Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Nothing can be more aggravating for me than seeing a headline, about nutrition, or eating, or food in some form or other, that I know from the get-go is wrong, but then watching as it gets traction beyond what it should, given that it's wrong. Although it is fun to tear these things apart from time to time, the fact that researchers, journalists or government institutions can get away with this stuff is frustrating.

That's why it's always fun to see someone in a high-standing position, like an actual scientist, rip on the corrupt state of nutritional science. As luck would have it, just such a scientist - two of them actually - have stepped up to the plate. Get yer popcorn, folks.

Edward Archer, the Chief Science Officer of EvolvingFX and Carl "Chip" J. Lavie, the Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Preventive Cardiology at Ochsner Clinical School of the University of Queensland School of Medicine, have penned an open letter to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The letter, published on Real Clear Science's website, is essentially a complaint against the Academies for ignoring the problematic nature of the data collection methods used in their report "Redesigning the Process for Establishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans".

Those sentences were a mouthful, so let's just say some hardcore science guys are ripping on some 'Ministry of Truth' guys.

But more than a simple complaint, the letter, and particularly the introduction to the letter, accuses the entire industry of "consensus-based censorship", the idea that once a body has found consensus, they will ignore, refute or attack any information that runs contrary to that consensus.

The letter opens with an introduction that comments on the current state of nutritional science:
'Nutrition' is now a degenerating research paradigm in which scientifically illiterate methods, meaningless data, and consensus-driven censorship dominate the empirical landscape. Since the 1950s, there was a naïve but politically expedient consensus that a person's usual diet could be measured simply by asking what he or she remembered eating and drinking. Despite the credulous and unfalsifiable nature of this memory-based method, investigators used it to produce hundreds of thousands of publications and acquire billions of taxpayer dollars.

Over time, the sustained funding of demonstrably pseudo-scientific research methods has subverted the self-correcting nature of science and suppressed skeptical scholarship. Consequently, many decades of politics taking precedence over critical inquiry produced contradictory dietary guidelines, failed public policies, and the continued confusion over 'what-to-eat'.

To counter this blatant scientific illiteracy, we published analyses showing that self-reported diets in epidemiologic studies were physiologically implausible and could not support survival. Yet despite our findings and decisive conclusions, the consensus-seekers simply ignored our results and offered mere rhetoric and ad hominems to counter our data.
Sounds like a pretty apt description! If something goes against consensus, 'officialdom' ignores it, talks around it, ridicules it or attacks the people putting it forward. I would only add another step, that while doing this, consensus-driven censors spread far and wide the consensus opinion in the mainstream media so that the counter evidence sounds more and more implausible. With the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), they've been doing this for 40 years.

While Archer and Lavie are only highlighting one problematic area in the corruption of science, namely the use of unreliable "memory-based methods" of data gathering, i.e. food questionnaires, the problems of corrupt nutritional science goes much deeper. It seems there are many ways "scientists" can censor or alter their own work, or the work of others, to conform to consensus rather than engage in an honest quest for truth: conflating correlation with causation; contradicting a study's findings, (or explaining them away), in the abstract; generalizing results to a population not represented in the sample; cherry-picking study subjects to get the desired results; ignoring confounding factors; etc., etc., on and on. Using flawed data collection methods is simply one of the tools in their arsenal to maintain consensus.

But really, attempting to get consensus runs counter to what should be the mission of any scientist: to get to the truth. Once a scientist discovers the truth, consensus will surely follow (or it should). Beginning from the position of needing consensus to move forward is starting from a faulty premise right off the bat, especially if one makes assumptions on what shape that consensus should take (often being financially motivated to do so).

Yet the current complaint isn't really surprising given what the DGA have been since their very inception in 1977. When the McGovern commission came out with their dietary recommendations, they were met by a firestorm of objections. Notable among the detractors were, not only the American Medical Association, who have since come on board with recommendations, but none other than the National Academy of Sciences, one of the same bodies Archer and Lavie were addressing in their letter 40 years later. How far we've fallen.

At a hearing held to address some of the concerns of the new dietary recommendations back in 1977 when the DGA were first introduced, Phillip Handler, head of the National Academy of Sciences at the time asked, "What right has the federal government to propose that the American people conduct a vast nutritional experiment, with themselves as subjects, on the strength of so very little evidence?"

As an aside, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences consequently released its own dietary guidelines, stating "no reason for the average healthy American to restrict consumption of cholesterol, or reduce fat intake." And they were right. But have we seen these recommendations reflected in the dietary recommendations given to the public by the American government since? No. No we haven't. And do we expect the National Academies of Science to make significant changes to the DGA, maybe going back to their original skeptical scholarship? No. No we don't.

So we have a governing body, originally objecting to the federal dietary recommendations for proposing a "vast nutritional experiment... on the strength of so little evidence," now in charge of tailoring how the data is collected to make those very same recommendations. That wouldn't be such a bad idea, really. Assuming they still hold the position their former president did back in 1977 (not a safe assumption) - get one of your critics to help design how data is collected to make improvements.

However, given the complaints of Archer and Lavie, they're ignoring evidence that suggests the consensus is wrong. In other words, an objector to the engineered consensus of the original guidelines is now one of the very institutions working to maintain consensus. Clearly, 40 years later, the National Academies of Science have gotten in line with consensus-driven censorship - real science be damned.

Governments aren't looking for the truth when it comes to dietary recommendations. The USDA loves dietary guidelines that promote large consumption of grains, dairy, corn and soy because it is their mission to sell these things. Food policy is not grounded in firm science, but in a compromise between food science, industry lobbying and, in some cases in the past, the personal whims of those making the policies. So what dominates the food recommendations of professionals in the field is not the truth of what an ideal human diet looks like but, in fact, its exact opposite. Humans don't get or maintain health operating through consensus. They do it by avoiding consensus at all costs.