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Science's Biggest Failure: Everything About Diet and Fitness 958

HughPickens.com writes: Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) writes on his blog that science's biggest failure of all time is "everything about diet and fitness." He says,

"I used to think fatty food made you fat. Now it seems the opposite is true. Eating lots of peanuts, avocados, and cheese, for example, probably decreases your appetite and keeps you thin. I used to think vitamins had been thoroughly studied for their health trade-offs. They haven't. The reason you take one multivitamin pill a day is marketing, not science. I used to think the U.S. food pyramid was good science. In the past it was not, and I assume it is not now. I used to think drinking one glass of alcohol a day is good for health, but now I think that idea is probably just a correlation found in studies."

According to Adams, the direct problem of science is that it has been collectively steering an entire generation toward obesity, diabetes, and coronary problems. But the indirect problem might be worse: It is hard to trust science because people have become accustomed to learning that they've been steered wrong. "I think science has earned its lack of credibility with the public. If you kick me in the balls for 20-years, how do you expect me to close my eyes and trust you?"
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Science's Biggest Failure: Everything About Diet and Fitness

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  • Science... Yah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Press2ToContinue ( 2424598 ) * on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:22PM (#48965421)

    Because what is the alternative? Alchemy? Voodoo? Religion?

    Alex, I'll take "Flawed Science" for $1,000.

    • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Informative)

      by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:26PM (#48965455) Homepage

      When it comes to diet and nutrition you may very well be better off with "voodoo" and "alchemy".

      • by Press2ToContinue ( 2424598 ) * on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:34PM (#48965519)

        As attractive as the diet is in the French Quarter, Voodoo lacks the je ne sais quoi of the Catholic "fish on fridays" ethic.

        Just sayin'

      • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:36PM (#48965931) Homepage Journal

        Daniel 1:12-26

        Just sayin...

      • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Informative)

        by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @12:57AM (#48966301)

        Utter bullshit. The easiest way to control weight is to exactly follow the scientific advice. I lost a lot of weight (about 25 kg over 6 months) by a simple system:
        (Change in Weight (kg))/7700 = Calories I ate - Calories I used

        The calculation is really simple and entirely based on nutrition science. For "Calories I ate", I used the free USDA nutrition database from, I think, Dept. of Agriculture (yep, here. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/ [usda.gov]). For "Calories I used", I used the standard age-adjusted formulas you can find at the back of any nutrition text. For detection activity I used the android phone, Tasker and a small timesheet app.

        Just for the kicks I kept a graph of the loss weight, and the fit to the "theoretical" weight loss has an R-squared upwards of 0.87 over more than a year. The body response is so precise, that even the occasional heavy meal registered the next day. No magic, no voodoo, just sticking to the 'scientific rules'.

        7700 is the kCal in a kg body weight, if you're curious.

        As for the nutrition, I stick to the good ole food pyramid. My (slightly high) cholesterol went to norm in the first year, and no problems whatsoever in 5 consecutive yearly checkups since I started the routine.

        Within the chosen margin of error of measurement, it works, bitches.

        • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:12AM (#48966379) Homepage
          This, absolutely this. I believe the number one reason many people choose to disbelieve that energy balance is the primary determinant for weight gain/loss is simply that they don't like the answer it gives them: That to lose weight, you have to eat less food and that this means sometimes feeling hungry.

          Magic, pills, voodoo, fad diets, resonant crystals, homeopathy... ANYTHING but having to exercise self-restraint.
          • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:27AM (#48966447)
            Well, it's not exactly easy when food is so damn abundant, and lots of prepacked things are "portioned" for more than one person but are sized where one person can eat the contents easily.

            I think that for prepackaged food products, if there's no way to reseal the packaging provided, then the calorie content and other information on the packaging needs to state the total for the entire contents, not for some obtuse 2.5 servings. For prepackaged food where there is a way to reseal, the number of servings needs to be prominently displayed on the front and both the nutritional information per-serving and the total sum for the entire package need to be displayed.
            • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Informative)

              by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:59AM (#48966567) Homepage
              The definition of "portions" is a horrible marketing deception. You get a packet of instant pasta that will just fill a small bowl, and it's labeled as "serves 6". Maybe 6 leprechauns. I think the worst one I saw was a 300mL bottle of fruit juice which was labeled as "1.6 serves". Once you accounted for the actual amount in the bottle it had more kilojoules in it than the same amount of Coke.
          • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:5, Informative)

            by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:27AM (#48966449) Homepage Journal

            Magic, pills, voodoo, fad diets, resonant crystals, homeopathy... ANYTHING but having to exercise self-restraint.

