Nina Teicholz – The Real Food Politics: Institutional Defense of the Status-Quo

Nina Teicholz explores the political, institutional, and industry forces that prevent better thinking on issues related to nutrition and science in this presentation. Here’s the latest release from Low Carb Breckenridge 2017 conference.

Presentation slides are available here to download in PDF format

Nina Teicholz is a New York Times bestselling investigative science journalist who has played a pivotal role in challenging the conventional wisdom on dietary fat. Her groundbreaking work, The Big Fat Surprise, which The Economist named as the #1 science book of 2014, has led to a profound rethinking on whether we have been wrong to think that fat, including saturated fat, causes disease.

Nina has been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the British Medical Journal, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times and many other outlets.

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  • charles grashow

    Carl Sandberg: “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

    Your thoughts

  • naandi

    the dishonesty that Atkins/Taubes and Teicholz perpetuate is simply shocking. No substantiated science whatsoever…

  • 1. Ms Teicholz is still being intellectual dishonest in presenting macronutrient data in % terms, rather than in absolute terms. After 1985, absolute per-capita consumption of proteins & fats rose, but absolute per-capita consumption of carbohydrates (from over-refined food products) shot up. Furthermore, absolute per-capita consumption of carbohydrates in the 1st Quarter of the 20th Century was higher
    than it is now, yet BMI was lower. Therefore, carbohydrates don’t cause obesity. Ref:

    2. BMI in US males began to increase after 1945, then rapidly increased after 1990. Dietary guidelines were released in 1980. Therefore, dietary guidelines didn’t cause obesity. Ref:

    3. All of the longest-lived (Blue Zone) populations eat HCLF diets based on minimally-refined animal & vegetable produce and they are not overweight. Therefore, macronutrient ratio is a red herring.

    4. The Food Product Industry will do everything in its power to maintain the status quo, as a return en masse to a produce-based diet would put them out of business.

    • Hi @nigelkinbrum:disqus. Stehpan G. (your link) appears to agree with Nina in that CHO contributed most to the increase in total calorie intake since 1970. Certainly refined food products’ contribution is an important consideration but still predominant calories came from CHO. Hard for me to call this a red herring.

      The DGA has promoted processed and refined foods since inception and the food industry profited as a result. You can argue against the absolute statement, countering that the DGA didn’t cause obesity. Regardless, the DGA contributed to obesity.

      • Hi. In % terms, up to ~1925, Americans ate a HCLF diet with more per-capita grams of carbs than they did after 1985, yet they had a low BMI. Therefore, HCLF diets based on minimally-refined carbs are fine.

        I disagree that the DGA promoted over-processed & over-refined foods. The DGA allowed certain over-processed & over-refined foods (e.g. allowing products made from grossly over-refined grain dust to be called “whole grain”) to appear on it, thanks to bribery lobbying by the Food Product Industry.

        “Junk” foods & SSBs aren’t on the DGA, yet Americans vastly increased their consumption of these things, thanks to cunning marketing to normalise the abnormal over-consumption of Food Products.

        Obesity was & is continuing to be caused by the Food Product Industry. As long as profits >> health, the status quo will continue. 🙁

        • tkent26

          Bread, cereal, pasta, margarine, and “vegetable” oils are all processed/refined foods. You don’t get much more “over-refined” than
          “vegetable” oils. Sugar was not specifically recommended, but weirdly “given a pass” until the most recent round of DGAs.

          Junk foods and fast foods were available and widely advertised in the 1960s-70s, before the obesity epidemic takes off.

          • @tkent26:disqus it’s hard to ignore the DGA’s contribution to poor health.

          • If the DGA is supposed to have contributed to increasing weight & poorer health, how come from 1980 to 1990, BMI in men aged 19 & 22 went down and BMI in men aged 27, 32 & 37 was virtually constant?

            How do you explain these “inconvenient facts”?

          • @nigelkinbrum:disqus @disqus_tm2tChMHGl:disqus and @tkent26:disqus, there are so many ways to spin the ‘evidence’. We all agree that contributing factors include – refined and processed carbs and oils, insulin and calories.

