Archive for the “The Food Evangelists” Category

A reader thought I might get a kick out of this photo:

Fake tuna fish.  Boy, that sounds awesome … especially if you look up the ingredients:

Pea protein, pea starch, water, olive oil, potato starch, sea salt, seaweed powder, organic agave nectar, organic apple cider vinegar, konjac powder, ginger.

How the heck does this stuff end up tasting like tuna?! I asked myself.  According to the Amazon reviews (which average two out of five stars), it doesn’t.  Here are some quotes:

One of the worst vegan products I’ve ever tried. It looks smells and tastes like cat food. It’s utterly disgusting and even the thought makes me want to vomit.

Dog food. This was seriously the worst product I’ve tried since becoming a vegan. Looks like dog food, smells like dog food, tastes like…I don’t know.

This stuff is awful, so oily and salty, and the smell… Couldn’t even finish my lunch.

Okay, it’s oily, it stinks, and it tastes like something you’d feed a dog or a cat.  But it’s plant-based, so it will save your life!  I know that, because the apostles of the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet are always telling us as much.

In fact, while organizing all my blog ideas, study links, study papers, etc., into Microsoft OneNote recently, I came across a Nutrition Update for Physicians that promotes the Holy Plant-Based Diet.  I think it’s a fine example of how the Holy Plant-Based Diet produces miraculous improvements in health, so let’s take a look:

Despite the strong body of evidence favoring plant-based diets, including studies showing a willingness of the general public to embrace them, many physicians are not stressing the importance of plant-based diets as a first-line treatment for chronic illnesses. This could be because of a lack of awareness of these diets or a lack of patient education resources.

Or it could be because the physicians have gotten a whiff of Vegan Toona.

National dietary guidelines for active living and healthful eating are available at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Well, if they’re pushing MyPlate as a guide, we already know what great experts we’re dealing with.

The goal of this article is to review the evidence supporting plant-based diets and to provide a guideline for presenting them to patients.

Here’s how I’d suggest you present plant-based diets to patients: give them a free can of Vegan Toona.

We start with a case study …

A 63-year-old man with a history of hypertension presented to his primary care physician with complaints of fatigue, nausea, and muscle cramps. The result of a random blood glucose test was 524 mg/dL, and HbA1C was 11.1%. Type 2 diabetes was diagnosed. His total cholesterol was 283 mg/dL, blood pressure was 132/66 mmHg, and body mass index (BMI) was 25 kg/m2. He was taking lisinopril, 40 mg daily; hydrochlorothiazide, 50 mg daily; amlodipine, 5 mg daily; and atorvastatin, 20 mg daily.

A glucose reading of 524?!!  Okay, this poor guy was a mess.  He was a type II diabetic with screamingly high blood sugar.  (And for the internet cowboys who insist insulin resistance is caused by getting fat, please note that his BMI was only 25.)

But of course, eating meat doesn’t cause high blood sugar.  So how did switching to the Holy Plant-Based Diet help this guy with his diabetes?  Here’s how:

He was prescribed metformin, 1000 mg twice daily; glipizide, 5 mg daily; and 10 units of neutral protamine Hagedom insulin at bedtime.

The first order of business was insulin and other drugs that lower blood sugar.  Makes sense, given the screamingly high glucose reading. But what about that plant-based diet that was responsible for all the magic?

His physician also prescribed a low-sodium, plant-based diet that excluded all animal products and refined sugars and limited bread, rice, potatoes, and tortillas to a single daily serving. He was advised to consume unlimited non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and beans, in addition to up to 2 ounces of nuts and seeds daily.

Let’s read that one more time with a slight edit and some emphasis added:

His physician also prescribed a low-sodium, plant-based diet that EXCLUDED REFINED SUGARS AND LIMITED BREAD, RICE, POTATOES, AND TORTILLAS TO A SINGLE DAILY SERVING.

Now wait just a @#$%ing second!  You’re presenting a miracle performed by the Holy Plant-Based Diet, and part of the protocol was to limit bread, rice, potatoes and tortillas to one serving per day?  THOSE ARE PLANT FOODS!  If it’s the meat and eggs that were turning this poor old dude into a diabetic, why the flippity flip was he told to cut out sugar and bread?

Back to the article:

Over a 16-week period, significant improvement in biometric outcome measures was observed. He was completely weaned off of amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide, glipizide, and neutral protamine Hagedorn insulin. Follow-up blood pressure remained below 125/60 mmHg, HbA1C improved to 6.3%, and total cholesterol improved to 138 mg/dL.

The presented case is a dramatic example of the effect a plant-based diet can have on biometric outcomes like blood pressure, diabetes, and lipid profile.

