Gary Taubes, author and medical journalist, to speak at MU

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | 4:33 p.m. CST; updated 6:28 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 12, 2008

COLUMBIA — Gary Taubes has a bone to pick with the world's leading nutrition experts. His gripe: they have historically refused to come to a clear consensus on what makes us fat.

Taubes will speak 2:30 p.m. Thursday in MU's Monsanto Auditorium about diet, exercise and obesity and the bias that he sees as a shroud over modern medical practices.

Taubes' controversial 2002 article in the New York Times Magazine, "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" discussed a medical history perspective of the human diet. What made his conclusions controversial is that they support nutritionist Robert Atkins' theory of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet as a means for weight loss.

In the article, he discusses the fact that, with the release of theory after theory, medical professionals still disagree with fervor whether it's the toast or the egg or the butter in the morning that leads to obesity and early death.

Diet theories are adopted and tossed aside at an incredible rate despite what Taubes sees as incontrovertible evidence of the quality of a low-carb diet.

His 2007 book, "Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease ," is an extension of that article, which highlights what he sees as bias in the process of reaching a consensus in the medical community.

Although the Atkins theory was seen as "quackery" in most medical circles, Taubes stepped back to explore why. He found that research showed value in the low-carb diet and said that the diet had perhaps not been given the importance it deserved.

Taubes' article was so controversial that he said in an interview with the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT that one of his good friends "went from considering me one of the four or five best science writers in the country to accusing me of having had a brain transplant and making up the story to get a big book deal."

A review by Publisher's Weekly said that "(Taubes') call for dietary advice that is based on rigorous science, not century-old preconceptions about the penalties of gluttony and sloth, is bound to be echoed loudly by many readers."

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