I’ve long been interested in nutrition, so I read the Taubes article when it came out in 2002, and read the many articles debunking it in the 16+ years since, and watched with great interest as it came out that prior to his death, Atkins suffered from a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and hypertension (https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB107637899384525268).
Nevertheless, I have an open mind, and I personally tried “Soylent plus only no-carb foods” diet for a year. My A1C and cholesterol skyrocketed, unfortunately, just as mainstream nutrition science predicts.
I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the “old perspective” is low-fat, and “new perspective” is low-carb. The most accurate summary would probably be that the core nutritional recommendations have remained unchanged for many many decades: as Michael Pollan summarized “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Most doctors I’ve spoken with seem to think of the Atkins/paleo/keto diet as a fad from the early 2000’s that demonstrated some interesting short-term weight-loss effects, but is unlikely to be safe in the long-term.
I remember running across the Sarah Hallberg TED talk a few years ago. I was watching it on YouTube and the next video that autoplayed was another TED talk by Neal Barnard about reversing type 2 diabetes through a whole food plant-based diet. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktQzM2IA-qU
What was going on? I wondered. How is it possible that two doctors in a row on TED talks could argue directly opposing points about what reverses type 2 diabetes? Is the correct diet low-carb or low-fat?
This launched my investigation into the question of diet and type 2 diabetes, and it turned out that in a sense, both were correct. The underlying science is that fat causes insulin resistance. So you have two choices:
Choice 1: You can eat all fat and virtually no carbs. You’ll become insulin resistant, but it won’t matter, because you won’t be eating carbs, so no need for insulin. Once you go down this road, you have to be really careful to avoid carbs because your natural insulin won’t work properly and your blood sugar will spike extremely high in the presence of carbs.
Choice 2: You can eat all carbs and virtually no fat. Your cells will regain their insulin sensitivity, your type 2 diabetes disappears, and your body can handle the carbs with aplomb provided you stay away from fat.
It would appear that the solution to diabetes lies in the extremes, either extreme. Fats plus carbs is the problem.
Either seems to work in the short-term, but epidemiology tells us that eating high fat and virtually no carbs is likely to harm us in the long run, with a higher risk of heart disease and cancer. Simply put, there aren’t any societies / cultures we can point to that live a long time on such a high fat diet, whereas all the “blue zone” cultures where people live the longest eat copious amounts of whole plant foods with low caloric density. If you’re going to bet on one of the two extremes, it seems pretty clear to me which way I want to bet.
Let’s bring this discussion back to Soylent. The problem with Soylent in its current formulation is that its macronutrient profile seems to be one of the worst possible combinations. The fat is so high as to trigger insulin resistance in vulnerable individuals, but then the carbs are also high enough to cause blood sugar spikes in those who are insulin resistant as a consequence of the high fat. My “soylent+high fat foods” diet failed because when I was eating so much fat, the carbs in Soylent were enough to send my blood sugar sky high. Soylent was insufficiently keto for that approach to work.
Soylent also makes it difficult to pull off the other extreme of eating low-fat. Pursuing that approach to reversing diabetes, the level of fat in a single Soylent is about the max you’d want to get in a day.
But lets say you don’t want Soylent to be an “extreme diet” macro profile, i.e., neither aggressively low-carb nor aggressively low-fat. I think that’s reasonable, as Soylent is primarily catering to healthy individuals. Well, then you’d want to look at current mainstream recommendations. Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for healthy individuals are that 20% to 35% of total calories should come from fat. I think the evidence favors going closer to 20%, but anything in that range would be an improvement. There’s no mainstream organization out there that I’m aware of suggesting that for long-term health, the percentage of calories from fat should be as high as Soylent’s (47%). That’s crazy high, unless you’re going to go to full extreme of eliminating carbs altogether.