Yes, indeedy.  In this paper, ladies and gentlemen, we present the case of a guy whose blood sugar was totally whacked.  He was told to cut out meat and eggs, even though they don’t raise blood sugar more than a smidge.  He was also told to limit bread, rice, potatoes, tortillas and other plant foods that jack up blood sugar to a single serving per day.  And looky there, his glucose level plummeted – which proves how wondrous the Holy Plant-Based Diet can be.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

This is, of course, the bait-and-switch the plant-based apostles pull all the time.  I call it the Ornish Two-Step.  Take people eating total crap diets full of processed sugar and starch, get them to eat whole foods while cutting out all the processed sugars and starches – oh, and meat and eggs, too – and when their health improves, claim you’ve just made a solid case for eliminating meat and eggs.

The improvement in blood pressure observed over a 4-month period with few medications is also rarely encountered in clinical practice and is likely related to a low-sodium diet and the avoidance of red meat.

Uh, no.  In clinical studies, reducing sodium intake has failed rather spectacularly as a treatment for high blood pressure.  And as for red meat causing high blood pressure, here’s the conclusion from a recent meta-analysis at Purdue University:

Consuming red meat in amounts above what is typically recommended does not affect short-term cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

However, several studies have demonstrated that a high sugar intake will raise blood pressure.  So remind me: wasn’t the guy in this case study told to eliminate sugar from his diet?  And isn’t sugar a plant food?

If people want to adopt plant-based diets for ethical reasons, fine, I don’t care.  But I do care when apostles of the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet blame meat and eggs for the sins committed by sugar and other processed carbohydrates.  Part of the reason it annoys me so much is that it’s clear the apostles KNOW it’s the processed carbs doing the damage. They toss meat and eggs in the same basket as sugar and white bread simply because they don’t want people to eat meat.

If the apostles really and truly believed animal foods are the primary drivers of disease, they’d conduct studies where the only change in a crappy diet is to substitute tofu for meat.  And they’d encourage physicians to offer counseling to patients that goes something like this:

“Well, I’m afraid your labs are awful.  Your blood sugar is through the roof and you’re obviously a type II diabetic.  We need to switch you to a plant-based diet.”

“Wait, Doc, you mean no more meat and eggs?”

“That’s right.”

“Bummer.  But I can still eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast, right?”

“Of course.  Pop-Tarts are made from wheat, sugar, soybean oil, dried berries and corn syrup.  Those are all plant foods, so they won’t hurt you.”

“Hostess Ho-Ho’s okay for lunch?”

“Sugar, wheat flour, corn syrup, and hydrogenated palm oil.  No animal ingredients, so they’re fine.”

“Awesome.  But what about dinner?  My wife likes to make casseroles.”

“No problem.  The makers of Vegan Toona say it makes a terrific ‘toona’ casserole.”

 

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Isn’t it nice to wake up in the morning and learn that sanity can still prevail — even when government committees are involved?

Tim Noakes, the victim of an inquisition triggered by an idiot dietician, was found not guilty of unprofessional conduct yesterday.  Here are some quotes from a report by News24 in South Africa:

Professor Tim Noakes has been found not guilty of misconduct, a professional conduct committee found on Friday.

That’s the good news.  Excellent news, in fact.  The bad news is that Noakes was dragged before a committee in the first place.  Read on to see just how ridiculous this entire episode was.

Noakes – whose book The Real Meal Revolution promotes a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet – was charged with giving unconventional medical advice via Twitter two years ago after he advised a breastfeeding mother to wean her baby onto LCHF.

Charged with giving unconventional advice … riiiight, because the conventional dietary advice handed down since the 1970s has done such a bang-up job of improving people’s health worldwide.

The independent committee made its finding following a protracted hearing into a complaint by the former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom. She had complained about Noakes giving advice relating to his LCHF diet on Twitter to a mother.

And why did Julsing-Strydom (the idiot dietitian) feel the need to bring charges?  Was Noakes going around giving unsolicited, unconventional advice?  Was he sneaking into people’s homes and feeding their kids an “unconventional” diet when the parents weren’t looking?

The mother’s tweet read: “@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? [sic]” Noakes advised her to wean her child onto LCHF foods, which he described as “real” foods.

His tweet read: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween [sic] baby onto LCHF.”

So there’s the basis for the witch hunt:  a mother SPECIFICALLY ASKED NOAKES FOR ADVICE on Twitter, and he replied.  His reply went against the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and hearthealthywholegrains! nonsense promoted by the Axis of Incompetence, so one of its members decided she’d try to ruin his life and his career.

