||John and Laura Arnold
In May, John Arnold simply said he would "
pursue other interests" in a letter announcing the closing
of his highly successful energy hedge fund firm Centaurus
Advisors. Those interests are now coming into focus through the
38-year-old’s philanthropic foundation and a
donation announced today to fund novel obesity research.
The $900 million Laura and John Arnold
Foundation is the lead backer for The Nutrition Science
Initiative (NuSI), which is "dedicated to dramatically reducing
the economic and social burden of obesity and obesity-related
diseases by significantly improving nutrition science,"
according to a press release. Founded by surgeon and former
McKinsey & Co. consultant
Peter Attia and science journalist Gary Taubes, NuSI has a
deceptively simple goal: to determine what people should eat to
The Arnold Foundation has given the group $5 million in seed
funds, according to LJAF director of communications Meredith
Johnson. The Arnolds also plan on being actively involved in
funding NuSI’s research projects, although funds
are also being raised from other private citizens and
"Laura and John Arnold are passionate about reducing the
social and economic burden of obesity," said
LJAF’s Johnson in a statement. "Yet, without
defensible scientific evidence, it is useless to support any
public education campaign around what to eat. We are committed
to supporting innovative efforts, like NuSI, that promote the
rigorous science necessary to drive lasting and positive social
Co-founder Taubes is the author of Why We Get Fat (2011),
Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007) and Bad Science: The Short
Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion (1993). Much of his work
has dealt with exposing and analyzing flawed science.
"Controversies over what constitutes a healthy diet and what
causes obesity have been on-going in nutrition research for
over a century. There's little excuse for this, other than that
the science hasn't been good enough to resolve these
controversies definitively. Now with the help of the Arnold
Foundation, we have the opportunity to do that, once and for
all," Taubes said in an email to AR.
John Arnold approached Taubes in November shortly after
hearing him discuss the lack of convincing nutrition science on
an economics podcast, EconTalk with Russ Roberts.
The NuSI gift represents a new focus area for the Arnold
foundation, dubbed "research integrity." Founded in 2008, the
organization’s other efforts have centered on
criminal justice, education and public accountability. Recent
papers on public pension reform and a "
giving library" to better connect donors and
"We are deeply indebted to our community and our country for
the many opportunities granted to us, and for a social and
economic environment in which we could make the most of those
opportunities," the Arnolds
wrote when signing the Giving Pledge in 2010, a commitment
to give a majority of their wealth away ($3 billion as of
March, according to Forbes).
"We consider it our responsibility to ensure the same
opportunities for others. We view our wealth in this light
– not as an end in itself, but as an instrument to
effect positive and transformative change."
See AR’s February 2011 cover
The reckoning of Centaurus billionaire John