Speech: Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds

      61 Comments on Speech: Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds

I want to thank The Older Brother for taking over the Fat Head chair while I was away last week. I can always count on him to stir the pot with his posts.

I was in Massachusetts, giving a speech at Springfield College to about 300 students and a dozen or so faculty members. Dr. Richard Wood, the director of the Center for Wellness Education & Research at the college, is a Fat Head fan and set up the event. It was way big fun. The official Q & A session afterwards lasted about 25 minutes, but when the event was over, students lined up to ask me questions one-on-one. So I stuck around another 45 minutes or so.

The college has a highly respected nutrition program, and it was encouraging to talk with students who asked so many intelligent questions. These students aren’t going to go out into the world after graduating and parrot what they’ve been told.  Dr. Wood encourages them to think for themselves and sometimes requires them to argue both sides of a debate. There’s hope for the nutrition world yet.

Anyway, here’s the speech.


61 thoughts on “Speech: Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds

  1. Justin Wisor

    Always a great speech by you Tom. Fat Head was one factor that helped me realize I wasn’t skeptic or open-minded enough. It may have been soon after leaving veganism, which was a blessing in itself, and helped me realize how dumb I’d been. Keep up with the great work with all the speeches and keeping things simple for people.

    Another non-PhD

    Thank you, Justin. We all have our dumb phases. Looking back, I can’t believe I put up with health problems as a grain-eating vegetarian for so long before questioning the diet.

  2. Jeff Gerber, MD

    The anointed shall crumble to the pressure of social media; well maybe in my dreams! A grass roots effort to bring about change. Said so well Tom, thanks for being you!

    It’s a good dream. I think this one can come true.

  3. Jon Kalb


    Thanks very much for this video.

    When will we get to see the Q&A?

    I was walking around the room for Q & A. Nothing to see but a podium with no one there.

    1. Elenor

      ‘Podcast’ the Q&A?

      Oh god, did I just create a new verb from a noun? Or, as we editors used to whine: “I just verbed a noun!”) To neologism hell for me!!

      That’s not as bad as a noun-verb I once heard: “We need to effort this one, guys.”

    2. Merlin

      Any chance of just posting the audio then?

      Thanks very much for this – wifey and I watched it together today and thoroughly enjoyed it.

      I’m within 2 pounds of my goal weight now; I’ve lost 73 pounds since the beginning of the year. Wheat Belly got me started, Fat Head solidified my decision and kept me entertained and educated (I think I’ve followed every link on your blog this year).

      I’d post one of those before/after pics, but I could never have brought myself to show off my body beforehand. I may be able to do one of those “here’s what I look like in my old pants” pics over Christmastime.

      Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a resounding Thank You! to you and your family, Tom.

      Happy New Year to you and yours as well. I haven’t checked the audio for the Q & A yet. Too much to do before leaving to visit the grandparents.

    1. Cyborcat

      Actually, the timing is a bit funny–I had just got done watching Fat Head for the 4th time (I think) a couple days ago.

      Jeez, my mom only watched it once.

  4. Tami

    Very good speech, good concise info. I did get a bit worried though that I’m becoming one of the anointed folk. I think everyone should give up carbs and eat more fat 🙂

    I don’t think everyone needs to give up carbs, just the wrong kinds of carbs.

    You won’t join the anointed unless you decide to impose your preferences on the rest of us.

    1. Walter Bushell

      Does eating coconut oil morning and evening make me one of the anointed or just one of the oily to rise and oily to bed crowd?

      You’re only one of The Anointed if you try to jam coconut oil down everyone’s throat.

  5. Paula

    The wisdom of crowds indeed. I am honored, Tom, that you found my post compelling enough to include in your speech. If it weren’t for the “non-experts” like you nothing in my life would have changed. Well, actually, I would have only gotten fatter and more unhealthy. We are all very blessed to live in an age where the gate-keepers can no longer hold back the flood of information.

    I had lots of good posts to choose from, which is why the Wisdom of Crowds is working.

  6. j

    Enjoyed the speech…
    Will you be posting the Q&A section as well?