            Okay, I'll try to keep this simple. The idea behind most diets is that different foods, of the same calories, 'satiate' better - more hunger suppression for longer, than others. Ergo, if you eat more of those foods, you're less likely to cheat on your diet. It's all a mental game.

            Trick is, carbohydrates, unless you stick to the really complex ones, tend to result in a blood sugar spike that leaves you feeling hungry again in a relatively short period of time. Fats, proteins, and the most complex carbs tend to stick around longer, don't spike your blood sugar, and therefore satiate you for longer - you're less likely to get a hankering for a snack a short period later.

            Think of it like the difference between quitting smoking with the patch and dead turkey.

            • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Interesting)

              by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @02:01AM (#48966575) Homepage
              You're absolutely right that some foods have different effects on perceived 'fullness' and hunger levels for the same amount of energy consumed. And sure, this may make it marginally easier or harder for someone to stay at their target energy intake.

              It doesn't change the fact that, whether you use a patch or you go cold turkey, in order to quit cigarettes you have to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.
            • "Think of it like the difference between quitting smoking with the patch and dead turkey." As God is my witness, Andy, I thought turkeys could fly.
          • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:46AM (#48966523)

            If all that matters is "Energy Balance" how is it you can feed some people 10,000 calories per day and only get an increase in body weight of 18%? Why are you ignoring the reality that some people simply can eat anything and stay skinny [lifehacker.com]?

            The body is a complex system and just to think of energy in and consumed is ignoring the ways the body metabolizes and processes different forms of food coming in.

            • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:56AM (#48966557) Homepage
              It's true that some people burn more energy than others, and that those people can (in fact, must!) eat more to maintain a steady weight. That's what "energy balance" means: energy consumed minus energy used! Maybe you naturally burn 10,000 calories a day. If so, you need to eat less than 10,000 calories to lose weight, and more than 10,000 calories to gain weight. More likely, you burn 2000 calories a day, same as the rest of us, and so you should eat less than 2000 calories a day if you want to lose weight.

              No matter how much you talk about the different ways the body metabolizes food, or all the different ways different peoples' bodies work, you can't change the fact that to lose weight you personally must eat fewer calories than you personally burn. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. It's a fact.
              • by beav007 ( 746004 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @03:24AM (#48966871) Journal
                Almost. It's not the calories that you eat that matter, however. It's the calories that you ABSORB vs the calories that you burn.
              • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @03:41AM (#48966931) Homepage Journal

                I agree with you that the science is good. But the human body is complex, and people are simple.

                I eat a lot (I am The Finisher at dinner parties) and never dieted. Dieting trigger's your body's hoarding mechanism, where it doesn't know when it's going to get its next fix so it packs everything away just in case. My digestive tract tends to just take what it needs and dumps the rest.

                Sure there are a bunch of other things I do to remain relatively svelte 6 ft ish 200lbs. I'm usually doing interesting things, so I don't eat or snack out of boredom. When I do eat, I take it slow, so I don't usually keep eating after I get full. No fast food. Lots of Asian food. A good amount of Asian blood that has had a few thousand years of agrarian culture over the hunters and gatherers. I walk and bike and take the stairs whenever practical. An hour of martial arts every other day.

                So I have gained 10 lbs in the past few years, mostly since I started drinking (only on non-martial arts days) and started eating candy at work. I'm starting to replace the candy with veggies and the beer with hard liquor, so maybe that along with breathing a little more deeply should even it out again.

                • by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @04:09AM (#48967009)

                  Your body's 'hoarding mechanism' is only triggered if you lose more than (roughly) 5% of your body weight over a month or so. If you stay safely within this limit and you're okay.

          • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @03:58AM (#48966991) Journal
            I switched to low carb (not no carb) and higher fat (not all fat) diet. It makes me feel full longer. The fat and protein make me feel satiated and I don't feel hungry. Consequently I eat less. So far I've dropped 35 lbs and am continuing to lose weight. I also resumed swimming regularly. Yes you have to eat less than you burn. But what you eat can significantly affect how hard that is. If you are always feeling hungry, you'll never keep at it. And occasionally I do have a carb binge. Go to the movies and eat a large bag of popcorn, or have some pie. Then I put that behind me and do good for a couple more weeks. Eating low carbs has the added benefit of lessening the feeling to eat chips and pies and popcorn, etc. But every now and then is nice and I don't have the urge again for a long while. From this I have come to believe that our institutionalized consumption of carbs, including pastas, breads, and sugar has made us addicts of them, and that they aren't needed. At least not needed in the kinds of quantities we have traditionally eaten them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "7700 is the kCal in a kg body weight, if you're curious."

          ... and this is the reason that "nutrition" should be considered absolute horseshit by anyone with a serious scientific understanding.

          Calories are energy and kilograms are mass. Conflating them in a non-relativistic way is just plain wrong. That they happen to be somewhat monotonically related when talking about food and body weight is misleading at best. I don't know if it stems from "nutritionists" ignorance of physics and actual science o
    • Simple, traditional diet that worked for your grandparents and their parents

      • Re: Science... Yah! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:00PM (#48965707)

        This also sounds like voodoo:

        1) Are my grandparents healthier? No, all 4 died below the average life expectancy for their gender. 2 from diabetes, 1 from lung cancer and 1 from liver failure. Anecdotal insofar as large numbers are concerned, but you said "my grandparents". Life expectancy has been increasing, statistically, so on average we are still doing better all things factored in (http://demog.berkeley.edu/~andrew/1918/figure2.html). How much of that is science and how much of it is brushing teeth and regular baths? We don't know...

        2) As the united states became more industrialized, we gained access to foods that would have been an impossibility for us in various regions. As a result my grandparents (or really their parents) would have primarily eaten what they could grow and trade for regionally. This would conflict with all food pyramid/discs/oblate-spheroids/etc. that are published as "healthy balanced diets" today. Granted, we have no way to know how much of the government recommendation is based on science, and how much based on say, a corn lobby. Maybe "eat local" should be a movement.

        3) As it happens, depending on your definition of grandparents, the "caveman diet" is one doctors have recommended once or twice in the past 15 years. But cavemen weren't known for long, happy lives and we're again not really sure as a matter of science, if that's better or not. It just has that sort of "conventional wisdom" vibe.

        This is how non-science has failed us. Actual science in this case probably takes too long to be interesting or to help boost your companies profits and thus is relegated to whatever researcher who can scrounge up the funds to do it. Then get heard over the noise of BS. What I read from Scott Adams resonates pretty strongly, it is very hard for the layman to make heads or tails of actual science amidst the trumpeting cacophony of marketing bullshit.

      • Re: Science... Yah! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:44PM (#48965957) Journal

        Simple, traditional diet that worked for your grandparents and their parents

        Just be sure that your ancestors didn't come from an area with high incidence of nutritional deficiency diseases. You don't even need to go all that far back. Pellagra stacked up an impressive body count in the American south in the first half of the 20th century, and beri-beri had similar effects in more rice-heavy areas. Scurvy and cretinism were a bit more niche; but also pretty much sucked. In any of those cases, some modest supplemental modifications to simple traditional diet are strongly recommended.

    • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:32PM (#48965505)

      The problem is that much of this diet stuff has been agenda-driven, rather than driven by actual studies and data. There hasn't been much actual "science" performed.

      For instance, the original Food Pyramid said that grains should make up the bulk of your diet. This was agenda-driven, not science driven. The point was that we were subsidizing farmers to grow grains, and so had quite a lot of grain, and quite a lot to sell.

      In the 80's, consumption of fats and cholesterol were big "issues," but we now know that fat and cholesterol doesn't just go into your bloodstream as fat and cholesterol. Your body metabolizes and transforms them into other chemicals, which then may or may not affect the fat and cholesterol in your body. No study on metabolism had been done prior to this. No study of the affect of consuming these things had been done prior to this. The whole thing was very hand-wavy and inaccurate.

      In the 80's you also had another lobby (discussed in "Fat Head" but I'm too young to remember the name). These people represented themselves as scientists, but actually were pushing a vegan agenda. While veggies *are* good for you, there was no science behind what they were selling, either. They just wanted you to stop eating meat. Their materials spread like wildfire, and are part of why McDonald's stopped using beef tallow to fry its fries. Instead, they switched to rapeseed oil. Frying in beef tallow is much healthier, as consuming foods fried in rapeseed oil will increase your blood cholesterol.

