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Gary Taubes on Dr. Oz Show

March 8, 2011

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Gary Taubes, award-winning science journalist, and author of “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat” was on the Dr. Oz Show yesterday. If you missed it, you can watch it on Dr. Oz’s website:

The Man Who Thinks Everything Dr. Oz Says Is Wrong: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

As you can see from the episode’s title, as well as the show previews, the sensationalism began before the show even aired.

As a disclaimer, I have not read either of Taubes’ books, although “Good Calories, Bad Calories” is patiently waiting on my bookshelf as it nears its turn on my reading list. Also, for the record, Taubes is neither paleo nor primal. His well researched standpoint in favor of low carb and high fat diets, however, resonates well with the paleo / primal community.

During the show, Taubes attempted to debunk two myths regarding why people get fat:

1) Because they eat fat.

2) Because they eat too much and exercise too little.

ALL grains and fruit are bad and ALL fats are good

Sadly, the show’s main purpose was to entertain rather than inform. Dr. Oz stated that Taubes believes ALL carbohydrates should be eliminated, and that ALL fats are good (Taubes clarified that wasn’t the case).

Also, Dr. Oz and Taubes each stood in front of a table which was supposed to represent their food recommendations. You’d think Dr. Oz was a spokesperson for fruitarians, judging by the massive mound of fruit that took up most of the table, except for a few small bowls of grains. Dr. Oz kept trying to make Taubes seem anti-fruit. Fruit’s probably considered quite “sacred” by many, so perhaps Dr. Oz’s reasoning was that if Taubes appeared to demonize fruit, he’d lose credibility with the audience. It’s unfortunate for Dr. Oz then, that not once did Taubes actually condemn fruit. This made Dr. Oz’s weird rant about someone’s low carb diet being derailed if they had a single strawberry, all the more ridiculous.

The 24 hour low carb parody challenge

Dr. Oz’s 24 hour diet made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t taking Taubes seriously. Yes, that’s right, he tried a low carb diet for a whole 24 hours (the audience actually laughed when he said this). Dr. Oz emphasized how hard it was for him to do it, and that he only did it because of how much he trusts Taubes…. He then showed clips of him suffering though eating his low carb meals:

Breakfast: sausages and eggs
Snack #1: pork rinds
Lunch: salad with chicken (skin on)
Snack #2: pepperoni and cheese sticks
Dinner: rib eye steak with green beans

Low carb = highly processed?

That’s supposed to be representative of a healthy low carb diet? Highly processed, preservative laden junk food like breakfast sausages, pork rinds, pepperoni, and cheese sticks? Let me guess, the pork rinds were fried in vegetable oils and bathed in artificial flavors? I’m shocked. And where did Dr. Oz get the idea that eating low carb means eating past satiety?  There’s also of course no mention that it can take upwards of 3 weeks for the body to shift from using carbs to fats as fuel. Oh, and stuffing a cheese stick (plaque) into a rolled up slice of pepperoni (arteries) was oh so clever.

Is anyone really surprised that he felt nauseous and had headaches?  When Oprah did her vegan challenge, she ate vegan for a week. Not veganish. Vegan. She had the healthiest vegan food possible catered to her and her staff for an entire week. Oprah took the vegan challenge seriously.

I know Taubes isn’t paleo, but I highly doubt that those were the foods that he recommended, especially considering his comment after watching Dr. Oz’s 24 hour diet,

“What is the scientific value? It was great entertainment, but…”

Eating healthy is unrealistic

Dr. Oz seemed to have 3 main arguments. The first was that eating high fat will clog your arteries and land you in the hospital. The second was that eating low carb is not sustainable.

Dr. Oz: “You can’t live your life on just this” (pointing to a table with steak, butter, eggs, chicken, and avocadoes)… “How many people can live on a diet long term like this? There’s no sugar in it…”

Uhm, that’s kind of the point… Taubes did a good job comparing doctors’ recommended diets of reduced sugar to people being told to “cut down” on cigarettes.

Dr. Oz’s third argument was that you shouldn’t shun “sacred”, disease-fighting foods. He asked, if you’re 250lbs, which diet are you better off on? The one that has all these disease fighting foods, or the low carb and high fat one? As Taubes explained, with the latter, you won’t be 250 lbs. Also, the carbs being recommended to fight disease are  actually responsible for causing them.

