A Very Brief Sojourn into Bad Science


I really hate to intellectualize this sweeping swath of dietary truths, but …. I know you’ve been hearing something quite to the contrary, thanks to press releases pitched to media for egregiously flawed – and, of course, industry-supported — “research” results.  For example, you’ve been reading how amazing the Mediterranean Diet is, and how wrong we are to demonize fat.  So let’s see where the problem is.

Take a recent study published by the venerable New England Journal of Medicine in February 2013, entitled “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet.”  If you actually look at the study, with a modicum of academic scrutiny, you will see that it compares two groups on variations of the so-called Mediterranean Diet (an “olive oil” group and a “nut” group) with a control group that was merely told to eat a diet low in saturated fat – which it didn’t actually do.  So, basically, the study compared one high-fat diet (Mediterranean – comprised of both the olive oil dopers and the nut suckers) with another high-fat diet, and concluded that the Mediterranean Diet was superior to the “low fat” alternative (yes, the “low fat” alternative that didn’t exist!).  Excuse me!  With proper credits to George Orwell, in sponsored (that is, industry paid for) nutritional research, “low fat” always seems to mean “high fat!”

A similarly fraudulent study was published in 2007 by the Journal of the American Medical Association, entitled “Influence of a Diet Very High in Vegetables, Fruit and Fiber and Low in Fat on Prognosis Following Treatment for Breast Cancer.”  The problem with this study was — and I’ll be blunt — the controls and definitions employed in this study were totally bogus.  Both groups ate diets that were high in saturated fat and animal protein, and neither was high in vegetables or fruit, despite the title of the article.  Low and behold, no differences were observed between these two groups!

The scary thing is, in addition to publishing the deceitful JAMA, members of the AMA are actually giving nutritional advice to the public!  At long last, is there no shame left in criteria for accepting studies for publication in the NEJM and the JAMA?