2

votes

Should writers/researchers have such narrow focus?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 06, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Will we see the day when Taubes, Lustig, and Guyenet all sit down at a table and agree that some people get fat from too many carbohydrates, some people get fat from too much fructose, and some people get fat from too many hyperpalatable foods? Of course they must think that but they don't like to talk about it too much.

Is it a good thing when writers/researchers are so narrow in their focus?

Maybe with all of the data out there you have to be specialized?

Or is it a drive to have your name associated with one particular theory? We pretty much all can match the above three people to the theories listed.

Is it like politics where it's better to have hard stances on things?

edit: I don't necessarily see Stephan as narrow, but because Taubes was so against his ideas, and then thinking about how Lustig is all about fructose (and now leptin too at least) is where this question came from.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 07, 2011
at 02:53 PM

he kept editing. It was "The dominant" for a time.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on October 07, 2011
at 03:56 AM

Plus one.......

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:59 PM

Carbsane, I was surprised that in WWGF there was an actual diet recommendation at the end. I preferred the more open-ended theories in GCBC.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:58 PM

How could a theory of fat be considered multi-disciplinary if it doesn't even take into account the experiences of fat people? Mem, I would agree with you more on UCSF.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:56 PM

I think Taubes gave him all the respect he could by treating him as an actual researcher, not as an untouchable paleo darling. This is what real researchers do at conferences. If Guyenet can't handle it, he should find another line of work.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on October 06, 2011
at 06:22 PM

Yeah I see what you're saying, but as a witness to how little respect Taubes showed Stephan during Stephan's time at AHS gave me reason to think he's not open to a palatability theory

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on October 06, 2011
at 05:42 PM

LOL. I think you should write "Really Naughty Calories." I wasn't really criticizing you for not having all the answers -- I sure don't either. I only meant to note that although I find the general principles you list attractive, they are in their own way as simple as the narrowness being criticized in the OP.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on October 06, 2011
at 05:28 PM

Rose, if I had a complete theory of obesity, I would write a book. "Really Naughty Calories." or "How I got Fat" or "Wheat, Fructose and Linoleic Acid Belly". By the way, the guy who invented Doritos just died. He was 97.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on October 06, 2011
at 05:17 PM

The Pima went from a natural + some agriculture diet to a government supplied diet. Bags of flour and sugar, lard and canned goods [http://huntgatherlove.com/node/615]. Was it the flour, the sugar? Both? I am not trying to suggest that I know the answer - just that it is a hard problem to solve.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 06, 2011
at 04:39 PM

@Loon: Perhaps GCBC was not narrow in focus, but WWGF doubled down on the notion that carbs, and only carbs make you fat. Period.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on October 06, 2011
at 04:37 PM

(con't) More and more, as we realize the very real biological compnents and changes in neurobio function of "psychological" events, we will see this very important melding of disciplines occurring. The "psycholgical" and the "physical" are not separate and science on both sides that persists in acting as if they are, fails us.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on October 06, 2011
at 04:34 PM

The good thing is that more and more, the movement is toward multidisciplinary departments and thinking. The COAST center at UCSF, which is where Lustig is, is a very multidiscipliary group. It still takes alot of effort and headset change for ppl to begin to very actively work together in a non-fragmented way, but over time, I think it is happening. These collaborations are very obvious to me in some of Lustig's thinking as well as Stephan Guyenet's. Reward theory is very much an interdisciplinary theory, falling squarely in both the bio sci and soc sci realms, with lots of input from both.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 04:26 PM

I agree. But both Lustig and Taubes strike me as being so intense that they can't resist drilling down so far they can wear down any mediocre drill bit. Then they burst out and want to tell everyone. Guyenet strikes me as more of a quiet thinker. All three have been accused of being narrow, and also of overstepping their bounds. He he.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on October 06, 2011
at 04:03 PM

Yep; brilliant. This is the systems explanation, and it's why we're still spinning our nutritional wheels.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on October 06, 2011
at 04:02 PM