          • Insulin is a function of calories. Refined and processed carbs and oils have been around since ~1890.

            What caused consumption (hence calories, hence insulin) to increase slowly from 1945, and rapidly from 1990?

            As marketing methods are many and unquantifiable, my hypothesis that changes in food product industry marketing methods is the cause of increased consumption is neither supportable nor refutable. However, marketing methods did change from fact-based to emotion-targeted from 1945-ish.

          • tkent26

            Insulin is a function of calories, degree of processing, macronutrients, and metabolic health of the individual, all combined. What the body does with the calories is a function of the combined actions of insulin, glucagon, growth hormone, and many other hormones.

            Sure, junk foods and fast foods were widely marketed from 1945 onward. But the obesity/T2D epidemics don’t take off until late 1970s/early 80s… It’s funny how refined/processed carb intake also increases around this time, and funny how we had a coincident set of guidelines that specifically recommended to eat more bread/pasta/cereal…

          • BMI began to increase, after 1945. The increase started to level off in the 1960’s and BMI was virtually constant from 1980 to 1990. BMI increased rapidly after, after 1990 – 10 years after the DGA was released. Ref:

          • 1. Marketing is much more than advertising. There’s sponsorships, product-placements, expert/celebrity endorsements, subliminal images in public view, health-washing and the normalisation of abnormal over-consumption of over-refined products.

            2. Adverts changed after WW2 from fact-based to emotion-targeted. See (you don’t need to watch all of it!) to see how easy it is to manipulate populations.

    • tkent26

      I agree that focusing on macronutrients can be a red herring, but the DGAs _specifically recommended_ that people eat more _refined carbohydrates_ (bread, pasta, cereal) and _refined plant fats_ (“vegetable” oils, margarine). Almost all of the caloric increase after 1970 came from refined grain products and refined seed oils, which were the specifically recommended foods.

      The Blue Zone populations are interesting. They don’t eat processed crap. They get lots of exercise. They have balanced levels of sleep, sun exposure, stress management, and deep social/cultural/religious ties. The Blue Zones tell us that certain diets are _compatible_ with longevity, but they can’t tell us that the diet alone _causes_ longevity. There are many populations who have been healthy with a range of fat and carb intakes.

      • Well said @tkent26:disqus !

      • The problem isn’t carbohydrates – it’s over-refined carbohydrates.
        The problem isn’t fats – it’s over-refined fats.
        Do you see the common factor?

        I admit that the DGA isn’t perfect (thanks to briberylobbying by the over-refiners) but Americans got fatter & sicker from chronically over-consuming ready-prepared meals, doughnuts, cup-cakes, pizzas, cakes, cookies, candies, SSB’s etc. None of those items are on the DGA.

        Blue Zone populations get lots of exercise. Exercise is essential, to maintain insulin sensitivity. See Sun exposure is also essential, for Vitamin D3 synthesis.

        I believe that “tilting at the wrong windmills” is counter-productive.

        • I mostly agree @nigelkinbrum:disqus but still the macronutrient mix is an important consideration (not a red-herring). Hormonal dysregulation, satiety and macronutrient calories all need to be considered and varies with the individual.

          • The macronutrient ratio is irrelevant, if the diet is based on produce. It only becomes relevant if the diet is based on over-refined products. See

            Currently, the different dietary “camps” (LCHF, HCLF, veg*n etc) are perpetually arguing over which is the “best” diet, showing studies that make their diet look good and everyone else’s look bad. As a result, none of them will ever be adopted by a large % of the public.

            The “best” diet is one that’s based on produce.

            Which produce and what P:C:F ratio is irrelevant.

            I cannot understand why the different dietary “camps” don’t agree to unite against their common enemy (the food product industry) with the above message, instead of perpetually fighting each other over irrelevances and getting nowhere. I told you this when you, Ivor & I met in November 2015. Remember ?

            It’s so frustrating!

