Taubes: 10,000 Calories Can Leave You Hungry (If It’s Mostly Carbs). Really?

In the video below, Gary Taubes tells the story of prisoners who were given additional carbs on top of their baseline diet (of about 3000 calories). They ate a lot, “as many as 10,000 calories a day.” “And then they said they’d go to bed hungry.” But when fat was added to their diet instead of carbs … no, they couldn’t add fat to their diet, the prisoners’ eating urge prevented it. (He doesn’t say, but I assume the “baseline” diet was composed of a mix of carbs, protein, and fat in something like the typical American diet: 55/15%/30%, not itself a “low-carb” or high-carb” diet.)

I like this point he raises about appetite. Appetite is a crucial component of our body’s weight management system.

“You can’t divorce the regulation of appetite from the regulation of energy storage. … If you try to force someone to overeat it’s going to feed back on appetite and energy expenditure, in such a way that they’re not going to be able to do it.”

In his example above, Taubes said that carbohydrate doesn’t feed back on appetite, but fat does … that when the prisoners ate fat, their appetite waned, but when they ate carbohydrates, their appetite was sustained. But 10,000 calories and still hungry? I’m having a hard time with that…

EvoDiet3

Photo of the actual food participants ate during The Evo Diet Experiment. From BBC.

Remember the Evo Diet? A group of volunteers were housed at a British zoo for 12 days and fed “the sort of diet our ape-like ancestors once ate.” Each morning a cooler containing 11 pounds of fruits, vegetables, and nuts was delivered to each participant (see photo). It was a very high-carb, low-fat diet that provided enough calories so that participants wouldn’t lose weight. Well, participants lost weight. Many couldn’t finish their 11 pounds of food.

After just 12 days on the Evo Diet:

  • Cholesterol dropped 23% (e.g. From 210 to 162 mg/dl)
  • Blood pressure dropped from 140/83 to 122/76
  • Weight dropped 9.7 lbs

Barnard et al. found the same thing when he told his study participants, who were not in a zoo but were free-living, and who had diabetes no less, to eat unlimited amounts of whole plant food (cooked or raw).1  That included … potatoes, squashes, corn, rice, oats, wheat, beans, legumes, and all manner of fruits and vegetables.  It was very high-carb, over 70% of their food energy came from carbohydrates.

After 6 months on the whole food plant-based diet:

  • Weight dropped 14.3 pounds
  • HbA1c fell 1.23 points (HbA1c is a measure of blood glucose)
  • LDL cholesterol fell 21.2%

They also experienced reductions in BMI, waist circumference, total cholesterol, had improved kidney function, and many reduced their diabetes medications. They were eating unlimited amounts of food.

It is simply not true that a diet of mostly carbohydrates is not satisfying or cannot contribute to weight loss.

1A Low-Fat Vegan Diet Improves Glycemic Control And Cardiovascular Risk Factors In A Randomized Clinical Trial In Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes, Diabetes Care, August 2006

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