“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”
- Samuel Adams
Nonprofits begin with the awareness of a problem that needs to be solved, and then a simple question: if we don’t do it, who will?
Over the course of our lives, we’ve witnessed extraordinary progress in science, technology, and medicine. Yet these advances have been accompanied by disturbing, unprecedented increases in the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans. These conditions, in turn, increase the risk of virtually every major chronic disease, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The seemingly simple question of what constitutes a healthy diet – what should we eat to live long and active lives? – has been mired in endless controversy. The conventional wisdom certainly doesn’t seem to be helping – perhaps because it is either incorrect, or because few can follow it – and a morass of diet books and websites are at odds about which, if any approaches might be better.
In April 2011, after a brief email correspondence, we met in person for the first time. Sitting in a café in Oakland, California, we talked at length about our personal and professional obsessions with diet and health, and about this national failure to successfully address the ongoing epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
We agreed that the medical research establishment had failed to provide definitive, unambiguous answers to these unresolved questions of diet and health. Despite billions of dollars spent on medical research, the definitive experiments had never been done, having been perceived as either too expensive, too difficult, or simply not worth the effort.
More than anything we discussed what it might take to solve the problem, and we continued that discussion in e-mails, telephone calls and in person for months afterward. Our solution was to create an organization that would finally provide full resources – regardless of cost or technical risk – necessary for independent researchers to do the hard science that can indeed answer these controversial but critical questions, once and for all.
With that specific objective, we founded the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI).
Thus far, our effort has been made possible by the extraordinary support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) of Houston, Texas. The philanthropic strategy of LJAF is to identify societal problems that can be solved with a comprehensive entrepreneurial approach and for which the solutions hold the promise of being transformative, sustainable, and scalable. LJAF initiatives have focused on pension reform, criminal justice reform and K-12 education reform. For several years, LJAF leadership had recognized the need to tackle the social and economic burden of obesity and its related chronic diseases. When we shared our strategy with them – using the best experiments science could offer, conducted by the most skeptical and talented independent researchers, to find answers – it was clear our views converged and a wonderful relationship was forged that has allowed us to begin our journey.
We don’t know how this undertaking will end. We are not invested in particular outcomes. We are invested in finding scientifically sound solutions. We are also fully committed to communicating the results of this research to scientists, policy makers, the media, and the general public. We look forward to the day when NuSI is no longer necessary, when – with the full support of rigorous science – we can choose with informed confidence what to eat and what to feed our families.
We thank you for your interest in NuSI and your consideration in joining a legacy of philanthropists seeking significant change within their own lifetime,
Gary Taubes Peter Attia, M.D.
Founders, Nutrition Science Initiative