    Probably not. We had one wireless microphone, so I was walking around the room to hand it to the next person with a question. The video would be of a podium with no one there.

  7. Kathy K

    Excellent as always! I was that fat, unhealthy, unhappy mess for 15+ years. Finding what works for me (and I still keep looking to improve) I have lost 130+ lbs but found a second chance to live life at 54 years old. Thank you and all the scores of others who put the tools out there for us. Folks who have watched my transformation may comment on the weight loss but always say it is the smile I always have now that shines.

    The thanks belong to everyone who participates.

  8. FrankG

    I had also meant to say that I’d be keen to see the Q&A session on the off-chance it was also recorded. Many thanks!

    I ended up walking around the room for the Q & A because we only had one wireless microphone, which I shared with whoever was asking the next question.

  9. TD Riggs


    Just finished watching your movie…Again. I watch it to help continue to inspire me during my lifestyle, “re-hab”, change. Cutting back on my addiction to Artisan breads and other Carbs was tough. I expect not to need your movie as a kick in “My” pants much longer.

    Like you in your movie, my Doctor told me my BMI showed I was obese…but yet I did not look or feel like it. I am 53 yrs old…My weight 45 days ago was 210 lbs. Just came back from seeing my Doctor with a follow-up and I loss 12 lbs. I cut way back on carbs and I walk 4 times a week with my wife. I have a regained control of my thinking brain!

    For many years I listened to the “Experts” and tried to live the “Healthy” life they suggested. Your movie described just how that type of life style made me feel. Tired, lethargic, unmotivated…I could not figure out why I felt like that, until I watched you’re movie. (I thought I was just getting old)

    I never thought I would ever say this about anything, but your movie did speak to me.

    Thanks again for your inspiration. Please don’t let your head swell, with all of my positive comments about you and your movie. I do not put people on pedestals. I do however, get the feeling you’re a person who seeks the truth in this ever so confusing world we live in. Thank you for that.

    All my best to you and yours. Happy New Year.

    Happy New Year to you, too. I have no desire to stand on a pedestal. I’m just part of the crowd that’s making a difference, and it’s a big crowd.

  10. TMA

    Hi Tom,

    Great speech and great work as always. I’m a physician and what you say about the “experts” feeling sure they are right and being unwilling to question their assumptions really resonates. This is such a problem in medicine these days. So much to know, so little time, thus we rely on guidelines written by “experts” (who almost by definition are funded by industry). Docs on the frontlines simply don’t have the time to critically review the conclusions of every set of guidelines by every committee for every problem. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Add to that this notion of “quality measures” where you are docked if you don’t follow guidelines, and the looming fear of litigation if you don’t comply, and you just have a recipe for everyone falling in line without questioning anything.

    I try to have conversations with my colleagues about why they believe saturated fat is unhealthy or that whole grains are good for you… and the answer ultimately is that they all assume it must be true because that’s what we were taught in medical school. I really believe that’s the extent of most doctor’s and most people’s thinking on this. Hopefully that will change, maybe around the time Crestor’s patent expires.

    Keep up the great work.

    I think it will change. Knowledge will continue bubbling up.

  11. Scott

    Oh how I wish everyone I know would watch this speech. I’ve been pushing everyone I know to watch Fat-Head for years. People ask me how I’ve gone from being 265lbs. to 195lbs., but don’t seem to ever believe me when I tell them it’s been by ignoring the government, and my doctor, and eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. They’re always convinced I’m going to have a heart attack any day, and frankly do not believe me when I try to tell them that with the weight loss that was clearly caused by dietary change I’ve also eliminated my hypertension and no longer take medication for it, and my triglycerides went from being over 240 to estimated at 73.

    Thank you Tom!

    Give it enough time and most of them will come around.

