How a ‘fatally, tragically flawed’ paradigm has derailed the science of obesity

By Gary Taubes
Stat News

I’ve been a science reporter for 40 years. I’ve wanted to assume that the experts I interview can be trusted to understand their subjects. Put simply, to get it right. But watching researchers in the field of obesity almost blindly follow a failed paradigm has led me to cross a line that few journalists ever do, to publicly embrace and promote a minority opinion that many in the obesity field think is quackery.

For nearly a century, obesity research has been predicated on the belief that the cause of the disorder “is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended,” to quote the World Health Organization. By this ubiquitous thinking, obesity is an energy balance disorder: People get fat because they take in more calories than they expend. They stay lean when they don’t.

This is the central dogma of obesity science. Virtually all obesity research is interpreted in the context of this balance principle; all related public health discussions, not just on obesity but on all the common chronic diseases that associate with it, as well as the very nature of a healthy diet, rely fundamentally on its implications.

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