(courtesy of Jimmy Moore of Living La Vida Low-Carb)
Below is one of the most profound comments>>
March 8, 2011 at 1:31 am · Reply
First, I want to express my appreciation to Jimmy for posting this interview of Gary Taubes on his YouTube channel. Jimmy’s efforts to keep the low carb community abreast of the latest news concerning health and nutrition is invaluable to those of us who live the low carb lifestyle. What follows is an expanded version of the comments, that I posted under a pseudonym, on Jimmy’s YouTube video post of the interview.
Dr. Oz’s interview is replete with so many problems that I could fill pages underscoring all the fallacious logic that he employed to mischaracterize Gary’s thesis, and how much of his own perspective on diet is flawed. But I will be mercifully terse. Despite how much Dr. Oz tried to make Taubes look like some radical who was out of touch with reality, Mr. Taubes’ message now has more exposure than ever before. As the old saying goes : “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. Most non-fiction books, however well researched, seldom get read that widely without first being talked about on network television. So next to going on Oprah, Dr. Oz’s show, despite being adversarial towards Gary, was high exposure advertisement. If even a fraction of Oz’s massive audience is adventurous and independent enough to read either of Gary’s books, it could have long term repercussions on the dietary community.
What I find particularly odd about Dr. Oz is that when he interviewed Gary on his radio show, a few weeks before the TV interview, he was surprisingly open to Gary’s perspective on carbohydrates and the innocuous role of saturated fat in our diet. Though it would be a distortion to say that Oz was in complete agreement with Gary on the radio interview, he didn’t seem to show the level of skepticism that he did in his TV interview with him, nor did he seem as hell bent on trying to trip Gary up. I can only attribute this difference in behavior to the fact that many food corporations, which make a lot of money selling high carbohydrate foods and processed foods, would be hurt by Taubes’ anti-carb message, and since many food corporations advertise on Oz’s time slot, Oz had to do the bidding of his task masters. I don’t know how else to account for Dr. Oz’s duplicitous behavior.
You could tell there were going to be problems with the interview from the get go, when a preview of the interview had Dr. Oz ask Gary the question (paraphrase):”Why should we believe you? You are not a doctor.” Anyone having taken an entry level philosophy or logic class knows that this is a logical fallacy of arguing from authority. A man of Dr. Oz’s erudition and education should know better than to resort to this. An argument must be judged on its own merits, based on the evidence and reasons given to support it, and not on the credentials of the person giving the testimony.
Secondly, just because Dr. Oz has a “Dr.” in front of his name does not qualify him to talk about nutrition anymore than Mr. Taubes. In fact Taubes (having studied engineering, physics and journalism at Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia) is probably more qualified because he has spent most of his career investigating what constitutes good science and what are the indicators of bad science, while Dr. Oz merely parrots the research of other people, without having the time or expertise to determine whether such research was conducted using appropriate methodology. One, after all, can be well versed in something completely false, and still sound to the layperson like you know what you are talking about – especially in a 20 minute segment where issues are only covered superficially and with sound bites. Also Gary didn’t make up his thesis out of whole cloth. His thesis is based on researching the work of highly credentialed men and women who rival Dr. Oz in education, if not exceed his level of education, especially with respect to nutritional research.
So if you still place a lot of stock in the credentials of an individual, it should also be noted that there are many medical doctors and PhD level researchers that agree with Taubes, either entirely or for the most part, and more and more of them are coming over to Taubes’ side as more research accumulates. These include people like Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Eric Westman, Dr. Loren Cordain, Dr. Matt Lalonde, Dr. Jeff S. Volek, Dr. Jonny Bowden, Dr. Rob Thompson, Dr. Robert Lustig, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, Drs. Mary and Michael Eades, Dr. Kurt Harris, Dr. Richard Bernstein, Dr. Ann Childers, Dr Malcolm Kendrick, and the list can go on and on.
If committing a logical fallacy of arguing from authority weren’t bad enough, Dr. Oz actually showed how he tried the low carbohydrate lifestyle for a WHOPPING DAY, and he had the audacity to call it an “experiment” and he complained about how bad he felt, and how he was constipated. Anyone who has passed middle school should be able to tell this is not an experiment in any scientific sense. What Dr. Oz did was actually anecdotal nonsense at its worst. Anyone who has transitioned to any diet, away from their previous eating habits, can tell you that they feel weird to downright bad the first few days because it takes time for a person’s body to adjust as well as for the mind to adapt to new habits. This will occur whether you changing to a restricted low calorie/low fat diet that the medical establishment and Dr. Oz advocates, or whether you are changing to low carbohydrate/moderate protein/high fat diet. I can just as easily do a one day experiment with Dr. Oz’s mostly carbohydrate rich, low calorie diet and feel bad for that one day. In fact I have done it before for much longer and I felt constantly hungry and lethargic. Would my one day of feeling bad be sufficient evidence for Dr. Oz that his dietary advice is bad? If the answer is no, then he is being intellectually dishonest for applying this same standard to Taubes’ concept of diet.