  12. Pierson

    Fantastic speech,Tom! Really on-point, although, since Ancel Keyes’ contribution to this issue is so big, have you read this?: http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/12/22/the-truth-about-ancel-keys-weve-all-got-it-wrong/

    Basically, that ‘seven-countries’ story is way more complex, and its common as-is perpetuation is becoming a bit of a myth, it seems

    I did see that recently. The Seven Countries study came later. His first (similar) study was of six countries. Denise Minger’s point is that we don’t know why he cherry-picked those six, since the trend held up (although not as strongly) within the countries he omitted.

  13. Michelle H

    Tom, I really enjoyed the speech, and I’m the type of person who has a 5 minute, max, attention span on YouTube, but watched it all in one go. Everybody who mentions the weight myself and my husband have lost on the low-carb diet, I point them directly to the Fat-Head movie. Thanks for the great info, as usual.

    Thank you for watching beyond your usual attention span.

  14. Gerard Pinzone

    What I love about your presentation endings is the feeling of inspiration without being sappy or trite. The subject matter also plays a big part in this. If this presentation was just about obesity, then it wouldn’t be as powerful. The personal anecdotes would still stir feelings of joy, but there would be no connection to the viewer. Why? Because overcoming obesity is traditionally viewed as a crapshoot. Either a person can do it or they can’t. It doesn’t matter if the assumed cause is genetics or lack of will. Success stories are like tales of lottery winners. They generally don’t give hope to others because success can’t be realistically replicated like that.

    This presentation isn’t a “rah-rah” piece about low-carb dieting; it’s about knowledge and truth and the right and wrong ways of finding them (using nutrition as the ultimate example of how NOT to do science.) The testimonies given are not just about weight loss. They’re about that moment. That epiphany when we realized the unthinkable just might be true: we were all fed a load of baloney. Those people didn’t fail because they were weak or lazy. They were lied to. The deck was stacked against them and they didn’t know it. Heck, even the people giving the advice didn’t know it.

    There’s an old adage that in order to succeed, you should surround yourself with people smarter than you. It’s still good advice. I don’t know everything, so if I want to learn something, I seek out people who are smarter than me in that area. The most powerful part of this presentation isn’t low carb vs. low fat. It’s about truth and knowledge. It’s about science.

    Correct, and it’s about finding what works for each person. Dr. Wood and I talked quite a bit after the presentation. Like me, he sees low-carb as a useful therapy for losing weight and controlling blood sugar for diabetics and pre-diabetics, but not a diet everyone needs to adopt. The mistake The Anointed made was in deciding a grain-based, high-carb/low-fat diet is the key to health for everyone.

  15. Firebird7478

    I’ve been trying to find on You Tube a video of Springfield College’s most famous graduate, WWE wrestler John Cena, who was in a documentary on wrestling from the late 1990s. He was just starting out in the business and the followed him around a supermarket…loading up his shopping cart on steak, eggs, chicken and in massive amounts.

    I believe Springfield College is also known as the place where basketball was born.

    1. Firebird7478

      It was YMCA College at the time, I think. Unfortunately we have no footage of Dr. Naismith loading up a shopping cart with eggs and meats. He may have been a fruitarian since the first basketball hoops were made of peach baskets. 😉

      Maybe he just liked peaches.

  16. Mike G

    Hi Tom,

    I listened to your speech this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it – especially the “not if you’re watching your carbohydrates and glucose” line from Don Knotts in 1964. As Gary Taubes pointed out, we had this problem solved in the 1960s, and we need to get back to that wisdom. I showed the beginning of your speech to my 9th grade biology students an hour ago. I’ll show the entire speech to my 12th graders tomorrow. It will be a great way to start the winter vacation! Now if I could just get the Health teacher to stop teaching the “Food Guide Pyramid” to these same students…

    I’m flattered you’re showing the speech to students. Maybe they’ll at least question those lessons about the Food Pyramid.

    1. Bret

      Don’t sweat the health teacher, Mike. Your smart students will figure out real quick who knows what he is talking about between the two of you, after their health teacher is unable to answer basic questions about the science behind the bird food pyramid or address the criticisms of it.