      If you're taking this "flawed science," you're only taking it because the people who are presenting it dressed themselves up in lab coats. These folks weren't performing any studies to back their inaccurate claims.

      • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:04PM (#48965725)

        They are actually more open about it [latimes.com] than you think.

        Some "scientists" want the food pyramid to be reconsidered in light of climate change and the carbon costs of the food.

        No matter what you think about climate change, it has shit to do with what food is healthy and what is not and what is the best mix for people to follow.

      • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Informative)

        by bunbuntheminilop ( 935594 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @12:05AM (#48966059)

        Check out a guy named Ancel Keys, who's 7 country study was enormously influential, as well as Dr Jeremiah Stamler, who published a self-help booklet in 1966 (sponsored by the corn oil industry) telling people to alter "habits even before the final proof is nailed down" with regards to saturated fats and heart disease.

        Sometimes, it only takes a handful of people in white coats who are well meaning and respected to change public opinion.

      • Re:Science... Yah! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @02:01AM (#48966577)

        The whole "fat is bad" mantra that started in the 80s is actually one of the root causes of the obesity epidemic in the US. The "fat is bad" mantra lead to food companies removing fat from their foods. But in order to keep the taste levels high, they needed something else. And that something else is a whole family of chemicals extracted from corn including High Fructose Corn Syrup.

        There is evidence that HFCS and the other corn products contribute to obesity much more than either fat OR cane sugar but the corn industry is so powerful that no-one of any substance has the guts to challenge them and really fight.

        IMO the excellent documentary Food, Inc should be required viewing for American school kids. Show them where their food REALLY comes from.

    • by radtea ( 464814 )

      Because what is the alternative? Alchemy? Voodoo? Religion?

      There are two things to say about this:

      1) Diet and fitness are hard problems because humans evolved as opportunistic hunter-gatherer-scavengers, so we are moderately well adapted to almost any imaginable lifestyle. When the optimum is broad and shallow (which it necessarily is, especially for diet, unless you are an evolution denialist) it is easy to wander around in the noise.

      This is made worse by snake-oil salespeople who are dedicated to the idea that the optimum is narrow and deep, and they can sell you

  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:27PM (#48965463)

    I think he means the credibility of scientists.

    • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:32PM (#48965501)

      Not even that, Scott Adams doesn't know a scientist from a self-proclaimed and popular expert. Most our "health advice" would cause real scientists to look for all the peer reviewed experiments and compare findings. For example, a long held "truth": "too much salt is bad and gives you high blood pressure", has been found to be false for normal healthy people, and the proper controlled study for that only done recently.

  • by crioca ( 1394491 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:27PM (#48965473)
    If Scott Adams thought that, it's because he didn't do the necessary research to act as an informed consumer, and instead just took articles at face value when the referenced miscellaneous "scientists" and "researchers".
    • by JazzHarper ( 745403 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:33PM (#48965513) Journal

      When I see a study attributed only to anonymous "researchers", I read that as "undergraduates".

    • by Euler ( 31942 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:36PM (#48965525) Journal

      Yeah exactly, his cynicism is off the charts (and misplaced)

      Science did not tell us to avoid natural fats in our diet, it was the: USDA, FDA, AMA, etc. etc. It was government and industry associations, sensational journalists who won't or can't deal with basic stats, not scientists. On the contrary, there is a body of scientific works that are basically saying 'told you so.'

      The jump to connecting this to climate change had zero supporting evidence in this article. If there was a pattern of provable deceit by a majority of scientists, then show it...

      • by markabq ( 971992 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:19PM (#48965827)
        One might be forgiven for having thought that the USDA, FDA, and AMA might have some legitimate science behind their recommendations. Over time, we've learned that this was not a safe assumption, but there was an era when it must have seemed reasonable to people.
      • by ZahrGnosis ( 66741 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @12:25AM (#48966157) Homepage

        It was absolutely the best science that the 1970s had to offer. The fact that it turned out to be wrong was due to a large number of factors, but not that it wasn't "science". One good article of many is: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303678404579533760760481486, which references a lot of large controlled scientific studies that, yes, had issues, but were still the best of the time. There were ALSO studies that came to other conclusions, but remember that there are real studies by real scientists (by any useful definition) that come to all sorts of wrong conclusions. There will always be someone to say "told you so", no matter how ludicrous their position seemed by the majority at the time -- even if the majority includes most of the scientists; if those scientists are later wrong.

