...recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.But why should we believe these new studies? Teicholz basically takes the underlying methodology to task, and yet she has written a book recommending that we eat more fats (“The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet"), but those recommendations are based on the very same faulty methodology as the recommendations with which she, and the current USDA advisory committee, find fault.
|Embrace the fat! (Wikipedia)|
The same, almost exactly the same, critiques are earned by many of the 'big data' genomics studies (and other long-term go-not-very-far megaprojects). It is the statistical correlation methodology. When many factors are studied at once (perhaps properly since many factors, genetic and environmental, are responsible for health or other traits), we can't expect simple answers. We can't expect correlation to imply causation. We can't expect replication. We can't predict the risk factors that people, for whom risk advice is based on such studies, will face in the future.
The real conclusion is to shut down the nutrition megaprojects at Harvard (singled out by the op-ed) and the other genetics and public health departments that have been running them for decades, and do something different. The megaprojects have become part of the entrenched System, with little or no real accountability.
Pulling the plug would be a major acknowledgment of failure, both by the feds for what they funded, the program officers for defending weak portfolios and their budgets, the universities defending their overhead and prestige projects and, of course, the investigators who are either simply unable to recognize what they're doing, or too dishonest and self-protecting to come clean about it. And then they and their students could go on to do something actually productive.
Of course such a multi-million dollar threat will be resisted, and that's why the usual answer to the kinds of conflicting, confusing reports that so often come out of these megaprojects is to increase their size, length and, geez, what a surprise!, their cost. To keep funding the same investigators and their protegés. This is only to be expected, and many people's jobs are covered by the relevant grants, a genuine concern. However, research projects are not supposed to be part of a welfare system, but to solve real problems. And the same peoples' skills could be put to better use, addressing real problems in ways that might be more effective and accountable.
And we used to laugh at the Soviets' entrenched, never successful, Five Year Plans!
It is a public misappropriation that is taking place. Yes, there are health problems we wish to avoid, and government and universities are set up to identify them and recommend changes. But, for most of today's common chronic diseases, lifestyle changes would largely do the trick.
But then, that would just let people live longer to get diseases that might be worse, even if at older ages. And meanwhile we aren't putting on a full court press for things that really are genetic, or really do have identifiable life-style causes.
Much of this research is being done at taxpayer expense. We should let the people keep their money, or we should spend it more effectively. We won't be able to do the latter until we admit, formally and fully, that we have a problem. Given vested and entrenched interests, getting that to happen is a very hard trick to pull off.