Taubes' book is about the research he did for the Times article and the research he's done since; more than that it's about the politics and infighting of medical research, and how "low-fat=health" became a meme in America.
Taubes talks about those politics, and the backlash to his article, in a PBS interview:
But [now] everyone agrees that insulin is the hormone that controls the deposition of sugar and carbohydrates and fat in your body. They agree that if insulin levels are high, you'll preferentially store calories as fat; and that as long as insulin levels stay high, you won't be able to get to that fat to use it for fuel. They agree that carbohydrates will raise insulin levels more than -- fat doesn't have an effect on insulin, although if you force-feed enough calories, you can [raise] it. All of that is given.
What they don't agree is that somehow the carbohydrates, the actual macronutrient content of the diet, will do this. [Scientists] will say a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. They'll admit that a calorie of carbohydrates has an entirely different effect on your hormonal system than a calorie of fats. They'll admit that your hormones can control your weight; that insulin and estrogen have effects on weight, hunger, and body weight regulation. But they will never go from the step where they say: Hey, maybe the amount of carbohydrates and the kind of carbohydrates in the diet will have an effect -- through their effect on insulin, through insulin's effect on the deposition of calories, through that effect on hunger -- [on] being a functional diet.
I've been backsliding lately, I admit it. I live in a hippified college town, and I read foodie literature about where food (esp. meat) comes from, and much of the information out there comes from vegetarian or animal-rights sources, who pull no punches in their crusade to make carnivores feel like greedy amoral elitist murderers of doe-eyed animals and third-world children.
While I'm in no way ready to give up eating meat, I do worry about the safety of what I eat, its availability in the face of shrinking farmland, and its environmental sustainability. I worry whether the benefits of being a carnivore (good height, good muscle and nerve development, good teeth) are enough to outweigh the threats of chemical and hormone poisoning. And the cost gets worse all the time, with feed corn being used for biofuels and other Unholy purposes.
But I don't for a minute believe that to stop eating meat is the ethically or environmentally appropriate solution. Raising a pig or a goat or a flock of chickens uses a helluva lot less land and water than growing an acre of soybeans, not to mention the energy needed to process the crop vs. the carcass. Ergo, it's the farming methods, not the product, that needs modification, if you want to feed the multitudes while preserving the soil (goats, pigs and chickens make more soil, too, whereas soybeans merely deplete it). Furthermore, one can eat far less meat (versus vegetable matter) per poundage of human and still be adequately nourished. I will never believe that a child raised vegetarian is getting enough protein for healthy brain and skeletal-muscular development. Period. They may live to grow up, but they will be rickety, weak, and vague. We have canines. We are omnivores. Deal with it.
Occasionally I think I should quit my job and become a radical nutritionist and proactive farming activist, since these topics stir me so strongly. Perhaps one day I will. But for now I'll go order that book, so I have more ammunition at my disposal next time someone sneers at my cheeseburger.
Meanwhile, a Coda: Yesterday I found a headline in Time about low-carb diets and cancer research. Read it. Be enlightened. And lay off the damn soda.