Epidemiology and Junk Science

  • Gary Taubes blogs on Chocolate & Red Meat Can Be Bad for Your Science: Why Many Nutrition Studies Are All Wrong discusses the recent outbreak of studies purporting to show that meat kills, and why they don’t really show that.  He links to another of his own pieces in Science mag about the limits of epidemiology and his long feature article from the New York Times Magazine Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?.  The latter piece is fascinating, introducing the influence “compliance bias”: people who follow instructions do better on all studies.  This creates a confounding variable on almost any study, including randomized clinical trials intended to establish cause and effect.  Taubes winds up with some very common-sense ideas for evaluating epidemiology: “One is to assume that the first report of an association is incorrect or meaningless, no matter how big that association might be. … If the association appears consistently in study after study, population after population, but is small — in the range of tens of percent — then doubt it. … If the association involves some aspect of human behavior, which is, of course, the case with the great majority of the epidemiology that attracts our attention, then question its validity.”
  • Behind the Veil: Conflicts of Interest and Fraud in Medical Research explains that much research can be published, even after the researchers have been convicted of research fraud, without any mention of this fact in the publication.
  • Harvard has been the source of many of the massively over-promoted anti-meat studies.  Nina Teicholz in the New York Times The Government’s Bad Diet Advice: “Much of the epidemiological data underpinning the government’s dietary advice comes from studies run by Harvard’s school of public health. In 2011, directors of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences analyzed many of Harvard’s most important findings and found that they could not be reproduced in clinical trials.”

Mental Illness

Big Pharma

Fat and Cholesterol

  • About that whole low fat thing, nutrition research says: “sorry, my bad”. Official warnings against the consumption of saturated fats are based on flawed data and should not have been introduced, claims new research.
  • Michael Brendan Dougherty on The glorious return of the egg: Why Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist on how the hysterical focus on avoiding fat has lead people away from eating real food to fake food such as trans-fats, the even newer inter-esterified fats, soybean oil, and soy lecethin.
  • A very good review article The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol on the coming shift in the nutritional guidelines, and the history of how we got here.  The article covers the origin of the cholesterol hypothesis in 1913 Russia, the experimantal  force-feeding of rabbits (a vegetarian species with no ability to break down animal fats), and contains this great quote from Ioannidis, a statistician who has posited that most research papers relying on statistical inference contain errors:  “Almost every single nutrient imaginable has peer reviewed publications associating it with almost any outcome,” John P.A. Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and statistics at Stanford and one of the harshest critics of nutritional science, has written. “In this literature of epidemic proportions, how many results are correct?”.  The nutrition panel is also recommending that intake of sugar be limited.
  • From Nina Teicholz, as fast food chains have switched from hydrogenated oils to vegetable oils, they have found that those heated oils give off mist that builds up on surfaces and clothing.  “Ryther told me that these unstable products from oils would also accumulate on the uniforms of fast-food workers, which, when heated in clothes dryers, had been known to spontaneously combust. And fires would start in the back of the trucks carrying the uniforms to be cleaned. Even after the laundry was clean and folded, it would sometimes catch fire”.
  • Medical researcher Dr. Peter Attia talks about The limits of scientific evidence and the ethics of dietary guidelines — 60 years of ambiguity covering the history of the drug and dietary treatments of cholesterol and its lack of any grounding in science.

Exercise and Fitness

Calories in/Calories Out

  • As Gary Taubes explained in his book, people eat more/expend less energy because they are gaining weight, not the other way around.  Taubes’ view (which he did not originate, rather, located it in 19th-century German thinking) is starting to influence the research community. A new study in JAMAchronic overeating represents a manifestation rather than the primary cause of increasing adiposity. The authors explain their paper in the NYT. In the Atlantic, Forget Calories: Counting calories is misguided discusses the same study.  There is a great graphic contrasting the bathtub view of the body versus the hormonal view.



Gut Biome


Vitamin D

  • Mercola interviews medical researcher Dr. Robert Heaney about optimal vitamin D levels.  Heaney believes that the optimum is in the 50-60 range based on anthropological studies of tribal people in equatorial areas.  He also explains how the public health policies are based on the minimum levels to avoid really awful diseases, not the optimal levels. Heaney’s research paper on the subject here.

The Medical-Industrial Complex

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