Why are Americans so damn fat, and what can be done about it? A newly launched nonprofit organization, the Nutrition Science Initiative, is trying to find the answer to that mind-boggler. NuSI's goal is to "create a Manhattan Project-like effort" to solve the problem of obesity in the U.S. by focusing on nutrition.
Gary Taubes and Dr. Peter Attia founded the San Diego-based organization "in response to the skyrocketing prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the United States today and the estimated $150 billion in related healthcare expenditures," they say in a press release. Taubes is a science journalist who helped launch the low-carb diet resurgence with his books Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat. Attia trained in surgery at Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health.
Taubes explained the premise of NuSI in the release: "NuSI was founded on the premise that the reason we are beset today by epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the reason physicians and researchers think these diseases are so recalcitrant to dietary therapies, is because of our flawed understanding of their causes. We believe that with a concerted effort and the best possible science, this problem can be fixed."
Specifically, NuSI "seeks to unambiguously clarify the relationship between diet and obesity." (We suspect high fructose corn syrup and saturated fat might take a hit.)
"The question of the right diet has seemingly been settled in the public for years, yet obesity rates continue to rise. This contradiction begs the question: Do we really have good science to support our dietary recommendations? The answer is convincingly no," says Kevin Schulman, M.D., professor of medicine and business administration and director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute and the Center for Clinical and Genetic Economics at Duke University, said in the release. "The largest public health crisis in the United States is being addressed with the type of data that we reject in every other field of medicine: observational studies subject to selection bias and small scale, short-term clinical studies which can't offer definitive results."
The NuSI scientific advisory board is composed of a consortium of respected clinicians and scientists from the fields of endocrinology, metabolism, diabetes, obesity, and nutrition from major universities and research groups. The group will operate entirely on funding from private citizens and other organizations. A two-year, multi-million-dollar seed funding commitment was provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Specifically, NuSI's goals are to see a reduction in the prevalence of obesity in the United States from 35% to 15% and a reduction in the prevalence of diabetes from 8% to 2% by the year 2025. If successful, the resulting impact on healthcare spending in the U.S. could be reduced from today's nearly 18% of GDP to less than 10%.
Good luck with your Fatty Manhattan Project, science guys. We just hope you don't drop a bomb on chocolate cake.