I promised in my last post — yes, far too long ago — that I would give an update on the Metabolism, Diet and Disease Conference, which was held at the end of May in Washington, DC. As the months passed, I was waiting to hear from the organizers that they had posted a video of the panel discussion that ended the conference, and now, as of a few days ago, they have.
The conference itself was rather remarkable. The idea was to bring together from all disciplines researchers working on the various pathologies associated with insulin resistance. It was organized by the editors of BioMed Central, who had come upon the idea after reading The Diet Delusion, which is the British edition of Good Calories, Bad Calories. I was enlisted to help organize and suggest and recruit speakers and executive committee members. The conference also provided the opportunity to get researchers who had worked on carb-restricted diets — Eric Westman and Jeff Volek, in particular — presenting in a non-nutrition venue to researchers who might otherwise never take their work seriously or at least never imagine that it had relevance to their research in insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia and the related pathologies. Eugene Fine was also there with a poster on his just published pilot study on ketogenic diets and cancer — “Targeting insulin inhibition as a metabolic therapy in advanced cancer: A pilot safety and feasibility dietary trial in 10 patients.”
What I found most fascinating about the conference was how beliefs shifted over the course of the three day event, from unconditional faith in the conventional wisdom to openness and scientific curiosity about the kinds of alternative hypotheses put forward by myself and others. On the first day of the conference I was having arguments/discussions with researchers about the laws of thermodynamics and how they apply to obesity (or don’t, as I believe) only to find myself sitting with them on a panel on day three as they agreed that the role of refined grains and sugars in cancer and cancer therapy had to be taken seriously.
With that, I highly recommend reading the BioMed Central blog post on the last day’s panel discussion and then watching the video of the discussion itself to see how it played out. You can see for yourself how beliefs and opinions had shifted so that the outcome of the panel discussion was probably something that few of the researchers going in would have ever imagined. I’m not optimistic enough to think that this is a long term change in thinking, or at least not without other factors, experiments and influential researchers keeping the momentum up — and, of course, the science has to turn out to be right or at least mostly right. But it certainly gave me hope that the kinds of issues we’ve been raising again and again outside the research community will soon be addressed critically (i.e., not in a knee-jerk, dismissive manner) by researchers within the community.
This brings up item number two in this post, and here I’m going to be cribbing considerably from what Peter Attia recently posted on his blog — eatingacadmy.com . This is our update on NuSI, the Nutrition Science Initiative, and a job we’re hoping to fill in the near future.
As we’ve both alluded to in previous posts, Peter and I founded NuSI earlier this year. Peter is the president and I’m, well, the co-founder. (We rejected “provocateur-in-residence” on the basis that it only captured part of what I do and didn’t quite work officially for an organization that we, and the foundation supporting us, and the scientists with whom we’re working, all take very, very seriously.) NuSi is a non-profit organization with the mission of reducing the economic and social cost of obesity and its related chronic diseases. We hope to achieve this by facilitating and funding the kind of rigorous, meticulously well-controlled and targeted experimental research that has been conspicuously lacking in nutrition research for the half past century.
We’ll say much more about this when we formally and publicly launch NuSI in early September. The ultimate goal is to create what would ideally become a kind of Manhattan Project of Nutrition: a concerted, directed, well-funded research effort composed of the best scientists in the field — all independent and suitably skeptical — working together to generate the evidence necessary to put to rest, one way or the other, all the major and many of the minor controversies in nutrition research. Peter and I have already enlisted some of the researchers we’d like to get involved, and we’ve spoken to others about possible experiments that might be done in the future. Our hope is that regardless of any initial biases, the evidence generated in these experiments (and replicated in further experiments) will be suitably unambiguous that in, say, 15 years we’ll have little left to argue about. And if the evidence still leaves room for argument and controversy, then we’ll do more experiments until it doesn’t.
The best part, as Peter has pointed out, is that all this should be doable for less than the cost of developing just one drug in the United States.
Peter and I have been working obsessively to build a world-class team at NuSI, including our Board of Directors, Scientific Advisory Board, Board of Advisors, scientific consortium, and full-time staff. We can’t wait until we can formally introduce you to our team and collaborators.
We have already hired several positions within NuSI through standard recruiting channels and referrals, but there is one position, in particular, Peter and I thought would be worth bringing directly to the attention of our readers – our Research Associate. We’ve already received a few dozen tremendous applications from individuals with great credentials, but we’re wondering if one critical attribute may be missing or under-represented in our applicants so far. Beyond the tangible skills necessary for this particular role – outlined in the downloadable job posting (below) – this role requires an almost maniacal obsession with nutrition science and a passion for answering the kinds of questions we’ve all been debating in print and in our blogs. We think there’s a reasonable chance that our future Research Associate is one of you out there reading this right now.
For the full list of job responsibilities and requirements, please download the job posting, which also explains exactly how to apply. Please do not send any of the application materials to me or Peter directly. You can consider this the first test of the ability to follow simple instructions.
This position should prove to be both extremely challenging and highly rewarding. We think that we have the opportunity with this organization to change the world, and that the odds are pretty good that we can pull it off. Such opportunities don’t come along frequently in life. And as I said, we’ve already enlisted some of the best scientists in nutrition and obesity research to design and conduct the studies we’ll be funding; you’ll get the opportunity to support them day in and day out.
One very important disclosure: This role will make the proverbial “drinking from a fire hose” seem manageable. We consider this role (as we do our own) more of a calling than a job. If you’re interested, if you feel you meet the necessary requirements, and if we haven’t scared you off yet, please consider applying for this position.
Thank you, and we’re looking forward to sharing the progress of NuSI with all of you.