Earlier in the hearing, which started in 2015, witnesses for the HPCSA said a consultation was required before any advice could be given or diagnosis made.

A mother asks Noakes for advice online, and he’s supposed to tell her sorry, we need to have a consultation in my office?  And what the @#$% kind of diagnosis is required in this situation?  The mom didn’t say her baby had a strange rash and ask for an online prescription.  She asked a question about diet … and since she asked Noakes, it means she obviously respects his opinion on the matter.

Noakes questioned why Leenstra, who ostensibly could have suffered harm, did not lay the charge. He argued he did not give advice on breastfeeding, but on weaning.

BINGO!!  The mother who asked for advice didn’t complain.  A dietitian who had nothing to do with the situation complained.  This is, of course, what The Anointed are all about: restricting other people’s speech and freedoms — for their own good, of course.

Noakes alleged that Julsing-Strydom’s complaint was not centred on breastfeeding, but on the diet he advocates in his book, of which she did not approve.

Of course that was the basis of her complaint.

The HPCSA argues that Noakes gave unconventional and unscientific advice, and was unprofessional in his conduct for dispensing the advice via social media.

You want to see unscientific advice? Look no further than arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and hearthealthywholegrains!

As for giving advice via social media being unprofessional … does any sane person believe Julsing-Strydom and the other dietary fascists would have gone after a doctor who advised the mother to wean her baby on hearthealthywholegrains?

Out of curiosity, I just checked Twitter to see if The American Heart Association tweets dietary advice.  Yup.  I guess somebody needs to drag them before a committee for engaging in unprofessional conduct … you know, giving out advice online without a proper consultation and all that.

Two international witnesses testified in his defence – diet and health researcher Dr Zoe Harcombe from London, and investigative journalist Nina Teicholz from New York, who is the author of The Big Fat Surprise, which “explains the politics, personalities, and history of how we came to believe that dietary fat is bad for health”.

And bless you both, ladies.

Professor Willie Pienaar, a psychiatrist and part-time bioethicist, during the hearing said that doctors cannot give expert advice without consultation. He argued that Noakes had the opportunity to refer the mother to a general practitioner, and pointed out that he didn’t ask the age or health status of the baby.

“Professor Noakes, what foods should I feed my baby?”

“I’m sorry, Mom, I’ll have to refer you to a general practitioner who will give advice I believe with all my heart and soul is completely wrong.”

He said his main concern was that Noakes had given specialist advice via social media and that consultation was key to giving the correct diagnosis.

Again, exactly what kind of diagnosis is required when a mother asks for general dietary advice? What diagnosis does the American Heart Association make before going online and telling people to replace butter with corn and canola oil?

Expert witness Professor Este Vorster, a former president of the Nutrition Society of SA, said Noakes could not give convincing evidence that his was the optimal diet for lactating mothers.

The Anointed can’t give convincing evidence that vegetable oils and grains are the optimal diet.  But they’ll keep pushing them and occasionally conduct a witch-hunt when a prominent doctor dares to disagree.  Thank goodness The Anointed lost this round.  Let’s hope they lose many, many more.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate the decision — even though there never should have been a trial in the first place — and applaud Tim Noakes for having the backbone to stand up to these bullies.

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In the previous three posts, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech or the wide-open discussion and debate free speech enables:

1.   They believe they are very, very smart.
2.   They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.

In comments, a reader posted a link to an excellent blog post by Charles Hugh Smith that makes the same point:

Perhaps what has failed here is the narrative that everything fails and falls apart if it isn’t centrally managed and curated, a narrative that inevitably leads to censorship under the guise of “protecting you, the easily confused sheep, from these nasty wolves.”

Censorship then enables another, much more well-organized and centralized pack of wolves (the ruling elites) to prey on the obedient sheep at their leisure, without fear of any disruptive dissenting narratives.

What the ruling political elites and their mainstream media shills fear is a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas.

I’ve got to start reading his blog.  Sounds like my kinda guy.

Whether The Anointed like it or not, that chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas is happening.  Thanks to the internet and social media, the information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates.  The rest of us are now communicating directly with each other.  The results haven’t been good for The Anointed, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out in his essay The Intellectual Yet Idiot (his term for The Anointed):

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

… With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

My, my, my … with the great unwashed masses rebelling and trusting their own instincts, or their grandmothers, or each other, or bloggers and podcasters whose ideas and advice they’ve found useful, how are The Anointed supposed to protect people against their own stupidity?  (As you may recall, The Anointed believe anyone who defies them must be stupid, or evil, or perhaps both.)

