“It is a good divine that
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may
devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps
o’er a cold decree: such a hare is madness the
youth, to skip o’er the meshes of good counsel the
cripple.”

~ Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Jimmy Moore, over at the Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Blog, had a fantastic week’s worth of podcast interviews recently. Included were some of the most influential individuals in the low-carb, Paleo arena. And while all of the interviews were both interesting and informative, I found this interview, with Gary Taubes, to be the “best of the best”. Give it a listen and you’ll come to better understand why diet and obesity research in this country is in such sorry shape (pun intended).

And really, from a practical standpoint, it’s easy to understand. Research, and the interpretation of that research, is heavily influenced by funding, be it government or private. Now everyone needs to put food on the table and shoes on the kids (even research scientists), and, therefore, the “what results do you want to see” phenomenon is perpetuated. To put the matter bluntly, no one stands to make any money whatsoever – and, in fact, many entities stand to lose enormously – if the success of the Paleo/TTP/EvFit type lifestyles are documented, published, and (eventually) adhered to by the masses. Think about who stands to gain from this revolution – ranchers of grass-fed cattle, organic farmers, food co-ops – not amongst the  most powerful of the movers-and-shakers and the well-connected on K Street. Who stands to lose? The pharmaceutical industry (which I, by the way, am a part of), grain growers, and sugar growers to name a few. Yikes, there are some heavy-hitters in that group. We’re talkin’ government promotion and farm subsidies here; congressional influence via lobbying efforts. Quite a taught web, to say the least.

But how do we, as a nation, break free from this detrimental, symbiotic relationship between research and “tainted” funding? I flirted a bit with the subject in this post. Note, as well, Dana’s knowledgeable comment to the post, and my response to her comment. Of course, to proclaim that there’s an easy fix out there just waiting to be had is, at best, naive. My own (and, admittedly jaded) take on this is that money and influence will never be removed from the equation. Therefore, if the government truly places the health of the citizenry first and foremost, it would redirect government funds, funneling more toward the education and educational opportunities end of the spectrum. Empower and enable the citizenry to make their own informed and intelligent decisions, and the nation as a whole will be so much the stronger. On the personal side, we, as a society, have (and have to teach our kids, as well) to embrace the fine art of politely, eloquently, questioning authority. The educational emphasis can be shifted away from rote memory and “teaching to the test”, and more toward reasoning and problem solving. We can all take full responsibility for our own health instead of adopting the role of “pawn” or “victim of circumstance”. This is only scraping at the outer layers of a multi-dimensional problem, of course; it could be considered the initial steps, though, to turning the obesity tsunami.

In Health,

Keith

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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Sigh. I do so enjoy reading your blog, if simply because it’s so nice to read a like minded, well written post on an issue I really care about. I tried to make the same point about tainted studies to a friend a few days ago and she called me a conspiracy theorist 😉 Keep up the great work.

  2. Hi Keith,

    Very interesting post.

    I think myself that the two main drivers of change are going to be celebrities/influential commentators and word of mouth.

    Take my example. Until this summer, I only had the slightest idea about low-carb diets. I had heard about Dr Atkins and his death, and thought that his type of regimen was something I would never want to follow.

    Then, in August, Bryan Appleyard, one of the main writers for the Sunday Times in London, wrote an article on Arthur DeVany and evolutionary fitness – http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/diet_and_fitness/article4523487.ece – talking about the success Appleyard had had on the evolutionary fitness diet.

    I nearly started it then but then just didn’t get round to it. Fast forward to last month and I realised that, for health reasons, I had to lose significant amounts of weight.

    I started considering options and then remembered about Bryan Appleyard’s article.

    I did quite a bit more research and realised that was the way I wanted to go – and 2 weeks later I am 8lbs lighter!

    I think the process of change requires at least the following 3 elements:

    1) getting low carb options on people’s radar (which for me happened through Bryan Appleyard’s article)

    2) telling people what low-carb is about and how to put it into practice easily

    3) evidence that it works and that it’s not going to lead to any health problems.

    I don’t think government or the scientific/medical establishment are going to take a lead on this. As you wrote, there are too many vested interests who benefit from the status quo.

    What could change things, and change things quite fast, is if more celebrities and influential commentators start talking about low carb and the benefits they have personally got from it.

    Imagine if Oprah tried low carb and it worked for her. Low carb would immediately appear on tens of millions of people’s radar. The same would happen to a lesser but still significant extent with other celebrities, newspaper columnists or bloggers with big readerships.

    And it would be a cumulative effect. The first, second or third celebrity may not persuade you but when you heard about five celebrities following the low carb route and then read a newspaper columnnist writing about the scientific evidence showing that low carb is the healthier option, then perhaps you’re going to consider it seriously.

    One can also throw word of mouth into the mix. If one of your best friends has transformed himself or herself from an overweight slob into a sleek and fit new person, then you’re going to be even more motivated to consider low carb.

    I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how things develop.

    Anyway, longer post from me than I intended!

    Francis

  3. Keith,
    Talk about hitting the nail on the head!! Great post,

    Although something to think about is this;
    We have had a HUGE grass roots movement over the past 20-25 years of the “new age, healthfood, yoga, organic,reiki, carob chip, vitamin and herb crowd” , that has morphed into a main stream commercial monster. (just think Whole foods as an example)
    Now the sad part is that even though the right attitude was there from the start, it is all a bit mis directed and mis informed. No, soy milk is not really good for you 😉
    Perhaps the change we need should come from this “alternative crowd”, but most likely they are also too commercially influenced at this point. Just thinking out loud here……sorry 😉

    But there is always hope….from Richard at Free the animal I saw this http://www.perfecthumandiet.com/Home.asp

    Marc

    • I believe that there will always be vested interests involved in the control and dissemination of valued information. And there will always be competing interests skewing what information is available to fit each particular camp’s means and biases. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that each individual hone their reasoning and critical analysis skills. There are two sides to this golden age of information availability. One must be able to sift intelligently through the information onslaught in order to find that which is as pure and unbiased as possible. It’s certainly not an easy task, but it is a doable task.

  4. Keith,

    Great post as always. I’m not one to believe in conspiracy theories, but sometimes you just have to wonder. Like how everyone under the sun tried to discredit Atkins and basically anyone else whose opinion differed from the USDA.

    Also, regarding costs – think how much money could be saved by prevention versus subsequent medication and treatment after the problems arise. Of course, this plays right into your argument that the doctors, pharmacies, and farmers would have a lot more time on their hands!

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