypothesis that CHOs make you get fat.” Thanks for the clarification, Richard ;)

        I think Gary’s view is likely oversimplified. I often liken him to Copernicus, GCBC and De revolutionibus orbium coelestium are both flawed but vitally important to their time and place. I also think that Gary is fucking amazing. People like Copernicus don’t grow on trees.

        I’m not ready to accept Stephan’s FRH and I’m very skeptical of the indigenous studies he loves to cite. All these tools are extremely blunt but indigeneous studies are perhaps the most blunt. There’s an indigenous people somewhere that supposedly ate 98% carbs and were perfectly healthy. Meh, confounding variables and incomplete data up the ass.

      • Rob on August 16, 2011 at 11:19

        Sean I’m in agreement with you on the FRH and always enjoy your comments. A little off topic to what you two are discussing but we all have our biases. Perhaps I’m well to aware of Stephan’s because they kind of grind my gears. Check out 4 out of the last 5 links on his blogroll. Greenie-enviro stuff. Plus I’ve noticed a couple other times how he likes to complain about a capitalistic society. Funny how the FRH theory fits in nicely with an anti capitalistic mentality. I’m exaggerating and projecting from what he says. But this is what I hear when he talks. I am imagining his utopia setting civilization back thousands of years. There will be no big macs or co2 emissions. We will dig our tubers from the ground and boil them in water. Then eat plain. Then we won’t be fat because the brain will tell us we are full. The earth will be saved! Now go meditate and get rid of that TV. Seems a bit much. Give me Tom Naughton and Fat Head any day. Or even the twinkie diet for that matter. Wow guess I needed to get that off my chest.

      • Sean on August 16, 2011 at 11:51

        Rob, I can see where you are coming from. I also suspect that Stephan’s embrace of FRH might be confirmation bias. As I wrote in my latest post:

        Despite his credentials and the fact that he is an active researcher in the field, my impression is that Stephan wants to embrace a theory to fits his idea that traditional diets are ideal.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephan held some pretty naive views about the free market, economics and modern society. I agree that there are indications that he does so.

      • Sean on August 16, 2011 at 11:59

        Heh, ‘that fits’.

  13. Samantha Moore on August 16, 2011 at 09:08

    Dang, you’re actually smart!

  14. Gwen on August 16, 2011 at 11:16

    Hey Richard,

    I’ve been reading your blog for many months now and just wanted to say “hey” and thanks for sharing your blog. I’m in the middle of grad school right now and tend to be more of a reader than a commenter, but thought I’d take a moment to let you know that I appreciate your content and your style. Carry on, sir! :)


  15. mike on August 16, 2011 at 13:32

    Excellent show with Angelo. Thanks for your explanation of low Carb vs. Low Carb Paleo. It really resonated since your Atkins experience appears to have mirrored mine

  16. Skyler Tanner on August 16, 2011 at 15:27

    I don’t see why it can’t be “all of the above” rather than people nitpicking about which leg of the table is most important.

    At least he’s given up the “calories don’t matter” nonsense.

  17. R Dunn on August 17, 2011 at 06:22

    I’ve read just about all of the coverage I can find about AHS11 and as usual I find your take refreshing , insightful  and entertaining. Thanks.

    But someone I thought might be there was missing.

    I went back and reviewed the speaker list and searched the blogs to see if I could find mention of her. Looks like a no show.

    I am talking about Lierre Keith, of course. author of “The Vegetarian Myth” and everyone’s favorite gastronomically reformed whack job.

    Further research shows that she has better things to do now that she has improved her health – save the human race from civilization.

    Here are few examples – 

    Strategy A: Engage in direct militant actions against industrial infrastructure, especially energy infrastructure.
    Strategy B: Aid and participate in ongoing social and ecological justice struggles; promote equality and undermine exploitation by those in power.
    Strategy C: Defend the land and prevent the expansion of industrial logging, mining, construction, and so on, such that more intact land and species will remain when civilization does collapse.
    Strategy D: Build and mobilize resistance organizations that will support the above activities, including decentralized training, recruitment, logistical support, and so on.
    Strategy E: Rebuild a sustainable subsistence base for human societies (including perennial polycultures for food) and localized democratic communities that uphold human rights.

    Might be worthy of a Richard rant on a slow day

    Pretty entertaining stuff.

    I bought more ammunition.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 17, 2011 at 07:24

      R Dunn

      Well that’s not good. Admittedly, Karith occupies an awfully weird spot in the hearts & minds of Paleos, which need not be rehashed. My book reviews are up and I did make mention or two about how I think her ethics, egalitarianism and militant environmentalism are whacked.

      I guess we all have our own levels of outrage, but because her ideas are such a mishmash of excellent and awful, I suppose I’m willing to live with my admitted cognitive dissonance and bias, for the time being.

      We’ll see.

      • R Dunn on August 17, 2011 at 08:31

        Fair enough.

        I think like may people, after hearing her Jimmy Moore interview, my reaction was ,”wow, what remarkable change in thinking. ” Then after reading her book and occasionally checking up on her, I thought, too bad all that passion wasn’t channeled into a less collectivistic vision.

