Updates for 2012


Checking in after a long absence (working too hard, and blogging too little), I have news and updates for 2012.

The first order of business is a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to Tara Parker-Pope’s “The Fat Trap” article that ran on the cover of the January 1st  NYT Magazine. I wrote the letter with my colleague Peter Attia, more on whom shortly, and we posted it online at ipetitions.com. We tried to get it signed by as many MDs and PhDs as possible, to make the case to the editors at the Times and to Tara herself that a significant number of medical professionals and researchers take the alternative hypothesis of obesity seriously and so should they. As it is, we were able to get over 250 such degreed cosigners, which was more than we expected and more than we hoped. The Times is running a 150-word summary of the letter as a letter to the editor in this week’s magazine with a link to the full letter on line, which you should all feel free to sign. I also recommend you click on the signatures link to see who’s signed it and read the comments.

“The Fat Trap” made the point that obesity is effectively incurable. The letter argues that it only appears to be incurable because the wrong treatment is being used, and the wrong treatment  is being used because the people studying the disorder don’t understand what causes it in the first place  — like trying to treat a bacterial infection with an anti-viral medication and then throwing up your hands and saying it’s hopeless when the treatment doesn’t work. Should they ever get the cause right, then the correct treatment becomes obvious.

Second order of business is my colleague Peter Attia. Peter and I started working together last April after he came to San Francisco to meet me. He had recently read Why We Get Fat and Good Calories, Bad Calories and my sugar article in The New York Times, and he had 27-pages of questions he wanted to ask. I was impressed, if not awed, and we hit it off. I suggested to Peter that he should take over the insurgency and I’d be the figurehead, as I’ve been burnt out and overworked for a decade. The good news is he took me up on it, except that now he has me working twice as hard as ever to help.

Among the projects we have in the works is a non-profit, the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), to raise money for the kind of research we think is necessary to clarify the relationship between dietary nutrients, obesity. diabetes and their related chronic diseases. We have a specific plan of research to pursue (or rather to fund so that established, unbiased researchers can then do the studies) and have already recruited a world class scientific advisory board and executive board. I’ll fill in the details in the next couple of weeks as we get closer to going on-line.

Peter’s blog, The War on Insulin.com, is up and running. Peter takes many of my ideas and expands on them from his own unique perspective. He also blogs about his own personal experience on a conventional healthy diet and then a ketogenic diet. What makes this particularly interesting is that Peter is a fanatic endurance athlete and an obsessive self-experimenter, and he comes at his experience and his blog with a significant amount of medical training and acumen. I highly recommend that he be read.   (And if anyone can figure out how he manages to workout 23 hours a week, function in a full-time job, blog regularly on nutrition and physical activity, and be there for his family and not collapse in a puddle of exhaustion, please let me know.)

The next order of business is an exciting and promising project. My friend Larry Istrail is a medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s recently created the Ancestral Weight Loss Registry, to collect and publish data on individuals who have tried to lose weight with a paleo/carbohydrate-restricted diet. He’s also spent much of the last few years compiling clinical data on many aspects of carb-restricted eating in the related science section, such as the efficacy of such diets for weight loss or the effects of saturated fats and cholesterol intake on heart disease. Tara Parker-Pope’s article in The New York Times claimed that the National Weight Control Registry (about which I could easily fill up a few blog posts with criticisms) has some 10,000 people registered in over 15 years. We’re hoping that the  Ancestral Weight Loss Registry will beat that in a few months. Using this kind of self-selected data to do good science is tricky if not perhaps impossible, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

If you’re reading this and you’ve lost significant weight on a carb-restricted/paleo diet (or if you haven’t), please check out the  Ancestral Weight Loss Registry and enter your details. I’m also hoping you’ll pass this on to your friends and if you have a blog or a podcast, to your readers and/or listeners.

The last order of nutrition/obesity-related interest is that I have some speaking engagements coming up in the next few months  and I thought I’d mention them, which I’ve been lax in doing in the past. I’m giving a couple of readings in the Berkeley/Oakland area, a lecture at the Seattle Town Hall and the University of Texas San Antonio, an after dinner talk at a diabetes conference at Auburn University, a talk at an integrative health conference in Los Angeles and a lecture in Santa Cruz, courtesy of the local office of education. There’s also a couple of talks coming up in Europe — in Amsterdam and Brussels — and a slew of conferences and keynote addresses into the summer and fall, details of which will go up shortly. The dates and locations and links through April (Amsterdam not yet included)  are up on my calendar, and I promise I’ll do a much better job in the future of keeping the calendar updated far in advance.

Along these lines (okay, this is the last order of nutrition/obesity-related interest), the email subscription to my blog now works as it should, and will NOT subscribe readers to “Two and the Zoo” like it used to. Feel free to sign up if you’re interested.

Finally, my best friend Marion Smith recently did a post on her website about our shared history with one of the more distasteful but apt terms in journalism and writing. Marion credits me for the terminology, although I’m going to give credit here to Calvin Trillin, who came up with it. It was from reading Trillin in my salad days — back when I had time to read — that I learned of the term and the technique and embraced it. Either way, Marion is a wonderful writer and nutrition and weight is not the subject. Both reasons to read her blog.

And with that, a belated Happy New Years.