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Why We Get Fat: Weighing In on the Diet Wars

Gary Taubes' 2nd BookIn today’s Health section of The New York Times, Dr. Abigail Zuger writes what is at first glance a review of Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat. Digging deeper, one realizes that Zuger has much more to say than a few comments on Taubes’ book, a shorter and more pointed follow-up to his earlier work, Good Calories Bad Calories. Zuger is crying out against the storm of contradicting nutritional information, which she likens to both a war and a cafeteria food-fight.

Low-carb vs. low fat, Atkins vs. Weight Watchers, it’s a familiar battle not only to those slogging through the literature, but to anyone who’s struggled to find sound advice on what to eat and lose weight. “At this point,” writes Zuger, “all eaters, fat or lean, could be forgiven for slamming the door on all expert dietary input, forever.”

Dr. Zuger goes on to discuss the arguments behind the low carb diet recommended by Why We Get Fat, prefacing the information by saying Taubes’ book is as much a “manifesto” as it a document of science journalism. She playfully worries that Taubes will soon introduce his own line of protein bars.

In the end, Zuger concludes that one-size-fits-all is not the answer to our rising obesity epidemic. “Perhaps the remarkable diversity of the human organism—whose various sizes and shapes (double chins, giant thighs and all) are so clearly driven by such a vast array of different appetites and genetic cues—simply means that it is foolish to expect a single diet to serve all comers.” This may seem like a cop-out, but what Zuger is trying to not dismiss the fact that while some of Taubes’ premises seem illogical (he is steadfastly anti-fruit), they be the right solution to help some shed excess weight. It is a sensible conclusion.

December 28th, 2010

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