Whether or not insulin is to blame for the obesity epidemic is one of the hot questions being debated on heath and diet blogs. On the surface, this seems like an arcane question that would mainly interest physiologists and diet researchers. After all, who really cares about the underlying mechanisms of fat storage and release? Most of us just want to know some practical steps we can take to lose excess weight and keep it off and, beyond that, to stay healthy.
It seems like a simple yes-or-no question of fact that you could settle by studying populations and doing lab studies. But it’s not so much a question about facts as one about causation. Questions of causation are often the thorniest ones. This particular question has taken on almost political or religious overtones, provoking emotion and acrimony in the diet blogosphere. On one side are defenders of the Carbohydrate/Insulin Hypothesis, like Gary Taubes and Michael Eades. This is laid out in detail in Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), and more compactly in “Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It” (2010). On the other side are opponents such as James Krieger and CarbSane, who find the Carbohydrate/Insulin Hypothesis to be oversimplified and deeply flawed, citing recent scientific advances. People tend to chose up sides in this debate. I’ve been participating in this debate myself (while still learning a lot) on the websites of Jimmy Moore, James Krieger, and CarbSane. I won’t rehash all the technical details here. Instead, I’d like to propose a “frameshift” that recognizes and integrates the strong points from each side, attempting to overcome their shortcomings.