I would never set you up…

I wish that Taubes had either agreed to the cholesterol test and explained the results, or provided a stronger argument against it. However, Dr. Oz saying that he wouldn’t set Taubes up, makes me more inclined to think that’s exactly what happened. Regardless, it’s a weak argument for Dr. Oz to end on. What do the test results of one person really tell us? You’re going to devalue Taubes’ research because he refused to have a test done?

Spreading the word

Overall, I think it’s great that Taubes was featured on such a popular, mainstream TV show. It gets the word out on low carb, and saturated fats. And it’ll pique some people’s curiosity enough to learn more.

However, I’m mostly disheartened. For all the times that Dr. Oz insisted that he respects Taubes’ work, he sure had a funny way of showing it. As the show’s host, you already get the home ice advantage – you have a supportive fan-filled audience, you call the shots, and you can edit the footage however you please. So at the very least, you’d think Dr. Oz would actually show respect to his guest by taking the topic seriously, and participating in a worthwhile discussion. I don’t feel that was the case.

I applaud Taubes for going on the show, keeping his cool, and spreading the word.

From Gary Taubes’ blog,

“Today marks my appearance on the Dr. Oz Show, which was, let’s just say, an interesting experience and leave it at that.”

Leave a Comment

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

rebecca hale December 5, 2011 at 7:34 PM

Low carb the only way to loose fat for me. The adjustment phase is difficult and scary as you have so little support, and none from the Dr.

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[email protected] January 5, 2012 at 9:07 PM

I agree – it’s difficult to make such a drastic departure from the food pyramid when most people around you think you’re crazy, or worse, that you’re actually causing yourself harm. I’ve been pretty lucky with my friends and family supporting me, but I’m still grateful that there is such an active paleo community online :)

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John S March 27, 2012 at 3:08 PM

None of why Dr. Oz tries to sell us is realistic for most people. Not only is many of these diets and replacements for favorite foods not going to sway most. The ingredients are generally more expensive and provide people with a taste that is not as palatable as what we are used to. If it was so simple to replace ingredients with more healthy alternatives I think that would have happened by now. The truth is we like what we like and I find Dr. Oz alternatives to be too different to accept as replacements for what we have grown up eating. What would be better considering the huge obesity problem in the US. Is to take a more moderate approach to eating your favorites. Like smaller portions, leaner meats and less seasonings like salt.

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[email protected] March 28, 2012 at 2:11 PM

I agree with the smaller portions. I think not eating processed foods will take care of the salt overconsumption. But there’s no reason to fear fat. As for Dr. Oz, I can no longer really watch – I’d either be arguing with the TV set or writing an inordinate amount of ranty posts :p

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Vanda January 21, 2013 at 7:44 AM

I’m writing from Croatia. Today we saw the eposode of Dr.Oz who tried to show to pople how Gary’s advices about food are not good. I was so angry watching that. Everybody knows how in every tv show Dr.Oz is suggesting more and more pills and vitamins to get people “healty”. We are not stupid, we know who are his sponsours. We know that he wouldn’t have not one show without pharmaceutical industry.
Me and my family are eating “paleo” food for almost a year. My sister and I had a irritabile colon. My sister, who was on the egde of anorexy gained few kilograms and didn’t lost them for months. I had like 10 kg more than I needed, I lost 6 in first few months and now I’m loosing slowly more. My mum, who is diabetic is using much less of insulin since we are eating as Gary and are suggesting. We all feel much better physical and psychical.
And, we’ve done a blood tests because we are eating lot’s of animal fat and we were told that’s not good etc. Our blood is better than ever before.
It’s not easy for Gary to go in the “war” against the rich pharmaceutical industry. But, slowly, people like him, who are brave and are interested in common health, are talking louder and louder and we are listening and doing ti. We are trying to educate our friends and family and all of those who tried it feel much better and are saying they will never go back to the old eating habits. More and more newspapers and tv shows are talking how animal fat is good for our helth. And when you’re eating fat and eggs and green vegetables, you don’t have need for 5 meals a day. It takes longer to make you hungry and less food to make you fed. Lot’s of book are written about this subject. I’m just one happy person who after long long time has resolved problems with food. Since I’m eating this way, I’m not using even my pills for high blood presure which I had to use since I was 18 years old. And, important thing, I’m lossing my fat, not water and muscels, trust me.

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Tori April 7, 2013 at 7:44 AM

I’m not a Dr. Oz fan at all and in my opinion and from my understanding of the primal diet, he totally botched his ‘little’ experiment. He simply didn’t do paleo/primal correctly. Gary Taubes was a good sport to go on his show and be discredited like that. Boo with Dr. Oz AGAIN!

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