One way or another, The Anointed believe they must coerce people who disagree with them into shutting the hell up.  As we saw in our last post, demanding retractions of critiques and opinions they don’t like is one favorite tactic.

Another favorite tactic is to personally attack the messenger, as opposed to arguing against what the messenger has to say.  That’s where the “anyone who disagrees with us must be evil” attitude shows itself.  Yelling “racist!” over disagreements that have nothing to do with race is certainly near the top of The Official Anointed Playbook.  So are comments like this, uttered by our ol’ buddy Dr. David Katz while responding to the Nina Teicholz critique of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines:

The report does take into account sustainability, something that the committee noted was not traditionally in their purview. “Ms. Teicholz seems inclined to ignore that altogether; perhaps she does not care whether there is anything for the next generation to eat or drink, but I suspect most of us do,” Katz noted.

Got that?  If Teicholz argues that the guidelines aren’t based on good science, well then by gosh, it means she doesn’t care if our kids and grandkids end up starving and dying of thirst – a looming disaster the U.S. Dietary Guidelines would of course prevent.  Gee, she must be a terrible, terrible person.  Best not listen to anything she has to say.

When demands for retractions and personal attacks fail, there’s always the final option: bring the rebellious naysayer up on charges.  Initiate some kind of prosecution, preferably one with the threat of real punishment attached.

As you probably recall, a state board threatened to prosecute blogger Steve Cooksey for promoting a low-carb, paleo diet for diabetics on his Diabetes Warrior blog.  Here are some quotes from a Carolina Journal article about that incident:

The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle.

Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”

Hmmm, certainly sounds like a case of The Anointed feeling threatened by a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas.  After all, there are plenty of bloggers and health professionals in the world promoting the low-fat diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association.  Are they afraid people will try Cooksey’s advice and discover it actually works?  Yes, I think that’s part of it.

In South Africa, The Health Professions Council of SA brought Professor Tim Noakes up on charges for a tweet – that’s right, A TWEET! — in which he advised a young mother (in response to her question) to wean her baby onto high-fat, real foods.  The sane response there would have been to send out tweets and press releases explaining why HPCSA disagrees with Noakes.  But we can’t expect The Anointed to behave sanely when there’s a risk ordinary people might come to believe their advice is wrong.

Meanwhile, in the land down under, The Anointed initiated another prosecution.  Here are some quotes from ABC in Australia:

Gary Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon and an advocate of a low carbohydrate diet.

He said he became passionate about nutrition after amputating limbs of diabetic patients whose diets were a big part of the problem.

“What I’ve been advocating for some years is cutting sugar down, particularly all the refined sugars in the diet,” he said.

“Over time that’s evolved, and it’s evolved to what I call low carb, healthy fat.

“It’s just eating lots of vegetables, pasture-fed meat and the right amount of oil in the form of things like nuts, avocado, cheese, olive oil and fish.”

Geez, that sounds really, really dangerous.  Humans never would have survived and evolved on a wacky diet like that.

According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.

“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.

Now, stop and wrap your head around that last statement.  Dr. Fettke isn’t qualified to give nutrition advice because he’s just a doctor?  Have you EVER heard of a doctor who recommends a low-fat diet with lots of healthywholegrains! being prosecuted anywhere in the world?  Of course not.  Dr. Fettke summed it up nicely himself:

“You go to your cardiologist and he tells you what to eat, you go to a neurosurgeon and he tells you what to eat, gastroenterologist and all of them, by definition, don’t have a major training in nutrition and yet they’re all giving advice.  You cannot push a way of eating onto a person. All I’ve ever done is told patients that there is a choice, that there is an option that’s out there.”

Ahh, but The Anointed don’t want the great unwashed masses to know about options.  That could lead to a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas – which would of course be very, very bad.  No, The Anointed much prefer something like this:

AHPRA has released a statement reaffirming that it expects medical practitioners to provide appropriate dietary advice to patients.

And “appropriate” means whatever The Anointed say it is.

That’s why we can never stop fighting these arrogant morons.

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In part one, we looked at why The Anointed don’t like wide-open discussion and debate:

1.  They believe they are very, very smart.
2.  They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.

In part two, we quoted from an essay by Dr. David Katz that proves the points made in part one.  Social media is endangering our health by allowing everyone to shout health advice into an echo chamber, ya see — and once the inferior brains of ordinary folks are filled with bad information, there’s no room left for good information.

Okay, that’s not exactly how Katz put it, but pretty close.  Here’s the exact quote:

Misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.

If I’d begged The Anointed to please provide an example of how they believe they’re very, very smart and the rest of us aren’t, they couldn’t have provided a better one.  I’m guessing Katz doesn’t limit his reading for fear his big ol’ brain will reach full capacity and become incapable of absorbing and evaluating new information.  No, that’s only a risk for the rest of us.

