Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Epidemiology 101

The figure is pretty self-explanatory, so let me get to the part where nutrition science is making the biggest mistakes: “Conduct an experiment.”  There is no shortage of observations, questions, or hypotheses in the nutrition science world – so we’re doing well on that front.  It’s that peskyexperiment part we’re getting hung up on.   Without doing controlled experiments it is not possible to distinguish the relationship between cause and effect.  [Just a heads up – this is going to be a recurring theme this week.]

In response to the "red meat is killing you" study which has received so much press, Attia makes the case for why observational/epidemiological studies can't tell us "what causes what."  

A gritty summary:
I trust by now you have a better understanding of why the “science” of nutrition is so bankrupt.  It is based on almost a complete reliance on these observational studies. Virtually every piece of nutritional dogma we suffer from today stems from – you guessed it – an observational study.   Whether it’s Ancel Keys’ observations and correlations of saturated fat intake and heart disease in his famous Seven Countries Study, which “proved” saturated fat is harmful or Denis Burkitt’s observation that people in Africa ate more fiber than people in England and had less colon cancer “proving” that eating fiber is the key to preventing colon cancer, virtually all of the nutritional dogma we are exposed to has not actually been scientifically tested.   Perhaps the most influential current example of observational epidemiology is the work of T. Colin Campbell, lead author ofThe China Study, which claims, “the science is clear” and “the results are unmistakable.”  Really?  Not if you define science the way scientists do.  This doesn’t mean Colin Campbell is wrong (though I wholeheartedly believe he is wrong on about 75% of what he says based on current data).  It means he has not done any real science to advance the discussion and hypotheses he espouses.  If you want to read the most remarkable and detailed critiques of this work, please look no further than here (Denise Minger) and here (Michael Eades).

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