I recently attended the annual scientific meeting on obesity in San Diego put on by The Obesity Society. This is a big gathering where researchers and clinicians gather to discuss all aspects of the science of obesity with one remarkable exception. Over the course of four and a half days, I did not hear the phrase “low-carb diet” cross the lips of a single presenter. I have been going to these meetings for several years now and it is quite clear that the organizers have no desire to look at low-carb research. Even when one of the recent past-presidents has a much anticipated two-year low-carb study published there is not a mention of it in the program. And when he does speak, he gives a totally unremarkable presentation on a different topic. It’s almost as though he is embarrassed for having done a study on low-carb and is happy to put that unfortunate experience behind him. The fact that even though he made several errors that mitigated against the low-carb diet arm, the fact that the low-carb diet results were still better than the low-fat, low-calorie arm probably just increased the embarrassment.
One of the things I find really odd at these meetings is that there are awards sessions every day where various researchers heap accolades on one another for advancing the science while the epidemic continues to rage on uncontrolled. It reminds me of that famous photo of the firemen posing while behind them a house is consumed by fire, or the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner accompanying George Bush’s premature declaration of victory in Iraq. Making it even more surreal is the fact that a noticeable number of the acclaimed leaders in this global emergency are suffering its consequences themselves. We are not supposed to notice this, much less comment on it, of course. But, in what bizarre alternate universe do we find ourselves, when the experts who are expected to lead us out of this misery cannot make their prescriptions work on themselves? Suffice to say, I’ve yet to see a credible low-carb researcher with a personal weight problem.
I will continue to attend these meetings as there are basic science presentations worth attending and there are sometimes good discussions on specific issues like fructose which are germane to the low-carb field. I will also continue to give them feedback on the need to stop ignoring the low-carb science but I’m not holding my breath.
I spoke at another smaller conference this week in Toronto on vision care. Loss of vision due to poorly managed diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in this country. Considering that a very low-carb diet yields consistently excellent blood sugar control it makes sense that low-carb can have an impact in this area. I was thrilled that my presentation was the “warm-up act” for my good friend Gary Taubes. I gave my usual discourse on why I think we are using the wrong paradigm in our approach to conditions linked to insulin resistance – obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes – and why I think we need to add a low-carb diet to our therapeutic armamentarium.
It is always a pleasure to hear Gary speak. He gave a tour-de-force presentation on the history of the diabetic diet and how it has been influenced over the decades by a small group of prominent scientists whose evidentiary basis for steering diet recommendations was scant at best. Gary, in researching his excellent book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, has actually interviewed all the main characters who are still living and has an in-depth historical understanding of how we were so badly misled.
The highlight of that day, however, was lunch where I observed Gary struggling to have a hamburger (bunless of course) prepared to his liking and where we had some great conversation about family, friends, literature and, of course, diet. He has another book coming out soon. It is called, “Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It”, and will be released in December. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.com. This will be a good book for people who found “Good Calories, Bad Calories” challenging and who want practical advice on diet. In the meantime, for those who are seeking guidance on doing a low-carb diet, I highly recommend “The New Atkins for a New You” by my friends Westman, Phinney and Volek.