          • The macronutrient ratio is irrelevant, if the diet is based on produce. It only becomes relevant if the diet is based on over-refined products. See

            EDIT: The link to Twitter isn’t showing!

            Currently, the different dietary “camps” (LCHF, HCLF, veg*n etc) are perpetually arguing over which is the “best” diet, showing studies that make their diet look good and everyone else’s look bad. As a result, none of them will ever be adopted by a large % of the public.

            The “best” diet is one that’s based on produce.

            Which produce and what P:C:F ratio is irrelevant.

            I cannot understand why the different dietary “camps” don’t agree to unite against their common enemy (the food product industry) with the above message, instead of perpetually fighting each other over irrelevances and getting nowhere. I told you this when you, Ivor & I met in November 2015. Remember ?

            It’s so frustrating!

          • @nigelkinbrum:disqus I suppose my mate Dr. Rangan agrees with you ! 🙂 Also, that was a nice post back in 2015, especially the picture of you, me and Ivor on that day we met outside London.

            You ‘hold no prisoners’ in that post ( as you go after all the diets. I’ve said it before, that going for the jugulars of the manufactures of junk and processed food has merit. Still, the macros matter because not every human is completely metabolically flexible.

            Also, to point out that eliminating refined and processed foods are common themes in most of those diets anyway, but perhaps under-emphasized. You still need to write that book about the food industry and the art of public manipulation, Edward Bernays style !

          • The next time you come to the UK, it’d be great to have another meet-up.

            I don’t have a problem with LC being used to treat people who have metabolic inflexibility. I just have a problem with LC being promoted as the best diet for everyone and that all of the other diets suck. I have the same problem with all of the other diets!

            You’re not playing on a level playing field. The Food Product Industry has huge resources at its disposal to manipulate the public & politicians. Obesity rates are increasing all over the world, as the industry penetrates new markets. If the various “camps” don’t become united with a common goal (i.e. encourage the population to eat diets based on produce), divided you’ll fall. :-/

            Write a book? Moi? I draw the line at blogging!

          • tkent26

            At the very least, the dietary guidelines claimed “_everybody_ should eat this way and you will be protected from obesity/heart disease,” and this turned out the be a completely false claim.

            Remember “first do no harm”? What if there had been no dietary guidelines, or what if the dietary guidelines had focused on avoiding processed foods, like you suggest?

          • It wouldn’t have made any difference, as populations don’t follow Dietary Guidelines. Ref:

            Populations do what they’re manipulated to do. Ref:

        • tkent26

          I agree that highly processed foods are harmful, independent of macronutrients. The DGA _specifically recommended_ highly processed carbohydrates (breads, pastas, cereals, etc) and _specifically recommended_ highly processed plant oils (corn, soy, canola oils, various margarines). For a person with insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome, there is little metabolic difference between bread and breakfast cereal vs. cookies, candies, or soda.

          The DGA and numerous nutritional authorities also _specifically discouraged_ relatively unprocessed nutrient dense meats, eggs, and full-fat dairy foods.

          The DGA didn’t mention sugar, but sugar was “given a pass” until quite recently. There was no max recommended limit on sugar until 2015(!).

          • So, you reckon it was all of the breads, pastas, cereals, etc and corn, soy, canola oils & margarines (on the DGA) that made Americans fat & sick?

            So, you reckon it wasn’t all of the Ready meals high in refined starches, refined sugars & refined fats + flavourings, pizzas, doughnuts, chips/fries, crisps/chips, cup-cakes, biscuits/cookies, sweets/candies, chocolates, SSBs etc (not on the DGA) plus all of the marketing to normalise the abnormal over-consumption of them?

          • Michael Benham

            Are you saying Nigel that you don’t think that highly processed oils and margarines are not problematic? What do you think is in all those processed foods? Unfortunately I think if we were still eating unmodified wheat varieties with products made with butter and natural ingredients, we probably wouldn’t be where we are now. Obviously this problem is hugely multifactorial but a highly processed food is highly processed. Engineered for profit, not health.

          • See and click the link at the end of each post to read the full story (in 6 parts).

