>Unfortunately, it’s an approach [Low carb diets] that leaves the vast majority of frontline obesity experts gritting their teeth, because while the strategy sometimes appears to hold up in studies, in the real world such dieters are rarely able to keep the weight off—to say nothing of the potential health risks of eating too much fat.
So he's saying that studies do support low carb diets having high efficacy rates (for weight loss), but "in the real world" this doesn't pan out. What is this unbiased, statistically significant source of data on "the real world" that he's relying on? He's ruled out studies, and it's obviously not anecdotes because that would be even worse. That basically just leaves intuition. He then goes on to cite the risks of a high protein diet (while linking it as high fat only) by linking to a WebMD article which appears to be written by an unnamed author who has poorly collated the research on the issue and left out major advances of our understanding of issues like cholesterol levels.
Low-calorie diets are good for losing weight, but physical activity is more effective at maintaining a target weight. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/AN01619
Very-low-carb diets result in higher metabolism but might also increase stress and risk of heart problems. Low glycemic index diets might be healthier for long-term weight maintenance. http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/july2012/07162012weight.h...
I for example, "re-invented" a atkins or paleo diet of sorts (ie: I on my own drifted to that sort of died before knowing those terms or news on that).
And it is working...
But it is working not because I avoid carbs. But because I avoid non-meaningful calories, I avoid carbs, and most of the fat.
The difference is: When I think I need meat, cheese, etc... to reach a certain protein goal, I don't freak out because there are fat on it.
But I don't go around using mayo, huge cheese-only sandwiches, bacon like if there was no tomorrow...
I eat bacon? Yes... ALso eggs! In fact frequently I eat bacon+egg sandwich. But I do that keeping track of the fat I am eating and not eating too much fat (and keeping carbs very low as I can).
So, the study the guy cites work in theory? Yes, because it is tighly controlled, in real life people understand "you can eat fat" as "fat make you thin".
You know, like those people that buy dieting shakes, and drown themselves in shakes and manage to consume 1000+ calories in a day only in shakes, thinking that drinking the shake that will make them lose weight.
He goes on to say:
"Worse still, health journalists are taking advantage of the wrongness problem. Presented with a range of conflicting findings for almost any interesting question, reporters are free to pick those that back up their preferred thesis."
It appears that this author's preferred thesis is that when presented with conflicting evidence, one should throw one's hands up in despair and do whatever you want ("apply common sense liberally"), instead of some kind of analysis of the evidence to find which side of the conflict is more reliable.
received no discussion, but I think that's too bad, and I would love to see discussion of this interesting article begin here.
Ideally such a study would be published in a medical journal, and other researchers would then perform studies to corroborate or disprove the original; After a sufficient amount of evidence is gather a systematic review would be published, and the results of that would be distributed to doctors and health advice reporters, who would present the information to the general public in a clear, unified and easy-to-understand manner.
In a perfect world.
The reporting of every study only leads the general public to believe that nothing is certain (because dissenting views are published) and not take any of the advice seriously. It is almost as bad as politics.
Ideally everyone would be rational, and honest, and have aligned interests, and trust eachother enough to all outsource their critical thinking to experts. Except... that sounds quite boring and I rather like being a somewhat-independent individual instead of a single-purpose cell in a larger collective organism/society.
The reporting of every study only leads the general public to believe that nothing is certain (because dissenting views are published) and not take any of the advice seriously.
Since things are in fact not certain, I would think this is a good thing?
To me, a critical analysis of research is often more valuable than the research itself.
Critical analysis of research is science. I'm perpetually frustrated with articles like this that seem to portray science as a failure by citing faulty studies, ignoring the fact that everything is working as it should.
You missed the point in the name of semantics, but I'll bite. Finding flaws in a scientific paper my be taking part in the scientific process, but it is by no means a science in itself - e.g. as a stats person, I can point out when a p value is misapplied, but I would never claim I just 'used science'.
>I'm perpetually frustrated with articles like this that seem to portray science as a failure by citing faulty studies
It's worth separating the philosophy of science from its application. This article is purely about the application and what has gone wrong. This is why I think this article is important for the STEM crowd: we are taught that science is an infallible philosophy (which I agree with), but it's easy to forget the garbage-in garbage-out nature of experimentation.
Human-performed studies with limited budgets and unrealistic controls should not supersede expert opinion per se. When there is a disconnect between the two it is irresponsible not to question the scientific studies (in addition to the experts, of course).
The article criticizes journalism for not properly reflecting science and scientific opinion, so it implicitly accepts science as the gold standard. I think the lesson is that there's more demand for scientific novelty and certainty than science itself can satisfy, so science journalism focuses on the conjecture, controversy, preliminary results, and premature conclusions that arise in the practice of science instead of focusing on the emergence of consensus among scientists. The job of a science journalist like Tara Parker-Pope or a pop science author/advocate like Gary Taubes is akin to the job of a prosecuting attorney: to tell a single story as compellingly as possible. The article is about cases where journalists succeed in telling a simple, intuitive, compelling story while science itself is telling a collection of messy, incomplete, counter-intuitive, and/or contradictory stories.
I know many "educated STEM people," but I don't know anybody who does any significant reading of scientific literature outside their field. I've read a lot of abstracts (and a few articles, when they're available) while trying to look one layer deeper than the news, but I don't have the background to understand a lot of what I read, and I've never gone to the library and reviewed dozens of related papers to get context for the paper I'm reading, like a real scientist would. Virtually every vote and consumer choice influenced by science is influenced through news media, science journalism, or classroom education, not by direct exposure to the work of practicing scientists.
This argument was shamelessly paraphrased from XKCD .