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"Fake Science News" The Sugar Conspiracy - notable example

  1. Apr 25, 2017 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2017 #2
    The section of the article, near the end which says, "If ever there was a case that an information democracy is preferable to an information oligarchy,then this is it" with reference to the treatment of scientist dissidents by the scientific establishment is quite intriguing. However, not all dissidence is based on solid foundations.
    The authority of the lead researchers in topics, such as nutrition, can easily be undermined by crackpot theorists who have pulled their theories from the ether. Then due to the Internet these erroneous theorists have, theoretically, an equal platform to spread their information, which has not been tested empirically-unlike scientific evidence- and may be absorbed by members of the public which could lead to more people becoming unhealthier.
    A way to reduce this credulity, or at least a way I think that may work, for those who are vulnerable to pseudo-scientific claims and blatantly wrong "facts" is to promote critical thinking in a way that makes it harder for those wanting to profit off the ignorance of those they are talking to.
    Overall the article is relevant to the communication of science, and even more so, the ever publicised plague that is "fake news".
    That is one lesson that I could obtain from this article. I'm sure there are plenty others as hinted at by Dr. Courtney and am interested to see what other members can extract from this article.
  4. Apr 26, 2017 #3
    I think that today, more than ever, people are aware that there is a good chance that they're being lied to. People are being lied to so much that they are skeptical of most claims, even from mainstream media. They also have the ability to actually fact check people more easily now, due to the internet. There are plenty of crackpot theorists on the internet, but I think that the average person is more alert to misinformation/disinformation than they were years ago.

    A quote from the article posted adds to the picture that I'm trying to paint. The underlined statements are the central topic:

    "This story, which has begun to emerge in the past decade, has been brought to public attention largely by skeptical outsiders rather than eminent nutritionists. In her painstakingly researched book, The Big Fat Surprise, the journalist Nina Teicholz traces the history of the proposition that saturated fats cause heart disease, and reveals the remarkable extent to which its progress from controversial theory to accepted truth was driven, not by new evidence, but by the influence of a few powerful personalities, one in particular. Teicholz’s book also describes how an establishment of senior nutrition scientists, at once insecure about its medical authority and vigilant for threats to it, consistently exaggerated the case for low-fat diets, while turning its guns on those who offered evidence or argument to the contrary. John Yudkin was only its first and most eminent victim"

    With such a consensus among them, I wonder if the establishment nutrionists had ever dubbed their opposition as "fatty foods deniers".
  5. Apr 26, 2017 #4
    How did you draw this lesson from that article? Can you point to a passage that supports it? It seems to me this is a concern of yours that may be perfectly legitimate, but is not actually in the article.

    My own reading was quite different. The author describes a situation in which the politics of reputation, excessive conformity, and excessive competitiveness within the field of nutrition were allowed to run rampant and perhaps are still doing damage. It was certain lead researchers themselves who were allegedly the villains; nothing at all to do with fringe theorists.

    Much of what the article describes, I've been aware of for some years now, thanks to reading Gary Taubes and others. If what the author of this article says is true (we might have to investigate further), it would be alarming that so many in nutrition would be willing to sign their names to a letter demanding, on non-scientific grounds, that the BMJ withdraw the article by the mere "journalist" (and therefore "outsider") Nina Teicholz. Here is a link to that article, if anyone is curious: http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4962. She is writing about the failure of the government committee that issues dietary guidelines for Americans to follow good scientific guidelines themselves in issuing their reports - here are a couple of pertinent paragraphs:

    . . . in its 2015 report the committee stated that it did not use NEL reviews for more than 70% of the topics, including some of the most controversial issues in nutrition. Instead, it relied on systematic reviews by external professional associations, almost exclusively the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), or conducted an hoc examination of the scientific literature without well defined systematic criteria for how studies or outside review papers were identified, selected, or evaluated.​

    Use of external reviews by professional associations is problematic because these groups conduct literature reviews according to different standards and are supported by food and drug companies. The ACC reports receiving 38% of its revenue from industry in 2012, and the AHA reported 20% of revenue from industry in 2014. Potential conflicts of interest include, for instance, decades of support from vegetable oil manufacturers, whose products the AHA has long promoted for cardiovascular health. This reliance on industry backed groups clearly undermines the credibility of the government report.​

