Paleo Diet: Dissension Amongst The Ranks After The Ancestral Health Symposium 2011

The Ancestral Health Symposium 2011 was held August 5-6 2011, and attended by a sold-out crowd of Paleo and Primal practitioners and gurus from all across the Globe. The speakers list read like a “who’s-who” in the Paleo diet/Primal world with figure heads like Robb WolfLoren CordainGary Taubes, and Mark Sisson on the speakers list.

During the two day event, twitter was flooded with a myriad of real-time quotes flowing from the passionate attendees. As the news-worthy quotes flowed from the speakers mouths, they were almost immediately transmitted across the twitter-verse. The energy at the event was reported as being one of fellowship, and togetherness until something happened that changed the energy of the entire event, and has continued to send ripples across the internet.

On the afternoon of the first day of the Symposium, during the Q&A session at the end of Stephen Guyenet’s presentation, Gary Taubes decided to take the opportunity to grill Stephen on his “Food Reward” theory. Watch the video of the “not-so-friendly” banter below:



Since AHS11, Gary Taubes’ blog has so far been silent, but Stephen Guyenet was obviously keen to throw-down the gauntlet soon after returning home from the Symposium. Guyenet posted a short commentary on his blog, entitled “Ancestral Health Symposium Drama” dated Aug 10th 2011, that ended with the following overtly aggressive paragraph:

Because of the fact that Gary and I had a cordial personal relationship, I’ve always put on kid gloves when discussing his ideas.  However, now that he has indicated that we no longer have a cordial relationship, it’s time for me to fully explain why obesity and endocrinology researchers (including myself) don’t take his ideas on obesity seriously.  I hope that in the process, I can dispel some of the mythology that has crept into certain alternative health circles lately. - Stephen Guyenet, 2011

Only one day latter, on August 11th, Guyenet followed-up with another blog post to add to the mix. Entitled “The Carbohydrate Hypothesis of Obesity: A Critical Examination”, this post was aimed directly at debunking the charges that Taubes had placed against Guyenet at the Symposium, in greater detail. The post made for a very interesting read, and I believe that everyone that follows Taubes or Guyenet should definitely critically read what has been brought to the surface here. Guyenet begins his conclusion to the piece with the following:

I hope you can see by now that the carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity is not only incorrect on a number of levels, but may even be backward.  The reason why obesity and metabolism researchers don’t take Taubes’s idea seriously is that it is contradicted by a large body of evidence from multiple fields.  I understand that people like ideas that “challenge conventional wisdom” as the GCBC book cover states, but the fact is that obesity is a complex problem and it will not be shoehorned into simplistic hypotheses. - Guyenet, 2011

It seems that everyone has their eye on this debate, which has so far been largely one sided since the Symposium ended. Everyone is awaiting the inevitable and customarily long-winded response from Gary Taubes. In the mean time, Paul Jaminet of The Perfect Health Diet also put in his two cents with his article entitled “Gary Taubes and Stephen Guyenet: Three Views on Obesity”. Jaminet wrote:

Due to the diversity of factors which conspire to cause obesity, it is a rather heterogeneous disease. Its unifying character is that some combination of causal factors induces “metabolic damage,” such as leptin resistance, in a variety of organs, including the brain. Metabolic damage can affect both appetite regulation and energy homeostasis. - Paul Jaminet, 2011

It seems that Gary Taubes may be the only person who is looking for a unified theory in the Obesity epidemic, since most other experts are quick to name the multitude of variables that are involved in the process. Keep your eyes glued to this site for the latest news on this topic.


Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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