        I believe it was Albert J. Nock who said something to the effect that the best way to improve society is to present it with a improved unit of one – yourself.

        I guess we just have to take on one idea at a time when it;s time to question it.

        Then again, my reaction to people like this is more and more like George Carlin’s in this bit –

  18. Juan on August 17, 2011 at 08:55

    Just listened to the podcast with Angelo Coppola; great stuff, as always, Angelo and Richard. Kudos to you both!!
    Can anyone herein think of a rewarding food that does *not* include carbohydrate *and* fat together? I mean rewarding, not bland, btw. I’ve listened to and read much of Stephen’s work , on the Web at least (and should mention that I’ve read Gary’s books and seen his lectures, too.) and from my recollection, all the real-world examples of rewarding foods contain both carbohydrate and fat. I cannot think of anything that anyone could eat in great quantities that is made up almost exclusively of one or the other. For instance, I can eat a tub (500ml) of Haagen Daz which is about 50:50 fat:sugar, but I doubt that I could eat half of that in just sugar or just fat. I imagine breads have much higher amounts of carbs than fat (so we put butter on them or dip them in olive oil to make them more palatable) whereas cookies already have tons of both sugar and fat in them, but still, way more carbs than fat.
    Anyway ideas? Does this, perhaps, make the combination of the two to be the more likely factor, and therefore that carbs are necessary but not sufficient?
    (thanks to Pal at for that last point, which is courtesy of Dave Dixon at
    Thanks for all you do, Richard and Angelo.

    • M. on August 17, 2011 at 18:32

      I don’t see much value in the “necessary but not sufficient” talk. Oxygen is “necessary but not sufficient” for obesity. I think it is somewhat disingenuous too when Taubes has basically been saying that “carbs” are the one and only NAD and making statements that nuts and cheese are fattening because of their carbs/insulinogenic properties.

      I think it is common to see fat and carbs together in these high reward foods, but I don’t think it is limited to that (e.g. soda pop) and there is probably a lot of other factors like texture. Fiber and especially protein seem to tend more negatively with these engineered types of foods, though it all can vary person to person.

      I think the extreme examples are the foods that people will eat even when they are not really hungry (soda pop, candy, desert, etc…), and these become especially problematic when they are ultra-cheap and ultra-convenient. We have soda machines and candy machines all over the place selling crap for pocket change.

      • Juan on August 17, 2011 at 19:37

        Thanks M. I don’t think it’s of much value to name individual elements of the periodic table as I’m sure there are many that are necessary but not sufficient. From my reading of Taubes, I did not get the feeling that he was being ‘all or nothing’, but rather, that the carbs were the lowest hanging fruit in the equation and, if they’re taken care of, many other things will fall into place, as well.

        Thanks M. I don’t see the value of simply highlighting individual elements of the periodic table, because I’m sure there are many that are necessary but not sufficient. It’s not especially helpful when we are talking in broader, macronutrient terms. From my reading of Taubes, I did not get the feeling that he was being ‘all or nothing’, but rather, that he felt the carbs were the lowest hanging fruit in the equation, so to speak, and, if they’re taken care of, then many of the other metabolic disorders will fall into place as a consequence, as well.

        Regarding the food reward concept, I couldn’t think of anything we consider as rewarding and that is also almost entirely fat, which was the reason for my post. There are numerous carbohydrate only examples, but not fat-only. The soda is one such example. A Coke is, more or less, sugar, water, and flavour. The latter makes it palatable and rewarding as I doubt people would be compelled to drink, say, 6 cans of sugar water a day, but many will drink that many Cokes. (8 or 9 cans of coke have the same amount of sugar as there is fat in a pound of butter). Are there any fat + flavour foods that are like that? If not, then my point is/remains; perhaps it’s dealing with the carbs that is the simpler solution in the real world, as Gary Taubes suggests, not the rewarding v. a v. blandness of the food, although that may play some part. To me, Taubes is making a simpler version of it all for a more do-able day-to-day application, much like successful clinicians have done for people in the multiple thousands.

        As you say, the sheer availability or abundance of cheap, high caloric foods in our everyday world is part of what seems to be a “perfect storm” leading, ultimately, to the obesity epidemic, or should I say, metabolic derangement epidemic.

      • Juan on August 17, 2011 at 19:39

        Oops, sorry about the Department of Redundancy Department opening paragraphs. Some weird cutting and pasting happened there. Hope it will make sense.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 17, 2011 at 20:15

        Juan, could you imagine someone drinking a coupla cans of coconut milk per day, 2kcal of fat, roughly?

      • Juan on August 18, 2011 at 05:30

        Yes, Richard, that is at least one example. Thanks. [Interestingly, the brand of coconut milk I have (Thai Kitchen, NOT the “Lite” version) would yield only about 1320cal for 2 cans. Total calories would be closer to 1.6Kcal.] But, still, there aren’t many such examples, and in any case, it doesn’t go too far in explaining obesity in the northern latitudes. Also, the coconut eating parts of the world didn’t start fattening significantly until they encountered the “displacing foods” of the West, as Price would have said it (or, perhaps, the sugary and farinaceous foods). So, the carbs continue to be a telling point, for me. Is it not somewhat an Occam’s razor situation; better to use the simplest answer first? Although there are, admittedly complex mechanisms involved in obesity, ranging from hormonal to social, it’s the carbs that seem to tip the scales (pun intended) and if they are restricted, for most people it means an overall improvement in health and a reduction in fat mass. As an everyday implementation of a mechanism to lose fat, cutting the carbs seems to be a good method for most people, without complicating things. Again, this is how I read Taubes.