        People equate science with truth, and that's simply wrong. Science is a process, a mechanism to expand our knowledge, but it's fallible, and rarely results in absolute truths. As the linked Scott Adams article says, Science is about nudging us towards improvement, and I agree. The public face of science is, unfortunately at times, journalism, government and other, equally human equally (if not more) fallible entities -- but those people did listen to scientists; they didn't just make stuff up (most of the time).

        Science has an image problem, though, and it IS self-inflicted. We're coming across as arrogant to the scientifically illiterate, rather than nurturing, and it's turning people away. We label people "deniers" when they're genuinely curious, and they get defensive, and it's all downhill. We get combative and then pretend that it was someone else's misunderstanding when our consensus is wrong. Science is the right approach, but when it loses a popularity contest, particularly in a democracy, it's can get pretty bleak for a while. There's no reason that needs to happen, but denying the problem isn't the answer. We should embrace the dialogue that Adams is a part of here.

      • by Beck_Neard ( 3612467 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @12:33AM (#48966197)

        One notable example is milk. There is no scientific study anywhere that shows that milk is necessary or even healthy for adults. Yet milk has become so ingrained in our culture that it's almost become a sign of healthy eating (when it's not). This is largely due to the advertising efforts of the milk industry (which is one of the largest industries in the USA and many other countries). Milk contains saturated fat which has proven negative effects on health (yes, even skim milk has saturated fat). The only good thing about milk I can think of is calcium, but you can (and should) be getting that through other means, such as vegetables.

        Most 'nutritional information' you know is a result of industry advertising and is not true.

        • >Milk contains saturated fat which has proven negative effects on health

          Oh please, keep up.

          Saturated fat is exactly the thing that has been demonized, yet hasn't been shown to have negative effects on health. In reality it is the fat that doesn't oxidize and therefore doesn't contribute to atherosclerosis. There are lots of other related facts, but you need to get past your fat-o-phobia before you can move on.

    • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:41PM (#48965565)

      You CANNOT go by what some article says about what "science" has now "found" about X.

      The idiots writing the articles are idiots AND they're writing the articles for maximum sensationalism.

      Dude! Use your BRAIN!

      • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HBI ( 604924 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:22PM (#48965853) Journal

        OK. Explain the doctors - both GPs and cardiologists - who have been demanding people switch to high carb low fat diets for 40 years plus. They are unscientific? The layperson who visits one should make independent judgements about the diet advice offered by a supposed expert?

        This is "blame the victim" mentality at its best.

        • by khasim ( 1285 )

          I suggest you check what that actual advice was.

          Sugar is a carbohydrate. You are not going to be healthy on a diet of "Twizzlers" even though they are low fat, high carb and vegan-friendly.

        • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by flink ( 18449 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:58PM (#48966021)

          Most GPs aren't scientists. They are basically "meat mechanics". They learn the best practices in their field when they go to school and if they are good they keep up with changes to practices. But they are people too and are still susceptible to falling prey to fads and superstition even if their education provides them some resistance.

  • Vitamin Testing (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:29PM (#48965483)
    There have been more studies on the effects of vitamins than most people could read in a decade, maybe a lifetime. There are many things to test them for, and to expect that every possible dosage has been tested against every possible disease, interaction, and side effect is unreasonable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
      Nonetheless, if you do nothing else to promote your own graceful aging, take a multi-vitamin every day.

      No diet is perfect, and you'll miss some essential vitamin or mineral no matter how careful you are. And let's face it, most of us eat often for flavor or convienience rather than nutrition.

    • Re:Vitamin Testing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:10PM (#48965771)

      When you eat properly, there is no need for any vitamin supplement, period. You can get all vitamins and minerals and whatnot from your food - people have done just that for thousands upon thousands of years. There's no reason why we suddenly can't do that any more.

      • Re:Vitamin Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:31AM (#48966465) Homepage

        When you eat properly, there is no need for any vitamin supplement, period. You can get all vitamins and minerals and whatnot from your food - people have done just that for thousands upon thousands of years.

        Contrary to your paleo-bullshit, people have been dying, or having their life expectancy significantly shortened, due to nutritional deficiencies for thousands upon thousands of years too. (I.E pellegra, scurvy, goiter, etc.... etc...)

        • He did not mention anything about paleo or what ever.
          He simply pointed out that extra pills with vitamins are unnecessary as ordinary food already contains vitamins.

