Filed under: General Health

There is one thing that I find very amusing/frustrating about the internet- the use of anecdotal evidence to “disprove” science. What I mean by that is when a substantial body of convincing evidence states one thing, but one person’s experience was contradictory, therefore their experience is the “truth” and the data is wrong, regardless of the fact that it may have followed hundreds of thousands of people to determine its outcome.

Let’s use lung cancer as an example. It is well established that smoking significantly increases your risk for lung cancer, and people will often state that smoking causes lung cancer. Then someone will come along and point out that their grandfather smoked a pack per day for 70 years, lived until he was 95 and never developed lung cancer. Another person will come along and point out that their relative never smoked and died from lung cancer at 55. Though these example seem to defy the initial stated theory, the simple fact is there are other ways to develop lung cancer than through smoking, and smoking is not guaranteed to lead to lung cancer. It is all about managing risk. However their examples do not disprove the fact that smoking is the major (but not only) cause of lung cancer, and that quitting or never starting in the first place significantly decreases your risk of developing cancer. Just like using your seat belt will significantly decrease your risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident, but it isn’t guaranteed.

You may be wondering where I am going with all of this, but bare with me. Stephan Guyenet has been writing a lot recently about the flaws of the insulin-causes-obesity theory and the strong support for hyper-rewarding food being a dominant factor in obesity. He has also stated that obesity is a major cause of insulin resistance, and not the otherway around as Gary Taubes would like to have us all believe. He has received A LOT of resistance from low-carb advocates who will use their own personal story of going low-carb and losing a ton of weight as the definitive reason why he is wrong. Many are also pointing out that there are thin people who develop diabetes too.

What these people fail to recognize is that just because there are exceptions to the theory does not make the theory false, it simply means there are other ways for the process to happen. For example we all know that 2+2=4, however there is more than one way to get to the number 4. 3+1=4. 5-1=4. 2×2=4. NONE of those equations make 2+2=4 false. The point is that for MOST people obesity leads to insulin resistance and diabetes, however this does not mean there are not other pathways for the disease to develop, it simply means it is the most common way.

People need to open their minds to the possibility that their experience is not the defining explanation for disease development. A “study” where n=1 should not convince anyone of anything. As Stephan calmly points out there are other environmental and genetic contributions to disease development, he is simply summarizing what the data shows as a major cause of obesity(and something that we can control), not the only cause.

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Posted on December 30th, 2011 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Jeff Says:

    Well said! Great Post!

  2. Travis Says:

    Great post! Totally agree with everything.

    Since you had touched slightly on the topic- have you heard of, or do you have any, probable theories as to why some “in-shape” or relatively healthy individuals do develop Type II diabetes later in life? Do you feel genetics may have a role at all in this?

  3. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    It very possibly has to do with inflammation. Stephan Guyenet expounds on this a lot on his site so I definitely recommend checking that out, but in a nutshell even if these people are staying thin, there consumption exceeds their needs. Though their bodies are able to compensate and expend this energy, the excess is still causing the same inflammatory cascade as happens in obesity.

    In addition genetics certainly play a large role. Simply put, some people are more prone to it than others, just like breast cancer or lung cancer or a myriad of conditions.


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