Gary Taubes' August 29th New York Times critique of NIH's six-day diet successfully makes the case for considering what happens to an individual's mental and physical state when hunger takes hold (due to caloric deprivation). The study failed to address this, and it's not pretty, to say the least.
Yet these research findings - widely cited by the media with nearly as much gusto as Jamie Oliver's controversial "pink slime" exposé - has flaws that run deeper than those illustrated by Mr. Taubes.
A few of the many headlines:
Battling the bulge: NIH study finds low-fat beats low-carb diet for losing body fat - Press Herald-Aug 13, 2015
NIH Study: Low-Fat Diet Better Than Low-Carb For Weight Reduction - Immortal News-Aug 15, 2015
Low-fat diets better than low-carb diets for weight loss, NIH study finds - News-Medical.net-Aug 14, 2015
New Weight-Loss Study: High-Carb Diet Beats High-Fat - Runner's World Newswire-Aug 15, 2015
New Study Says Low-Fat Diet Trumps Low-Carb. Does It? - In-Depth-Forbes-Aug 14, 2015
Scientists (sort of) settle debate on low-carb vs. low-fat diets - In-Depth-Washington Post-Aug 14, 2015
Some of these articles do a decent job highlighting different perspectives on, and critiques of, the study - it was too short and it doesn't represent real-life situations, be it 'cheating' on a diet or one's ability to assemble these types of meals day in and day out...and the list of 'real life' complications goes on.
But what Mr. Taubes and many of his contemporaries fail to address is the external environment affecting one's food choices. Even with all the ability and education in the world, we are inundated with food, and often with options that contain little to no nutritional value. So of course in a controlled environment where every drop of food is measured and exercise is essentially required (for this very short amount of time), one can and will lose weight.
Bench science is needed, of course, but we should take studies like this one with a grain of salt. Well, drop the salt...or not, as some might argue. A topic for another time!