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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, February 23, 2003
12:47 PM

Low-carb continued...

1. Fumento says Taubes overlooks or carelessly dismisses massive evidence that contradicts his claims, and has misrepresented the views of researchers, falsely characterizing them as low-carb supporters.

If I were a lawyer, at this point I'd merely stipulate that Fumento provides extensive, convincing evidence to back up that claim. Here's a brief sample that does not do it justice.
"I was greatly offended by how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across as supporters of the Atkins diet," says one such source, Stanford University cardiologist John Farquhar. "I think he’s a dangerous man. I’m sorry I ever talked to him."

Another who feels wronged is Gerald Reaven:
Ask Stanford endocrinologist Gerald Reaven. He’s best known for calling attention to "Syndrome X," a cluster of conditions that may indicate a predisposition to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Among Reaven’s recommendations for lowering the risk of that syndrome is to reduce consumption of highly refined carbohydrates such as those present in soft drinks and table sugar. But that’s where the overlap with Atkins ends.

"I thought [Taubes’] article was outrageous," Reaven says. "I saw my name in it and all that was quoted to me was not wrong. But in the context it looked like I was buying the rest of that crap." He adds, "I tried to be helpful and a good citizen, and I ended up being embarrassed as hell. He sort of set me up." When I first contacted Reaven, he was so angry he wouldn't’t even let me interview him.

Reaven is saying that Syndrome X describes a condition that can be alleviated with reduced consumption of highly refined carbohydrates. What it doesn't describe is a condition in every human being, nor does Reaven endorse a universal low-carb diet for everyone who's overweight, which is the impression you get from Taubes. Farquhar's and Reaven's complaints are by no means the only ones, but an email they sent out summarizes the problem:
"I was greatly offended by how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across as supporters of the Atkins diet," he wrote in an e-mail he broadcast to reporters and to colleagues who were stunned that Farquhar might actually hold the beliefs Taubes attributed to him. "We are against the Atkins Diet," he wrote, speaking for himself and Reaven. "I told him [Taubes] there is the minor degree of merit" to the idea that "people are getting fatter because too much emphasis is being placed on just cutting fats," Farquhar told me. But "once I gave him that opening -- bingo -- he was off and running, even though I said about six times that this is not the cause of the obesity epidemic."

Fumento also objects to Taubes' and Atkins' rejection of past research:
Taubes also shoved aside decades of published, controlled, randomized clinical trials comparing nutrient intake and weight loss. His apparent justification in the article was that the "research literature [is] so vast that it’s possible to find at least some published research to support virtually any theory." But that’s sheer nihilism. Good science is cautious and skeptical, not permanently open-ended. That’s why terms like weight of the evidence are used. And the evidence against Atkins-like low-carbohydrate diets is crushing...

Again, I'll merely stipulate that Fumento backs up his claim that most studies have concluded that Atkins is wrong.

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