NuSi: Improving the Quality of Nutrition Science | Chris Kresser

NuSi: Improving the Quality of Nutrition Science


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By now I’m sure you’ve seen some of the posts in the blogosphere on the recently launched Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSi). Several other bloggers like Robb Wolf and Stephan Guyenet have written about it, and they’ve done a great job covering what NuSi is about and how they feel about it personally. You can also read more about the initiative on NuSi’s website.

Rather than re-hash what has already been said, I’ll briefly introduce what NuSi is and then provide my thoughts on it.

NuSi is a non-profit organization created to:

facilitate and fund experimental research in nutrition with the goal of reducing the economic and social burden of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

Their mission is to bring together top scientists in the field and fund them to do ambitious research on nutrition that wouldn’t otherwise get funded, because of current social, political and economic trends. It’s being positioned as the “Manhattan Project” of nutritional science.

Who’s behind NuSi

NuSi is the brainchild of Dr. Peter Attia, of the Eating Academy, and author/journalist Gary Taubes. It is currently funded by the Laura and John Arnold foundation and other sources, and they are currently seeking financial contributions from donors that support its mission.

I know both Peter and Gary personally. I met Peter at AHS in Boston a few weeks ago, and we hit it off. Gary lives in Berkeley and we’ve had lunch a couple of times together.

Both Gary and Peter are proponents of the low-carb diet for the treatment of obesity and diabetes, and Gary has written extensively about his belief that excess consumption of carbohydrates is the cause of the obesity epidemic. Peter is also a fan of the low-carb diet as a treatment tool, but in our conversations he expressed his belief that obesity is a multi-factorial condition and can’t be attributed to any single factor.

Many of you are aware that I don’t agree with Gary on the cause of the obesity epidemic. So when I first heard about NuSi, my obvious concern was that the research supported by that organization would be driven by the low-carb bias of its founders.

High-quality, unbiased research

Fortunately, after a long conversation with Peter, I’m convinced that won’t be the case. First, none of the researchers on the NuSi scientific advisory panel have a low-carb bias. To their credit Peter & Gary didn’t just go out and invite all of the researchers that share their views on obesity. They invited some of the most respected names in the field. Second, NuSI will have no control over research design, conduct, or reporting. They do decide which studies they will fund, but after that, they have no control whatsoever over the outcome of the research. This is crucial, of course, to ensuring unbiased findings.

Support NuSi

I absolutely support the goals and mission of NuSi. Sure, I may not always agree with them on the studies they decide to fund, but I think we need a concerted effort like this. The more reliable, unbiased research we have on the connection between nutrition and health, the better position we’ll be in to make meaningful changes that reduce the social and economic burden of obesity.

If you’d like to support the important work NuSi is doing, click here. You can also get involved in other ways and sign up for their mailing list to stay informed about future developments.

  1. ***oh and NuSI is hopefully gonna be awesome, has great potential and something like this is long past due! 🙂
    i shared it with the faculty at the uni i’m studying at and all my friends in uni, medicine and media etc. to try and spread the word 🙂

  2. I’m pretty sure Gary doesn’t think it’s carbohydrates per se, just today I listened to an interview with Gary from 1 year ago and it seemed clear to me that he doesn’t think they shoot out the proverbial hellfires. He was implicit that it’s hormonal regulation. Sugar was one part (which is incidentally a CHO), I know he put a lot of emphasis on the refined carbohydrates like flour but he admitted that at the time he wasn’t aware of gluten (and etc.). Personally, I really think his original hypothesis needs to be renamed from carb-insulin hypothesis (CIH) to, I don’t know, hormonal regulation hypothesis or something fancy. As far as Stephan’s Food Reward Hypothesis (FRH), I like it, but I also don’t know of any foods I’d define as ‘hyper palatable’ that don’t have some combination of high fructose, gluten (or etc.), and/or high n-6, so all the foods that would be “hyper-palatable” would also be potentially be changing the hormal milieu or disturbing the gut or something to that effect, so I kinda think the FR is maybe a side effect that compounds the problem, but I am just speculating
    Also something Gary made clear in the interview (and this like I said was from over a year ago) was the distinguishment between cause and effect and not that carbohydrates cause obesity but once someone is “metabolically deranged” or insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance or whatever term is being used, is someone might not be able to tolerate CHO like they used to.
    I would like to know your thoughts here Chris, as I follow a lot of your work and think you are a stand up dude but unless I’m missing something the hormonal idea sounds like it might be key, I don’t think we need to convict insulin or CHO, but rather multifactoral hormones with multifactoral inputs. anyways keep up your great work, love the podcast

  3. Have you written about your thoughts of what is causing the obesity epidemic? I’m curious about your thoughts on low-carb vs. moderate carb intake as well. I read the thyroid blog post and the idea of adding carbs if thyroid function begins to be impaired on a low-carb diet, but is it really that simple? I think other things may be going on as well, but I wonder if things are complicated or simple. Just sort of wondering in writing here. I’m excited to see their research, though!

  4. Pretty well on the same page as Tom on this one. Carbs in of themselves are not an issue until you start to develop metabolic syndrome. At that point. it seems that managing carb intake is key both to managing appetite, weight loss and “fixing” your metabolism.

  5. As an ex fatty I KNOW that excessive carbs make me fat. I thought for years that somehow it was dietary fat consumption… there’s not a low fat diet in the world that would make me lose a significant amount of weight. Quite the opposite. I now use generous amounts of olive and coconut oil, eat avocado and rarely if ever check fat content of foods. Its all about the carbs.

    • It may be all about the carbs for you (and for a subset of the population with impaired glucose tolerance), but it’s not on a population level. Carbohydrate consumption in 1909 was 57% of calories (with a large percentage from white flour), and obesity was just about unheard of. What is it today? 49%. That’s right – it’s lower.

      Obviously there is something else going on here.

      • I had never sat in one spot almost non-stop (with the exception for bathroom breaks) for 16 hours until I got my first personal computer in 1987… it was addicting then and it still is today. As a child I had a handful of shows that were even modestly interesting to me on all of the THREE television stations available to me. When those few shows were done I went outside to try to amuse myself. I’m sorry but 1909 can in no way be compared to today and I’m not even going to take the time to explain why because it is so obvious. I’m a ripped weightlifter now with low body fat and if I want to gain weight rapidly all I need to do is starting eating pasta.

      • People were also eating natural foods. The wheat back in the early 1900’s was amber in color, and doesn’t even resemble the Genetically Engineered crap that makes up most of the flour consumed in the US today.

  6. I believe Gary’s beliefs re low carb are more fully supported than Stephan’s food reward theories. But then, perhaps, I’m failing to grasp Stephan’s concepts because they are not as available as Gary’s greatly referenced book.
    I’m not sure that Gary says low carb is the driver of obesity and disease but that he says once metabolism is broken (fructose, etc.) then carbs become a problem.
    Looking forward to a continued, civil, discourse. I appreciate both Stephan & Gary although I have recently become acquainted with Stephan’s blog.