    So the issue here isn't Internet crackpots. It's whether prominent people inside a supposedly scientific field are behaving in an unscientific manner.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
  6. Apr 26, 2017 #5
    The purest of paradox is the statement
    I am lying to you
  7. Apr 26, 2017 #6


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    The problem is the food industry, they are the ones that always see the opportunity to exploit the latest food fad. Just look at the gluten free craze. About 1% of Americans have a need for a gluten restricted diet, but just look at all of the gluten free foods filling the shelves. It's not the scientists doing this. The fat free craze was driven by the food industry and the gullible people that were willing/wanting to believe that replacing fat with sugar would make them lose weight. All you had to do was read the labels to see that many of the fat free foods had as many if not more calories than the regular foods. And YES, there were many articles warning people of this and the dangers. I know because I follow nutrition, don't pretend the information wasn't out there, it was. My mother was a dietitian nutritionist that worked for Dr Michael DeBakey in Houston on his experimental patients, so I became interested in nutrition at an early age.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
  8. Apr 26, 2017 #7

    jim mcnamara

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    Cristin Kearns et al.

    @UsableThought has the best perspective on this point, I think. The link is about researchers who wrote seminal papers linking fat to atherosclerotic disease way back in the late 1960's. That some subsequent research convinced the American Heart Association to change its viewpoint about fats in the diet. These researchers cited in the paper were "helped" by the sugar lobby. The paper cites actual checks written to the researchers from the lobby group. For a lot of money. Those researchers then completely ignored data on sugar and focused solely on fat in the diet.
    So it now appears doing sugar research vis-a-vis heart disease 1970's was a little like trying to do Loop Quantum Gravity work at a String Theory physics department. No go.

    It is important to realize:

    US Food industry as a whole generated 992 billion dollars in 2015, or very close to one trillion dollars.

    Funds generated allows industry to provide money and other resources to lobby the government. For example, the FDA and the trans fat changes to product labeling is dragging out over along period of time: As of 2015 (started in 2011) -
    https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm451237.htm (2015).

    As of 2017: Still not in the regs. If you do not know, trans fat has been very definitely implicated in atherosclerotic disease processes -- unlike saturated fats, the subject of the first link. Food processors love transfat properties, extended shelf life among them. It costs money and time to change food processing protocols and implement them.

    The point is that the US food industry is apparently able to influence both regulatory bodies, and some researchers as well.

    FWIW: human nutrition research is really hard to do well. This is largely because test subjects, namely you and me, are beyond terrible. We do not comply with study guidelines, we fib on questionnaires, and to be complete: our perfidy knows no bounds when it comes to food/exercise/lifestyle restrictions or changes and what we tell somebody else about them and what we really did. Huge random controlled trails (expensive) and even more massive longitudinal studies (hyperextended duration) are both very useful to get around our shortcomings as test subjects.

    Pogo the Possum knew this long ago: ' We have met the enemy and he is us.'
  9. May 1, 2017 #8
    The sugar conspiracy succeeded because dissenting voices were silenced.

    Few people imagine that an information democracy will ever be without crackpot voices - there is no way to ever have free speech without the crackpot voices. But the wisdom of the first amendment is that it trusts that the citizenship as a WHOLE to discern which voices are the crackpots from which are reasonable in most cases. No one pretends that an information democracy will be perfect, but the expectation is that it will yield better outcomes than alternatives. Human nature being less than perfect, the authors and ratifiers of the first amendment knew that the power to decide which information gets censored is too often subject to corrupting influences.