I like the feel of this perspective, but it seems to me there are a few flies in the ointment. To bring up a touchy subject, what made the Pima fat? Oreos? Didn't exist at the turn of the century. My ancestors were also fat early in the 20th century, on a farm in Wisconsin (and on my father's side, on a shipyard in Puerto Rico). No Doritos there, either. And I wasn't a junk food junkie, and I got fat. So I think your perspective has truth in it, but is, like the others, incomplete.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on October 06, 2011
at 03:07 PM

None of these authors are actually engaging in scientific research (in the sense that they're not formulating hypotheses and then testing them experimentally) when they write their blog posts and books, and none of these things are scientific theories, nowhere close.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on October 06, 2011
at 03:02 PM

None of these authors are actually engaging in scientific research, and none of these things are theories, nowhere close. At best they're interesting hypotheses that deserve further investigation.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 06, 2011
at 03:00 PM

"It's impossible to separate out all of the things when Oreos (as an example) is all of these things." I like it! In the real world, people are not micromanaging their fructose and linoleic acid. They eat a lot of junk food, or try to not eat a lot of junk food.

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4 Answers

4
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 03:47 PM

I don't think anyone who really has read GCBC can accuse Taubes of being narrow. Maybe his condensed version. I think the reason researchers are narrow is because the system that rewards and reinforces them tends to box them in the higher in education they get. The people at what they call "the top" have jumped through all the little contrived hoops and all the lateral-thinkers have been weeded out. Case in point. Go read how many times Buckmister Fuller got kicked out of university. A dismal failure. And, today is the day to remember another dismal failure: Steve Jobs. Colleges really do not know how to handle those with the courage to chuck their system. It is only a good thing to be narrow if your overall bandwidth is so narrow, and the power so faint that you must focus on your specialty as to not get overloaded, confused or distracted.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:58 PM

How could a theory of fat be considered multi-disciplinary if it doesn't even take into account the experiences of fat people? Mem, I would agree with you more on UCSF.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on October 06, 2011
at 04:37 PM

(con't) More and more, as we realize the very real biological compnents and changes in neurobio function of "psychological" events, we will see this very important melding of disciplines occurring. The "psycholgical" and the "physical" are not separate and science on both sides that persists in acting as if they are, fails us.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on October 06, 2011
at 04:34 PM

The good thing is that more and more, the movement is toward multidisciplinary departments and thinking. The COAST center at UCSF, which is where Lustig is, is a very multidiscipliary group. It still takes alot of effort and headset change for ppl to begin to very actively work together in a non-fragmented way, but over time, I think it is happening. These collaborations are very obvious to me in some of Lustig's thinking as well as Stephan Guyenet's. Reward theory is very much an interdisciplinary theory, falling squarely in both the bio sci and soc sci realms, with lots of input from both.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:56 PM

I think Taubes gave him all the respect he could by treating him as an actual researcher, not as an untouchable paleo darling. This is what real researchers do at conferences. If Guyenet can't handle it, he should find another line of work.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:59 PM

Carbsane, I was surprised that in WWGF there was an actual diet recommendation at the end. I preferred the more open-ended theories in GCBC.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 06, 2011
at 04:39 PM

@Loon: Perhaps GCBC was not narrow in focus, but WWGF doubled down on the notion that carbs, and only carbs make you fat. Period.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on October 06, 2011
at 06:22 PM

Yeah I see what you're saying, but as a witness to how little respect Taubes showed Stephan during Stephan's time at AHS gave me reason to think he's not open to a palatability theory

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on October 06, 2011
at 04:03 PM

Yep; brilliant. This is the systems explanation, and it's why we're still spinning our nutritional wheels.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on October 07, 2011
at 03:56 AM

Plus one.......

4
A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on October 06, 2011
at 02:57 PM

People don't get fat from fructose. People get fat from Oreos. And french fries, and donuts, and Doritos and beer and, and, and...

