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    • Two interesting articles from the NY Times recently made me think, once again, that trying to figure out what is true with the "science" of nutrition is just about impossible. Lots of reasons: incredible pressure on academics to publish papers; food companies and agribusiness money funding the studies; the difficulty of actually separating the foods a study group eats on a long term basis from other factors; and what they term "data dredging" or "p-hacking" to keep combing and refining and tweaking the data until you see some sort of result that you can then publish. Today's article is a book review, and the link at the bottom of the article is about the Cornell professor whose career was just ruined by these types of practices. Think I'll keep trying to just eat whole food, less meat and saturated fat, lots of veggies, grains, legumes, with fats, alcohol, coffee and added sugars in moderation.

    • Good question, great articles, thanks for the links. I have followed this very closely for years and believe there are a few great landmark papers that have stood the test of time in a sea of noise and confusion.

      The noise comes from how much money and incentive the food companies have and how well they craft the messages we so badly want to believe about miracle foods and supplements.

      When a landmark study is rigorously done over years without food company funding, the results are too boring to make the popular press: eat vegetables, fruit, beans... Your mom nagged you about that growing up and you didn't want to hear it then either.

      There is an area of good science related to nutrition that is very exciting and pretty fascinating though:

    • Great post. The 'diet' industry is a billion dollar industry mostly based on nonsense. Even for experts in the field it's hard to distinguish fact from fiction and probability from unsupported. Longitudinal studies are the best source but you're right about trying to separate all of the factors involved. We also individually build up a view of what we think is right or makes sense in our world and we fall victim to observation bias in a way that keeps building the strength of our unsupported ideas. I forget the exact numbers but a fairly recent researcher found that something like 75% of science articles findings are later found to be untrue. This isn't because the researchers were lying or purposely manipulating the data but for a whole litany of reasons. I should find the article and add a link. (I found an article that touches on what I was talking about. It's not the article I was thinking of but it helps to get the conversation started.)

      I'm sharing this as a person who teaches, studies and loves science. I think science is the best way of knowing that humans have ever created but it has some serious problems that we ignore at our peril.

    • I do find the research into the microbiome fascinating! I think there is a lot going on there that science is just beginning to understand.

      My younger daughter is taking microbiology this semester and loves it; apparently her professor is some bigwig in the world of microbiology. They are discussing the microbiome a lot, she tells me.