          Doh! You did not know that? Then my first advice: stop insulting people who know better than you. Finally: get an education. Reading is not that hard.

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:29PM (#48965493)

    The problem isn't science. The problem is science reporting. A study making come claim makes for a catchy headline. Problem is, it's just one study, usually calling for more studies with guidance at the end. That's the bit that's usually left out.

    A few years ago a European health organization did a huge study of cell phone safety. Thousands of trials across dozens of countries over the course of a decade. Of the thousands of trials - ONE showed a *possible* correlation between one form of cancer and cell phone usage. What was the headline? Study shows that cell phones cause cancer! What was the official conclusion of the study? Cell phones probably don't cause cancer, but the one trial should probably be re-run just to make sure.

    • by silfen ( 3720385 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:39PM (#48965551)

      The problem isn't science. The problem is science reporting.

      In the case of nutrition, diet, and exercise, the primary problem isn't science reporting, it is government programs based on questionable science, from bad nutritional recommendations and bad labeling requirements to idiotic agricultural subsidies, public school curricula and lunch programs, and more.

    • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:55PM (#48966005) Journal

      It's not just reporting.
      The FDA and medical community has told us with all seriousness for decades that there is a link between cholesterol and heart disease - there really isn't.
      "Scientists" told us in the 60s that nursing babies was stupid; animals and poor people nursed. Smart, civilized people used "scientifically formulated" synthetic formulas!
      Scientists said "DDT is killing baby birds, stop using it!" when in fact it was poorly designed experiments that left birds calcium deficient and thus - yes - laying fragile eggs.
      Scientists have said things like "stop using baby talk to speak to children, it hinders their development", while others cheerfully opined (using their "sciency" wisdom) on the geopolitics of the Cold War (Union of Concerned Scientists) - something for which they were no more qualified to comment than Kissenger would have been qualified to design a moon rocket.

      I agree with Adams, I've been saying it for years: science is critical to the success of our society, but the moment (around the early 1950s) that scientists started opening their yaps on political subjects, they were trading their credibility for politics. Now they've spent that currency, they can't understand why people question their motivations (as if they were like "normal" people motivated by power, ego, money, etc. - right?).

      Eisenhower famously warned us about the military-industrial complex, he was absolutely right.
      Of course, the NEXT BIT of that same speech is less-often quoted:

      "Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
      In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
      Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
      The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
      and is gravely to be regarded.
      Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite."

  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:38PM (#48965535)

    better headline, fixed that for you.

    • by Cafe Alpha ( 891670 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:50PM (#48965633) Journal

      Nope he's got it correct.

      The FDA has been faking the science on diet ALL ALONG.

      They NEVER TESTED their diet advice, not for heart disease, not for much of anything. There was an excuse that it would cost too much and take too long and might never be conclusive ... which is no excuse for promoting bullshit, but promote bullshit they did.

      And the world ate it up, and everyone pretended that mere guesses were settled science.

      The FDA is set up to test drugs that companies will make money on. But you can't patent nutrition information so it can't fund nutrition research.

  • by Idimmu Xul ( 204345 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:55PM (#48965679) Homepage Journal

    Athletes and bodybuilders have managed to have their diet and fitness nailed for decades, it's only the common joe that seems to be confused.

    This issue is less the fault of science and more the fault of marketing. Marketers will latch on to any scientific study, however tenuous, to push a product and the news will happily inflate their claims for headlines, e.g. the thoroughly debunked '1 glass of red wine is the same as an hour of exercise' study released recently. It's not scientists making these claims, its marketers and news reporters.

    Corporations that lobby politicians to to sell more of their products also aren't helping. The US food pyramid isn't the fault of scientists, its the fault of farmers wanting to sell more grain. Michelle Obama's attempts to revamp America's food issues are being thwarted by huge corporations with deep pockets and news reporters siding with the opposition doing their utmost to paint any attempts for nutritional revamp in a bad light. None of those guys are scientists.

