#167 - Gary Taubes: Bad science and challenging the conventional wisdom of obesity


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By Peter Attia, MD, Peter Attia, and MD. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Gary Taubes is an investigative science and health journalist and a best-selling author. In this podcast, Gary explains how he developed a healthy skepticism for science as he was transitioning from being a physics major to beginning as a science journalist. He talks about how he was particularly drawn to sussing out “pathologic science,” telling the stories behind his books on the discovery of the W and Z bosons and cold fusion, emphasizing the need for researchers to perform a thorough background analysis. Gary then describes how his work came to focus on public health, nutrition, and obesity. He provides a great historic overview of obesity research and provides his explanation for why the conventional wisdom today is incorrect.We discuss:

  • Gary’s background in science and journalism, and developing a healthy skepticism for science [2:20];
  • Gary’s boxing experience, and the challenge of appreciating behavioral risk [8:40];
  • How Gary developed his writing skills, and what the best science writers do well [16:45];
  • Example of how science can go wrong, and the story behind Gary’s first book, Nobel Dreams [25:15];
  • Theoretical vs. experimental physicists: The important differentiation and the relationship between the two [36:00];
  • Pathological science: research tainted by unconscious bias or subjective effects [40:30];
  • Reflecting on the aftermath of writing Nobel Dreams and the legacy of Carlo Rubbia [49:45];
  • Scientific fraud: The story of the cold fusion experiments at Georgia Tech and the subject of Gary’s book, Bad Science [53:45];
  • Problems with epidemiology, history of the scientific method, and the conflict of public health science [1:09:00];
  • Gary’s first foray into the bad science of nutrition [1:26:45];
  • Research implicating insulin’s role in obesity, and the story behind what led to Gary’s book, Good Calories, Bad Calories [1:36:15]
  • The history of obesity research, dietary fat, and fat metabolism [1:46:00]
  • The evolving understanding of the role of fat metabolism in obesity and weight gain [1:55:15]
  • Mutant mice experiments giving way to competing theories about obesity [2:04:00]
  • How Gary thinks about the findings that do not support his alternative hypothesis about obesity [2:08:00]
  • Challenges with addressing the obesity and diabetes epidemics, palatability and convenience of food, and other hypotheses [2:14:45];
  • Challenging the energy balance hypothesis, and the difficulty of doing good nutrition studies [2:25:00]; and
  • More.

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216 episodes