    I'm from a family of proud "fat deniers." We always knew there was nothing wrong with bacon and eggs, fried fish, steak, and stuff slathered in butter. We'd seen too many men in past generations live long and healthy lives eating these foods to think that they were dangerous.
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  10. May 2, 2017 #9


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    [QUOTE="patzer234, post: 5748280, member: 620990"...]for those who are vulnerable to pseudo-scientific claims and blatantly wrong "facts" is to promote critical thinking...[/QUOTE]

    "Hand me that screwdriver," she said to the entity who had no hands.
  11. May 2, 2017 #10


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    Please post the studies that show that these substances are healthy. Or as you put it "nothing wrong" "slathered in butter".
  12. May 3, 2017 #11


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    Where's the protest march?
  13. May 4, 2017 #12
    I'm not Dr. Courtney, and I don't wish to pre-empt anything he might say; but this has been thoroughly covered by now & such studies are not hard to find. I took a moment to go back into Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, 2010, who has a large amount of cites for each of his chapters; in particular I would recommend consulting the references for Chapter 18 of that book, which examines studies comparing diets with various ratios of protein, fat, and carbs. E.g. this is one of many cites from that chapter:

    Gardner, C. D., A. Kiazand, S. Alhassan, et al. 2007. “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women: The A TO Z Weight Loss Study, a Randomized Trial.” Journal of the American Medical Association. Mar 7;297(9):969– 77.​

    For those who've never tried Atkins, his diet plan is indeed "slathered in butter" in addition to being low-carb. Link to full text of the study is here, including downloadable PDF. Here is the abstract; I have formatted the key conclusion in colored text so it stands out:

    Context Popular diets, particularly those low in carbohydrates, have challenged current recommendations advising a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. Potential benefits and risks have not been tested adequately.

    Objective To compare 4 weight-loss diets representing a spectrum of low to high carbohydrate intake for effects on weight loss and related metabolic variables.

    Design, Setting, and Participants Twelve-month randomized trial conducted in the United States from February 2003 to October 2005 among 311 free-living, overweight/obese (body mass index, 27-40) nondiabetic, premenopausal women.

    Intervention Participants were randomly assigned to follow the Atkins (n = 77), Zone (n = 79), LEARN (n = 79), or Ornish (n = 76) diets and received weekly instruction for 2 months, then an additional 10-month follow-up.

    Main Outcome Measures Weight loss at 12 months was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included lipid profile (low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, and non–high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride levels), percentage of body fat, waist-hip ratio, fasting insulin and glucose levels, and blood pressure. Outcomes were assessed at months 0, 2, 6, and 12. The Tukey studentized range test was used to adjust for multiple testing.

    Results Weight loss was greater for women in the Atkins diet group compared with the other diet groups at 12 months, and mean 12-month weight loss was significantly different between the Atkins and Zone diets (P<.05). Mean 12-month weight loss was as follows: Atkins, −4.7 kg (95% confidence interval [CI], −6.3 to −3.1 kg), Zone, −1.6 kg (95% CI, −2.8 to −0.4 kg), LEARN, −2.6 kg (−3.8 to −1.3 kg), and Ornish, −2.2 kg (−3.6 to −0.8 kg). Weight loss was not statistically different among the Zone, LEARN, and Ornish groups. At 12 months, secondary outcomes for the Atkins group were comparable with or more favorable than the other diet groups.

    Conclusions In this study, premenopausal overweight and obese women assigned to follow the Atkins diet, which had the lowest carbohydrate intake, lost more weight and experienced more favorable overall metabolic effects at 12 months than women assigned to follow the Zone, Ornish, or LEARN diets. While questions remain about long-term effects and mechanisms, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet may be considered a feasible alternative recommendation for weight loss.​

    Granted this just a single study; and granted too, the book is by now 7 years old, so likely there are more recent studies out there; regardless, my impression is that such views have steadily gained support. I have another extremely well-sourced book on high carb vs. low carb diets that I could go through as well; but I think I've given a sufficient start here that people can look up further studies on their own if they are really interested.

    Please note also that the issue isn't merely processed sugar, as reading only the title of of the article referred to by Dr. C in his original post might suggest; it's any diet with excessive carbs, particularly refined carbs of the sort Big Ag likes to feed us (e.g. refined wheat and corn in addition to all that high-fructose corn syrup; and also various "gluten-free" refined carb products that are just as bad). BTW, this also means that although eggs and butter and saturated fat in general are okay in a low-carb diet, they are not okay when combined with excess carbs. So although a daily breakfast of eggs & bacon is most likely fine (provided you're not allergic to eggs), a daily breakfast of eggs & bacon & a huge helping of hash browns is not fine at all; unless you are a lumberjack or in training for a marathon you will gain weight; and aside from obesity, for most people their lipids will head south.

