All Diet Books Do NOT Lie — An Open Letter to Vox Editor Ezra Klein

On March 24, Julia Belluz wrote a hostile review of my new book Always Hungry? for the online news site Vox titled: Diet Books Are Full of Lies. But They’re Even Worse When Doctors Write Them. I complained to the editor of Vox, Ezra Klein, that the article was fundamentally inaccurate, unfair and unprofessional. To his credit, Klein agreed to investigate and on April 27 published a substantially revised version that deleted the egregious title. The revision toned down the personal attack and included a few comments I provided by email (in an edited and highly abridged form). However, the revision remains unbalanced, and Vox refused to publish my full response. Furthermore, the original article was published with much fanfare — its inflammatory title attracting widespread attention (e.g., 15k Facebook shares). For that reason, I’m posting my response to the original article as an open Letter to the Editor. (The original and revised versions of the article are available for comparison here and here).

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Always Hungry? The Truth About How To Lose Weight — Without Deprivation

It sounds so simple. If you want to lose weight, just eat less and move more. We’ve been taught that with just a few straight-forward changes –like skipping dessert and walking an extra 20 minutes a day — virtually anyone could become lean for life. It’s just a matter of “energy balance,” of burning more calories than you eat.

This way of thinking gave us the low-fat diet. Since the fat in food has more than twice the calories as the same amount of protein or carbohydrate, cutting back on dietary fat should lead to automatic weight loss.

This seems great in theory, but unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as expected.

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Coke’s Dilemma

A recent investigative series in the New York Times found that Coca-Cola gave millions of dollars in undisclosed support for research to highlight that lack of physical activity, not poor diet, is the primary cause of obesity. Sales of sugary beverages have fallen substantially in the last decade, as many studies linked these products to obesity and diabetes. In this context, Coca Cola’s funding for “research” looked like a cynical attempt to manipulate science for commercial self-interest, and the company quickly faced a firestorm of controversy. Soon thereafter, Coke’s CEO wrote a commentary in The Wall Street Journal promising to disclose all research and related sponsorships, seek guidance from independent experts, and act with integrity.

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A 10-Point Plan to Restore Healthy Food as a National Security Priority

See also: Lifespan Weighed Down by Diet. JAMA Online First, April 4, 2016

In 2005, colleagues and I predicted in the New England Journal of Medicine that life-expectancy would decline in the US by mid-century due to the obesity epidemic. But I was stunned to see evidence for this prediction so soon in preliminary data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Age-adjusted deaths rates for the first 9 months of 2015 increased significantly compared to the same time period in 2014, most notably involving obesity-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

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