He’s an egomaniac, but at least Katz plans to battle what he considers bad information with what he considers good information — provided by the usual gang of goofs who’ve been trying for decades to convince everyone that animal foods will kill us, while grains and soy will save us.  He calls his gang of goofs The True Health Initiative, and apparently their mission is to rush out and fill inferior brains with advice Katz likes before advice he doesn’t like occupies all the available space.

Other members of The Anointed aren’t willing to risk having their advice bounce off a brain that already runneth over with advice they don’t like.  The only way to prevent that disaster, of course, is to shut down people who argue that The Anointed are wrong.  Let’s look at a recent example.

Back in September 2015, the British Medical Journal published a report titled The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? The report was written by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise.  The upshot of the article:  uh, no, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines aren’t based on good science.  You can read the BMJ piece online, but here are some quotes from a Newsweek article on the report:

A new report published in BMJ on Wednesday suggests the latest U.S. dietary guidelines up for review are not based on sufficient and up-to-date scientific research of crucial topics, such as saturated fats and low-carbohydrate diets, and may even be fraught with industry biases.

The last time the committee members drew up guidelines—in 2010—they used the Nutrition Evidence Library that was established by the USDA, which provides systematic analyses of research on various nutrition subjects, such as sodium and sugar intake. But the committee that worked on the 2015 guidelines didn’t use that system for more than 70 percent of the topics, including some of the most controversial, according to Nina Teicholz, a New York City–based journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, who wrote the BMJ report.

In the report, the committee states that there is a “strong” association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. However, Teicholz says, the review of the science behind saturated fat consumption didn’t include research from the last five years, including several notable papers that don’t demonstrate a link between high saturated fat consumption and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

She says the committee’s review of different kinds of diets—including low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style, healthy vegetarian—is also deeply flawed. In the BMJ report, Teicholz says that in some instances, the committee based their conclusions on limited research or poorly designed studies, such as a single clinical trial of 180 people with metabolic syndrome, which found the Mediterranean diet was most effective for weight loss.

Okay, you get the idea. Teicholz pointed out what she considers several flaws how the Dietary Guidelines Committee came up with their recommendations.  And since her report was published in the BMJ, it carries some weight.  After all, doctors read the thing.

Naturally, The Anointed weren’t happy.  Here’s what our buddy Dr. David Katz had to say, as quoted in MedPageToday online:

“The DGAC report is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts,” Katz wrote.

“The notion that the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell is any way a suitable counterpoint to the conclusions of a diverse, multidisciplinary, independent group of scientists who reviewed evidence for the better part of 2 years and relied upon knowledge and judgment cultivated over decades is nearly surreal,” Katz added. “It is a disservice to the readership in both cases.”

I’m almost starting to like Katz.  Whenever I need an example of how The Anointed think, he delivers.  Notice what his (ahem) “argument” boils down to:  THE LITTLE PEOPLE AREN’T QUALIFIED TO QUESTION US, SO NOBODY SHOULD BE LISTENING TO THEM!

The BMJ report is just the “opinion” of one journalist, ya see.  Weird thing is, I could have sworn Teicholz cited a whole lot of facts in her critique of the dietary guidelines, not just opinions.  That’s why BMJ was persuaded to publish the report.  And while The Anointed would love for us all to be swayed by impressive-sounding credentials (conferred by The Anointed themselves, of course), the truth of a statement does not depend on who utters it.  Facts are facts – and that’s a fact.

But when facts – or even opinions – are embarrassing to The Anointed, some of them just can’t resist the urge to stifle the opposing voices.  Enter the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  (Those of you who’ve seen Fat Head are free to yell “This is a job for THE GUY FROM CSPI!”)

Soon after the Teicholz report appeared, CSPI demanded that BMJ retract it.  Now, stop and think about that.  Katz insisted Teicholz was expressing her opinion in the BMJ article.  If that’s true, it means The Guy From CSPI was demanding the BMJ stifle an opinion.  Well, that’s just awesome.  We The Anointed hereby declare a ban on opinions we don’t like.

But if it’s not an opinion piece, then any dispute comes down to facts.  If The Guy From CSPI believes the dietary guidelines are correct, he is of course free to argue in favor of them.  If he believes Teicholz doesn’t have facts and logic behind her arguments, the proper response is to reply with facts and logic to dispute her arguments.