      • Juan on August 18, 2011 at 05:32

        Dang my editing! …I meant to say “1320cal from Fat for 2 cans.”

      • M. on August 18, 2011 at 06:37


        I think when Taubes makes statements like nuts and cheese are fattening because of their carb/insulinogenic properties, he is kind of pushing the ‘all or nothing’ approach. He doesn’t necessarily do this all the time, but it seems to come up quite frequently.

        Looking at it purely from the practical level – I think cutting carbs works for many people, but the mythology that has been built up around Taubes and “it is all about the carbs” can be defeating for many people. Look at Jimmy Moore.

        I also think that getting a better understanding of the reality of a situation can lead to formulation of better solutions. A significant portion of the world’s population eats white rice, which causes “insulin spikes” just like “refined carbs.” Looking at what is really going on with western diet and lifestyle seems more promising than worrying about “insulin spikes”.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 18, 2011 at 08:19

        Thanks, M. Briefly, as I’m doing a post on this, if we’re talking processed food we,re talking grains (proteins being the problem – gluten & lectins), refined sugar (carbs) and linoleic acid (fat). Add industrial engineering, marketing and culture and both palatability reward and hormonal disregulation come into play, I think. Then consider Jaminet’s ideas of malnutrition, toxins and infections, as well as what we are learning about genetics and what your mother ate while pregnant, and you overlay an individual element to all of it.

      • Juan on August 18, 2011 at 10:08

        Thanks M, and Richard.

        @ M, I can’t really disagree with what you say. However, it still appears to me that the carb model works well because when Western (or maybe, Northern) people think of “carbs” they/we most often think of refined sugars, grains, pastas, breads, and the like, not sweet potatoes and yams or other root starches such as Kitavans eat. Even though green things and fruits are, strictly speaking, carbs, if we restrict the aforesaid bad carbs, we are also restricting many of the very things that may well be behind the NADs (Neolithic Agents of Disease, for newbies). Going Paleo normally takes care of these quite well, but low carb Paleo may be even better for fat loss.

        On account of his apparent sincerity, and the efficacy of low carb — for most people, that is — I would not go so far as to say Gary Taubes is being disingenuous, and certainly not fraudulent as someone (disingenuously?) has suggested in the past. Maybe it’s a case of him digging in his heels in the face of other theories now being fleshed out. Everyone digs in their home camp, eventually. And, maybe I’m doing it now by maintaining that low carb is a more “real world” way of dealing with obesity. The things that Richard mentions are the various other elements of a “perfect storm” of factors that often appear together in modern societies and manifest in metabolic derangement. All in all, I suspect that it will be much easier to get a buy-in to a dietary change if we talk of, say, low carb and the NADs, or those other toxic factors, rather than to discuss a bland food regimen. Suggesting Paleo or low carb is already like asking people to cut off a finger by saying they maybe should stop eating their breakfast bagel and give up their sodas, let alone to tell them they must make everything taste like cardboard if they want the fat to melt off.

        As this blog has amply exemplified, Paleo can be delicious!

        (Sorry about my 2cents worth continuing to be so long winded)


      • Richard Nikoley on August 18, 2011 at 10:18

        My speculation is that of the three NAD, carbs are the most profound, since they are found in two of the three: refined grains and sugar. Whereas, the nasty proteins and fats are only in one of the three. Highly industrial engineered foods typically contain copious amounts of all three, but carbs are disproportionate.

        So, I further speculate that the typical Atkins LC dieter that pays attention only to carbs sees success, but so often, only too a point, since they’re still chowing down on their LC junk food, and that food contains 2/3 NAD. Perhaps that’s why so many can’t get rid of that last 10-30 pounds. Inflammation, gut permeation, and so on. I’ve noticed that plenty of them look a bit puffy and inflamed, but that may be selection bias on my part.

      • Juan on August 18, 2011 at 19:57

        I have long felt that is pretty much how it shakes out, too.
        Thanks, and have a great weekend.

  19. […] This is a post that's been sorta relaxing, sipping scotch in the back of my mind since last August after the Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS11). It has to do with the dispute and controversy between Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, and Dr. Stephan Guyenet, a long time health blogger at Whole Health Source; and more recently, a full-fledged obesity researcher. In full disclosure, I've known and corresponded with Stephan for a number of years; Gary since a few months preceding AHS, and have spoken with and exchanged emails with both of them on the subject of this controversy, at which I was present. I subsequently did a podcast on Angelo Coppola's Latest in Paleo about that and other AHS "controversies" that I described in this post: Ancestral Health Symposium Controversies Podcast: From High Heels to Gary vs. Stephan #AHS11. […]

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