    2. Mike G

      We had a good discussion after I showed the speech to the seniors. One student asked: “Why do we always hear at least two sides of an issue, like creationism vs. evolution, but with nutrition it’s always one-sided? Why do we always hear about the food pyramid and nothing else?” I could only say that it’s a weird irony. I clarified that few people want to bother with learning the biochemical facts, and that it’s easier for most people to just “accept” the USDA’s guidelines, and to “believe” that the guidelines are based on scientific evidence, which of course they are not. I feel like I’m making a difference in these kids’ lives, so I’ll keep indirectly fighting the Health teacher… Thanks again for the speech!

      You are making a difference. Keep it up.

  17. LaurieLM

    Darn drat, double darn. I live close enough to Springfield to have gone to listen to you. It’s just a busy time of year, and maybe I’ve missed any calendar of events you do that you already publish, but is there a way for alerts when you travel, so us fan-geeks can attend? (that is if you’re willing to tip us off!) If they are closed events, I understand……but darn darn darn. I could request for you to come speak here in the western MA Five College area, and although I love working here, we are a bit of the earthy, crunchy touchy feely vegatariany valley around here. Springfield is a little South and a bit more enlightened- tiny bit less crunchy!

    We passed a sign for Mt. Holyoke heading to the airport, and it occurred to me that’s probably where you work. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know.

  18. Jean

    Like the others, I’m interested in what kinds of questions the students asked you. I’d like to know what sparks went off in their brains after your speech. I really enjoyed it and plan to watch Cereal Killers this week. Thanks for all you’re doing!

    I’ll check the audio after the holidays. The video would be of a podium with no one there.

    1. Paula

      Honestly, Tom, I don’t think most of us would care that the video is of an empty podium. Just the chance to hear the discussion afterward would be great! I’d love to hear the audio!

      I’ll listen to the audio when I get time and decide if it’s worth uploading.

  19. CD.UK

    So I just looked at the USDA guidelines for 2010, and it said reduce saturated fat to 7% of calories. Yet it also said saturated fat and cholesterol is completely unnecessary to get from diet as the body makes it’s own. If that’s the case, then where does the 7% even come from? Why not say 0% is the ideal to strive for? If it’s such a risk factor for disease, in their view, why compromise with the arbitrary 7%…unless it’s an admission that any lower would be torture. If 0% of both in a diet is the ideal for perfect human health, why would it be torture?

    They themselves say Americans eat 19% “solid fats”. So if people didn’t listen to 10% solid fats, then what on earth makes them think people will follow 7%?

    Well, it’s like I said in the speech: failure means we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.

  20. Cary L

    An entertaining, well-paced, highly persuasive speech. Thank you so much for sharing this publicly, especially as too many people would have kept this to themselves or parsed it out for a fee.

    Thank you for watching.

  21. Eric from Belgium


    Congratulations for an amazing and highly entertaining speech. Wisdom of the anointed will shortly be on my to-read list.

    As I was listening to your presentation it struck me that the same process is followed in pretty much all areas where some form of power can be exercised, be it religion, politics or corporate management. And boy, do we have a lot ‘politically anointed’ entities here in Belgium.

    As to why this happens, I think Robert Cialdini’s work (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion) provides potential explanations. If you have the chance, read his book, it’s a real eye opener.

    Thanks for sharing your work with us.


    I’ll put that on my list. We get the Vision of the Anointed whenever a small group of experts decides to impose its solution on the rest of us. The solution isn’t always a failure, but if it is … well, nothing like having a failure imposed on you, is there?

  22. Marcie Tandy

    As per your advice I watched Cereal Killers and enjoyed it, I think Donal is pretty cool. He was interviewed by Sam Feltham recently as well. Thank you for keeping us informed of other Low carb promoters. Everyone I talk to about this looks at me like I’m an idiot when I say it’s ok to eat fat. My brother lives in LA and is a vegan (shocker) and is always tired but insists its had nothing to do with his diet. Anyway thanks for keeping it real! Happy holidays

    Happy holidays to you and yours, including your tired vegan brother.

