Disease Prevention – The Shunned Science

Image of the cover of Modern Nutritional Diseases
This post excerpted and adapted from Chapter 3, Modern Nutritional Diseases

Diseases do not just happen.  Every disease has a cause, and once this cause is known, prevention is often the next most reasonable and cost-effective step.  –Anon.

The United States is in the midst of enormous epidemics of chronic debilitating diseases, the most important of which are cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, mental disorders, and cancer.  Attack rates of these diseases began increasing in the mid-20th century and have grown steadily since that time.  They are major causes of death in older adults, and, in recent years, their numbers have been rising in younger age groups.  Overall, these diseases are, by far, the major causes of disability and death in the United States.  More »


Epidemiology, Rest in Peace

In the Beginning

Almost two hundred years ago, the methodology for investigating the occurrence and movement of infectious diseases in populations was born. It happened in London during the cholera epidemic of 1836 with the work of the English physician John Snow (1, p.246).   It was an era in which epidemics of infectious diseases caused by yet unidentified “things” were decimating populations throughout Europe.

Dr. Snow studied the eating and living habits of patients who had cholera and neighboring townspeople who did not have cholera for the purpose of identifying the similarities and differences between the groups. It is noteworthy that Dr. Snow examined people who did not get cholera as well as those who did. As a result of the current disregard in medical research of this practice of looking at both sick and non-sick people, important lessons available from subjects who are resistant to disease remain unrecognized.

Dr. Snow ultimately found a strong association between cases of cholera and a public well into which sewage was found to be draining. Dr. Snow requested that the pump handle of the offending well be removed. The immediate cessation of new cases of cholera was his proof that sewage-contaminated water was a cause of cholera.

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Gary Taubes Describes First NuSi Experiment

Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and his reprise for lay people, Why We Get Fat, reveals in the September issue of Scientific American the research agenda for NuSi:

[…] Because the ultimate goal is to identify the environmental triggers of obesity, experiments should, ideally, be directed at elucidating the processes that lead to the accumulation of excess fat. But obesity can take decades to develop, so any month-to-month fat gains may be too small to detect. Thus, the first step that NuSI-funded researchers will take is to test the competing hypotheses on weight loss, which can happen relatively quickly. These first results will then help determine what future experiments are needed to further clarify the mechanisms at work and which of these hypotheses is correct.

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Dr. Oz Reconsiders Position On Cholesterol

I’m not a fan of Dr. Oz, usually. Mostly because of his dogmatic approach to nutrition that seemed to ignore newer research in favor of the typical orthodoxy. An example of this can be seen in the episode where he had Gary Taubes on as a guest (Segment 1, Segment 2, Segment 3). His smug condescension is almost palpable, and so I wrote him off as a largely well-meaning but misinformed guy.
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Good Calories, Bad Calories – Gary Taubes

Image of the cover of the book, by Gary Taubes
Good Caloreis, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes
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I’ve heard people lament, “Gary Taubes is great and all…but he just doesn’t understand the science.” Such people typically have not read the science, much less, Good Calories, Bad Calories. The book is a comprehensive analysis of the history of human nutrition and a seminal book in our understanding of obesity.

If Why We Get Fat is written for the lay-person, this 640 page behemoth is written to satisfy the health professional: exhaustively sourced and referenced, professional yet approachable. It tackles the familiar themes of obesity as the result of excess carbohydrate consumption and posits the insulin hypothesis as the explanation for what ails us. Along the way, he uses arguments and evidence from the domains of anthropology, nutrition and medicine. Really, this is the book you would write if you read every piece of research on nutrition and obesity that was ever written.


Why We Get Fat – Gary Taubes

Image of the cover of the book, by Gary Taubes
Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
Browse on Amazon

Gary Taubes saved my life. Or at least, that’s what I tell him.

This book came at a critical point in my life, and reversed an insidious trend of out of control weight gain and mounting health problems.

Written for the lay person, it gives a history of nutrition and obesity, and proposes a new theory as to why modern Americans are predisposed to obesity…except, it’s not a new theory at all: up until World War II, we pretty much knew that sugar and other carbohydrates drove obesity. After World War II, politics forced a rewrite of our understanding of obesity (based on dubious work by Ancel Keys), and we convinced ourselves that fat drove obesity and disease.
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