Taubes's 2002 New York Times Magazine story on diet and obesity, "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?," provoked a wicked backlash. The Washington Post declared his thesis -- that carbohydrates, not fats, make people gain weight -- "Low on Saturated Facts." A few months later, Reason revealed that several researchers were angry with Taubes for quoting them in such a way as to make it look like they agreed with him. Taubes told PBS he had been "crucified."
Now Taubes is back, with a new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, and recent excerpts in New York and the Times Magazine. But the protests this time have so far been muted. Gina Kolata, who reviewed his book for the Times, said she was "not convinced" but left it at that, while John Tierney quoted it approvingly in the Science Times. New York's editorial director, Hugo Lindgren, says the magazine heard from many "deeply critical" readers about Taubes's piece, but also from some who agreed with him. "He is unbelievably well-researched in this topic, way beyond the scope of most of his critics," he says.
It helps that Taubes was careful to include a note in his book stating that citation of a researcher's work or words should not be taken as an endorsement by that person. It also helps that the Atkins diet, which Taubes's work seemed to validate, has moved off the front pages, taking down the emotional temperature of the whole debate a few degrees.
And it certainly doesn't hurt your credibility when groups like the Corn Refiners Association are trying to poke holes in your work.
For his part, Taubes tells me he never set out to stir controversy.
"I follow the evidence. In this case it's gotten me to this weird place where I'm the savior of the low-carb diet community," he says. "I am as shocked as anyone by the conclusions I've ended up coming to."
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