It's not the carbs, it's the calories
The Hall Study falsifying Taubes' hypothesis is published.

The Hall study disproving Taubes is published

Published 7.7.2016

Stephan Guyenet weighs in on the NuSi funded study lead by Kevin Hall (about which I have previously written), and it seems that he has his hands on the actual paper, although he links only to the abstract. The full text, disappointingly, is only available to paying subscribers. Previous takes on the study have been made based on the impromptu poster presentation Hall gave that was posted online.

To no one's surprise (or it shouldn't surprise anyone), Hall's poster and presentation accurately reflect the details in the paper and study. Guyenet's take (linked above) is worth the read in its entirety, but below is my favorite quote (because it made me chuckle):

It's important to note that in many ways, this study was crafted to maximize the apparent effectiveness of the KD.  The KD was very low in carbohydrate (5%), while the HCD was high in carbohydrate (50%) and also very high in sugar (25%).  If you believe the hypothesis that sugar summons Beelzebub to plump up your fat tissue regardless of your calorie intake, the comparison should have been extremely favorable to the KD.  Yet the effect on fat mass was the opposite of what this hypothesis predicts.


The study wasn't completely negative for Taubes fans and their pet theory, but the fact that fat loss slowed on a ketogenic diet is well, problematic. And unfortunately, likely explains some of the physiques that are far too common amongst low carbers. Because even as fat loss slowed, the body needed glucose and cannibalized its own muscle for the raw material needed.

I don't have anything to add to Guyenet's coverage as I have not had a chance to read the paper. I may be able to read the paper through one of my alumni libraries (yes, there is more than one), but I will not have time to do so in the short term.

I don't know how many Taubesian responses I'll bother with now that the actual study has been published. Most don't offer anything new or edifying. I suppose I'll look for a Lustig response, since he seems most terrified that his life's work is being disproved. Gary Taubes himself just seems to be in denial. But here are a few links about the study.

  • This is not the first time Guyenet has taken on the wrong insulin-carb-obesity hypothesis, here's a 2013 article where he's quoted.
  • Here is Vox's coverage, which includes more details about the diet.
  • Marion Nestle's take, which notes that ketogenic diets might still cause people to eat fewer calories— but that wasn't Taubes' hypothesis. The comments are predictable and funny.
  • An old Wired piece that outlines NuSi, its founders and mission, but there is no talk of the current paper. I just thought it was interesting.

Other energy balance news

Not that these are new, but they do relate to the energy balance and Taubes' NuSi (Nutritional Science Initiative). Another NuSi researcher tells the truth— I think this is the NuSi funded study. A low fat diet won again at least with insulin sensitive dieters (meaning people with proper response to insulin in the body). That was the only type of dieter included in the study.

Most low carb followers assert that their insulin response is improper— whether they have actual evidence for that or not. The blogger reporting the study points out that the carbs were very low in the low carb arm of the study. In the low fat arm, the fat was cut to 20%.

Based on my reading (and worth every penny you paid to read it), a diet of 20% fat is on the hairy upper edge of a true low fat diet— at least if you want the physiological benefits of eating low fat. In contrast, a diet containing as much as 35% fat can be considered a "low fat" diet, depending on where you read.

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