11 responses to “The Olympic Year of Bad Science and Worst Practice”

  1. Tim Noakes

    The focus of my talk was simple – to show that heart disease is due to abnormalities in carbohydrate not fat metabolism. Of course I threw many studies at you but they all show that there is only one conclusion. Why not report that the model of how dietary fat is meant to cause heart disease is simply not supported by the published evidence? It may be unacceptable to you but the evidence I presented is certainly not the derogatory word that you use to describe it.

    And incidentally I never said that I preferred observational studies to clinical trials. What I said was that you cannot afford to exclude any evidence that conflicts with the model you propose. I presented 7 predictions of the usual model of fat intake causing heart disease that are not supported by the published evidence. I used the published studies of clinical trials undertaken by established scientists to disprove the model that you advocate. If you were a scientist, your job would be to abandon the model that you propose, not to try to inure it to criticism by attacking those who present an alternate proof. This is known as refutation by denigration. It is not the best way to reach the truth and does not advance debate in a helpful way.

    What I find so interesting is that the rather obvious fact that humans are less healthy today than we were before the 1977 change to a high carbohydrate diet is so difficult for so many to see. But the evidence is abundantly clear as I also showed in my talk. Is there a reason why you ignore the obvious? Or do you have an alternate explanation to the one that I and Gary Taubes prefer?

  2. Michael Meadon

    Wow. Noakes really is a crank.

  3. Havelock Vetinari

    “I have read Taubes’ 600-page tome, and have been less impressed than bamboozled by the amount of evidence he presents for his cause.”

    This is a dismissive statement that adds no weight to your own stance and detracts nothing from Taubes’. Clarification is indicated: did you find that the evidence was too much to read (and if so, why would “too much” supporting evidence detract from a hypothesis)? Or did you find the evidence to disagree with or disprove Taubes’ hypothesis, and if so in what way? Perhaps there are logical or physiological errors that you found? If so, please clarify.

    I think, Dr. Rousseau, that when it comes to scientific method, I have substantially more confidence in the education, reputation in scientific research, experience and track record of Noakes than in a PhD earned in Food Media – particularly one with such an obvious sense of superiority and a fondness for nastiness that is so evident in many of your blogs.

  4. John

    Although having never read it, I suspect that Taubes’ 600 pages must surely be less bamboozling than rather disparaging Signe Rousseau’s. While nobody can always claim to be right, I guess Prof Noakes’ objectivity is supported by his willingness to change his view regarding his own carbohydrate theories of earlier years, and that he isn’t advertising Maragarine. Since I’ve been following this debate I have NEVER understood him to be saying that this is the diet for Everyone. He is language is somewhat more polite too. Just a few layman observations.

  5. Jacques Rousseau (@JacquesR)

    “John”, nobody involved in this debate has advertised margarine, and the accusation that anyone did so is evidence against objectivity, if anything, as it was a self-serving inference based on selective reading of evidence. Your problem is perhaps more simple, and involves needing to read more carefully and critically.

  6. Havelock Vetinari

    Dear Signe,

    Bamboozled is generally defined as a state of confusion, often implying a deliberate effort to confuse; please excuse me if I misunderstood you when you said “I… have been less impressed than bamboozled by the amount of evidence he presents”.

    “…a lack of consideration of existing conflicting evidence (particularly re. Noakes), for example this study, and this one, and this one…”

    Allow me then:

    First 2 links (de Souza et al and Sacks et al):
    Both of these studies are similar and are similarly irrelevant in their relation to the Taubes hypothesis, for multiple reasons – Taubes’ hypothesis is that carbohydrates drive fat accumulation through the action of insulin, and that a very low carbohydrate diet, that primarily replaces carbohydrate with fat, will reverse the process and allow effortless, sustainable weight loss without calorie restriction. Firstly, Taubes concedes throughout his work that a calorie-restriction diet will enable weight loss, and these studies are both conducted with a calorie restricted weight-loss diet, a factor that in itself limits its relevance to Taubes’ hypothesis. Secondly, both studies’ lowest carbohydrate level was 35% – hardly relevant to the very low carbohydrate levels that are indicated by Taubes’ hypothesis. This is particularly true if you consider that the hypothesis defines insulin as the driving factor in fat accumulation and insulin resistance as the key – meaning that even a low carbohydrate intake would produce disproportionately high insulin levels, and the resultant fat accumulation.

    Looking at Johansson et al, we find a similar problem – it clearly shows that at no stage, even at the lowest point, did carbohydrate percentage drop below about 40% of calories, which essentially means that the continuing upward trend shown in BMI is meaningless in reference to Taubes’ hypothesis on obesity. I also found no information in the study on the types of carbohydrates consumed – the Taubes hypothesis implies a probability that frequent concentrated blood sugar spikes, as produced by refined carbohydrates (especially sugar, white flour, white rice, corn syrup), is most likely the factor that triggers insulin resistance rather than the total energy value of carbohydrates consumed. Without this data, and considering that the minimum carbohydrate level is still above 40%, the study has no bearing on supporting or disproving Taubes’ hypothesis. Regarding the heart disease angle, it must be noted that the study uses total serum cholesterol measurement as its only indicator of heart disease risk, but there is now ever-increasing agreement that total serum cholesterol levels have no predictive relationship with heart disease whatsoever.

    So perhaps there has been no apparent “consideration of conflicting evidence” because it is not actually relevant to the hypothesis?

    As far as appeal to authority goes, I get your point, but my appeal was not only to the authority of Noakes’ qualifications, but more to his track record and reputation as an open-minded, impartial researcher who is willing to challenge popular consensus (and most importantly, not scared to admit a mistake).

    I would hope that you were not answering me for my own sake, but for others reading this, which is of course the reason that I took the time and trouble to question you (and why I don’t just “take my attention elsewhere”). Arguments seldom sway the opinions of the participants, but will hopefully influence the views of those following them.

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