  • Gordon

    Do yourself a favor, actually check the references in her book. You should also check the references in GCBC, the book she copied/rewrote(with GT’s blessing, apparently). I was fully bought into LC but kept stumbling over inconvenient facts, so I did go check. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

    • tkent26

      Different books covering different angles of the same topic. If two historians both write about the Civil War, has one “copied” the other?

      Let’s see some of these “inconvenient facts.”

      • See for all of the “inconvenient facts.”

        • tkent26

          Extensively answered on Teicholz’s web page, and mostly trivial objections.

          • “Mostly trivial objections.”
            LOL! Keep drinking the LCHF Koolaid.

      • Gordon

        It all started with the primary role of insulin, which is to shut down gluconeogenesis, rather than to flood cells with glucose. It turns out to only double the rate of cellular glucose absorption. It’s not an on/off switch. Don’t take my word for it, please check it yourself. Then there’s the question of what really causes T2DM. Is it the carbs or is it a chronic caloric overload? Dig into that one a bit with an open mind. It’s worth it. It’s only your health and the health of those you love at stake. If you really want to scare yourself out of ketosis, take a look at how well-regulated gluconeogenesis is compared to the carb/insulin feedback loop. Once you start asking questions, the list just gets longer. To quote Morpheus … “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and
        believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay
        in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” I took the red pill. It’s been interesting.

        Take ten minutes and compare the Taubes and Teicholz referencing schemes. Two authors writing almost the same thing on the same subject both came up with the same odd scheme that makes checking references insanely difficult and frustrating? Now look at the actual references, comparing one book to the other. Notice anything unusual? With all the available research on diet, two authors managed to use so much identical out-of-date research independently? You think so, I’ve got some beach-front property in Florida for sale.

        • @disqus_tm2tChMHGl:disqus , do you have any bridges in Brooklyn for sale? 🙂

          • Gordon

            That’s the kind of comment that people make when the facts are not on their side. If you’d like to make a different impression, you might want to reconsider.

          • Not really @disqus_tm2tChMHGl:disqus. I do enjoy a little humor and was just trying to shift away from the sarcasm. I trust you read some of my comments on the other threads.

          • Gordon

            No, not really. I saw “Teicholz” on a blogroll elsewhere and dropped in to see what was being said. Having been taken in by Taubes myself and becoming an annoying LCHF Paleo advocate in the process, I thought I’d give a word of warning. Taubes is a good writer, but a terrible scientist. Perhaps he’s a good, but dishonest, scientist. I give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s become my litmus test for whether someone has done their homework or not. Saves me lots of time. Seriously, check his references.

          • tkent26

            Taubes has never claimed to be a scientist. He is a journalist.

            What, specifically, is dishonest in his book?

            Sounds like a LCHF approach didn’t work for you. No problem, move on, find a different approach Reducing refined carbohydrate (while enjoying naturally fatty foods) worked spectacularly for me. Different people will find success on different approaches.

        • tkent26

          If you think that refined carb intake, hunger/satiety, and subsequent “calories in” are all somehow independent of each other, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

          I agree that all of these processes are well-regulated in a metabolically healthy person. But a person with metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance/T2D already has dysregulation of these things, including failure to shut down gluconeogenesis with insulin, and failure to turn on fat oxidation in the postabsorptive period. Reducing refined carbohydrates (perhaps even total carbohydrate) is the easiest and safest way to reduce blood sugar and insulin.

          Who’s afraid of ketosis? I find no particular need for it on an everyday basis, but I do an occasional fast, and ketosis can be useful for some people to address some specific health problems. The ability to go into occasional ketosis is normal, healthy, and adaptive.

  • This is wonderful. I recommend Nina’s book every chance I can get.

    One minor nit though… the image that is watermarked with “shutterstock” means that it is essentially being stolen. Pay the 50 cents or whatever to license it please. As someone who respects copyright and demand that it be respected by others, this is a bit disingenuous to see a fellow author make this mistake.

  • Bill Robinson

    Excellent. Thanks for posting this.