    If you want to learn about nutrition and exercise get away from the marketing and the news and start looking at what athletes and bodybuilders are doing. They've been doing it for a long time and if you look closely a lot of what they do is backed up by science. Eating grilled chicken/steak/fish with brown rice and steamed vegetables and doing weight lifting/high intensity interval training doesn't grab headlines though and takes effort.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @10:58PM (#48965691)
    The most damaging event in modern nutritional science has been the false correlation between fat consumption and heart disease. In 2014 the WSJ published a fascinating article about how that happened:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB... [wsj.com]
  • My 5-year rule (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swm ( 171547 ) <swmcd@world.std.com> on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:13PM (#48965795) Homepage

    The first time I had to make real decisions for myself was when I started living on my own in my early twenties.
    I was aware that there studies on diet and health, and that there were dietary recommendations based on those studies.
    I also knew that those recommendations had change over time.
    So I decided that I wasn't going to turn my life upside-down over this stuff until the recommendations stopped changing for at least--I picked a number--five years.
    Even at the time, I knew that this was mostly a self-serving rationalization for me to just keep eating the foods I liked.

    As the years went by, I watched with growing astonishment as the fads (in science!) came and went; diets swirling around them like groupies, or celebrities.
    Nothing has ever stayed settled for more than five years in a row.
    I've never been called on my original committment/rationalization.
    It's been over 30 years now.

  • by p00kiethebear ( 569781 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:19PM (#48965825)
    Everyone I know equates a good diet with being healthy. A more important aspect is the activity level and physical exercise. When I was a state champion level gymnast my health was amazing. I had six pack abs at the age of eleven because I worked out and trained 20 hours a week. During that time I ate mcdonalds every day. I ate fries at school. Milkshakes, candy bars. Any source of calories I could get. And my health was phenomenal. Everyone (but women especially for some reason) seems to think that a 'healthy' diet is the answer when what they really need is to work more. I'm not saying healthy eating is bad. But if you don't use your body it will never truly be your tool and always be something your working against rather than working for you. Use your body or it will atrophy in every way.
    • Everyone I know equates a good diet with being healthy.

      A more important aspect is the activity level and physical exercise.

      When I was a state champion level gymnast my health was amazing. I had six pack abs at the age of eleven because I worked out and trained 20 hours a week.

      During that time I ate mcdonalds every day. I ate fries at school. Milkshakes, candy bars. Any source of calories I could get.

      And my health was phenomenal.

      Everyone (but women especially for some reason) seems to think that a 'healthy' diet is the answer when what they really need is to work more. I'm not saying healthy eating is bad. But if you don't use your body it will never truly be your tool and always be something your working against rather than working for you.

      Use your body or it will atrophy in every way.

      You have it backwards.

      Exercise is best for fitness, but when it comes to being thin diet is far more important than exercise.

      Of course genetics and a youthful metabolism trump all, assuming your recollection is accurate I'm guessing that was the real source of your 6-pack. An older person with less fortunate genes might find themselves diabetic following your advice.

      That's not to speak against exercise, it's absolutely awesome, but it doesn't have a lot to do with keeping you thin.

  • by johncandale ( 1430587 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:30PM (#48965897)
    You have been lied to your whole lives. People still try to tell me dietary fat becomes body fat in big amounts. People still try to tell me certain fats are bad for you, such as saturated fat when the only bad fat is transfat which you rarely find in nature. protip: There is no such thing as an essential fructose.

    It's really a failure of politics too thou. Back in the 60s a major 8 country study was done that showed fatter diets caused heart problems, except later we found out he had data from 20 countries but only used the data that fit his model. Heart problems it seemed were actually caused by consistent inflammation which was more a sign of lack of exercise. protip: margarine is much worse for you then real butter, in several ways

    So the government tried to get fat out of foods, which they thought would mean people would eat more veggies, but snacks just changed from high fat to high sugar "hey look! this food is low fat" except the sugar spikes your insulin, causing most of the calories to be stored as fat. I still hear myths like a a calorie is just a calorie, or low calorie diets are good for you. protip:exercise requires calories. I mean just look at all the people buying lowfat milk, which is mostly milk suger with all the healthy fat taken out.

    another example is the whole wheat sensitivity wave, when really it is mostly the additives that make the bread shelve stable for 2 weeks that are bad for you.

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Monday February 02, 2015 @11:32PM (#48965911) Journal

    Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

    -- Redd Foxx

  • Why worry? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @12:22AM (#48966145) Homepage Journal

    Eat a good meal. Enjoy it. Stop stressing over the details. Stress is worse for you than a few extra pounds.

    No matter what you do, you're going to end up dead at the end of the game. It's just a matter of when.

    Personally I'd rather enjoy my life and my food now than live a few extra years gumming gruel in the nursing home.