    To sum up: As a layperson with fairly wide reading in this area, I find that the claim that excess carbs are pernicious, while saturated fat isn't necessarily so, has been sufficiently validated; this is primarily in relation to heart health, separate from the question of micronutrients. Serious diet research has meanwhile expanded into new areas - e.g. the microbiome and its role in not only gut health but the effectiveness of the immune system. That's certainly where I'm concentrating my own reading on diet these days.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  14. May 4, 2017 #13
    P.S. This seems relevant also: The title of the 2014 Nina Teicholz book is https://www.amazon.com/Big-Fat-Surp...swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1493888146&sr=1-1

    It gets widespread good reviews, though I haven't read it. Sounds like Taubes redux? Anyway for a science journalist she's supposed to be pretty good. Her end notes start on p. 341; at a glance, she too appears to have boatloads of cites. So that could be a good place to find newer studies.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  15. May 4, 2017 #14
    Too many men in past generations died of heart attacks at early ages.

    The field of nutrition, like pharmaceuticals, is dominated by financial interests. Advisory boards are dominated by people financially connected to the food industry. What results is not always what is best for people.
  16. May 4, 2017 #15


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    I'm not expecting Courtney to bother to respond. Thank you for doing so.

    Here is a good article

    The current train of thought now is just moderation of these items, unless your doctor advises otherwise. But recent research has found other concerns with red meat and egg yolks.


  17. May 4, 2017 #16
    The best advice my father ever gave me came in three words: "Everything in moderation."

    While it seems to apply particularly well to diet, and food choices, it has also served me well in almost all other aspects of my life.

    He also told me to ignore anyone who tells me that a food that we have been eating for hundreds or thousands of years is bad for me, and then referred me back to the first advice.

    It's funny, looking back over the decades, how foods that we ate with relish as kids were demonized when we were young adults, and now don't even get a second thought.

    I mean, 150 years ago, Tomatoes were thought to be poisonous, for crying out loud.

    I have taught my kids to eat a wide variety of whatever foods are available to them...even the ones that are not the favorites. Who knows what magical quality they will announce some food has next year, or next decade. The fact is, we have probably already filtered out the ones that are outright bad for us. Even those, unless they are simply poisonous, won't likely kill us, shorten our life span, or decrease or quality of life noticeably - if consumed in moderation.

    We all have favorites, go ahead and enjoy them - just don't go overboard!
  18. Jun 2, 2017 #17
  19. Jun 2, 2017 #18


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  20. Jun 2, 2017 #19
    Are you familiar with "The China Study" there is food for thought in that one.:smile:
  21. Jun 2, 2017 #20
    I haven't read it comprehensively. However, do they discuss all of the factors outside of diet content? Is it a truly controlled experiment, or is it cause being derived from correlation?

    Factors that also might affect lifespan/diseases:
    - Body Mass (usually higher for meat-eaters, but not mutually inclusive)
    - Cardio exercise
    - Gender (I believe more vegetarians are female, than male)
    - Biochemistry/traits that may predispose people to more likely seek vegan diets, which are traits that themselves also affect lifespan/disease likelihood.

    Its also conducted in China.. I question the integrity of everything that happens in China.
  22. Jun 2, 2017 #21
    I can only comment on it from an average readers point of view, I'm not much on technical details but after reading through a couple of times it seems that it deals with a rather involved long term study (20 years) using china mainly because of the diverse ethnic and lifestyles available in one country. I myself am always a little skeptical on studies like this but Cornell's involvement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China–Cornell–Oxford_Project does lend it some credibility not seen in a lot of these types of books, a search of the Authors credentials is rather interesting also. That being said its one of those things that you can find plenty of pro/con on and one has to decide for ones self how valid it really is. Campbell does make some very good points and so do a few of the detractors but it is pretty well thought out and the author takes time to explain his viewpoint in a believable manner. I might add that the book has made some food industry people very unhappy, especially where the corporate lobbyists are concerned so there is no shortage of articles that condemn his approach, this should be taken into account when searching info on the book.
  23. Jun 3, 2017 #22


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