Junk Science is the Norm for Diet Studies

Two scientists blow the whistle on how the government-diet complex is completely dependent on junk science for their dogmas.

If you want to know why the stuff being imposed on school lunches and pushed by Michelle Obama seems so insane, you need to realize that modern “food science” is a joke. People often blame corporate corruption for affecting food guidelines. Others also blame vegetarian ideology (along with influence from climate change superstitions).

There are cases to be made for all of this, but such bad influences are able to so warp dietary guidelines precisely because the science itself is so deficient.

Science is supposed to be a method of arriving at the truth based on double blind experiments that carefully eliminate all but one variable. Instead, food science relies on people recalling what they ate.

Can you write down what you ate last week?

Real Clear Science reported on this under the headline, “Why Everything We ‘Know’ about Diet and Nutrition Is Wrong.”

Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, composed of nutrition and health experts from around the country, convenes to review the latest scientific and medical literature. From their learned dissection, they form the dietary guidelines.

But according to a new editorial published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, much of the science they review is fundamentally flawed. Unlike experiments in the hard sciences of chemistry, physics, and biology, which rely on direct observational evidence, most diet studies are based on self-reported data. Study subjects are examined for height, weight, and health, then are questioned about what they eat. Their dietary choices are subsequently linked to health outcomes — cancer, mortality, heart disease, etc.

That’s a poor way of doing science, says Edward Archer, a research fellow with the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama, and lead author of the report.

“The assumption that human memory can provide accurate or precise reproductions of past ingestive behavior is indisputably false,” he and his co-authors write.

This is not just a guess about human memory (though it is a really plausible one). The writers point out studies where those being interviewed should be starving based on their claims about their diets. But they were not starving. Trying to limit the time remembered to the last twenty-four hours and giving people measurements so that they could be more accurate about the amount of food they ate didn’t help.

Real Clear Science points out that memory is always a reconstruction based on influences that came about after the remembered event. It is not surprising that such memories are inaccurate. It seems to me this also means that it would be extremely easy to cue subjects to remember the kinds of diet that you were expecting to find in the results.

The bottom line is that science is supposed to be established by carefully planned experiments but people who are considered scientists are just as capable of passing on hearsay and myths as anyone else. Yet people don’t look at their methods very often. They simply respect the wearing of a lab coat and assume the person wearing the garment speaks with authority.

Think about it. This kind of silly pseudo science has been practiced for decades and only now did someone blow the whistle about it. Obviously, there was money and prestige at stake so that professional scientists resisted any expectation to exhibit professional behavior.

This is a lesson about science that applies to many other areas of life.