I hope Dr. Oz’s audience is astute enough to see that what he was doing with his little experiment, was not scientifically rigorous at all, and that even as comedy it did a poor job. Such condescending caricaturing of Taubes’ very well researched thesis is not something you would expect from one of America’s most respected and high profile doctors, but this is what happens when a man tries to cater to the commercialism that catapulted him to fame in the first place. Dr. Oz, please leave the comedy to the sitcoms.
Now since we are basically dealing with a puppet for conventional medicine, it is no wonder that Dr. Oz would eventually bring up the connection between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease. Of course, anyone who has read Taubes’ book, as well as the research and books of the illustrious figures that I mentioned earlier, could tell you that the work to show a connection between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease is dubious and no clear causal link can be drawn from the evidence we have. Unfortunately a paltry 20 minutes doesn’t allow a man like Taubes to show the mountains of evidence demonstrating that no causal link exists between fat, cholesterol and heart disease. After all, even the most adept orator couldn’t take Taubes’ meticulously researched book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, which is over 500 pages long, and condense it down into a sound bite effective enough to dispel this myth in the 5 minutes Oz allotted to this subject.
It should be noted that there are plenty of people on a low fat diet who have high cholesterol. And there plenty of people on a low fat diet who have low cholesterol. The same holds true for people on low carbohydrate diets. The country of India has one of the largest populations of vegetarians in the world, and they also have high rates of heart disease and diabetes. Conversely the French intake high volumes of fat (yes even saturated fat), and the Inuit of Arctic regions and the Massai of Africa get most of their caloric intake from animal protein and fat, and yet they all have low rates of heart disease and diabetes. How would Dr. Oz explain that? He doesn’t. He just ignores contrary evidence. Granted I am no doctor, but that doesn’t sound very scientific.
And all of this doesn’t even begin to take into account a big confounding variable which really throws in a wrench in the endeavor of drawing connections between dietary fat, cholesterol and heart disease. What is this big variable? It is genetics. Genes determine how your body interacts with food, and that is why certain people can eat certain foods without deleterious side effects, and others can eat the same food and get catastrophic results.
And finally, with respect to cholesterol, the overall number for cholesterol is absolutely meaningless, as Gary pointed out, when it comes to predicting heart disease. That is why you have people who suffer cardiac events who run the gamut from having low cholesterol to high cholesterol, and why you have many who don’t suffer cardiac events that equally run the gamut from low to high. My father had low cholesterol and suffered blockages, but my mother, who has high cholesterol has no heart disease.
So given all of this, why did Dr. Oz insist on asking Gary to have his cholesterol measured for the show? Because he knew that it would make look Gary look evasive when Gary pointed out the truth about the triviality of cholesterol and how LDL doesn’t tell the entire picture. Dr. Oz knew that his audience was already predisposed to associating an overall high level of cholesterol as a bad thing, and that they wouldn’t know that LDL measurements must take into account particle size to be at all informative concerning heart disease risk. So even supposing Gary’s overall cholesterol was high and his overall LDL was high, what does that tell us about low carbohydrate diets? NOTHING! After all, Gary’s numbers could have been high before he started low carb, because of genetic factors. No real connection could be drawn. It would be the equivalent of me associating Dr. Oz’s recent scare with a precancerous growth, inside his intestine (which was big news in September of 2010) with his whole grain/high carbohydrate/low fat diet. Using Dr. Oz’s specious logic of saying, because Gary Taubes has high cholesterol because he eats high fat, can’t I make the equally fallacious correlation between Dr. Oz semi-vegan lifestyle and his cancer. After all, if he is going to use disingenuous tactics to discredit the opposition, he cannot preclude the opposition from doing the same.
All in all, the interview Dr. Oz did on his television program was appalling, and I think it affirms what Upton Sinclair said that ” It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” In any case, despite Oz’s effort to discredit Taubes, the exposure Taubes received will reach curious viewers and in essence Dr. Oz’s stunt will backfire on Oz and on the medical establishment he represents.
Jimmy, I implored you on your YouTube video upload, and I implore you again here to respond to Dr. Oz on your podcast. You are one of the most high profile voices in the low carb community, especially among laypeople, and Dr. Oz’s shenanigans deserves a response. Thank you.