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Diet science is “nearly baseless,” but it rules

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From Real ClearScience:

Recently, my colleagues and I published research in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that examined dietary data from almost 50 years of nutrition studies. What we found was astounding; these data were physiologically implausible and incompatible with survival. In other words, the diets from these studies could not support human life if consumed on a daily basis. The reason for this is simple; the memory-based data collection methods (M-BMs) used by nutrition researchers are unscientific because they rely on both the truthfulness of the study participant and the accuracy of his or her memory. Stated more simply, these methods collect nothing more than uncorroborated anecdotal estimates of food and beverage consumption.

Importantly, vast amounts of taxpayer dollars are directed away from rigorous scientific investigations and squandered every year on the collection of uncorroborated anecdotes via M-BMs. Approximately 80% of the data in the USDA’s National Evidence Library consists of uncorroborated anecdotes as well as 100% of the dietary data from every major epidemiologic study over the past 50 years (e.g., Nurses’ Health Study, Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, REGARDS project, and EPIC study). In other words, most of what nutrition researchers call “scientific evidence” is in reality a vast collection of nearly baseless anecdotes.More.

Baseless anecdotes are used to make public policy.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Here in a single well-justified diatribe, the authors nail the problem with government-sponsored food wars: They lack evidence.Retro Biscuit Tin

New York City soda wars? White House-directed school lunches half a block down the street? The real problem with these programs is the lack of clear evidence from nutrition studies as to whether they do or could make any difference.

Few people mind government-directed services when the need or benefit is beyond reasonable doubt. But what if it’s just unclear? Vast industries grow up promoting chimaeras in the name of science. And this deflation was bound to come.

The human being is a tricky life form. For one thing, he thinks. Note to Utopians: Fix that bug.

See also: Use salt? Here we thought you need to do more to be a denialist

and

Whole Foods and falling skies

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One Reply to “Diet science is “nearly baseless,” but it rules

  1. 1
    OldArmy94 says:

    Reminds me of my grad school prof who used to rail on and on about how anecdotal Likert scales are in psychological and educational research. He had a good point, admittedly.

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