  23. Jesrad

    Thomas Sowell should be mandatory reading in every college;.. Another good read for understanding how experts can and do go wrong when given a position of authority, is Friedrich Hayek’s 1972 Nobel acceptance speech.

    I agree. Politicians wouldn’t get away with so much nonsense if more people understood basic economics.

  24. Rae Ford

    Speaking of school lunches being so bad and busybodies doing what they can to regulate them, I just heard about the efforts of an Ohio democrat who wants to make homeschooling more difficult by mandating that home school parents must be investigated by Social Services. And others think parents should have to get the permission of the local school board. And the scary thing to me is, I could totally see this all coming to pass.

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice: The next time you hear someone say, “Hey, it’s a free country!” the proper response would be a hearty laugh.

  25. DS Foxx

    In Philadelphia for the holidays. Just heard about “slo-tility” — which bills itself as the World’s First Crowdsourced diet — and thought of you. (Slo-tility.com doesn’t have much up yet, more on facebook.) Wonder how much more crowd wisdom they’d end up with if a ton of lifetime LCHF folks joined in?

    Happy winter!

    Happy Winter and Merry Festivus to you.

  26. Bret

    Great speech, Tom. And while I am sure this was not intended, I could not help but think of Obamacare during every bullet description of the Vision of the Anointed. Perfect match on all counts.

    Luckily, people figure out how to adapt and thrive in spite of government’s arrogant attempts to control their lives with central planning, as both you and the Older Brother have helped me learn. I am a lot more optimistic about the future than I used to be.

    Sowell points out that The Anointed often escape blame for the effects of their Grand Plans because the negative unintended consequences can take a decade or more to manifest. The advantage (if you will) of ObamaCare is that the unintended consequences are manifesting so quickly, there’s no chance most people won’t connect the dots.

  27. Teco Mendes

    Hello Tom! Love your work and how you put serious stuff in a funny way!

    Since I’ve watched fat Head I have a question. I understand how government pushed the low fat life style with no science to suport it in the USA. But what about the universities? If I graduate from college as nutritionist, dietitian or physician, I will study books! And college books are written by PHD based on scientific papers! How come they leave college with the same idea that low fat is good? And even worse, how come it happened in several countries like here in Brazil that nutritionists from Universities think the same way?! In the 50’s this decision from American Government influenced the world this easy? Even today with the internet and comunication/information easy to obtain we dont have in Brazil a single paleo/primal book translated to portuguese so this “new” Idea can be spreaded, how they managed to do that in the past when even fax wasnt available?!
    Have no idea! Do you? 🙂


    Teco Mendes

    Universities kow-tow to the government as well. As I recounted in Fat Head, Dr. Kilmer McCulley was basically sacked from Harvard when he published a paper concluding that it’s not cholesterol that causes heart disease. (He placed the blame on homocystine.) Someone at Harvard was afraid they’d lose their government grants.

    Unfortunately, much of the world followed the U.S. lead on the matter.

    1. Bret

      That fear of defunding really illustrates how government funding is as much a form of coercion as it is a real benefit to society, if not more so.

      If scientists are willing to do decidedly UNscientific things, like force incomplete/sloppy research into publication, manipulate their data, ignore contrary findings, fail to criticize other scientists for shoddy work, etc, all for the sake of preserving their funding, then there is really no point in funding them to begin with. They’ve got the cart before the horse, thanks to their government benefactors, and our nation suffers as a result.

      So we’re spending tons of money to reinforce bad advice. Hell of a paradigm, ain’t it?

      1. HungryinTN

        Added to that, scientists now leave universities often with massive piles of (ironically) federally-funded student loan debt, leaving them in much more desperate financial situations than many of their predecessors. I work in a research field (historical, not scientific) in which federal funding plays a massive role and I know exactly what this feels like. Dissenting researchers with integrity simply get overlooked, creating a natural bias to the available “scientific” articles and publications.

  28. Lynda

    Hello Tom and family – I have yet to watch this video but will over the holiday break. Thank you for your continued inspiration. Merry Christmas to you and your gorgeous girls (all three of them) 🙂

    And to you and yours.