But then, we’re talking about CSPI here – the organization that threatened to boycott a nutrition conference unless Teicholz was disinvited.  So obviously The Guy From CSPI isn’t a fan of defending his arguments in a debate.  He’d rather just prevent people who disagree with him from being heard.  So he demanded a retraction of the BMJ report, and attempted to apply pressure by having 100 members of The Anointed sign a petition.

Now for the good news, in case you haven’t already heard:  After weighing the evidence (including reports by two independent reviewers), BMJ announced that it stands by the Teicholz report and will not retract it.  Here’s part of the announcement by the editor of BMJ:

We stand by Teicholz’s article with its important critique of the advisory committee’s processes for reviewing the evidence, and we echo her conclusion: ‘Given the ever increasing toll of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and the failure of existing strategies to make inroads in fighting these diseases, there is an urgent need to provide nutritional advice based on sound science.’

Neither Teicholz nor The BMJ are new to criticism. Healthcare is rife with controversy and the field of nutrition more so than many, characterised as it is by much weak science, polarised opinion, and powerful commercial interests.

Weak science?  You betcha.  Polarized opinion?  Of course.  When so-called experts promote nonsense based on weak science, opinions should become polarized.  That’s why The Anointed are so big on creating consensus: if opinions are polarized, it means people are daring to question them and (egads!) perhaps even insisting they’re wrong.  They want those people to shut up.

More on that in the next post.


Addendum:

A reader pointed out that Dr. David Katz was among the 180 anti-fat warriors (not 100) who signed the CSPI demand for a retraction, which means he’s an even bigger jackass than I thought — and that’s saying something.  Remember, he described the Teicholz report in BMJ as “the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell.”  That means he, along with The Guy From CSPI and the other anti-fat warriors, was demanding BMJ retract an opinion.

So here’s what this boils down to:  Teicholz wrote a report saying U.S. dietary guidelines — which still promote anti-saturated-fat hysteria  — aren’t based on rigorous science.  Then the same group of goofs who’ve been pushing anti-saturated-fat hysteria decades demanded BMJ pull her critique.  This isn’t about protecting public health.  It’s about protecting their own reputations and interests.

And speaking of having something to sell, Dr. Katz has written several books promoting a low-fat diet (I don’t if he compared his writing in those books to Dickens or Milton), and of course he has a financial interest in NuVal, a system for ranking the healthiness of foods according to his own opinions.  So the Teicholz piece was a threat to his own bottom line.

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In our previous episode, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of freedom of speech or of concepts like The Marketplace of Ideas or The Wisdom of Crowds.  Two of their most dearly-held beliefs are:

1.   They are very, very smart.
2.   The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.

Consequently, The Anointed don’t view wide-open debate and discussion as opportunities for the best ideas to be discovered and bubble up to the top.  They view them as opportunities for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be fooled and led astray.

Let’s look at a perfect example of what I’m talking about:  a recent Huffington Post essay by Dr. David Katz, the guy who developed the NuVal system for ranking the healthiness of foods – a system recently dropped by some big grocery-store chains.  Here are some quotes from Katz:

Misinformation is very much in season. Disclosures since the presidential election about massively disseminated misinformation, some of it inadvertent, some of it willfully manipulative, have come fast and furious. In fact, in the aftermath of the recent revelations about fake news, we are being invited to add “post-truth” to our lexicon.

So Dr. Katz is very upset about fake news.  That’s pretty danged funny, considering he was caught writing reviews of his own novel under a fake name and comparing himself to John Milton and Charles Dickens.  Apparently his definition of fake news is limited to “post-truth” he doesn’t like.

For the record, I think we can all agree we’d prefer not to be exposed to fake news.  But of course, fake news isn’t new.  In the years that I’ve been paying attention, “news” stories that turned out to be largely or completely fabricated have been printed or aired by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, CBS and NBC.  The Washington Post even ran a piece recently titled Fake News? That’s A Very Old Story, which recounts how fake news has been around since the founding of the country.

But since the Katz essay is about health advice, I wondered why he opened with a complaint about fake news in the recent election cycle.  Then it hit me: he’s trying to draw a parallel between health advice he doesn’t like and wacko stories claiming the Clintons were involved in child-sex rings.  If one is bad, the other must be equally bad, ya see.  Nice try, Doc.

I’ve written several posts and given a speech about how the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to turn the tide against the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and healthywholegrains! nonsense coming from the Axis of Incompetence: the USDA, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, etc. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, partly because I remember the bad old days.

In the 1980s, I was a staff writer and editor for a small magazine called Family Safety & Health.  Researching a health article was a process I called “round up the usual suspects.”  Something about heart health?  Get in touch with the American Heart Association.  Diabetes?  The American Diabetes Association is your go-to source.  Cancer?  Call the American Cancer Society.  Anything else, start with government health agencies and go from there.

