While Michelle Obama was the First Lady one of her most high-profile initiatives was combatting childhood obesity. However, recent news regarding the facts and information behind her campaign are shedding new light on the veracity of the information they provided. Especially given the snake oil salesman that exist in the nutrition industry.
However, peer-reviewed scientific studies are another story. Especially ones in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). JAMA recently announced that they will be removing six studies from there publication regarding nutrition. They were conducted by Cornell University. The author was food scientist Brian Wansink.
Wansink has had 13 total articles pulled. There are 15 other studies on various issues that are under review. Shortly thereafter, his superiors at Cornell University announced that Wansink is resigning his position at the end of the current term.
but the damage he has done to the credibility of the nutrition industry – and the social sciences in general – is only beginning to be understood. Ars Technica: As Ars has reported before, the retractions, corrections, and today’s resignation all stem from Wansink’s own admission of statistical scavenging to find meaningful conclusions in otherwise messy dieting data.
The result is that many common dieting tips – such as using smaller plates to trick yourself into shoveling in less food and stashing unhealthy snacks in hard-to-reach places – are now on the cutting board and possibly destined for the garbage bin.
Prior to the scandal, Wansink made a name for himself publishing studies indicating, generally, that such subtle environmental changes could lead to distinct eating and health benefits. He helped cook up the idea for the now ubiquitous 100-calorie snack packs, for instance. And he served up the suggestion to have fruit bowls placed prominently on our kitchen counters.
“There are lies, damn lies, and statistics,” Mark Twain said. For Wansink, we might add “and fantasies” to that adage.
It isn’t so much that Wansink’s conclusions are wildly off base. It’s that he fudged the stats to achieve the result he wanted.
Thus, JAMA editors retracted the six articles.
One had appeared in JAMA in 2005. The study claimed to find that large serving bowl sizes at a Super Bowl party were linked to more snack eating.
Three had been published in JAMA Internal Medicine. A 2012 study claimed that hungry people go for starchy foods first over vegetables. Another study in 2013 claimed similarly that hungry grocery shoppers go for more calories but not necessarily more food. And a study from 2014 was reported as finding that the more distracting a TV show, the less viewers watched how much they ate and thus ate more.
The last two retracted studies were from JAMA Pediatrics. One from 2008 suggested that kids who are told to clean their plates by their moms were statistically more likely to request more food. The other, published in 2013, claimed that kids made healthier school lunch choices if they pre-ordered their meals rather than made decisions in the lunch line, where they can smell less-healthy entrees.
Some of these studies were used to justify the reasoning behind the Obama school lunch programs.
Reason: The sham data behind the Smarter Lunchrooms program was exposed last year by PhD student Nicholas Brown and by University of Liverpool profressor [sic] Eric Robinson. From there, more of Wansink’s work started being called into question. …
A response from Cornell stated that “because we do not have access to the original data, we cannot assure you that the results of the studies are valid.”
Over the years, the basis for many myths about nutrition and what is and what isn’t healthy has been created by government itself. Here are 18 myths that have been pushed by government dieticians:
Myth 1: Carbs are bad for you
Myth 2: Fats are bad for you
Myth 3: Protein is bad for you
Myth 4: Egg yolks are bad for you
Myth 5: Red meat is bad for you
Myth 6: Salt is bad for you
Myth 7: Bread is bad for you
White bread vs. whole-wheat bread
Myth 8: HFCS is far worse than sugar
Myth 9: Fresh is more nutritious than frozen
Myth 10: Foods are always superior to supplements
Myth 11: Dietary supplements are necessary
Myth 12: You should eat “clean”
Myth 13: You should “detox” regularly
Myth 14: Eat more often to boost your metabolism
Myth 15: You need to eat breakfast
Myth 16: To lose fat, don’t eat before bed
Myth 17: To lose fat, do your cardio on an empty stomach
Myth 18: You need protein right after your workout
Cancer-causing substances that don’t cause cancer, food additives that are bad for you except when they aren’t, and false claims about the effect of certain foods like salt and red meat on the body make government guidelines regarding our diets suspect.
Confused about how to eat healthy? You shouldn’t be. The key word is “moderation” for eating everything. It’s hard to go wrong when you don’t overeat.”
Peer-reviewed sources are meant to be the most reliable forms of information out there. It is unfortunate that this scandal has placed doubt over their veracity. Americans should be able to have a solid and reliable source to go to.
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Share if you believe this scandal is incredibly unfortunate.