  29. Linda

    Hello Tom,

    I was doing prep work for my LCHF Christmas dinner and thought of you. For the first time ever, I have a pastured turkey! There is a farm on the outskirts of town and I have just found out that they raise turkeys and chickens and anyone can go and buy one from them. They slaughter and dress the fowl for you. I ‘m not sure I’m up to Chareva’s caliber! Visions of slaughtering that big bird almost sent me to the grocery store. I was saved by the farmer, who laughed and told me to wander around and look at things while he got my turkey ready. The birds are almost like pets- they wandered up to me and were totally unafraid. I did have a spare thought for the poor bird I sent to his doom- only one, though. I can’t wait to see how a pastured turkey compares to the frozen variety in the store!

    Anyway, this is just to wish you and your wonderful family a Merry Christmas!


    Belated Merry Christmas to you too.

  30. Lori Miller

    Loved the speech!

    Speaking of how politicians don’t always have the public’s best interests in mind, I saw a cute movie last night called “Monster in Paris” that made the same point.

  31. Navada

    That was awesome. I’ve heard your message before and wasn’t actually going to listen to the entire 44-minute speech, but I couldn’t stop watching. I hope your live audience was as captivated as the rest of us who come here for your engaging wisdom-sharing.

    I don’t know if they were captivated, but a lot of them queued up to talk to me afterwards, which was nice.

  32. Adam

    So Tom, what do your parents think about what you’re doing these days? What was their reaction to you doing a lchf type diet and losing weight?

    Mom’s happy to see me in this kind of shape at age 55. She often comments that I look better now than I did 15 or 20 years ago.

    Dad has Alzheimer’s and has no idea who I am, and therefore no opinion on the matter.

  33. Rich Wood

    I know that this if off topic, but watching the YouTube video was amazing. Thanks Tom for making it available!

    The parallels between what happened and is ongoing in the nutrition world and what is currently happening in the global warming “crisis” are uncanny.

    You might like to take a peek and look at how those “anointed” to tell the world how bad it really is are behaving towards those that look at their “science” and point out to them the flaws in their doctrine.

    btw no relation (that I know of) to Richard Wood at Springfield MASS.

    It’s not global warming anymore, because we haven’t had warming for more than a decade. Now it’s “climate instability.”

  34. Boundless

    The lengths the anointed will go to in order to avoid admitting that they might be mistaken:
    Telegraph: Most cancers are caused by bad luck not genes or lifestyle, say scientists

    The actual paper is paywalled at Science, and probably not worth reading even for free. I doubt it bothered to investigate, for example, why some cultural groups (not on SAD) are so much “luckier”.

    What this leads to is suggested by two “Related Articles” links titled “Cancer is the best way to die and we should stop trying to cure it, says doctor” and “Let’s stop trying to cure cancer, says cancer professor”.

    Translation: the anointed somatic theory of cancer just can’t be mistaken, so we didn’t bother taking a real unconfounded look at diet correlations, which means you’re just gonna have to die.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Well, we’ll all die eventually, but I sure don’t think cancer is purely a matter of luck.

  35. Boundless

    Get ready for a huge dose of “well, that’s not working, so let’s do it harder”.

    Statins lower LDL. But the results of this huge experiment on the population show that there is no lowering of adverse cardiac events associated with that lowering. Therefore, we must redouble our efforts to lower LDL.

    The name of this Grand Plan 2.0 is “PCSK9 Inhibitors”, coming soon to bankrupt universal healthcare policy near you. Lower LDL even more. Hugely expensive. Patent-protected (which statins imminently are not, where they aren’t already off-patent).

      1. Boundless

        And never ever admit the plan was wrong. For PCSK9 Inhibitors, this aspect of this particular Grand Plan is already in place well prior to launch:
        The agency says that if it approves the drugs based on their effects on cholesterol, the approval will not be rescinded even if trials now underway fail to show the drugs reduce the risk of heart attacks and deaths.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Good grief. As long as we beat down cholesterol, we don’t care if it actually serves a purpose.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.