Embattled And disgraced nutritional health researcher Dr. Brian Wansink is our interview guest today in Episode 1432 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show.”
One of the benefits of having the longest-running health podcast on the internet is that it serves as a time capsule of sorts. The Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show has seen so many trends come and go, and this collection of more than 1400 interviews allows us to revisit some of the claims and fads that have had a chance to run their course. Today we get to look back at Dr. Brian Wansink's past two appearances on this show and follow up with some new news concerning this media darling's message of portion control over everything else.
The Washington Post recently reported:
He was given an appointment at the Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and helped oversee the shaping of federal dietary guidelines, according to Vox. He was cited in popular media outlets such as O, the Oprah Magazine and the “Today” show and featured in newspapers such as the New York Times and The Washington Post. According to the blog the Skeptical Scientist, which is run by PhD student Tim van der Zee, the hundreds of papers Wansink published drew so much attention that they were cited some 20,000 times.
But problems started to bubble up in 2016, after Wansink wrote a blog post about his research that drew wide criticism, according to BuzzFeed. Other researchers began investigating his studies and raised questions about his methodology. In 2017, Cornell undertook a review of four of his papers that found “numerous instances of inappropriate data handling and statistical analysis,” but said the errors “did not constitute scientific misconduct.”
Our friend Nina Teicholz adds in her Op-Ed piece for the L.A. Times, Sloppy science bears substantial blame for Americans' bad eating habits:
Wansink’s research depended on observational studies, which can yield only associations, such as “coffee is associated with cancer.” These are at best suggestions of hypotheses, and they nearly always fall far short of demonstrating cause and effect. To show causation — that coffee causes cancer, for example — a real experiment, or clinical trial, is needed. For nutrition policy, however, we have rarely required that caliber of research.
Worse, the associational data in nutrition studies are particularly unreliable because the studies depend upon self-reported answers on dietary questionnaires with such queries as: How many cups of pasta did you consume weekly for the last six months? Or, how much did you enjoy that last slice of pizza? Studies have long shown that people misrepresent what they eat — or they simply can’t remember.
Listen in today as we revisit the first two visits to the LLVLC Show to see if there are any clues from the past that might help us shed light on this kind of bad science in the future.