The Sad State of Nutrition Science, continued

I don’t suppose we should hold James Hamblin responsible for the terrible headline – Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food. Science, of course, is not a unitary body, and it can’t be usefully said to do anything, anymore than you can say that a traffic jam feels sad.

However, once into the text, we do know we are in James Hamblin’s able hands as he once again interviews a nutrition expert and leaves plenty of space for the subject’s pretensions or eccentricities to shine through:

Amid the clamor, Dr. David Katz is emerging as an iconoclast on the side of reason. At least, that’s how he describes himself. From his throne at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center…

The rest of the article is a bit frustrating though.

  • Katz claims that he “doesn’t have a dog in this fight” but it is soon revealed that Katz has a REALLY big dog in this fight, “a system for determining the nutritional value of foods that Katz recently spent two years developing. It’s called NuVal…” We might assume that if the nutritional assumptions underpinning NuVal were radically undermined by data, that might be counter to Katz’s hopes and dreams.
  • Katz on low-carbohydrate diets…/sigh. Go here if you care about this.
  • And Katz says: “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding.” Right, unless you count gold-standard randomized clinical trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine or the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Perhaps Katz deserves more sympathy here. He built a career around a set of nutritional ideas that are not holding up to more rigorous testing. It’s something that really could happen to any of us.

And Katz is creative at finding new ways to repackage his increasingly disproven beliefs. So that’s something.

And it must require great will to hold the course as you are buffeted by the winds of randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses that suggest your opinions on low-carb diets, saturated fats, and salt are wrong.

But there doesn’t appear to be much science going on around Dr. Katz.

Katz irritatingly paraphrases Bertrand Russell as saying “the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure, and wise people always have doubts.” We can assume Katz thinks he resides in the latter category. Yet, ironically, in the face of an onslaught of new evidence demonstrating that his presumptions are wrong, Katz somehow remains so sure.

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