Friday, May 24, 2013

Studies Show That Studies Show 0% Accuracy

"Back in 2007 when I first published Good Calories, Bad Calories I also wrote a cover story in the New York Times Magazine on the problems with observational epidemiology. The article was called "Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?" and I made the argument that even the better epidemiologists in the world consider this stuff closer to a pseudoscience than a real science. I used as a case study the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, led by Walter Willett, who runs the Nurses' Health Study. In doing so, I wanted to point out one of the main reasons why nutritionists and public health authorities have gone off the rails in their advice about what constitutes a healthy diet. The article itself pointed out that every time in the past that these researchers had claimed that an association observed in their observational trials was a causal relationship, and that causal relationship had then been tested in experiment, the experiment had failed to confirm the causal interpretation - i.e., the folks from Harvard got it wrong. Not most times, but every time. No exception. Their batting average circa 2007, at least, was .000."

We used to say, because we like alliteration, "How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?"

Well, how about "How much truth could an epidemiological nutritionist find if an epidemiological nutritionist could find truth?"

Yes, I know, mega dork.  C'est la vie.

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