  • by brantondaveperson ( 1023687 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @12:58AM (#48966307) Homepage

    Firstly, I don't think that science's position on diet has changed a great deal. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, regular exercise, don't overdo the booze - I mean it's not all that hard. Omega-this, and poly-unsaturated that, and free-radicals the other - this sort of nonsense is the fault of lazy and sensationalist reporting, not of science.

    Science does not make any attempt to defend itself against this - and arguably this isn't science's job anyway. It needs to be some-one's job, but it isn't at the moment. I don't even know how one would go about setting up a dis-interested and objective organisation who's task was purely to disseminate scientific knowledge in an easy to understand form. Perhaps it's not even possible.

    But really, if you don't know how to eat properly, then you really haven't been paying even basic attention to basic science. Scott Adams is right in the sense that people are confused (Paleo diet? Seriously?), but science itself isn't confused. And nor should you be.

  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @01:58AM (#48966563) Homepage Journal

    Yes, nutritional science is the stupid butt end of science. It has got everything wrong for decades and the vast majority of nutritional studies are horribly statistically flawed.

    But you are at liberty to experiment on yourself. Sign up to a cost effective lab testing service (I use walkinlab.com), get you blood tested regularly (I get it done every 6 weeks) with an NMR test so you get LDL particle size and number (the part that matters) then try a diet that emphasis one of the macronutrients and see what happens over a few months.

    The paper linked in my sig is of the results of two people eating an all meat diet for an extended period. Only good things happened. Nutritional orthodoxy would suggest this would kill you. With the occasional exception, I eat an all meat diet. I has fixed my cholesterol and dropped my weight to the leptin limit.

    If you struggle with a standard western metabolic disorder, you owe it to yourself to escape nutritional orthodoxy and do some science on yourself to find what works. You are probably carb sensitive and need to eat none of it. But maybe not, that's why you need to test yourself, because unless you have a very enlightened doctor, no one else is going to do it for you.

  • The way science works is that someone has an idea, publishes a paper, and then a flurry of papers follow which attack or support that idea, and eventually the idea perishes, survives, or mutates according to the evidence uncovered. That process is like a safety net which protects science from bad ideas, although it doesn't protect a scientist's *reputation*.

    So if you get a committee of scientists together and demand guidance on a topic what they're trained to do is give you a hopelessly equivocal answer. If the committee is put under enough pressure and there are politicians involved, what you'll get is half-baked advice.

    What this takes is an engineer's perspective. The first thing an engineer is trained to do is understand what a client is asking for; an experienced engineer knows that clients often don't understand what it is they're asking for, and that a successful project starts with clarifying that.

    So here goes: what people want from dietary advice is eternal youth. The truth is if any of us live long enough, we'll get old, sick and then die. Paleolithic people lived about 35 years on average, enough to raise a shiny new replacement generation to independence. You can stay healthy on practically any kind of diet for 35 years, particularly if you walk (as paleolithic people did on average) 20 kilometers a day over rough ground.

    I think what people would be satisfied with is advice that allows them to live to 70 years with the same level of health a 35 year-old typically enjoys. The extremity of that challenge should be apparent. For some people who have a genetic propensity toward certain disease clearly it's an impossible demand. What's more if you look at the rate of change of nutritional science over the past thirty years it's clear that the scientific evidence is in flux. Take fat: it turns out not all fats are the same, that became clear decades ago. Just in the last fifteen years we found out that not all unsaturated fats are the same -- some are trans. And I think evidence is emerging that not all saturated fats are the same, and not all trans fats are the same.

    So what to do if you want to be a 70 year-old that's as healthy as a 35 year-old? "Have good genes" is not useful advice. It seems to me the best way to maximize your chances is to eat a wide variety of mainly unprocessed foods in modest quantities, and get a wide variety of moderate exercise every day. Any advice beyond that would be speculation at this point.

  • Diet and Exercise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @10:30AM (#48969193) Homepage

    Science has been inconsistent on diet. However, it's hard to blame science for fat people because science has basically said that you have to: (1) count calories; (2) eat fruits and vegetables; and (3) exercise. On the margins, science might be wrong on moderate alcohol consumption, healthy fats, etc. But the average America is fat because they're not exercising, and eating ridiculous amounts of unhealthy foods that scientists have always said was dangerous as fuck.

    Don't forget that scientists discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer.

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