People eat food - not macronutrients. Yes, maybe it's the fructose from HFCS and sugar that is the biggest impact. Or maybe it's the hyperpalatability (wow, that's a lot of syllables) of these foods that makes us overeat them. Or maybe the linoleic acid content is causing inflammation and subsequent metabolic dysregulation. Or maybe it's the wheat...

It's impossible to separate out all of the things when Oreos (as an example) is all of these things.

Lustig is focused on fructose, which I think is fine. He is not trying to say that it is only fructose. Taubes put out a carbohydrate hypothesis as a counter to the fat hypothesis of disease and obesity (and he asked for it to be tested). He will probably have to modify it. if he wants it to be comprehensive. I prefer to listen to people who synthesize the information and make it applicable - like Dr. Harris and Peter/Hyperlipid (or Robb Wolf).

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 06, 2011
at 03:00 PM

"It's impossible to separate out all of the things when Oreos (as an example) is all of these things." I like it! In the real world, people are not micromanaging their fructose and linoleic acid. They eat a lot of junk food, or try to not eat a lot of junk food.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on October 06, 2011
at 05:42 PM

LOL. I think you should write "Really Naughty Calories." I wasn't really criticizing you for not having all the answers -- I sure don't either. I only meant to note that although I find the general principles you list attractive, they are in their own way as simple as the narrowness being criticized in the OP.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on October 06, 2011
at 05:17 PM

The Pima went from a natural + some agriculture diet to a government supplied diet. Bags of flour and sugar, lard and canned goods [http://huntgatherlove.com/node/615]. Was it the flour, the sugar? Both? I am not trying to suggest that I know the answer - just that it is a hard problem to solve.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on October 06, 2011
at 05:28 PM

Rose, if I had a complete theory of obesity, I would write a book. "Really Naughty Calories." or "How I got Fat" or "Wheat, Fructose and Linoleic Acid Belly". By the way, the guy who invented Doritos just died. He was 97.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on October 06, 2011
at 04:02 PM

I like the feel of this perspective, but it seems to me there are a few flies in the ointment. To bring up a touchy subject, what made the Pima fat? Oreos? Didn't exist at the turn of the century. My ancestors were also fat early in the 20th century, on a farm in Wisconsin (and on my father's side, on a shipyard in Puerto Rico). No Doritos there, either. And I wasn't a junk food junkie, and I got fat. So I think your perspective has truth in it, but is, like the others, incomplete.

3
24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on October 06, 2011
at 04:44 PM

Funny, I don't see Stephan as narrowly focused at all. Too many have misinterpreted his use of the words "a dominant factor" with "the only dominating factor", which he didn't say. I've used the sports analogy to make this point that to say one Klitchko brother is a dominant factor in the boxing world does not mean the other isn't also a dominant factor. And it doesn't preclude any number of boxers not named Klitchko from being dominant factors as well.

Taubes is turning his focus to sugar. But he made his name and will fall on his carbohydrate sword before he'll change it. He can't at this point.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 07, 2011
at 02:53 PM

he kept editing. It was "The dominant" for a time.

1
Medium avatar

on October 06, 2011
at 04:13 PM

Specialization does not have to be synonymous with narrowness in the pejorative sense. Just as being a generalist doesn't require giving cursory attention to details. As for the researchers named, kudos that they burrow deep down into subjects that capture their attention and hold their interest. If they get captured by tunnel vision in the process, their omissions and blindspots wil inevitably be revealed by others. Generalists in turn emerge to paint in broad strokes, connect the dots. Their wide-angle portraits soon enough get deconstructed by a new generation of specialists. So goes the quest for knowledge and understanding. So it will always go.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on October 06, 2011
at 04:26 PM

I agree. But both Lustig and Taubes strike me as being so intense that they can't resist drilling down so far they can wear down any mediocre drill bit. Then they burst out and want to tell everyone. Guyenet strikes me as more of a quiet thinker. All three have been accused of being narrow, and also of overstepping their bounds. He he.

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