AHS showdown: Gary Taubes vs Stephan Guyenet

Gary Taubes vs Stephan Guyenet

Here is the most talked about, tweeted and blogged moment of the Ancestral Health Symposium, captured on film. Two stars colliding.

Stephan Guyenet has just finished his talk on “food reward” being a major cause of obesity. Gary Taubes, the undisputed champion of the “carbs->insulin->fat” camp, steps up to the microphone for the start of Q&A…



Taubes (usually my hero) makes the argument that Guyenet is ignoring populations that were poor, eating unrewarding food, and still got fat, thus “refuting” the reward theory. Guyenet disagrees and says that their food was not necessarily unrewarding.

Taubes says that in science it is always a good idea to consider all the facts, not just the ones that fit your theory. In fact, please do it before giving a talk on the subject. Then he walks away from the mike.

As the entire audience cringe from the awkwardness of the situation Guyenet answers, with superb coolness, “Thanks for the advice.”


From what I heard Taubes later apologized to Guyenet in person. Good choice, but I think Taubes would have gained a lot more by doing it in public during his speech. In fact he almost did it, but unfortunately ended up just mentioning that he had “insulted” Guyenet, without the magic “I’m sorry” words.

I heard quite a few influential people who were still upset about the incident much later. That is too bad.

On the positive side I think we can learn something important from this. Of course we should be respectful of our opponents. And if we are not, we can’t win.


I have a few disagreements myself with the “reward” theory and consider myself much more in Taubes camp on the issue of obesity. I plan to make a post later on Guyenet’s talk.

I don’t give much for the almost bizarre idea of “bland liquid from a straw” being the ultimate weight loss diet. I don’t think that is necessary at all. In fact I seem to disagree with Stephan Guyenet more and more. But I still think he is a brilliant thinker, a good speaker and his blog is well worth reading.


Actually the exchange may not have been quite as dramatic as the discussion afterward made it seem like. Now I have seen it again on video. Check it out yourself, the most interesting part starts at 3:26 and is pretty short:

Perhaps this is mostly a collision of cultures. The Q&A at these conferences is usually über-polite. So when someone is not polite it stands out.


More about AHS

Stephan Guyenet’s report from AHS

Gary Taubes blog

Older posts