Information flowed from The Anointed at the top, through a handful of gatekeepers, then down to the rest of us.  So I, like every other health writer in those days, wrote articles about the wonders of whole grains and the dangers of saturated fats and cholesterol.  I didn’t know any better because I didn’t have access to contrary evidence and opinions.  For The Anointed, those were the good old days.

Now the gatekeepers have been swept aside.  I consider that a net positive.  Dr. Katz, as a member of The Anointed, of course disagrees:

The social media that served as the currents in which false and misleading election-related news were swept far and wide pose three particular threats to health related information.

The first is that very problem, the unfettered promulgation of information that is just plain wrong. The second is that misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.

And lastly, the third is the very problem we’ve had since the radio was first invented: static. At some level of background noise, the worthiest signal is indiscernible as such. Our ability to deliver a message, any message, depends now, as ever, on the signal to noise ratio.

Let me interpret that:  @#$%!!  All those @#$%ing bloggers and podcasters are somehow drawing big audiences and convincing millions of people that saturated fat isn’t bad and grains aren’t good!  People no longer just accept what The Anointed tell them!  This is very, very bad!

Cyberspace is the ultimate, ecumenical echo chamber. Everyone can shout into it, and every shout has the same chance to echo from the megaphones of the sympathetic.

Well, that’s true to an extent.  Social media has created a vastly wider and more diverse Marketplace of Ideas.  Are some of those ideas garbage?  You bet.  For all I know, there may be more lousy dietary advice pinging around cyberspace than good advice.

That’s not the point.  The point is that good advice – advice that actually works — is now accessible to people who never would have seen it in the pre-internet days.  That’s where The Anointed and fans of the Marketplace of Ideas disagree.  The Anointed believe if everyone can shout into an echo chamber, everyone will have equal influence.  That’s nonsense.  It’s like believing everyone who produces a product will have an equal share of the market.  Despite what The Anointed think, people aren’t stupid.  They gravitate to the products and the advice that prove beneficial.

You may recall the story of my co-worker whose wife suffered from migraines for years.  Doctor after doctor failed to prescribe the magic-pill cure.  But then a friend-of-a-friend suggested she try giving up grains – because he’d read on the internet that grains can trigger migraines.  So she tried giving up grains and voila! – no more migraines.  She found relief because of knowledge shared on the internet.

Now, given what the internet is, I suppose someone else might have suggested she rub her eyeballs with orange caterpillars.  That would have been junk advice.  But here’s the thing: she would have recognized it as junk advice based on the results.  That is, after all, largely what the Wisdom of Crowds is about: knowledge gained from experience and then shared with that big ol’ crowd.

The Anointed, by contrast, put far more faith in little groups of experts – with expertise defined by them, of course, and largely consisting of earning degrees by attending classes taught by other members of The Anointed.  This is nothing new, by the way.  Eric Hoffer, author of the terrific book The True Believer, wrote this in the 1950s:

The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.

Back to Katz on people shouting into that darned echo chamber:

This is an enemy not only to medicine, but to everything in any way related to science, for science demands the filter of genuine understanding, actual expertise, and evidence.

Once again, that’s pretty danged funny, considering it’s coming from a guy whose NuVal system ranks sugar-laden chocolate soy milk as a far healthier option than a turkey breast.  I’d like to see the evidence supporting that ranking.  Unfortunately, NuVal refuses to explain its scoring system because the information is “proprietary.”  In other words, we just made this @#$% up because it’s what we believe.

Having defined the problem – too darned many voices yelling health advice into that social-media echo chamber – Katz then lays out his solution:

In my particular purview- lifestyle medicine- I have felt compelled to develop a new method to confront this New Age challenge. If the noise is irrevocably greater than ever before, so, too, must be the signal. The True Health Initiative pools the voices, currently, of well over 300 leading experts from over 30 countries to make the case that we are not clueless about the basic care and feeding of Homo sapiens; that the fundamentals of a health-promoting diet and lifestyle are the stuff of decisive evidence, and global consensus.

Sorry, Doc, but I’m going to have to disagree.  When you tell people eggs will kill them and sugar-laden soy milk is a healthier option than a turkey breast, I’m pretty sure you are clueless about the basic care and feeding of Home sapiens – none of whom enjoyed a nice, sweet glass of chocolate-flavored Silk Soy Milk until modern industry made such garbage possible.

I looked up the members of those (ahem) “experts” Katz is putting together to combat the social-media echo chamber.  I didn’t recognize most of them, but here are some we all know:

Keith Thomas Ayoob … whom I’ve referred to as “Ayoob the Boob” because he thinks the saturated fat in coconut oil will kill people.

