Hypotheses Versus Testing
Bill Quick

Why Nutrition Is So Confusing – NYTimes.com

Meanwhile, the research literature on obesity has also ballooned. In 1960, fewer than 1,100 articles were published on obesity or diabetes in the indexed medical literature. Last year it was more than 44,000. In total, over 600,000 articles have been published purporting to convey some meaningful information on these conditions.

It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue. The trend data argue otherwise. If we understand these disorders so well, why have we failed so miserably to prevent them? The conventional explanation is that this is the manifestation of an unfortunate reality: Type 2 diabetes is caused or exacerbated by obesity, and obesity is a complex, intractable disorder. The more we learn, the more we need to know.

Here’s another possibility: The 600,000 articles — along with several tens of thousands of diet books — are the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment. Because the nutrition research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause, cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesn’t exist to say unequivocally who’s wrong.

As usual, Taubes is cogent and convincing.  And the sort of “billion dollar studies” he talks about here do seem to be the province of government – as long as government refrains from putting its thumb on the scale for reasons of political correctness when it does them.

Posted in Diet permalink
Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.

Comments

Hypotheses Versus Testing — 8 Comments

  1. “In 1960, fewer than 13 percent of Americans were obese, and diabetes had been diagnosed in 1 percent. Today, the percentage of obese Americans has almost tripled; the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased sevenfold.

    Meanwhile, the research literature on obesity has also ballooned. In 1960, fewer than 1,100 articles were published on obesity or diabetes in the indexed medical literature. Last year it was more than 44,000. In total, over 600,000 articles have been published purporting to convey some meaningful information on these conditions.”

    Seems clear enough, more written articles are causing people to get fat:)

    On a serious note, in the absence of ability to conduct meaningful clinical trials, we might look at what changed from ’60 until today. Of course, I know Taubes and Mr. Quick know this…

  2. There are many factors that don’t fit into the received wisdom of the professional nutritionist community, and so don’t get adequate research – or any research at all, in some cases.

    Because of my own situation, I’ve learned a lot about how metals affect liver function. Some percentage of people with obesity (I can’t say how many, but some – I’ve seen estimates as high as five percent) get it in middle age because their livers stop working well due to buildup of iron and/or copper.

    Yet this problem is almost never diagnosed by primary care physicians. They just see certain blood readings, put people on blood glucose meds, and tell them to lose weight. For people with metal buildup as the underlying problem, that’s basically sending them home to get worse until they die.

    The treatment is cheap and simple – frequent blood donation to remove the metals, and lowering metals in the diet. Which is hard, because those nutritionists long ago convinced the processed food people to put iron in almost everything. That was done to help a small cohort of anemic women, with no consideration or concern of what it might do to the larger population.

    That’s the kind of shotgun strategies the professional nutritionists use. They want one-size-fits-all answers and magic bullets. They don’t want to tease out the effects of a hundred variables, because that’s really hard, and doesn’t lead to books and the lecture circuit.

    • Hmm, interesting. Is there a blood test or something for this? It might be just hypochondria from reading something on the internet that makes me wonder, but I was diagnosed with type II diabetes in my early 30s. If the solution were as simple as you say, I’d be all over it.

        • I did Atkins years ago and lost some weight–I really need to work up the willpower to alter my diet to be more low-carb. Actually my doctor just put me on Crestor last week, and the pharmacist said the same thing: eat less carbs to help improve my triglycerides, which I thought was pretty funny since so many people still think fat is the worst thing for you.

          • Sugar is stored as triglycerides. Saturated fat isn’t.

            Here’s more:

            High triglycerides driven by carbohydrate consumption » The Blog of Michael R. Eades, M.D.

            If you want to lower your triglycerides, lower your carbs. It’s as simple as that. But you’ve got to really lower your carbs, not just make a half-hearted stab at a low-carb diet. If your idea of lowering your carbs is avoiding a dessert from time to time, but continuing to chow down on ‘good’ carbs all day long, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you eat a lot of meat, even red meat, accompanied by green and colorful vegetables and low-carb fruits, you should be rewarded with triglycerides that are almost always below the 150 mg/dl limit of what’s considered ‘normal,’ and you will more than likely find yourself with fasting triglycerides below 100 mg/dl, which is a very good place to have them.

            Michael Eades is an MD who’s been dealing with low-carb issues for decades. If you want to read one blog by a guy who actually knows what he’s talking about on these issue, read him.