Dr. Neil Barnard … yup, the vegan nut-job whose group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine puts up billboards warning people that consuming animal products will kill them.

T. Colin Campbell … author of The China Study, which attempted to prove (through cherry-picked associations) that eating meat is the main driver of disease.

You get the idea.  Katz is assembling a team of the same old anti-fat, anti-cholesterol, anti-meat goofs who have been part of the problem for decades.  Talk about an echo chamber.

To his credit, Katz is at least trying to combat what he considers bad information with what he considers good information.  The members of The True Health Initiative will be shouting into the very echo chamber Katz dislikes.  Since I believe the Marketplace of Ideas works, I predict the market won’t be kind to them.  No amount of shouting from the usual suspects will convince people who’ve seen their health improve after going low-carb, gluten-free or paleo to take a giant step backwards.

Other members of The Anointed aren’t satisfied with shouting into the echo chamber.  They’d rather prevent people who disagree with them from shouting in the first place … or writing, or tweeting, or whatever.  We’ll pick up that subject in the next post.

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The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech.  Sure, they pay lip-service to the idea now and then, but when you watch them in action, it’s clear they don’t much like wide-open discussions and free-wheeling debates.  You may recall, for example, what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, was invited to be part of a nutrition panel at the National Food Policy Conference:  members of the Center For Science in the Public Interest and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee threatened to boycott unless she was disinvited … which she was.

I wrote at the time that the CSPI weenies were afraid Teicholz would kick their asses in a public debate.  I still believe that’s part of the explanation, but recent events (which I’ll cover in later posts) got me thinking there’s more to it.

To explain, let’s start by quickly summarizing the Wisdom of Crowds concept:  when ordinary people share their experiences, ideas and insights with each other, the right answers tend to eventually bubble up to the top.  Notice that the Wisdom of Crowds doesn’t mean the majority is always correct, and it certainly doesn’t mean everyone’s ideas are good ideas.  It simply means that when ideas and information are freely exchanged within that big ol’ crowd, the good ideas tend to take hold.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the U.S. are based on a similar concept.  The Founders believed in what’s often called the Marketplace of Ideas.  Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote that it’s safe to tolerate error of opinion where reason is left free to combat it.  Fredrick Siebert put it quite nicely in Four Theories of The Press:

Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.

Notice what both the Wisdom of Crowds and the Marketplace of Ideas have in common?  That’s right … they’re based on faith in ordinary people.  Given access to lots of information and competing ideas, most people will come to the correct conclusion most of the time.  So people who believe in the Wisdom of Crowds view the prospect of debate and discussion with an attitude of Bring it on!  I’ll make my case, you make yours, and we’ll see who wins.

The Anointed, by contrast, view wide-open debate and discussion as a threat.  Why?  I used to think it’s because they know their Grand Plans are based on flimsy or non-existent evidence.  As Thomas Sowell points out in both The Vision of The Anointed and Intellectuals and Society, The Anointed tend to fall in love with bold, new, exciting ideas.  They don’t like waiting for solid evidence to support their bold, new, exciting ideas, and are quite adept at ignoring or dismissing evidence that their bold, new, exciting ideas are wrong.  So I figured they’re hostile to debate out of simple fear someone will prove them wrong.

But that doesn’t jibe with a fundamental trait of The Anointed: their extreme confidence in themselves and their ideas.  So after noodling on it for awhile, I decided their hostility towards debate and discussion is rooted in two of their most dearly-held beliefs, which are:

1.   They are very, very smart.
2.   The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.

Therefore, The Anointed aren’t afraid they’ll be proven wrong – heck, they don’t believe it’s possible for them to be wrong.  Rather, they’re afraid the rest of us are too stupid to discern how right they are.  When we hear lots of contrary opinions, we (unlike The Anointed) don’t have the intelligence to weigh the evidence and come to the correct conclusions.  So as far as The Anointed are concerned, an open debate is nothing more than an opportunity for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be led astray.

That’s why so many of them long for the good ol’ days when a relatively small number of information gatekeepers decided what most of us see and hear.  That’s why so many of them are angry about the emergence of talk radio, social media, blogs, and other forms of what they derisively call the “pajamas media.” (I’m not wearing pajamas at the moment, in case you’re wondering.)  The information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates, which means the Marketplace of Ideas is a vastly larger and more diverse marketplace than it once was.

That’s what allows the Wisdom of Crowds to flourish.  But The Anointed don’t believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, so they consider all that debate and discussion a problem.  We’ll look at how they (ahem) “solve” that problem in the next couple of posts.

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